Fitting in vs. being boxed in vs. wanting to be free

How does ‘follow your dreams’ and ‘find a job’ fit into all of this?

I ask myself that often.

Tomorrow I’m meeting up with two job consultants for an obligatory meeting relating to my period of unemployment and subsequent benefit.

And, yeah, in my country I can get financial benefit from the government for being unemployed. How very ‘depressing’, indeed. But you must understand the terms of condition that come with this ‘benefit’. It is very demanding and limited concerning whatever freedom and ideas you might have job-wise. The government doesn’t spend money on people freely, after all. By principle, it’s only fair, but you need to follow strict guidelines and can’t do any volunteering unless it’s humanitarian. Even the possibilities of working freelance and part-time have been tightened. It puts you in a very limited space of finding a paid, full-time job that isn’t just cleaning or working behind a counter in a cafe or supermarket.

And yet, I can’t complain when I’m still getting paid by the welfare system, can I? No. But am I any happier after almost two years of unemployment, trying my best to find my way through the system? No.

Digressing, this meeting tomorrow has ‘forced’ me out of my usual, melancholic bubble of denying my own reality and what I should probably do about it. *scoffs* Yeah, I live a hard, utterly spoiled life.

I’m not sure whether to confess my battle with my insecurities and depression to the job consultants in order to explain my inability to find a job. Should I tell them my struggle with finding a goal in life and wanting to be happy while also desperately wanting to please those around me, fit in [the system] and not be a disappointment?

It would be my most honest reply to any question they might pose and probably help them give me some honest advice in return (hopefully).

*sighs*

But, aside from this, I also have to acknowledge to myself that it is my life, my only life, and that I should be allowed to be happy – since I actually know what would make me happy – however silly and unambitious they may sound – and that I have the means and the privileges to make at least some of it happen. In truth, I don’t believe I’m that hard to please regarding how I live; that I could live much simpler than I do now (not that I live in a mansion or anything now) and that I don’t need much in life other than my few creature comforts. My own little cottage and a dog would be nice, too.

So, I started pondering if my underlying need to please my surroundings (and thus the system; fitting in and all that) and my fear of disappointing and not have high enough ambitions in a world of privileges has caught me in this system and my system of thinking (huh, how meta) – together with my depression as well. And that all these elements hold me down from enjoying an alternative freedom that might make me happier.

Somewhere in that question, I sense that I’ve found my answer.

What would happen if I thought entirely alternatively? If I reinvented my life? (To use a total platitude). If I gave up what I have now, my apartment and unemployment benefit, and invested in what I want (cue such sentimental wishes as the cottage and the dog), damn the conventional consequences! Made my own terms, my own money, however small. I’m not big on finance and I may be way too naive to think this can go around, but, after all, I don’t need much.

Other people have done it before me.

Part of that dream/happiness also include a social aspect as I’ve talked about before; of finding true company in life; romantic partners, friends, colleagues, etc.. I’ve lately come to realize that I need this kind of social interaction; more consistently, more intimately, so to speak. But that part must come when it comes. I can’t exactly force it, after all. The other parts are more easily attainable.

Just having this dream, this alternative gives me a inner sense of peace and comfort that I haven’t found anywhere else yet, though I have no practical experience in how to go about it and make it happen. Still, it’s not impossible, I believe.

This thought of an alternative lifestyle takes me back to my innermost questions; my own, singled-out voice asking: ‘What do you want to do?’ which in turn always returns to my consistent desire to write. It is the one thing I’ve always enjoyed, though I’ve always thought it a futile thing to voice or wish for because it seems so general and something anyone could do; voice an opinion. ‘Not something anyone would or should get paid for,’ says the pessimistic voice in my head. A voice I too often listen to and fall victim for, because I don’t have the courage or the will to fight it.

But then I tried to ignore the voice (for once) and stayed with the thought of writing. Of actually trying to make a living out of it.

So, that lead me to the hypothetical idea of becoming a professional blogger. An idea I’ve previously had in the back of my mind and brushed aside time and time again. An idea which comes with many ambivalent feelings and thoughts, all the different voices returning, telling me different things. On the one side, it’s a most natural and comforting idea, because I’ve blogged – on an amateur level – for years now. On the other side, I guess I still feel the idea is somewhat tabooed, not a real-real job, despite the job landscape has changed drastically in the last two decades. Blogging has become a legitimate job where people can make tons of money, sometimes by simply yelling in a computer game or reviewing the newest mascara on the market.

