This all started when I was a freshman in college. I was all set to become a double major in English and music. Back then I was on the right track. Music and English were two things that I had always gravitated toward naturally. It was never like, "oh, this person next to me is doing this so I want to do it too." No. I seriously think I would have sung and played with words even if I had never been exposed to those activities. I love them. I always have and always will. And I love everything about them. I love both the science and the art of both music and literature. Everything else being okay and having the complete choice, I could spend all my time reading, or writing, or listening to music, or playing music. Those are the only things I can say that about.
But I was required to take an introductory social science course, and I had taken psychology in high school and found it interesting (due to my introspective nature), so I took it excitedly. I loved a lot about it. Notably, I remember the professor's empirical leanings. Whenever he didn't know the answer, he would say so, and he would add, "Extra credit next week if you research the answer and bring it to me. That goes for anyone." I never did it, but it always stuck with me. And of course, I loved the insight psychology gave me not only into my own mind, but the minds of everyone that I never understood. I found it absolutely stunning that I could reasonably figure out what made my mom depressed and what made a serial killer who and what he is. So it was settled. I would major in psychology. And, I said to myself, it just feels right. But I don't think that it ever really did, and it certainly doesn't feel right now. I thought the only important thing was, what would I most like to read a textbook about? And psychology would be at or near the top of my list. But I just wasn't thinking at all about, what would I most like to do with the rest of my life? And thus I let the two things I truly loved slip through the cracks.
Due to my natural diligence, I just ended up being loved by all of my professors and getting research opportunities and things. People asked me about graduate school, and I figured I can always go for more psychology textbooks, so it was naturally settled that I would go to graduate school. They tell you to think hard about it, but I didn't. I never listen to people who tell me to think, and that is one of my mistakes. Don't let people tell you what to think, but if someone tells you to think, you should always take that opportunity. Anyway, of course I had periods of high stress and low motivation, but they always went away. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, I could do this for another five years, so I figured, I may as well. Keep my options open. Ugh. I definitely couldn't do it for the rest of my life, and I never presumed that to be true.
Anyway, now I am getting pressure from so many sides. I am leading a research project that I absolutely despise. My professor suspected as much and asked if I wanted someone else to do it, so of course I lied and said I was very much interested in it still... but I never was. I don't feel as though I have a real choice.
No, I'm rambling. Who really cares how I got here? I'll just tell you where I am. I'm at the Holiday Inn in downtown Chicago, stealing a few moments to myself while my dad and sister look for a place to go shopping. I hate everything. Well I don't hate music and the things I mentioned before, but I feel like I have lost my opportunity to do that because of this path I let my life take me on! Why did I do it? I always valued my ability to go with the flow and not interfere with where I end up, but look at these places we end up in, what we find ourselves doing, and the responsibilities we find ourselves juggling. I don't like ANY of it. Why couldn't I just do what my heart told me, back when I still had the chance? Well, I still do have the chance.
I've signed up for a vegan-related internship. The organization made it sound like they had a lot of applicants and I stood out as the best one, but I'm not so sure anyone else was seriously interested. It's supposed to be 15-20 hours a week. I don't even know why I signed up. No, actually I do--because I'm bipolar! I go through several weeks to months where I feel like I can literally do everything, and I do--for a while. But then I inevitably have a crash where everything piles up, I start screwing up, I start forgetting things, people are less than impressed, I get stressed out and crabby, people get irritated by me. Then, I isolate myself from everything and slowly get back into things, and because I am under little stress and have no trouble with the few responsibilities I've allowed myself, I begin to feel incredibly effectual and content, everyone starts to like me again, and finally I grow bored because I am not being challenged. So I ask around for something, anything, that will challenge me, I say yes to every opportunity, and before I know it, I'm right back in the same place where I have a breakdown.
I don’t know if this is really a mood disorder; it’s more like extremely poor self-management. I mean, the breakdown always happens at a particularly difficult moment when anyone would go crazy. It’s not that I don’t have time to do everything—it’s that I have so many things to remember, and a million deadlines pressing down on me at the same moment. Even if everything could be done in 12 hours, when pressure comes from so many directions at once, you start to lose the ability to breathe. I hate everything I am doing, too. None of it makes me happy.
