Why Are Adults So Negative?

[Snark Warning, TMI Warning]

No, really, that’s a legitimate question. Why are people older than me–even by just a few years–so eager to put down all of my hopes and dreams?

Let me give a few nonspecific examples of Things Older People Have Said recently to me:

  • “You know, guys really don’t go for complex women.” (Women like me, that is, in the context of that conversation.)
  • “Oh, trust me, by the time you have a job, you’re not going to care about making a difference. It’ll just be about how you hate your boss and can’t wait to go home by the end of the day.”
  • “You’re never going to be successful if you don’t learn how to be pushy.”
  • “It’s going to be even harder to make friends after college, you know.”
  • “You’re gonna go for a PhD? You do realize how much work that is, right?”
  • “Psychologists don’t make that much money. You should try to get an MD instead.”

Perhaps you Well-Meaning Adults are all under the impression that I have excessively high expectations and need a Dose of Healthy Realism to prevent myself from getting disappointed later on. Perhaps you just don’t realize what weight your words can carry for someone who is younger and looking for someone to help them find their way.

Well, this might be news to you, but I have a mental disorder that basically means that my expectations are already unhealthily low. That’s what depression does. It robs you of all the hope and optimism you used to have. Every bit of genuine excitement that I have for the future is something I’ve worked very, very hard to muster up. And guess what you’re doing. You’re taking it away from me.

People. My disorder does a perfectly fine job of putting me down all on its own. It really doesn’t need any help from you. I don’t need to be reminded of how hard it’s going to be to make friends, get a job, find a partner. Trust me, I’ve been over this in my mind over and over and over again Many, many sleepless nights. I’ve been over it until I’ve cried my head off and wanted to kill myself. Really. I do not need your help.

You know what, I appreciate that maybe your life didn’t turn out the way you wanted. And that sucks. I’m sorry you have a shit job, I’m sorry  you have an awful time meeting people and dating. If you’d like, feel free to tell me about that. Or go tell a therapist. Or whatever. But your experiences do not give you the right to take my hope away from me. Especially when you’re some measly three or four years older! Jesus Christ! You’re still finding your own way. You’re not dead yet. At least wait till you get your own kids before you start dispensing your Divine Wisdom to someone else.

I’m seriously considering kicking these people out of my life, because as much as I’ve always believed that friendship with people older than me is important and extremely valuable, I can’t have these people making me feel crappy all the time.

Why does this happen? I think we have a cultural stereotype of young adults as exceedingly cocky, optimistic, and entitled. Well, guys, you know what they say about people who assume. First of all, as I’m pretty sure everyone I’m acquainted with knows, I’m not even from this country. Take everything you know about “American Young Adults” and toss it the fuck out, because I grew up with a different cultural background, one in which humbleness and realism are prized qualities.

Second, even supposing I were the most typical American girl you can imagine, you should still quit it with the damn stereotypes already. Everyone has their quirks and idiosyncrasies. Some people come from broken families. Some people grew up poor. Some people have a disability, maybe one you can’t see. Some people read a ton of books when they were kids. Some people grew up being bullied in school. Some people have depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, a substance abuse disorder, autism or Asperger’s, or some other condition. Some people are just plain different!

So throw out those silly magazine articles about “Today’s Entitled Bratty Self-righteous Cocky Inept Stupid Young Adults” and see what’s right in front of you. Some of us are just trying to get by. Some of us are just trying to scrounge up every last shred of hope we have and keep on living. Just because I’m young doesn’t mean I think it’s all rainbows and butterflies ahead. I work hard to keep my chin up. Don’t you dare take that away from me.

On Apathy and Being Cool

[TMI Warning]

I saw this on one of my favorite blogs, Thought Catalog, today. Sara David, the author of this post, uses American Apparel models (and models in general) to make a point about the aesthetics of indifference:

Like, I get it. You want to represent the “cool you” on your blog. The you that’s into pictures of topless, deadpan boys in the forest or a haunted house. But seriously? You don’t look jaded. You look ignorant. The world is shitty enough without your personal, tragic narrative of indifference.