However, I don’t want to make your usual glossy, Instagram-worthy blog of cute cupcakes and the latest fashion trends. Not that there’s anything wrong with those. But I want to make something that’s my own. Something real, critical, humorous and frank. I want to analyse and discuss art, politics, people, culture, media, TV, etc.. I want to create constructive discussions and, hopefully, change attitudes. Even my own. I don’t want to be afraid to voice an opinion in a public forum as myself. (After all, it’s different with blogs like these, where I can stay fairly anonymous).

Am I wrong to put so many ideals into a project like this?

I admit, being a teacher would sound like the most ideal, concrete job for me in this regard, and it’s not something I haven’t thought of, but I’m still struggling in my (INTP) insecurity regarding the responsibility of teaching. I’m not entirely comfortable with the authority of lecturing and ‘placing my wisdom upon others’. I may be overthinking this way too much, but I just don’t think I’m there yet. I’m still a child of learning and of the world. I’m not sure I could be confident enough to be a convincing teacher yet, if you catch my drift.

Anyways.

I’m still not sure how much of this will be mentioned at the meeting tomorrow. Sometimes such frank thoughts and feelings just come out by themselves because I don’t have the strength to fight them (sensing a theme here?). At other times, I am too embarrassed to ‘fess up and show my insecurity and I just clam up and remain curt in my responses, pretending everything is fine. The former is probably more productive but I can’t help cringing every time it happens because I literally just blurt out things with a helpless, resigned attitude, unable to stop myself.

How very INTP.

I may return with an update tomorrow.

***09/04/18 UPDATE***

Ah, folks, here comes the update you never asked for: The meeting went as expected. Nothing new to report. No grand confession on my part. It was all very calm, business-like. I got a few extra tips regarding my CV and an underlying message of ‘it’s about time to get your shit together’. (No surprise). I get it. I really need to decide on something.

And, in a way, through this reflective post, I have. However slow the realization may have arrived.

I don’t know if it has something to do with this day and age, my generation, or if it’s just me, but I feel my problem of ‘being stuck’ all goes deeper; that it’s something very personal I’m struggling with regarding finding a goal, a job, a career. I’m so painfully introspective and, as I said, I’m rather slow to figure out my life and what I want with it – at a fairly late age, maybe – and belatedly acknowledged that I do not have these big concrete ambitions or visions … Although, you could argue that those ideas I mentioned above are somewhat concrete. After all, I’m far from indifferent or despondent; I would like to contribute and do something good for society, but I think it should be on my own terms and at my own pace. I have probably been a bit caught up in this mindset of trying to find a goal that could also meet the expectations around me and maybe even feeling a little trapped in the unemployment benefit system and not daring to think or throw myself into something alternative. I think I must stop trying to fit in (how often haven’t I told myself so?). It has only seemed like an obstacle so far. I just think I have to think in brand new lanes and instead ask myself what will make me happy, first and foremost, rather than trying make others happy about my decisions in life, simultaneously.

At least, for now.

Over and out.

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Shadow sides

We have all got them. The dark, hidden spots within ourselves that rear up their ugly heads every now and then; at the best of times, at the worst of times. They are what makes you doubt and despise yourself, makes you shameful, even bitter and depressive, and do and say things you are not proud of. Momentarily or for longer periods. They are, I guess, a part of life.

However, sometimes, they are so prominent, so poignant, so persistent that you start wondering if your eyes ever twinkle with joy or delight whenever you do laugh. It is strange to never see yourself this intimately. You may know the feeling of joy and recognize it in others, but to see it in yourself from an outside point of view…? Perhaps only those who have been captured in the moment by an artist or a photographer have. But even then: Is what they see who they feel? How they truly feel?

In my case or in the general one as well, these shadow sides, as I like to call them, hide an underlying insecurity of appearing pathetic, desperate, selfish, arrogant, conceited, etc.; essentially, of not being liked. And yet, people’s thoughts of you are rarely as bad as those you have of yourself.

