I’m currently enrolled in two things: university and the “I don’t know” phase. That’s my answer to practically everything that I’ve been asked by my parents, my friends, my professors, my boyfriend, my roommates, the bus driver… “I don’t know.”
I’m so out of it, all the time. I don’t know what I want, and I’m walking on a minefield around everyone I know because I’m so afraid of disappointing or upsetting people. I don’t know where to go in my life because I’m in this pivotal position where I can excel and go to class and be great at what I’m doing, or I can just completely go backwards and lock myself up in my room convincing myself I don’t need class to understand what I’m learning and I don’t need social interaction to feel fulfilled. And when I do what I want to make myself feel okay, why do I feel guilty?
You get that feeling that you want to unleash yourself onto someone but are scared of the mess you’re going to make, so you keep to yourself, you encapsulate your troubles, you lockdown your worries, and you go on. We have the luxury of having the ability to withhold information we don’t want exposed, if you’ve been cheated on, you don’t have to tell anyone, if you don’t talk to your Dad, you don’t have to tell anyone, if you feel a feeling, no one ever has to know. It’s necessary to get out the toxins from the stress we feel from being something for someone, or being successful for society, or just existing for everybody, every day. We constantly feel the need to purge our emotions and get our shit together.
When I feel sad, frustrated and overwhelmed I’m experiencing the “I don’t know.” I can’t tell you what’s wrong; however, I am told I’m not allowed to feel this way because there’s no time for it. We are a generation told to power through to get our degrees, our careers, that star-studded internship, we have to do this, we have to do that, and we’re not allowed to have those feelings. When this disapproval and shame I feel of being human occurs I bring it back on myself, that there’s something wrong with me because of these feelings or phases. I find myself to be very high and very low in life. Sensitive is just how I was made, and it doesn’t mean I need to be fixed. I’m not broken. The world does not stop for anyone, we can’t ask for it to pause, or hold on for one second. It does not grant anyone a second to breathe, and that sucks, and that’s what I am feeling. The world wants us to fake it, the world wants us to disregard those feelings and swallow them back down inside of us and not feel them.
I get a doctor’s note for the flu and a broken arm, I don’t get one for feeling sad one day, or not feeling like getting out of bed, or being homesick and not wanting to exert myself with being in a public space, or dealing with seriously scarring relationship woes that make it hard to concentrate on the derivative of a function. There’s no doctor’s note for that, there is no stopping and starting. You miss what you miss and it’s only ever your fault for being irresponsible with yourself to have embodied such anxieties that immobilize you mentally, physically and emotionally.
I feel like I’m constantly on the verge of waiting for something big to happen, I feel like creating chaos in my life so I can focus on something palpable and have a solid reason to be distraught so my feelings aren’t displaced; so people won’t think I’m “crazy” for being sad for no reason, or for not being able to breathe because I’ve been around too many strangers today. I’m tired of not being able to openly talk to others about the weight of anxiety, and the bearing prominence it has in life, the ever-growing grenade inside that is going to blow and when it does there are going to be no survivors in its wake and the most damaged of all is you. I strip myself down till I’m raw and bare and empty because of this pressure to do well and succeed and love and interact and just be. I want to be the way I want to be and I don’t want someone to tell me what I should be doing.
Social media can be the cause of so many different people’s anxieties; anxiety about fitting in, about being on trend, and about comparing your life to someone else’s.
Delving into the subject of social media is so difficult when there’s so much to say and the worry of not being able to grab every thread that I’d like to touch upon leaves me with an unsettling feeling of being misunderstood. It’s daunting to look at Instagram feeds, Facebook timelines, and Snapchat stories. It softly programs your mind to feel less than, or more than, involving yourself in stranger’s lives so intimately gives you false impressions of being and how life should be.
What “goals” are not is admiring someone else’s life so much that you’d like to have it; it is not a goal to be someone else. Social media delicately and swiftly pressures you into becoming something or anything because the whole world is watching. You can’t block yourself from this weight of perfection because every time you click post, share, or tweet you are opening your life to unnecessary judgment and comparison from the network in which you’ve situated yourself to be a part.
It’s such a weird feeling to not know someone but know what they’ve ate for breakfast two weeks ago, or know that they just moved into a new apartment, or are celebrating two years with their partner. It’s a strange distancing mechanism that disguises itself as bringing you closer to others through being a part of their life’s moments, in reality you end up feeling a false sense of fellowship. These things make you feel lonelier, and more disgruntled with your own life and achievements because you find yourself becoming genuinely concerned that if you don’t tweet about a concert, no one will know how great your life is as a classical music enthusiast, or if you don’t share the feminist Facebook article, no one will understand your important personal views on patriarchal societies. It’s a peculiar desire to want to be understood whilst being so closed off and impersonal, you incorporate opinions of strangers by notifying them on your private doings, but you don’t interact with them. That’s messed up. We’re messed up because of it.
The “I don’t know phase” is tearing us a part. I went through a phase where all I wore to school for three years without-fail was a hoodie and jeans, and I’m sure more than a few of you went through a bang phase, a “too much black eyeliner” phase, or a Pokémon phase. What these all have in common is that you grew out of them, and that’s what they were, compulsory phases to grow out of over time to help you learn and grow as an individual. The “I don’t know” phase has last the longest and it’s difficult to forever have a puzzle scrambled before your eyes. It is exhausting to force pieces where you would like them to go, and it’s wearing to feel nothing and everything at the same time. You need to crack and break open to let things in, and let life happen. The phases will happen; life will run its course. Let yourself be there for you, the world doesn’t stop but you can take a break. Stop faking like you are okay and know what you are doing. You are not alone in not knowing. You don’t have to know.