Sometimes you need to do hard things that you don't really want to do because they'll make your life easier. I mean ... probably.
See, I always feel weird about writing these advice columns, because there are people on this site who do them better than I do, and because my most important advice will always be I'm still an idiot so please don't listen to me. But there must be a few other idiots out there, because I occasionally get messages from readers with questions. Questions about life and stuff, instead of questions about the area of my expertise (nothing!). So I've put some answers together, with the warning that I don't know if these are the right answers; they're just the things that work for me that I've found to be true, right at this particular moment. Expect me to come back next year with a brand new set of answers ("Ignore everything I said previously and invest all of your money in gold!"). Until then ...
Nothing feels more satisfying than having baseless anger validated. It's why you smile when a politician you don't like gets caught up in some terrible scandal. It's one of the weirdest evolutionary developments to happen to the human brain. A new co-worker shows up at the office, and you make a split-second decision that you don't like him. Something about his face or the way he speaks or dresses fills you with venom, but you have no reason for having all of that animosity, so you keep quiet about it. Suddenly, you hear a story about this person leaving a mess in the bathroom, or finishing off the last of the coffee without refilling the pot, or drinking too much and acting rude at a company function, and then a part of your brain lights up and whispers Yes. We were right. We were right to hate this person, and now we don't have to be silent about it anymore. Now our hate can focus and burn bright. Yes.
Finally, all that arson feels justified.
[Real Talk Alert]
I get that way. I get angry a lot. I have a short temper. I'm always ready to fight. More than anything, I have rules. I have a strict, very black-and-white set of rules in my head, and if someone breaks one of those rules, even if the rule is stupid, even if I've unconsciously broken that rule myself in the past, even if I never explained the rule to anyone, I will hold a grudge. Passionately. I'm great at it.
It's my least favorite thing about myself.
Eventually I realized that none of the most positive moments in my life were centered on how angry I was at someone or something. I figured out that when I showed off photographs from some great party or some important milestone day in my life to friends, I didn't point out all of the people who weren't there because we were on bad terms at the time. I learned that none of my favorite anecdotes started with "I was still not speaking to [random person] when I went on [crazy adventure]." None of my greatest memories were made greater by the absence of people I was feuding with based on some perceived slight.
"Here's to all those fucks we didn't invite!"
But we're so good at feuding. How can it be a bad thing?
Your life won't be measured by how angry you can get. No one will eulogize you for your reputation as a dedicated grudge-holder, and if they do, you've failed.
You have to learn how to let go. You have to learn how to let go of the anger, even though cutting someone out of your life entirely might make everything appear simpler by virtue of the fact that you have one less person to humanize or care about. You have to learn how to let go of the anger, even though you have no cosmic guarantee that anyone else will let go of their anger. You have to learn how to let go of the anger, even though, when it burns brightest, it feels so fucking good.
Few things that "burn" make you healthier.
It's not as simple as making a decision. It's like anything else you want to be good at: You have to work at it. And, like anything else that takes work, you'll feel better when you master it.
It's not hard to see why jealousy stuck around, out of all the things that could have evolved within the human brain. You have your tribe, and you have things, but you worry that this other tribe might have more things or, worse yet, better things. You can't let that stand. For the good of your tribe -- for the good of you -- you need to hate the other tribe, resent them for what they have, and, if possible, take it.
"Their typhus and charred sticks are rightfully mine!"
We don't really live in tribes anymore, but we're still governed by jealousy. Sometimes it still inspires social bonding, or a bit of healthy tribe competition, but mostly it just makes one guy cranky at another guy because his Xbox is better.
I learned the most important lesson about jealousy from a comedian whose name I no longer remember, which is very unfortunate. She was speaking off the cuff about jealousy in some interview, and she said, "If you choose to be jealous of someone, you have to be jealous of everything." It sounds simple, and maybe you had that thought before, but you're much smarter than me. I'd never considered it, but it's important. The times that I'd been jealous, I'd been jealous of an opportunity that another person got. Or I'd been jealous of someone else's relationship. Or I'd been jealous of someone else's height, or rent, or patience, or ability to grow substantial facial hair, or any other damn thing. But you can't do that. You can't pick one thing to be jealous of. If you're going to be jealous of someone's nice car, you have to be jealous of everything else in that person's life. Are they living in a terrible apartment in a bad part of town to be able to pay for that car? Then you have to be jealous of that, too. Are they insecure enough that they think they need a nice car in order to be liked? Then you have to be jealous of that, too. It's not a straight trade. You don't get to trade your shortcomings for someone else's best assets. It's a package deal. It's the full suite, or it's nothing.
You can't be jealous of Chad's coke without also being jealous of his nosebleeds and frequent seizures.
Thinking about jealousy in that way was one of the healthiest decisions of my life. It turns petty jealousy into nothing, and it turns real jealousy into genuine awe.
For example, here is one of the greatest piano players in the world. He puts a cover song on YouTube once a week that he shoots in one take, with no rehearsals, playing from memory and by ear. Maybe you're jealous of his skill, but you need to remember, you have to be jealous of everything. So, if you covet his skill, you also have to covet the years he spent practicing and studying and learning instead of doing anything else.
Also, if you're jealous of his talent, you have to be jealous of his physical limitations, too. See, he got so good at the piano because he had a hard time moving around as a kid, because his entire lower torso was butt. No legs, just stacks of butt. Butts on butts. You may want his musical talents, but would you give up your legs? And replace them with butts?
He spends more on thongs than most people spend on rent.
[Editorial Note: For legal purposes, and in the interest of full disclosure, Cracked.com reports that the piano player in that video is Daniel's brother, and that his legs function and he isn't made up mostly of butt.]