Settling: The Guilt You Feel In Your Gut.
Updated: Jun 12, 2022
By Joey Macari
Even before consciousness really kicks in, every child is asked the classic question: What do you want to be when you grow up?
You’d shrug your little, Limited Too-monkey-tee-shirt-wearing shoulders and say…I dunno.
Or, maybe you’d say…
Princess! (everyone but Kate Middleton got disappointed by that one)
Pirate! (the fuck?)
Paleontologist! (ok, maybe that was just me)
We then spent our more formative years realizing that – okay, I can’t be a princess because I live in the American suburbs and I’m an independent woman who doesn’t need a man, or, I can’t be a paleontologist because I suck at science and also, haven’t we dug up all the dinosaurs already? For those who might not have given up on the pirate narrative, good for you. I hope you are doing well. Watch out for scurvy.
However, most of us eventually settle for a path a little more traveled by. We do the soul searching and boom. We know who we are and what we want to do with this stupid, little life.
Ok, great! Let’s go to college and major in this, or attend a trade school in this, or plain-old-hustle and boom…I’m in my 20s/30s and I have this! Right?...
Here’s the real tea *sips gingerly*. Sometimes, the world just says “no.” While you might fight it by saying, “but yes yes yes,” till the cows come home and your mental health is near nonexistent, the world might still just say, “mmm…no.” We recognize this experience living in a twilight pandemic, or, we might find out when the CEO’s son gets the job and you don’t. And if the world is saying, “no,” how long can you wait for it to say, “yes,” back?
‘Till you're broke? ‘Till your non-negotiables morph into, “willing to negotiate,” on every job application and life-event you encounter? ‘Till settling feels like the kindness you grant to yourself out of fear of failure?
We’re not saying to wave the white flag and admit defeat. Nor are we saying keep fighting and die trying. There’s a delicate balance between the two that deserves marrying. One where your passionate soul doesn’t get deprived of what it needs to exist, interwoven with what your expectations moving forward should be as an intelligent observer of shit just not happening the way you expected them to.
Here are a few ways we suggest coping with “settling” guilt, how to restrategize your spirit, and feel content in closing chapters:
Don’t Be Afraid of Doors
There’s a famous cliche by Alexander Graham Bell that goes, “When one door closes, another opens.” Now, I don’t know why the guy who created the telephones was at all concerned with entryways, but there’s something to be said about it nonetheless. There are times in your life that jobs, people, ideas, etc., float into your life, and it’s your job to decipher whether you want to accept them or not. Oftentimes, the answer is obvious. If, for instance, you don’t get the job you really wanted, but an opportunity to relocate closer to family coincides with that loss, that might be a sign from your higher ups that a change is needed. Or, if you end up settling into your second best job offer, it might be a hard pill to swallow at the start, but you might end up a) loving it. b) meeting great new people in your life. c) learning something from the experience. Nothing is ever permanent, and even if you walk through a door you shouldn’t have, you always have permission to leave.
Settling ≠ Relationships
I want to make myself abundantly clear. Settling for a less-than relationship is never, ever, ever, ever okay. Though the temptation of relationship security and not having to go on Tinder ever again might sound appealing now, you deserve to be in a happy partnership. Your eminent divorce attorney will thank you for it, and so will your mental and physical wellbeing. You’d never subtle for bad *cough cough*, so imagine that every night for the rest of your life? I don’t think so. Ok, so it might take you a few years, but in order to vett the right one, you might need to keep your heart open a little while longer. If Carrie Bradshaw can “try on” a few partners, so can you. Until one fits, settle into loving yourself fully.
When you’re in a career/life/creative limbo, this might be a good time to re-open the “Who Am I?” dictionary. Journaling, creating vision/mood boards for your future and present goals, and other forms of self-discovery work is a really great way to visualize yourself in a constructive way. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, created the technique called Shadow Work, which is a method of questioning and exploring parts of yourself you might have been repressing or otherwise hiding. Whether you do it on your own or with the help of a mental health practitioner, write/create whatever is on your mind, come up with prompts that ask you to divulge truths about yourself, and don’t be afraid of what intrinsically makes up you. That way, before you have to make big decisions about your life, you fully understand whether it’s serving your spirit in the right way. And, you might find a way to use your passions in a way not even you saw coming.
You might arrive at a place and time where your passion or chosen career no longer feels good. It’s been tainted in some way, or it’s just too-hard, and you need to say goodbye. Whether forever or just for now, all goodbyes are hard. Give yourself some grace, first. Do something nice for yourself and surround yourself with good, cleansing energy from friends, family, hobbies, etc. Then, jot down some of the things you loved about that work/person/version of yourself, and reflect on what it has given you instead of what you will be losing. Be kind to it instead of remorseful. If you’re still weighing a decision, think of your life with and without that thing. When you’re ready to close that chapter, instead of feeling guilty that a part of you has died somehow, you can embrace new beginnings as something to be excited about.
Trust the Timing
It’s so easy, too easy, to peer-review yourself. Social media feeds us a mirage of people who seemingly have it all figured out, “never been happier” stamped on their Instagram captions…oh, until they admit a year later that it’s been, “the hardest year of their life,” and their half-fledged hypocrisies admonish praise from every Karen and Kevin on the internet. That in itself should give you solace in knowing nothing on the internet is real and you never know what goes on underneath the cyber ©urface. So don’t judge where you are in life and complain that this person is so far ahead in their life, blah-blah-blah…none of that! You’re doing enough. You are where you are supposed to be, and never underestimate the timing of your life. Whatever’s meant to be, will be.
Joey Macari is a writer and actor based out of greater New York City. She once fainted in front of Buzz Lightyear on a childhood trip to Disney World. Joey is a Libra Sun, Aries Moon, and Pisces Rising. joeymacari.com