A friend of mine who saw one of my recent posts on social media reached out and asked if I was feeling better. He knew that I’ve been going through a tough time, and wondered if my recent upbeat post was an indication that things were looking up in my life.
“I thought it was universally acknowledged that people only show their best selves on social media,” I replied.
In that very moment, standing in my kitchen waiting for my tea kettle to boil, I despised the kind of person that I’ve become.
It’s unclear how long I’ve been slipping into this person. Maybe it’s been my whole life, the way everyone conforms a part of themselves to societal standards. Or maybe it’s been the last few years, navigating through the world post-college. While I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, I think it’s happened slowly over the last 10 months. I’ve navigated a lot of difficult territory in the last 10 months, but I’ve not been very open or candid about that journey.
I don’t know how else to say this: I’ve felt very lost lately. It could be just your standard quarter-life crisis, but it doesn’t stop it from feeling real to me. It’s felt very, very real. Over the past few months, I’ve had some pretty monumental breakdowns. During that time, I’ve made an effort to dig deep, investigate the scary spaces in my heart, and ask myself hard questions. The result is that I’m lead further and further down into a space that I don’t often go:
My doubting space.
I doubt my abilities. I doubt my passions. I doubt my marriage. I doubt understanding love at all. I doubt my friendships. I doubt my relationships with my family. I doubt my usefulness to my employer. I doubt my capacity to do my work. I doubt my ability to grow. I doubt my ability to change. I doubt my ability to carve out my own identity from the societal noise. I doubt the things I eat. I doubt the way I run. I doubt my future. I doubt my past. I can’t even think about my present because it just feels like a giant gaping hole of emptiness and confusion.
Truth is, I’ve never felt this way before for such an extended period of time. Yes, I have doubts like anyone else. Taylor Swift has doubts; I’m sure even Beyoncé has doubts sometimes. I’m not immune to questioning my life, my talents, my worthiness. I also don’t want to be immune to those things. I believe that, ultimately, asking questions and challenging myself to answer those questions will help me become a more robust and reflective person.
Even though I am ok with having doubts, the hardest thing is that I’ve been keeping all these things to myself. I’ve not let anyone into my space, including my closest friends and family.
There are three distinct circumstances that are hard in my life right now:
1. I’m taking two of the hardest classes for my master’s degree this semester: business statistics and financial accounting. These categories are my two greatest weaknesses. I hoped that, by compiling them into one semester and getting them out of the way, I could piggy-back the information between both classes.
Alas, this is not the case.
It’s a very, very unusual feeling for me to struggle in school. Obtaining A’s in school—even in undergrad—always came fairly easily to me. If it wasn’t easy, it was a challenge I welcomed and often achieved.
This, though, is not the case. I’m desperately trying to stay afloat. A good friend of ours used to be a math tutor and majored in math in undergrad; he’s become a tutor of sorts these past few weeks. I’ve resorted to online videos and resources to help me understand concepts better. I’m throwing myself into my school work (and basically ignoring everything else) in an effort to stay afloat.
With one last week until exams, I’m teetering somewhere between relief that the semester is almost over and fear that I still need to pass these classes. It’s an anxiety that’s consumed me since March. I hope to release this anxiety very, very soon.
2. Practically overnight, my job became very demanding. I’ve reported to four different direct managers in the last 12 months, even though my role only changed once. When we finally hired a permanent person to be my boss, I was ecstatic: finally, structure and stability!
When my new boss was hired in a few months back, though, it felt like the ground fell out from under me.
I believe very strongly in my boss’ vision for our department and company. In fact, it was because of my boss’ vision, skillset, and ideas that I really wanted this person to join my company. I recognized this new hire as the opportunity for me to learn directly from someone who thinks big, acts swiftly, and makes shit happen.
What I did not anticipate, though, was how drastically my role would change as a result. The things I’m being asked to do are important and meaningful. However, 80% of them have not been asked of me previously—and they are also 80% of the things that I would categorize as my weakest attributes, both as a person and an employee. Metrics, tracking, analysis, budgeting, forecasting…I may as well be working in a different language. I’ve always felt that I’m more of a brand marketer and storyteller, not a performance marketer or analyst.
But guess what? I analyze a LOT of marketing data these days.
Slowly, painfully, and with a lot of open communication, I’ve started to get a handle on my new tasks and bring the pieces together. I know I’ll come out on the other side a stronger marketer who works smarter, not harder. Even though I’m reaching the other side of this transition, it’s been a really trying process. Only when I stop to really think about what I’m feeling and why do I recognize the impact of this significant change in my demeanor, attitude, and persona.
3. This last one is hard for me to talk about. Society tends to push stuff like this under the rug. Truthfully, that’s what I’ve done for months. In an effort to be more emotionally open and honest (a new endeavor as of a few weeks back), it’s only fair that I bring you, reader, into this space.
My marriage is going through a very difficult period.
Lately, it’s felt like our marriage is just one big cycle without any upward movement. It’s just a series of rotations: mattress rotations, tire rotations, couch cushion rotations, stocking-the-fridge-with-staples rotations. It’s the first time in our nearly 8-year relationship that we’re lacking the fun and joy we’ve shared from day one. And neither of us really know where things took a wrong turn and how to get ourselves back on the right track.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Sam and I both feel that we’ve been in a deep, serious funk since last August or September. We’re trying not to generalize things, but the space we’ve occupied—a stifling space lacking in communication, openness, synchronization, intimacy—seems to correlate with the two things listed above (my graduate studies and new job tasks).
