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Make Shit Better

Three months ago, I left the advertising agency I was working at. I had worked there for a little over three years.

To be clear, it was a good company. The people were smart, the projects were (mostly) creative, and I learned a lot during my tenure. I made some great friends and we had a lot of fun. Still do, in fact.

But, as Heraclitus said, the only constant in this life is change. The staff changed, the benefits changed, the projects changed. But, in truth, the most significant change was my own. I had been changing. I wanted something else. I needed something else.

There's an old anecdote known as the "boiling frog." The story goes - if you place a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will frantically attempt to escape. But if you place a frog in a pot of tepid water and heat it slowly, the frog will contently adjust to the increasing heat, ultimately boiling itself alive.

While the validity of this story is debatable, the principle applies; discontentment is usually a slow-burn.

Discontentment. It took a long time to recognize it, but by the time I had, it was already at home in my head. My new cognitive houseguest lurked in every corner - every annoyance seemed magnified, every passion was dampened. Even my health began to suffer.

I was unhappy, plain and simple.

The will to act

I'm a pretty complacent fucker. I'm not sure why I'm prone to cling to a harmful situation - I suspect it comes from a deep-seeded fear of change. It must be evolutionary for humans to crave routine and familiarity - even if it is familiarity with shit.

It's a feedback loop. The more miserable you are, the more bleak your situation appears, which makes you more miserable, and so on. I had to break the cycle.

It was slow going. What's the opposite of cold-turkey? "Warm-cow," maybe? I shuffled my feat by updating my resume, building a portfolio, etc. In reality, I was just buying time. Time before having to uproot. Time before having to change. But the closer I got, the more certain I was that it was the right thing to do.

The final hurdle

Life's sense of timing would be hilarious if it wasn't so goddamned inconvenient.

Once I had made up my mind to leave, a huge upset occurred at my agency. Several of the upper management in my department (including my boss) decided to exit, which presented me with a large promotional opportunity. Meanwhile, after a couple of interviews, I was offered the chance to join a small team working on some exciting products.

It's hard to focus on a new opportunity with a sumo wrestler-sized promotion taking up 90% of your field-of-view. As I hovered in indecision, I started gravitating toward the promotion. But the closer I got, the more unhappy I felt. "This is strange," I thought. "Shouldn't I be excited?"

It's important to listen to your feelings - they're often a couple of steps ahead of your brain. I spent a brooding weekend pondering my existential conundrum and arrived at a revelation: accepting the promotion was the easy route. It's obvious and predictable. I hadn't spent months fighting against my own complacency only to give up when presented with a big shiny carrot.

Life had coincidentally presented me with a final hurdle - a challenge to prove my worth. I needed to make a change, and it needed to be a hard choice because that's what makes it worth it. Change is unknown and the unknown is scary, but in this case, it was the right thing to do. For my sanity, my health, and my integrity.

All's well that ends...

So I took the jump - the "leap of faith." It sounds dramatic, but it really isn't. We're privileged to be living in a time where we can fret over such minor decisions.

The truth is, we should be making decisions every day to fight against complacency and improve life. Not just our own lives, but the lives of humanity. It's easy to ignore the shit. To acclimate to it, excuse it, even become dependent on it. We begin to protect it because it feels familiar. In reality, we're clinging to what is harming us.

Your shit could be external - mine was mostly internal. I was fighting against myself: my fears, my goals, and my needs.

What's your shit? What is society's shit? Our country's? Our species'? What are we allowing to continue because we're too afraid of the unknown?

Do what's scary - call it out, fight it, change it. Make shit better.

- rhv

P.S. If you're looking for furiously formed words in 140 character chunks, follow me on Twitter.

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