I called my dad this week, to check in. I told him that I feel like I’m floating, a haze all around me, as I grapple with big questions. What does it mean to be happy or successful? What target am I aiming for? Why do I feel like something is missing?
“My late twenties have felt especially existential,” I said.
He sighed, and I thought he would laugh at the melodrama. I expected him to dismiss me, to remind me of how young I am like so many others have, or to tell me to count my blessings. Instead, he said, “Ah yes. I can see why you’d be asking yourself those things.”
That simple acknowledgement filled me with relief.
Often when I confide in people about feeling anxious, blue, or lost, their instinct is to eradicate these emotions: they try to help me look on the bright side, or they bring logic into the picture, to show me how much these feelings don’t match up to reality. These responses come with the best of intentions—and yet, they fill me with shame. How could I be so selfish as to feel sad when I have so much to be thankful for? What do I have to complain about, when my life is so beautiful? I must seem crazy to people, to be making such a big deal out of nothing. I find myself in a defensive position, with a need to justify my emotions.
There’s such an insistence on positivity in our culture. We want people to think we have “good vibes”—that we’re easygoing, no drama, chill, always down.
Sometimes, I just want to hear, “It’s ok to not feel ok.” These emotions aren’t something you need to earn the right to have. Even more so, I want to hear, “Tell me more”; I want an invitation to explore these moods without fear of judgment.
However, I don’t really expect other people to respond the way I want them to. We all have our own way of navigating vulnerability within ourselves and with others. We’re all just making it up as we go! That considered, I’m taking these desires as cues for how I should speak to myself—with patience, understanding, and curiosity.