This Is Your 3 AM Existential Dread Wake-Up Call

Psst. Hey you! WAKE UP!

How’s that “career” of yours coming along? What was it you went to school for again? That’s right, English and Cultural Studies. Can’t forget about that second part. It’s not enough that you majored in one useless subject; you had to throw in another to make your chances of landing a lucrative career twice as unlikely. But hey, I’m sure you’re content with being a freelance writer and putting together email newsletters in an industry that’s both mind-numbingly boring and way over your head.

At least your job gives you the freedom to explore your many hobbies and interests, like not finishing that short story you’ve been working on since the start of COVID, or not reading the latest George Saunders book (I hear it gets good after the first three pages), or not finally learning a new language besides a few curse words, you bâtard paresseux!

And sure, you can barely afford groceries after more than half of your income goes toward rent on a shitty basement apartment that gets less sunlight than a prison cell, but you were never motivated by things like material possessions or “having health insurance” anyway. At least that’s what you tell your family whenever they ask you how “that writing thing” is going.

Let’s see. What else can we dredge up from the darkest recesses of your mind to totally fuck up your night? Oh, remember that time in university when you asked out Kelly from your sociology class, but she pretended not to hear you, even though she was sitting right next to you in the otherwise empty library, so you said it a bit louder, and all of a sudden she remembered that she had to be somewhere else, so she got up and left without bothering to pack up her things? Oh, you blocked that one from your memory? Guess you didn’t do a good enough job of that either.

Couldn’t help but notice that you’re sleeping alone there, big guy. At this rate, you’ll be lucky to start a family by the time you’re in your mid-40s, which means you’ll be watching your kids graduate high school through cataract-glazed eyes. Funny to think that by your age your parents already had a house, steady jobs, and two kids. And what do you have? A Nintendo Switch (Lite), a couple decent sweaters, and a dog you can barely be bothered to walk most days even as he stares at the door whimpering.

Speaking of your parents, boy did they ever look old the last time you saw them. It’s as if they’ve aged ten years in the past six months. Crazy how quickly time robs us of our youth, huh? Feels like just yesterday your dad was chasing you around the backyard. Now he gets winded changing a light bulb and falls asleep on the couch before the end of Jeopardy.

Ah well. I’m sure they still have some good years left in them. It’s just too bad your “hectic” schedule prevents you from visiting them more than a couple times a year. Assuming they make it to their 80s, that means you’ll get to see them, what, maybe 20-25 more times total? And I’m sure you won’t waste those visits bickering over lingering childhood resentments and counting down the minutes until you can retreat to the cold comfort of your empty apartment, where you’ll fritter away another evening searching for the perfect show to help you unwind after a long day of sitting in the exact same spot on the couch, before giving up and staring dead-eyed at the TV screensaver and dreaming of starting over anew in Roku City.

Anyway, I’ll let you get back to sleep now. By which I mean I’ll let you spend the rest of the night tossing and turning and second-guessing every decision you’ve ever made, until you work yourself into such an anxious frenzy that you finally pass out from sheer mental exhaustion, just in time for your alarm to go off and you to spend the rest of the day in a thick fog of malaise, making it difficult for you to perform even the most basic tasks—like showering or changing out of your sweatpants—let alone to take the kinds of steps necessary to make any sort of substantial life changes.

Sleep tight!

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