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the easy road leads to the hard life, the hard road leads to the easy life.

easy road
Friday, October 12, 2012
For a long time, I was convinced that pot made my life easier. It didn't. However, pot did make my *days* easier, but was seriously holding me back from having the life I wanted. Smoking pot was also a way for me to cope with my illness, although I was too blind to see that it wasn't making anything better... it was actually making things worse, but I didn't know that. I didn't know pot was making my life harder until a few months after I quit. That's because it wasn't letting my medication do what it was supposed to do.

I was convinced that, in order to appreciate my favorite TV shows or a baseball game, I had to smoke. This was taking the easy road. I thought I was happy with my life, but the reality was that I was in a rut and didn't realize it. I should have realized what was going on, but I loved pot too much to admit it to myself. Pot was making it harder to watch TV--not easier. I watched a ton of TV during the early stages of my recovery, but it was painful a lot of the time. The thing that made watching TV hard was that little things in the episodes would trigger painful, embarrassing memories of things I'd said or done in the past--things I'd said or done because of my illness or things I'd said or done just out of stupidity, before my illness.

I was so confident when I went to USC and was living in my fraternity house that I'd do a bunch of dumb, embarrassing things and never think twice about them. I'd just ignore them and foolishly thought I was forgetting them. This was taking the easy road. But the easy road *does* lead to a hard life, like the quote says. The embarrassing things I'd done didn't affect me at all when I was living my reckless life. But after my illness, I couldn't watch any TV show without it triggering a few of those painful memories. I hadn't forgotten about the dumb things I did. Thinking I'd forgotten about them made my life easier at the time, but down the road, I paid the price. I couldn't escape or stop myself from remembering the embarrassing things I'd done. It was torture. That easy road was making my life so much harder than it needed to be.

That's why I had to smoke so much pot when I watched TV. It made it easier to watch TV, but then other things in my life would trigger more embarrassing memories. This was happening because of the very thing I was convinced would keep it from happening: smoking all that pot. Once I quit, all those painful memories slowly stopped consuming my thought process, and I started making new, better memories to replace them with... to move on from that reckless life I used to have... the reckless life that was so easy to live at the time I was living it.

So that was one way the easy road led to a hard life for me. But the other half of the quote is true as well: the hard road leads to the easy life.

Before my illness, I was never truly challenged by life. I lived in ignorance and was making poor decisions without realizing it. My life was like a joy ride and I thought it would always be that way. Then my illness kicked in and, for the first time, I was tested by life. The truth is, my illness was a wake up call.

In another blog I wrote ('complacency') I wrote about a problem I have with a bunch of mental illness memoirs--that they end with something like "well, since there is no cure for mental illness this is about as good as I'm ever going to get." I don't see my life that way. Going into my last semester at USC--about a month before my illness kicked in--I was living in my fraternity house and was determined to grow up and work hard and take myself seriously. I had way too many friends, was very well liked, but had very little self esteem. The reason I had so little self esteem was because I knew, deep down, nobody really respected me... and that no one would ever turn to me for advice. That was why I had no self-respect.

I didn't blame anyone for not having respect for me then and I don't blame those people now. I didn't have my life together, and I knew it. But I also knew how to make people like me... how to make people laugh. I think people who know me would say I am a pretty funny guy. Being a funny guy came easy to me--it was taking the easy road. Anyone can be funny, though. Respect from others is much harder to get--you have to earn it. You can't just convince people to respect you. In order to be respected, you need to find a way to *show* others that you're worthy of respect, such as by being a hard worker. Being a hard worker is taking the hard road. But your life will be much easier if people respect you than if people just consider you a fun guy who they'd never consider coming to you when they have some personal problems they need help with. I desperately wanted to be the kind of guy people would turn to for advice.

Going back to my book--I said that other memoirs tend to end with 'well since there is no cure for mental illness, this is as good as I'm ever going to get.' That's not how my book ends. The book starts with me having no self esteem and yearning for respect. When the book ends, I'm at a place where people (from high schoolers to retirees) do respect me and do turn to me for advice--sometimes calling in the middle of the night (and I always answer). That desire for respect and finally getting that respect is what completes my book (and my life).

Now, people do respect me and they do turn to me for advice, because they know that I've gone down the hard road and that coping with my illness has become pretty easy (yeah, I have weak moments, but everyone does--not just those of us with a mental illness). In order to be sought after for advice you need to have been challenged by life and come out stronger. Also, when you've gone down the hard road, things you thought were hard to deal with in the past suddenly don't look so bad. Suddenly the challenges you faced before going down the hard road don't seem as insurmountable as they may have in the past, when you were going down the easy road.

When you've gone down the hard road, you come out changed. When people can't handle the hard road, they let the hard road break them--it changes them and leaves them broken. The people who can handle the hard road are changed too--they come out stronger... they come out of it with confidence... with a new perspective on life... with more self esteem and self-respect... and they gain the capability to be extraordinarily empathetic. Their lives seem easier because they've had to overcome something they never thought they could overcome. They've been tested by life and they passed. Now, with that new perspective on life, they know how to handle adversity, and they gain an appreciation for others who have also handled their own kind of adversity. Because of that, they have the ability to empathize. And when you're capable of true empathy, you are capable of helping others. Nothing is more rewarding than knowing you've had an impact on someone's life. It makes going down the hard road worth all the effort.



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Read That Which is Personal is Most Common mikew 10/12/12
Read the easy road leads to the hard life, the hard road leads to the easy life. mikew 10/12/12





































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