Not Even Money Can Buy My Happiness

Let me go on record by saying that I have no right to be depressed. There are thousands who have lost their houses or lives in Japan, civil wars killing people daily in Libya, the Ivory Coast, and around the world. Meanwhile, I have a job with pay that comfortably puts me in the upper middle class. I’m healthier than most, and all-in-all leading a good life.

But I still feel empty. My problem is largely cognitive. It is feeling both that I am completely out of control of my life, that time is flying by too fast, and too slow, and that I have no purpose, no place I’m headed towards, just lots of time to waste until I get older and eventually die.

Ok, so if that’s the way I think, no wonder I’m depressed. I really want to change my thoughts — to be grateful for all I have, the priceless moments, unexpected, that make it worth living another day. This is not to say I’m suicidal — I’m not. I’m just wondering how to take my life from watching the days go by to making the days matter.

The highlights of my life right now would be the few nights a week I go over to my boyfriend’s freestanding structure he lives in, and to feel his soft warmth wrap around me. I’m so amazingly lucky to have him in my life, even though in pure personal finance blogger logic he’s probably the “wrong” decision, or at the very least not the best decision. But he’s the only part of my life that makes me feel some form of happiness.

Still, that isn’t enough. I was talking to my “life coach” the other day during our weekly Skype call, and as always she asked me “what do you want to work on today.” Instead of the short-term things… cleaning, exercise, waking up early, etc, I wanted to get at the root of all my problems — my lack of direction, this looming cloud that makes me paranoid about not having enough money, yet not even knowing what enough is… and if I had it, if I could enjoy it, or how I would enjoy it.

Other than going out to dinner, and occasionally a play, my boyfriend and I don’t do anything that costs money. Even if we had money, even if we had a lot of money, I doubt that would change. I still don’t  understand how I lived my childhood, but being terribly depressed the only thing that ever gave me some level of contentment was shopping, and buying a ridiculous amount of clothes. Not designer clothes or anything, but nice clothes from the juniors department at Nordstrom. And a lot of them, often spending $700 or more on one shopping trip. My mom never stopped me, she only encouraged this, forcing me to buy the items that fit in every color they were sold in. As much as this was ridiculous, it was my escape from the rest of the world. Shopping, quite frankly, was the only thing in my life that made me feel happy. It was my drug, my rush.

It’s still a guilty pleasure, though for better or worse I’m uncomfortable with my weight, so now I dislike shopping for clothes. I rarely go to the mall, which is a good thing, and when I do go I almost feel violently ill looking at the price tags on all the items I want to buy. And still, the happiest I’ve felt lately is the time I’ve escaped on my own to the mall… even if I don’t buy anything, just grabbing a bunch of cute outfits in my size and trying them on makes me… happy? Well, I don’t know if that’s really happiness. It’s pretty pathetic. I don’t like shopping with other people, it’s something I have to do by myself. It’s an art, it’s a dance, it’s the only time I have to really look at myself, to see how my body has changed, how I’ve put on even more weight in my stomach, hips and thighs, and how many new lines on my forehead have developed.

I’ve become obsessed with money in a new way. Not in spending my parent’s money, but in saving my own. But lately I’ve been wondering — what am I saving for? Not that I need an answer to that — having money saved is better than having no money saved… even if you never spend it, it’s good to have in case you get sick and can’t work, or if you need the money for any other reason. And there’s the whole concept of retirement — slave away now so if you make it to 65 or 70 you can spend your “golden years” spending your money or something like that… will I ever even want to retire?

This post may be long and rambly, but it captures exactly how I feel right now. It’s a full-blown quarter-life-crisis of a socially anxious extrovert with no direction. It’s also being 27 and wondering if I will ever have kids, get married, how my mindset will change if I do… at least with kids making and spending money won’t always feel so selfish. Then again, I can’t even imagine myself having kids — not with my bipolar II, not with my emotional instability. And I’m scared I’ll convince myself I shouldn’t have kids, and then will be angry at myself later when it’s too late.

Overall, though, I miss having things to look forward to. I don’t really have many friends, and the ones I do have are always busy performing in shows. My boyfriend will generally go places with me if I plan it and give him a few day’s notice, but while I like to be social, he doesn’t. And I run out of ideas of what to do… we always end up going out to eat, getting fatter, and spending too much money. Occasionally we take a walk or even go for a bike ride (which I enjoy), but I want social events to look forward to… I think most people have that, don’t they? Do you?

I don’t think I’m being completely unrealistic in wanting this. So many others find things to absorb themselves in that create a schedule of things to look forward to — ie, following a particular musician or sports team. That’s not really my scene, and I always thought it was silly to follow a sports team so obsessively when you have nothing to do with if they win or lose. What else can I do? I don’t have time to do community theatre with my job, and that’s really the only other thing I’ve been able to look forward to, giving me something separate from work that holds a significant weight of importance.

When my life coach asked me what I look forward to now, I racked my brain, and the only thing I could think of were things related to work. Nothing else. She thought that I needed something else to look forward to, but what? It’s not like I need something big, just little things… as life is really becoming a run-on sentence with childhood and adolescence becoming a distant memory, yet adulthood not seeming present either. I’m stuck in this bland in-between, where the only thing that matters is making out my IRA and pouring as much money as possible into stocks and ETFs and mutual funds so that I might have an inkling of a chance to achieve… what? A large house? A small house? Do I even want to buy a house… ever? What am I saving for? I miss the days. I miss the sun. I miss having control of my time. I’m depressed because, unless I can figure out another way, I don’t have that control until I’m 65, and I’ll spend the next 40 years trapped by my need to build my future nestegg, and sacrificing all the dreams I had for my life… to do something creative and exciting… and instead to be, well, responsible, chained to my work, work that is well paid and by many definitions a really great job, but regardless work that still steals away the daylight, steals away the time to feel alive.


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