I’m sorry there’s been so much “young B.F. Skinner” material here but I can’t get enough of this stuff!
In 1926, age 22, living in his parents’ attic, he writes an essay in his notebook called “WHAT I ACHIEVE I DESPISE,” which includes this:
Nothing is worth doing. But we have the instinct to do, and we should be wise enough to do the thing which is most nearly worth doing.
The world considers me lazy because I do not earn bread. The world expects of me that I should measure up to its standard of strength, which means that if I “got a job” for eight hours of office work (minus the time spent in being friendly to the other employees, in arranging for a party for the evening, in arguing the merits of a baseball scandal, etc.) [if it] constituted a day and paid me respectable money, I should be a man. It’s not so much my “being a man” that people desire, it is my being one of them.
I see clearly now that the only thing left for me to do in life is to justify myself for doing nothing.
Pace Tolstoy, unhappy 22-year-olds are all alike.