When Trifles Take Over


It’s nice to be back in the United States. It’s just as comforting and fulfilling as I hoped it would be. Life is easy at the moment. And that’s always a great feeling. I had one professional goal for the six weeks before classes, and that was to finish the paper I’m writing and submit it to a journal. But I’ve been here for three weeks now, and I’m still without a complete draft. I’ve fallen victim to the takeover of trifles. Now don’t get me wrong, I do derive pleasure from constantly worrying about nagging little tasks. In Germany I didn’t have anything concrete to worry about most of the time, and now that I’m back in the States I kind of love it that I have to look for health insurance, find a place to live, get things sorted for the semester that’s about to begin, etc. These things give me tiny bits of joy because the time has actually come to do them and I have the power to do them, unlike the many months in which I would have loved to get my life organized but had to wait patiently in limbo. I’ve spent three weeks running errands and making calls and sorting through boxes.  It’s been thrilling and pleasantly exhausting, but looking back on what I’ve actually accomplished, I realize that I have nothing to show for it. Sweating the small stuff got me nowhere. If I ticked off a few boxes in my ceaseless churning, they were boxes that probably didn’t need to be ticked in the first place. A long list of tasks remains. And worst of all, I didn’t dedicate time to the task that mattered most: writing my paper. I worried a lot and it was exciting, but now I feel like I just came off a sugar high and am in a depleted stupor.  So what? I procrastinated. Big deal, everyone does it… No, that’s not the point.

The point is that had I written my paper instead, I would feel whole and sure right now. There’s something so calming and fulfilling about getting words–just the right words, the words you want–on paper. You convey a message that wasn’t there before. You do something that matters, and that strengthens you from deep inside. It gives you meaning. On the other hand,  when, instead of doing what gives you meaning, you let life’s trifles take over and fuel your constant self-obsession and panic so that you can feel a momentary high, you end up with nothing. You “accomplish” things, but you get nowhere. You perfect your life, but you strip away your own power. Next time someone tells me, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” I will know that it doesn’t just mean, “No use in worrying so much.” It means that trifles will take you apart block by block; you have to fight this destruction of self by focusing on what matters most.


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