But the good news is, I know what makes me happy. Everyone—well, everyone I know personally—tells me that these things that make me happy will literally kill me if I spend all my time on them, since they won’t make me any money and I will starve to death. But who cares? I believe these people a lot less than I used to. It’s not that I don’t believe the part about being poor… that much is obvious, and I find it offensive that some people in my life think my understanding of economics (a field I admittedly despise because I can’t ignore the way it is applied to inflict suffering on innocent people) is so little that I think I can be some kind of hippie playing an acoustic guitar on a street corner in New York City but still live the way I’m living now, safe and warm and fed and equipped with a laptop with word processing and internet capabilities. ANYWAY, I get all that. I get that I won’t have any luxuries for a long time, maybe forever, that I probably will have to go into debt just to pay for food and shelter and basically the “privilege” to stay alive. But what I’m skeptical about is the importance of all of that. Like, okay, I have gone a day with nothing to eat, and it was horrible. And I know that every day I continued that, it would have become more and more insufferable. I have sat outside in the cold for 12 hours. I have slept in a train station. I would be so uncomfortable and my life so insecure if I were stuck doing that every day.
But right now, I am so uncomfortable I can’t take it. Physically, I’m very comfortable and I have no complaints. I enjoy three decent meals a day (eh…) and a bunch of deliciously toxic snacks, and then I get to curl up into a warm bed at night. (Actually, in that case, how do I distinguish between my mom’s condo and a homeless shelter or a prison?) But I HATE MY LIFE. I utterly hate it. At best, I am biding my time because I can’t for the life of me figure out how to reconcile what makes me happy with what everyone else wants me to do—unfortunately, some of these people are giving me material or moral support, and some even have the ability to lock me up if they want to (but supposedly that’s the extreme). I try SO many things, I am so open-minded, and I always see good qualities in all my endeavors, but they never make me feel alive. And people are always ready with attacks to my character that they think can explain my unhappiness, but they don’t know shit. If they feel alive with something, then that’s great for them—really, it is, it warms my heart when I think about it—but I want that for me. And if they don’t feel alive, they need to shove their cynical hearts up their asses… they may be closed off to the possibility of a better life, but not only am I not closed off, I am determined to have it. This is not some low-pressure trip to the grocery where you can just go back tomorrow if you forget something, or maybe you just go without. These are our fucking LIVES. We each only get ONE, and I intend to make the best of mine.
The good thing to remember is, my good friends and family are imagining a worst case scenario, which balances out my idealistic nature. In my head, I’m going to step out into utopia, and I am magically going to accomplish whatever I dream and have the perfect life. Whatever, what does that even mean? Nobody ever thinks, “in my ideal life, first of all there would always be food on the table.” Why not? Is it because they simply take it for granted, or is it because as human beings, that is not our priority? That’s the thing. Of course I wish I could always have food on the table; in fact, I wish that for everyone who has the misfortune of being born into a world where that’s not a guarantee. But I don’t wish it first for me or anyone else. First, I wish that we could be emotionally satisfied and content with our lives. I am not a squirrel trudging along, eating, eating, eating, so I could mate, mate, mate and then my babies will follow in my footsteps. Fuck that. God, I am confusing the shit out of myself and I am so mentally tired I can barely stand it.
I wanted to write because this trip has been so taxing. I was so happy when we left that I could barely stand it. I had such high expectations. We visited Cleveland on the way, which was amazing. I absolutely adored the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and wish I could have spent days there. I also LOVED the cute little vegan eatery there, the Flaming Ice Cube. I wish we could have eaten there again too. Maybe that was the first thing that upset me, the fact that we left Cleveland so soon. And it didn’t help that Chicago turned out to be so unimpressive in comparison. And then in everything we do, my dad pressures us to move onto the next thing because he is always bored. And as I’m enjoying something, I always have half of my attention focused on him, to gauge his emotions so I know if I will be able to stay as long as I want or if we will be forced to leave soon. And he drinks and drives, which makes me really angry. And on top of that, even though Chicago is a mecca for vegan food and the Chicago Diner alone could serve my needs for every meal, since neither Nicole or my dad is vegan, they make me eat at places that have no reasonable vegan options. They say it’s fair because they sometimes go to go to all-vegan places where there are few “omnivore-friendly” options for my dad. However, I find it unfair for them to equate my ethics-based choices to his closed-mindedness about vegetables and fake meats; but they actually seem to think that taste-based preferences are even more valid than ethical choices. He literally hates every restaurant that doesn't serve pizza, veal parmesan, eggs or bacon. He literally has never taken a bite out of any of the vegan foods he says he hates. And even my vegan-phobic mom eats Daiya, so he could eat it too. I sound spoiled because my dad is providing all my transportation and willing to buy me dinner. But if I knew they were going to act this way, I never would have asked to make this into a family trip. I would’ve done the bus thing and stayed with a grad student. I thought it would be fun for all of us.
Oh well. The trip will be over soon, I will be forced to go back to the responsibilities I never wanted, and then I’ll figure out what I want to do. Or I’ll just keep doing what I hate. Ugh I hate myself. :]