The doctor diagnosed him as being anxious about anxiety. “If there’s nothing to worry about,” she said, “you’ll worry about what to worry about, or wonder what it is you should be worrying about so you don’t get the rug pulled out from under you later.”

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Philosophy of Potential

These two things are at war: the desire to be settled, established, accomplished in life, the satisfaction of having realized one’s potential in life and then the fear of being trapped, having squandered that potential, or at least simple disgust at the structuring of life that you could only realize one of your potential selves; and then people make you feel so small because they think that’s who you are, your identity, when really you know you could’ve been so many things. You make possibility reality, and there’s comfort in that; but there’s also a sense of loss: what was dynamic has, in a way, become static.

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Old Habits

She had a tendency to learn about problems she couldn’t solve and stress herself out over them, and so she decided it was best to take on a job she didn’t really care about in order to decompress for awhile. The result was that she still got stressed—only now it was about things that were completely meaningless and absurd.

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Sometimes, with a warm kind of gratitude to no one and nothing in particular, I think to myself, “This is so comfortable!” But then I am haunted by the momentary afterthought that the comfort of this, for me, cannot last.

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Wishful Thinking

She knew the man who broke her heart would be at her best friend’s wedding, and she wished to God she could show up with a fabulous Romanian fiancé of obscure royal descent who would give her ex the evil eye and dance too close to her at the reception. An unfortunate booking accident at the local hotel would have them staying next door to each other, and the ex would toss and turn for several miserable hours trying to ignore the animal screams of ecstasy audible through the paper-thin walls.

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Two of the art professors were married and could each (but never both of them together) be found at all hours of the day and night working in the studio on their own projects. The students could never decide if their marriage was really enviable, really unhealthy, or perhaps both.

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The Blow

Sometime in elementary school, as she was walking up a short flight of stairs, she realized that even if she began in that moment, she could not finish reading all of the books in existence before she died; and so she would have to make choices. And although it seemed, in a way, pointless to possess only in part what she had childishly, unthinkingly assumed would be hers in full, she carried on.

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The Sign

He was forever being seduced by younger girls who didn’t know what they wanted. He felt like wearing a badge that said, “It’s fine if you’re immature and confused, just don’t drag me into it—keep your hands to yourself.”

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The Lesson

At first he was infuriated by his sickness, but eventually he came to regard it as an invaluable lesson that despite your best efforts, sometimes you simply cannot guarantee your own safety. He stopped hating himself.

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The Grand Tour

We set out on an epic journey. Within the first twenty-four hours, we missed our connecting flight, got accused by the Portuguese police of breaking and entering, and slept with one eye open in an apartment crawling with spiders; and still we were undeterred.

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