Posted by fxckfeelings on May 18, 2017Share This Post
It’s hard not to take it personally when your country’s leaders represent values that you despise, making you feel obliged to both renounce all they represent and responsible for making things better. After all, you are expected to make sacrifices for your country, but if you can’t make sacrifices for new national goals you don’t believe in, it’s hard to decide whether to give your all to getting your country back or getting out of Dodge and leaving the leadership to self-destruct. Whether you’re describing personal problems or national ones, however, it’s never fair to hold yourself responsible for righting wrongs that are beyond your control, especially when doing so distracts you from your actual responsibilities. It’s important then to remain in touch with the responsibilities you actually control so you can keep your head up and be proud of doing your best to be a good person, even if you feel your country is headed down the toilet.
A year ago I knew what I wanted to do for the next 30 years, but then, after a series of challenges, including a re-valuation of my nine-year romantic partnership and Donald Trump getting elected President of the United States, I don’t know what I want to do next. I want to get as far away from my current life as possible as it’s based heavily on the American Dream (TM)—I just bought a house and I own my own business with my spouse, and it’s a decent life, at least hypothetically, even with the financial stress of a large amount of debt. But after America made a really bad choice, I don’t want to have anything to do with the country, its ideals, or its empty commercialized promises. I don’t want the American Dream, or even to live here. I’ve never fit in well and now I realize just how mismatched my entire life philosophy is with American culture. Maybe this shouldn’t be a traumatizing experience, but I’m having serious trouble shaking this off— I am a planner without a plan, I don’t know my purpose, and I’m still trying to work through anger at the people who voted for the current President, many who are my friends and family. I want to move out of the country partly just to say “fuck you all, you voted for him and now you never get to see us because we live on the other side of the Earth.” Now, I think once I get out of this hole I will be better for it, with a more complete view of myself and my place in the world, but I’ve been struggling to get out of this hole for months now and not seeing any progress. I take meds for chronic depression but this is a serious dip even for me. My goal is to find a smart sensible plan, even though I’m depressed as fuck, everything feels meaningless, and all I really want to do is get away from my life and the American nightmare.
While the American dream, the president, and the entire universe may seem like bullshit, it’s important not to lump your own dreams in with this particular clusterfuck. After all, if you worked hard, found a partner, and sustained a positive relationship for nine years in spite of running a business together, seeing that as the result of “the American Dream” instead of a remarkable success by any measure and in any nation is selling yourself, your marriage, and all your accomplishments short.
After all, your goal all along wasn’t to meet some mythical, nationalist dream but to make a living, try to do something useful and be a good, honest, decent person in the process. You’ve made it work because of your own standards and commitments, so don’t cheapen your achievement by linking it to other people’s image of success or current national leadership.
Admittedly, it’s hard not to have negative thoughts if you’re upset by Trump, suffer from depression, or are having a problem in your partnership. Negative thoughts will tell you that you’re helpless, that all your good efforts to make yourself happy and build a safe and secure life have failed or are based on a lie, and that, since you’re likely the only one who sees this world for the toilet it is, you have nothing in common with everyone around you, especially those who voted to take your country in what you view as a scary, not-good direction.
Those thoughts, however, are fake news, disseminated by the propaganda machine that depression runs in your head. Your efforts to build a good life were, indeed, excellent, but you never had the power to protect yourself from helplessness, personal conflict, or the cycles of craziness that all countries seem to experience. You have no right then to consider yourself a failure; life sucks, people make sucky choices you can’t control, and you just happen to be living in shitty times.
Instead of concluding that the life you’ve built is a mistake, return to the values that motivated you in the first place. Not the wish to live a country’s dream, but the goal of becoming an independent person, gaining financial security, and finding a partner who could improve your chance of building a meaningful life. Then ask yourself whether you’ve made a good effort to pursue those goals, regardless of how similar they are to a clichéd national ideal or whether you’ve achieved them or the happiness you hoped they’d bring.
Apply the same standard to evaluating the success of your romantic relationship. Don’t overvalue loving feelings or your ability to enjoy one another’s company and talk all the time, but do ask yourself whether you’ve found someone whom you can respect, work with, and rely on. Consider whether this is someone who shares your values, still captures your interest, and can help you build a decent life.
Then turn off the TV, log off of Facebook, and continue to pursue your basic goals. Don’t devalue what you’ve built, whether it’s material, social, or marital, just because you’re unhappy or because it glows with success in a country that you currently don’t agree with and can’t make sense of.
Instead, rely on your basic values to guide your judgment of what’s worthwhile and good for you. Then act according to that judgment, and not because you’re feeling tortured by fear, doubt, and disappointment. The world will never be fair or secure, but that should never stop you from working hard to build strong partnerships and a decent life and achieve your own dreams, regardless of who’s president or where you reside.
“Everything I hear on the news drives me crazy and I have good reason to worry about where my life is going, but what I do to make life better for my family and the people I actually know and live with is much more important than whether I feel happy, secure and optimistic. I will continue to pursue the same goals regardless of misgivings, worries, and setbacks because they’re still worth it and making a good effort is the only thing I control.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname