Have you ever heard the story of the scorpion and the frog? If you already have, that’s cool. If you haven’t, it goes something like this:
One day there’s this frog hanging out in a river, and the water keeps rising. On a nearby lilipad is a scorpion, just helpless, recognizing its own mortality.
So the water keeps rising. The frog seems content paddling along, even with these adverse conditions. The scorpion, meanwhile, is pretty fucked. Once the water reaches a certain level it will submerge. And probably die.
So the scorpion makes a plea to the frog, asks for a ride to the other side of the river, to safety. The frog laughs, asks “Why would I trust you? If I give you a ride you are just going to sting me.”
The water rises some more, and the scorpion becomes frantic. “Please,” it says. “If you don’t help I’m going to drown. I promise I won’t hurt you.”
Finally the frog obliges, swims over to the lilipad just in time to rescue the scorpion. The scorpion hops on the frog’s back, and they begin their journey to the other side of the river.
As they make their way across, suddenly the frog feels a pinch on its back, realizes it has just been stung. “What the hell?” the frog asks. “You just stung me, now we’re both going to die.”
”I’m sorry,” the scorpion responds. “It’s just my nature.”
When I was younger, like a decade ago, I had this weird obsession with capitalizing Heart and Nature whenever I wrote (online or otherwise). I stole it from Nathanial Hawthorne, because there was a time when he was an influence on my writing.
There’s heart and there’s nature. I have spent the better part of the last ten years trying to understand what made me the person I am, and how I can learn from the errors I’ve made to carve out a better path moving forward.
What I can’t avoid is which character, between the scorpion and the frog, I am. I’m the scorpion. I have always been the scorpion. I always will be the scorpion. It’s just my… you get it.
I took a personality test when I was a junior in high school. It turned out I was the only kid in my English class — or any of that teacher’s English classes that year — with this particular personality type. That same day I learned it’s the same personality type that every starting NFL quarterback has: ESTP. (Apparently Donald Trump and I have something in common.)
I take the Kiersy test every couple of years just to make sure I’m keeping it real with myself, and the results always show the same thing. I am an ESTP, and there is nothing I can do to change that.
As such, it’s my nature to press buttons and push boundaries, and oftentimes it puts me in situations I have to problem-solve my way out of. Almost like life by itself is too boring, or not nearly enough, and I am playing a game within the game.
This isn’t all the time, of course. It’s not even a conscious thing. More so, it’s something I have reflected on months — or years — after the fact, when I see my self and my actions more clearly.
You can call it luck, call it white privaledge, call it whatever you want: I have received enough second and third chances to fill a delicate hourglass. I have fought for every meaningless inch, have argued every petty issue on the table. And I could probably persuade myself that I’ve lost that fight to this point, but only because I’ve never settled for a loss when I would have been wise to.
There was this thing my teacher read to the class, about my specific personality type. He said if the ESTP doesn’t have honest, reputable work, they are more prone to making money under the table, or illegally. I grew up on Good Fellas so I thought it was badass at the time.
Now that I’m 27, I don’t think it’s as cool. And the reason I don’t think it’s as cool is because it’s probably true. It’s probably dead-on as a matter of fact.
I used to know a girl who said I seemed like the type to get married young and have kids. That I didn’t seem like the type of person who would get tattoos. And she volunteered that, no matter what, she didn’t want such a normal life.
It all seems kind of stupid now, but I originally took these observations as disrespectful. Don’t ask me why. I assume more than anything I felt like I had some sort of control, and I didn’t appreciate anyone else telling me who I am or what kind of person I was, or seemed like.
Yes, the idea that I’m 27 and unmarried probably says something about me to some. The idea that I have a bunch of tattoos probably says something about me to others.
But a normal life, as fine as that is, was never what I signed up for. I have written a good amount about why having high expectations is something to strive for. Because even if you fail or fall short, there is a strong chance you will be in a better situation than if you carried no expectation to begin with.
I consider myself a reasonable person with fairly reasonable goals and ambitions. That’s the simple version of me, and most people, I’d guess.
I think if you ran a million simulations of my life there would be times I became a Congressman or Senator, other times I became a lawyer or engineer. I’m sure a decent percentage of the million simulations I would have ended up a professor, or teacher of some kind. This range of outcomes was (and is) right in my wheelhouse and probably represents the mean.
But I think about myself as the scorpion, what’s in my nature, and I do have some problems. That must seem so big of me to admit, I know. A feeling I can’t seem to shake is that, I imagine, a healthy portion of my million simulations ended up in prison for some white collar crime, or dead from substance abuse. As much as 15 or 20 percent, I would guess.
This is a thought exercise more than anything. I don’t long for a life of crime, or of overdosing on some really good shit. It’s just an honest assessment.
If this was sports and I was an up-and-coming prospect, I would be considered someone with a high ceiling but a dangerously low floor. I’m either bang or bust. A lottery ticket, essentially.
With where I’m at right now, I would say I’m doing pretty well for myself. But that’s life. Most young people, not so unlike you or I, have a way of convincing themselves they are doing well for their age. That, obviously, gets leveled off by the idea that we still have so far we need to go to get where we want to be.
But if you are here, alive, then you at least have a puncher’s chance. We all have a million simulations, yet the only one that really counts is the one that’s ongoing. That YOLO shit.
Who knows what is left to prove, or who is left to prove it to. Some of my biggest motivations derive out of pride and spite, but both are designed to convey the same message: go fuck yourself.
I’m not totally sure where this simulation is headed, but I feel like I have an idea. One way or another I am going to get ahead, and I have no plans of looking back when that moment arrives. No matter where you get your motivation I only hope you can do the same.