Apathy isn’t something one should be proud of, and it isn’t something one should be striving for. Apathy is death. When I was at the lowest point of my depression, my apathy was all-consuming. Here’s the truth: it was terrifying. And I couldn’t stop thinking, “What if this is it? What if one day, I wake up, and realize that I never felt a thing?”

Playing pretend with your indifference is foolish and dangerous.

I couldn’t agree more. I’m saddened to see that what’s considered fashionable and “cool” is a way of living that, as Sara points out, those of us with depression have to work for years to avoid. How crazy is that? Think about it.

I encounter this on a much less serious level on a daily basis. Showing emotion is unacceptable. My classmates at Northwestern, all of whom are under as much stress as I am, work their asses off to avoid showing it. Because that wouldn’t be cool.

I have so much trouble making friends because I find apathetic, troublefree people boring. I find people who aren’t open about their passions, who don’t let me see their personalities, who act like nothing bothers them, boring.

For instance, here’s what some of my closest friends are like.

My best friend is a biology major. Basically every day he posts articles related to biology and the environment on his Facebook. He’s constantly sending me Wikipedia articles about some interesting species of octopus or squirrel or whatever. He gets so fucking excited about this stuff that I really don’t care much about, but have to admire anyway because of how much he loves it. He is half Japanese, and when the earthquake struck Japan recently, his Facebook page became a constantly-updating news feed of what was going on. He had no problem making it pretty damn clear how much he cared.

The first real friend I made at Northwestern is a tiny, adorable, painfully polite Korean American. And yet, when she’s stressed about something, she’ll come out with something like “MY JOURNALISM PROJECT CAN GO SUCK A DICK.” Anyone else would say, “Yeah, my journalism project is kinda hard, but it’ll work out!” I don’t want to hear that. I want to hear that you want your project to go suck a dick.

Another close friend of mine claims to hate humanity. He is a quintessential misanthrope–tall with unnecessarily long dark hair and glasses, usually unshaven, big Marx fan, always carrying around a copy of the New Yorker to read at dinner rather than talking to people,  and never hesitant to accuse you of behaving like a child or of being an idiot. He says that many people think he’s an asshole, but if that’s true, it’s better than being boring.

My newest friend lives in my suite. She is half Black and half Jewish and hilariously politically incorrect. When my previously-mentioned friend rants about Marx, she has no problem telling him to shut the fuck up. Unlike most people I’ve met here, she actually tells me about her life, even the parts that she’s not so happy with. She’s also one of the few people who tells me freely that she cares.

So these are the people I love. These people are interesting to me. Apathy, on the other hand, is not interesting. It’s fucking boring. It’s a testament to the fact that culture and fashion are so screwed up that being boring is supposedly synonymous with being cool.

I guess I’m the last person who should be giving advice on how to live, but if there’s one thing I know beyond a doubt, it’s that you should love your passions, nurture them, and share them with the world. Bring something new into the lives of the people around you. Don’t be like everyone else. Don’t be boring. Don’t stop caring. If you don’t care, you’re not really living.

No More Lonely Nights

[This was originally a Facebook note that I posted right before New Year’s Eve. It got a lot of positive attention so I figured I’d repost it.]

[TMI Warning]

Normally at this time of year, I like to write a long note about what I’ve accomplished during the past year, what it all means, what my New Year’s resolutions are, how my love life is progressing, all that type of stuff. New Year’s Eve is an important night for me for many reasons, most of all because it just gives me a great opportunity to reflect on how my life is going.

Ordinarily I make a list. A big long list. Everything will be on there–breakups, revelations, other transitions of various sorts. A lot of stuff has happened to me this year. A lot of it was important to me.

