3 min read

Weird flex, but ok

When I was a child I had a book of collected Russian folk tales titled Alonuszka.

One of the tales starts as many tales do: Alonuszka's mother dies, and her father remarries. Her father's new wife is a horrible step mother, and her daughter, now Alonuszka's step sister, even more so. One fateful night they conspire together to be rid of Alonuszka and leave her in the cold, snowy forest.

Illustration from Alonuszka, found online

As she shivers and settles for the night at the foot of a tree, a winter wind comes to nip at her. Are you cold, Alonuszka, he asks repeatedly as he increases in ferocity and strength. And each time Alonuszka says no, I'm warm wind, I'm warm.

When she wakes in the morning safe and sound she is surrounded by chests of gold and gems.

Her greedy stepmother then hatches a new plan and sends out the step sister to the forest to get more gems; alas that girl is not so resilient and tells it to the wind straight: I'm cold. She is found dead in the morning.

The moral of the story is supposed to be that you will be rewarded for your resilience. Your grit. Your ability to persevere. To face adversity and withstand it. You will be in turn punished for complaining and for saying it like it is.

This story has been living rent free in my head since my childhood because it's a terrible goddamn moral.

Few tales highlight this, and therefore few people consider, that the requirement to demonstrate such grit is conditional on your circumstances. If you are reading this it's unlikely you're a little girl living in an ancient Russian forest. It's unlikely you've been left for dead in the middle of the night. It's also unlikely that a magical winter wind will make you rich if you put up with it.

As a society in general we are taught by tales, fairy tales, religious teachings, and through elevating individuals who have overcome some great difficulty, that the ability to overcome adversity, or insurmountable odds, is a virtue.

You can spin around on your toe, stop when you get dizzy, point in a random location and find some fucker who will tell you that doing things the hard way builds character.

Nobody ever has the answer to the question of "how much character is enough" before you can stop doing things the hard way. No such person ever has the answer to whether doing things the hard way, when an easier way is in fact available, also builds character, or is it just a weird flex.

Screenshot from Frasier episode "How to Bury a Millionaire". Martin Crane : Now, Niles, this place is fine. Just remember the old saying: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  Dr. Niles Crane : But, Dad, not everyone makes it into that second group!

Nobody ever talks about those people who didn't overcome the adversity, and became broken shells along the way. Is it still virtuous to overcome adversity and tell others to do so, knowing that many won't? Knowing that many will then think poorly of themselves, if they survive at all, despite the game being stacked against them?

Screenshot from Twitter Douglas A. Boneparth @dougboneparth " Every dead body on Mt. Everest was once a highly motivated person so maybe calm down."

And like, sure, I myself exercise a weird flex every now and then, of doing things the hard way when an easier way is available. It's one way I learn. But I sure as fuck don't do this to myself when it comes to washing dishes. Or laundry. Or cooking. A solution already exists.

So take this from me as a permission to choose the easier way if one is available to you. Get that vacuuming robot. Splurge on a new can opener. Hire a maid.