In the wake of this past US election I (like most people living outside of the States or who voted for a different candidate) couldn’t help but reflect on the feeling of hopelessness and a loss of control with the outcome last Tuesday. I then decided to read a book all about government control, just to really drive the point home that sometimes things don’t go the way we want them to. This has been a very familiar feeling for me the past few months as I began to realize that my job has become the perpetuator of unhappiness and anxiety in my daily life, only to wake up every morning and keep going back to it.
Why do we force ourselves to repeat patterns that make us unhappy? I guess that’s a question that many psychologists, philosophers, socially awkward 25 year olds ask themselves, perhaps even devoting their lives to solving it. When it comes to this feeling—the one where your stomach is heavy with the weight of your heart that has detached and fallen into it—I’ve started to notice that it ultimately can’t be experienced without your consent, and that might be the scariest realization of them all (unless Kylie has had another one this year).
We all have aspirations, whether big or small, that at some point seem achievable, but can quickly be thwarted with the slightest change in external forces. This is where the loss of control comes from—watching as something you can’t change begins to change you. This is the hardest thing for me to deal with when these situations arise, considering I’m usually autonomous in my lifestyle. Having to stand aside while my life is being played out for me is like being stuck in a lucid dream that you can’t wake up from. If we use the example of a bad job as the external force controlling you, it’s difficult to cut yourself off from a source of income just because you don’t like the work ethics, co-workers, management etc. What if you can’t find another job? What if you find one with much less pay? These are reasonable examples as to why we might stick it out in a shitty job despite all our internal sirens going off, warning us to get out.
Once these forces have broken through your barrier of control, that’s when the hopelessness kicks in and you can start to feel like it’s pointless to even try and retrieve any control. What does it even mean to be in control in the scenario of a shitty job if you’re still in that shitty job? Can those two ideas be synthesized without one slowly getting the upper hand? This is the place where I’ve been stuck the past few months and it has slowly eroded my psyche to the point where I don’t really know the kind of person I am anymore. Am I still strong-willed or a pushover? Have I settled for bad situations just because of the prospect of something good being taken away? Should I be the adventures type I always wished I was and completely change things (for either the better or worse)? It’s tough to answer those questions from a biased perspective, especially as I’m still falling deeper into the uncertainty of what the right answer is for me and my situation.
However, If I was to step away from my neurotic mindset and give myself some unbiased advice (or anyone who may need it) I would say that things that can be changed are always in our control. Things that can’t be changed shouldn’t be stressed over. The only thing we can do as autonomous beings—as the protagonists of our own stories—is to try and put away any fear or indecision and take that scary step transitioning from your current situation into one that you think will make you even the slightest bit happier. If it does, it’ll be worth it in the end. If it doesn’t it’ll be that much easier to move onto something else once that initial fear of change has been conquered.