Subscribe to HAPPINESS IS A SKILL, a bi-weekly newsletter devoted to helping people heal from depression.


September 9, 2022 • Brooke Siem


Want is a word I don’t seem to understand in the way other people do. I want my dog to live forever. I want to teleport to Paris and eat all the croissants without gaining an ounce. I want time to stop each morning, so I can bask in the luxury of dozing in bed for hours—and still start my day at 7am.

I want the impossible. The fantastical.

Over the years, in an effort to help me snap out of depression or guide me to a solid path, people have asked, “What do you want?” And when that question didn’t go anywhere, “What kind of life do you want?” The hope, of course, was for me to answer with something concrete. A doctor. A mother. A business owner. A wife. 

I never had an answer. I still don’t. It is easy enough for me to know what I don’t want, but I’ve never known what I want. Because from my perspective, all earthy options come with strings. The gooey brownie comes with a blood sugar spike and post-indulgence lethargy. The $100,000/year career comes with the corporate bullshit required cash that check. There are no free lunches, and I can’t seem to wantsomething with conditions. 

There’s a saying that goes, “If you want better answers, ask better questions.” Asking myself what I want results in paralysis. I just can’t get there, likely because all my answers are rooted in solving an existing grievance, instantaneously. (If I want my dog to live forever, then I never have experience her loss. Problem solved!)

Instead, I’m learning to shift the focus from what I want to asking myself how I like to feel. This has been particularly useful lately, as I’ve been considering a run for local government. Do I want a third job? Not particularly. But I really like the feeling of making sense of a mess, and the satisfaction of knowing a job is done well because I was there to take part. I like feeling purposeful, and after five years of writing and selling a book entirely about me (as is the nature of memoir), I’m craving projects about someone or something else. 

Still, there is trepidation about entering into an endeavor I haven’t spent my life dreaming about. I know just enough to know there’s so much I don’t know. The fog of it all butts right up against wanting. I want safety and predictability. I want comfort and ease. I want to go to bed each night with a quiet mind devoid of responsibility. 

I want the impossible. The fantastical. 

No life is without strings. Not running for office—or whatever Big Thing you’re considering in your life—doesn’t guarantee that life will be free of worry. So if you’re at a crossroad unable to decide what you want, try asking better questions. 

How do you like to feel? Does the Big Thing bring up feelings you like—determination, purpose, focus? What makes you feel satisfied? At what point do you just take a big swing? What might you be capable of if you take the chance? What if you do what reflects who you are?

More articles from the blog

see all articles

January 3, 2023

On Living and Breathing Grief

read the article

October 28, 2022

The struggle to kill the serotonin theory of depression in a world of political nonsense

read the article

October 21, 2022

Last Times

read the article

October 14, 2022

Newborn Babies Go Through Antidepressant Withdrawal

read the article