Fiction, reality, and disillusionment of work.

Ryan Yan
3 min readFeb 29, 2020

This is an embarrassing article to write, because it’s about something I feel like I should’ve figured out a long time ago. But at the same time, I think there are a lot of people out there still struggling with it.

The point of the matter is this — when we’re younger, a lot of us hear about stories of adventure, danger, love, lust, and betrayal. But when we reach adulthood and realize that life turns out to be, well, less dramatic than all of that, I think we struggle to handle that. We’re all amped up and ready to take on whatever challenges life has in store for us. But then you get to an office or wherever you work 9–5 for the first time and you realize that the biggest challenge there is trying to stay busy for the whole 8 hours there.

You feel like you’re wasting the best years of your life. You know you’re capable of anything, and you’re doing… this? At least that’s how I felt. And I know I wasn’t the only one. All the other young guys in my office were feeling the same thing. They were all trying to just get out and do something that felt like it was their own. I quit that job and started trying to make music, but only lasted for about half a year. I realized that came with it’s own set of issues — not just big, fantastic challenges, mind you, but the excruciating dullness of trying to eek out something creative when you really didn’t want to.

People around me thought I was pretty crazy. I had started to think they were right, so I tried to figure out what had made me feel the way I did about the modern grind. I looked back to the stories I read and heard in my childhood. I realized they had all been stories of heroes and adventure and overcoming immeasurable odds to achieve success. Save the world, rescue the princess, and all that. I realized that for all my life I was trying to play the part of the hero. It’s what drove me so hard in college and everything else up to that point. To the point where I reached adulthood and I felt like there was nothing really in life that was worth doing. Nothing that could match up to that challenge that young me aspired to overcome. The daily grind was just that. A grind. It wasn’t hard, it wasn’t stimulating. Worst of all, I felt like I could do so much more, but at the same time, I couldn’t figure out anything that I really seemed worthy. It took me too long to realize this:

We live in a sort of “post-saved” world. The world’s already been saved. There’s no singular force of evil to take down — everything is shades of grey. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no work to be done. Your world is all around you. If you really have these thoughts running around your head, you’re probably a little like me. You’ve probably had your successes, so you feel like you can do more. You probably do have the power to do more, but you might not to be able to decide what’s worth doing.

Put on a piece of music. From a game you played when you were a kid. Or a movie you watched that really inspired you. And think. Someone composed this music. Someone wrote those stories, created those characters, to represent the best qualities that humanity has to offer.

You say you want to be like them — that you could be, but you just haven’t been given the chance. You can’t just sit there cursing that you weren’t given the chance to be the hero you could’ve been in another world. Would your childhood heroes have been stuck there, mired in self-pity? You do whatever you can to make this world a better place.

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