Advice

On leading an examined life

Maybe it’s just because my 28th birthday is in a week, but I’m feeling extra shitty about my life choices lately. By all accounts, I’m doing pretty ok: I’m making a living off a career I chose in high school and still love (with a fucking art school degree), I’m living in one of the best cities in the world and I’m about to move across the country to another one, I’m fairly attractive, decently in shape, and I have a boyfriend who loves me. I’m healthy, I’m paying off my student loans, and I’ve got amazing credit. So why do I feel like I’m wasting my life?

 

You’re basing your entire sense of purpose off of a checklist, and it’s not even your own fucking checklist. You’re trying to attain spiritual fulfillment using cultural capitalism’s default settings for being a good consumer. Sorry, but that’s a recipe for a big fat existential crisis.

Set the checklist aside and start leading an examined life. Go deep. I’m talking about religion here. Not the canned stuff, obviously, but real religion. Primal stuff about nature and consciousness and the mysteries of the universe. Ask the big questions. Explore the human condition. Get busy with moral philosophy, metaphysics, and aesthetics. Soak it all up. Learn, and then go do.

It doesn’t really matter what you end up believing or how you end up putting it all into practice. The process itself is how you discover a life worth living.

(Oh, and happy fucking birthday!)

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Advice

On hitting the reset button

After 3.5 years together, he ended it. Out of nowhere (from my perspective.) I thought everything was fine. I thought we were going to get married and have kids. He led me to believe that was the case. Now all of a sudden it’s over. I live in his apartment – everything is his. I own nothing, have no money, no plan. I centered my life around him, which was my own fault. I feel like I’ve been cracked open and nothing is left. I’ve never felt so low and I’m starting to feel genuinely scared of what’s going on in my own mind. I don’t want to be here anymore. I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Everything’s dark.

 

Pack a bag, empty his bank account, and buy a one-way ticket to a city far, far away. Better yet, take his car and drive there. Find an apartment with roommates. Get a job, go to school, make friends. Build an entirely new life.

I’m deadly serious about all of that, but if it seems too extreme, then just start by packing a bag. Get out of his apartment as soon as possible. That’s the first step towards feeling whole again.

There’s no way you can see this yet, but you’ve been given a rare and precious gift. You get a fresh start with a clean slate. You get to hit the reset button on your life, and as terrifying as that sounds, it’s likely going to be one of the most profound and necessary experiences of your life.

Get going. You can do this.

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Advice

On your father’s death

I knew my dad was going to die soon. It took fifteen minutes to resuscitate him two days prior. We agreed with the doctor not to be aggressive in treatment after they extubated him.

When he regained consciousness, it was without awareness, his tongue lolling and his eyes rolling into his head. He would barely focus on people when they spoke directly to him. He couldn’t answer even the simplest questions.

His breathing was labored and fast. As they gave him sedatives and pain medication it began to turn wet and I imagined it would soon culminate in either a severe struggle, or series of terrible and unforgettable sounds. Between machines with alarms going off and the sounds of him drowning, it might be unbearable.

My mother, not fully understanding the situation, kept trying to talk to him. I carefully weighed leaving my father to die alone against saving my mom from an experience that might destroy her. I honestly felt that if she had to remember my father’s death rattle she would literally go insane. I know I only barely felt strong enough to believe I could.

To my mind, my father had already died. Forcing her to watch as the nurses swept away the pieces just didn’t seem right. Or worse, some terrifying moment of struggle that made her feel even more powerless would just be torture.

I told her I would take her home to rest. We said our goodbyes and promised to check on him the next day. Both doctors had already explained the prognosis was extremely poor. And my mom tried to push it aside by saying that she didn’t like this doctor or that doctor.

Moments after we got home the phone rang and we were asked to return as my father had passed. I looked out the window and it began to rain. Even after all that contemplation, I still don’t know if I did the right thing. Did I?

The week before, when he finally got the tube out the last time, he finally said, “I love you.” Something I swear he’s only said to me maybe twice before. And I couldn’t understand him through the mask clearly enough to be certain. I asked him to repeat it but he was very weak and didn’t. I feel like I denied him that. And then, I abandoned him.

