September 16, 2011

The Best I Ever Had

I have to keep reminding myself that just because something is the best I ever had, it doesn't mean it's the best I could ever have.

Things can always get better, right?

People can always get better?

When I was in nursery school (what they now call "preschool"), I was interviewed for the special Mother's Day edition of the lifestyle section of our local city newspaper, and photographed as I painted a flower for my mom. (Wearing a royal blue painting smock with a rainbow-colored bullseye in the middle, I attracted quite the attention and ended up as the section's cover model.) When asked, I said that I loved my mommy because she took me to the movies.

Later in life, I realized that wasn't enough to earn my love. Back then, she was the best mother I ever had, I'd ever known. But because I was locked in our house with her, I didn't have a chance to experience any other mothers.

Now I know better. Now I have a better mother. She's not only the best mother I ever had, but she very well may be the best mother ever.

But when you get something that seems really good - say, a flavor, a job, a boyfriend, an orgasm - you want to hold onto it. You don't want to let go of it. And, if you have an addictive personality like mine (thanks, Mom, the alcoholic sugar addict compulsive shopper overeater), you can't get enough of it.

But if you spend all of your time consuming something that's good - merely good - doesn't that limit your opportunities of experiencing that which is great, perhaps the best, not just the best you ever had?

In 2007, after living in New York City for 10 years, I thought I had a good job. It was my best job in the music industry up until that point. But over the year or two that followed, I realized how bad the job actually was, and how it was eating me from the inside out.

I now know that things can get better in the music industry, that a job exists - my job, the one I have now - that's supportive of women, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-national, multi-faith, humanitarian and profitable.

Does it get any better than that?

Maybe. But I'm going to stick around for a while to see how good this job can get.

I know a guy who's never happy where he is. No matter what job he has, he's miserable, always longing for the last job he had, which he now thinks was so much better (though he was miserable enough at the time to leave it). He is the guy who's never satisfied with his current girlfriend, and instead always pines for his ex.

There are others - namely, New Yorkers - who always have their eye on the door for a better-looking person than the one they're with to walk through it.

I, on the other hand, feel like I've made good progress over time, steadily improving my career choices, fashion sense, dietary habits, and taste in men. But I've always been reluctant to give up what I have now if I know it's good (or maybe just good enough), even if something better could be lurking around the corner. If you rock my world, I'm going to keep inviting you back to rock it again.

I think this must be why tourists insist on eating at Olive Garden and TGIFriday's when they visit Manhattan. They know it's good. And they're afraid to try something new because it might not be as good.

Then again, if you know your way around, it's easy enough to find a meal that's so much better (as much as I love Olive Garden).

The sad truth is, because of individuality and cultural nuances and social perspectives and irrational personal preferences, it's impossible to determine an objective "best possible" scenario for basically anything. The best possible job for me would be very different than the best possible job for my sister or any of my friends. And when you take any measure of lack of self confidence into consideration, you then find humans adjusting their expectations from the "best possible" to "the best I could get." And the best you actually could get is probably way better than what you think the best you could get is.

It seems to me that the key considerations in evaluating "the best I ever had" are: 1) how many have I had? 2) how long have I had each of them? 3) how much opportunity have I had to sample all the available options?

The best boyfriend I ever had up to this point is actually the best boyfriend I ever had when I was 19, but that's because he's basically the only real boyfriend I've ever had. Since him, I've had the opportunity to sample plenty of other men - as dates, friends, affairs, lovers - and right now there's one I can't get out of my head, because not only is he the best I ever had, but I have this sneaking suspicion that he's the best one I can get, and the best one out there.

I welcome someone to prove me wrong. Especially since, apparently, I'm not the best he ever had.

Related reading:
The Best Thing I Ever Tasted
The Best Life?

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