5 Questions We’re Afraid To Ask Ourselves

It’s hard to ignore that some questions — some thoughts that may occasionally cross our minds — are just out of bounds. Whether from familial pressure, what all our friends seem to be doing, or our high expectations for ourselves, we try to stay on a certain course, without thinking too much about where we might be headed. But these five questions, more than any others, bring up some possible ugliness that we often find ourselves unable to face directly in the mirror.

1. Do I really want a relationship, or am I just afraid of being alone?

As we get older, people around us start pairing off — and never is the progression from “Let’s all see how many Jager shots we can do in a row, single buddies!” to “We are thinking about renting a place on the beach for a week or so this summer” more pronounced than in your 20s. It’s hard not to look around and feel like you’re suddenly the odd man out, the one who’s getting picked last for kickball, the third wheel everyone has to feel sorry for and take on their pseudo-dates. And if you’re female, take whatever societal pressure there is to pair up from your peers doing it, and put it to the power of 10. We have the media, more or less since birth, telling us that our manifest destiny in life is to find some rich guy on a (preferably white) horse who will come and rescue us from our stifling jobs as secretaries and take us off to some beautiful four-bedroom in Connecticut.

But is this what we really want? Sure, for some people, finding someone to spend your whole life with is easily in the top three life goals, but it can’t be that way for everybody. And even if it is your goal to find a soulmate, is your ultimate expression of that love going to be in the same cookie-cutter wedding that all of your friends and acquaintances are having? Do you even want to get married? It’s the kind of pressure that is so deeply embedded in us that even when we have someone, even when we’re at our happiest, we can’t help but look over our shoulder and wonder — just briefly — if these are the kinds of decisions we’re making to please all our overbearing relatives, and not actually us.

2. Is this job right for me, and is it what I’m really good at?

In an economy like this, we’re glad just to have a job. We work unpaid internships, temp positions, and anything else that can get us month-to-month, hoping to find a light at the end of a tunnel in the form of a package that includes decent vacation time and health insurance. So it’s no wonder that once we actually land a job — hell, even one only tangentially related to what we actually want to do in life — that we kind of sink into a dangerous complacency of “Whatever, I can afford takeout Thai, this is as good as life is going to get.” We’re encouraged not just to give up on non-career-related goes for our life (such as travel, continued education, or even a new hobby), but we’re also paralyzed by the sense that, should we look elsewhere, we’re going to fall into a bottomless pit of unemployment.

Many of us don’t even really know what we’re good at. We all go through jobs and courses and internships to briefly test the waters, giving an impression of trying to find ourselves, but we end up taking the first thing that sticks because we need it. It’s easy to convince yourself that everyone is meant to hate their job, and that you’re not good enough to be doing anything else, but it’s certainly not any kind of shortcut to happiness.

3. Do I want children, or do I just think I should have them?

Few things are more terrifying than seeing your friends start to have children, and realizing that not only is this time frame in your respective lives acceptable to spawn, but that you are now expected to participate in the lobotomized cooing that is required of everyone to come in contact with a newborn and its proud parents. This is a part of your life that requires baby showers, registries, gifts, play dates, babysitting, and listening to endless talk about the contents of diapers. It’s obviously a momentous event for the couple involved, and understandable that parents like to get together and talk about the one enormous thing they all have in common, but it certainly does make you feel as though this is a club that, one day or another, you will be expected to join. There is a fear that you will have less and less to discuss with your friends, fewer points on which to relate, and an overall sentiment that you are the immature one who has no responsibilities in the form of children, and is therefore not as fully an adult. How many children have been born out of a sense of keeping up with expectations, and doing the “right” thing?

4. Do I need new friends?

One of the easiest quicksands in life to fall into is that of a familiar social circle. You have your group, and your local hangouts, and your usual Friday night plans, and the same hookups and breakups and gossip and exasperation. It feels like when we’re not hanging out with the same group of people, we’re complaining about how we need to get out, and start meeting new friends, and going places that can at least give us new decor to stare at while drinking. But leaving a group — even for a night every other week — is often a very delicate thing to do. Friends can become so complacent with each other, so unwilling to put forth effort, that monotony becomes preferable to even the tiniest bit of risk.

Even when friends are actively dragging you down in some way, they can be impossible to break free from, impossible to see outside of. We feel like we owe exclusivity to these people, and even improving ourselves by trying new things every now and again can be some kind of betrayal. The unfortunate truth is that sometimes people just grow out of each other, and that’s no one’s fault — and yet we can spend years convincing ourselves that we need to keep seeing the same people because, well, that’s what we always do. But making new friends is often the gateway to feeling so much better about the city you might have just months ago felt fed up with — if only we can make the first step.

