One of the most frustrating things about being an adult is that it’s very rare that people are really, truly honest about how fucking hard some things are.
Sure, people flippantly say things like “relationships are hard work!” or “it’s really hard being a parent sometimes” but no one is going to come out and say that sometimes it’s so hard to be in a relationship that you fantasize about your partner leaving you so that you don’t have to have the same damn argument about emptying the dishwasher one more time…and that after you have these thoughts, you hate yourself a little bit for being such a terrible person. No parent is going to admit that they sometimes look at their screaming child and have the urge to walk right out the front door and never return. In other words, people are willing to say “it’s hard!” but they are never willing to say just how hard it actually is.
I understand that most people don’t want to appear “ungrateful” or “mean spirited,” or, God forbid, “negative,” which is why they hold back when discussing the tough stuff, particularly with people they don’t know very well. But there’s a big, fat problem with failing to be brutally honest with friends and family when it comes to dealing with life’s travails: it fosters what I call “magical thinking” in the rest of us who are inexperienced in certain areas.
What is “magical thinking” you ask? Here are some examples:
- Magical thinking is believing that happy couples don’t fight, so you’d better just keep your mouth shut about what’s bothering you. It’ll be fine.
- Magical thinking is believing that all mothers love to be with their kids all the time, so you’d better not try to get away for a few hours to get your hair cut and see a movie. It’ll be fine.
- Magical thinking is believing that if you went to college, eventually you’ll find a good job. There’s no point in stressing about the fact that you’re working at Starbucks and that your professional skills are withering away. It’ll be fine.
- Magical thinking is believing that as soon as you get the next promotion, or marry a rich man, or write the great American novel, your debt will get paid off. It’ll be fine.