Can I just say, “fuuuuck.”
That’s how I’ve felt about life over the last year. “Fuuuuuuck.” Say it long and slow and be sure to really dig in on the “ck” sound because it’s scientifically proven to make you feel better. Endorphins and shit. (I made that up.)
Before you start rolling your eyes and making comments about my White Lady Ivory Tower– shut it. I get it. Terrible things are happening to good people. But that’s not my point. Life is hard and I’m not talking about the “can I make ends meet?” stuff, I’m talking about the things that take some combination of your head and heart to figure out. How to raise kids. How to focus on who you are, not what you are. How to be optimistic. How to find happy. Find balance. Find focus. I’m talking about the qualitative parts of life– the parts of life that are the great equalizer. When you strip away your money and your stuff, all that’s left. The stuff you can commiserate with anyone about. THAT SHIT IS HARD.
Most of my “fuuuuuuuuuck”ery over the last year has stemmed from a conscious shift from the known (quantitative) to the unknown (qualitative). And what I’ve learned is that, increasingly, I know less and less about… everything. I have this tremendous weight that pushes down on me all the time and when I sit down to diagnose it, I realize the weight is just the unknown. I don’t know what the right choice is. I don’t know whether we should go down path A or path B. But what’s worse is that I don’t seem to trust myself anymore. I can’t even decide whether I’m ready to completely abandon slutty underwear for comfy ones.
It’s easy to plot your life out according to numbers. It’s tangible and comparable. There are datasets and averages. People love that shit. I am okay because I am above average. But what does it actually tell us? What does being above average actually mean? Does being above average make your food taste better? Does it make you exempt from obligatory weekend sex? Does it make your car not smell like rotting unidentified child substance?
And then you have a kid. And numbers make you want to kill everyone. Because you know who doesn’t deserve to get compared to a set of numbers and averages? A child. They are perfect and happy and trying their very best and then BOOM we do our best change that as early as possible. (Let’s see how you’re doing at being human compared to this here chart.)
I’m not going to pretend that shifting from quant to qual hasn’t had anything to do with the realization that I’m never going to make a million dollars. Because it totally has. When you get to be thirty-something (WTF), the path ahead seems a little clearer. Those pipe dreams of having money not matter (because you have so much of it, obviously) are replaced by the reality that if you spend even one more second thinking about having more, you’re gonna miss opportunity to love anything you have. You’ve got food, family, shelter, and alcoholic beverages. After that, you’re getting greedy. But when I can’t compare myself to a numeric goal or statistic, how do I know if I’m doing okay?
I guess I have to ask myself.
And there’s the problem. I don’t ask myself anything anymore. I ask an expert or a friend. Rather than asking me how I’m doing, I ask someone else. My ability to self identify has been completely obscured by my dependance on quantitative data. My Google history is a humiliating list of all the shit I secretly check with the world about. Is a size 12 fat? What qualifies as middle class? Do all couples want to beat one another with cast iron pans? Am I a lazy asshole for not getting out of bed at 4:55AM to go to spin? Am I fucking up my kid? Are children always so fucking obnoxious?
If I would have just asked ME and then turned off the goddamned computer here’s what I would know:
This isn’t about your size. If you’re unhappy with how you look, change it. Or get over it.
Why do you fucking care? Being in a different class doesn’t change how much you make.
Yes. Sometimes heavier objects.
You’re not lazy, just an asshole for blaming it on the weather, work, alarm clocks– you just don’t want to go. Go or don’t.
Yes. No. Kind of. Love him and try not to be unfair.
This journey I’m on is worth it. I know it is. Even though I have no idea where it lets out, I really do believe that shifting my perspective is going to make my life feel more like mine. I also know that if I don’t do it now, I am going to waste a lot more years chasing an invisible standard– one that’s left me feeling anxious and overwhelmed and misguided.
But it’s hard.
Because life is hard.