David Foster Wallace

Bored of Being Overwhelmed

New York is a wonderful and awful place. There is such an abundance here no one wonders why it's called The City That Never Sleeps. I don't have to tell you there is always something to do. There are books written about it. And even then there is more. 

Boredom is unacceptable. Until you find boredom in being overwhelmed. There is so much it's too much. The glitz fades away and you're just left existing, in your little bubble. 

A number of open letters about New York have crossed my path recently, some disillusioned by New York and others praising it in unique ways. I took pleasure in reading them myself, if only because it is my current home. And, yes, New York is unique and it has style. It is unforgiving and memorable for an endless list of reasons. And just about anything you could say about it could be true. 

And somehow there is pressure just in existing here. It only started making sense when I went far enough away for long enough to appreciate other ways to live. 

It can't only be wild parties and drunken one-night stands. Sometimes we need to sleep. Or run home after work to attempt cooking dinner and reading for a bit. I like to crack my window so the breeze comes in while I write something like this.

The challenge is that New York tends to throw so many wrenches in the works. You have dreams, New York has plans. And parties. And events. There is so much that you need to stop and think for a minute. For yourself. What do you want from your surroundings? What are you willing to do?

After all, the late author David Foster Wallace said it beautifully - "[Learning how to think] means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to, and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.

Just because there is loads to offer doesn't mean you have to accept. You need to make some tough decisions that really aren't all that tough. Don't be fooled. You can strip away the bullshit for what really matters to you. 

I took a knife to some habits this week, thanks to an excellent Zenhabits article. I easily unsubscribed from a dozen mailing lists and social network updates. I started sending everything I really wanted to read to Pocket, a brilliant app, so I can binge on them when I had time to sit and absorb them completely. I've been training myself not to worry about the updates on my phone  as many thousands of times per day and training myself for my first 5K race. And, in the end, if you're not constantly distracted, what are you doing?

In Trust Me, I'm Lying, Ryan Holiday exposes the broken system of blogging today. And in wrapping up his long-view of the media landscape, he said this of modern reading diets: "When intelligent people read, they ask themselves a simple question: What do I plan to do with this information? Most readers have abandoned even pretending to consider this. I imagine it's because they're afraid of the answer: There isn't a thing we can do with it."

We're devouring a ton of information and experience and we're not quite sure why or if it's even good for us. New York is a test. The Internet is a test. Everything matters because of everything that does not. Only you can decide for yourself what you value of your spot right now.