Ask A Fuck-Up

AAFU: I’m 23 and have nothing to look forward to

What’s the point when the future seems so bad?
Ask A Fuck-Up

AAFU: I’m 23 and have nothing to look forward to

What’s the point when the future seems so bad?

Brandy Jensen, The Outline’s Power editor, has made a lot of mistakes in her life. Has she learned from them and become a wiser person as a result? Hahaha oh gosh no. But it does leave her uniquely qualified to tell you what not to do — because she’s probably done it.

Dear Fuck-Up,

I am 23, broke as hell, and despite the fact that you have told people that nothing is really as apocalyptic as it seems at age 22, sometimes it really does seem like I’ve peaked at age 19 and will never have all of those things adulthood supposedly entails — a stable job/income, a loving spouse, retirement savings, reasonably temperate weather and/or an not-encroaching shoreline, a world that isn't too swallowed up by corporations and greedy capitalists, etc, etc, you get the deal.

I'm an officially sad person, meaning that 1) I have been on anti-depressants for most of my adult life and 2) I am aware that it's mostly my depression speaking whenever I say that life seems to be just a series of inane chores, accidents, heartbreak, and stress. I guess what I’m asking is a fundamental question, one that no one, really, is qualified to answer: why live?

I am not at risk of suicide or harming myself at this moment, but I am curious as to how and why you keep trying to be a better person, trying to care for yourself and for others even when it all seems a bit useless in the long run. Just need some adult perspective, I guess.

Love,
A Sad Girl

Dear Sad Girl,

Raymond Carver begins his poem “Locking Yourself Out, Then Trying to Get Back In” like this:

You simply go out and shut the door
without thinking. And when you look back
at what you’ve done
it’s too late. If this sounds
like the story of life, okay.

I like this poem because it is comprehensible, and not too embarrassing, and also says something true about how things end in life, which happens, more often than not, without you really noticing. The moments where you could have done something differently and/or become someone different rarely announce themselves dramatically, but you begin to notice how they accrue, and how certain things become foreclosed. Sometimes this is tinged with sadness but also a kind of wonder that it’s the mundane happenings and not-happenings that make up your life.

At 23, and I know this is hard to believe but it really is the truth, you have not closed all that many doors behind you. Too few things have happened and not-happened to you to reasonably justify this profound weariness. Which is not to say it’s all unreasonable — it sucks shit to have inherited a world that was knowingly made much worse for you by people and forces beyond your control.

But those same people and forces would like nothing more than for you to feel exactly as you do now. The occasional feeling of acute despair can be warranted — I will absolutely admit to a fair bit of wallowing myself — but ask yourself who or what this serves. It is very depressing to recognize all of the ways there is a powerful death cult operating in the world, but you do have the option not to join.

Which is basically my best answer to your question of “why live?” — when you are unsure about living, it is helpful to attend to living things. I just got a second dog, because when I sometimes lose interest in caring for myself I still rise to the demand of caring for my pets. One of the doors I’ve probably locked behind myself is having children, and my feelings about that are too complicated for me to work out here, but my friends recently had a perfect little son and asked me to be a godparent and I am already very much enamored with this tiny person whom I haven’t yet met. I have friends who are starting relationships that sound promising and others who are nursing broken hearts; in either case, I get to watch them change and sometimes grow and offer them advice they will not take and love them.

I don’t have any retirement savings and my credit score is terrible and I don’t know how to you make you feel better about your own prospects in that regard. But you can reject the idea that to be an adult is to account for yourself in terms of what you earn or what you save; that the best you can hope for is to keep your head down and not look around you; that your stress and sadness are enough to draw you into yourself and away from other people; that you have “peaked at 19” which I’m sorry is a concept that made me laugh very hard and laughing is another nice thing to do when you can. The world really is pretty shit, in a lot of ways, and is unlikely to get much better in the short term, but you’re not alone in it.

I also just discovered Nicolas Cage will be rescuing this kidnapped pig in a movie called PIG. Surely that is worth living for.

Love,
A Fuck-Up

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