Now I’ll admit, I work very hard not to be too prideful about my own opinion. It just always seems to me that this one thing avoids a lot of mess, overall, and in particular, the unfortunate circumstance of thinking your opinion is somehow “naturally” better than anyone else’s (because, you know, we all think that unless we work at it).
But, on occasion, I’ll riff something out without letting “the editor” get her hands on it and, on even rarer occasion, that something I look back at a day or two later and say to myself, “Wow, you know, you took a really good run at that.”
Then there are the truly rare times when I never get to the above statement because someone else beats me to it.
This is one of those.
A person over at Quora asked anonymously:
I’m a 23 year old man and am currently unemployed. I have a high school diploma and a university degree. I’ve always surpassed my peers in many different activities and once I completed my internship I was quickly picked up by a hotel chain, and within a few months, promoted to the position of Assistant General Manager of one of their properties. So, at 22 I had a great job, good salary, and an awesome flat.
I wasn’t enjoying myself so I quit my job and moved back home. It has now been a few months, and I’m unable to find the motivation to get myself back into “the game. I’ve lost all the motivation that pushed me to succeed in school and my initial foray into the job market. How do I get myself out of this funk and get my life going again?
And, as I read it, it was like this creaky, old door in the back of my head opened up; out of it, there came this ridiculously over-styled character who strolled up, struck a “thinking pose” alongside a fence (how’d that get there?), and said:
The good news is, this isn’t abnormal or even unusual. It’s just part of the process; getting truly “out on your own” is at once a horrifyingly lonely and simultaneously courageous act that humans undertake and manage all the time. I have no doubt you can and will, too.
I spent some time feeling very disillusioned and put out by the mundane work routine. I felt pressured to “do it all as easily and effortlessly and gracefully” as it seemed everyone around me did it. (The expectation that you’re going to be perfect or even “naturally good at” something is a bit like twisting fear up to try and fight itself. It doesn’t really work, but you sure can spend years trying if you’re not careful.)
I felt depressed and self-loathing when I thought maybe it was me; that I was one of the weird, Gump-ish, goofballs who just was never going to really “fit” anywhere and that this vague sense of discontent and disconnectedness was “all there was”… and yes, it was a pretty sucky place to be. (See previous.)
I had quite a time fighting through and slowly reconciling the differences between “how I was told it would be”, “how I hoped it would be”, and “how it is” (life, the work routine, etc). Life is like boot camp, but your drill sergeant (you, your mind) hasn’t learned that the point and purpose of “breaking you down” is to “rebuild you in better form” just yet. Practice kindness on the heels of any self-abrading. It matters.
It’s perfectly “ok” to return to the proximity of family in this process. I wasn’t fortunate enough to have one, but look around and notice that every mammal on the planet goes looking for the pack, tribe, etc when their experiences have shaken them up a bit.
I’m sure I am not the only one who can attest to the initial shock of “the big, bad world”, in all its rough and tumble fury, showing me in no short order that I was just one among billions.
Or that pretty much the only person who I could really count on to care about my dreams was me.
Or that all the expectations I had, all those grand visions of “how it will be” were, at best, only going to be intermittently and fleetingly realized until I learned how to be ok in my own skin and mind and find my balance in this great, gallumping gush of all-in-your-face-all-the-time living.
Or that it could just be that my perception of it was precisely the one I would always have and, somehow, I had to figure out how to be “ok” with that, too.
Fortunately, I can attest that it all passes. You have experiences. Some are enjoyable, others are not. You try new things (after all, this is what life is about and besides, how the hell else are you going to really discover who you are and what you want, like, and need if you don’t?). Some you chalk up as “worth repeating” and others you write in careful, permanent ink in that column labeled, “OMFG! NEVER AGAIN!”
Equally fortunately, a little known secret — you really don’t HAVE to be certain about pretty much anything in life. In fact, the less certain you are, the greater the likelihood you’ll never cement yourself into a set of boots that you wish you’d never seen in the first place.
To really abuse the hell out of the analogy – try on every damn pair of boots that life puts in your path. Heck, snag pairs that friends offer you, or that seem to be left by the water cooler just a liiiiittle too long. You never know when you’ll find the ones that fits best and if the ones you’re wearing pinch, have the sense to take the damn things off… you’re not the only one looking, y’know.
Most of all, don’t kid yourself; anyone your eye as much as lights on for the space of a blink has either had this experience or is enduring it at precisely the same time as you are… it’s part of growing into the world, figuring out the difference between “the place everyone says you have in it” and “the place you decide to make for yourself in it”.
In this moment, as difficult as it may seem to believe, you are a river; maybe you can’t roll right up over a mountain, but believe me, if you’re determined to do it, you’ll wear that bastard down over time. Best of all? You have the luxury of taking any little dip as a path of least resistance along the way or just deciding to go roll over something else, or… *gasp*… just up and change y’damn mind and do something else entirely.
You’re allowed to do that you know; it’s one of the most beautiful things a human gets in this life… whether you call it a “get out of this rut free card” or something of your own devising… you get to choose. Always.
Mebbe that choice seems overwhelming now, but believe me, you’ll find it precious… in time.
Upshot? It all matters and, at the very same time, it doesn’t matter at all. Ease up on yourself a bit and don’t be afraid that you’ve wasted your time until now. All that you’ve done until now has helped you figure out that “that’s not it”. There’s a whole world of things to try. You don’t have to have the answers, you’re job as a human is to explore, experience, and enjoy.
And I then wandered off to other things and it didn’t occur to me to look in on it or even think about it until I got this item by email, notifying me of a comment from “anonymous”:
Thank you for the advice, this is the best thing anyone has ever said to me. I’ll definitely get over, or through the hump in a pair of well worn boots. Cheers mate 🙂
So, now, I’m sitting here with Lenny in my mind; hugging his rabbits and looking up with shiny eyes and sayin’, “Yuh di’ a gud ting, George.” Which, I suppose, is a fair way to feel good about helping someone without automatically getting all puffed up over it in that, “Look what *I* can do” manner.
I doubt my thoughts were the nicest thing anyone ever said to this kid; but I do not doubt at all that, in the moment that he read them, they felt that way. I think that the sense of this is what makes it feel so good. I actually helped someone to feel good about themselves. That matters, you know. A lot.