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I’m 19 and I’ve lost my sparkle for life. How will I ever get it back?
Your privileges aren’t necessarily a route to joy, says Mariella Frostrup. But finding your own purpose in life is
The dilemma I’m a girl, I’m 19 and I never get excited about anything. It’s been years since I’ve felt that sparkle, even though I’ve done things and been to places that I really liked and that changed me in a positive way.
My bucket list in life is very long and full of diverse activities and trips, but I never seem to enjoy that much when I’m doing it. I usually only realise how good it was afterwards, and I feel lucky about what I had experienced, but my heart never beats fast.
Friends get excited over small and silly things (and God knows it’s healthy, I am not judging) while I keep getting bigger chances than them and never feel that good. I do realise I’m lucky to have a supportive and wealthy family, and many friends. I am even good looking.
I’ve been depressed last year, and even though I am much better now, it seems to me that the only thing missing is the step from “glad” to “excited”.
Will I ever feel the sparkle again? If I don’t now, will I when I am old?
Mariella replies Even before! And you don’t need to sit around twiddling your thumbs and waiting for divine intervention; you can get cracking on reviving that sparkle right now. This is a common problem, increasingly so among younger people, and although it can often be linked with clinical depression it’s also perfectly possible that you’ve just lost sight of the things that make you happy.
For the clinically depressed or terminally myopic it can be hard to separate the challenges faced by others from our own near-the-knuckle woes. When you wake up in the morning and find you’re not moved by birdsong, or moved to tears by the sight of an old couple holding hands, or a kid touching sand for the first time, it’s a good thing to start looking for what’s afflicting you.
I’m so sorry to hear that your capacity for pleasure is so depleted, but you need to understand that what you describe as being lucky isn’t the pass to happiness you assume it to be. There’s nothing wrong with failing to use your privilege as a weapon against joylessness: the two are closer linked than you might imagine.
You say your parents are wealthy, and perhaps that’s an issue here. I’ve always wondered how my work imperative and, through it my enjoyment of life, would have fared if I hadn’t needed to make a living and step far beyond my comfort zone in order to do so. There’s a frisson of danger that you can’t easily conjure up when jeopardy is not a paycheck away.
First, though let’s talk about that depression which can’t be discounted as a considerable contributing factor for your malaise. You don’t tell me whether you’ve been treated for it, but I would strongly recommend that you do talk to a professional – contact your GP, or Mind (mind.org.uk) and make sure you have a support system in place. Depression is an epidemic that recognises no socio-economic borders and no matter how #blessed you feel it can seize you in its grip.
That said, as I mature (disconcertingly speedily) and become an irritating know-all, I’m increasingly conscious of the failure of my generation to instil resilience in our children. Don’t get me wrong, my friends, acquaintances and colleagues have offered spectacular opportunities to their offspring: helicopter-parented them through exams; filled in their college forms; scrimped and saved to supply a deposit for their first flat; and endeavoured to be there for them through every pitfall and passion project, every friendship failure and broken heart. And guess what? It could be that we’re causing equivalent damage with our goodwill as was inflicted by the neglect and ignorance of previous generations’ parenting.
It seems to me that because we parents haven’t got a clue, we’re frequently over-compensating for a perceived absence of care in our own pasts that may actually have been a blessing. I wonder if my generation’s sustained efforts to bring our children up in the protective circle of our embrace has left too many kids, like you, struggling to work out how to find their own pleasure in the world.
There’s one good reason to seek joy in life and that’s simply because you are lucky to be alive – and the challenge is what best purpose to put your time to. Look around, step beyond your comfort zone, delve deep into issues you might not have thought about engaging with and don’t imagine that just because you’re surrounded by privilege you are churlish for not being happy!
When you find your own priorities in life you’ll understand how subjective they are. Life will always have its ups and downs so when you lose sight of the sparkle it’s time to change your perspective and look further afield for inspiration. There’s a big, wide world out there that you can make an impact on, but right now small steps towards discovering your purpose are all you need to worry about.