Every day, I am bombarded by another person who has taken up a new hobby or realized a hidden talent. Every day, I am watching another friend get engaged and land their dream job. And every day, I am reminded of how astoundingly different my life currently is from so many others around me. While some people are thriving in the chaos that is our world right now, I am drowning in it.
I used to be a morning person, but now I can barely get myself out of bed. I am up too late thinking about too many things and wondering when (or if) my life will ever go back to normal. The time I used to spend sleeping, I now spend worrying about every decision I have ever made that has brought me to this point in my life. Most days, I just spend my time wishing I could take it all back.
I watched my entire industry collapse in the blink of an eye. I lost the job I had for almost five years through an email. I watched everything I worked for the last 10 years of my life implode right in front of me, all while knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it. I had already found my passion in life and had turned what most consider a hobby into a career. I can’t help but wonder what else is even left for me now.
My mind is in a constant state of panic, alarms blaring and lights flashing, and every single decision I make looks like danger. For every good habit someone else has picked up during quarantine, I can probably tell you ten bad ones I now have. I hardly go outside anymore. I can’t really read books or make art. I can’t keep up with anyone’s birthdays or even just have basic, casual conversations without feeling overwhelmed. Some days, it feels like I am making all of this up in my own head as I watch the rest of the world living on, unbothered.
I am watching people I care about get sick. I am watching people I care about lose the ones they care about, and I just wish I could make it all stop. I feel so small in this chaos. I feel like I am screaming and trying to get the rest of the world to wake up and to care. I feel like everything I do has no meaning. I feel like the world is burning, and no matter how hard I try, the only option I have is to watch it burn.
I just want to know where I will be when everything settles. I just want some reassurance that the decisions I am making right now are the decisions I should be making for the future. I already feel like I made the wrong choice the last time that I had to pick a path, and I am so afraid I will do the same again.
I feel like my current situation is proving to every person who has ever doubted me that they were right to do so. I am now doubting everything in myself that I have ever believed in, all while trying to pretend that I am not. When everyone else around you appears to be doing so well, it is so difficult not to feel the pressure to try to keep up the same facade. Some days, I think I even have myself convinced that I, too, am thriving. But, deep down, I know that I am not.
I spend my days pouring as much of myself as I can into the two part-time jobs I have left, desperately trying to prove to them that I have value, even though most days, I do not see it myself. I spend my days trying to distract myself from everything I am feeling in hopes that it will all just go away. But the problem is that none of this is just going to go away. We have to stop assuming that once the calendar flips to 2021, everything will be okay again. Maybe for a lot of people, the chaos will pass in a few months’ time and life will begin to feel normal again. But for so many of us, the chaos has changed or will change our lives forever. Some people will not come back. Some careers will not come back. What was once our normal lives might never come back.
I am not thriving in this chaos, and you might not be either, and that is okay. It is okay to not be okay right now. It is okay to let yourself feel all of the emotions you are feeling. Chaos is devastating. Chaos is life-altering. Chaos, change, loss, all of these things will wreak havoc on a life, and I don’t think anyone should expect you to wake up the day after you have lost everything with a smile on your face and a new dream to follow. It is okay to mourn someone you have lost. It is okay to mourn a dream that was taken from you. It is okay to mourn the life you once had. It is okay to worry and to cry and to hate everything that is happening right now. No one should expect you to have it all together while the earth is crumbling beneath you.
I truly think it is wonderful that so many people have been able to take the chaos of our current world and turn it into something productive and beautiful. Everyone reacts to change and stress in different ways. You may love all of the time alone at home while someone else might be suffering in all of the stillness and the silence. You may feel energized and like you have finally been given the time to dedicate to your passion while some of us are watching everything we have ever loved leave us. What is perfection for one person could be a perfect hell for another.
The truth is, I am not thriving in the chaos. I am just doing my best to keep my head above water.
And sometimes, that is all you can do.