I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately. A lot more than usual. Big ones and small ones and silent ones ping-ponging around in my mind and I can’t seem to stop them. (Much less answer them). Questions about purpose and people and God and creation. It all just seems too big these days. Like I just woke up and nothing made sense anymore. Very existential crisis. A little too dramatic for my taste – the hardest person to be annoyed with is yourself.
So I’m just trying to survive it all. Drink water, use correct punctuation in my emails. Call my grandmother on my drive home. Make real food to eat on a real plate. Fall asleep reading a book. The simplest things seem to bring the most comfort when the jagged complexities of life and faith and emotion are clawing at your insides.
I commute about an hour both ways every day and I’ve turned to podcasts to help make it bearable. One of my favorite programs is called Mortified. It’s essentially a group of adults who get on stage in front of strangers and read various diary entries they wrote in high school and college. It’s exceptional. Hilarious and a little heart breaking because it reminds you of just how hard it is to be a human. I highly recommend it to anyone who is into podcasts. And certainly anyone with questions.
The tag line of Mortified plays at the end of every episode and is said with such empathy and resolve that I cried the first time I heard it. “We are freaks. We are fragile. And we all survived.”
It’s perfect and poignant and beautiful. I only hate it because I wish I had written it first.
I think it’s pretty unfair that we are forced to live with our own brains when we’ve never had the opportunity to experience someone else’s. I’ve spent a lot of time questioning whether or not I am crazy. A lot of time analyzing and re-analyzing thoughts that I have to try to decide whether or not they are “normal.” I think the majority of the reason I love to write is because it gives me the chance to ask, “am I the only one like this?” and then consider the implications if the answer is yes.
But the thing is, while I have no empirical data to actually back this up, I think if we got to spend a few minutes/hours/days in someone else’s brain, we wouldn’t feel quite so isolated when it gets scary and loud in our own. I have to believe that other people are walking around questioning a lot of the same things I am. What’s the point of all this? Why do my emotions do things my brain would never tell them to do? Am I supposed to know what I’m doing with my life?
One of the most recent episodes I listened to was about a girl working through her first real heartbreak and trying to figure out college at the same time. She was 18 and wrote like a member of the Babysitter’s Club, but the emotion behind her words was so heavy I just wanted to hug her. “Why is this happening?” “How am I supposed to know what to do?” “Why doesn’t anyone understand me?” And all being read by the now 40-something year old version of that girl who laughed at the overly dramatic teenager she once was.
And yet there was something so striking about the honesty in her questions that it made me feel like I knew her, or that I am her. It’s that bleeding vulnerability that makes you cringe a little in the moment and then walk away with the aftertaste of familiarity. I’m not alone in posing big, seemingly over-dramatic questions about life. I’m not the only one who has no idea what the hell is going on. I’m not the only one having trouble not knowing what is next for me. I’m not the only one confused.
Maybe it’s silly to find comfort from an 18-year old’s diary. It’s not the first time teenage angst has comforted me way past the time I was a teenager. (I’m not saying I have tickets to a Dashboard Confessional concert this summer, but I’m not saying I don’t.) But maybe teenage angst is the exact same thing as adult angst, we just hadn’t yet learned that we’re supposed to cover it up. We hadn’t yet been conditioned to fake like we know what we’re doing.
It’s hard being a human. And even harder when you have to pretend like its easy. The questions may be different at 18, 25 and 40, but the need to ask them is the same.
We are freaks. We are fragile. And we all survived.
We’re not alone in the not knowing. Let’s not be alone in the asking, too.