I don’t know what to feel. But I am hurting.

Did I do the right thing?

 

Yes, you did the right thing. You needn’t carry any measure of guilt for not bearing witness to the exact moment of your father’s death. He certainly wasn’t conscious at the end, and you had already said your goodbyes. You spared your father a final indignity and you protected your mother from further trauma. You did what you thought was best, and it seems like it was exactly what your father would have wanted you to do.

And no, you didn’t abandon him. You didn’t deny your father any opportunity to express how he felt about you. He had an entire lifetime to express how he felt, and if he wasn’t the kind of man to tell you that he loved you, then that’s on him. That’s his missed opportunity, not yours.

My condolences on your loss, for whatever that’s worth. It’s perfectly okay to not know what to feel right now, and it’s going to hurt for a very long time. It’s supposed to. Don’t rush trying to feel normal again. It’ll happen when it happens.

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Advice

On doing it now

I don’t feel worthy of the kind of person I want to date. I’m working on my body, my career, my life, but feel like I can’t start looking for a partner until I’m in some perfect spot in the future that might never come. This also bleeds into friendships where I crave closeness but also can’t let myself drop my guard enough to build that intimacy.

How would you advise someone works on this? Apart from therapy. I’m looking into that as soon as my insurance kicks in.

 

I wish confidence was a bodily fluid. I wish I could spend my nights catching average white men in nets baited with vinyl records and vape pens and then milk their excess confidence like snake venom. That’s all you need, really, a healthy dose of the undeserved confidence of an average white man. (And by average I don’t mean typical. I mean mediocre. Those uninspired fuckers are brimming with the stuff.) I wish I could bottle up that warm, slippery goo and then sell it to people like you on the black market. I’d be rich and you’d be happy and the world would be a better place.

In lieu of this service, all I can do is attempt to inspire you to build your own confidence through mental and emotional exercise like some personal trainer of the soul. That’s a bit of a trick for me, because it’s difficult to inspire someone like you without dragging out a sackful of stale-ass Tony Robbins style self-help clichés about tuning into the present moment and not letting the perfect become the enemy of the good.

I mean, shit. I hope your insurance kicks in and all, but you don’t need a therapist to tell you that the future doesn’t exist. It never has and it never will, especially the one in your head where you’ve accumulated enough external indicators of value to finally warrant being loved by someone.

This moment right here and right now is all you’ve got. It’s fine to work on your body, your career, and your life, but not for the sake of some far off imagined future. The work you do has to give you sustenance now. Start getting messy today. Let your fucking guard down already. Take a risk. It doesn’t have to come from a place of confidence. It can come from a place of howling terror, as long as it comes. As long as you come. Now. Do it.

Now.

I don’t have a syringe full of undeserved white man confidence, but I am high enough at the moment to instead give you literally just one word of advice:

Now.

One more time for the cheap seats:

Now.

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Advice

On minor acts of violence

Is a glass of water or a punch in the face always wrong?

 

Absolutely not. I’m not some syrupy idiot who believes the cliché that violence is never the answer. Violence is a powerful tool, and when used for good, it is the purest form of necessary evil. (Of course, what people believe to be good is inevitably where we get into trouble when it comes to justifying violence.)

As for me personally, I believe hurling drinks and punching people to be generally wrong, but I also believe punching Nazis like Richard Spencer in the face or throwing water on garbage monsters like Tomi Lahren to be highly individualistic forms of civil disobedience, and in those specific instances, there is a greater good to consider. That said, it’s still assault, so don’t go around doing that kind of shit without being fully aware of the potential consequences. It is against the law to assault people, even shitty people, (as well it should be), but just because something is illegal, that doesn’t make it inherently wrong.

Also consider this: if the drink is hurled or the fist is thrown on impulse and out of anger, then you’re gonna lose most of your moral high ground. Outside of genuine self-defense, it is incredibly difficult to justify violence that stems from impulse or anger. Another thing to consider is proportionality. Throwing water on Tomi Lahren and ruining her night is a proportional response to her presence at the bar, whereas throwing acid on her would be completely unjustifiable. Punching Richard Spencer in the face and ruining his day is a proportional response to his presence at the Nazi rally, whereas shooting him in the face would be completely unjustifiable. Outside of total war, it is impossible to justify violence that isn’t proportional.

