Shakespeare was a smart dude. So allow me the privilege of manipulating and misinterpreting my second favorite amongst his quotes for my own purposes.
Much as at least one nincompoop in every high school yearbook misinterprets this gem from Robert Frost-
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
They take it as a positive expression on a reflection of choices they found later to be significant, but I’m pretty sure the ending of The Road Not Taken contains a tone of regret. English majors, have at me.
So too, until this very night, did I misinterpret the words of title of this piece. It comes from the play, King Lear, but the only words I knew before today are what you see above, and it seemed to me an expression meant to bolster one’s confidence and outlook on life, but as it turns out in the play, it seems that it is the character Edgar’s (a character which I have no knowledge of, nor any desire to have any since I haven’t read the play) lament on how bad
his situation is.
He takes a negative spin on his outlook, basically saying that if he has the ability to say ‘This is the worst’, there is certainly the possibility, and he thinks, likelihood, of things only getting worse.
So I’ll intentionally misinterpret Shakespeare’s meaning for a few moments here in order to make a point that I intended to before I discovered the context of the quote.
Your life only seems to suck right now. That’s just the way it is. There will be a time in your life, most likely, when you’ll look back on a particularly low moment and realize that it wasn’t quite as bad as it seemed to be.
I think I don’t need to bring up the idea of starving children in third world countries to make clear the idea that- if you’re able to read this, then right now- this moment- this is not the worst that it could be.
In fact, as much as at the time it might feel like unjust or unnecessary suffering and pain and disappointment and heartbreak and sadness, it’s sure as shit a necessary feeling to have, because otherwise the good moments- long nights of loose laughter and early morning singing and that one turn around the dance floor and that best omelet you ever had- they won’t seem nearly as sweet.
That’s just the way it is. One particularly hungover morning- I asked my friend Will to name the best day of his life. Now a running joke between us and a few others, the question always stemmed from an idea that nagged at me. For all those shitty days when you felt like you just managed to scrape by, and all those really terrible days where nothing seemed to go right at all, and those days like today, which feel like the longest, most brutal day of your life- well, there is a flip side to that coin. There was a day that made it all worth it. I know mine. I keep it close and reach out for it when I need to because I know that if I could have a day like that once, I could have a day like that again. Because the best day of my life replaced the previous best day of my life once I’d had it, and someday, maybe soon, maybe not so soon, but one day it will happen again.
I have had days before where I’ve said, ‘This is the worst.’ But in the context of all of humanity- in the context of all of existence and all we know about the way things work- well at least I’m not a slug. Salt is fucking delicious. I’m not an amoeba and I’m not some stupid upriver swimming trout or some shit and I’m not a bee or a mindless ant. And I’m not in a coma, and I’m not one of those people who can only communicate by blinking, and though one is barely on there, I still have ten toes, and right now I’m typing with ten fingers and sleeping in a bed under a roof, and I can twist this little knob on a stick in my room and the room is suddenly filled with light.
And there exists in the world Baseball Caps and Toaster Strudel (which I just discovered thanks to my roommate) and the Redwall books and the movie Event Horizon and this computer and mountain ranges and stars and bubble wrap.
And we can manipulate fire and have domesticated dogs and can drive cars and ride in planes and use satellites to find home, and drink milkshakes.
So, when you feel like life has smacked the absolute shit out of you, and things could not possibly get any worse, just remember, most of us carry a computer around in our pocket that contains basically the sum of human knowledge up to this point. So suck it, 1992. At least you’re not living then, now.
As usual, someone smarter than me can make my point better than I can, with fewer words: