I've been a follower of your site for a while, and I've just had this issue that's nagged me for quite a while.
So, I got into the whole furry culture when I was pretty young, and I remember an author that I got pretty into about when I was finding things out. Kyell Gold. So, he wrote this pretty cool book series, "Aquifiers," which I thought was great and cool and awesome.
Too awesome, though. I read the book when I was young and impressionable, and later in my life, I started feeling lackluster because I'd begun comparing myself to this book. I'd begun to wonder if there was something wrong with me, because I hadn't experienced X or Y like the main character in that book did, or if I wasn't going through the same experience as this certain character did, and if that indicated something wrong with me.
I get little reminders of that book sometimes. Like a lyric of a song, or a certain picture, or a scene, and I'll think back to all the imagined experiences that I missed out on, and I'll just be so glum and sad. I know it's unhealthy and irrational to compare my IRl life with that of a fictional one, but I just can't help it. My life is fine and okay and, rationally, there's nothing that I should be feeling especially sad about, but I still do.
Anyway, my big tiff with this all of this is that I don't feel like I can progress with my life, because I keep having these feelings of shame over these imagined instances that I missed out on. Did I just imprint on this book at too early an age, and I'm just fucked, or should I just try to forget things?
You're a good fella.
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Before I continue, a little more information would be helpful. What, exactly, do you feel you have missed out on? What is there in the book that you envy and wish to achieve? In short, what is the disconnect between what you find in the book and what is going on in your life?
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Okay, so, the main character both falls in love and realizes his passion for his career his senior year of high school. I know it's this grossly idealized version of real life, but I just feel embarrassed over not having met someone yet, or how I'm still fumbling around over what I want to spend my life doing. I think all of it boils down to younger me, after having read that book and internalizing it, setting myself on this "Perfect Road" to happiness, and the gradual frustration over real life not matching this vision in my head.
I wrote you a long while ago and you mentioned this term I hadn't seen before. Weltschmerz. This sort of overall weariness over reality not being comparable to the desired or imagined life. That seems kind of fitting.
Anyway, thanks for the reply. This is kind of a weird issue for me to try and find support for.
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The idea of Weltschmerz still applies, and I'm sorry if my last letter to you didn't have the effect of sinking in. My advice would be the same: the world of novels and movies and television are idealized versions of reality. Even the ones that are about tragedy tend to make that tragedy idealized and even romantic (e.g. Les Miserables), because the people who suffer in them tend to have noble goals and purposes so that even their horrible stories have meaning for their lives and the lives of others.
As furries, our hearts often long for worlds where we can become amazing warriors, or lovers, or crime fighters, or simply live in a beautiful fantasy environment of some kind. But we recognize (hopefully) that these things are not real.
So it is with even a simple stories of finding love, such as the one you mention by Kyell Gold.
Every person's story is unique. Some people find love early on, some later in life. At 51, Papabear has had two and is working on a third: my first love whom I married at the young age of 22, my second whom I met in my 40s, and now this one. One thing about love: it is never too late to find it. As long as your heart is beating, you can find the love of your life. Here is a fun article you might enjoy on that topic.
I've said this to others who write to me, too, and not just about love. Many are frustrated about their careers or just not being able to find their bearings in life. One thing that I find true, especially among young Americans, is that they are too damn impatient. They act like it is all over if they haven't achieved their life goals by the time they are 25. Part of this is our materialistic, youth-worshipping culture that lies to us that "we can have it all" in our twenties and that you are a big loser if you haven't yet.
Don't you buy it. It's all a lie created by Corporate America to make you buy stuff and enrich the top 1%. They tell you you can only be happy if you have all the latest electronic gizmos, own a great house, get married and have kids and have a huge salary. It is all designed to make you a tool. Don't believe me? What do you do when you feel depressed that you haven't found the love of your life yet? Buy food? Booze? Romantic movies? Seek counseling? Go back to school to earn a fancier degree to get a better job to make you more suited as a mate? Buy nice clothes? All these things buy into the system if you do them for the wrong reasons (keeping up with the Joneses, we used to say).
I cannot stress this enough: don't compare your life to other people's lives, and certainly don't compare it to fiction or to the pressures of a neurotic society.
What is important in life is not money or things or even having a true love. What is important is becoming a self-actualized and enlightened being who knows who and what he/she is and who is a caring individual. These are the only things worth striving for. All else is vanity.
That said, I certainly do not dismiss our inherent need to be loved and to love in return. Love is still important. But the more you stress about it, the less likely it is to happen because any potential mates around you will sense that desperation, which is very off-putting (you have no idea). Instead, work on yourself. Work on being a good, kind, and worthwhile person.
If you do that, all the other things in your life will eventually fall into place. Just be patient.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.