Here's my issue. I'm 38 years old, soon to be 39. I'm not doing what I wanted to be do doing at this age ... in theory. I say "in theory" because I'm not sure I've ever known what I wanted to do. I can look back and identify things that I think were mistakes (like getting a Ph.D.), but my crystal clear hindsight doesn't get me anywhere. I just feel like I've always been adrift.
I look at people who seem to be truly engaged in every moment of their life, and I admire and envy them. It doesn't matter what they're doing - teaching, running a start-up, throwing pottery, slamming back courtroom wins, dominating Donkey Kong tournaments, whatever. If it seems like folks have an interest that they are passionate about, that they devote time and resources to, and that brings them a sense of fulfillment, then they show up on my radar and I start feeling irritated.
I know my feelings are ridiculous because what I'm seeing on Facebook or perceiving from Instagram isn't real life. It's curated life. (#greeneyedmonster)
The notion of terminal fulfillment is false. Thinking otherwise isn't healthy.
I (or we, if you find yourself in this same boat) need to acknowledge that not everyone has it all together. Not everyone has the job they want, the relationship they want, the family they want, the house they want, the bank account balance they want, the flexibility they want, the body they want. Every. single. person. wishes there was something different about their lives.
Me and grumpy cat... we're not alone in our hrrmph attitudes.
This isn't an argument for fatalism with friends. I'm not resigned to prolong the fact that I feel adrift on memory bliss. I don't have to let other people direct my life. (To further quote P.M. Dawn, "marionette strings are dangerous things.") I can change my course. I can find a passion and set my mind to it. But that doesn't mean that I'll never feel listless, trapped, bored, disappointed, or melancholy again. I'll still wonder how things would be different if the universe granted do-overs.
I also think it's a good thing to be honest about such feelings. Misery loves company because misery is honest. We're doing ourselves a disservice when we bottle all of this crap up and don't share it with anyone. I find that when I'm feeling particularly underwhelmed, it actually hurts my ability to talk to other people. They ask, "How's XYZ going?" The truth is that it kinda sucks right now, and I'm feeling over it. But I answer, "Fine. You know, going okay." And as I say that, I realize that I'm not making eye contact. I'm fidgeting. I'm slumping. I want to exit the conversation, or quickly change the subject. But when I answer the question truthfully, I feel relieved. I feel stress roll away. I actually feel a sense of connection with the other person.
Of course this is also not a recruitment message for the Debbie Downer Brigade. It's merely an observation about what it's like to live as a thirty-almost-forty something these days. Fulfillment is illusory, and shouldn't be the goal. When Facebook shows us pictures of perfect families, perfect jobs, perfect houses, perfect vacations, perfect lives, remember that perfect is not the right yardstick. I want to look you directly in the eye and tell you the truth - some (not all) things kinda (not always) suck right now, and I'm feeling over some (not all) of it. I bet you feel the same way too. Let's talk.