Have you ever seen the donkey and the carrot? It’s an age-old idea. Keep showing the donkey a dangling carrot, and he keeps moving. That’s what we do to ourselves when we keep mythologising our lives. Our imaginary identities, the ones after we complete the illusory quest, is the carrot. We are the donkeys. No one knows who’s sitting on us. Perhaps, those who came before us. Maybe, those around us. Maybe us, ourselves. It doesn’t matter because the donkey is tired. The donkey wants to rest. There’s so much weight on him, and yet, the carrot. Oh, the carrot. The donkey keeps moving.
Lately, I’ve found newfound freedom. All my life, I have read stories where there is a quest, an underdog, and you know, the underdog completing the quest through character developments of his own. That’s the plot, I feel, we were all forced to grow upon. “Look around, look around, there’s something to conquer for everyone,” they said, and we listened, and sometime between all of that, we grew up.
I had a similar quest. I needed to escape the cards I was handed when I started whatever mess of a game this is, and I did. It happened. I did it. I was out before I was twenty years old. I’ve been clueless since then, and I’ve finally found out why I feel that way.
I’ve realised that our lives don’t go beyond where the questline ends, and life is pretty much the worst open-world game ever made. The developers have clearly abandoned it, and the moderators are just maintaining it at best. Yet, we find the quest. We’ve mythologised our lives so much that ordinary days hurt. Regular days where nothing happens, and you just do what you’re supposed to feel like an understatement to the grand idea of life that was somehow forced into us as children.
I call bullshit now. I’ve realised that the only beautiful thing about life is that it is all about the average days. It’s not about the days when you wake up and with one text message, you’re out of the middle class. It’s not about that affair that felt like it was straight out of a book. It’s definitely not about you being bullied in school and then becoming better than all of those people with time – whatever better means to you. None of that, no.
I’ve realised life is just that, life. The thought was depressing at first. What are you if you’re not all the questlines you’ve put on yourself? It is a question I kept asking myself every day, continually, all the time. It’s this concept of removing all the bullshit you tell yourself every day and living the normal with so much authenticity, you love it.
Waking up should be romantic. Taking a walk should be romantic. Running out of the cab to reach your desk before the clock hits time should be romantic. Everything should have fucking music blaring out in the background. Everything should feel like the most beautiful moment of our lives. There’s no carrot. There’s no destination. It’s just life. Things happen, sometimes to you, sometimes by you, and sometimes, out of nowhere.
Maybe one day, you help one person. That’s what I think we should tell our children. Not the idea of a bruised-up Peter Parker coming down to his window and lying to his aunt because with great power comes great responsibility. Fuck that. Fuck it. There’s no power, and there’s definitely no responsibility.
So, listen to me, and I hope a kid is reading this – someone preferably precisely how old I was when I first found the first story which put me on the path of the donkey. Listen up, kid. You save one person. You answer that one phone call when a close friend probably needed it the most. You leave your laptop and talk to your barista. You stop for a second and talk to the bum on the road and learn his name and say Hi every day in a world where everyone is ignoring him. Maybe, you buy him lunch sometimes. That’s it. You’ve already done enough than most people do. Trust me, there will be days you won’t do any of those, and that’s okay too. It’s all okay because that’s the point.
Everything from that point on, my superhero, is open season. You’ll have so many regular days, you won’t be able to count. Sometimes, and read that as on most days, you’ll need so much help just to hold on to life until the clock hits ten. The days are long, kid. The days are long. The worst part is, no one’s writing a book about you. Someday, and if luck plays out nicely, you’ll find yourself doing whatever the fuck you usually do but at the right time in the right place and at the right moment in history, and bam. Something’s happened.
You won’t know what it is, and no one can prepare you for it, but everyone will know about you or that one looming concern of your life – money, happiness, whatever your carrot is – will be conquered. All of that is, if luck plays out nicely, else you’ll be doing whatever the fuck you do anyway, and nothing will change, and that’s okay too. The worst part is, it’s not going to be sunshine and rainbows after that anyway. You’ll still feel the same things, and you’ll be even more confused.
The donkey has eaten the carrot, so why must he continue walking?
Someone sometime back put the idea in your head that if it was not epic or awesome, it wasn’t worth telling someone about, but that’s not it because you can count those days on your hand, man.
I’m just this twenty-something-guy writing this in a café and trust me, I’ve had only four or five of those straight-out-of-a-movie moments. Even if we went with rough math, that’s four or five days out of roughly eight thousand. Anyone else who says their number is beyond ten is bullshitting you.
I’ve always said this, and I’ll say it again. There’s not much to life. There’s not much to anything. It’s all just the walk, every step counts, every step irrespective of how repetitive they are, and how boring, and how mundane – all of them count.
It was never in the carrot, my donkey. It was always in the walk. Once I got this through my head, I could finally get off my bed. Then, I walked to the kitchen and made myself some coffee. It was a normal day that day.