20 December, 2021

Loving Life

A small selection of why I'm not depressed.
I love life.

Sometimes I read posts by people who are depressed. A common theme is that they feel that life is not worth living. At times, I have wondered if I have depressive tendencies: I’m lazy to a fault; I spend much of my free time sleeping; it takes a lot to get me in a good mood; my idea of a day well spent involves lots of playing games while at home and ordering in so I don’t have to cook. On a 0–10 scale where 0 is no happiness and 10 is all the happiness, I’d consistently rate myself at 1. Yet maybe this is more because I can imagine a lot more happiness than I’ve ever felt, as opposed to me being less happy than I’d otherwise expect.

But when it comes to life, I’d always prefer more of it. This is the primary reason why I avoid ever saying that I am depressed, no matter how down I may get.

Life just has so much to offer. How amazing is it that we can reason about obvious necessary truths sufficiently far that we can make unexpected discoveries about other not-at-all-obvious necessary truths? In the latest Star Trek: Discovery episode, much is made of the aphorism that “all is possible”. Yet isn’t it so much more amazing that we can discover for ourselves that some things are not just contingently false, but necessarily impossible?

I’ve also been watching Ted Lasso, where a common theme is about the intersection of virtue ethics and deontological ethics. As a consequentialist, I find it fascinating to see how flawed protagonists work within a world where they believe certain actions are right, even while I, as a viewer, think they are just plain wrong. I know that I’m reading more into the writing than was intentionally put there; Plato was certainly right when he said that some poets can’t see the beauty in their own poetry. But watching shows like this makes gives me an enjoyment of life that is outsized from the quality of show it is. Ted Lasso is nowhere near the epitome of good television (The Wire it is not), and yet it, like other shows at its level of quality (Friendship is Magic; She-Ra; etc.) still give me significant enough enjoyment that I’d strongly prefer to continue watching them than to end my life, ceteris paribus.

Fiction aside, I really enjoy video games. Even not-so-great games give me thrills that I don’t get elsewhere in life. I just finished Grandia, which irritated me for not being nearly so challenging as I might like (even with zero-attack weapons, it’s just way too easy to beat the final boss), but I still really enjoyed it. This generalizes, I think. So much in life consists of these simple pleasures: seeing the trees change as they grow; feeling the wind in my hair when I go fast; finding an unexpected result in recreational mathematics; slipping on the most luxurious socks in the world; competing at your best in the Bee Game League; interacting with siblings during the holidays. There’s just so much enjoyment to get out of life.

Much of that enjoyment comes from Katherine. She truly is an ideal partner for me. She supports me in every way that I need to be supported, and the things she needs help with correspond closely to the things that I most able to help with, with few exceptions (e.g.: dishes!). I get a lot out of relaxing with her; debating with her; dissecting reality with her; imagining with her. I love the way that we interact when it comes to her art. I love the way that we mesh when we decide on what food to eat. I never imagined that I would be as satisfied with a partner as I am with her.

Yet: even though I think it wrong to ever call myself depressed, I must nevertheless wonder: why do I experience such lows? Lows that make it so impossible to open my own mail that it sits for months unopened until I get the strength to open it all at once? Lows that prevent me from being able to fill out forms even when there’s a huge incentive for doing so? (I am reminded of being in college and being presented with a form that I had to sign and turn in. I was told explicitly: sign this and you get $2k for tuition; don’t sign it and you don’t get the $2k. I was told that there was absolutely nothing negative that came from me signing it. I read the document and it did not require me to do anything that I found morally questionable. It was just a document they needed signed in order to process this particular scholarship. I left that document on the top of my desk all semester long. I can remember putting it on top of my game controllers so that I’d have to physically move it anytime I wanted to play a game. I still never signed it, due to a combination of akrasia and some kind of weird psychological aversion to signing documents in general. At the end, my counselor forged my signature in frustration, a clear case of a perverse incentive that carries me through to today.)

I have been told by friends that I sometimes have trouble with “adulting”. Others have said that I have executive functioning issues. None of these people are professionals, but I see this myself: I feel anxious during times when I probably shouldn’t; and, conversely, there are situations where I’d expect most people to be anxious where I don’t feel anxious at all. Maybe this has nothing to do with depression at all, but is instead symptomatic of some alternate condition that I’m not familiar with.

Regardless, I know that I love life. Life is varied and full of surprises, regardless of where you look. I’m not a poet, but there are people who go deep into poetry, taking pleasure from a short succession of words alone. I’m no musician, but some people memorize the discography of entire genres, finding beauty in details that I know nothing about. To a mathematician, there is unparalleled joy in realizing that you can find a certainty of truth in unexpected contexts; to a person of faith, there is a similar joy in having faith regardless of where reason might otherwise take you. There is all of this and more: the vastness of space; the game of solving good detective novels before the third act; the wind whipping through one’s hair as you rollerblade on the street; the simple joy in having a nicely plated meal on a tablecloth even when you're eating a meal all by yourself. There is simply too much on offer for me not to love life.

Thank you to my family here, especially my brother and sisters, and my father and new mother, who constantly seek to make my life better through simple interactions. Thanks also go to my old family, including my mother, who did much to raise me well when I was young, even if she no longer is capable of having a relationship with me today, and also to the rest of that side of the family, who, through no fault of their own, I have not seen in some time. Thank you, Katherine and Terry, who are able to enrich my life through little more than conversation, and yet continue to do much else for me on top of this. Thank you to my many friends that I see only rarely and mostly online; to Jon for his closeness in intent and dedication; to Dorek in his contemplation and natural action; to Matt, Greg, Jason, Russ, Davids, Kevin, Carlos, and so many others for their past inclusion even if we no longer interact much; to Amber, Allison, Stephanie, Laura, Rosemary, Amanda, Day, and several others for their severe impact on my current personality; and to Robin for being there for me in times when I rarely deserved it. Thank you, Jasper, for opening me up more in love than I previously thought possible, and to Adrianah, whose nonpresence has influenced me more than some others' presence. To all of you, and especially to you, Katherine, I give thanks for making my life as wonderful as it is. The pleasures of life may come from all sorts of places, but it is from fellow beings like you that end up meaning the most to me.

I love life, and as a corollary: I love you all.

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