“What makes you happy?”
It’s a Friday afternoon in October. I am at UNC Hospitals for my second appointment with my psychiatrist. I asked for a girl, but they gave me a guy. It hasn’t been as bad as I thought.
“Um…… I don’t know…….”
The doctor just looks at me, waiting for a response. I look at him, at the clock, at my hands fumbling with the hair tie on my wrist, and back at him. He’s still waiting. I furrow my brow and concentrate – surely there’s something I can say. What makes me happy? What do I like to do? What do I enjoy?
“I like writing,” I said.
“And….. and….. I don’t know. I like nature. I like music.” This shouldn’t be so hard, I think.
This isn’t the first time he’s stumped me with a simple question. The first one was “What are you good at?” The only thing I could come up with was writing. The second one was “What do you do for fun?” I had nothing for that one. “What is the point of all this, what’s the next step?” was the worst.
I always thought I would have figured myself out by the middle of college. That my true calling and character traits would come out of nowhere and hit me in the face. I would definitely have clear career goals and ambition and probably a boyfriend and I could tell you exactly what kind of person I am and what kind of person I hoped to be.
But honestly, I have no damn idea. About any of it.
I don’t even really know what my likes and dislikes are, or what I’m passionate about. Whenever I want someone to like me (and I want everyone to like me), I tailor my personality a bit to achieve what they want. I become the small-town, virginal darling. Or the girly, bubbly sorority sister. Or the angsty Tumblr girl who loves rock n roll. I have all these facets of my personality and tastes that I emphasize or hide around certain people. I feel like I’m never just ME, I’m always a caricature of me, a piece of exaggerated performance art focused on whatever is most important at that given moment. I don’t even know who “me” is. I can’t tell you what’s real.
I don’t even feel like I’m portraying any of these Saras well. They all feel like they’re failing – they aren’t cool enough, or pretty enough, or kind enough.
Why do I feel like I’m not my best self if I’m not an absolute?
I thought I had myself figured out freshman year. But the truth is, the transition to college isn’t the final phase of becoming a person. I don’t really think there is a final phase. You’re going to look back once every once in a while and the things you thought were cool and interesting feel so mundane now. And that’s normal, that’s change.
What my job is now is to figure out what makes me happy – what I find enjoyable, what allows me to grow as a person. I don’t know why that’s hard for me, but it is. But all I can do is try.