Friday, January 20, 2017

Anxiety and Uncertainty

I've had a weird ache in the pit of my stomach today, all day. Sometimes it creeps up into my chest, makes my pulse throb, my shoulders tense up, my breathing fast. Sometimes I can corral it down, into my belly, with deep breathing and distractions. It's ebbing and flowing, and right now it's fine. An hour ago it was terrible. We'll see what the rest of the day brings.

I genuinely can't tell if this anxiety stems from Trump's inauguration or the fact that I turn 30 in two days. I have a suspicion that some of my anxiety and worry about both events has gotten warped into one thing, and I have just managed to infuse this entire weekend with a sense of dread that isn't really befitting of at least one of these things. I've been worried about this all week, and now the inauguration is over and it doesn't feel any better, but there's nothing to properly dread -  or at least, nothing but the vague sense that something worse might happen. And that's not worth investing my time in dreading; I need to focus on the good, on what I can do, and doing my best.

I wasn't that worried about turning 30 until this last week or so. As I said, I don't know if it just got tangled up with all my worry about Trump, or if as it gets closer I'm getting more anxious about it. Both, probably. I don't know why I'm getting more anxious about it right now, though. This morning, I woke up thinking "this is the last workday of my twenties,", and then I realized that many, many more lasts have occurred over the past few days. Tomorrow is the last day of my 20s completely, and that's going to feel weird. I was just speaking with a friend about a trip she's going on next month, and realized that the tour company offers tours for 18-29 year olds - so I'm effectively too old to do the tour she is going on. It was not a pleasant realization, but even as I thought about it, I wondered - do I want to go on tour with a bunch of 18 year olds? Group travel with 30-40 year olds probably matches my interests more closely anyway. I've long been more inclined to quiet evenings, unwilling to stay up late or party hard, happy to get up early and while away a peaceful morning with tea and a cat. Maybe I'm actually just aging into the demographic I've always felt more comfortable with. Why would that give me anxiety?

Maybe it's about the things I haven't managed to get done. I haven't seen all seven continents (so close at five!), I haven't achieved designation in my career (I'm going to miss getting it done while I'm 30 by about three weeks, ugh), never really gotten anywhere with my Spanish (in spite of multiple attempts). There are many many more where those come from. But of course, I know this is just an arbitrary list of things I had sort of hoped to do, and 30 wasn't a hard deadline, just an ideal one. I know lots of people have managed to accomplish much less and much more than I have, and comparisons aren't useful. Impossible to resist, but not adding anything of value to my life. I still have the rest of my life to accomplish these goals, and they're not spoiled for not having been completed already. If anything, it would be even more difficult to look ahead from here and think that there were no new horizons to explore, so having many goals still on the list gives me more to plan for, look forward to, and achieve. Will I do more in my 30s than in my 20s? Probably, if only because of increasing access to resources and spare time - and I did do lots in my 20s, so I have even more to look forward to. So while I understand this source of anxiety, I have to work to mitigate it, as it's not a problem that can be solved, and ultimately is only due to my own inflated expectations anyway.

It's weird, though, and a little scary, to be considering a new decade when I feel so uncertain and anxious about the state of the world. My last few birthdays have been during times when I generally felt like things were getting better, but in the last few months I have very much felt the opposite. Maybe - hopefully - that won't end up being true, and the world can resist this turn and continue to expand the number of people who are happy, healthy and accepted for who they are. Maybe it will get worse, and I won't dedicate any more words to daydreaming about the worst case scenarios my imagination can dream up. There's no way to know, and little enough I can do about it right now anyways. It feels like the next decade has the potential to be significantly worse than the last one, and for entirely external reasons. It doesn't have to be this way, though, and maybe we can keep that from happening.

The ache is still there. Maybe it'll be gone tomorrow, my last day as a twenty year old, and maybe it won't. Hopefully it'll be gone by Sunday, and I can wake up as a thirty year old ready to fight the good fight. And if not, then I'll do my best to corral it down and fight on anyway.

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