Dual Existence

5 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.
DSC_6227 Taken in Venice, Italy

As I'm writing this, my roommates' peals of laughter echo from one room down the hall. All 5 of them are in the same room, having what sounds like the time of their lives.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting in my room alone with nothing but Adventure Time on Netflix, writing this article and catching up on other blog posts I missed this weekend, resisting the urge to stick my head in and ask what's up. Desperate to include myself in what may be a bonding moment.

But no. I remind myself that this is what I'd rather be doing and chug on happily, all discomforting thoughts banished from my mind.

We often live a kind of dual existence, I think, that detracts from our overall quality of life. Frequently caught between what we're expected to like (not missing out on roommate bonding experience) and what we would actually rather like (blogosphering).

Sometime during sophomore year, at the peak of my unhappiness, I was very aware of two separate entities of my experiences. One was what I wanted to do against all logic, the other was what I was supposed to be doing.

Now, although you may read that sentence and think, well, yeah... I deal with that all the time. Split between work and play, right? No, it's not the same thing. I'm talking about emotional health. What you would rather be doing/what you are feeling if you grew up in a bubble and what society says you should be doing and feeling.

Going back to sophomore year of college, I was very unhappy. I spent most of my weekends inside in bed catching up on my favorite shows and watching movies, I spent most of my credits on classes that were pre-pharmacy requirements, and most of all, I spent time away from people—almost to the point where I was avoiding everyone but my roommate (who is one of my best friends today).

I didn't feel bad about doing any of those things. Because that's what I wanted to do. That's what made me happy during a time when my vision was clouded with depression.

No, what made me feel bad was the impression that I was doing something wrong. I should be going out all the time and getting shit-faced every weekend. I should be finding a lab job so that it would look good on my medical admission. I should be making 56 friends a day and my phone number should look like I copied all of Yellow Pages into it.

The more I felt bad that I wasn't finding happiness in doing the things that I should be doing, the more those things weighed me down. The more I dreaded having to do them. The more tired I felt. The more I spiraled.

But where did I get these ideas from?

This "state of being" can manifest itself in different ways. But the most prominent is socially, which I will be mostly focusing on. Also because the state of being was all too recently felt.

There are many sources of this duality, the first one being social networks. I don't know about you, but I feel like a lot of people are addicted to this kind of self-validation of their life. That they want everyone, despite what's really going on, to believe that they're living the best life EVER.

Social networks are basically the peer pressure that never quits. You can't just go home and escape the little cigarette butts being shoved at your face. You can't run away from something that doesn't have a tangible, physical presence.

DSC_8148 Taken in the Swiss Alps

But we shouldn't have to quit what is now how most people are social. We just have to moderate how social networks affect our perceptions. Accept yourself as different. Accept that you don't find joy in things that a majority of people do.

I, for one, cannot stay up past 12 AM. Yes, I am nearing my fourth year in college. No, I don't buy into the whole romanticized sleep deprived college experience. That shit's not romantic or fun. It's exhausting and I don't believe it's necessary as long as you learn time management. Fun fact, the roommate that's now my best friend? She has about a 3.5 GPA in Biochemistry and she gets at least 7 hours of sleep every night.

The second one cause of unhappiness when you shouldn't be unhappy is how heavily your wants weight against your should-bes. Try to keep a track record of how often you follow the expected path and wind up jaded or disappointed in the experience.

For example, if I'm not in a certain sociable mood, almost 80% of the roommate bonding experiences that I thought I shouldn't miss out on sucked. For both me and them. Forcing myself to go pre-med sucked. It's because it's not what I really wanted to do; I would've rather spent my time reading some romance novel in my room alone or spending time writing English theses.

We all need time to ourselves every now and then. We all need to spend more time fulfilling wants more than expectations. I just prescribe myself more so than usual. And, by taking these moments to recuperate, I'm able to really be fun when I am in the mood. Less, but hugely memorable moments always overshadow a consistent mediocrity.

Many times, we find ourselves continuing down one "should-be" path even when the distance between the "should-be" path and the desired path is becoming larger. And what's holding us back from going back to where those two intersect? Well, going back. Nobody likes moving backwards in life, especially when things are supposed to be getting better.

But then, there are those words again: supposed to be. 

We, as a society, have to stop thinking of life in such concrete terms. No one lives the same existence—and why should you? What makes you happy doesn't necessarily makes others happy. You might be the only person in the world that likes to soak your PB-banana sandwich in seawater before eating them. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't. 

The minute that I stopped thinking that my college years should be the happiest I've ever been and the best years of my life, I started enjoying it more. And it's because I've molded the experience to fit me, it didn't mold me to fit it.

Similarly, don't expect happiness to come out of a mere situation, like a job promotion or a certain status. Happiness should always come from within, from self-motivation. As a result of a desire.

What about you? What are your thoughts? How do you balance what you want and what you're expected to be?

For more, check out my blog at Mishfish13