For one, I live with a crippling feeling of loneliness and the shame following it; when my logic brain interrupts by saying it’s pathetic since I’m so privileged and that others suffer more. It only feeds and amplifies my shame. On the other hand, we are all lonely, my logic brain counteracts (oh so annoyingly); what I feel is nothing special compared to the greater whole. ‘Thus why not just get over it and move on?’

I’ve realized what is understood of the phrase ‘idle hands are the devil’s workshop’. Not from a religious point of view, but now that I’m without a job again I feel the lack of occupation in its most literal sense even more. Depression sneaks its ugly head into my rear-view mirror again. Every hint of motivation is lost just as quickly as it appears. Interests turn to obsessions which expand to the point of unhealthy before they deflate like the air from a balloon and replaced by new ones. In order to fill the void with… something, because I’m somehow unable or too much of a coward to fill it with the right ‘things’. I violently yearn for these ‘things’; events and people to install themselves in my life and vice versa. So much it hurts, and at the same time I am disgusted with this urge and I rebel against it and tell myself I am not needed, because I don’t know how else to handle it. I’m too pathetic, too inept to do anything about it. And I begin to question if I ever really worked for the good things that have occurred in my life or if I’m just lucky or too spoilt, too presumptuous to think that if I’ll only wait, good things will come – without making the true and honest effort to make them happen or head towards them.

The worst – or, at least, my worst – shadow side may just be self-pity. It encompasses all the other shadow sides, everything I’ve said so far, in a grey mass that feels inescapable. It will always be within me, somewhere. Its parasitic existence will always cast a shadow across every thought or action some time or another. I guess it’s closely related to my self-deprecation (which again stems from a lack of self-worth or belief in oneself), but it also entails a sense of resignation, of cowardice; of lacking the courage or motivation to do anything real about it.

And thus the self-pity feeds itself in an endless circle. It inhibits me from the most selfless actions because I find myself unworthy of other people’s good graces and then I berate my own selfishness; for thinking that ‘even the smallest action won’t bring any good so it’s not worth doing’, and, at the same time, I pity myself for thinking so little of myself. And I feel ashamed once again.

I feel alone again. Only I can do something about it. It’s such a lonely feeling to sit with, in every sense. Despite knowing that I’m not alone in feeling it; that many do so, I believe it can only be dealt with on your own. Then again, it’s the only way I have known.

I’m not sure I’m searching for confirmation and recognition of doing selfless acts, of being a good person; I mostly think my loneliness and insecurity further a sense of helplessness, of not being able to attract or keep people close beyond a superficial or impersonal level, anyway.

‘So, what’s the use of recognition?’ I think to myself.

Furthermore, I think this exact sentiment is what disables me from finding ambition in life; a job goal or a career. If I dismiss any future recognition beforehand, because I don’t believe in my own worth of getting it on the levels I need anyhow; if I can’t hold faith in the first-mentioned kind of recognition, how can I hold faith in a job-related kind?

And thus, I’m stuck. And I’m pitiful and selfish (or that’s what I tell myself). Because it’s not like I’ve been without any kind of recognition in my life. Far from it! But as I said, there’s a selfish need within of needing something less fleeting, less impersonal. Something deeper, steadier. And the fact that I feel so bad at giving it back (my track record tells me so, but I may be wrong), only feeds my shame of wanting it returned myself.

The other question is: From whom? There are few people in my life, and those few I am in contact with have their own lives to deal with. I don’t feel like clinging, without sense or purpose, to anyone. I never want to be a burden. And then I balk at the way I always end up making it about myself when I know I could be so much more for other people; that I can give and help instead of just making it about my own introvert needs. Somewhere, a voice says to me that I am better than this; that I can be better than this. But where do I find the courage, the motivation to do it on my own?

I end up back where I started: My own insecurity and inability in reaching out. Instead I hide away, hide inside myself. I… give up, in some way. (Too quickly, I feel, despite having spent most of my 20s like this, trying to make sense of things). Because none of these features could possibly make me anymore ‘attractive’ than I already am, I mockingly say to myself.

*sighs*

Sorry to be such a downer. I guess I’m a bit blue today.

