Last night I was talking to a friend about being assertive. He said that he disapproves of passivity, that it’s important to take charge of your own destiny. If you want to meet girls, you have to go out and approach them. If you want a fulfilling career, you have actively identify what you’d like to do and make it happen. I agreed with him, but thought there was a second part of the equation: you have to be healthy. Maybe healthy isn’t the right word: I’m thinking of something halfway between mature and self-aware. I believe that things come to us when we both understand our needs and are able to act on them. There’s no point being assertive if you’re assertive about the wrong thing. And what’s the right thing? The right thing is the one that feels fun.

So many high-achieving people have no idea who they are and what they want. Our culture has conditioned them to always pursue the prestigious thing. Their understanding of what they personally find fulfilling is weak at best. You see these Twitter threads about supposedly attractive 30-year-olds making 500k per year who can’t find partners and their problem is so obviously not that no one wants to date them (barring egregious personality problems not mentioned in the Twitter threads, of course). It’s that they don’t know how to search, and they don’t know what they’re searching for. And even they found it, they wouldn’t know how to appreciate what they had. In other words, I think that they don’t know how to have fun.

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I know writing is right for me because I actually enjoy doing it. That’s what matters. It’s not about what you find intellectually cool, or what seems like the best “opportunity.” Those things can be important too, but they don’t matter if you hate doing the thing. I like sitting at the dining table and tapping away at my keyboard for a few hours. I like to make up stories and write down my thoughts. Of course there are days when I’m sad and struggling and my writing is bad, but most of the time I’m having a pretty good time. There are not that many things in the world I could do for eight hours a day and have a good time.

You have to do the thing you actually enjoy doing, not the thing you find conceptually exciting. You have to date the person you actually like, not the ideal of perfection you fetishize in your mind. And you have to have enough self-knowledge to know what you enjoy.

This mirrors a recent revelation I’ve had about relationships. Here it is: the couples I admire most seem like they’re having fun. That’s literally it. Obviously, everyone will tell you that their relationship is fun because that’s what they’re contractually obliged to claim. And I’m sure they’re having fun sometimes. But honestly I don’t think most couples seem like they’re having that good of a time. They seemed bored. Or stressed? Or one person wants more but the other doesn’t want to give it. There’s not really that deep sense of joy and play that makes relationships aspirational to me. The couples I admire are probably often stressed out and fight and disappoint each other, but there really is this thoroughline of playfulness, of really having a great time with the other person, that I think a lot of relationships lack.

Donna Tartt said once that if the writer is having fun then so is the reader. So now I always try to have fun when I’m writing. And in love, and in life.