Early Writings of Evan Bailyn

What’s Wrong With Being “Just Fine”?

Posted by on Thursday, January 19th, 2012 with 0 comments

One big difference beween children and adults is that the latter often possesses a permanent defense mechanism known as being “fine.” Whenever I hear someone say that they are fine, usually in response to “how are you,” I get a little uncomfortable. “Fine,” to me, is like saying “I’m hanging in there.” It implies that the person is living out of habit, not out of enthusiasm.

If you ask a five year-old how he is doing, he will either not answer you (because the concept of summing up his entire state of being is a little abstract for him) or carelessly chirp “good” because he’s heard his parents say it so many times before. Either way, the question is meaningless to him.

Yet it is not the emptiness of the “how are you” ritual that concerns me. It is the fact that many adults are actually being truthful when they report their fineness. They honestly feel a middle-of-the-road, neither good nor bad, automatic existence.

Where does fineness come from? When does it develop? It seems to start as early as the teenage years, and derives from being forced to do things you don’t want to do. It also compounds over time. A common example is attending a good college because it makes your parents proud, going straight to graduate school because it seems like the right thing to do, then working your way up the corporate ladder one rung at a time in order to amass wealth. Although there are very few people who actually enjoy this process, lots of people do it because they are afraid to stray from the beaten path. After all, that routine is fairly certain to lead to financial stability, respect from the community, and, well…a perfectly fine life.

Although not all adults are afflicted with fineness, many are. Every day I interact with people that strike me as being spiritless. Personally, I would much prefer to be depressed than to be fine, for at least depression is a normal, healthy part of the emotional cycle. Fineness is being closed off; it rules out the possibility of ecstatic happiness or sadness.

To me, living a good, old-fashioned, hard-working existence is frighteningly boring. Having to narrow the infinite possibilities of each day down to just one activity that you don’t necessarily like has to take its toll on your ideals. We all have to work, of course. And if you can do the nine-to-five and still come home giddy and ready to embrace life, good for you; but generally, when a person puts his dreams in check for a long enough time, he loses his vitality.

I say, screw feeling fine every day. Do what you want to do. Feel great, feel frolicsome, feel eccentric – even feel mopey or depressed. But for your own sake, don’t close yourself off to the wonderful spectrum of feelings you were given as a child. Those who allow themselves to nod off into neutrality by living a life that doesn’t make them happy aren’t just “stabilizing” themselves; they are limiting the very magnitude of their emotions.

Whenever I am faced with a difficult decision, I ask my five year-old self his opinion. In all the times I’ve sought his advice, he’s never told me to maintain a long-term responsibility that doesn’t make me happy. Some adults will inform you that in the real world there are real obligations and they must be taken seriously – but you can ignore those adults. In any situation, the best results will come from waking up every day with fresh motivation, excited about life.

Evan Bailyn is a serial entrepreneur, search engine and social media expert, celebrated author and child advocate. His company, First Page Sage, is a leader in search engine optimization and social media marketing - vastly increasing business for its clients through high SEO rankings, targeted Facebook advertising and viral videos. Evan is also the founder of the Evan Bailyn Foundation, a foundation dedicated to teaching emotional awareness to children and adults. 

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