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A paradox of definitions

Despite proudly asserting myself as an INTP, all through my life I have had qualms about asserting myself as… something or someone. I wanted to just be, not be someone, because I already was someone since life came and found me. Does that make sense?

I have struggled with definitions of my persona; of informal or formal titles, roles, nicknames and categories given or gained by the norms of society and, thus, inadvertently, by myself and others: Child, girl, tomboy, woman, nerd, loner, weirdo, snob, know-it-all, etc.. Of not being enough. Of being too much. It’s something we all go through one way or another.

Because life, in all its realness, must have some sort of definition. It’s what the struggle of identity is all about.

Still, I have persisted to give definitive answers to questions like “what do you like?”, “who do you like?” and “what do you want with your life?” simply because I had no definitive answers. I waited around for years for some definitive answers to form in my head that I could use as a response, but they never came. And in the end, the answers would never be good enough for the questions posed. Another struggle came about with that realization, because even though I told myself that as long as the answers were good enough for me then that was good enough it itself.

But I have been pampered in and with life, I realize now. My struggles have only ever been limited to the above and I am so lucky, in that regard, and so wildly ignorant. Because, in the end, my honest response to those questions corresponds with my naive definition of life – or rather my life – and that is to just live it; no ambitions, no assumptions, no expectations. And such a notion is… unrealistic. Spoiled. Infantile. I always wanted to avoid said questions like a child would, because those questions dipped into what the adult world looks like: of taking responsibility of one’s life, of having drives and ambitions and where interpersonal relations would become complex and forever confusing. I couldn’t just be; I needed to be someone. Such a steep turn from childhood, and I recoiled from such a turn. Instinctively, I wanted to remain in the ‘adult-and-question-free’ zone of childhood. At most, I wanted to ease myself as slowly as possible into adulthood. And, in many ways, I have, because I am, in many ways, spoiled and lucky in life. I came to realize so many things belatedly and I’ve yet to experience many things that belong to adult life. I’ve been both reluctant, inept and – in this instance – unlucky in seeking them out and I can’t seem to rid myself of this slow-working ‘handicap’.

This poses somewhat of a problem since my Enneagram type (5w4) has an instinctual social variant and thus I have also come to realize and accept how much I long for the right people and company in my life. Because of and in spite of my loneliness. (Note: my type result may very well be colored by said loneliness, but in a way my loneliness has always been there). Not to misunderstand this instinctual variant as a need for a ton of friends and acknowledgement. Nor is it cry for romance and affection. Simply of more intimate company and understanding. Something beyond the mere physical… Someone who sticks around, preferably for good, without expectations or presumptions or labels, and thus not necessarily as a wedded life partner or soulmate, sharing house and kids and all that… How can I explain it? Again, words escape me when I try to define what or who exactly I’m looking for or where I see myself. The need itself still eludes me because emotions elude me, yet I cannot escape the need nor the emotions.

I have long thought myself as a type 5w6; that I needed and strove towards my own company and that that was enough. But it wasn’t enough. It isn’t enough, and it’s hard for me to admit that. Company – the right company – gives me more than it drains me. I’ve been stubborn about realizing otherwise for a very long time. This sort of denial or blind spot was my safeguard against the world, against myself, so to speak. It was my insecurity manifesting itself; all my doubts about my own worth and appeal, my quality as a human being, my fear of simply remaining the wallflower I am. All the while, my introspection only grew and inflicted a paranoid notion that it had turned into something grotesque… and perhaps that’s where I’ve ended…

However, my life is far from over and all through life we struggle with identity and definitions. Perhaps we’ll never fall completely into place for any longer periods. Perhaps we will. The uncertainty of life will never go away and I guess that is a part of our fear of it, as well as our fascination with it. And it’s one of the reasons why I, for one, keep on living; continue to just be.

Sometimes I am weighed down by life, so heavily it feels like I’m going to be crushed by it; at other times I feel so unbearably light that I fear I’ll flow away and never return. And I realize that that is living and I feel both blessed and cursed, alive and dead. It’s everything and there’s still so much to it that I might never live or understand, it overwhelms me.

All the while I struggle with my own place in life; of finding and settling into all the definitions it requires, when all I want to do is just to live in it – since life came and found me.

