The struggle is real…
Tell me about it. It’s SO real, and no one wants to talk about it. Being an adult is hard and there really isn’t a lot of warning about it. We spend time in school analyzing the moral dilemmas Huck Finn faces, and sit in calculus with our heads spinning around derivatives and integrals. I don’t even know what that means and have not even uttered those words in twenty years. Not once though did a teacher sit me down and say, let’s talk about compounding interest and managing debt. Or listen, the truth about parenting is that it’s HARD AF, so think long and hard about what it will be like when your baby barfs in your mouth or cries for 22 out of 24 hours before you forego the condoms.
It’s like a big scary secret, the struggle. So, we grow up constantly looking ahead and forward to adulthood like it’s wonderland. And when we get here, it’s real, and we can’t even talk about it without shaming ourselves or someone else shaming us for even admitting there is a struggle. GUYS! Why are we pretending shit isn’t hard?! Why are we putting on fake smiles and telling Facebook we have the most perfect life there ever was, only to cry minutes later because “perfect” is so damn overwhelming. Can we just get real with each other here for a few?
Let me tell you about the last twenty years of struggle in my life. Also, to be clear, this is not whining and it’s not me looking for sympathy. This is honesty and vulnerability so we can shatter the immaculate perception that life is not a grind sometimes.
At 18 I realized anxiety medication would be a part of my daily life after losing a friend to suicide a couple of years before, and never processing in my adolescent brain how something like that could happen. To this day, panic attacks can come from nowhere and bring me to my knees as I feel like someone is tightening their grip so hard around my throat that I might black out.
In my mid-twenties, I quit a job I loved and left my friends and family to move five hours away. It took about 5 years to feel like I wasn’t an outsider, an intruder, at my new job, and another 3 to really have relationships with people that I could call friends. I never referred to my new town as home, I knew no one. In the meantime, the isolation at home was even worse and I had never felt more alone in my life. I told no one. I was tough, things were fine, I’ve got this handled.
I had kids then, the second was a surprise and at first not a welcome one. My son wasn’t even sleeping through the night yet. It took me two weeks to come to terms with it and then I realized I was excited, another baby. But I was the only one. There were two literal months of silence at my house when I announced our 9-month-old would have a sibling. In that time, I gave up. I became broken and was changed. My love was gone, I had just enough for my kids and only my kids. None for me or anyone else. I hid inside myself.
What followed was an avalanche of threats, insults, and broken promises all around. Part of my struggle was fear and an even bigger factor was my lack of confidence. The only role I felt capable in was as a nurse in the chaos of an emergency room. That, of all places, was my calm. I knew what to do there. But things happened there, infants were lost, disrespect and abuse from patients was common, and I took care of new friends and their families who didn’t all make it out. I can’t even write of the loss now without instant sadness and grief.
I am not going to get into the struggle of the personal hell of my divorce. Anyone that has gone through it knows how incredibly difficult it is to see someone you once loved become your adversary. And that pales in comparison to managing the crumbling of your kid’s lives as they knew it.
So, the struggle. It is there. It goes on in my life and yours. It can always be worse, but it is there. It comes in waves and there are times in our lives when we feel like that’s all we have. We need to talk about it. We need to consider what someone is going through when they are being an asshole. We need to see through our friend’s and family’s bullshit, and help them see the struggle is not something to be ashamed of but to get to the other side of. With our help. Be the example. Stop pretending you got this. Get over yourself. Share the struggle in hopes that it helps someone else get through. The struggle is real, you should be too – so own it, acknowledge it, dominate it, and get up and show that struggle who is boss!