I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!
Where did that come from? Is my caps lock is stuck again? Weird. Thought I got that fixed. My bad. Sorry for yelling. It’s not my style but every once in a while it sorta just slips out. Kinda like…Nope let’s leave that one alone. So many way’s it could go wrong.
What was I saying?
I don’t know what I’m doing. In general. In life. As a whole, complete, human being I’m kind of a bumbling mess. I try to make plans. I love making plans. Nothing is more satisfying than coming up with a good plan, writing it down, and laminating it. I stick it to the fridge with a banana magnet I don’t remember buying and, ah yes: Heaven.
It’s right there in a fancy font. Key points highlighted in bright yellow. Bullet points in bold letters. A step by step guide to an idiot-proof plan that can’t be screwed up by anyone.
I love a good plan.
Unfortunatly, I’m the idiot who finds the flaws in my own foolproof plan. Even though, as I’m writing it down, I’m thinking, “How can anyone screw this up?” Challenge accepted! What? No! I didn’t mean to! I tried my best. I said a prayer. I crossed the appropriate number of fingers and toes. I tried really, really, hard.
But no matter how hard I try to plan there’s one simple fact, a reality that I have to face, and that is: I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!
I yelled again.
You don’t deserve to be yelled at. The ears and the eyes. The pain. I’ll try to restrain myself. Here we go. I can say it without raising my voice. It’s within my power to control the volume of my vocal cords.
I don’t know what I’m doing.
My whole adult life, I’ve felt like a lost fart in a thunder cloud. Out there somewhere, a pungent smell, just floating around without direction or purpose. Coming and going. Trying to make an impact but lacking the physical form to make any kind of dent.
If you want to see a look of bewilderment and panic on my face? Ask my opinion about things. Use a tone that suggests you really believe that I have something to say about, you know, stuff. My mouth will open and close but words won’t come out. You want to know what I think about how the people running the places are doing with their shenanigans? Really? Me?
You, you precious individual, coming here to hear what I have to say about life. Really? I don’t know what to say. I’m gobsmacked. Yes, that’s a word. It means wow you actually showed up and now I don’t know what to say so I’ll let a weird squeaking noise fill the awkward silence.
Thank-you? Yes! Those are the right words. Thank you, you wonderful person, I appreciate it. Really, it makes me feel warm, and there’s an odd sensation in the middle of my chest. Is it a heart attack? No, no, I think it’s an emotion? Happiness? That’s a thing right?
See! I don’t even know how I feel. That’s something a grown-ass woman should know. Emotions and their accompanying identifiers. What? Yeah, I feel…things and no, I don’t know what those things are. I feel like Alice after she fell down that hole but instead of finding Wonderland, I became an adult.
Arg, I miss being a kid!
Well, I was never actually a kid in the traditional sense. I was young and of a child-like consistency. You know, tiny and bendy. Maybe a little squishy. Let’s just say I miss being young. Yep, that works.
People would ask me things and all I had to say was, “Gotta ask my parents.”
Can’t say that anymore.
When I do people make faces and walk away very slowly so they don’t startle me.
Being a kid meant I didn’t have to make decisions. My parents gave me choices, and they listened to my thoughts and feelings. They took those feelings and thoughts into consideration because they always tried very to be considerate. Ultimately, they made the choices and that was just about the greatest thing ever!
Especialy when you have a chronic illness and there are a lot of big decisions that have to be made. When I was three years old I was diagnosed with chronic renal failure. My kidney’s were damaged and slowly died. By the time I was twelve, I needed a transplant or I would die.
In Canada, when we turn twelve, we’re legally responsible for our medical decisions. We get a say in what happens to us and our opinions become the final word. However, I still deferred those decisions to my most trusted source. The way I saw it? My parents knew everything, so they would know what to do. I could trust them to do what was right, so I usually went with what they said. There were a few moments when I said no when they might have said yes but for the most part I went with their play.
I still had to give my consent. I had to sit through a lecture on the risks of whatever was about to happen to me. There was a weight that came with making choices but it wasn’t something I had to carry all on my own. I could still look at my parents, and they would tell me what to do.
Looking back, as an adult, I think my parents were feeling how I’m feeling now. I’m sure there were plenty of times when they wanted to scream, “I don’t know what I’m doing!” Mom, Dad, correct me if I’m wrong.
Ah to be young and innocent! Oh but that was then and this is now. Now things are much more complicated. People are looking at me like I know things. They’re expecting me to make decisions. Decisions that could change the course of humanity forever!
I’m a one-woman disaster movie and, look at me, I’m no action hero. I’m the bait. I’m the first person to get vaporized by the laser ray, gun, thingy. You don’t have to outrun the bear you just have to outrun me and that ain’t hard.
Okay, I hear ya! Stop being so dramatic. No promises but I’ll try.
I am really good in a crisis as long as it’s someone elses crisis. (Did that make sense?) If something’s on fire then I’m your girl. Bleeding from place? Don’t worry I’ve got this. Feel like the walls are caving in? I’m an excellent listener!