*revised 08/03/18*

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Is company a distraction from loneliness?

Am I more happy in the company of other people – that is, friends and family – than I am alone?

Yes and no.

My teen self would have been more favorable to a ‘no’.

But – since having moved from home – ironically (or self-evidently), I’ve shed some of my arrogance and come to acknowledge the importance of those who know you and regard you as friend or family – and that self-isolation will do you no good.

Living by yourself provides you with the taste of adult loneliness that you took for granted as young.

In the company of others (though, always depending on what kind of company since I am an introvert at my core) I’m more cheery, more sassy-mouthed, likely presenting a version of myself that few see and all my parents ever see. I don’t think my parents know my quiet, melancholy self that well because I mostly keep up a cheery facade in front of them; to even out the bitter atmosphere they mostly inhabit. To make them forget their antipathy towards each other and make them smile for a while. So very childish. So very human. And yet, I know; I know my whole existence is based on keeping something in place. Something that was probably never there in the first place. Maybe I’m too superstitious. Too dramatic. Too conceited. To think I can be tainted by that. That I came to this world on a wrong premise; something tainted in my core. That I wasn’t meant for this world, but life came and found me. And thus I can never rid myself of that little black spot. It will sneak its way through my armor. Manifesting itself in the little things, against my will. An ugliness that’s part of me. Keeping everyone at a small distance, unwittingly or not, no matter how close I otherwise get to someone. And yet, there’s nothing unique, nothing special about that. And I don’t want it to be. It’s just…there. I realize that now. I don’t have to say it out loud.

The question is: Do I like myself when I’m with other people?

Not an easy question to answer.

I think, at times, I forget myself when I’m with others. A good thing, perhaps. Healthy even. But it’s also two-faced.

I distract myself from my own faults; covering them with arrogance; that others should be more agreeable towards my countenance, my ideas and points of views. But likability is not a self-given, no matter how ‘entertaining’ a characteristic of your personality you present. In the case of the relationship with my parents, there are other matters that come between us (as I’ve relayed one time too many times, I think *sighs*), but I have this irrational fear that no matter how close I become to anyone that they will have this ambivalent opinion of me; of being both witty and entertaining, but also attention-seeking, a little too eager to comment, a little know-it-all, a little childish and irritating all in all. I’m not saying that a person can and should only be one thing, but I’m always caught in this awful paradox of wanting to be myself in every shape and form and never wanting to make those closest to me, my dearest ones, slowly grow more and more tired of me and, eventually, needing to get away from me.

Remember the thing about INTPs just wanting, deep down, to be liked? Well, all humans do, I guess, and the fear of being abandoned is even more universal. But having this ingrown and, frankly, silly and stubborn need to stay independent and ‘unblemished’, if you like, by attachments (that I sense is particularly essential to every INTP) clashes with the core need of being liked. By being liked, you have to step out of that stubborn, prideful and fearful shell of being alone in everything. ‘No man is an island’. It is true. Not in the sense that we aren’t all islands in some sense; we are born alone and die alone, but that island doesn’t have to stay forever secluded simply because loneliness is a fact in life.

As lonely as I am – as we all are – I am also the creator of my own loneliness.

Even loneliness can be a distraction from loneliness itself. By isolating myself from myself, so to speak. In that sense, company is a distraction from loneliness. Not entirely, but it quells the loneliness for a bit. Either that or I distract myself by escaping into books, music, etc…. well, you’ve heard it all before. Because in the loneliness also exists a crumpling self-pity and thus a self-hatred. It’s the only thing I hate myself for: the self-pity. And I pity myself for hating and pitying myself. As I’ve said before; it’s a vicious cycle one cannot easily break away from. I stop pitying myself by distracting myself. By diving into someone else’s mind and emotions, into fiction and music. It’s only when I am alone with my own thoughts that it all returns.

And in return I feel guilty that I cannot find a way to distract myself less selfishly. Less demonstratively isolated, in body or in mind. Or both. Though my need to give is great, I have no idea how to go about it because I’m entirely awkward when it comes to such interpersonal actions, to give emotional and physical comfort on wholly practical and emotional matters, and because I’m afraid and it’s easier to hide away than to reach out a hand and risk hurting or getting hurt. I try where I can, but most of the time I do hide away. And so I’m in a weird conundrum, battling an inner battle where I feel self-pity and then scold myself for it, because there are people who have it worse, much worse, and I have literally all the privileges. All the luck.

