Dear Addie Advice Column #2
On being stuck in between and yet nowhere all at once
So here’s the thing. I want to ask for advice on feeling stuck in between everything on basically every level. I’m left but right, love nature but also technology, am optimistic but also pessimistic. It’s like on some level there’s a struggle between two characters residing within me. I’m limited by and confused about who exactly I am and who I should be striving to be. It’s as if my ability to adapt has left me without form. And on top of this, we live in a time where the “team” you’re on determines all expectations of your character regardless of what place your intentions are drawn from. Regardless of who I’m around, I must omit my opinion lest I look like the enemy. Most importantly, it fucks with my decision making. How can I stick to a route in life if I feel differently about it just months into the journey? Do I care so little about my own life that I feel no sense of urgency to figure things out? I suppose it’s that at some point I begin to question my destination and ask myself “do I really want this?” and who am I to say that I do really want it when I cannot commit myself to whatever the hell it is I’m striving for? Money means almost nothing to me, so how can I justify my desire to gain more of it? Am I working toward a career simply to be a more useful gear in the machine? What if I dropped everything and went toward my dream? I’d be lost yet again, because as with everything else, the dream alludes me and I fall in love with the process of beginning something all over again. So if that is my love, new beginnings, then mustn’t I conclude that everything I do is without meaning? I enjoy grasping at things and the moment I feel like I just may be able to touch it, I pull my hand away and look for something new. Do I just not value anything except possibility? Being in between everything feels, in some way or another, like being on the outside of everything, and if I’m outside of everyone’s group then how should I feel connecting to the rest of you? I feel like my life’s purpose is to ask questions until the day I die, and that my own curiosity will get the best of me when one day I realize I’ve done nothing but sit and wonder, abandoning myself and the hopeful child inside of me anytime I’ve lost the meaning of my own movements through this world. And so I sit in my ordinary story, moving forward in silence, beginning and ending in a limitation not unlike the sea. And tomorrow I wake, and I clothe myself, facing the day with layers of restraint. And we both know what I must do. But it is something I cannot. My choice is to stare out, hammer in hand, and accept that my place is here, dreaming at the shore, sorry only to myself.
Sincerely, Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Dear Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place,
First, let me start with this:
*nods* I hear you, I truly do. I think this is an incredibly hard time, one that we cannot possibly underestimate. As James Baldwin says in The Fire Next Time: Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shining and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is out of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. And, that is what we’re faced with, and have been faced with for some time. It is not only because of the way the pandemic has rocked the foundation of everything we have understood to be certain in this life. There are other upheavals, as we know, after all, that are happening and have been happening for some time. I do think an event as cataclysmic as a pandemic really requires us to look at ourselves and our lives in a way that perhaps we never have before.
Being on the inside is underrated. Not only that, but I think that finding ourselves, discovering who we want to be, learning what we desire in this life, is a lifelong pursuit. You are doing exactly what it is, I think, you should be doing. You are looking, at times even agonizingly so, over every choice you make, and wondering if it is the right thing for you. It is a hard task, this journey. But it is the task that will reap more important rewards than going after the thing that everyone says will lead you to happiness. There is no one story for anyone. No one happiness. I personally feel that those that chase the riches of money will find their lives empty as a result. But, I do think that there is something to be said for decentering the career or that which sustains your life (allows you to buy food and water, clothes on your back, a decent place to live) and instead, think of a job as a meant to provide you with the life that you want, but not necessarily that the job is the center of one’s existence. For example, can a job provide you with the structure in your life so that you can pursue the activities that bring you happiness and fulfillment? If you are clear what it is that job does for you, then I think it will not cause as much existential stress. Disempower it, in other words, which is more of a revolutionary act than it might seem.
All of the things you question here are of utmost important, threads that do not always have satisfying answers. Are we gears in the capitalist production machine? Yes, absolutely. Is it fair? Most definitely not? There are choices in this life, and there are limitations. And that is for a million reasons. There is much in this world to find demoralizing, inhumane, and reprehensible. However, it is my strong belief, thoughtful one, that there is also great joy and enrichment to be found. Take a breath, center your own desires and dreams, and walk towards them.
You may find, in this journey, that you will not be surrounded by hordes of people who understand you, but a few intimates that accept you and that relate to some of what you speak of here. I have never needed an army; just five or six special souls has always done me fine. You may not find yourself surrounded with riches beyond your wild imagination. I have always found too much money to be corruptible. But, hopefully, as you keep pushing towards only what feels harmonious and right to you, and no one else, will you find the peace you’re seeking. At least, that’s how it’s always been for me. But, you’re right. We who ask these questions have a harder road ahead. But, in my opinion, a better one.
Until then, lean in to the nuance and the in between, and yes, yes, yes, please, for yourself and for the rest of us, ask those questions until you perish. I’ll be there beside you.
Yours in the stickiness,