I'm currently reading a 660-page book about the antics of Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, and Truman Capote, arguably three of the most influential openly-gay writers of the last century. I'll sum it up for you so you don't have to read it yourself: They were heavy abusers of drugs and alcohol, they were wildly promiscuous, they were mostly unhappy with their lives even though they had more money than the gross national products of some third-world countries, and the fights they had with each other (mostly because they were competing for the same men or the same literary rewards, or both) defined viciousness. There are interesting stories and amusing tidbits here and there -- I did not know that Errol Flynn met his second wife when she was working at a courthouse snack counter during one of his statutory rape trials -- but in the main, that about sums it up. I'm about halfway through and haven't decided yet if I'll finish it or not.
There seems to be a pattern that the most wildly successful among us are also the most wildly self destructive. Examples abound, from all fields of human endeavor. At this point, one almost expects someone at the pinnacle to possess some self destructive trait or other, and one starts to wonder if those who don't display such maladaptive traits are merely better at hiding it. On the other hand, I haven't seen any empirical studies on it, so maybe this is just confirmation bias. If it's not confirmation bias -- if there really is something about the personality required to achieve great things that carries with it a greater chance of self destruction -- then one wonders why that might be.
Once upon a time, I aspired to great things. I wanted to be president. I wanted to be chief justice of the Supreme Court. I wanted to be chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. And I didn't. I found contentment doing useful, steady work that will never get my name in lights, but which gives me satisfaction and keeps food on my table.
A part of me still wishes I had accomplished great things. But there are worse things than a quiet and peaceful existence.