Haven’t I…?

I get so angry with myself, the world, the human existence sometimes: Why isn’t it enough? Why do I have certain needs for human interaction when I would rather be free of these needs? They shouldn’t matter that much. They shouldn’t be able to crumble my innermost self at times; everything I’ve tried so hard to build up over the years. The self-security. And yet…

Yet, I hate that I have to numb myself, numb my feelings in order to keep this desolation at bay. To become unfeeling. To be this hard on myself.

It shouldn’t be like this. It shouldn’t be the only option. I don’t want to not to feel. But I don’t know how to feel any longer.

To only have a rational grip on these matters. It isn’t enough. Why isn’t it enough? …

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To trust and put yourself into the hands of others

I’ve realized that opening up about your troubles and worries to another person is also putting your trust in your fellow man. It is frightening as well – the most frightening of all perhaps – to put so much trust into another being; keeping many – including myself – from ever actually doing it. We guard ourselves – or parts of our inner selves. Even from those we love – sometimes because we think we protect them in some way or another by doing so.

As an example, I’ve long wondered why I’ve never really known my parents or why they could suddenly react with so utter distrust or secrecy towards me or my sister in the smallest of matters. Now I see that they guard themselves; have probably done so all their lives – and now grown so inveterate in doing so that they’ve stopped hoping or believing in ever trusting another being with their innermost worries, vulnerabilities and flaws.

I guess we are all looking for a savior; in ourselves, in someone else, in something beyond us. When we’ve forgotten how to believe in ourselves, we hope for a way to believe in ourselves again. Perhaps to let someone in who can show us how. Perhaps by loving us.

We all just want to be happy in the end, don’t we?

Maybe we never really give up hope, so even when those we thought we loved and trusted disappoint us, we push them away and stubbornly try and look elsewhere. Naturally but often wrongly so, because maybe we did not give those we pushed away a second chance.

It all sounds very sappy and perhaps I’m just feeling a little emotional right now. But I can’t help thinking there’s some truth in it somewhere. If not in anyone else’s case, then in my own.

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Leaving my safe, little, solitary lighthouse – 2.0

Scratch that. I want to get back to my little, solitary, safe lighthouse, don’t I?

Like a mouse to its hole.

Suddenly, that lighthouse is no longer just a metaphor. It has slowly taken hold of my mind, become ridiculously tangible and impractical (like so many of my dreams). I want it as my safehouse. My sanctuary. My temple. My physical mind palace. Everything that should constitute a home for one person. A single, isolated responsibility that one can leisurely tend to. Something reliable, familiar, steadfast. A lighthouse conveys that.

Too bad lighthouse keepers are pretty much extinct. Or, that is, the profession is.

So, what I want right now is unrealistic. In all seriousness, I cannot say to my job adviser nor my parents nor anyone listening when they ask what I want to be or do: “Hey, I would very much like to become a lighthouse keeper and write a book, or a hundred”.

How ironic. When you finally know what you want to be or do, it is near impossible and, at best, laughable.

Also, it’s almost too symbolic, isn’t it? The lighthouse, I mean.

I think that – more than companionship – I stubbornly want to prove to myself that I can live my life in solitude, alone.

Charlotte Brontë once said: “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself”.

But I’m also afraid that the more reality presses on; the more the practicalities of life push their ways into my existence, the more I drift off into another mindset. Through the years I have not extracted my mind from the fancies and imagination from childhood. No, I’ve only sunk more deeper, situated myself more steadfastly in an ethereal, abstract world as the years went on. It’s a strange regression that feels beyond my control. Deeper and deeper I feel myself glide into an existence that, on the surface, functions and does everything by the book, every smile, every handshake, every bill paid, but, below, it lives in another dimension of this world or another. Of dreams and darkness and fiction and music. So much that I want to disappear into this world. (And that’s not a euphemism for wanting to off myself). I believe madness is something we call when such a mind becomes sick, infested. When it starts hurting you as well as others. That’s not where I am or hopefully ever will be. I’m simply a dreamer, an idealist, despite all my cynicism about reality. At best, I have a ambivalent relationship with life.

