Essays and poems on twenty-first century life, connecting on-the-ground narrative to the the sweeping economic, social, and political changes taking place in our world.
From the poem, Together, Ugh
I bet this story repeats on an infinite loop somewhere out there where time and experience are stuck,
in fact I bet it’s among the universe’s most overplayed and anxiety-inducing cassette tapes
The way we pretend to not get on each other’s nerves while the tension builds
or be annoyed, or jealous,
We’d all rather suffer than fight
well, most of us
but then the front row seat to others’ lives gets so unbearable, right?
Maybe this is the way the gods are able to love us
Only from a distance
Maybe they wouldn’t stand for our presence at all if we were
leaving dirty dishes in their sinks and twiddled our thumbs hoping they’d use their magic snapping-fingers powers to do them for us
If there’s one thing I can say about the Americans I know, it’s that they take their mental health very seriously. They are adamant about making sure people know their suffering is real with a defensiveness that makes clear the painful reality that they’re consistently shamed for it. I will never say that it’s not real, of course. But from a distance I often think, “man, what is with these Americans that no one can deal with their lives?”. Nearly everyone I know in the US is medicated with some type of psychiatric drug, and I don’t think there’s enough talk at all about how addictive and hard to get off of them they can be.
My thesis is this: mental illness — especially the “functional” kind like depression or anxiety — is a sociological problem first, and a psychological problem second. We can try to force our brain chemistry to adapt to this chaos, but no amount of therapy or pills is going to fix our society. The fact that so many people from the same place suffer in so many of the same ways and get the same kind of treatment is telling. Notably, therapy seems to be optional, but medication is not.
Our community of teachers is informal, mostly in the form of Facebook groups. Most do not complain, and if they do, preface their complaints with how much they love the job, how cute the kids are, how grateful they are for the opportunity it’s given them to pay for their summer vacation, a new car, or their daughters’ dance lessons.
The oozing sappiness of many of the praise posts makes me roll my eyes so hard that they get stuck in my head a good half of the time, and I long to lift the veil and find out what individuals’ situations really are. I’m a sociologist, after all, and I crave a mapped out picture of this group of workers that I’m a part of.
In short, I don’t think people are telling the truth about how happy and excited they are, and I want to know why they’re not. Is it fear of losing the job? Is it in any part delusion? A combination of the two? Or am I just the worst kind of cynic, trying to bring people down around me, the atheist lecturing people as they come out of a delightful, feel-good church service?
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