Ego Death

By age 29 I’d accomplished my every goal: an Academy Award, prizes at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals, a leading role in a top-grossing three-film franchise. But still I craved more success, more accolades. There were always new peaks to scale — star in a prestige streaming series, get into directing — but during one lunch meeting to plot out the next decade with my agents and managers, it hit me: I’m no closer to happiness. Each win made me need the next. I was addicted to fame, to seeing my face on billboards and posters. I set my truffle panko scallops down and leaned back from the table, overcome with the realization that would reset my life. “I’m done with all this,” I said to my perplexed team. “I’m moving to a monastery in Nepal to study with monks, to abandon these endless desires and find real happiness within.”

Upon my arrival, the monks chuckled. Another westerner here for a photo. But I insisted my motives were sincere. I showed the monks my Academy Award, and then I threw it into their deep, sacred lake.

After the first year of study I learned how little I knew.

Two years in, I began to see through cloudy eyes.

Finally, after seven years of daily meditation, my ego crumpled like a meaningless scrap of paper, rolled into the flames of my modest fire, and turned to smoke before my eyes.

For the first time in my life, I was alive. Two years of bliss and serenity. Air, pebbles, grass, water.

And one afternoon at lunch with the monks, observing how we and the carrots we eat are the same, it hits me that I have at least forty years left in my life, and this daily routine is so unbelievably boring I may have to jump off the side of this fucking mountain. It was relaxing for a little while, but, holy shit, forty more years of squeezing carrots with my eyes closed? Of smelling the dirt on a potato? It was interesting the first few times, and then just okay the next three hundred. I’m supposed to do this for decades to come? I lean back from the table, overcome with the realization that will reset my life. “I’m done with all this,” I say to the perplexed monks. “I’m moving my ass back to Los Angeles to cake my face in makeup and see my shit-eating grin plastered across the side of a bus where it belongs. This life is nice, but I killed my ego way too soon. If I’d come here at age eighty-one, it’d be perfect. I could coast on this zonked-out zen until my body runs out of gas. But I’m only thirty-eight. So I’m going to press pause on the radish-worship. Muchas gracias for the produce, gentlemen, and I wish you the best of luck zoning out while I resuscitate my ego and pledge allegiance to that gorgeous son of a bitch, getting calf implants and hair plugs, screaming at my agents to make my face bigger on the poster for the piece of shit comic book movie I star in, notching vain victories, accomplishing conceited goals, and feeling alive again. I’ll be back in a few decades, all spent and worn and ready to snooze with you hombres. Adios.”

I hire a crew to drain their sacred lake and fish out my Oscar. I hug it, standing alone on that mountain, squeezing my name on its faceplate, and the boring hellscape around me disappears. The wind, the trees, the screaming monks, withdrawing their vegetable knives and promising to kill me for what I did to their lake. For a moment it’s just me and my award with my name on it — my name, my name, my name; me and only me; all me — and I finally know peace.