It was a running joke that he thought too much, the kind of running joke that becomes such a common occurrence only because it isn’t actually a joke. It was always said in a jokey tone, but it was always really meant as a warning, a reminder of the need for perspective and to take a break from the ever growing tree of thoughts he was climbing. He knew he thought too much, didn’t know what exactly they expected him to do about that, but he appreciated the reminder nonetheless, it did the job every time; shook the ground beneath his feet just enough that he remembered to look up and evaluate his frame of mind. Naturally, if he could turn it off he would, if he could not be turning over every single decision he has ever made all the time, he would jump at the chance. Alas, that wasn’t possible and instead here he was left, encountering what seemed like a suspicious amount of impossible decisions throughout his daily life.
He wasn’t sure how exactly people made decisions if they did not think about them, did they just pick one? Or have some kind of instinctual capabilities where they weighed up the options and knew which one felt right. Perhaps, although he would never admit this to anybody else if it did turn out to be true, perhaps that meant that the people around him had a better moral compass than him. An unpleasant thought, although one that did not ring false and one that left him with an unpleasant doubt at the back of his mind. Just as he was the one who thought too much, he was the moral one, the one who was always uncertain and reluctant until he had reconciled his actions with himself, until he deemed them acceptable. So what did it make him if everyone else seemed to have their morals straight and seemed to have no problem indicating wrong from right? Convoluted, that was the word, his morals were convoluted. They were all tangled and all pathways seemed to cross over and double back on themselves. “Just be a nice person” they say, a lot easier said than done he would argue.
There had never been anything he wanted more than to be a nice person. All those English lessons in Primary School filled with teachers telling him not to use that word, that it was too basic and that there were better words he could use, like “polite” or “pleasant” or “agreeable”. He didn’t want to use those words, he wanted his characters to be nice. Even kind didn’t quite fit the bill although he felt they meant pretty much the same thing. In his world, to be kind was something outward, a kind person was someone who performed good actions. A nice person however, they were nice on the inside, sometimes their actions may not be perceived as kind but that was because their intentions were, and you can’t see someone’s intentions. He liked nice people, enjoyed following their trains of thought and feeling superior when he watched their middling actions and recognised the kindness in them. The point was, he wanted to be a nice person, and he wanted to be able to call himself a nice person without feeling the need to check over his shoulder for an angry crowd of english teachers hovering behind him ready to utilise their dictionaries as weapons.
Once one had settled on their key characteristic, that was when the problems started arising. What was he supposed to do when faced with a situation in which he couldn’t be nice to everyone, when someone was going to get hurt no matter what he did. How was he supposed to decide who to sacrifice and who to save? It felt right to be nice to the nicer person, to protect them almost, so that they could continue on their journey unblemished, spreading kindness wherever they went. But he knew that in that situation the other way around, he would not want that. Hurt people hurt people didn’t they, he couldn’t blame the Less Nice person unless he knew their whole story, and he could never do that. If a nice person had the choice between hurting him or someone else, he would much rather they hurt him, perhaps because it felt a nice person thing to do, to sacrifice himself for them in that little way.
It seemed so simple from the outside, on days when he could sit back and watch the sunshine and think about nice people things, when he could hold doors open and smile at old ladies doing their shopping and laugh at the little awkward dance people did when approaching each other on the pavement and nobody quite knows which side to take. On good days, being nice was almost easy. It was just sometimes, it was not. Sometimes things got too complicated, too confusing, and there didn’t seem to be a right answer, and he didn’t know how there could not be. Surely a real nice person would know what to do, a real nice person would do the nice thing and that would come instinctively. He didn’t suppose it mattered much whether he was born a nicer person or made himself into one, the end effect was the same, but it sure did make things a lot harder for him. He would much appreciate a little Nice Person voice inside his head, telling him what to do.
The right decision was always to do the good thing, of that he was sure. On the topic of what the good thing was, he was less sure. It never seemed clear and simple, perhaps that was the poetic beauty of it, that being nice was never the easy way, that being why it was so hard to choose it. That painted him as a little too saintly for his liking, instead he would stick with painting himself as a bit of a mess of a nice person, much more self-sacrificial, much more to his liking.