But I’m not going to make a list this year, because this year, there’s really only one thing that I want to write about. It’s the biggest, most important thing. This year, I recovered from depression.

Continue reading

On Ambition

I used to be what most people would call an ambitious person. That is to say, I knew exactly where I wanted to go in life, and it was a place that everyone respected. I was also willing to do everything necessary to get there–the perfect grades, prestigious college, and on and on.

What my actual ambition was doesn’t matter, because I had several phases that I went through. I remember at one point I wanted to be a psychologist. Then an architect, then a physicist, then a lawyer, then a statistician, then an economist, then a sociologist, and then, finally, a journalist. That was the dream that ultimately led to the breakdown of all the other dreams.

My parents were always very proud of me for being so ambitious, even if what I actually wanted to do was always changing. That, after all, was only natural, and it was clear to everyone that I had what it takes to get to the top of any field I chose. My parents were certain that once I started college, I’d immediately settle down with whatever major happened to be conveniently available to me and begin the process of climbing up the totem pole like a good little girl.

Well, what they forgot to tell me was that it’s pretty damn hard to be ambitious when you no longer know what the hell you want to do with your life. Journalism sucked, sociology might as well have been Political Correctness 101, and I’m terrible at science, so I picked psychology. But then I started having doubts. What if I’d make the most amazing computer programmer in the world? Or photographer, or novelist, or graphic designer, or architect, or engineer?

But all of these paths were closed off to me, because most of them don’t even have departments at my school, and those that do are special programs that one needs to apply for (much like my nemesis, journalism). Furthermore, I could no longer afford to take any more random classes if I wanted to graduate on time (which I must, given the cost of attending college). The uncomfortable truth was that you really can’t be whatever you want to be. If I wanted to study architecture or engineering, I should’ve thought of that earlier. But I didn’t, and besides, there was still no guarantee I’d like any of those, either. I was now, I realized, completely and inexorably stuck. And that’s when I lost my ambition–and my faith in myself.

I don’t know how, at 18 years old, I was supposed to just magically know what I want to do for the rest of my life. I certainly didn’t get any room for experimentation. I spent freshman year slaving away in the name of journalism and ended up choosing psychology because it seems to be the only subject I’m good at. But as for architecture and other subjects not even offered at my school, who knows? Maybe in a parallel universe, I could’ve designed a revolutionary green skyscraper or the next crazy-popular Apple gadget, or coded a new Google project or a better version of Windows. Not in this universe, though.

Life without ambition is a new experience for me. These days I couldn’t care less about my future. I don’t really try that hard in my classes, and I avoid internships like the plague. All I want to do is read books and lie by the pool. After all, if I’m going to get trapped into a life I never wanted anyway, why bother working hard for it? Might as well enjoy whatever freedom I have left.

If that seems nihilistic, well, most people hate their jobs. This is nothing unusual. I’ve just realized earlier than most people that all that bullshit they tell you about how any dream is achievable is really just bullshit. It’s really all just a matter of luck. Some people get lucky and happen upon the right calling, and others don’t.


Imagine for a moment spending five years of your life dreaming, and working for that dream to become a reality. You lose your mind studying, make sacrifices, and mentally torture yourself each time you mess up. And then your dream finally materializes.

That’s what I did. I wanted to go to Northwestern. I did everything and anything I could. Took classes I hated so much they made me cry, quit my favorite activity for a prestigious summer program, abandoned all attempts at having a social life, and studied till my eyes bled. And got in.

And then…then I got there. My dream school. Northwestern. I had a wardrobe full of purple and a heart full of hope. There I was, in the beautiful city by the lake and my top-choice college with its top-ranked journalism school. This was it. I was going to become better, meet new people, learn, grow.

And. I. Hated. It.

It’s taken me this long to admit it, but it’s the truth–I hate my dream school.

Don’t get me wrong. The classes are pretty interesting. The professors are great. The campus is gorgeous. Chicago is awesome. There’s a beach here. Food’s good. Blahblah.

