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On worrying

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The routine is well established by now: wake up and power up the laptop, read some news and catch up with sports scores (one never really grows up). But then the inevitable has to be done: check the mail and see if some miracle has happened.
In order to make it softer, I check the family and friends mail first. A few years ago I decided that the mail account I had, opened at the very beginning of the internet boom, had a rather silly and infantile ring to it. It was perhaps costing me some professional opportunities, so a second mail, with just a name and a unique ending to make it personal was opened. So I first check the Family & Friends mail, hoping for some good news. Any good news. These are coming in with increasing scarcity so this mail is usually checked in a few minutes. I send the occasional birthday mail, I reply to those that sent something, and then it is up to the business mail. After 9 months of an employment drought, clicking that tab gets harder. There is a verifiable apprehension of the worst kind of news waiting for me there. And in this case, the worst kind of news is NO NEWS. I get some bills, newsletters from websites I have subscribed to (all work related), perhaps a charitable request for me to click another link and join on some modern crusade to SAVE SOMETHING and the usual amount of spam. But the one mail that is hoped for and expected remains elusive. No professional contacts. No plans. A vision of a barren land where I have been forgotten by those that used to offer me work.
These none news can be complicated. A friend of mine and I have been hoping for a small project to be granted to us. Applying for it separately we have been keeping each other up to date, patiently waiting for the miracle. So today, upon opening the F&F mail, he had news there. He has been selected and will see some light in the near future. Human nature, complex as it is, brings forth a series of reactions. Happiness for him as he has had it even worse than me, going over a year with no income. But as I checked my business mail, hoping to find the same “You are not completely useless nor forgotten” mail and found none, there is the revolting sensation of anger (Why not me?), frustration (Am I doing something wrong?), helplessness (What else can I do?) and, worst of all because it is undeniably petty and low, envy (Indeed, why not me…). These all crash over simultaneously and instantaneously, a solid slap in the face that you knew could come but still catches you by surprise.
You go back to the F&F mail, and you reply to him. Let the joy of knowing that he has been spared a few more months of this financial suffering guide your writing and share the happiness, but mostly relief, he must feel at the moment.
You close both mails, you do some more reading, it is time to do what the unemployed do: worry in stoical silence. It is a learned way of passing the day.
During some recent reading I came across a study about regrets. An interesting piece, it spoke of a survey done on many people of different ages and how they related to regrets. The main premise is simple: the more you live, the more slight things can go wrong and you accumulate regrets. Personally, as I believe that one of the most callous, shallow and idiotic quotes of all times is Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je ne regrette rien”, I find that this involuntary collection of regrets is burdensome to a great degree. Really, you do not regret anything? What a wonderful life that must have been. Because in the study I am talking about the one regret that elders have the most is “worrying too much”. Time spent worrying, time wasted by slowly searing away.
But statistics are not unknown to me, nor is it mass psychology. I start to wonder, as I worry on a daily basis, about who these elders are, and what life they have now. Are they the ones that ended successfully their careers? The ones eating three times a day, and strolling on manicured lawns or riding a bike in a park? Because my worry swells when I see an old man in the streets, panhandling for a few coins. Did he have dreams? Was he loved and cared for in his youth? Where and when did it go wrong for him?
I have seen people in first world cities sitting on sidewalks with well written signs listing their qualifications and looking for work, almost at the point of no return into rat race oblivion. “Will philosophize for food” read the signs to me. So I wonder if those that regret having worried too much are those that are being solipsistic and suffer from hindsight-myopia: everything that ends well, was well.
I wonder if many holocaust survivors ever say that.
The sun is already high in the sky. There are a couple of things to do but they can wait. I know I will succumb to the compulsion and check the business mail again. Maybe, my mind will tell me, just maybe, they have been busy and forgot to send me the mail that also confirmed that I have not been completely forgotten. I will succumb to this urge even though I know what the risk is: if there is no mail in there, the feeling only grows worth. It is very difficult to let go of these last hopes.
Almost as much as not worrying through the day. Even if, twenty five years from now, I will ask myself why I did it so much. And so well.

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