Taking care of normal, mundane, things in my life? I’m a bumbling baboon.
I’m probably not the person you should turn to for answers but the questions keep coming. Decisions have to be made. There’s a choice between shitty and fucked up and that’s messed up! They expect me to decide but flipping a coin isn’t a “reasonable” or “mature” way to make life-changing decisions.
Several years ago my kidney transplant failed, it was my second transplant, and I had to go back on dialysis. I’d just started to figure out my life. I had moved out of my parents place. I bought an apartment like a real adult. I had a job that paid the bills and I didn’t hate it. It wasn’t my dream job but the people were nice and, you know, there were bills to pay.
Things were going great until they weren’t. I’d had that kidney for ten years. Ten damn fine years. It’s a good run! It’s about the average life span of a transplanted kidney. Transplants save lives, but they don’t cure the disease. Sometimes the disease fights back and when it does life is gonna suck.
What really sucked was, this time around, I was an adult which meant it was all on me. Laying in that hospital bed, after my options were laid out, there was a long stretch of silence. They were waiting for me to tell them what to do next. What treatment options did I think were best for me? Which plan would we follow? Did I want to follow any plan or did I want to just call it a life and move on to whatever comes next?
Somebody would tell me what to do. Any minute now. It was going to happen. Someone would swoop in with all the answers. Any second now.
Nope. Just gonna let me sit here awkwardly. Okay. Cool. Cool.
I don’t know who said it, but someone did: “You need to make a decision.”
What I needed was a minute but there didn’t seem to be any minutes to spare. Things needed to happen if they were going to happen at all. I needed to make a choice. They needed me to say the words. I couldn’t form those words at all. I couldn’t remember how to make words or sounds come out of my mouth.
My mind was a completely blank space. A black hole swirling with shattered thoughts, fragmented memories, and absolute panic. I knew what they wanted from me. I understood the gravity of the situation. I tried to form thoughts into words, but nothing would come out.
What I really wanted to do was scream. Loud and shrill. Deep breath in and let it rip. Break glass with the power of my voice.
My dad looked at me and said, “Answer them. Tell them what you want to do.”
You know what I wanted to say? “Dad, you make the choice. Mom you decided. Someone. Anyone? Make this decision for me because I don’t know what I’m doing!”
What I said was, “I don’t know.”
“You have to decide.”
“I don’t know.”
“Just make a decision.”
I don’t know what I want to do! I need more than a few minutes to think about it. It’s kind of a big deal. What I choose to do now impacts my foreseeable future and could, potentially, dictate my survival. I can’t make that kind of decision now or ever.
I am not qualified to make decisions like this but I had to make one. All I wanted to do was scream, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!”
Turns out if you have a bit of a breakdown people find time and give you space. Lots of space. Which is good because sometimes making a decision requires some alone time and a soundproof room with padded walls. You know, in case you want to scream, punch things, and throw breakable objects.
I eventually made a decision and, since we’re talking now, I can say with some confidence that the right decision was made. I didn’t die so that’s a pretty decent outcome. It’s about as much as I hoped for so…Yay.
Even though I made it through that situation, I don’t feel more prepared or capable of making decisions. Every time I’m in a situation where I’m forced to adult and make a choice, I have a mini-breakdown. It’s usually internal. Sometimes my eye twitches and my hand shakes a little. That voice, in my head, screams so loud the windows in my attic crack. My inner child rocks back and forth whimpering.
I silently chant, “Mommy. Daddy.”
I want to say, with polite panic, “I don’t know what I’m doing so you should ask my parents.”
I’m a real-life grown-up and I’ve got real-life grown-up responsibilities. It sucks. It’s horrifying. It’s like trusting Elmer Fudd with nuclear launch codes. Whose brilliant idea was this? I should not be allowed anywhere near grown-up responsibilities.
Whew, okay, deep breath in and slow it down.
Yes, somethings require immediate action. Like stopping that Fudd dude from starting world war 3. House on fire. Yep, we’ve got to make some quick decisions. There’s a time a place for quick thinking but for the majority of things we can take a minute.
A beat. A breath. Have a small freak out then shake it off and pick a direction. Take a few steps. Test it out and see how it feels. Give it a minute because it will feel unnatural and awkward. That’s perfectly normal. Another step and another.
Look at that! We’re moving forward.
If it still feels wrong then stop. Turn around and admit in an obnoxiously loud voice: I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING! Ask for help. Seek wise counsel. Adulting isn’t a choice but how we go about it is. It’s okay to not know what to do next.
It’s okay to say we need time to think. It’s okay to admit that we don’t know what we’re doing. Admitting it means we just might meet someone who does know what they’re doing. Even if they don’t know much more than us at least we’ll have some good company’s on our journey.
Struggling with a bunch of decisions right now, because…
I can’t do that, I just can’t think that way…
I can’t be that person… this is for a somebody else, not for a someone like me…
But I can’t stay where I am, so I look at people who stare back with that “this is SO self evident, what IS your problem?” look in their eyes.
And I try to look back, but all I see is this heart beating way too fast…
Beautifully written post.
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