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It’s hard for people to understand why I care so little about living a long life, why I don’t exercise enough, eat healthy, or why I just don’t want to live for very long. After all, it goes against our evolutionary drive to sustain ourselves.
This is what it’s like for me.
Everyone gets a little flame to take care of. Most people do everything they can to help this little flame grow.
I’ve been charged with maintaining a little flame of my own. It was just given to me. I never asked for it. But here I am with this flame that I don’t want.
I see everyone else with their fires. Their fires grow and grow and they take delight in their warmth.
They make it seem so easy.
But for reasons I can’t understand, my fire won’t grow. It doesn’t give me any warmth. My little flame stays little, and it seems that there are far more things I have to do to just keep it burning. Sudden winds blow, rains fall, I run out of dry wood, and the flame seems to shrink for no reason. And while I exhaust myself trying to protect it from all these obstacles, I look around and see that no one else seems to struggle the way that I do. They don’t deal with the same things that I do. For them, the weather is predictable and forgiving. They have an endless supply of dry wood. Their flames don’t resist them. Their friends join them, they sit around their fires, laughing together, safe and warm.
My fire burns me.
I think to myself, “Why the hell do I bother? I don’t enjoy this stupid little fire. Maintaining it day by day exhausts me beyond reason. I reap no benefits from it. All I do is get burned over and over again. I can’t imagine having to deal with this flame forever.”
I can’t stop thinking about how much easier it would be if my flame just went out.
Maybe I won’t do it myself. But on the days the rain falls hard, maybe I could… maybe I will just let it die. Maybe I won’t bother doing anything until the flame is extinguished. It’s not like I care about it anyway.
I am told over and over again that I must take care of this flame. And maybe I do, but only so I don’t disappoint the people around me.
But there’s a little voice in the back of my head that tells me to keep going, that it will pay off someday. I don’t want to wait. I’ve been waiting so damn long already and I just don’t see how it will ever pay off. But some days it gets a little easier. Sometimes the little flame grows. Sometimes the burns don’t hurt quite so much. Sometimes, I can actually feel its warmth.
So I help it grow. I protect it. Soon, others are drawn to it, to its warmth. They join me and celebrate each time the flame grows a bit more. It becomes a full fire. They help me to tend it. We sit around it, take it to the beach, maybe even roast marshmallows together.
Someday, with enough patience and tenacity, I know my little flame will get there. I’ll have a fire someday. So what if I have to work harder than others to get my fire? Knowing how hard it is to deal with, a struggling little flame will help me to appreciate my fire all the more.
There are others, like me, who struggle the way that I do. There’s something comforting in knowing I’m not alone. Tequila Mockingbird is an undercover correspondent for Painted Brain News and a member of UCLA’s Active Minds program.
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