Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The pandemic is making me rethink how I feel about ... everything. My marriage, my career, whether I want kids or not, where I want to live. Part of me thinks I am just giving into a fantasy because there's obviously not much else going on, but part of me thinks that when I strip everything I thought I "had" to do, be and achieve, there lies some actual potential. How do I know I'm just not gaslighting myself into thinking I want to change everything about my life?
Hi Change Pending!
Well, you definitely aren’t alone in your thinking. I have a lot of questions for anyone who looks back at the last 11 months and says, “This was a really wonderful year and I have no complaints!” I mean, really, does anyone feel that way? I would venture to guess not.
Everything feels bad right now. Unfortunately, everything has been feeling bad for a long time and the light at the end of the tunnel that may have felt brighter as 2020 came to a close has suddenly felt a lot dimmer lately. I can relate to that. I don’t think I've personally felt this sad since last spring. I can’t put my finger on why, and I am guessing from your question that you can’t either.
Everything feels so (for lack of a better word) stupid. We have to answer work emails? In a pandemic? Are we supposed to just pretend that things are normal? Who cares? I find myself thinking that over and over again, day in and day out. When I talk to my closest friends, they confide in me that they feel the same way. We have been staring at the walls for a year. If you've been following CDC guidelines, then you have been isolated from your loved ones and your favorite activities and the things that make you feel like yourself for a year. For a year! We aren’t supposed to live like this.
Google “pandemic wall” and you’ll see most of the articles about this phenomenon were written in the last two weeks. The feeling is universal: We are out of gas. We are hungry. We are bored. We have so little to look forward to, and January and February are depressingly cold and dark even in normal times.
I don’t think you’re gaslighting yourself at all. Why? Well, it’s no wonder you’re imagining a new, different, happier life. Life is depressing right now! I bet part of what you’re imagining in this brand new life is, you know, being able to do something without a mask on or having dinner indoors with an old friend or doing something exciting like traveling or going to a concert.
Realizing you’re unhappy with your relationship or career is totally valid. It’s important to critically consider what exactly is making you unhappy. If they're things that could be solved by being able to share experiences outside of your home with your spouse or being able to go to the office and see your colleagues in person, it’s probably the "pandemic wall" talking.
Could this past year be highlighting some of the reasons why your job or your spouse may not be a good fit for you anymore? Yes, absolutely. If that’s the case, it’s worth taking some small steps to figure out where your head and your heart are with a therapist and/or a close friend. But I don’t think leaving your job, marriage and home on a whim in the middle of a pandemic is actually going to solve any of your problems.
The good news is that you have time right now to start living the life you think you might want to live. What comes to mind when you imagine this new you? Are there steps you can take right now to make it happen? You don’t (and shouldn’t) wait to be an entirely new person to try new things. And you also don’t have to abandon everything you know and love to change things about your life.
Have a question for Caroline? Email us at email@example.com.