Feeling bad can be a good thing


Graphic by Chase Otero, The Paisano.

Justice Lovin

If you’re reading this, then at the very least you’re old enough to be touring a college campus, and so you’ve made it through the worst of your teenage years. You’ve also probably experienced something called angst, and if you’re lucky, you’ll continue having this dreadful feeling for the rest of your life.

To be clear, I’m not referring to the unfair caricature that is teen angst, though arguably having the responsibilities and choices of an adult without any of the experience or wisdom produces an angst that is the least deserving of mockery or dismissal. What I am talking about is the anxiety and dread one feels when faced with an important choice. Do I get a job or go to school-angst; do I study what I love or what will pay me well-angst; do I try something new or stick with the familiar-angst.

These examples may not inspire the deep feeling of panic in you, but they should, or rather, something should. Because it’s not the options but the choice that provokes the feeling, and so the only way to avoid the feeling is to avoid the choice.

It can feel good to give up the power of self-determination, to feign innocence of responsibility, but this is only pretending. Often, we do it unintentionally. We say to ourselves ‘I could never do that,’ ‘that could never happen’ or ‘things can’t be any other way.’

Culture and ideology limit our idea of what is possible, leaving us with a bad situation that seems inevitable.

Too much angst is just as bad as too little. There is no use in feeling miserable about things you didn’t or couldn’t have done. The point is not to feel bad but to use the feeling to keep a grasp on the matter at hand, that is, living.

In college and in life, we have the opportunity to redefine living. It can seem impractical and is often difficult or costly, but it can be even more costly to ignore or refuse the chance. So don’t shy away from the foreign and uncomfortable, celebrate your mistakes and dare to disturb the universe; but don’t stop being anxious and afraid.

This might seem like just one more steaming pile of unsolicited advice–and it is in some ways–but it’s also an injunction against all advice. Remember that it’s up to you to decide what’s important in your life and not just what’s within the bounds of the acceptable.