On Feeling Lost

I’ve been feeling a little lost lately. When I try to articulate it or explain it, it’s not too profound and even as I write this, I have no uplifting thing to say at the end about suddenly feeling so much better or really, any concrete or helpful advice for if you’re also feeling lost, so I’ve hesitated to write anything about it (or anything at all really—a sad by product of said lost feeling) for so long.

But this week, as Trump won the presidency, shocking and gutting so many of my friends and family so severely that it seemed impossible for so many of us to get out of bed Wednesday, I have come face to face with an even more intense lost feeling, one I imagine I’m not alone in feeling. I’ll at least try to say something, no matter how much it rambles, in the hopes that saying it out loud will connect with at least one other person who feels the same.

See, if you put so much of your faith, time, and passion into working towards specific and tangible progress and then are faced with the reality that it’s likely to all come crashing down (at least for awhile), you will feel devastated and utterly pointless. I’m not even someone who actually worked on Hillary’s campaign and yet I still mourn.

Will anything we worked for last? (Of course, but it’s hard to feel that now.) Is everything we know about campaigning completely worthless? (Absolutely not, but BOY have we got some learning to do). Does everyone around me in rural Georgia, and across the country, hate everything I value? (Definitely not, but more than I’d like to believe.) Where do we go from here? (Like, literally no idea).

So many people are talking about the work ahead, already taking steps to participate more fully in their democracy and I think that’s amazing. I also think that I am so fucking tired.

It’s hardly fair for me to say that. I’m only 28, I haven’t done a campaign since 2012 and though I have done many things to contribute to the work of my fellow progressives in the last few years, I’ve also prioritized living a full life—a life full of running and nesting and cooking and reading that I think I deserve—a life I think you deserve. I could take Tuesday’s wake up call as a chance to feel less lost—as a chance to sign up again for more of the incredibly hard work that organizers at all levels do across the country.

And that is certainly an option—one many inspiring and tireless people I know will do almost immediately. But the whole reason I’m lost in the first place is that I want to change people, reach people, help people, in the way I feel most passionate about, the way I feel drawn to—even if it’s something so many would see as useless.

My lost feeling started independent of the election about deciding what type of writing I wanted to pursue, how I would use it to contribute to the world and be a good role model for my future children while also feeling fulfilled and proud and like I’m doing what I want to do. I actually started to feel a little direction and then Tuesday happened. It took a feeling I already had—that the work I wanted to pursue wouldn’t make a difference—and made it even stronger.

While I was wallowing in this sense of confusion on Wednesday, my husband brought in Candide to read the end to me.

All you need to know about this book is that everything that could possibly go wrong to poor Candide does. At the end, Candide realizes how important it is in the face of an uncontrollable world to cultivate his own garden, to control what he can control, and to find happiness through doing so.

I really want to like that imagery, but I also recognize that at first sight, it can be challenging. If we all only worried about ourselves, nothing good would happen in the world.  But that’s of course not what it means. I may not be able to control the outcomes of my work, but I can control the work. Political organizers want organizing to work every time, but it won’t. You can’t control the outcome—you can just do the work.

In using this mindset to guide my way, I don’t particularly feel any less lost. I don’t know my next step and I’m scared of each one for its own frightening reasons. But if I know that somehow I want to write to resonate with people, to help people, to make someone feel more understood, more seen, and more valued, to use my writing to create small changes that will build to big impact, then all I can do is try—a little bit today, a little more tomorrow.

For today, I went back and responded to everyone who ever reached out to me from the dark internet to ask me for advice about their on-again/off-again relationship. It’s one of the coolest things to have your writing touch a stranger so much that they ask you for help. And I’ve been too scared to say the wrong thing.

But today, I mustered up my courage to do my best and write them back. And tomorrow, I’ll do my best again. I didn’t solve anything for the immigrants, Muslims, minorities, disabled people, LGBTQ people, women, and so many others who feel so frightened of our new president. And I hope that someday, what I contribute to the world will play a part in doing that. But until I know how, all I can do is what’s right in front of me. And I guess that’s the best I can do, the best we can all do.

I hope if you feel lost, you feel less so soon. But it’s okay to feel lost. It’s okay to not have the answers. I have faith that they’ll come someday, after many days of putting one step of control in front of the other.

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