I know we all have those moments where we sit down and reflect on how far we have come in life. I know we all have those moments that make us grateful to still be here, but I know we all also face a number of times where we question what we are really doing here. I have been on this earth for almost 27 years, and I am still stuck wondering, “Why?”
Every year I tell myself that this birthday, things are really going to change. This is going to be the year where my life turns around and finally, everything will start to make sense. I am beginning to doubt if there will ever come a time when this world we live in makes sense. I want so badly to move forward with my life, but what is the sense in taking the next step, if you have no direction to guide the one after?
The thought never crossed my mind as a young adult that I would ever be struggling so intensely at this age. I was oblivious to the difficulties the world was just waiting to throw my way. All I was ever concerned about was being the best. Perfection was my only goal, no matter how unattainable everyone tried to make me believe it was. It is funny how I have never truly been able to believe in myself, but such an outlandish, unattainable ideal as “perfection” seemed like the only thing worth believing in. I have always felt (whether or not I like to admit it to myself) that being perfect would surely be the way out of all of this pain. If I was thinner and more beautiful, I would find love. If I could find love, then I could finally be happy. If I was happy, then I must be successful. And if I am successful, then I must be doing everything right. I must be perfect.
But that’s the thing. I am not perfect. I am not happy. A lot of my friends are not happy. We are living in a world full of sad people pretending everything is fine because all of us are too afraid to admit that things are not going as well as we had planned. The world tells us to dream big and to dream loudly and that if you believe in it, you can achieve it. But what it doesn’t tell you is how to turn your dreams into a reality when it seems like everything around you is trying to force you to fail. They tell us to go to school to get a job and to get a job to get a house and to fall in love to get married and on and on and on. But nobody tells you to be happy. Nobody tells you to take care of yourself because what do any of those things mean if you aren’t even here to enjoy them? They tell us to build a cookie-cutter life to try to fit us into their generalized equation of “living the dream,” but no one seems to account for all of us who dream outside of the ordinary.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a life with all of those parts, but there is also nothing wrong with wanting a life outside of the societal norm. The day I decided to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in college instead of something more “logical” was the day I torched the plans for my pre-constructed life. Now here I am, almost 27 years old, living at home with my parents and working at a job which barely makes ends meet. I spend my one or two days off from my full-time job desperately trying to recover enough mentally and physically to do it all again for another week. I do as much freelance work as I can handle to try to get ahead, but more often than not these days, I find myself unable to go above and beyond like I used to.
Pursuing my dreams has been gratifying, but it has also become so lonely. My work schedule and my exhaustion have annihilated my social and romantic lives. If I don’t see you at my job, then I do not see you at all. I look on enviously at my friends who chose lives with simple schedules and paths to success. They are in love, they are traveling, and they are simply living. I never have an answer anymore for anyone who asks what is new with me. I do not exist outside of my work. Some days, it is almost like I do not exist at all.
I am just so tired all of the time. I look back on the past years of my life, and I wonder how I managed to be so social and so successful all at once. I long for the days where I used to go to work and leave it at the door when the day was done. Now, I can barely get through a day without a crisis of some sort. I want to believe in my love for art and for the importance of following your dreams, but what are you supposed to do when all you have ever dreamed of becomes a nightmare?
I fear that I will always be alone. I fear that I will never move forward with my career and that my goals are far from attainable. There are days when a white picket fence, a husband, and a 9 to 5 job scream my name, but then just when I am about to throw in the towel and go to them, something stops me in my tracks. I see the frustration of those I do know with that type of life, and I see the hollow shells of humans they can also be. You see, anyone can fill in an equation when given the correct answers, but just because you know how to solve something doesn’t mean you truly understand the problem.
I am just trying to understand all of my problems. I can see my dreams out ahead of me, so far down the road, and some days I think I am just too tired to get there. Some days, I really think that maybe it is time for plan B. I have succeeded, and I have not. I have kept on pushing and trying and trying, and yet, I still feel like I am stuck and going nowhere. I spend most of my time at work or asleep or drowning myself in my own worries about everything that should be happening in my life but isn’t. I spend so much time wishing it would all just get better because my own stress and anxiety have caused me to firmly plant myself here in my comfort zone. I am surviving, but I am not thriving. I am here, but I am not present.
I just cannot help but wonder if I have given up everything for the chance to be myself but in doing so, I have destroyed more of myself than I can even recognize. Some days, the sadness and the anxiety burn me to my core, and I can do nothing more than hate myself for all of the decisions I have made.
But other days, a wave of relief washes over me, and I get a feeling that maybe this is exactly where I am supposed to be. Maybe I am meant to struggle and to learn from it, so I can help others see that “perfect” is not a goal, but authenticity should be.