Here's the Thing: Climate change and life partners
🌎On Climate Change and Love🌏
A COMPLETE GEM OF A HUMAN:
I’m writing to you because I feel you may have some good insight into the intersection of climate change and romance. For context, I’m single, 31 years old, a self-employed artist, and looking for a partner. I have been studying the climate crisis since 2000, and at this point, have thoroughly run out of patience for those who don’t acknowledge the severity of it (this narrows the dating pool a bit because there’s a lot of people in denial in the U.S.).
In regards to how I view the future, one part of me feels that I won’t live to see 40 due climate change destabilizing industrial capitalism, leading me to either be murdered in a chaotic power vacuum, or, less sexily, be murdered by a fascist government because rich people would rather choose genocide over paying their fair share of fucking taxes (I’m an outspoken, non-binary artist and socialist – I would not pass well under a fascist regime). Another part of me looks at the uprisings and climate activism around the world and it gives me a touch of hope that humanity will get its shit together and I won’t be murdered by roving militia-mountain-men or Koch-funded brown-shirts. These two parts push and pull at me, making it difficult to know how to plan ahead.
In certain aspects, like my career, the urgency of the climate crisis has made it easier to pursue art over a tedious but lucrative desk job. In other respects, that urgency simply fans the flames of anxiety, which is less than helpful when trying to figure out if you have chemistry with someone. On the one hand, I find I have less patience for new relationships – the perceived stakes of “this better work because if it doesn’t you’ll have lost several precious months that you can’t afford”, adds a strain that’s not fair or helpful to anyone involved. On the other, I have a strong urge to rationalize away deal-breakers given the breakneck speed in which climate change is destabilizing the world (the rapid deforestation of the amazon triggering die-back within two years instead of the previously estimated twenty comes to mind), just so I don’t spend what very well may be my twilight years so alone.
I’ve seen counselors in the past and I’m currently seeing one (and to anyone out there reading this that’s not in counseling and can afford it – seriously go, even if you don’t feel you need it, go, it cannot be overstated how helpful counseling is), but I figured it couldn’t hurt to reach out to you and see what you might have to say. I know all this seems a touch all over the place (like, wow, this person both feels optimistic and pessimistic about the future and feels like they have to stick to their standards of dating while simultaneously rejecting them out of a looming sense of mortality at fucking 31 – like pick a side amirite), but that’s why I’m writing you. I don’t know how to rationalize these opposing views. I have a really hard time knowing how to move forward anymore.
Hello my sweet angel of a human!!!!! You and I have QUITE a lot in common beliefs-wise, so in some ways writing this letter will be easy because I agree with you on pretty much everything, but also… how do I give out the advice I need to hear? Anyway, let’s get to some loving shouting!!!!!! My favorite thing!!!!
Here’s the thing: We’re all gonna die. We don’t make it out alive no matter what we do. We’re all fucked; regardless of the Amazon rainforest or the feedback loops. It’s completely unacceptable. None of us should have to die!!! EVER. We are all big sweeties and artists and own cute little sweaters that look great on us and just learned how to cut our hair in a way we like AND NOW WE HAVE TO DIE?!?!!?!? Bullshit. It makes me want to scream and cry a lot. I’m very sad that we have to die at all, ever. I’m also completely aware of the fact that feeling sad about it often feels like a waste of the time I so desperately crave more of (it’s a delicate balance!!)
I’m very very extra sad that people are trying to speed up the process of you and I dying. I’m pissed and angry and depressed that millions of people are GOING TO die from climate change in the next few decades. I’m scared. I’m untethered. Unmoored. Absolutely swimming through the sludge of grief over here. It paralyzes me a lot. Like so scared and sad that I can’t even cry because sobbing is too hopeful of an activity.
I agree with you on all of these fronts. I believe you. I’m scared, too. I’m anxious all the time like a small dog who sees a big dog and just pisses itself. I’M HERE. A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE HERE WITH YOU. That’s part of the good news. That’s the silver lining of hope along with the protests and changing public opinion. A lot of people are sad and scared together. You may feel like you’re pushing a boulder up a hill alone, but every day more people are joining in to help you push the boulder up the hill. We still have to actually you know, get the boulder up the fucking hill which may not even be possible. The fight is good and worthy regardless of the outcome.
