Life as a Transaction

I was a child long after I legally became an adult. That’s because I treated everything as a transaction. I took jobs because they gave me money, not because I loved the work. I dated women not because I liked them, but because I wanted the affection. I visited family not because I wanted to see them, but because if I didn’t, they would be annoyed.

This makes me a child. Because it means I don’t stand for anything. 

Let me explain. 

Children do things because they want pleasure. They’ll cry all night because they want attention. Attention feels good. Their feelings don’t really go beyond that. Attention = pleasure.

Fortunately, as they get older, they start to connect their personal desires with the outside world to inform their behavior. They won’t cry all night because they know crying all night pisses off their parents. Not crying = happy parents = pleasure.

This is an improvement. But it’s not adulthood, because you’re still doing things as a means to an end. 

For instance, when I was a teenager, I had an emo phase.

I dressed in skinny jeans, listened to hardcore music, and straightened my hair. I didn’t do this because it’s who I believed I was, but because it made me accepted amongst a group of my peers. It was a bargain for friendship. And ultimately those friendships petered out because they weren’t based on anything concrete.

Since then I’ve learned that doing things because you get something in return may be pleasurable in the short term, but ultimately leads to a hollow and empty life. 

So now I try to do things for the sake of doing them. And sometimes it sucks. Anyone whose had to break up with someone can understand this. Telling your partner the truth is going to hurt them and be very unpleasant for you. If you were a child, you’d avoid doing it and string them along, because that’s more pleasurable in the short term.

But in the long term it’s bad for both of you and leads to a shittier life. Because what is life if you’re just living to meet the expectation of others?

So you tell them the truth because honesty is the right thing to do. It’s that simple. And that’s adulthood. Doing things for the principal of the matter. 

It’s working a job because the work makes you happy. It’s seeing friends simply because you enjoy their company. And it’s loving someone without expecting anything in return.

I haven’t mastered adulthood by any means. I can think of multiple times just over the past week where I acted like a child. 

In fact, I’m acting like a child right now. I’m writing this blog post hoping that you like it. Your validation is my pleasure. And until I write for the sake of writing, and not for the sake of others, I’ll never be a great writer.

Sure, I may find success in the material world. But if I’m always writing for you, that means I’ll always be compromising what I believe in. And that’s emotionally crippling. Bo Burnham said this really well in his special “Make Happy.”

I can sit here and pretend my biggest problems are Pringle cans and burritos. The truth is my biggest problem’s you. I want to please you, but I want to stay true to myself. I want to give you the night out that you deserve, but I want to say what I think and not care what you think about it.

I too am trying to stay true to myself. I still haven’t mastered it, but at least I don’t straighten my hair anymore.


If you found this insightful, I’d recommend reading “Everything is Fucked” by Mark Manson. I a lot of what I explained here I learned from that book.

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