Rand didn’t make me do it…I did

My mom was thoroughly confused about my little panic episode from my last post and that’s when I had to clarify that I didn’t get to that part yet! I was hoping to avoid it all because now that I’m back in NYC, it all feels so far away. Still, I better finish up my story about my brief flirtation with Ayn Rand and how I used it as an excuse to freak myself out.

The short of it is that at the end of my perusing of Rand’s book I decided that I was due for a reckoning. How so? Well, here I am traveling the globe, occasionally paying my bills late, having my sister deposit my meager earnings, and rescuing me when I fall a bit short. If Rand’s to be believed, I have taken leave of my senses and am living the highlife on someone else’s dollar. Who cares if I’ve decided to see if the universe will be generous to me? It actually has. Who cares if I’m trying to shift my thinking/feeling and figure out how to actually do the things I want? I’m getting there slowly. My takeaway from Ms. Rand was a harsh talking to: you better take care of your business or you are going to fall on your ass! You have not signed on for a more authentic life, you have actually checked out of your life and you do not deserve to succeed in any way. Yeah, Ayn is just as harsh as that little voice in my head.

I land in Shanghai, met up with my bud Jee, and caught some awesome Feli & Nadal tennis. Happiness! Then I try to get some cash out of the ATM and no money! What???? I start to panic but then I check my email and find a little note from my bank saying they have frozen my account, because they fear someone has taken my card and fled to Shanghai. No problem! I’ll just call and sort them out. Well, easier said than done. After about 2 hours of wrangling I finally manage to sort it out with my bank and they assure me that I will have access to my account by the time I wake the following morning. Sweet! Next morning, I go to the ATM, still no cash! Now I’m worried, because I need cash for the hostel. I know, how dare they not take credit cards? Anyway, after lots of hassles, a crying fit on the phone where I float the idea of just returning home early, and a stern but helpful hand from my sis, I have cash in my hand. I pay my hostel, soothe myself with some tennis on TV, and have a fairly fitful sleep. The following day, I go to the ATM, and viola, money is mine again! I watch a marathon of men’s quarterfinal matches at the tourney, am forced to take a cab ‘cause the metro stops at 10:30 PM, and finally get a good night’s rest on Friday night. After a mellow Saturday of wandering around Shanghai, I settled into myself enough to pose the question: what the heck happened and how did I lose my cool so completely?

As you might have guessed, a dose of Rand mixed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy proved to be a deadly combination. I had determined that I had done nothing to deserve my year of tennis and that I must pay for it in some way. Unlike the Objectivist ideal postulated by Rand and secretly subscribed to by me, I was not making these trips happen through a wholly rational and reasoned manner but by a bit of wishing, hoping, praying, and some crazy hustling! Is that any way to demonstrate mastery of the world? And how about all the helping hands I’ve accepted along the way, why it’s positively welfare-like, the way folks have been generous in offering accommodations, tickets, a drink or a meal on my many stops. I feel grateful but I also feel guilty, undeserving, and selfish. So, my freak out in Shanghai was a horrible self-flagellation. It was exactly what I was I was due for daring to try to create something whose end remains unclear and unknown; better to predictably suffer, even at my own hands, than to continue to put myself out in the world and be blessed as I have been thus far. Does that make any sense?

As I’ve welcomed a friend and former work colleague from LA these past few days, my Shanghai freak out continues to reverberate. In many ways, I’ve been hiding my true colors behind “noble work” for a long time; it’s scary to admit how very little I cared about some of my paid work, even if I was good at it. It’s a tremendous challenge to assert yourself when you have only ever found value in self-sacrifice for some imagined public good; without any sacrifice in sight, I’m left feeling awfully SELFish indeed.


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