5. Am I actually happy with my life?

In quiet moments, by yourself, sitting in the home you have created, there is a quiet intimacy to which we are rarely privy. Our phone is always beeping, our news feeds always refreshing, there is someplace to go and people who want to talk to us. We can easily fill our lives, and every last minute of our days, with chatter and distractions that will satiate us and give us the impression that things are happening. But in those quiet moments, when everything is still and no one is reaching out — when we are left with our own company to reflect on the life we’ve built, the people in it, and the place we call home — are we happy?

Of course, none of us are really sure what that means, but it’s probably fair to start by acknowledging how much of it you would change if you could. Do you run down a laundry list of things that could be better, more honest, more fulfilling? And is that desire for more, for better, out of belief that you can achieve, or a desire to impress? At the end of the day, who are we doing this for? Because our boss, our friends, our parents — hell, even our significant others — they aren’t the ones who have to live our lives. We are. And few things can be louder than having to sit in the silence of your own company and think about it. TC mark

image – Cuba Gallery

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


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  • Jalie

    Are you serious? No one is really happy with their life.

    • derp

      yes but this provides a means of troubleshooting. Your life may not be great all the time but if you know what to fix then the issue can be improved.

      • Jalie

        My point was that no matter who you are or what you have, most people aren’t really happy. Why do you think rich, famous people turn to drugs? They have everything, perfect job, money, friends, relationships yet they’re still unhappy. Not everyone’s happiness revolves around relationships and kids either.

    • http://mangopeels.wordpress.com quantumtheory

      some people are really happy with their life..like me :))

      • Mel

        I have to go with Jalie on this one. I think most people really have to work at being happy.

      • http://mangopeels.wordpress.com quantumtheory

        yeah, you do…you have to take the initiative to making your life awesome…most people just sit back thinking…”oh my life sucks ” and just wait for something to happen..but it just depends on you

      • Jalie

        Well aren’t you a fabulous rarity?

      • http://www.facebook.com/brandonwhumphries Brandon Humphries

        Some people also insist on wearing tinfoil hats and saving their urine in jars to keep “The Gubment” away, doesn’t mean thats how all people are or that it’s something to aspire to. Life is impermanent and often doesn’t go the way you want, money or no money. Thats just how it is. The people who say they are happy won’t always be and the people who are unhappy won’t always be.

      • LuckyStars

        I am happy too, you’re not the only one. I’d say though that it’s partially because, after years, I figured out how to be honest with myself about questions 1 through 4, and used my honest answers to change things. And a great deal of luck is involved too (luck of figuring out early on what I love and am good at career-wise, and being able to find a job in that field).

  • Gwendolyn

    really thought provoking. maybe it’s time for a reality check.

  • Mel

    BY FAR “Should I have kids” is the most important decision you will ever make. I have one child and I wanted a child more then anything in the world and would have gone to any extreme to get one and it was STILL the most difficult thing I have ever done. And its never over folks, its for life. I always suggest that people ask themselves “Do I want to have a person” When you say baby, you think cute and cuddly and someone that will love you unconditionally. That does not last very long. Think about the “baby” getting older; social issues, health issues, the cost (oh my god, the cost), the dreaded teenage years and leaving home and bad choices in friends and people they date and the fact that once your “baby” is 18, they can do what ever they want, whenever they want and it makes no difference how you feel about it, but you almost always clean up their mess no matter what age they are. If I could go back in time, would I do it again? I honestly don’t know, but I certainly would have thought about the long term a lot more then I did.

  • Leeza

    completely agree on that last one. its definitely time for some reassessment

  • Mel

    Thanks Chelsea – I enjoyed this one. These are truly hard questions to ask yourself. I think alot of people are afraid to ask them, for fear of what their answers might be. Might I recommend a book that meant the world to me as I faced my mid-20’s asking alot of these questiong – ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years’ by Donald Miller is a fantastic read that asks the question about what story you’re telling with your life.

  • http://gravatar.com/theravenwine dbshin

    Hit at all the right spots

  • http://twitter.com/dafnyduck Daphne (Zeros&Fives) (@dafnyduck)

    I can totally relate to this post, especially 2, 4, and 5. It’s good to know that I’m not alone.

  • Coolio

    6) should I eat that sofa pizza?
    7) should I masturbate alone again tonight?
    8) can I lube with my tears?

    all jokes aside, this was a good article. Thumbz up! :))))))))))))))

  • http://sunnydaysinjune.wordpress.com TanyaSRao

    ” Am I actually happy with my life? ” is the most significant question that we must keep asking ourselves every now and then.
    Bang on, Chelsea!

  • http://sunnydaysinjune.wordpress.com TanyaSRao

    Reblogged this on Sunny Days in June and commented:
    Question #5 is the most important one we should be asking ourselves.

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  • Melinda

    The first one is tricky. I’m not dating some of these guys cause I’m lonely I’m dating them cause I have physical needs and its hard for me to get intimate with a guy I’m not in a relationship with.

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    Reblogged this on wojiaogorjess and commented:
    Y’know that blog post/online journal you can totally relate to? Yep. This is it.

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