You pay for everything that you do. Everything.
I sit on my ass and numb out in front of a screen, tying up my focus with some trivial bullshit, forgetting about life for a few hours until I can pass out in bed and forget about it some more.
I say that I’ll resume my exercise routine when I’m finished with exams, when I’m finished with my internship, when I’m finished doing fucking anything that can be vaguely defined as ‘more important’ than exercise. Next week. Next month. My muscles won’t atrophy that much, right? I won’t put on that much fat, right?
I’ll sit in the library instead of my apartment, so that all of my fucking around on the internet can be called a ‘study break’.
I’ll justify not saying hi to that cute-as-fuck girl because I’m ‘too busy’ or ‘not ready’.
Watching the same episodes of some mediocre series over and over again instead of practicing an instrument.
Turning down social invitations because I’m so funny and smart and charming that relationships are all take and no give, they should be happy just to have me there.
Not shaving or getting a haircut because I bullshit myself into thinking it looks ‘rugged’.
Not wearing cleaned and pressed clothes because it’s college, who gives a fuck, right? Not planning on talking to any girls today, anyway. Doesn’t matter I share classes with them, that they’ll remember me this way. If and when I do finally get my shit together, I’ll be handicapped by that weedy, unkempt cunt who looked an awful lot like me and was here all semester.
Then, one day, when I’m sitting there zoned-out behind my laptop, I get bored. I’ll start thinking of my ex. I shouldn’t look her up, it’s a bad idea, I’ll tell myself. But, since I have little self-control to begin with, I type in the Facebook URL I know by heart and press enter.
Fast university internet. Her profile pops up instantly. My eyes immediately head to that spot on the left where the profile picture is.
Two faces. Two smiles.
She’s there with a guy with his arms around her. The kind of photo and pose that so unambiguously conveys that yes, this is my boyfriend, and yes, I like him a lot. She looks fucking gorgeous, even more than I remember. And the guy, he looks handsome, smart, capable, and I fucking hate him for it.
A sudden shock hits. Nausea like my stomach is dropping out my ass. My heart’s beating like a jackhammer in my throat. An icy-hot hand is stretching out my diaphragm, I can’t fucking breathe. My eyes start darting across the screen, morbid curiosity compelling me to take it all in.
The cover photo of them on the beach, watching the sunset, her head on his shoulder. His massive fucking shoulders. All of his cool fucking friends off on the side. It looks exotic, it’s a vacation they took together. The top wall post is just a fucking heart emoticon with his fucking face next to it. I glimpse her commenting something with the word ‘love’ in it before I manage the motor control to close the tab.
It’s too fucking much.
It’s all flooding back. All the debt I accrued screwing around since the break-up. All of those hours, days, weeks, months spent avoiding anything that would make my life better in any meaningful capacity.
I could’ve had another girlfriend by now, a better-looking, smarter, funnier one. A six-pack. Guitar skills. Top-of-the-class grades. I could be in a place where I couldn’t care less about anything happening in the life of my ex. But I’m not.
You pay for everything that you do.
When I sat at the bottom of the stands during my high-school athletics meet, sitting there with my shorts and my little bottle of water after I crapped out not even halfway through the 1600m. Even that chubby chick stuck it out and finished.
When I played WoW instead of studying for tests so that, even though I was smart, I had no academic credibility whatsoever.
Fucking up an entry-level version of Malaguena on the guitar during the Music Evening because I didn’t give a single shit about practicing.
Having girl after girl reject me.
Pissing away the first twenty years of my life so that I’ll be stuck playing catch-up for the next three years.
You pay for everything that you do.
Sometimes, though, I get it right. Sometimes, I go through the pain first, and receive the joy later.
I tear myself apart in the gym for a few months, no holds barred. I eat right. I get enough sleep. Then, I get up out of bed after landing a petite redhead medical student and I hear ‘holy shit, nice ass’.
I sit down every evening for three weeks and practice the first minute of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters on my steel-string until I can play it perfectly every time. Slides, pull-offs, finger placement, everything. Though my fingertips are rended by what feels like cheese wire, though I get incredibly frustrated because it takes ages to get that one part just right, I persist. One night, I get a girl back to my apartment. She’s classy, she’s going to take some work, but I like her, and it’s going to be worth it. She asks me about the guitar sitting on the stand. She asks me to play something. I give some token resistance. She insists. We sit across from each other and I start playing. When I look up, her mouth’s open, she’s giving me doe eyes. We start making out. I drown in the scent of her expensive perfume. The edge of the guitar digging painfully into my chest doesn’t matter because I feel like I’m fucking bursting with mirth.
I practice a little bit of Russian each day, getting the basics right, memorizing a few sentences here and there. I go out in a group and there’s someone who speaks Russian, and a girl I want to impress (never a Russian girl I want to impress, for some reason). She’s smart, accomplished, but can’t take me seriously because I have muscle and wear a V-neck. I hear the accent of the Slavic guy. I try and strike up a conversation. It starts with Привет, как дела? and we go on to talk about bears in Moscow or some shit because that’s as far as my vocabulary goes. Still, though, it’s obvious I’ve got brains and brawn, motherfucker. Suddenly I’m a sophisticated intellectual who’s ‘well-rounded’. She asks me to teach her a few phrases the next morning.
For one semester, I study right. I plan properly, I prepare thoroughly, I have my shit together. I do well on fucking everything, but I don’t tell anyone. I just spend my energy barely concealing a smug sense of superiority. Then, right before the examinations, a lecturer or a clerk or somebody fucks up and breaks university protocol by accidentally adding the surnames and initials to the spreadsheets of academic results put up on the wall. Usually you’d identify your results by your student number, a handful of digits probably only you and your stalker have memorised, but now there’re names attached, everything is out in the open. Everyone crowds around to see, spending longer than usual because they want to see who they did better than. Especially the insufferable cunts who base their entire self-worth off of their test scores. The kind of people who, upon discovering that you threaten their position near the top, will constantly ask you and how as it for you? or how’d you do? or some other self-validating investigation disguised as curiosity. The kind of people who will passive-aggressively resent you each time you inadvertently make it clear you know the work better than they do. Anyway, the look on their faces when they can’t find a number that’s higher than yours, god, it’s sweet. Not to mention the immensely satisfying sensation of sitting at the back of a lecture theatre and knowing that, for that semester, for those courses, I’m better than every single one of you motherfuckers. Call it narcissism, call it bitterness, call it simply being an asshole; my attitude won’t look good on an applications essay but holy shit, it feels good.
You pay for everything that you do. You pay with pain.
But, I have a choice.
I can postpone, put myself in debt, numb out, maybe get some pleasure through procrastination or fucking a chubby, but inevitably atone for it with soul-wrecking grief and regret.
Alternatively, I can pay upfront. Do painful, uncomfortable, terrifying, embarrassing shit knowing that it’s going to pay off, sooner or later. Usually later. But holy shit, when it pays, it pays.
Life is pain, in one form or another, inevitable, unavoidable. The only say I have in it, is whether it comes now, or later. I can administer it voluntarily or have it thrust upon me against my will.
Life is pain, but not necessarily suffering. Pain is a given, suffering is optional. Suffering is what you set yourself up for when you make bad decisions. Suffering is pain, with interest.
Life is pain, but it is also joy. It reserves that joy for the brave souls who have the balls to step up to the plate and take it on the chin, knowing that temporary fatigue and discomfort is much more preferable than lasting regret and disappointment. It has nothing but contempt for those cowering in the dark, safe, corners, and it makes them suffer accordingly.