GrendelFish (gfish) wrote,
GrendelFish
gfish

Steppenwolf

I've been on an existentialism kick recently, and as part of that I just finished rereading Steppenwolf. It was one of my favorite books as a teenager, one of the ones that really resonated with me in enlightening and sometimes scary ways. It marked a turning point during my first real job after undergrad, when I realized how deeply depressed I was and needed to take active steps to reboot my life. I started rereading it about 5 years ago without finishing it, making me wonder if I'd just aged out of it, but this time I was utterly hooked once again.

It's a weird book to come back to 20 years later. The difference in perspective is dizzying. When I first read it, I was very afraid I'd end up like Harry Haller, too stuck in my own head to make connections with the world. I used to be quite angsty about that, actually. Now when I read it, much closer to Harry's age, my fears are very different. I have an interesting life, doing interesting things, with much love in it. So many of the lessons in living that Harry struggles to learn are an effortless part of my daily life. I know I can be a real person, connecting with others and enjoying the pleasures of the world. Those fears are long gone.

Looking back, though, I now wonder if I went too far. I've managed a very delicate balancing act between doing the things I'm actually interested in and having a financially stable, middle class lifestyle. It's not one many people pull off, and I'm proud of it at least on that level. But I wonder if I've restrained myself from really pursuing my passions because of this ghost of the growling, painfully lonely Steppenwolf. I'm doing pretty well, mostly drifting along the path of least resistance -- but what could I be doing if I really tried, took risks?
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