How To Handle Bad Waves

Here is a mental process that happens to me a lot:

  1. X is a problem
  2. X is much bigger than me; I cannot hope to meaningfully affect X
  3. X will affect me at some point in the future
  4. (panic)

Some examples of X: housing getting ever more expensive, tech layoffs, the spread of return-to-office policies, shortage of good schools, climate change, spread of anti-abortion policies, widespread future coffee shortages.

If you think about all these disaster scenarios, it’s paralyzing1 But they’re real, you can’t just ignore them. Can you?

Turns out, mostly, yeah. Or at least, you can take them from the “this affects me” register into the “this is a problem that I hope the right people are working on” register. You’ll get baited into engaging, but at each step you must not engage. Hit da bricks.

an example: housing

Housing is always getting more expensive. We didn’t buy a house in the Bay; now if we ever wanted to move back, could we even? What about in Pittsburgh, what if we wanted to move to somewhere nicer, could we afford to? People will gripe about this constantly, often using the G word2, and bring up examples of a house that used to be $100k that is now selling for half a million.

This is candy to the fear center of my brain. “Wait that’s growing faster than our savings! What if we can’t live where we want??” Maybe I’ll go on Zillow and look at neighborhoods I thought might be affordable to us and realize - oh no, maybe for a house of the size we’d want, they’re not affordable, actually!

But the trick for me is, I just don’t have to think about this. We’re not moving anytime soon. When we do, we’ll look at what’s out there, and it doesn’t matter what it used to cost or how much it’s gentrified. We’ll figure out what we can afford and what our priorities are, and get enough of them.

Or hell, what’s the worst case? If Evil Gentrification Genie says “all houses now cost 10x what they did last year”, we could just never move. We’re fine. We have a fine house.

I’ve got to just stop playing the game. I’m not going to browse Zillow and get spooked. I don’t really want to kvetch about gentrification with you, but even if we do, I’m just gonna zone out. I don’t need to think about this, until it’s time to move.

is this useful to you?

I have no idea. This is my own mental trick. It probably is less useful if you’re in a more dire situation (e.g. homeless), or if you’re just not prone to anxiety from Bad Waves anyway. Also, it’s not perfect - you should probably maintain a little peripheral awareness. Like, if you work in oil-and-gas, you probably shouldn’t just stick your head in the sand and pretend that Peak Oil isn’t happening.

But my problems aren’t as bad as oilmen facing the end of fossil fuels, so Just Zoning Out is working pretty well for me.

  1. And sometimes impossible! “We have to move somewhere progressive, in case we have another kid and need abortion rights. But not somewhere too expensive; what if we run out of money that we’ll need for schools? And somewhere with jobs, but also somewhere that’s not too susceptible to climate change, and and and” ↩︎

  2. “Gentrification”. I wonder if I can get “g12n” to catch on ↩︎

blog 2024 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010