I craft a lot of fantasies for myself. They’re almost always visions of achievements that some perfect version of myself might accomplish one day and range from frivolous (becoming a well-known blogger) to extremely ambitious (creating an organization that will outlive my great grandchildren).

On days when I get extra lost in my thoughts, I’ll also reflect on what that perfect version of myself is like. I’ve always wanted to be able to run an experiment where I spin off 5 different copies of myself into the world and simultaneously experience 5 different lives. What would I change in each instance? How would I decide which version of myself to keep at the end of the experiment?

Before college, I used to start each year by making a list of goals that I wanted to achieve. The summer before my freshman year, I wrote that I wanted to:

  1. Finish Yale’s “Listening to Music” online course and use my newly found skills to “make some cool modern music”
  2. Learn computer programming from Khan Academy
  3. Exercise three times a week following the Nike Training Club app

I didn’t actually accomplish any of those things. The worst part is that there was nothing stopping me, either. I just quit after a few weeks of dedicating myself to each. One of my biggest fears, actually, is that I’m not willing to go the extra mile to become the person in my head that I want to be. Truth be told, if twelve straight years of practicing violin for three hours every single day have taught me anything, then it’s that the pursuit of excellence isn’t fun. And I fear that I’m not cut out for the demands that excellence requires.

To expand on my fear a bit: I think excellence requires independence, particularly independence of thought (otherwise you can’t be original) and independence of action (what you do cannot be controlled or dictated by, say, a corporation). But to reach that level of independence, you need to spend time reading things most people don’t even bother skimming. You need to ask questions most people wouldn’t think to ask. You need to learn things most people don’t understand, and above all, you need to do the hard work that most people would never care to do. Given all this, I think every person who has changed the world in one way or another was probably quite lonely. And maybe what I’m really afraid of is that loneliness.

In my head I’m a better version of myself than I actually am. I hope someday to be able to reconcile the two.