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I've Got a Bad Case of the "Should's"
Finding the Right Words Day #5: SAD
Breaking news! We’re quickly approaching that time of the year where the temperature drops low enough for me to turn my AC off at night. This means summer is almost at an end. I happen to be a summer baby ☀️. I was born shortly after the Summer Solstice, a time of bright sun, warm weather, long days and everyone being outside and having fun.
I hate it. I hate the summertime.
Here’s a little fun fact about me: I get Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as S.A.D.) in the summertime. Most people associate S.A.D. with the wintertime, when the sun sets absurdly early and we’re forced to spend the majority of the day in darkness, craving vitamin D and the time we used to spend with our friends before the air gets so cold it hurts your face just to open your front door. But me, I look forward to the winter, because it means my season of “shoulds” is in the rearview mirror.
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Summer stresses me out, it always has. As a kid, summers were especially hard for my family, it was a time when my mother–a teacher–would be out of work and therefore out of an income, so funds and food were particularly lean in the summer months. As an adult, I still deal with the trauma/memories of those experiences, but now added to that is an intense pressure to make my summers worthwhile. In the age of social media (and honestly long before), I feel a powerful obligation to be doing what everyone else does.
I should be wearing tank tops and short shorts and sundresses.
I should be at music festivals.
I should be outside with my friends.
I should be at cookouts.
I should be doing things!!
But a lot of these summer traditions make me uncomfortable. I’m still learning body positivity so exposing my skin makes me feel self-conscious. I get nervous around crowds and I don’t like loud music (or spending money) so festivals are a no-no. When my friends are busy or equally broke and I’m stuck in the house alone, I start to feel bad that I’m not out and about gallivanting for the ‘Gram. I don’t like cooking, so I dread invites to the function where I’m expected to bring a dish. I get so stressed out!
I’ve mentioned earlier in this challenge that my depression is characterized by strong feelings of shame and guilt and this guilt is at a peak when the weather starts to get warm. I feel ashamed that I don’t like the same things other people seem to like, I feel guilty that I’m not enjoying the summer the way other people do. I feel like I should have awesome plans. I should be down to hit up the day parties. I should be having a Hot Girl Summer™, damnit!
My shoulds are not siloed just within the summer months, either. I’m a recovering people pleaser. If I’m not doing what I believe people (or even myself!) expect of me, I feel like a failure which in turn makes me feel guilty and subsequently sad. My inner dialogue always begins with “You should just…,”“You should have…,” “You should be…”
You know what, this is ridiculous. Like, writing about how I feel sad because it’s hot outside feels kinda stupid. As stupid as it is to run my life based on what other people are doing. So what if I’d rather spend my days indoors reading a book? So what if I’m not a great cook (rhyme unintended)? So what if I’m more comfortable in a loose T-shirt than a tank top? So what if my idea of fun is different than someone else’s? In the words of Real Housewife Sheree Whitfield, who gone check me, boo?!
Next year, I’m determined to have a good summer because I’m gonna do what I want and not feel guilty about it. And before that, I’m gonna have an amazing autumn and winter. Because no matter the weather, I’m gonna do me.
I really need to stop should-ing on myself. It’s my life, I can (and should!) do what I want.
This entry was written under the prompt SAD, Day 5 of the Finding the Right Words 30-Day Journaling Challenge. Follow along, see the graphic above and write about whatever comes to mind with the corresponding prompt. Share with me using the tag #FTRW or email me at joliedoggett [at] substack.com.
There’s no wrong way to journal. You just gotta find the right words. Happy Writing!