I have been apprehensive to write this post. It is never easy opening up about personal struggles especially in a world where people my age have so much. I can already feel and hear the “What do you have to complain about? Millennials always want something for nothing,” sneers, but this is not complaining–this is a validation of my own feelings and experiences. I knew that I had been wanting to write something more personal while I have been on a second fly-atus, and funnily enough, it took listening to a track off of Ariana Grande’s new album, Sweetener, called “get well soon” to push me to write it. So today, I want to open up about where I have been mentally in the last three or so months.
I tried to articulate my feelings about my life in a post last year, but I have since deleted that post because I felt that I focused too much on trying to make it translatable to my readers rather than just being honest. However, I feel exactly the same now as I did then: stuck, disappointed, and unmotivated. I find myself in this mood more often in the summer months which really is a contrast to the common feelings toward summer: happiness, freedom, fun, etc. For me, it is a time when I am reminded of my physical insecurities which makes me feel uncomfortable in my clothes; which prevents me from wanting to socialize; which makes me stay indoors by myself; which further leads me down a spiral of being stuck with my negative thoughts about my choices with my life.
In a reflection about turning 24, I discuss how I am learning to accept that my youth is not over. People my age, including myself, freak out about getting closer to 30 because we have idealized that 30 is the age when everything should be in place. When you realize that 18 and 30 are the same distance away from 24, you are reminded of how much time has passed and how quickly you have been catapulted into a life of responsibility and routine. So when I am currently spending my three-day weekends sitting at a friend’s house in a different state (which is not as common as people think) or sitting at home doing absolutely nothing, I am torn between enjoying relaxing, and feeling guilty for not being out and living life to the fullest as a young 20-something. These feelings of confusion over what I “should be” doing are not new.
Three years ago, I wrote an article for my university’s newspaper where I opened up about seeking counseling while in college when I was struggling to manage emotions, stress, change, and everything under the sun. At the time that I sought counseling, I was 19 and freaking out about my future. I felt like college was passing me by and that I wasn’t having the quintessential college experience. I was only in the first semester of my sophomore year, but it hit me that I had to essentially re-learn how to make friends after having the same friends for my whole life. I felt like I missed the window to join clubs and go to all these social events that are more prominent when you are a freshman. I was not having the best time with my two roommates, I wasn’t in any clubs, and my friends from freshman year moved to all different apartments and were starting to find their own friend groups. Not to mention, I realized how competitive finding a summer internship would be and that I had to decide between going back home or staying in L.A. In short, I started experiencing depression, and it was a lot for me to internalize. I spent so much time pretending things were fine when I was actually overloaded and burnt out. While I wouldn’t say I am overloaded and burnt out today, I definitely feel those same lost feelings and like I am missing out.–again, like I “should be” doing more at such a young age.
I have written many posts on this blog about my personal journeys, but I am currently struggling at a low I have not seen since I was 19. I thought my lowest was when I was unemployed, but what do you do when you get everything you asked for and it somehow isn’t what you wanted at all? When I was unemployed in 2016/2017, I just wanted a job at a company I liked it. I got it and then I wasn’t happy. I then just wanted new hours where I could have more of a life and operate on a semi-regular schedule. I got it and I still wasn’t happy. I then just wanted to start traveling more places to offset my dissatisfaction toward work, but I have been experiencing a surge of anxiety during my most recent travels for no apparent reason. Even during my most recent, much-needed four-day weekend in L.A. where I got to see all of my best friends from college, I had so many moments of not being present and this unsettled feeling of anxiousness and sadness. I find myself constantly distracted by thoughts of whether I look as gross as I feel in accommodating-to-summer clothes, why I can’t hold conversations with strangers when I’m making an effort to meet more people, and how I am going to remain competitive in my career field without any unique skills. So, what’s wrong with me?
It turns out, nothing specifically is wrong with me. I’m just focusing on the wrong things. Every year for my birthday for as long as I can remember, I have wished for happiness. I have been chasing ‘happiness’ for so long that I don’t even know what it looks like. Yes, you can throw all these things my way that counter the idea that I am not happy; I work for a great company with the amazing benefit of free travel, I am healthy and have a healthy family, I am a responsible and independent woman with a good head on my shoulders, I have a degree, and so on and so on. But I have never actually made a decision for myself on what my happiness looks like. I have defined my happiness by the highlight reels on social media. While I am completely aware that these are active decisions to showcase incredible moments, I, like many others my age, internalize it to be exactly what I’m not doing. I have lived a life based on comparisons without fully acknowledging its effects.
I have been on an ongoing stride of self-improvement since the year before college. I learn new things everyday about myself, others, and the world. In many ways, I have been active in redefining my personal standards in terms of recognizing when I am forcing relationships based on convenience; adding things to my daily routine that reflect my natural activity cycle; and learning to say no without explaining myself. But the work doesn’t just stop. I think I have always thought that ‘happiness’ is an ending point, that there would be a day where I wake up and realize everything’s great and the depression and sudden anxiety would be over. I don’t think depression and anxiety will ever fully go away because I am sensitive and internalize things that I deeply care about; but I have to accept that this self-improvement journey is in conjunction with change which is constant and inevitable. I have to redefine my limits and the things that bring me joy as time passes on and there is no such thing as the perfect time, the perfect moment, the perfect anything.
I think what I am finding now is that I need to stop being afraid of reaching out for help. Many times, in depressive or anxious states, we see ourselves as burdens to others or that nobody will identify with what we are going through because their lives are better than ours, right? Wrong. Sometimes we need to put our pride to the side and call on a friend and just say outright, “I need your help. I need a shoulder to lean on.” I stress out about making new friends to the point where I have ignored the relationships currently in my life. It took this feeling of isolation to realize that this comes from not allowing people to be there for me. I am very strong and independent, but you know what? I get tired of being strong all the time! I have already set out to let things go this year, and have made great strides in that, but now my next project is learning to be vulnerable.
If you made it all the way down to the bottom, thank you so much for reading. It is harder than people think to see that, on paper, your life has all the boxes ticked, but to acknowledge somehow you still feel sad and dissatisfied. I have been conscious of many things my whole life to make sure I am not dependent on anyone but myself. Regardless, independence should not mean building 10-foot emotional walls. I hope that with this revelation, I can start redefining my happiness and living life in the best way for me. I hope that I will also continue to strengthen friendships and that with opening up more, I will allow more enriching experiences into my life. 🙂