Ok that’s the climate change piece. Now lets get to SMOOCHIN!!!!
I am a commitment-phobe to the extent that if you saw it on TV you’d be like, “that feels a little heavy handed.” I am fully convinced/aware of the fact that without climate change I wouldn’t have gotten as serious as fast with my boyfriend. I think I would have dicked around (not an intentional pun, but it works) a lot more—something I still occasionally regret/long for. I wish I felt I had the time to be more frivolous, but I am not sure how long I have. Yes, this is climate related, but I also have a mix of very real chronic health problems and hypochondria, so I also am aware that I may not have a lot of time on this planet.
But that’s actually kind of false. I have already had quit a bit longer than a lot of people. I was not born with the promise that I would get 87.42 years. I’ve had 26 and they’ve been really great; greater than a lot of people get spread across 87.42 years!! If I died today I’d be so pissed because I just got small lip injections and they look great and they last six months and what a waste BUT ALSO I’d be like, damn I was loved and happy and making art I liked a lot of the time.
My point is: ten years is A LOT of time. A LOT. And you and I are probably going to live ten years. Ten years is a whole lifetime to a dog and dogs are perfect. You have plenty PLENTY of time for perfect things to happen. You also have time to dick around, even if for people like you and I—the anxious babies—it feels like if you let up for a second, you’ll fritter away your one wild and precious life. You will not. It’s all life. You cannot waste it. It’s not a waste. You can either be present or not present. You can either enjoy or dread. Sometimes you have control over which category you’re in, sometimes you don’t. Make good choices when you can. Find people who make you happier. Take jobs that you enjoy. Smooch people who are really sexy, even if they aren’t your forever partner. Seek out joy and suck the marrow out of it. Be aggressive with how good you want your life to be.
It may include a partner for a few months or a few years. You will feel lonely on and off no matter who you are or are not with. Don’t overlook red flags. When we have 2 months left to live THEN you can overlook red flags. For now, we’re not there yet. You have time to be patient and get it right. Spending time with people, even people whom it doesn’t “work out” with IS NOT A WASTE EVER; the end of life is the same no matter what. For all of us. Rushing to the end will not change that.
My anxiety often feels like, “I hate this waiting! Just tell me the outcome so I can stop worrying and deal with it!” And with climate change I often just want to KNOW how bad it’s going to get. I also want time to slow down and stay here forever at 1 degree of warming where things are bad but not Bad Bad Bad. But you and I both already know the end: we die. We die if we date someone great. We die if we don’t. We die if we get married. We die if we’re lonely forever.
There will never be a time when people like you and I just forget about the urgency to live life well.
You and I are simply not like that. We don’t just have fleeting thoughts of, “oh yeah I guess people die. Huh. Can’t do anything about that. Oh well!”
So don’t let your awareness of mortality go, but do remember that while life is short it’s also the longest thing you’ll ever do. From your perspective, you’re going to live forever. You’ll be alive for all of it!
Sometimes I try to think of life like an 8 day vacation, with each day representing a decade. If you keep thinking about how you have to go home on Monday, you’re going to ruin the trip. So yes, pack it full, but only of things you actually want to do; you can’t pack it full of things just for the sake of packing them in. If you overbook yourself you will not enjoy anything. The metaphor here is don’t put too much pressure on yourself to live this precisely flawless life with no wrong choices. WRONG CHOICES ARE LIFE, TOO. SITTING AROUND “WASTING TIME” IS LIFE AS WELL.
Find the good stuff, use your energy to fight climate change when and where you can, kiss people who are good to you whenever the opportunity arises, date them if you’d like, stop dating them if they no longer serve you and your life.
Sophia Benoit writes this very newsletter; she also writes about sex & relationships for GQ, tries to write about Fleetwood Mac for GQ, avoids writing by tweeting at @1followernodad, works full-time as a researcher for Lights Out With David Spade, and has had bylines in The Guardian, Reductress, Refinery29, Allure, and The Cut. You can reach her or yell at her at firstname.lastname@example.org.