Monday, November 28, 2005

the fear of exhaustion.

i am 25 years old, and i am afraid of exhaustion. that may sound crazy, but it's true. i am dogged by the fear that in a few years, i will be too exhausted to do anything of note, or anything that truly brings me satisfaction.

i don't really mean exhaustion in the physical sense. i think i'm doing well enough on that front - i go to the gym, i don't smoke, i live in a third floor walk-up, etcetera. it's mental exhaustion i'm talking about. there's a creeping sensation that i am being worn down by life, that the treads on my tires are too thin to last the entire way to wherever it is i'm going. i shouldn't feel that way at the quarter century mark, but there it is. i do.

when i think about what i want to do next with my career, i feel exhausted. when i think about whether i acutally have a career at all, i feel exhausted. when i think about trying to fight the good fight for the rest of my working days, i feel exhausted.

i had this great plan when i got out of grad school. armed with two degrees and a fair amount of marketable skills, i was going to work in non-profits, eventually finagle my way into the communications department of a women's rights organization, and spend the rest of my days happily crafting and honing messages for an agency in which i believed, and that was working on an issue about which i was passionate.

passionate? really? i was once passionate, about something - about anything?

it seems incredibly blithe and immature to claim that i was passionate about something two years ago, and now no longer am. like most generalizations, it's not exactly true. but something has been lost in these two years - there's a leak somewhere. and i fear that if i don't find it, i will only deflate further until every bit of energy and commitment i had to social justice is gone. there has to be a way to restore my sense, regardless of how tenuous it was in the first place, that i can make a difference (however small) and that the work that i do can be important (however tangentially). because right now, it feels like all the work i do is being thrown into a societal black hole of greed, hatred, fear, and dishonesty that will eventually suck everything that is good and earnest into itself.

wow, these are some bleak metaphors i'm dishing out right now. i apologize for the melodrama, but sometimes, when you're grasping at what seem like straws and wondering how you're going to justify the rest of your existence, melodrama is pretty much all that will suffice.

in the end, i need to figure out how to not allow all the negative news to dilute my commitment to helping people. i need to learn a trick that lets me read about how 25% of people in an Amnesty International poll believe a woman is at least partly to blame for being raped if she has worn revealing clothing or been drunk, and not throw up my hands in defeat. i need a mute button, an off switch.

i need a way to cope with the fact that, at the moment, the universe is out of stock on mute buttons and off switches. maybe a store credit would help.


Jared Goralnick said...

I could go ahead and write a sappy feel-good letter. But really, Kate, I just don't believe the content of your post--I only believe some of what it means.

Your attacking yourself is just your want to do more. And to say you're not passionate? C'mon--you're the same sarcastic ranter (with good cause or not) you were in 1998.

You just don't like your job and have been following a pattern for a little while. But we all need to hibernate in between our masterpieces.

So again, I don't believe you. I'm just going to turn your words around and point out that you were making a mark even in this entry--speaking out on something you believe in. Most people will never get that far. Heck, just a week or two ago you pointed out your new-found fame.

I'll spare you from more allusions to the Progress Paradox and instead point out that people make a difference but it's in new ways these days.

First off, you're going to find another job at some point.

Second, writing may be your new ticket to fame.

Third, stop this talk of lack of passion already. And get back to worrying about important things like how many more days until Daniel Radcliffe is legal...

Lila Elcapitano said...

Passions feed best off lifegarbage, crap, and temporary ennui. If you set off to address your passion right after grad school and did so smoothly and elegantly, you'd want to punch yourself in the face. Because- really- then what? When are you "done"? "Satisfied"? You know you'll never use those words to describe anything you're passionate about. and that's exactly why you'll never lose your passion, regardless of what that outermost layer of your mind is telling you.

Roni said...

Ah, I was where you are at 25 too. Welcome to your mid-life crisis. Which really isn't a crisis as much as a realization that you are now an adult and some of the things we held high in regard are no longer so high or are a bit dirty from reality.

Chin up, chica. You're still very passionate. But we'll never be as passionate about things at 25 or 30 as we were when we were 20. It's like love. Because it is love. It's our love for freedom, for justice, for human dignity.

If your job sucks, make a plan to get out. It can be as short as a year plan or a multi-year plan. Are you learning anything there? Are they paying you well enough?

Oh, and don't try to figure out where you want to be in 20 years. Just 5 years. That's long enough for a panic attack, but short enough that it might provide instant gratification.

And while you're plotting and planning, as jared said, bask in your new fame.

Jason said...

roni has some fantastic advice.

in addition, as a college senior, we had to take a class that was supposed to help transition us into the "real world." they called what you and i are both going through, "the quarter life crisis."

what they failed to tell us was that our jobs would be boring and that our intelligence would be overlooked.

personally, i think the highest paid jobs should be given to recent college graduates: before the brain deteriorates over the next 40 years.

maybe that's because i just graduated though...

elizalou said...

Okay, all I know about you is the little I've read in this blog and we've never met personally, but I can tell you that not only am I going through the same kind of a situation as you, but most of my friends are too. I've heard it described as a quarter life crisis and I totally believe it.

We all want to do so much at once and it's hard to discover that it's not so easy to savetheworldandfeelsatisfied.

Not sure if it helps or makes it worse, but you're definitely not in this alone. Maybe we should form a club. All the determined yet unsatisfied 25-ish's across the Midwest. Could be a major revolution - or disaster.

Hang in there!

Toast said...

Yikes. I'd love to offer encouragement or sage words of advice, but having myself made the transition from grad-school salon social visionary to clock-punching cube-dweller living in the belly of the Corporate Beast, the best I can do is serve as a cautionary tale.

Roni said...

Duh...quarter-life crisis...that's what I meant! Thanks for the corrections everyone.

Oh and there is a group for all of us 20s and 30s peeps who want to change the world: Young Nonprofit Professional Network

I've been to a few events and think it's a great place to network.