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Advice

On still hearing you

Not looking for a response on this one. In fact, I would be pretty embarrassed if you posted this. I simply owe you an apology.

I’m the one who submitted this over a year ago: http://dearcoquette.com/on-hearing-you/. In a moment of despair, after feeling for a long time like I was flailing wildly, trying to make even the smallest improvement in my life and failing at every attempt, I lumped your lack of response in with the giant mass of external indifference that I felt was closing in around me. Desperate for any validation–or failing that, catharsis–I turned all that frustration into an arrow and hurled it back at you.

Reading your response filled me with gratitude, relief, and even hope; I started to believe, just a bit, in my inherent value as a person. It turns out I trust validation from a complete stranger (whom I deeply respect) more than that of my loved ones; I can’t help but think they’re biased by the fact that I’m already just furniture occupying space in their lives.

However, your response convinced me because your sincerity came across, and that’s when I realized how unfairly I may have burdened you. Reading the comments only supported my fears that I had ridiculously expected you to be responsible for soothing my ego. I’m deeply ashamed to admit that, after following your blog for almost a decade, I forgot that you are a person with feelings, and of course you can’t respond to everything, but this whole community knows you care enough to genuinely wish you could. I saw–too late–how I took advantage of that, and I did not deserve the compassion you showed me in that moment, when I forgot your humanity yet you saw and affirmed mine. I’m beyond grateful that you did, but I’m so sorry that I demanded it of you in the first place. I’m sorry for any and every negative impact that post may have had at the time or any time since—for all I know there were none, but of course I can imagine many, so, for all of them, I’m sorry.

I’ll be honest: I still feel like I’m furniture in other people’s lives. I still believe that I am a cause of suffering to those closest to me, and that eventually I’ll hurt everyone I love. I’m not okay…but I do believe that I have the right to try to be. I am getting help. I’m trying to learn to minimize the misery I cause others, to avoid using my mental illnesses as a reason to take advantage, and to actually ask for help rather than extract it by manipulation. It’s progress, I suppose, since the last time I hit this button.

Thank you for doing what you do, and for being who you are.

 

You are way too hard on yourself.

No doubt your constant Eeyore impression gets annoying at times, but I promise that you are not the cause of anyone’s suffering. You can’t be. People are responsible for their own suffering. That shit isn’t on you.

That being said, having a mood or personality disorder is a totally separate problem than not having any integrity. Good on you for recognizing that you shouldn’t use your disorder to take advantage of people. Keep working on your integrity, and do what you can to quit being so fucking hard on yourself.

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Advice

On unrepentant assholes

I’ve been with my boyfriend almost two years and things are really good between us. We have fun together, great sex, support each other, take turns doing all the boring stuff around the house, try out new things and visit new places together, and generally have a really good partnership going on.

I love him and love being around him, but avoid speaking to him about stuff that matters to me at all costs because I know it will end up in a huge argument and I will want to break up with him.

I’m not talking about stuff like my family or friends or job. If I voice worries about that kind of thing he is a great listener and really supportive. If I talk about my hobbies, again he listens and is enthusiastic with me. I hope I am in return. We believe in each other and encourage each other.

It’s more on a political/hypothetical level that things get ugly. The first warning bell came when I started dating him and saw on his bookshelf the title ‘Why Rape Culture is a Dangerous Myth.’ Or something along those lines. When I asked him about it we launched in to a big argument. I don’t mind debates, but it soon seemed to me that he just totally lacked empathy. At no point is he prepared to concede that, as he isn’t a woman he might not be able to fully comprehend what it’s like to be a woman. He’s all, why should he (as a white man) not be allowed to speak about things because of ‘the accidents of his birth.’ He will argue around in circles about things because he enjoys debating, but fails to ever really listen. Our most recent argument was with him arguing that gay people choose to be gay. He said we should think they have a choice because it is empowering to them, or something equally irrelevant. Time and again I try to explain to him that, just because it would make more sense for the world to be a certain way hypothetically, it doesn’t mean that it is that way; you can’t always reason to conclusions; sometimes you have to accept that there are gaps in your knowledge and that you aren’t the authority on something. He disagrees. He actually said ‘I’ve never bungee jumped but I can have an opinion on it.’ It makes me want to slam my head against a wall.