I only feel myself present, truly present in life, when spending time with people I like and love. People I feel comfortable with and not judged by. That’s hardly strange, but there are few of such people and they live their own lives, far apart from me. Alone I fear becoming older and like my parents or so many of my elders; distracted, defensive, closed-off, bitter and cantankerous. Minds and hearts infested. Sweetness diminished. Taking dislike with the world as they see it, but the mirror reflects …

Am I depressed or just feeling sorry for myself? Or is it the same? Two sides of the same coin?

*sighs*

I’m singing the same ol’ tune, aren’t I?

It seems I’ve come no closer to an answer since a month ago. Don’t mind me.

 

*revised 17/7/17*

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It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”

— Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I have come past yet another self-discovery, though the revelation itself is perhaps not so strange since it has hid in the subtext of many other discoveries I have come across on my path.

Like Alice… in Wonderland.

It hit me one evening when I asked myself – for the umpteenth time – why I seem to have no life. Really. And I realized it may be because I never had a life to begin with. It has not so much to do with self-pity as it is simply an objective observation:

I have always prided myself with having an independent and original mind (obvious throughout this blog, I think), but, in reality, my independence has lived off my dependence on others, and my original personality/mind has lived off all the influences around me. (Nothing new under the sun and rather cliché. And, after all, I can never be totally without some level of uniqueness. None of us can.)

But I believe I, so far, have lived a life of a sort of parasitical child – in badly need to grow up! A child who cannot, for the life of me, express emotions maturely – hardly even objectively (I cannot seem to overcome my literal tongue-tiedness)!

In part delusional innocence and part daily-reality-phobia, I’ve fed off the experiences, feelings and stories of others – whether those people have been real-life or fictional. Thus the constant and spineless immersion in fictional narratives and music – to substitute the numb emotions within – and warding off responsibilities in real-life (mostly those to myself).

*sighs* If I indeed suffer from some sort of Peter Pan-syndrome, I’d really like to have it diagnosed for being just that. Then I have a real excuse to shed my responsibilities and go find Neverland. (Hmm. Step up from Wonderland?)… Joke aside.

I am most likely just a maladaptive daydreamer.

Have I ever felt empty and aimless when the pages run out or these ‘other people’ stop talking and showing me their lives and I can no longer immerse myself in their liveliness? Yes, perhaps I have. Perhaps I repress it by immersing myself further into something else, such as my imagination (Lewis Carroll wrote it: “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality”). Which again continues to supplant reality or what I cannot seem to have in my own daily reality. Something I am too cowardly to reach out and fully grasp myself.

Arrogantly, I have convinced myself that life is bigger than anything as ‘trivial’ as the daily, material matters of my own here and now. Bigger in a sense of metaphysics. I have a vast universe in my head that I need to discover and fill out with knowledge. Dealing with my own reality heads-on always seems so exhausting, transient and unreliable. I have no control there. I cannot predict the outcome in situations where my emotions feel most at stake, but where they are most often abandoned, even by myself, because I am no closer to understanding them.

So, of course, a subtle disappointment has run throughout every action, though I have not failed to see the benefit from most of them. Failures and flaws give life a color beyond compare, because they are what constitute you as a human; your unique you. I have learned from every action and that I have taken as a blessing, you could say. What I have learned and whether I have grown from these discoveries are a another matter entirely.

But still the disappointment, the emptiness has rung hollow within; an undercurrent settling in my gut as I have become more and more aware of life; of all the things I have lived through compared to all the things I likely or may never will. The sense of excitement and curiosity of getting to know what lies ahead has slowly been quelled by every underlying disappointment connecting; a frightening numbness setting in. Tastes turned to ashes in my mouth.

And I immerse myself in all the constructed narratives and emotions to bar out, to hush the raging numbness, silence and solitude-turned-loneliness I live in and come home to every day.

Solitude. My once so trusted friend has been possessed by loneliness; become the Babadook of my mind; a ghost haunting for the purpose of terror rather than company. And I have been its very maker. It is the Frankenstein of my creation; a ‘safe’ theory of ‘companionship’ that my mind latched on to, settled for – anything compared to the real thing; of having no companionship at all. A theory that turned into a being of its own once the egg was hatched; a being that became a monstrosity because it was still unsatisfied with its existence and blamed me. Because life isn’t easy. It was never meant to be.

