Why I Shouldn’t Study Lifespan Psychology

You guys remember that first blog post, way back when summer sunshine still reigned and the trees had no premonition of the impending winter? That first blog post in which I promised to try something scary every week?

Dandilions

Like this. This is how the world looked back when I said that.

It turns out that scary things are…well…scary. They’re also not fascinating. The truth is that fear isn’t a novel plot. It’s not a lot of specific fears which I vanquish as I approach an exciting climax–a big fight where I, the main character, vanquish fear against all odds and send the denizens of terror fleeing before my epic main-character-ness before I go home to tea and scones and rejoicing. The truth is that life doesn’t get a tidy “happily ever after” tacked onto the end every time I do something right.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not doing something right.

I go to a lifespan psychology class twice a week. Last night I read two chapters of the textbook and slowly came to the realisation that probably I should not have taken the class. Because the book methodically goes through every stage of life and explains everything that could possibly go wrong, all the decisions and personality traits that signal horrible endings in the future, and common causes of death. To say the least, it’s depressing.

Also a little terrifying. I go through it thinking, “Oh no! I do that–I’ll never get a stable job!” and “Oh no! That’s my personality–I’ll never form deep relationships!” and “Oh no! I don’t exercise every morning–I’m going to die of heart failure at 45!”

Train

It’s like this–a fast track to the future–except that instead of the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s a black hole.

Actually, to be completely honest, it makes it hard to get out of bed every morning. It simultaneously sets an impossible standard for a “good” life and gives a hundred reasons why I will never reach that standard. And it’s freezing outside. It’s becoming Antarctica, and I hate the cold–so why bother getting up if I’m doomed to failure anyway? I’ve taken to keeping my email closed so that I can’t see all the things I should be doing. I try not to think about the future, because my psych book has already told me there’s consistent disappointment waiting for me. I’m stressed now, and my textbook assures me that I’ll probably be stressed for the rest of my life. Stress will result in horrible mental, behavioural, and physical disorders. By middle age, I’ll be dying alone and miserable, probably homeless, on some street corner. Or maybe under a bridge.

Given my luck, it will probably be winter, and I’ll probably be living in Greenland, Siberia, or Alaska.

So why bother doing anything when just staying alive is terrifying? I guess the only answer is that even if my life has to read like A Series of Unfortunate Events, I have to live up to my status as the main character (which I’m not entirely convinced is the case, but for now we’ll go with it) and I have to keep fighting.

By which I mean that… I’m more frightened of failing my classes than I am of potentially dying on a street corner. Because my classes are immediate. The street corner…that’s pretty far off in the future.

So this week, I got out of bed. Every morning. I also did my homework, walked through snow, and went to work.

I’m feeling brave.

Standing

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About Elizabeth Syson

While consuming tea and coffee at an alarming rate, I read and write everything I can and pursue my unnatural love of copyediting. My hobbies include learning new instruments and languages, riding horseback, sketching very badly indeed, and periodically recommitting to doing yoga regularly. View all posts by Elizabeth Syson

4 responses to “Why I Shouldn’t Study Lifespan Psychology

  • Alecia R. Bonson

    As an innocent-bystander to your epic main-character-ness, may I just say how it’s awesome you can still find even a little courage in the midst of all this life you’re dealing with. I mean, my blog is called “The Brave, Little Ninja” because I wanted to convince myself that I could be a brave, little ninja if I simply labeled myself that—so I can relate at least a little to what you’re trying to say. Being brave and facing your fears is hard when you don’t have superpowers or plot arcs that end up resolving nicely. Thanks for sharing your heart. Hope you can find another small piece of courage to get through today.

    Like

    • Elizabeth Syson

      First off, I love your blog title. I just went through and skimmed your posts, and I love your idea of owning a nickname and turning it into something…productive or whatever that’s called. Crazy how labels make us feel the need to live up to them, huh? I guess it’s trying that really matters. If you ever figure out the secret to turning life into a perfectly resolved plot arc, gimme a ring!

      Like

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