Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Two young women I know – one I’m related to and one I work with – said to me recently, "I hate my life."

And I gave them the usual response: "But you have your whole life ahead of you … Wait until you have kids – you’ll really hate your life."

Then, it occurred to me they weren’t joking, and this was more than the typical 20-something angst.

We all hate our lives from time to time, usually when the pain and pressure and trials become more than we can endure, and we feel as if we’re hanging by our fingertips and there’s only one place to go and that’s down. On those occasions, even "down" doesn’t seem so bad because you think it will let you escape the pain.

Young people have an entirely different set of challenges from the ones their parents did. There’s the stress to succeed, to find a job in a contracting job market, to find true happiness in a decadent society, to be popular and fashionable, and to find romance, which in the Internet age can be a precarious and perilous search.

The emptiness young people often feel, I believe, is a result of the lack of spiritual values in our hedonistic culture. The pressure to be as immoral as the next person can cause enormous stress for teenagers and young adults who want to do the right thing. Sadly, their lives are often haunted by the specter of drinking, drugs, recreational sex, materialism, divorce and narcissism.

Generation Y – the 80 million young people born between 1981 and 2000 – are plagued by emotional, spiritual and moral problems. As a result, millions of them are on medication and suffering depression.

One friend’s daughter went from medication to medication with no success, and the side effects included irritability, emotional outbursts and study problems.

This family ordeal began, her mother told me with tears in her eyes, the day her 14-year-old daughter said she didn’t want to live anymore.

How does a 14-year-old come to that state in life? Where have we gone wrong as a society when the pressure to fit in, to be fashionable, to be popular and everything else make life not seem worth living for a teenager?

After she told me her story, all I could say was "I’m so sorry. I’ll pray for her."

It reminded me of when I was a teenager and suffered chronic confusion – the "identity crisis," as we called it back then – and I thought things would never work out. Life can be painful until you come to the realization that God has a plan for you, and it’s better than your plan. In the words of one friend, you just have to let go and let God. But surrendering is never easy.

God leads us where we should go if we let him, and sometimes he leads us through unemployment, health problems, separations, loneliness and those heart-breaking days when we all hate our life.

I can still remember the time back in my 20s when I was suffering what I thought was the worst crisis ever. It left me despondent and so troubled that I didn’t think I could face another day. I lived in St. Petersburg, Fla., and remember staring out at Tampa Bay thinking, "I can’t go on. I hate my life so much."

One of my friends, who was about 80 years old and had endured immeasurably greater tragedies – including the death of a child and years of alcoholism that almost killed him until he got into AA – sat beside me on that chilly autumn night while the lights of the city reflected on the water.

He said, "I know it’s hard to believe, but this, too, shall pass." Then he cupped his hands together and added, "Life can get really shaky but never forget that he always has you in his hands."

He was right. It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten, especially on the days when I hate my life.

J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.