Seeking Discomfort

Tonight’s special will be roasted spare goose with a side of asparagus. It’s paired with our house wine, called “Gus.” If you need anything, my name’s Dave.


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Man is it great to have our sponsors back! And it’s great to be back on the blog. I took a brief life hiatus, so it’s been a few weeks. I needed to find some order in my life. I needed to find a lot of things, as it turns out. Where do I start? Here? There? Everywhere? Look, a hairy bear with careless flair!


I actually saw a huge coyote on my walk this morning. I live about a mile from downtown Austin, so it’s a busy area. There weren’t many people out at about eight this morning, and I began towards the city for my usual walk in the park. I was just strolling on the sidewalk when out of nowhere a coyote the size of a German Shepard popped out about ten feet in front of me. I was half awake and it was the last thing on earth I was expecting. We made eye contact for a brief moment before he scurried back into the shrubbery. I passed and looked over, but I couldn’t even see him. Sneaky bastard. I looked behind me as I continued to walk and watched him cross the street from wherever he was in those bushes. He stopped and looked back at me once he made it across like “why are you here?” and I looked at him like “bro, why are YOU here!?” We acknowledged that neither of us wanted any trouble and went on our way.


My encounters with wildlife have always come at the most unexpected times. I had a brief stand-off with a mountain goat on a super busy trail at Zion National Park, I got surprised by a mountain lion at the base of a hometown park where all the people are after never seeing one up in the deeper, isolated part of the park, and now a coyote encounter on a busy street just outside of downtown Austin. You never know what life’s gonna throw at ya!


Anyways, I feel fantastic. Which is good, because I was on the struggle bus. Things were too chaotic and I had way too much time to do nothing but go inward. As someone who already overthinks, the space inside my head can get quite overwhelming. I had to wait a good while to get my Texas registration for my car, so I couldn’t drive for Uber until about a week or so ago. I didn’t have any stable income, I didn’t have anyone to come home to, and the only thing I was really focusing on was comedy, which is incredibly challenging and isolating.


Driving for Uber and Lyft has helped me turn the corner in so many ways. First of all, a stable income is a stress reliever and helps me feel like I’m making steady progress towards tangible goals. Secondly, it’s social. Like any human, I need social connection. That being said, I’ve never done well with crowds. I find it hard to connect with people at a loud party or a large gathering. I much prefer a one on one conversation in a quiet environment. Third, it’s a great marketing opportunity. I’ve gathered countless Instagram followers from rides, sold some books, and handed out my share of business cards.


Having driven for Uber and Lyft for years, I knew it would be the perfect job for me. I saved money and didn’t look for a regular job because I knew this was exactly what would serve me best: freedom to work when I want, interesting social engagement, and a fun marketing opportunity. It’s an added bonus that I’m making twice as much money as I thought I would. The demand for rides is so high right now and the supply is so low, it’s a perfect time to be driving. It won’t last forever, but I’m thrilled to be taking advantage of it while it does.


Something I have to make an extra effort towards is moving my body throughout the day. If you haven’t heard, sedentary behavior is super bad for you. And sadly, most of us live sedentary lives. We sleep in a comfy bet, we hop in a comfy car, we go to our comfy job, we come home to our comfy couch, and we rinse and repeat. It’s not what humans were designed to do. We used to have to be active to survive. There was no need for “exercising,” it was just called surviving. Nowadays, you can be pretty close to useless and still live to be eighty years old.


I started reading a book called “The Comfort Crisis,” which highlights what I’ve laid out in the last paragraph. The main thesis is that we’ve become too comfortable as a society and it’s stripping us of what it means to be happy. We need to be challenged, but modern society is so hell bent on comfort and convenience that most of us go through life relatively unchallenged. That doesn’t mean people don’t face incredibly hardships and difficulties in their life, because they do, but we simply don’t have to fight to survive in a manner anywhere close to our ancestors.


It’s nice to be comfortable, but always being comfortable is a problem. If you’re always comfortable, you don’t develop or grow or strengthen yourself. You’re just flat-lining through life. When presented with real challenge, you become overwhelmed. Anxiety and depression take you over. Things that are minor inconveniences to a challenged person become unbearable to the unchallenged. There’s another good book called “The Coddling of the American Mind,” which highlights how things like helicopter parenting are affecting the younger population.


I took a woman on an Uber ride recently, and I told her about my journeys; riding a train around the country by myself when I was 18 and my 40 day adventure in the all new Subaru Crosstrek with four wheel suspension, from California to Austin. She said something along the lines of “well I’m glad you made it out alive, but I would never want my kids to do that.” It made me sad. First off, it felt exaggerated to me. I never felt like I was going to die on either trip. There were times when it was really fucking difficult, don’t get me wrong, but I was smart enough to keep myself out of any life-threatening trouble. Secondly, those trips have made me who I am. The difficulty of those journeys is where I’ve gained the most knowledge, strength, and courage. I always recommend people do something similar at least once in their lives.


Sadly, her prioritization of protection over challenge seems to be ubiquitous in our culture. Everything is made easier, faster, and more convenient. Hell, you can even get your groceries delivered to you. I can’t do it, personally. It’s too far. I’ll get my own damn groceries. And I’ll get my own damn food. It’s already convenient enough that I just have to walk into an air conditioned building and pick out anything I want. The thought of someone else gathering groceries for me, getting in a car, and then carrying them up to my apartment makes me cringe. If you’re genuinely disabled it’s a great service, but if not I think it’s doing people way more harm than they realize.


Anyways, I’m trying to embrace discomfort in my life a bit more. I’ve realized that I’m at my best when I’m challenging myself and I’m at my worst when things are too easy. That’s one of the reasons I made the move to Austin. People would always say to me, “why don’t you just take over your dad’s business? That place is a gold mine!” And yes, I could have done that. But it would have been the safe and comfortable route. I could have stayed in my hometown in the house I grew up in and made a comfortable amount of money continuing what my dad worked so hard to build. But I’d rather build something of my own.


It remains to be seen what this thing that I’m building is, but I’m building something. I came here to pursue comedy, yes, but I don’t know for certain if that’s what I’ll end up doing for most of my life. I have a feeling I will, but I also have a feeling that if I’m doing comedy, it’s going to end up being a different kind of comedy. I’ve recently found myself rapping on stage a lot, I go to open mics and read poetry, and I also tell jokes. I can envision it all coming together for a unique type of performance that is different from what people see as traditional stand-up comedy.


Performing is still new to me and I don’t always enjoy it to be honest, but I’m obsessed with the process of creating a performance. Rather, I’m obsessed with putting the words together. Whether it’s a joke, a rap, a poem, a story, or a fake advertisement, it’s all under the same practice of trying to find the perfect collection of words and organizing them in the perfect order. That’s what I love. I don’t care where it takes me, as long as I get to do it.

Jason Brendel
Jason Brendel

Jason Brendel is an author, poet, and comedian living in Austin, Texas. Navigate the buttons below to follow him on social media, make a donation, or purchase his collection of laugh-out-loud poetry on Amazon.

2 thoughts on “Seeking Discomfort

  1. Always enjoy your posts. Jonathan Haidt is great at being smart and saying smart things. He I like. Guess I’ll have to check out “The Comfort Crisis”. Keep up the great work.

    1. Thanks Michael. I love Jonathan Haidt, he’s great. The Comfort Crisis and The Obstacle is the Way are both really good. I think the message in both is pretty similar.

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