But let’s face it. I fit in here about as much as an Eskimo in the Sahara. I don’t get these people and I don’t feel like a part of anything. I’ve tried and tried joining clubs, but I just don’t feel engaged.

I hate the horrible weather, and I hate the way people expect me to spend my weekends getting so drunk I throw up. I hate the cliques. I hate the people who post on College ACB, demeaning others, sometimes by name. (Don’t believe me? http://collegeacb.com/sb.php?school=NW) And the people who tell their girlfriends to dress better so their stupid frat brother friends will accept them.

I hate the way student organizations are really just glorified social clubs, and if you show up without a friend, you’ll leave without one, too. I hate the way nobody ever talks about what they’re learning. I never hear anybody being passionate about biology, English, anthropology, or physics. Just movies, TV shows, parties, friends, drinking. I hate the way nobody reads books unless they’re assigned for a class.

Now before someone posts on here telling me how wrong I am and how I’m just an antisocial nerd who needs to get out more, I know that there are plenty of exceptions to what I just described. There always are. But the fact is that the prevailing culture here accepts and embraces it, and people like me who don’t like it tend to stay quiet.

For once in my life, I thought I’d be happy. I thought it’d be wonderful to get something I’d worked so hard for. After all, the best part of dreaming is making your dreams come true, and that’s what I did. On my own. I was so proud of myself, for once. I felt lucky that out of so many people I knew, I was one of the few who actually got to go to their dream schools.

But I guess fate tricked me once again.

This isn’t my place. All that work was for nothing. Those sacrifices? Meaningless. All for a dream that I would soon grow to hate. It might’ve been good for my brain (though most days I’m not even sure about that), but it was awful for my soul.

Now I’m stuck in a place I don’t belong, and it’s all my fault. That’s what you get for dreaming. I should’ve just let things happen to me, sat by and gotten B’s, gone to Ohio State like a good girl. Then I wouldn’t have to face the humiliation of achieving my dream and hating it.

I don’t know what it is. Everybody loves college. Everybody loves Northwestern. Something’s wrong with me and I don’t know what it is or how to fix it. Maybe there’s a gene everyone but me has. Maybe some crucial part of my brain is malformed. Trust me, if I could just take a magic pill that makes me normal, I would.

I’ve pissed away my entire freshman year trying and failing to make this work. I lie every single time someone asks me how I’m enjoying my Dream School. I say it’s wonderful. It’s not.

But at least I’m almost a quarter of the way through this torture.

My advice? Don’t waste your time. I learned in my sociological analysis class that even the most sound theories should not necessarily be implemented as policy because there are, essentially, a million ways in which things can go wrong. Same goes for individual lives. I’ve hit on one of those million ways, and now I regret ever having dared to dream.

Now I know I can’t trust my instincts, and I’m wondering why I should even bother working hard when I inevitably end up hating whatever it is I worked for. In high school, which I couldn’t wait to get out of, I at least had friends and a loving family to come home to every day. College is like high school without those saving graces.

I realize already that if any Northwestern people saw this, they would probably comment all over this saying that I’m an idiot and how dare I post this and what the fuck is wrong with me. Don’t believe me? Check out the comment section of any opinion article on the Daily Northwestern’s website. Enthusiastic suppression of dissenting viewpoints is as much de rigueur on this campus as money and skinny jeans.

In the meantime, these endless lonely hours have led me to do some research. My new dream school has the nation’s number-one psychology department. It has a beautiful campus and beautiful weather. I’d never have to wear the ugly down coat I practically lived in this entire winter. My new dream school is known for its lack of a party scene and its preponderance of nerds–people like me. It’s located near a city that celebrates diversity and inclusiveness, not snobbism and pretentiousness.

But my new dream school is Stanford, and even if I managed to get in–1% acceptance rate for transfer applications–it’s much too far away.

And besides, I think I’ve learned my lesson about dreams.