Why isn’t the world set up to include people who don’t live with both feet on the ground? Why does society worship busyness and the kind of industry you can put a price on but doesn’t value the kind of intangible work that goes into forming relationships and lifting others up? Philosophers, great thinkers, they’re only recognized when they accomplish something that fits in the description of “successful.” How many people die unrecognized but are later given credit for how great they were? And how many more die and are never thought of as anything more than just another person?
When I’m depressed, I don’t care about things like money or respect from peers. I care about meaning, about my soul connecting with another soul and feeling known and loved. I care because that’s what I feel like I’m missing and if I don’t have that connection, life itself is meaningless. It’s pointless. Paying my bills, spending hours of my life doing work that doesn’t matter for the sake of feeding my body: it’s tedious and there’s no point to it. Why should I work so hard to live when my life has no purpose?
But when I’m depressed and can only focus on the loneliness and the pointlessness of it all, time still passes. I still lose my job, I still run out of money, and I still have people telling me I’m disappointing or lazy or worthless, and offering me advice that simply boils down to “stop caring about anything but our definition of success.” Life moves on and there’s no pause button. If I’m in a really dark place, there are services I can utilize to get me through the worst and keep me breathing of my own free will. But people on the outside are still living their lives and business is business. I’m not profiting anyone at a restaurant or retail store by not being there. I’m not spending money as a customer and I’m not helping with day to day operations as an employee either. I’m not there, so I’m useless.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, because it’s true that hanging onto deadweight is usually a waste of money in the business world. It takes something more personal and insightful to see a person as a good investment even if they’re not dependable on a daily basis and even if they’re just a name on the payroll list that isn’t doing anything most of the time. I get it–there’s no compelling reason to coddle anyone like that.
It’s hard, though, to battle with a constant doubt that life is even worth living while also consistently providing for that life. There are ways to do it, but not everyone is able to make it happen. Not everyone has a gift strong enough to monetize on an irregular basis and still live on that income. Not everyone has the willpower to create a skill like that. I can only imagine how many people are just existing, and only barely. How many people bounce from job to job or just stay unemployed because they just can’t muster the energy to care?
And all these thoughts lead me to an anger and a despair. Because it’s not fair. It’s not fair that some people are just born disadvantaged on every side because they’re not so disabled that they live their whole lives being supported by someone else, but they’re also not functional enough to really be swimming or staying afloat. They’re not immediately drowning so no one bothers to pick them up out of the water or even throw them a flotation device. People look on as you go under, come back up, go under, come back up…. and they wonder why you don’t just swim better? Just try, and you’ll be fine.
But you ARE trying. You’re swimming the best you can but you get tired so quickly staying above water and when you slip under you have to fight for the motivation just to decide to head back up. The call of the deep, of surrender, is always there. Every single time you go under, you have to make the choice all over again.
And the world really just doesn’t seem to know how to handle that. It’s up to individuals to reach out a hand and grab hold instead of just watching in confusion. It’s up to a spouse to accept their partner’s limitations and choose to provide a little extra support than maybe they imagined in the beginning. It’s up to the individual to decide such a person is worth saving because society clearly doesn’t see it that way. There are suicide hotlines and most people don’t want someone to actually die but when you’ve saved someone’s life, where’s the preventive help to keep it from happening again? They just get to be in the same place again and the only time they really matter to the community is when their life is in peril. Because look at the potential value we might lose! But on a day-to-day basis they’re not actually providing much concrete value so we’re not too concerned with their welfare.
It all just sucks. If you’re a great friend but can’t hold a job, you’re useless as well as screwed. If you don’t know for sure you want to be alive, life just goes on throwing obstacles at you and giving you reasons to decide not to keep going because being alive is so exhausting. If you can’t put in your 35 hours on the job you’re a failure. And staying in that place of constantly fighting for breath with no permanent relief, is miserable. No one deserves to live that way. Yet the number of people who do is unfathomable.