About a year and a half ago, I realized that while I had been chasing happiness my whole life, what I really wanted was joy and fulfillment. Don Draper once said, "What is happiness? It's a moment before you need more happiness." That helped me notice that happiness is a momentary thing, yet joy is lasting and can lead to fulfillment. What I did not know was how well hidden depression can be, and I am hoping that finding some joy will help shed some light on the dark corners where it hides.
I am currently in a situation where I still do not know who I am, even at the age of 37. I believe that due to a combination of being a Gemini, along with having way too many interests, and growing up in San Diego where there are way too many things to do, I have a few versions of myself, and I do not know which is right for me.
What would be your advice on how to hold on to the things that could bring me joy, and shed those that will not? How do I deal with the conflicts that arise between interests? Where is that fine line between selfless and selfish so I feel like I am able to get "me" time without feeling guilty?
We live in an open world of a thousand different quests, exclamation points over a thousand different people, choices, and locations. RPGs may present a world where we can do everything, and get rewarded for trying to do everything, but in real life we have to make decisions. Writer/life coach Rae MacCarthy once told me "you can do anything, but not everything."
Read that again, pause to let it sink in a bit deeper: "You can do anything, but not everything."
It took me almost a year before I truly heard those words. I felt drawn to all the quests, and it took me a long time to understand: we only get so much time and energy; we have to make choices about how to spend it. This is hard, particularly for people who are open-minded and innately curious.
One of the joys of adulthood is that you are in charge of yourself. If you want to learn how to play a musical instrument, you can decide to do that! But you will have to set aside the time and resources. This might mean less gaming or less time watching TV shows; it might mean saying no to social events. But as you move your energy toward the new goal, you will be able to feel if it brings you joy or is robbing energy from something that brings greater joy. You'll have to be aware and present, though.
If some your interests are actively detracting from each other, then you will have to make a choice. This doesn't mean cutting something out of your life forever. You can always work things back into the mix in the future. Nothing is fixed and set for eternity.
Your brain is going to keep making the case for doing everything. It won't argue for everything all at once, but it'll cite specific reasons to hang on to this one thing, and then this other thing. It'll tell you that they are each worth doing, and you can to do it all. This is normal; some brains do this. Sometimes, it's because we are afraid of making the "wrong" choice or of missing out on a key life experience. Sometimes, it's because, even though it hurts to feel guilty all of the time, that pain is familiar, manageable.
As you point out, depression is great at hiding. Your depression is actively working to prevent you from truly diving into the things that you love, and it is utilizing other things you love as weapons. Not letting it do that will require a lot of work. A therapist or a coach can help you out, but you might also lean on supportive communities.
Humans are complex. When you are gifted, you can feel the discord between the complexity inside of you and the simplicity that society seems to require. Take comfort in knowing that plenty of people relate to this struggle. Not knowing who you are is absolutely normal. Even at 37. Heck, it is normal at 87. People spend their whole lives uncertain who they are, while being many, many things. In RPGs, there are optimal builds and you need to invest in certain stats, traits, and perks early. Reality, though, gives us a lot opportunities to change on a dime. It is far more generous if you want to switch your build part way through. Take advantage of it if it feels right.
My PMs are open if you want to talk things through further, and I'm sure you have a small army of forum members who are also willing to lend their ears to you.
If you have a question or quandary that you’d like to hear the Joyconjurer’s perspective on, email me at [email protected]. Please note: published letters may be edited for length and/or clarity.