I spent a lot of yesterday feeling anxious and confused. I didn't get out of bed for a long time. I kept going back into bed. I observed I was covering my head a lot, even though it wasn't that cold. This told me that I felt like I was hiding from something. I didn't get any work done.
I feel that things are clearer for me right now, though the situation is harsher than I want to admit. Overall, things will take a lot of hard work and patience. I will get older. I will miss out on things that other people have that I might also want, because my life situation is different. This is true for everyone, but it's hard to find acceptance there when I'm also dealing with vague societal pressure to have a certain kind of success.
I have a bad relationship with hope, and I think I might want to change what it means to me. For me, hope is something like being optimistic about something happening, or optimistic about being able to affect whether something will happen.
I don't think that's quite the same kind of hope I hear about when I hear other, interesting people talk about hope. My version is a lot about expectation and control.
I don't have a good answer yet about what a better version would look like. I know that, "Who knows—maybe X will happen!" or "Don't worry—things will work out with Y in the end!" just don't work well. I tend to see a lot of disappointments in my life—things that so many people said would work out automatically, but didn't.
Sometimes people ask why things are as they are. How do I answer that? Even I find my life really strange. But I find everyone else's normal lives even stranger, full of things I've never experienced. I live in a place different from your baseline world, which you take for granted, which I argue you hardly understand yourself.
Anyway, going back to the idea about hard work and patience: I still feel like I'm only beginning to understand how that works in the real world and across the timescale of weeks, months, and years.
The real challenge comes in accepting what hasn't happened in my life, what doesn't happen, and not being afraid that certain things won't happen.
I often feel bad about how things went in my late teens and twenties. I racked up debt, didn't make money, didn't progress in my career, and didn't experience romance. I didn't study abroad, didn't graduate from college, got fat, and for the most part didn't have an offline social life. I still find explaining these things to people, when the subject comes up, to be both difficult and embarrassing. After all, all this came from lack of skills and mistakes.
When I experienced life change and I went for Japan, the disappointments of the past set up me up for new disappointments. I projected so many high hopes on all the things I could do, partly seeking to making up for the lack of things in my 20s and early 30s.
But I had no social connections to start, my communication skills were extremely limited, and I was always running out of money. I felt self conscious on a daily basis for not living up to the hype of such an unconventional move. I felt embarrassed that after such a long interval spent on language learning, I could only do so much. I knew that some people probably expected me to be living out my previous dream, which in some ways was true. But those expectations fed anxiety, and I'm still looking to make progress dealing with them.
In the fall, I threw what felt like all my conscious attention into my classes, but still really struggled. I didn't feel like anyone understood what the hell I was doing. Online university classes, or even an older adult returning to get an undergraduate education is Japanese people find odd. And I didn't interact much with my classmates, so it felt like I was suffering all that stress alone.
Now, I have switched to looking at the future, beyond our departure from Japan, and I do find I feel better. But taking in the reality—that it will take me several years more to make the kind of significant life improvements—leaves me with a sinking feeling.
I know I am very fortunate to be able to fix many of my mistakes, because it could be much worse. But it's hard not to think about my reference class of peers, people with something to show, in a social validated sense. In a few years I will in some sense be where they were when they were 25, but I will be 37. My hair is falling out right now.
I know, there are infinite ways to look at and reframe the situation. But emotionally, I keep falling into this trough that lines up with a lack of social validation for where I am and what I'm doing. I become bitter and loath to celebrate others' successes, because it highlights what I didn't/don't/won't have. Not having stuff makes it harder to connect to people, both because it's harder to relate, and because with fewer resources, it's relatively more expensive to get to where the people are at.
I'm stuck in the world of paradox. I can get better, I can make progress, and race ahead, but it seems that by the time I catch up, the tortoise will have already left me in the dust. Nothing to show.
I have one hint right now: that I must build intrinsic motivation working on the things that are important to me. Move a lot of the identity out of having and into doing. Not sure yet how to do that except by working harder, getting more immersed and involved—easier said than done, overall.