Has my moment passed?
I'm 29 with a great job and a partner (now husband) who would drink my bathwater—but it's not what I want. This is the capitalist fever dream of what I thought my life would be.
I've been dreaming of creating some kind of forum for honest talk about mental health and its impact on day-to-day life — something that occurred to me after a three-month manic phase that left me friendless and questioning my place on this planet. But instead of working on that, I've gotten married to a straight cis dude and taken an editing job at a tech company that consumes all of my time and energy.
Have I sacrificed my dreams, life and potential for its "basic" cousin? Can I turn around? Can I marry both of these worlds? Is this it?
Stuck and Stagnant
Dear Stuck and Stagnant,
You’re writing to me for a kick in the ass. You’re looking for validation that the choices you’ve made aren’t the end, so here you go — the choices you’ve made aren’t the end. Your choices are infinite; even in the smallest spaces, you have the choice to tear the walls down. Your choices are endless before you, and that’s probably been part of the problem.
From the outside, you’ve got everything going for you, at least according to the “capitalist fever dream”: You snagged the man and the job — you’ve “got it all.” And yet you’re unhappy. You literally tell me that it’s not what you want.
If it’s not what you want, what are you doing?
Yes, societal pressure can feel as heavy as steel-chained shackles, your feet tied close and unable to move — but there’s actually nothing there. The reason they’ve been dragging is a valid, but very invisible, weight.
You’re sitting in the dirty, stagnant bathwater that you say your husband would drink, and it’s beginning to smell. Whatever’s in there hasn’t been moving — it’s been rotting, and it will rot until it’s finally let out. You’re still sitting in your own soup, letting someone who loves you drink it.
None of these feelings are brand new. You’ve been circling around what you want for a while, and instead of going after it, you’ve found someone who doesn’t seem to question you, challenge you, or expect much from you. You feel safe here, where you’re not really disappointing anyone, least of all yourself. It sounds like even through the nonchalance you exhibit in your relationship, you’re still not even disappointing him. You have your job title, allowing you to shroud your ego in the company’s cocoon. You’re doing big things according to . . . LinkedIn! Society! America! It’s easy to stand behind something instead of standing for you, associating yourself to the biggest institutions — marriage, career — so you can continue disassociating from yourself.
Is this why you got married to this man? What was going through your mind when you told him you’d spend your life with him, and when you shared that decision with the important people in your life?
What are you using the safety of this conformed path to run away from, when this is so clearly not what you want?
You mention your partner is straight and cis, as if that’s a problem. Does he have inherent biases and privileges he can’t see? For sure, but so do all of us. It’s not OK to punish him for who he is, as long as he’s doing everything he can to be better. I don’t know how you identify, but I do know that you’re not doing what you can to be better. You’ve promised things to someone that aren’t true. You’ve involved everyone in your life in a story that was never what you wanted. You’ve manipulated others’ emotions so that you don’t have to look at your own. That’s a problem.
I’m not blaming you — you’ve grown up in a world where your worth has been directly tied to who you marry and where you work. You haven’t been taught to feel proud of yourself for just being you. You haven’t been told that you deserve love even without any of those things. I feel you, truly. I’m not blaming you, but I am holding you accountable.
You use the word “honest” when describing your dreams, but currently there is nothing honest about the life that you’re telling me about. Nothing’s feeling good, and instead of saying or doing something about it, you’re just continuing — until now. You’ve reached out to me, but there’s nothing I can tell you that you don’t already know. You want a kick in the ass, so here it is — but it does nothing unless you use it to actually propel you forward. It does nothing unless you decide for yourself to make changes. It does nothing unless you’re honest with yourself and the people in your life.
Your friendships fell apart. You are light years away from your partner emotionally. Is there anyone in your life that you have an honest and healthy relationship with? If almost every important person to you is so distant, it’s probably not the specific people in your life, but what’s going on inside you.
You have this vision of what you “thought” your life would be. Most of us feel similarly — our current lives don’t match up with the past visions we had for ourselves. Some of us feel lucky that this is the case, some of us feel disappointed. It doesn’t really matter, because our lives are what they are now. The decisions you’ve made throughout your life until this point have led you here. Sure, there are infinite oppressive systems that corroborate to make navigating decisions much more suffocating, and no amount of spiritual bypassing will make that go away. There’s a reason you feel guilty for letting go of what you have, because it’s what you’ve been told your entire life it’s what you should want, even when it so clearly isn’t. You understand the social repercussions of what it means to not have those things, and what it means to have them, and then choose to give them up. You’re unhappy. Your body and mind are clearly aligned that the decisions you’ve made are no longer working for you, and they’re very clearly not keeping you safe like you once thought.
You had a breakdown. You went through three months of intense pain. Your support systems went away. In your own words, instead of working on healing this experience by creating something out of it, you went and got married to someone you don’t really seem to have many feelings for, and got sucked into a job that doesn’t leave much space for other things.This doesn’t sound like a recipe that supports your mental health needs, just a recipe for the likelihood of another breakdown.
Have you been diagnosed with bipolar disorder? Are you getting the help and support you need? You certainly have a deep capacity for emotion and thought, and there is a powerful self-awareness you possess when you turn it on, so I’ll ask the question again: Why are you running away from yourself? What’s in there that’s so scary?
You say you want to create a space to talk about mental health, but mental health doesn’t just happen. It takes awareness and work and investment, all things that you currently aren’t doing for yourself. It’s wonderful that you want to help and connect with others after you’ve gone through the depths of such an intense experience, but before you can look at anyone else’s life, you need to start with your own.
Whatever your feelings about Deepak Chopra, one of his quotes always lingers, ultimately soothing my obsessive compulsive mind:
“If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another.
The universe has no fixed agenda. once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.”
Ultimately, we don’t know how we’d feel if our lives were different until we make them different. There isn’t a magical wand to wave to make you feel perfect about your life. You have to listen to your body, listen to what makes it feel good and what makes it seize up in discomfort. The cognitive dissonance of your lifestyle must be exhausting — you’re constantly feeling that you should be living differently, and yet every day you wake up and participate in a life that you say you don’t want.
If the original vision of your life was your life, you might still be unhappy. Life isn’t so much about chasing a particular dream as much as allowing dreams to change as we change. Allowing our decisions to evolve and making choices that feel right for us in the moment. It doesn’t really matter whether you end up achieving what you’d hoped you would — the reality is, the life you’re living right now is making you unhappy. Instead of focusing on what could be or what might be, focus on what is and what you need to do to change it. Focus on who you are now and what you need now.
You need to make some immediate changes, otherwise the current of indifference will continue leading you down the river you never wanted to be on in the first place. You’re an editor and have a creative mind. Make time to write in a journal — whether it’s right when you wake up, or when you take a bathroom break at work. Do it every single day. This is a priority. Not only is it good for you to start breaking from the cog-piece you are at your company and begin to have hobbies outside of a partner and work, you desperately need time for self-reflection. It’s non-negotiable if you want to move through this. Consider finding a therapist in your area who can help you process why you’ve been running away from yourself and your needs for so long. Having someone hold you accountable can be really helpful to make big life decisions, or help you settle into the ones you’ve already made.
I don’t know much about physics, but I do know time doesn’t have to be linear, and it’s always relative. Time holds space for everything happening to happen — time doesn’t make it happen in and of itself. Time is a container. You can’t keep waiting for someone to change your life for you. You can’t keep waiting for someone to tell you if your moment has passed or not. According to physics, that doesn’t even exist. You, not time, have to decide if you’re ready to live the life you say you want — one of honesty, courage, and ultimately, fulfillment.
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