Honestly, it’s not hard to believe that grad school plays a huge role in what we’re going through. I’ve always been a very ambitious and dedicated student. Sam didn’t know this about me until now, given where we were at in our lives when we first met. While I’ve been focusing my “free” time on my studies, Sam is left in second place (possibly third, if you count my recent work challenges). No one deserves to be second place in a marriage.
What kind of person puts their marriage behind their own self-interests? Well, I do, apparently. It’s difficult for me to look up from the individual tunnel I’m in and remember that I have a partner going through all this with me.
Sam, of course, hasn’t forgotten. He’s the one cooking bulk meals three times a week now that I can’t do it. He’s the one making sure our bills are paid, our bellies are full, our daily life tasks are being handled. He’s the one selflessly supporting me on a journey to better myself, giving while asking nothing in return.
Of all the things to blindside me, the stifling stiffness of my marriage with Sam is the one I never expected to face in my life. Not ever. The way we are, the way we work, the way we complement each other…it’s arrogant to say, yes, but I didn’t think it was possible for us to have these kinds of troubles.
Here’s the tricky thing about marriage problems: there’s literally no one in my wider space that I can ask about this stuff. Everyone who’s married and our age hasn’t been married long enough to reassure us that this is normal; they haven’t seen the other side because, for all we know, they are in the exact same spot.
Anyone who’s been married for long enough to provide insight hasn’t made it evident that we can come to them for advice or reassurance because people are supposed to act perfectly and entirely in love when they’re married. However, I can’t blame these older married couples for not offering up advice. Most of the time, they’re the people we’re trying to desperately reassure that everything is ok (family, immediate family, longtime family friends, etc.).
Where does this leave us? Not a good place.
We’ve scanned marriage “help books.” We’ve swapped podcasts about relationships. We’ve written letters in opposite rooms and exchanged them when we’ve run out of the energy and courage to physically talk with one another. We’ve talked about marriage counseling for months, and, now that I’m going to a therapist, we’re getting closer to pairing with a marriage counselor who will be a good fit for us.
What I do know—and what Sam knows—is that we want to fight for this. We want everything to work out. We want to put in the work, we want to do what’s right, we want to make the necessary changes. We’ve talked about divorce (and during a particularly bad fight, Sam asked me point-blank if I even want to be married given my recent actions) but that’s not the outcome either of us want. We want to be together, with only each other.
The hard part is that, honestly, I don’t know what I actually need to do to uphold my part of this marriage. I don’t know if I’m ready to do the things I’ll be asked to do. It terrifies me. I’m scared I won’t be strong enough.
Most importantly, I’m scared I’ll discover my marriage isn’t the most important thing in my life even though I am convinced that it is. What if I’m not cut out for being a wife? What if I’m just naturally very, very bad at long-term commitment? It’s wrong and selfish to think these things, I know. But they’re looming fears in my heart and I’m trying to be more honest about my fears.
One of the things that’s so hard, as formally mentioned, is that no one talks about this shit. We don’t have a place to go to get answers about our fears and questions. People shut out marriage problems and don’t bring others into their space until they wake up one day and tell their peers, “We’re getting divorced.” How are we supposed to know what’s normal, what’s abnormal, what’s a phase, what’s the severing point?
I’m not interested in being a part of this societal problem. That’s why I’m sharing this with you.
It’s not to say everything is bad or totally effed. We still have fun, we’re still working on communication, we’re still trying to solve the problems we’ve had since day one. But it’s definitely a trying time in our lives and we’re navigating this territory lightly. We’re trying to repair our marriage while also working on ourselves, and it’s proving to be harder than either of us expected it to be.
(We’re also both really, really hoping that things improve once I’m out of school for the semester and fully settled into my new job tasks. Keep your fingers crossed.)
Wow. Ok. Those are all my secrets.
Here’s my promise to you. In this space, you’ll still see me posting pictures, stories, and lighthearted content from our travels and our lives. Our travel adventures hold a lot of meaning to me, too, and it makes me happy to share them with others. It’s a way of documenting my life for myself and I like having people share in those experiences.
But I’m also going to let you into these thoughts and feelings more. I am going to make an effort to push the envelope on what people “expect” out of this blog. My intent is to be brutally honest and open about what I’m feeling and what I’m going through. I hope it helps someone, initiates conversations, or makes people feel less isolated from emotional hardship.
Here’s what I’m asking from you, reader.
1. Tell me if you’re interested in this kind of content. Do you want to read these things? Can you relate? Did this post make you feel something or resonate with your life?
If you leave a comment, then others can join the conversation and, maybe, we’ll all feel less alone. But if you don’t want to leave a comment here, you can still tell me individually. Send me a text, an email, a postcard, whatever. I really, truly want to know what you think about this level of honesty.
2. Don’t treat me (or Sam) any differently. Just because you know these things about me, my fears, our marriage, I don’t want you to shy away from hanging out with us. We’re not fragile or breakable. We’re human, and we’re trying to figure things out.
Social media makes it too easy to gloss over problems, hardships, fears, and other socially-unacceptable topics. The reason why I’m choosing to share all this with you is that I want to be more emotionally honest with the world. I’m calling bullshit on pretending like everything is perfect when it isn’t.
I hope you’ll accept me for who I am instead of a polished, false version of myself. This is why I’m putting everything out into this space. Thank you for reading. Let’s start a conversation.