Do You Ever Feel Really, Really Small?

Do you ever feel exhausted or alone or confused so badly that the answers you normally feed yourself about life and meaning lose their efficacy? Do you ever feel really, really small? Not just with respect to the whole world, but as a person in your city or town. Like, who the hell am I? Why should I go on—with my job or my marriage or my education or hobbies or life—with anything?

The questions we get to ask ourselves as we age are much more interesting and far more gruesome than those questions of youth about what we want to be and do and wear and drive and listen to.

Why am I the way I am? That’s the question that’s been eating me. I don’t expect to find an answer. I don’t want an answer. I’m just seeing myself in this really uncomfortable way: I am a mix of competing desires, and all my decisions in life have been a running away from or toward illusions.

In plainer terms, I want two things: stability, and the sense of being alive. But for whatever reason I am wired such that having one negates the other.

For example, I went into sales and marketing 15 years ago because of the hustle. I liked the risk of working straight commission, the sense that every day my livelihood was on the line, and the sense of winning when I made off okay. I also sold and used drugs on a petty scale because doing so put me in a titillating environment and mindset. I left religion and that book of answers because certainty bores me, despite feeling very uncomfortable with uncertainty at times.

Four years ago I went back to school, but not to get some degree that would help me escape the rat race. Nah, I wanted to study philosophy! And for years now I have hustled my ass off and I’m fast approaching graduation with two thoughts on my mind: I want stability, but I want the hustle.

I’ve always admired the do-gooder, the thinker, the guy or gal who sees a safe way and chooses it deliberately. The person who can stick to a plan. But when I think about that life for myself I go crazy. And I go crazy for going crazy! Like, why can’t I be content with normalcy? Why must I trek off to another state or a seedy motel or climb that posted fence or make irrational purchases or drink too often too much?

Because it makes me feel alive. Maybe it makes me forget something, forget who I am or who I’m not or whether I’m drowning insecurities or trying to heal superficial childhood scars. Some days, though, I wish that stability could enliven me like miscalculated risk can. Like, all I need is a steady job and a favorite sitcom and sports team and a yearly vacation and a guaranteed retirement, and then I’ll feel at peace. If only I could get on board with that, because I am so weary from making fast breaks in the dark. The problem with always trying to feel incredibly alive is that there is no destination. You step, hoping to find ground but only find air. I suppose, though, this is true for the stable route too.

Anyway, I don’t know who’s reading this, but this is maybe what we’d talk about if we were drinking coffee or beer together. And I’d ask you what gets you. What are you running from, do you think? Or toward? Are your relationships really about love, or are you hiding? Do you have any threads of dreams lingering? What simple things are you finding, that fulfill you in big ways? I suspect you’d have answers and goals. But why hope? I guess that’s the question I’d ask you. And I’d hope in that moment you'd give an interesting and honest response. Such a simple and risky gesture might make us both feel alive, if only briefly so.