One of the greatest lies anyone will ever tell you is that following your dreams is the way to go. I don’t mean you shouldn’t. In fact you should, and if you actually make it to your personal pot of gold at the end of your rainbow more the power to you! The problem is that when someone tells you to follow your dream, they usually mean what they think is your dream. It’s not even because they think they know better (ok, there’s always the occasional asshole that thinks so and will not hesitate to tell you). Most of the time they genially have you’re best interest at hand. They truly, wish for you to be as happy and safe and secure as possible. So you pluck up the courage and confess what your secret labour of love is. And with a snap of your fingers, the light of encouragement fades a little, their smile becomes a little forced.
Because you told them your dream and it’s not something easy, or –what’s that other expression career advisors like to throw around? – marketable, or even the kind of thing that you talk about at family reunions and can easily attach the word “successful” to. So you begin to compromise, because you care about them and the last thing you want is to make them worry. Alright, you say, it’s a bit out there, and of course I will look for something that pays the bills first but, you know, as a hobby? On the side? And if it ends up being the main thing I do, then great! But I’m not going to be heart-broken if it doesn’t work out. Except you will be. And you will become bitter and sad. Because while you work that in-between job you’ll realise that when you get home tired, and there’s nothing prepared to eat and you still need to do the laundry, there’s no time or energy left to do what you like. Of course some people find both these so elusive things. Me? I know myself well enough to know that once inertia has settled it won’t matter how much I love that hobby. The very idea of moving from whatever flat surface I’m lying in will be too much to consider. And no, the advice “force yourself to do it and eventually the mood will come” is about as stupid as advising someone with a broken leg to work on their marathon time.
Or you will choose to fly in the face of adverse winds, do the improbable degree, dare to apply to jobs that tickle your interest. And with every non-answer or negative answer to your applications you’ll get more disappointed, more convinced at your uselessness. Don’t get me wrong, dear reader. While this may apply to you, it is also (mostly) a letter to myself. So where was I? Oh, yes, my sparkling, glitter-sprinkled future. Or rather how easily “I’ll chase my dream job, I don’t care what it takes” became “I just need someone to trust me enough to give me a job so that I don’t have to look at the end of my degree as the start of a free-fall without a parachute”. Less than four years to reach that conclusion and I’m not even twenty-five. And it’s harder when people believe in your dreams (or their idea of them) more than you do. How do you explain that you care more about a steady source of income, even if it doesn’t relate to what your degree says it’s about?
How do you make the older generations understand that even a cinema ticket or a night out for drinks have become so loaded with guilt (because you’ll see what’s left in your current account and it’s always so much less than you thought it’d be and never mind that you have a savings account these are savings they’re for emergency you shouldn’t touch them and you thought you had finally figured out budgeting but you didn’t because no one has shown you how ever and suddenly the idea of living off crackers milk and apples sounds appealing) that you cannot even consider it seriously? How do you explain the sensation of never being good enough, even though you try as much as your mind will let you, because when you have it already weighting on you that in the end it won’t really matter because someone more qualified will always be there to make you look worse? How do you explain the tears that aren’t really triggered by anything in particular, at least nothing apparently serious, but you’ve been holding it for so long that even something as little as a broken light is enough to have you curled up with your pillow and sobbing like someone just died?
How do you communicate the crippling fear that hits you every time the phone rings and you have to speak to someone or, even worse, when you need to be the one to make the call? How do you translate the constant feeling that people around you just tolerate your presence, that even when they seek you out they don’t much care about what you need to say? How do you get over the feeling that those feelings are confirmed because you tell them something and then two days later they text you like what you said didn’t even register? (Apparently “I’ll be sleeping at the library this week, I have work to do” has the response –before the week is over- “Come over tonight, we’ll have fun” No, actually we won’t. I’ll be tired and just want to get home but I haven’t yet found out the proper way of explaining that just because we seem to be having fun together I actually want the company. Because most of the time I don’t.) How do you illustrate the internalised panic attack you have at any given professional, semi-professional, or potentially-professional scenario because all this is running through your head and you don’t know what is expected of you because you cannot understand the rules of the game but just this once you want to play because you hope that if you won even once (no matter how small the victory) then maybe next time it’d be easier?
How do you give up something as small as living in a place you know you’d be happy in because it’s small and therefore jobs there are even harder to find? For how long can you stop yourself from screaming at them, telling them that you don’t want to be this messed up, you don’t want the voices or the fears or the nightmares or the feeling of being a failure but you can’t help it? Not when you cannot remember the last time anything that comes with the word “finances” attached to it came without any stress or frustration. Not when everyone went out and did things while you stayed inside and watched movies because you were tired of how loud everything out there had become. Not when you feel too young for everything expected of you and at the same time too old for it all.
Not when the few times you manage to open up to anyone and explain why you are angry and don’t want company you feel even more horrible afterwards because everyone has their own problems to deal with and who are you to hoist upon them your own or because you’ve done everything short of screaming “LEAVE ME ALONE!” and they offer company. The whole “no means no” concept is not a joke and does not only apply to the dating scenario. There’s precious few people whose presence I can tolerate for any length of time and a friendly smile does not immediately mean that I want to be around you. Just because what is inside my head is dark and horrible and most of the time yields a particularly sharp scythe doesn’t mean that I will instantly act like a bitch. I am Slytherin enough to understand that social interactions (not hanging out, that’s different) have their uses. And damn my madness even with all this (or maybe because of it) I want to help other people feel happy. If stitching a smile on my face and swearing everything is peachy is the way to do it, well lies have been said for worse reasons. Besides, the line “I’m never ok” sounds overdramatic when spoken aloud, don’t you think?