44: An interesting life.

- September 17, 2017 -

Time and time again, I find myself returning to questions about the notion of success.

I do this often, and I do it regardless of whichever segment of the success spectrum I happen to find myself occupying at that moment. For me, it’s a continual questioning, a constant readjustment of the sails, and although I don’t know that there will ever be an answer I’m fully satisfied with, I do know that there exists the occasional moment when a resolution seems close.

Recently, upon crossing paths with a quote of Sylvia Plath’s, I found myself experiencing one such moment. I think you’ll soon find out why, but, for now, let’s start with the quote:

“So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes,” she writes, “Yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them.”

In my experience, her advice does indeed ring true in regards to the relationships we form with others. But, more broadly, I think it’s also deeply resonant when it comes to the way in which we define ourselves in relation to the world at large, and, within that world, whether or not we see ourselves as happy or successful or fulfilled.

. . .

Much of the time, our tendency is to move through our days precisely as Plath says: “shut up tight inside [ourselves] like boxes.” We have our routines, and we stick to them. There’s very little variation, but, beyond that, there’s also very little exploration outside the confines of our most immediate and comfortable circumstances — meaning that, regardless of however much good we might actually have in our lives, we’re simply not seeing it, limiting the extent to which we feel accomplished or content.

This, then, is what I like so much about Plath’s quote. It suggests that if we want to improve or expand our lives — if we want to reveal all the good that’s been tucked away by those airtight boxes — we don’t have to do very much, and we certainly don’t have to do anything drastic. We don’t have to quit our jobs, move across the country, or sever any relationships. We just have to be more deliberate about the way in which we interact with and occupy our world, the way in which we move through and experience life.

We have to make a greater effort to take an interest in our surroundings, to view the people and the places which fill them as deserving of our attention. We have to widen our scope and take notice of things previously unseen. We have to open up, to unfold, to be interested as we live in search of the interesting.

I like that approach. And I especially like it as a measure of success. It’s clear-cut, it’s concrete, and, above all, it leaves me eager to get started.


Outside the box,
– J


This piece comes from Jana Marie’s newsletter, The Sunday Letters. You can sign up to receive future editions below.