climbing the cantril ladder
Yesterday I found myself with a few free hours to write, but naturally, I didn't want to. I relented and let myself post some photos instead, but after I got on my computer, I found myself opening up a text editor to write anyway. What gives? Maybe my resistance to writing is plain old inertia, or an aversion to doing anything at all.
I think part of why I sometimes struggle with lethargy when it comes to writing blog posts is because there's not really any end goal. It's not like writing pen pals, where there's a clear and concrete goal (respond to them), but writing here feels more akin to meditation, where I know I'll feel better if I just Do The Thing, but for whatever reason it's easy for my indolence to override my weak desire. Maybe it's because if I push off responding to a pen pal or doing some task, I know I'll still have to do it eventually, whereas if I put off writing here, I don't really have anybody to answer to?
I went into the city today for the first time in a while, which meant taking public transit. I consider myself a public transit enthusiast, but it rarely fails to remind me why so many people hate it. Today was no exception: I had to switch train cars three times to flee belligerent homeless men, only to end up watching the police arrest a woman in the car I settled in. I ended up getting to my lunch plans almost twenty minutes later than I intended (sorry!), but the whole episode was just a reality check on the state of public transportation in America. Over the summer I found myself baffled that my friend's parents would prefer to drive through Pride weekend traffic in Manhattan rather than hazard taking public transit, and when incidents like this help me see their side better. On bad days, public transit can be unreliable, dirty, and worst of all, dangerous.
One of the ways I've been wasting my time recently is by playing Fantasy Premier League (fantasy soccer). Some online friends invited me to play in a league. It's been a lot of fun, but I don't think I ever want to do it again after this season because my obsessive personality has kind of ruined the game. I sink way more time into it than I should, checking up on my team, reading news, and watching full games. That time is completely wasted, because playing fantasy for any sport is just like trying to win the stock market: no matter how much you study or read, there's not really any way you can predict the future, and you're almost entirely at the mercy of chance. I wish I could turn off my brain for things like this, but I can't, so the game consumes large swaths of my attention and time.
I had to dig around my Google Photos to post the photos from my vacation in Puerto Rico, which is a veritable minefield of painful memories. It always serves me up photo recaps of trips from the past years, and many of them hurt! It's painful to see people who used to be in my life but aren't anymore, especially if I still miss them. I kind of circumvented the issue by deleting the apps altogether, but I don't know if that's a healthy or sustainable way to deal with that pain. Can I just run away from my memories forever? Is that something I even want to do?
I stumbled across a very neat data viz recently called 24 hours in the invisible epidemic by Alvin Chang on The Pudding. I highly recommend taking the time to go through it; I've been thinking about it for weeks. I feel like I occupy a bit of a strange space in this loneliness epidemic, since most studies that try to measure loneliness base analyses on time spent with family and friends. By these metrics, I don't qualify as very lonely, since I live at home with my parents and spend lots of time with family, but in spite of all this time around others I do frequently feel lonely.
One thing about this viz that stuck out to me was the Cantril ladder.
The Cantril Self-Anchoring Scale, developed by pioneering social researcher Dr. Hadley Cantril, consists of the following:
Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you.
On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?
On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now?
The scale doesn't seem to have any clarifying details on what "best possible life" and "worst possible life" entail. Is my worst possible life the worst of all statistically possible outcomes? Or is it the worst of all likely outcomes? I feel like those two are vastly different things. In my worst possible outcome (of all outcomes), I'd probably be dead, in prison, or something along those lines. But if we're talking about worst of all likely outcomes of my life, it's probably not very far from where I am right now. How far can a middle class kid from the suburbs really fall, anyway? This quickly devolves into a discussion of free will, which I don't want to get into, but I've been thinking a lot about my own answer to the Cantril Scale, in addition to asking my friends about their answers. If we're talking about the best and worst possible lives of all possible outcomes, I'm probably at an 8 or 9. And if we want to limit that to only likely outcomes, then I think I'm closer to a 3 or 4. What about you? How do you define your best and worst possible lives? What do those lives look like for you?
In my head, my best possible life looks like what I imagined myself to be like at this age when I was a kid, which probably included living abroad, working a meaningful job, and surrounded by a healthy social circle. I wonder if it's unfair to compare my current life with my childhood delusions, though, because how many people actually end up living out their childhood dreams? If I try not to compare my life to those dreams and instead focus on how I'm feeling day by day, my answer moves towards the upper rungs of the ladder. Sure, it can get sad and lonely in my head, but I'm acutely aware that it could be a lot worse (and am very grateful that it isn't yet).