A few years ago in India, I took a photo of a little girl helping her mother pick cotton. When I saw the photo, it was so beautiful, so poignant. I saw myself in the girl and said “I was a version of this little girl, once.”
Now I know I took photos of pain. I saw pain in this photo, and that’s what made it beautiful to me. Loneliness, disconnection – so perfect. A perfect fit.
The narrative was that I was meant to be in pain, it was meant for me, it’s what I deserved, it’s what I could expect. I embraced it like a good little soldier.
Back then, had I been aware of my core beliefs, one of my journal entries would have been this:
Life is pain, and I want to do my best at life. I need to perform, I need to do well so I can be accepted. Therefore, I must seek the greatest suffering.
Suffering is my purpose, my reason for living. In one sense, it is my religion: I believe in it. I am all about the hardship, I want more. I am collecting suffering-points.
If I’m not feeling pain, how do I know I am alive? It feels so real; I feel so alive whenever I am in pain.
I am meant for pain, I am chosen for it. Other people might be happy, but that’s not the path that’s meant for me. Besides, happiness isn’t even real, it’s not even a thing.
I have been traveling all over the world looking for suffering, seeking to understand those who have it figured out. Who are those people who have really gotten it right? I know it is an endless resource, and I just want to mine more of it for myself. This will be my greatest achievement, something I can be truly proud of. I don’t do it for fame and recognition, but I do have the sense that people might say “Wow, look how strong she is, that she can endure such hardship and just keep on going. She can take a licking and keep on ticking. She can feel so much pain and still be so productive and efficient!”
Fortunately, I have had some difficulties in my life, some bad things happen to me. Kids picked on me at school; I always felt understood; people took advantage of me. It makes sense, because this is the way things are supposed to be. It’s a perfect setup because it helps me reach my goal of ultimate suffering.
Suffering is the one thing that makes sense to me. Our beautiful world isn’t perfect, and the imperfections in it cause pain. Take sickness, natural disasters. Things tend toward chaos.
I could guess at where all these ideas come from in the first place. I have a few theories. But regardless of their origin, I needed to replace them with new thoughts. I needed to update my knowledge.
I looked for pain and found it. What if I started looking for joy?