The Illusion of Control

I’ve caught myself being a little overly philosophical over the last day. So, of course, I had to write a blog.

I awoke yesterday, one of my precious and ever elusive days off, with a list of things to accomplish by the end of the day. And I’m quite proud to say I checked everything off that list by 5 that afternoon!


What got me thinking all philosophical-like was the moment after I purchased my two new suitcases. Sounds odd, I know, but hear me out. After I found the model and sizes I was looking for, picked out two uncharacteristically bright colors, and checked and double-checked that each bag met the required measurements, I opened up my cart to see the grand total.

Both bags were on sale and mom had supplied me with a promo code that saved me an extra $20 bucks so it was a significantly lower number than it could’ve been. But the cost was still high enough to use up most of the paycheck I’d just deposited. What was a borderline broke bookseller to do?

Dammit, I bought the damn things! That’s right, a statement worthy of two expletives.


Yes, I bought them. I also bought a bus ticket that day. And it felt so good to do it! Even if I was spending money I didn’t really have to spend and even if I still have months until the actual bus trip, it felt good to do something, to feel like I had the ability to make things happen, to exercise control over the things happening in my life. It felt damn good.

It’s funny, because even though I felt like I was making progress and getting things done (which I was) I’m still in the exact same place as I was before I hit the ‘Proceed to Checkout’ button. I’m still stuck waiting for three months, counting down the days until October 26th, stuck between here and there. But at least for that short moment, I felt like I was moving forward.

Control is a funny thing. We can create in our minds, believe it, but still be right where we started. It seems to be another method of self-soothing. Click some buttons on a screen, pay some money, get some new suitcases that will sit empty for weeks to come and feel like you achieved some goal. We tell ourselves we’ve just moved one step closer. It’s like the pre-action before the actual action.

If you’re wondering what my point is with all this I’m not entirely sure I have one. Just making some general observations about life and the human condition. If I’ve learned one thing in my time, it’s that humans often lie to ourselves. I guess that’s not all bad, though. Sometimes it seems to be just what we need.



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