I don’t know where they come from. I haven’t figured out what triggers them. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s the food I am eating, the amount of time I’m spending with other people, the skipping of a yoga session, the waking up to a phone full of things that need tending to. Maybe it’s the weird dreams or the social media comparison game. All I know is that I hate them.
They are why, for a long time, I stopped admitting to having good days. Or saying that “I’m enjoying this season” or “feeling so healthy.” Because then when the hard days or moments inevitably hit again, I feel naïve, I feel like I lied. Or jinxed it. Of course, nobody thinks that just because I am doing well in the moment, that I will not struggle any more. Only I expect that of myself. And then only I am shocked when another wave of anxiety-sadness-existential crisis washes over me. Nobody thinks that my words are carved in stone, that everything I say is unchangeable, accurate, timeless. Only I expect that of myself.
“Yesterday you said how much you had grown, how much you were enjoying this season, how grateful you are for the ability to pursue your own artistic endeavors. And now today you are crying because you feel directionless and unable to cope with your emotions. How fickle. How unstable. What a liar.”
And the spiral begins.
I know I have grown. I know I have coping mechanisms that I didn’t have four, three, or even two years ago. I know these emotions are temporary (even when they don’t feel that way… when it feels like I will forever be in a cycle of normalcy-depression-breakdown-normalcy-hope-depression-breakdown…) But mind knowledge and heart knowledge are two completely different things. And in the hard moments, my heart is so much more persuasive than my mind.
Sometimes I just need a good cry. To let the toddler in me throw a tantrum and wear herself out so that when she takes a nap, my adult self can actually get shit done. But then if my teenage self is still awake and feeling angsty, there is still another hurdle to climb.
The conversation of the day is going something like this:
Adult self: What are we going to do today? What needs to get done? What goals are we trying to accomplish?
Teenage self: Does it matter? None of the things we did yesterday made any difference.
Adult self: Of course it matters! We have bills to pay, a household to run. We need to be functioning members of society. Adding value to the world.
Teenager: And you think we’re doing that by making dumb illustrations and shopping guides? Self published children’s books purchased by a handful of people? Planting basil and rosemary on the windowsill?
Adult: Our impact doesn’t have to equal that of bestselling writers, celebrities, and activists. Why can’t you be content with more modest goals? Plus, none of those people making big impacts got to that point in a day! They had to build up to it. Work for it.
Teenager: Okay sure, but what are we even working towards? You’ve just been running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to ‘produce content’ but what is that really doing? Are you even having a small impact? Are you bringing in enough to pay the bills? Are you happy?
Teenager: See! You don’t know what you’re doing either! You just pretend to, so that we think everything is under control! So we don’t freak out and just keep mindlessly chugging along.
Adult: Well, maybe we need an entrepreneurship class or to reevaluate our business plan.
Teenager: We reevaluate our business plan every other day! We’re losing the little credibility we have every time we say, ‘we’re revamping/rebranding/moving in a new direction.’
A: Well, maybe we need to find worth an purpose outside of our ‘day job.’ Let’s start volunteering or…
T: Volunteering doesn’t pay the bills!
A: Why does every conversation come back to money??
T: Because you’re always harping on making a living and paying the bills and being a functional member of society and retirement and saving for a house and future children and—
A: Okay, yes, money matters. But it isn’t everything! There’s friendship and caring for the environment and creating beautiful things—
T: “Beautiful” things for people to consume, adding to the consumer culture that we so desperately despise, and destroying the environment that we claim to care about.
A: Well maybe we need to go work for an environmental agency then!
T: We have no skills pertaining to that. We have a degree in architecture and design, remember. And not the type of design that lends well to infographics and marketing.
A: Well, maybe if you spent some time learning those things and actually committed to something for once…
T: This conversation is getting out of hand.
A: I wish I could write for a living.
T: See!! Neither of us know what we want or what we are doing…
A: Let’s go for a walk.
T: It’s like 18 degrees outside.
A: Indoor yoga then.
T: Fine. …But that’s not going to make us any money.
A: But we’ll have toned thighs.
T: Ah, yes. Finally the meaning of life.