I Need to Take This Thing That I Love and Get Rid of It Immediately

Josh Wagner

The following essay by Josh Wagner is an excerpt from Asymmetrical’s recently published essay collection, Advice to My 18-Year-Old Self. Look for more of Josh’s work to be published by Asymmetrical Press in 2014.

Can you feel it? You’ve crossed the peak. For a long time you’ve been climbing up, pushing against gravity. Now it’s all downhill. You finally got the thing you’ve always wanted and it turns out having it is nothing like wanting it. Toward the end there you started to develop a real taste for the wanting. That window of time where you knew you were closing in, where you could almost touch it. Right before you pounced. And hey, look at you—you got it. But in your hands it doesn’t feel the same as it “almost” did. Feels funny, tastes weird. It’s heavy. Looks different, too. Not quite the same shape you saw from a distance. What the hell are you doing? You can’t carry this. It fills your arms, obstructs your vision, affords no space for wanting more.

But you want to want more.

You thought you loved this thing but really you loved the arrows that were burning around you as you circled the wagons. And now your entire focus becomes how do I get rid of what took me so long to achieve? Because it no longer feels like the end all be all of your entire life. Now it feels like guilt and confusion and naturally you have to wonder if you’re completely broken as a human because aren’t we supposed to want something and then have it and then we’re happy? But what you’ve forgotten is you don’t actually have it. We never have anything.

Here’s the painful truth you already know. Nothing lasts. Everything ends. The only eternal element in life is change. We call phrases like this cliché and roll our eyes when we hear them because we hate it. We hate that we’re going to die. In the morning we’re pushed out of the airplane and by sunset we’ll be a memory on the sidewalk.

So what to do on the way down?

If something has an expiration date you can let it spoil or you can turn it into fuel. What you have now in your arms, what you’ve struggled so hard to achieve, is ready fuel. You know you can’t keep it so you have two options: you can put it in a landfill or you can set it on fire.

Set it on fire.

You don’t have a choice as to whether your best days will end up devoured by time, but you do have a choice about how it’s done. You can waste it with passion, or you can waste it with doubts and regrets. Stop fooling yourself into thinking it lasts forever. That’s the thought that makes you panic, that ignores and denies your natural restlessness and turns it into careless impatience. Embrace your mortality, but don’t just sit there like a nihilist and moan about it. Don’t pour the oil back into the well. Strike it against a rock until you see sparks. Build the fire, tend the fire, and when the fire goes out don’t sit there sifting through the ashes. There’s only one time in your life when you can burn all the way down and walk away stronger. Waste your youth. That’s what it’s for. Don’t hold back. Love until it hurts. The fire will fade. You’re going to die.

I’ve got some more advice for you, too.

Ninety-five percent of your fears, doubts, and insecurities only exist in your head. Those people you’re so worried about being judged by aren’t even paying attention. Only the people who already love you are keeping tabs on what you do. Everyone else is too busy worrying about what other people think of them. Take risks, no one is watching.

The so-called “real” world is a labyrinth of head-games and monkey tricks. Most of these can be sidestepped with confidence and eye-contact.

All confidence is false confidence.

The gloomier things get the more valuable laughter becomes. This is basic economics. Practice laughter, she’s your most powerful ally.

Don’t be afraid to fight. But first make sure you know how.

Don’t be afraid to love. But first make sure you don’t think you know how.

If you’re going somewhere you’ve been before, take a different route to get there. Ruts are fearsome double-headed dragons devouring time and vitality. And you’ve got devouring of your own to deal with. Get to it. Stop putting all that work into agonizing over the imminent loss of everything you love. Simply love. While it’s still right there in front of you. Time not spent burning is draining, every bit of it trickling away at one second per second. Do you want a trail of fire through the sky or do you want a landfill piled up over your bones?

And when you do fall in love—and you will, again and again and again—don’t stop falling just because you hit the ground.


  1. Beautiful Joon
    January 15, 2014 - Reply

    You’re my soulmate. Did I come on too strong? What I meant to say is I want your sex. Also, yes, this is my view on life. While some find it daunting, I find the truth quite liberating. I don’t like the rat race, which is why I eat the rats. *mew*

  2. January 15, 2014 - Reply

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  3. Rae
    January 22, 2014 - Reply

    It’s like you took all the things that have been swimming around in my heart and my brain this past few months and put them into words and put the words in the most perfect order to fully convey the weight of what I have known but couldn’t express. Sorry that was a little sappy but true.
    Also I’m a bit scared of Beautiful Joon :O but…you go girl!

