It’s 3 AM. I’m watching memories dance on my bedroom wall. I have no idea why I’m awake so late and why I’m thinking of people I dated in high school.
“What in the hell am I doing?”
That question comes to my mind a lot. When I pass by people on the street, talk to them awkwardly, then go about my way I ask:
Why is it so hard for me to talk to people?
Why does everybody else make life look so easy? Why am I such a screw-up at 27 who can’t act like an adult? I should be married by now or something.
Speaking of that, why can’t I be better towards the girl I love? Why do I keep making the same mistakes over and over again? Why don’t I feel like I belong anywhere?
Why do my fears dominate my life, and why do I feel so aimless all the time?
To everybody who has ever felt this — absolute despair — this article is for you.
First, The Darkness Can Be A Good Thing
Is it cold outside? Great. Go sit out there. Enjoy the pain. This is step number one.
Too many people are afraid of feeling like dirt. I say it’s a good thing to feel completely lost — it builds character.
One of my favorite scenes of Mad Men was when Don Draper went outside on his NYC balcony in the dead of winter. And he just sat there. In his pajamas.
Sometimes when a drizzle turns into a downpour, the only thing we can do is lean into the pain and despair of life.
We can look at it as an opportunity for growth.
Second, Start Extremely Small
“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
When life’s hitting you with haymakers every five seconds, it’s a little hard to get up and throw one back.
Therefore, you need to get up and start small.
Dodge the first punch, then the second, then the third.
Dodge ten punches in a row.
Then when you got your feet underneath of you, dodge and throw a punch back.
It’s baby steps. You shouldn’t be thinking about knocking life out right now. You should be thinking about how to get any kind of momentum going for yourself. Don’t get upset because you’re not the CEO of your own company by tomorrow. Just be happy you sent out a few applications today.
Third, Don’t Let Failure Avalanches Ruin All Your Progress
Great, you strung together a few punches. Here comes another haymaker. It clipped you. Shit. Here comes another. You got clipped again.
You get discouraged, and by the time that third haymaker comes around, you’re down for the count.
No. Don’t let it happen. Plant your feet on the ground and get your gloves up. Making progress can be somewhat easy, but what’s truly debilitating is letting all of our hard-earned progress flush down the toilet in a matter of minutes, hours, or days.
Stay strong and don’t let avalanches happen. That’s the most dangerous thing. Talk to someone. Reach out to a friend or family member. Tell them you’re struggling, and you can avoid an avalanche in your life.
Fourth, Understand We’re All Faking It Anyway
Everybody’s faking it. We’re all making it seem like our life is some fantasy. It’s not. We are not perfect, and our lives are not perfect.
It’s probably normal to be nostalgic at 3 AM. It’s probably normal to have a few awkward conversations every day.
Recently someone very close to me was struggling with suicidal thoughts. I had no idea. They looked completely normal and acted normal too, but deep down they were in immense trouble. I wish she would’ve talked to me about it, but she didn’t want to cause me any trouble.
It’s not a pain in anybody’s butt to talk to someone who’s depressed. Most people want to help. I wish my friend would’ve just talked to me so I knew — after that, I checked in with her every day.
We are all faking it. We’re all trying to make our lives seem better than it is. Understand that during a rough patch in your life.
Fifth, Be Patient
Hard times can sometimes last a while. Weeks, months, even multiple years. Understand that can be common.
Sixth, Figure Out What Excites You
In my experience, battling guilt and shame is 90% of the struggle. We feel we should have it all together. We feel we should act more like an adult when we still feel like we’re 17 years old.
When you seriously consider that darkness can be a good thing, that even an inch of progress should be celebrated, and that everybody’s probably struggling with something, too, you can move on to the last step.
Finding what excites you.
It’s somewhat hard to figure this part out. I saw travel bloggers and knew right away that I wanted to travel for a living and write online. You just need to know, though, that if it doesn’t excite you, it’s probably not a good direction to go in.
It might be hard to look at someone very successful and think you can do it, too. Nonsense. You should’ve seen my writing from 6 years ago — it was atrocious! Sometimes it still is (oops).
Start small. If you want to be a travel blogger, start writing in a journal every day for practice. Then move on to creating a blog. Then share some posts on Facebook. Then keep building and building until your big goal is a reality.
Momentum, grace, and understanding we’re all hiding how broken we really are. That’s the key to figuring out what to do with your life.