I am endlessly chasing the carrot on a stick, the ever-receding rainbow, whether it be some arbitrary goal that I’ve set up for myself, or simply trying to be stable, avoiding conflict and the perceived disasters that life can throw at me. I tell myself that if only this thing will happen in my life, then I will be complete and satisfied. If only I can fall in love, if I find a new job that I find more tolerable than my previous one, if I have this much in my bank account, if I travel to this place, if I am more productive and creative, if only I could make a living writing and expressing myself. Then I will be complete. And then I tell myself the flipside, that if only I can avoid chaos and dysregulating events in my life, then I won’t be ruined and devasted. I am one goal away from being complete and I am one chaotic, unexpected event away from my life completely collapsing.
What an exhausting outlook I have had. I feel trapped in this mindset, like walking a tightrope trying to calculate each coming step to produce a perfect life. The truth is that I will never get there. I will never reach the rainbow in the distance. Not because I will fail to meet some goal or reach some perceived destination, but because it does not exist. It simply does not exist outside of myself. I am realizing this through therapy and I don’t quite know what to make of it yet.
On one hand it can be discouraging to know that finding meaning and purpose and fulfillment in life isn’t based on these simplistic goals we set for ourselves, or any external thing for that matter. Telling ourselves these stories alleviate some stress in a way because they are straight-forward and tangible to conceive. These stories write themselves automatically and many times without our knowledge, their one-dimensionality becomes its own addiction, burrowing into our brains. And then on the other hand, it is relieving knowing that my life will not be complete or ruined entirely because of something that happens or doesn’t happen. Life is more multifaceted than that. Complexity can be encouraging as much as it is honest. Life isn’t simply what happens to us. Life isn’t simply despair or elation. No one thing defines life, no one thing is the total summation of consciousness.
I am trying to come to terms with all of this. The carrot has been its own purpose for me, ever out of reach, giving me direction. Now I feel like I am spinning and unsure where to go from here, or how to process this data and work on growing myself. It is myself who determines my satisfaction and fulfillment, and to be honest I have never really had much trust or love for myself. So this is understandably challenging and daunting.
I tell myself I should be happy and that I have so many good things going for me, which I do. Don’t get me wrong, I have moments of happiness and passion and fulfillment. But so much of the time I just feel empty, anxious, and tired. I feel like I’m running in circles, digging myself into the core of the earth. I put this expectation on myself to always try to be happy or at least content and then I try to micromanage my life to get to where I think I should be. So much of the time I just feel lost, directionless, and unfulfilled. I think this feeling speaks to many people from my generation. I’m in my mid-thirties and the reality of life has set in. I also can’t remove myself from the times I am in. Our generation has experienced instability and uncertainty on a scale that is hard to truly grasp. So many dysregulating events have happened in our lifetimes, from 9/11, to the 2008 financial crash to covid. It is easy for the future to feel bleak, and if you seek to find a reason to despair…you will always find it. For me, the reality of mortality and the fragility of life has set in. No longer can I rely on the illusion of security and immortality from my youth. What an ignorant luxury that was thinking back. I think this is part of why nostalgia can be such an alluring thing.
So here I sit, knowing I have been endlessly chasing the carrot and the rainbow all in vain. It was all a farce, perpetuated by everything around us as we were growing up telling us we should be happy and have purpose and be successful and be recognized and prominent, and this or that is what you have to do to get there. It was all an external illusion designed to set us off course into a world of aimlessness and doubt, forever chasing that which cannot be caught.
Now I must turn inwards and try to make sense of what it means to be me. How do I begin to pick up the pieces and fragments of my life? When am I supposed to feel like something is working and I am growing into a version of myself that can find the light in this life? Is self-growth and progress just another carrot? I’m bewildered, but I think that real, lasting growth and change is often gradual and quiet and unspectacular, which is why it can so often go unnoticed. I know I have made tremendous progress since I started therapy two years ago. I know that there is hope, if only for change. It is up to me. It isn’t anything or anyone’s job to mold me into a complete person. It is up to me to decide to change. And now I have these realizations to work with, that the carrot and rainbow do not exist, and that there is only me and my perception of this life. I have a place to start afresh on this journey now. I have some semblance of footing now, and that is good enough for me.
Leave a Reply