It is quite easy to drown in it, but mostly we thrash or tread water.
A while back I had a patient in addiction recovery who was an alcoholic. A heavy drinker throughout his life, he'd built a business, spending decades developing and expanding this business until he retired and sold it. He was a pleasant fellow whose only controversy during his recovery was his efforts to buy things for other patients who were in need. He'd sold his business, which is a fairly well known apparel company, for almost a billion dollars.
After he retired he didn't know what to do with himself, and so he would go to the bar earlier and earlier every day. He'd drink from the time the bar open to when it was closed. His wife was upset at him and demanded that he stop or she was leaving him. She wanted something more out of their retirement beyond watching him pickle himself.
One of the things we do for each other is point out what the other has missed. Sometimes what you say may seem so obvious that you think it isn't worth saying, but perspective is an amazing thing.
"You have almost a billion dollars, a wife that wants you to spend time with her, and you can't figure out anything to do other than drink all day in your neighborhood bar?"
"Well, when you put it that way..."
"Dude, take her to Rome for lunch and fly back the same way. Stop being an idiot."
You know, the guy had never thought of that. We went on to spend the better part of the next twenty minutes whie he made a list of things he could do that interested him.
"Now, at the top of the page write in big letter, 'Be spontaneous.' You've programmed your life for so long you lost the ability to think outside the programming."
When you are living paycheck to paycheck and you meet some guy with a billion dollars who can't figure out what to do with his free time, you want to smack him across the face. Your perspective is completely different, but you might see something that someone else is missing completely.
By the end of their lives, most people have drowned in their own inanity. There are all these people out there on the ocean, thrashing around in a panic, afraid they are going to drown, and in their panicked state they are unable to see that there is lifeboat about ten feet away to their left. They just don't see it, and if you are on another lifeboat and you see this fool, you need to shout down, "Dude, there is a lifeboat there to your left."
Most people's default reaction to this situation is to say, "What an idiot. He's too stupid to see the lifeboat right next to him. Too stupid to live. Bye bye."
The ideals of individualism, self-sufficiency, and independence combine to produce a mindset where people are taught to do it themselves. You need to do it yourself to prove yourself, especially when you are male in the mindset of those who hold themselves to traditional ways. This mindset is what causes people in crisis to not seek help because seeking help is a sign of weakness. People feel ashamed of seeing a therapist or going to a marriage counselor because this is a sign of weakness, that they couldn't "pull themselves up by their bootstraps," classic code for "Fuck you, do it yourself."
Everyone has a little piece of something. They have their special interests, training, experience, and the talent for certain things and everyone has those areas in which they are basically clueless. IT professionals make fun of people who are clueless around computers. People with an eye for fashion shake their heads at people who can't match their clothes, and I roll my eyes when in a public situation and the people in charge don't have basic de-escalation skills. We find it irritating when people don't have the basic knowledge and training we have, but it is that knowledge and skill that we usually end up getting paid for. We get paid for it because so many other people are clueless in our area of expertise.
Are our talents just something we market in order to forge a career in that area? Is that all there is to a fire?
We do it in our personal live to some degree, but it is haphazard and random. If you are not very good with car maintenance and repair it is nice to have a friend who is a mechanic, but you don't go out to the bar looking to find a mechanic to be your friend. "Hi, are you a car mechanic? I need to befriend one. Can I buy you a drink?" That is weird. People don't do that, but we do have people enter into our lives at times who end up having skills and abilities that are helpful to us later, just as the same is true for them in regards to you.
On the larger scale, where people think they achieve success, wealth, and power all of their own doing, we ignore our interdependence on each other. The "little people" are forgotten because the myth of the "self-made man" continues to be part of so many people's narratives. No one achieves success in a vacuum, but there are plenty of people who will try to convince you that they have. Everyone else was just in the way, slowing them down.
We all have skills, knowledge, and abilities that may be of service to another. This includes things we don't consider as such. Your life experiences are part of that. What you survived could provide a map to help someone going through similar waters navigate them better. I know how to talk to people who are experiencing suicidal ideation because I am a suicide. I've been there. I know the territory. I know what goes through your mind during suicidal ideation and during an attempt. Is that valuable? I feel that it is.
Instead, we are driven to dominate, to compete, to be the best of the best. Who the fuck cares who the best of the best is? You are the best at being who you are. It is something no one else can do. They can't be that same bundle of insecurities, talent, weakness, strength, and everything else that makes up who you are. There are people out there who need what you have, even when you think your pockets are empty. You now know what it feels like to think your pockets are empty. Every turn, for better or worse, gives you something. You now know how to navigate that part of the ocean, or at least how not to navigate it.
That billionare, when I learned of his wealth and life I was stunned. "You have a billion dollars and you can't think of anything to do other than drink in your neighborhood bar all day every day?"
"I'm an alcoholic, my friend. That is how it is."
When he completed the program he was eager to show me something. He'd gotten two plane tickets to Rome.