Hello there, universe.
I’m a 32-year-old male who has spent his life barely getting by.
It’s not that I lack the skills. I have plenty of those. I just don’t care. I used to care, because I believed… I believed that my ambitions would lead me somewhere, that I would drop my bad habits and develop good ones, that I would find love, that I would find a comfortable place in life. This did not materialize.
Instead, things just stayed the same. My peers continue to be more successful and well-adjusted than me. They are staying reasonably fit, starting families and having children. They are traveling, having nice careers and buying houses. They are ticking all the boxes of a good middle-class existence.
Me? I didn’t fit in at school. My classmates bullied me. I had bad grades, and was already becoming obese in elementary school. I shut myself in my bedroom and started learning about computers, convinced that if I developed my computer abilities, I could somehow evade the need to develop social skills and become popular and successful based on talent alone. How wrong can a person be?
The obesity didn’t go away, and I did not suddenly develop the circle of friends that I had so badly wanted in high school. I just continued to be alone, and pretended that this wasn’t a problem by escaping into the computer, and hedging my bets on having success that way.
My bad habits didn’t go away either. I continued my very minimal level of self-care, and did not magically develop, as I had imagined I would, an inclination for housework, paying bills and keeping focused on my job. In fact, I hated every moment of it. It felt like an inescapable prison of dullness.
Yet, I also hated the rather risky prospect of trying to escape this prison. Because what is actually to be found outside of the bubble of western civilization? What is the alternative? Living in a wooden cabin in the forest with no electricity or running water? That seems like a rather harsh existence. And I’d still be alone, and I’d still feel bored with life.
Everything becomes routine at some point. Routine is safety, but routine is also a prison of the mind. I like safety but I hate routine, yet it seems I can’t have one without the other. In any success story is an element of mindless repetition, and I can’t stand mindless repetition. I do not want to experience repeated rejection to find a mate. I do not want to experience repeated work to earn money. I do not want to eat the same food every day. I do not want to wake up in the same old apartment every week.
Neuroscience tells me I must be some kind of a dopamine addict, unable to feel alive unless constantly having new experiences. The impossibility of this is obvious, because having these constant new experiences requires a measure of risk. An adrenaline junkie I am not, however, because I am a neurotic.
Perhaps neuroticism is at the root of my problem. I’m afraid of rejection, afraid of tediousness, afraid of being alone, afraid of taking risk. Taking risk makes me feel alive, this is true, but it also gives me horrible nerves. Some people would probably laugh at the things I consider risky, though, because none of them involve being in physical danger.
If my twenties screamed «optimism», my thirties are screaming «blasé».
I like music, but as the years go on, I have increasingly run out of music to listen to. I have browsed collections of the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s enough times to know that I have found most of the music I will ever like from those decades. Then I try listening to new music, and it’s either bores me, because it reminds me of the old, or gives me a headache, because it sounds like a vacuum cleaner or transformers having sex. What music is there left to discover, then?
You know you’re old and cynical inside of you when only George Carlin (in his later years) and Louis C.K. really make you laugh.
Sometimes I watch a movie. A movie is supposed to be an escape, but in a sense, I just feel more trapped, because I end up comparing the idealized world of the movie to my own existence, and this makes me melancholic. Other movies are just profound pieces of art, and they make me wistful, because I know that such a level of beauty can’t be attained in real life.
At one point in my life, I was married and had a job. For a period of about a year (it was a short marriage), the stars seemingly aligned and let me have a glimpse of something resembling a normal existence. And in the middle of it, I broke down, because I hated my job and my wife didn’t understand me.
There’s a thing that really annoys me. This notion that being depressed is a disease, and that you should get help for it. Yes, I realize that there is something called clinical depression, and that, to the extent that we understand the workings of the brain, it has chemical causes…
…but nobody ever talks about deeper, perhaps legitimate reasons to feel dissatisfied with your life. Simply concluding that your life is inadequate, and that the chances of it ever becoming adequate are slim? Somehow that’s not a permissible option. Society desperately tries to hammer it into your skull that being miserable is always wrong.
How can we so categorically deny that there is even the smallest sliver of possibility that maybe, just maybe, life isn’t going to be so good for some people? Why aren’t you allowed to draw that conclusion about yourself at some point without getting your head examined? I mean, think in terms of the bell curve: Some people at the bottom end of the curve are inevitably going to feel that they have gotten the short end of the stick. Can we not simply acknowledge that, and offer our support, instead of telling people that their thinking is wrong?
Some people will tell you to lower your expectations, but what kind of horrible attitude is that? If people heeded that advice at all times, they wouldn’t even try to succeed. They’d be constantly aiming for mediocrity. And who wants to live a mediocre life? Not me, that’s who.
At this point, I’m trying very hard to figure out what I was put on this earth to do, and I’m not having much luck with it. I seem to have rather unfortunate combinations of traits: A desire for an extraordinary life, paired with a lacking ability to execute. Genes for obesity and diabetes, paired with a horrible weakness for calorie-rich food. A need for love and belonging, paired with a tendency for seclusion. A knack for engineering, music and art, paired with zero patience. If God exists, he has a very cruel sense of humor.
Where am I going with all of this? I frankly don’t know, but it needed to be said.