Some Thoughts On Not Being Able To Control Anything


Earlier this month my apartment building was broken into and now all I can think about are the things that I cannot control and how we’re all going to die someday.

Let me back up.

In the city where I live it’s fairly common for “secured access” to be considered an amenity on an apartment building, and my apartment is no exception. This means 24 hour security, keys are required to open up any point of entry to the actual building, you need a key to operate the elevator. Just layers upon layers to give you a sense of security for you, your things, and your home.

But a few weeks ago that didn’t matter.

A man snuck into the building, somehow got to one of the floors, went through packages that were left outside of apartments, and even entered an apartment where one of my neighbors was sleeping. She hadn’t locked her door and woke up when he knocked over her mirror, and then pretended to be a delivery man who happened upon the wrong unit. Security didn’t catch him in time and he punched a maintenance man before heading off.

Yes, there were a number of contributing factors that lead to this happening (security not doing their jobs, people being too trusting and letting someone up and in the elevator, not locking your door etc etc) but it really shook me when I thought about it all. I never ask to see my neighbor’s keys and just amicably go, “What floor?” when they scurry into the elevator. I need both hands to count the number of times I’ve found our security sleeping or watching TV or just texting while they’re on duty. I used to leave my door unlocked all the time because I have a dog and my best friend lived in the same building and we would just treat it like Friends and come and go as we pleased.

For being advertised as secure, I really have never had that much control over my own safety.

And honestly? That put into perspective that we really have no control over anything. And for a certifiable control-freak like myself, that’s not just unnerving. It’s paralyzing.


Earlier this month my apartment building was broken into and now all I can think about are the things that I cannot control and how we’re all going to die someday.

For a very long time I thought I was go-with-the-flow. A chill girl. A cool girl, if you will. But now looking back? I know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I had decided on what career I would have at the age of 4 and held onto it for over 20 years. I’ve never just worked a job to have a job; I’ve always tried to get promoted and made it seem like my world even if I was just serving pizzas or bartending. In my relationships there was a very clear cut, “We’ll do x this summer, y next year, and be at z at this point.”

And when each of those things ended, when my plans fell through, when I realized that for all of my organizing, for all of my certainty, I actually had no say in anything, I completely disintegrated. I spiraled. The lack of control was immobilizing. I can come up with all of the metaphors in the world like being held under water, running a marathon through sand, or struggling to fall asleep after being up for three days but they still won’t accurately describe how it felt.

Because it was something that I didn’t know I desperately needed until it was gone.

And it’s funny. This obsession with control isn’t really something I’ve tried to cure. Rather when I started putting my life back together each time I lost it I was really just finding a way to control things again. I found a new career when I left the old one behind and worked nights, weekends, early mornings, 50, 60+ hours a week to excel as quickly as possible. I deleted phone numbers, ignored attempts at reconnecting, and ice-queened myself away so those exes could never touch me again. I put myself in therapy to get ahold of things like anxiety and impulsivity and irresponsibility.

And all of those things are good things. But as much as I can wave my “success” flag and say, “Look how together I’ve got it!!” I still can’t control shit.

I wish there was a resolution to this. That I could say I’ve learned to shrug my shoulders and not freak out about canceled plans or last minute projects or running into an ex’s friends. That there was a check mark next to the “Relinquish Control” column on the never ending to-do list that is self-improvement.

But as of three weeks ago I’ve stopped leaving my apartment unlocked, even for friends, and I bought a taser and mace to keep next to my bed. As of three weeks ago I haven’t been able to fall asleep until after 3 AM each night because I think I hear things outside my door. Because three weeks ago, I remembered how not one of us has a shred of control with what happens to us no matter how many precautions we go to to give us the illusion of otherwise.

And now, I can’t stop thinking about how we’re all going to die someday.