Existential malaise: I has it.

Visual approximation of author having first world problems.
photo source.

I recently spent an afternoon catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. I had an awesome time and it was great to catch up. But, man, was it eye opening.

Here is a condensed version of our conversation:

Her: So here’s what’s going on in my dynamic and fulfilling career field where I’m a highly valued employee.

Me: I freelance sporadically. Some months I’m jealous of sweatshop workers’ wages and job satisfaction.

Her: And here’s what’s happening with my continuing education at a well respected and intellectually challenging graduate school.

Me: I volunteer in my four year old’s classroom once a week. There are no fear biters this year. I really appreciate that.

Her: I’d like to transition into the non-profit sector at some point so I’m sitting on the board of this great charity that helps underprivileged youth.

Me: Hold on a second… I need to stop my kid from taunting that really aggressive looking bird over there.

Her: I met this new guy who seems really great.

Me: Last night I made my husband watch Downton Abbey. He hated it and then we fell asleep on the couch.

Her: It’s just been a really great year and I’ve learned a lot about myself.

Me: Sometimes when I get a pedicure I bust out of my comfort zone and go with a deep red instead of a light pink.

My friend was very gracious and bursting with interesting things to say. I was bland and thoroughly unriveting. I love my husband, I love my kid, and on the whole I love my life but, man, do I need to start Carpe-ing the hell out of each Diem because right now my deeply held personal goals are stuff like “eat breakfast more regularly” and “tour kindergartens.” Mentally and emotionally I’ve let myself go to the point where my psyche is wandering around in muffin top inducing ragged sweats and only showering once a week.

There’s dedicating yourself to your family and then there’s losing yourself in the process. I’m afraid I’ve done the latter. Who am I aside from someone’s wife and someone’s mom? What exactly do I want out of life? I’ve got to find some meaningful answers to these questions and then do something with that information.

Hopefully soul searching in my thirties will require much less terrible music and black eyeliner than it did in my teens.

Have you ever had an existential crisis? How did you cope with it?


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  1. says

    I've felt like this – often. Always thinking somebody else is having more fun, getting out more, doing more interesting things – but at the end of it I realize I'm pretty much doing what I want to do, except for the sitting around in my pajamas all day part. I really want that part to happen.

  2. says

    I am in one right now as a matter of fact! And ironically, I have reverted back to the black eyeliner and terrible music of 25 years ago. The answers are not simple to what do I want out of this life, are they? But I take comfort in knowing I am not alone on my path. I so get this post and love it.

  3. says

    This happens to me about once a day. And weirdly, I've …also, gone back to the heavy eyeliner (albeit dark brown) and mascara. I'm not so thrilled about that now that I've made that connection. ;D Anywho, I deal with it a few ways. I'm a firm believer in, "you are what you eat", so first, I go out of my way to eat something I know has a mental upswing effect. Second, I

  4. says

    I had feelings like this a while back when a friend of mine seemed to have everything I had thought I had wanted. And there I was, just a mom, nowhere near those goals. <br /><br />But then I realized that I liked my life. And that while I didn&#39;t have the same things she had- she wasn&#39;t lucky enough to have the life I did, either. ;)

  5. says

    This is why I enjoyed my 40s more than when I was younger. As your children age, you once again find yourself or rediscover your identity apart from the role as mother. I have seen friends — mother of preschool and primary school children — who were close to clinical depression be saved by going back to work outside the home.

    • says

      It’s good to know it gets easier as the kid/s get older. Your point about working outside the home is really insightful. I feel like I need to really dig deep and figure out my goals and leave that option on the table.

  6. says

    I had this happened all the time when my children were younger. For a very long time, I lost my identity, and finally found myself again ..<br /><br />Thanks for coming by and following:-)

  7. says

    Terrific post! I really like the way you set up the conversation between the two of you…I love my new identity as a mom. I like my life and don&#39;t want to change it. The hard part is making it sound interesting to anyone else. This has put a strain on my relationships with friends. I can&#39;t blame them. I really don&#39;t want to tell them about my boring day either!

    • says

      Thanks! I like my identity as a mom too but feel like I’m losing the other parts. Who am I apart from a mother? Sometimes I don’t know and it freaks me out.

      It’s hard sometimes to talk about my days, even my interesting days. I firmly (and somewhat egotistically ;-P) believe I am interesting. But, man, do I not sound interesting at cocktail parties.

  8. says

    Big questions, aren&#39;t they? So much of our identities are wrapped up with our roles that sometimes it is easy to lose focus on the other things we are. When it happens to me, I try to think about things that make me happy and not worry about how my life looks to others.

  9. says

    I think a lot of women feel this way. I am lucky since I worked full time (was a VP) until I was 46 and now I stay home with the kids (16 and 9). I did it long enough that it&#39;s like an early retirement. Personally I think your job is harder and more important than what she&#39;s doing!

  10. says

    My kids will be four tomorrow, and I (and we) are starting to feel like we&#39;re getting our lives back a little. The key thing for me is acting selfishly often, because by taking care of yourself – doing things you like to do – you are able to take care of your family. Sounds cliche and trite, but it&#39;s a must!

    • says

      Happy belated birthday to your little ones! Self-care really is key in terms of taking care of yourself but also in modeling its importance to children.

  11. says

    Hi, Larks. I’m just catching up on your blog… and I can tell you what you are, in addition to being a wife and mother. You are a writer, and a damn good one. Admittedly, it would be nice to have something financial that reflects your awesomeness – but try not to let that imbalance invalidate how great you are at this. If I sound flippant right now, I’m actually totally serious.

    Of course, if you don’t love the writing, then that’s less of a help with regards to identity. But you write like you love it and it’s part of you… What do you think?

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