At some point in your life, you've undoubtedly heard the cliche "art is pain." Hemingway, Van Gough, Maya Angelou, and countless other artists experienced depression, violence, racism, and genocide who then transmuted their pain into art. Therefore, to create lasting art, we must experience atrocities that will become a wellspring for our inspiration. Or at least, that that's what "art is pain" implies.


I am not planning to discuss the transformative experience of resilience and how "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger" in this post but instead talk about a different, self-induced pain: suffering.


I say self-induced because unlike pain, which you will inevitably experience repeatedly throughout your life, suffering has options.


At some point in your life, you're going to break a bone, a heart, or your favorite mug that you picked up from target. These experiences will cause you pain. Ergo, pain is inevitable. Some of these experiences may even cause long-term pain in the form of suffering. But how and why you suffer matters—at least when it comes to your happiness. Therefore no matter what our choices are, they will induce pain and lead to suffering.


If you choose to eat fried foods and sweets all the time, you will compromise your health and suffer later in life even though that choice brings you joy now. If you decide to chase after peak athleticism, then you must forego the pleasures of eating unhealthy foods and endure a great deal of discomfort for your goals.


If you choose to save for retirement, you may have to give up on certain experiences now so that you're not homeless when you're old.


Rather than concerning ourselves with what makes us happy, we can better serve ourselves and get our emotional needs met by focusing on how we wish to suffer.


Over the years, I've studied theatre, music, dance, and finally, photography. While I greatly enjoy these other artistic pursuits—even to this day—they are just hobbies.


Why? Because I wasn't willing to suffer for them.


I am, however, willing to spend 10-plus hours editing a single image in Photoshop. I am willing to dedicate time researching and cold-calling potential clients for photography gigs. I am willing to spend several years solely devoted to learning and shooting for free to gain experience as a photographer.


I am willing to suffer for photography.


Posting photos on Instagram and accruing likes is fun, but optimizing your website until 2:00 in the morning is work. Being the life of the party at a wedding is fun, but culling through 3,000 photos is boring and unsexy.


Whatever you chose to do with your life—professionally or otherwise—you're going to suffer. So go ahead: pick your poison and let that choice kill you. Because one day it will.

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I’d rather be watching The Handmaid's Tale.

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