Maybe it is the strange, little but significant events that have occurred to me within the last couple of years (I may have mentioned some of them here and there, but I don’t imagine you’ll know what I’m talking about and I cannot go into them right now) and likely set off my depression. If indeed my depression has been lying in wait for this – or if it really is a depression and not just an odd restlessness or lazy down-spiraling of one defense mechanism succeeding another in the wake of my growing loneliness.

And, as I said, burying myself in fiction and imaginative feelings helps me to deflect from my own lonely life as well as this perhaps/perhaps-not-depression. A sort of silly ‘coping escapism’ you are more likely to find in some (dark) children’s novel. And despite what I may have learned from these significant events, they have also left tiny, superficial scars in my heart; invisible to the naked eye; slowly accumulating over the years, forming a dark little cloud around it where the sun peeps in every now and then, desperate to emerge fully. I can empathize with others who go through something similar on a daily basis, yet I cannot begin to compare myself to what others feel on totally different levels and maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe I’m allowed to have this, to feel this, accept it and then find a way out of the fog, somehow.

(Have I become my own therapist?)

All utter nonsense, perhaps. Or, perhaps not? How can anyone answer that but myself? And how can I, when it feels like it takes several epiphanies, some life-changing experiences and a lifetime to answer that?

Again, I’m at a loss. At war in my mind. I seek immediate answers I can only gain through time. And time moves both slowly and unpredictably. And then it’s over before you know it.

And again, I haven’t dared to move and grab hold of some part of my reality and truly make it mine; claim it as mine. I have been too cowardly to do it. Perhaps because I feel, deep down, that there’s something too good about life that I do not deserve? I feel blessed and cursed at the same time, and I’m ashamed of feeling cursed; of appearing ungrateful of what I’ve been given; my inability to make better use of what I have and seize the day. I mostly just seize the day to write about life and consume others’ experiences of it, not experiencing it myself nearly as fully as I could. Imprisoned by myself or my inability to do something about it.

Is that a life of a writer? I doubt it. And yet, many people imprisoned; physically, institutionally or mentally, have written all throughout history, have they not? Some of the greatest writer have been imprisoned in some way or another, perhaps not directly enabling their writing but channeling it.

Perhaps I can make do with what I have worked myself into?

My writing may be as delusional as it may be cathartic; a circle of self-serving excuses; where fear of pity and perfection mixes in a blend as sinister as the river Styx I have to pay Charon with everything precious I possess to cross.

I return time and time again to a crossroad and I wonder if there is a me in this world and another me in another world and I wonder how often they will coincide in this harsh, bright, beautiful existence I have been given. Or if one will truly emerge with the other and – in that case – which one? And I wonder how many feels the same?

I want to override the consistent self-pity and shame, knowing how silly and unproductive these feelings are, but first I must escape the gripping loneliness from within and around. And it is not so easily overcome. My stubborn independence does not help. I still return to myself. I have scolded myself with every line possible and every tone of voice to see the effects, to self-motivate, and yet, it has not helped (unsurprisingly). I have written and drawn and opened up more to those around me, strangers even. Yet, I still come home to myself and myself alone; the loneliness waiting there.

How is something like that overcome? I cannot seem to allow myself to reach for twosomeness, perhaps because I am so conflicted by its very concept. Equally afraid and hopeful. My mind is always one step ahead; one foot in the positive scenario, another in the negative one. All I see is the 50/50 chances and I cannot predict my luck nor my misfortune. ‘That’s human’, ‘that’s life’; god don’t I know ‘it’s bloody life!’ and yet, it does nothing to answer what I am to do. To wait and let it run its course? Sure, I’ve done nothing else. But as Charlotte Brontë once stated: “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.”

But what is life if not lonely and wild, fantastical and quiet?

Meanwhile, I’ll return to a segment of Carroll’s iconic story that speaks to something quintessential in me:

“She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. ‘But it’s no use now,’ thought poor Alice, ‘to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!'”

*revised 11/02/18*

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