"Talent must be a fanatical mistress. She’s beautiful; when you’re with her, people watch you, they notice. But she bangs on your door at odd hours, and she disappears for long stretches, and she has no patience for the rest of your existence; your wife, your children, your friends. She is the most thrilling evening of your week, but some day she will leave you for good. One night, after she’s been gone for years, you will see her on the arm of a younger man, and she will pretend not to recognize you."
This is a quote by novelist David Benioff (from the book “City of Thieves”). I first read it in 2006 and since then thought about it time and again, finding it to sound more true the older I got. The melancholic breeze catches me every time and I find myself once again cursing this liability of mine to sudden attacks of wallowing in wistful thoughts. I then think of the talents I have and what I have made or not made of them. I think of the billions of possible turns my life could have taken, all the doors that stood open and all the doors that closed someday and will remain closed for the rest of my life. I get this oppressive feeling that I am running out of time with still so many dreams I want to live, many talents I would like to develop. (At that point I always start wondering what is to become of me if I’m already thinking this way at the age of only 21…) It is the paralyzing feeling of having to choose from too many options, that probably everybody knows and that leaves you unpleasantly listless.
In the next phase, I start envying people who were born with one extraordinary talent, which keeps them from all the deliberating and wondering and turning in circles about the question what they should do with their life. People with talents like the one described by David Benioff. I am totally contented with the capabilities I was born with, but sometimes I feel like they are impossible to combine altogether and that none of them is strong enough that its pursuit alone could be the aim of my life. I start wondering whether I’ve made wise decisions and where I would be if I had decided differently at some point.
Then usually my rational part steps in and tells me that no good will come from these thoughts. It also tells me that I would most probably not be a happier person in any of the other scenarios. What does happiness mean anyway? Maybe something like the the sum of happy moments per unit time? In any case, according to my empirical studies, wondering if you could be happier living a different life does generally not increase happiness. And thinking economically about time and the use of one’s talents definitely does not, either.
And after realizing that, I always grin. About my own stupid thoughts, about the arbitrariness of life and the beauty of occasional melancholy once it slowly drifts away again, making way for humour.