The anxiety of life

I haven’t written a public post since August. I apologize for this – ever since the day I decided to move to that dastardly co-op, I haven’t felt like I’ve had enough time to write here.

Though this is not an excellent time to write at the present moment (as the novel coronavirus pandemic has just struck the United States, sparking a major recession), I should focus on a holistic point of view.

Partly due to anxiety, about a third of my time has been consumed by indecision than doing actual work. Should I take the online quiz now, or study more? If I keep on like this, will I make an A in the class? Should I eat dinner now, or in an hour? Will I be able to finish this assignment on time if I postpone it for tomorrow? Should I try to open conversation with this girl? Do I look good?

But most importantly, am I making any progress in life?

In some sense, yes: I am nearing completion of my computer science degree, which I will be able to finish one semester early. My finances are in very good shape, and last November, I was even able to begin investing in stocks. My third internship is slated to occur this summer, with even rent fully paid for by the company.

Yet I am fully consumed by anxiety and cynicism: cynical over humans’ systematic self-centeredness (including how I will inevitably fall victim to it myself) and anxious that I will be unable to find fulfillment in life, I find no easy solutions and find myself like a dog paddling vigorously in the water to stay afloat. The exertion turns out to be counterproductive, exhausting one’s efforts when one can remain afloat simply by lying down on the water.

I have defined my metric for life progress as my most difficult challenge: what is the size and quality of my retinue – how many friends have I gained the privilege of having? Who would actively stand behind me and what I believe in? The logic goes that if I can maximize this – if I can finally feel like I am enjoying the adventure of life together with other humans, instead of feeling like I am fundamentally in conflict with them – then will I consider my life purpose to be at least partly fulfilled.

But in reality, I use this metric as an excuse to compare myself to others. When I see others flourishing in social settings, I degrade myself because it seems they can find connection more easily than me, and therefore they have made better progress in life than me. They even go as far as finding girlfriends and boyfriends, leaving me to try to convince myself that I do not need any of those things because they are unattainable for me.

The frustration is that it is typically at around the end of the academic year when my social life finally begins to gain traction, and so the vine of grapes is lowered to an attractive and reachable level. Perhaps I am able to reach and take a few grapes of consequential friendships and events, but by the time these things occur, summer arrives and the vine is taken away. During those months I become delirious, craving social events that perhaps may lead to the discovery of a great friend or an adventure that will never be repeated.

The opportunities are there, but by the time I see them, they are missed. This is the crux of a social anxiety that has marred me for the majority of my life: in an attempt to recognize opportunities, I become paralyzed in indecision, wondering what will lead to the most consequential outcome. In the end, I take no drastic move, nothing happens, and I sulk around waiting for the next opportunity to come.

It’s perhaps because I am desperate for immediate, radical success that causes me to pursue only the most ambitious opportunities.

In summary, despite my objective, external successes, I am growing more and more discontent with my life, but do not know of a way I can gradually cause change in my life in order to dissipate this discontentment.

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