I don’t know what to do. Am I just being precious and over sensitive? I don’t believe in only being around people who agree with me and always try to listen to other points of view, but I wonder if I’m somehow losing my integrity by being with him.

 

About half of all the submissions I receive are some version of “Hey, CQ. I really love my boyfriend, but it just occurred to me that he’s a chronic, unrepentant asshole. What should I do?”

Over the years, I feel like I’ve been fairly consistent with my recommendation: dump his ass, learn from the experience, and do better next time.

You, my dear, are with a magnificent asshole.

Act accordingly.

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Advice

On sober reminders

A few months ago, I took an overdose of beta blockers, and when I was in the ICU my heart stopped for almost a minute. The doctor showed me the chart where my heart was beating and then it wasn’t, although it was all rather difficult to comprehend at the time and the oxygen mask pushed on my glasses and made seeing clearly somewhat difficult. I remember wanting to ask the doctor if I could keep the chart, but thought that might be inappropriate. I wish I had asked now, because it would have been a sober reminder for moments like these.

I stayed in hospital for a few days and told no one where I was. I was so ashamed. As time went on, I was desperate to get out of that lonely and stale environment. When I got out, I felt so lost and wished I were back in the close quarters of predictable ward life. No one except my therapist knew about the attempt, and for weeks afterwards I wandered around in a surreal reality where my world had changed but the world in general had not, and everyone around me went on about their lives. I wanted to scream.

Soon enough, I returned to work. On the surface I appear to be doing alright. But in some ways, I’m not, and although I’m not exactly suicidal, I’m extremely uncomfortable with myself. I feel quietly desperate and lonely.

I don’t have a question, I just wanted to say that I don’t know how I feel about anything anymore, least of all myself.

 

Since you don’t have a question, I don’t really have an answer, but if I were you, I would go back to that hospital and request a copy of that chart, specifically whatever data and documentation they have of your heart stopping, and then I would go frame that shit.

You may be lost, but you’re alive. Please stay that way for as long as possible.

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Advice

On smug little shits who think they deserve my time

Do you care to substantiate your claim that Ben Shapiro is a fascist? Or offer some counter points (backed by peer reviewed sources) to Gaad Sad and Jordan Peterson? Or are you now a part of the anti intellectual regressive left that prefers to just sling terms like “fascist” instead of engaging in the open market of ideas?

This is why you can’t find a girlfriend, Bryan.

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Advice

On hitting the reset button on your life

I having been looking so hard to find some advice online about my marriage- but basically all of the advice I find is Christian based. And “serve yo man” is not really my thing.

So I’m coming to you.

My husband spends probably 75% of his free time with his friends (out and about- movies, fitness, etc,) or playing this game Paragon with them. I feel neglected, but when I bring it up I feel like such a nag and frankly pathetic- because I’m literally begging for attention. We haven’t even been married for a year and it feels like we’re living parallel lives.

I’m so lonely Coke- how do I reach out in a way that doesn’t seem like the angry naggy wife?

 

Fuck reaching out. If you don’t have any kids, immediately file for divorce and walk the fuck away. You were an idiot to marry him in the first place, but hopefully you’ve learned your lesson.

If your family shames you or pressures you with religion, tell them all to go fuck themselves. If you belong to a church that doesn’t support your decision, give them the finger on the way out the door. If you’re surrounded by friends who judge you for taking action to fulfill your emotional needs, then those people aren’t actually your friends.

You’re lonely and angry because you’ve been sold a lie, and yeah, it’s kinda your fault for buying it, but this is your opportunity to wake the fuck up and recognize that you’re miserable because you’ve been leading an unexamined life.

You are not finished growing. This is not all there is. You can have more, but you have to be willing to make bold moves. You can’t sit around and hope things will get better — they won’t. Don’t ask for permission — demand the things you want for yourself, and spit in the face of anyone who expects you to apologize for it.

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