Advice I Wish I’d Listened To (and other lessons learned)

Growing up always seemed like a grand adventure. Television made it look like you’d never be lonely, falling in love would be fun and easy, and the worst thing that could happen is you miss a credit card payment and get an angry letter in the mail. As a child I would look upon twenty-somethings like they had their lives together, and was adamant that growing up would be the best thing ever. Now, as a twenty something I look at photos of myself in little fairy dresses, climbing trees without a care in the world and I find myself thinking “I’d give anything to be that young again; Or thirty. I’ll settle for being thirty. Surely life will be better at thirty.” I find myself saying out loud “Man, I wish I’d listened when I was told ____”. Of course, a lot of lessons have to be learned through experience. Here, however, are three lessons I’ve learned and believe could have been taught, had someone just been bothered to tell me.

Lesson 1: You’re not the only one. 

The whole western world is rife with the incessant need to be anything other than who we are, where we are right at this moment in time. Which, strangely, I find rather comforting. It is so easy to be completely self-absorbed and believe you are the only person who doesn’t have their shit together. It’s been prevalent for years with the common phrase “Am I the only one who…?” No. No you’re not. Which is why you’re starting your sentences like that; Because you know you’re not the only one- you just want the smug satisfaction of bringing it up.
“Am I the only one who spreads butter on my toast before peanut butter? omg #crazy #someonestopme”

As conceited as it is, I get it. It’s nice to know you’re not the only weirdo in the ward. There’s something oddly comforting about being part of a group of people who put butter before peanut butter on their toast (or whatever your thing is). We are not solitary creatures, and you need to be reminded that no, you’re not the only one. This goes for really big life events too. As the only single person in a sea of married couples with children, I often wonder what I did wrong. Why don’t I have a life partner? Why don’t I want one? Why don’t I want kids? Am I the only one who feels this way? Of course I’m not. I’m slowly meeting people who hold the same views as me. I’m being constantly reminded that the people I compare myself to are doing the same to me. I’m not alone in thinking the things I do, and you’re not either.

Lesson 2: Anxiety and Depression are real, and they suck. 

I spent most of my childhood and teen years overly confident. I was good at anything I applied even a modicum of dedication to, and I knew it. Anxiety and depression were rarely talked about and it had never occurred to me that they would be something I’d experience. As I got older I started encountering people who’d self harm, or take drastic measures against themselves with reckless abandon and I could never understand why. I was told from society, even teachers, that it was attention seeking and to be ignored.

Here’s the thing: It’s not attention seeking, and it absolutely should not be ignored. Depression and Anxiety need to be talked about. The people struggling through this already shitty life with those additional burdens need to be reminded they are not alone and there are support networks. When I hit my twenties, my life started going in a very different direction than I’d ever dreamed it would and now, at late twenty something, I have depression and anxiety and it is bollocks.

Trying to explain what it is like to live with Depression or Anxiety to someone who has never experienced either is like trying to explain Portuguese grammar to a dog. No matter how colourful (or bleak) a picture you paint, they can’t understand. However, if you mention to someone who has experience with either/both, you see the look of understanding. You feel the presence of a knowledge deeper than words can express and it make life a little less lonely. Talking about your feelings, your anxiety, what has triggered a depressive episode is important. Because it is real, and it really sucks.

Lesson 3: Life is fucking hard.

Life is full of ups and downs. Anyone who tells you life is a beautiful brightly coloured balloon of happiness all the time is full of shit and they need to be told to sit down and shut up. Life is hard. Some people make it harder than necessary, but we live in an age where we are tethered to our technology. Not 20 years ago, people could leave their work at work and live life outside the office. Now, we have our works on a tiny high powered console in our pockets. We are slaves to the bills we get on a weekly basis. We are required to work longer hours for less money to pay for basic things like groceries.

I’m lucky enough to live in Australia where it is against the law to cut water supply to a residence. Here, water is a basic human right. However electricity is not a right. groceries are not a right. Netflix is not a right (no matter how much we all wish it was). All these things have to be paid for- which requires working. Thanks to our wise and considerate governmental leaders, it is now infinitely harder for young people to get stable, full time employment. Let’s not even mention trying to get savings, or buy a house.

A lot of the people I know who have full time jobs and careers have a second job on the side to try to bolster income to be able to live a standard life. Teachers have etsy stores. Specialised diamond sorters are waitresses on weekends. Academics are sex workers. It’s pandemonium as we all scrabble to fill the few well paying jobs available, and even then the requirements are a degree and four million years experience in one specific niche field. It’s almost impossible.

And through all this we have to maintain some semblance of social contact with those around us otherwise we go crazy. It’s hard. There is no such things as balance and everyone is struggling through this. But at least we get to struggle together and comfort each other when we need to.

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