Reflecting on the sense of guilt that comes with having fun, and why I don't have much of it.
It's best to start of with a definition of what "fun" means so that I don't have to keep using these quotes! When I discuss fun, I am talking about the activities that are unessential for living life and continuing and progressing through one's career. Examples can include dinner parties, board game nights, enjoying a nice meal from a restaurant, engaging in an entertaining hobby etc.
I do realize that this is a broad definition of having fun. Many have argued with me that some of these are just a part of living life, and can't be separated from that process. Many of the things I've mentioned are how most people socialize in modern society. However, I think the definition is intentional wide and that it can be distinguished from the regular activities that consist of one's life. "Fun" is a perk, not a part of life. Atleast, that's what it feels like to me.
Before I go on to rationalize my guilt, I should probably explain it. Everytime I do something that I would consider fun, I feel awful immediately after it, and sometimes during it. Fun activities have a societal cost. I can easily afford to have way more "fun" that I currently have, so personal cost is not the topic here. Fun takes time away from things that might contribute to society and help others. Fun is a egotistical activity, where one's well-being and entertainment is prioritized over all else. Fun is saying "I am important, and my happiness matters."
That line might have come from a self-help book arguing for fun. And I get it. It's not healthy to think that one does not deserve fun. I do realize that even within my little framework where I try to use my privilege to help those without, fun has a positive role. Those less privileged than I have more fun than I do. In fact, utilitarianism could be framed as a fun maximization function. I pretty much agree with utilitarianism on most things, but why does having fun, participating in this maximization process feel off? Why do I feel guilty when I have fun?
It can be argued that my definition seems a bit off, that fun is what someone finds personally enjoyable, and if I don't feel like it is enjoyable, then it's not really fun. But I do like the idea of the examples I gave for having fun. Those seem enjoyable to me. But when I do them, there's a part of me that makes me stop and think.
The main for the guilt is that fun takes resources (time, money, etc.) and resources used on one's fun are resources wasted for one's personal pleasure and not for society's gain. I don't really care about the economic arguments for how consumption helps society, that's a whole another post. I don't lie much during my life, but explaining situations of fun is when I often do. Why? Cause who cares about my personal perception of those events... It's easier to tell people that I'm poor, saving up for something, unable to make it because of a meeting, I'm sick, etc. For obvious reasons, people think material excuses are more valid and less malicious than philosophical or psychological reasons. Even not explaining my reasoning can lead to consequences. Recently, I didn't attend an event because I didn't want to engage in fun, but the person who organized it asked why I wasn't there. I had a legitimate psychological reason why I couldn't make it, but that didn't seem to satisfy them. They seemed to attribute it to malice. So I tried a material excuse, and the situation slowly fizzled away.
It's incredibly difficult to keep my principles of being honest and my guilt with having fun work together without unethical behavior. Very often, I need to choose one over the other. And it feels awful. I dread moments like these. Yet, they happen, and they will happen again and again.
The most difficult of these situations are moments of celebration. My guilt is why I don't celebrate my birthday. My guilt is why I don't wish anybody else happy birthday. My guilt is why I don't celebrate any cultural event. My guilt is why I don't celebrate at all. I've skipped almost all the celebrations in my life, with a few exceptions to prevent hurt feelings. Those feelings are worth more than my guilt. One moment when I tried to prioritize my guilt went horribly. It occured when a friend asked me to be the "man of honor" for her wedding. I refused in what I thought was the best way that I could, with a lot of apologies and a heartfelt letter explaining why I could not attend the ceremony and engage with the wedding activities. I had tears in my eyes when I explained this decision in person. But it didn't end well. I lost a friend.
This is why it's difficult. If I just felt guilty when I had fun, I could just stop having fun, and the problem would be solved. But fun is associated with social things, and is often considered as an indicator of respect and a sign of friendship. A person's time is a valuable thing, and if it is used for an activity hosted by or desired by someone else, it's an indicator of social investment. I can't just say no to all fun. I'd hurt too many humans and maybe myself.
I've engaged in dialog regarding this guilt with others. Some of my best friends have been understanding of it, but some think of it as me being "extra". It's hard to respond to statements like that, and it hurts, especially since this guilt is one of the driving forces of my life. I do understand that some people make eclectic decisions just to play a character or a desired social role in their lives. I have no intention to do that. I just don't know what to do.
I don't just wish this guilt didn't exist. The guilt seem to have a valid reason for why it's there. The guilt seems right, yet, it can't be always right, can it not? I can't expect everyone to do what I do, then the world would just be a boring place.
Self-care is a concept that's often thrown at me to consider whenever I discuss these things. "You deserve it", and so on. But I don't. I don't know what makes a person deserve fun.
I often mention to people that my life is boring self-deprecatingly when they're talking about their interesting lives and ask about mine. In a way, I don't mean to be self-deprecating. The boringness of my life is an indicator of the power of my guilt. It has kept me in check. I'm kinda proud of it. I haven't done the things that people consider "standard" in life. I just don't know if this is bad.
I used to actually think that my guilt was right, and others were wrong for having fun. But that phase has passed. I don't blame anybody else. I don't blame others for having fun. It's only when their decisions overlap, and my decision becomes a dependency on someone else's fun, where the difficulty begins.
There are moments when I kinda want to have fun too. People are interesting. You get to know more things about them when you have fun. You learn more about the world, and find new perspectives and skills when having fun. But then again, the guilt arrives.
Why am I writing this post? Well, expressing my dilemma to the world has a cathartic feeling to it. It's nice knowing there is a way for someone to understand my puzzling decisions, even though it's unlikely they will. Although my behavior might hurt people, having this out there makes me feel better about the probability that my behavior might not be attributed to malice, but to my internal conflict.
I would have loved it if I was completely rational, but I'm not. I'm driven by my guilt. But it has a wonderful exception. Talking to people. While it takes time, and might be the most efficient thing I need to do in a moment, I treasure the conversations I have with the people that talk to me. While I might not reveal much, I'm honored that they chose to share a part of themselves to this random human being.
I sometimes wonder if I'm doing something wrong. Who are the people I've missed out on meeting or learning more about cause I skipped an opportunity to have fun? I've met almost all the people that I cherish only because I chose to have fun over the guilt.
While I bask in the ambiguity of all this guilt, the crescent moon shines over this chilly night. Maybe this difficulty will resolve itself, maybe life will find a way?