  4. January 22, 2014 - Reply


    “Stop fooling yourself into thinking it lasts forever.” True story..silly brain of us!

    “Take risks, no one is watching.” O ohw,..this is going to be messy..

    Thank you.

  5. Julz
    January 22, 2014 - Reply

    I don’t know who you are – but I love your philosophy. It’s fabulous

  6. January 22, 2014 - Reply

    Break. Blow. Burn. Thank you for this.

  7. a Girl.
    January 23, 2014 - Reply

    What you said here doesn’t solve any of my shit. All you do is telling how to keep the fire burning. Or make it burn.
    Well, you know what.. that is exactly what I need. Not an answer to my problem. but someone telling me, I still can hope, have dreams and chase it because old fame doesn’t last long :) To that thank you!

  8. January 29, 2014 - Reply

    […] I Need to Take This Thing That I Love and Get Rid of It Immediately – “The following essay by Josh Wagner is an excerpt from Asymmetrical’s recently published essay collection, Advice to My 18-Year-Old Self. Look for more of Josh’s work…” […]

  9. February 5, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you for writing this. I really needed to hear that at this junction in my life. The last few days I had that want want want and I liked it. I get that every once in a while. I’m always looking for is, but it’s elusive. And when I do finally get a taste of it I know it’s only there for a short time. It could be just a few seconds or it could last a few days. It’s never lasted more than a few, that want. But that’s what I work for, the want. The having it is imaginary for me, I’m not going to say I’ll never get it, but it’s that elusive that I thought I should mention the imagination of it being a constant in my life. My Dad passed in 2010 a few months after I was diagnosed with cancer. They blew a catheter up before they pushed it all the way home and that sent me into a psychotic flurry for several months including the duration of my recovery from an all in one colon, lymph and liver surgery. Now my Mom has the same Parkinson’s my Dad had the nine years I took care of him before my surgery. I moved back from Oregon in 1998 to care for my Dad and since he passed have since taken care of my Mom. So I care for her now as I did my Dad and had practice so that’s kind of a blessing. I’ve managed two more operations since then and the cancer still wants to call my liver home. I’m on these shots now that are supposed to keep the tumors from growing, it’s called Octreotide. I’ve got my fingers crossed wherever crossing fingers for luck comes from. But I’ll take that energy. I’ve got my eyes and toes crossed too and just ordered a dozen pretzels. I’m going to place one on my liver and sing just because it sounds like it might feel good. Ahhh, back to the want…
    For the last 38 years I’ve been working toward that want. That’s all I want in my life is the constant of that want. I can visualize my dreams and the want is what carries me towards them. When I think of minimalism, I can pretty much do without everything else, but the want I want to keep. It’s the prize for me. Aside from some old shack that needs paint in the hills somewhere with an old desk, an old chair and an old coldspot, that’s all I want. The Primarily Obsessional OCD I’ve had for 38 years is what I don’t want. It tries to sabotage the constant of want. It always has, it’s like an unwanted extra brain that tries to convince you that you are the originator of any thought you find repulsive. Any thought that you have, that you think, my God, how could I think that, it’s that extra brain that tries to convince you that it’s you that actually wanted to think it because you’re a monster. It want’s you to believe that you are the culprit. That you are responsible for the thought and must bear any guilt for that thought. People with PureO need to realize that if they are not the originator of the thought then they need bear no guilt for it either. Let it come, look at it, recognize who is responsible for it and let it go. It’s just passing through and the less attention you pay to it, the more value it loses. That’s Primarily Obsessional OCD for you. But guess what? I spite it with humor, I spite it with laughter. If I can look at those thoughts and know that is the enemy of my want, I’m going to laugh at it and continue toward my dreams and goals. And that leaves and my want to becomes stronger. And whether I ever get that shack in the woods with that desk and that chair, I’ll find that energy floating around in the atmosphere. And each time it’s charge will increase and flow through me making me stronger. And we’ll laugh and we’ll cry and finally peace will be a reality.

  10. March 11, 2014 - Reply

    […] Read the essay online for free. […]

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