Jun 20, 2022

I’m currently on vacation in Europe which has brought to my mind the topic of being comfortable. I distinctly remember a phase I went through freshman year of college where I purposely tried to accustom myself to being uncomfortable because, I thought, this would make it easier to do hard things: waking up early, working out, failing at something, or introducing myself to others. I wore clothes I didn’t usually wear. I hung out with I wouldn’t usually talk to. But did I ever really do anything that I didn’t want to? I think, at the end of the day, I was always doing what I chose to do - yes it made me feel uncomfortable, but deeper inside me there was no problem because this was something that I decided to do.

This vacation is one of the longest trips I’ve taken - it’s 15 days. That’s 15 days without being able to engage in what I believe to be my core routines. No making coffee in the morning with my manual espresso machine. No playing piano. I can’t remember the last time I felt this uncomfortable in general, let alone on vacation. My first guess towards the etiology of this mental state was that I’m not able to do what I want when I want away-from-home. It’s not wrong to be dependent on a routine, after all, many of us have pavloved ourselves into only being able to do work at a cafe with $6 coffee (myself included). To be dependent to the point of mood-swings, though, seems suboptimal.

I’ll be moving to New York in a few weeks and there’s no way I’m fitting a grand piano in my 480 sq. ft. studio. While I was home for the first part of summer break, I was at the piano for 2-3 hours every day and I’ve never felt happier. Yes, I can rent a practice room. Yes, I can play on my electric keyboard. But, these solutions aren’t sufficient. I can’t just go to a practice room whenever I want and the touch of an eletric keyboard is not the same as a real piano (and thus bad for technique). Is it wrong to be so particular? It’s hard for me to think about these things without thinking about my OCD diagnosis, and perhaps there’s no real answer besides medication.

Back to the main point - is there some correct ratio (on a case-by-case basis) of comfort and discomfort? You can probably guess the answer: it depends. I think it’s a good questions to think about for an afternoon. I introduced more “discomfort” into my life this past year by pushing to be more spontaneous and it’s netted me a lot of new friends and good memories. We will never experience everything and we most likely will only become experts at a handful of things; however, these things will happen more-or-less regardless of how much we try. There are some caveats, but depending on the comfort ratio you pick for yourself, I imagine that most of us have already reached a point of diminishing returns when it comes to the effort required to live what we would deem a comfortable life.

Take a nap if you feel like it. But also, pull an all-nighter for what makes you happy.