have you known what it is to fear your own restlessness? when the things you feel are so unprecedented that they leave you scared of who you are?
Four months. I barely lasted four months on this job.
Never mind the degrees of shame that this catapults you into, the worst part is having to get up the next morning after realising that this is it for you and you cannot do this any longer; and remembering, with burning shame, your own promise to see yourself through to the end of this battle come what may and that you would never allow anything to get you down. So much for that, huh?
Of course, this is all old news; waking up with this thought is now but a tiny blot on my daily morning struggle to get out of bed. Oh, and I am now six months into this job, not four.
But why I am writing this is because today I found myself surprisingly awake at the intended time of 04:30 AM with – shocking! – no further hits on the snooze option on my mobile alarm. There was no particular agenda to this, I must admit; all I wanted to do was wake up early. And do what? Was the inevitable question put forward by my uncharacteristically awake brain. After a brief struggle to get the milk out of the refrigerator and an exasperated swear thrown at the messy kitchen and at utensils resoundly unavailable at the hour of need finally laying fruit in a hot cup of coffee, I was still not exactly doing anything except sit up in bed (achievement) and stare intently at my cup willing the thoughts in my head to drown themselves in its contents (warning sign for health-check). I suppose this was my way to recover from yesterday’s Monday blues – yes, folks, my blues tend to, ah, flow over into the next day. Usually they are absorbed by the night’s sleep to make way for fresh hell in the form of the next working day, but since I cut that short by waking up at half past four, intense Q&A sessions with the mind were bound to occur.
Allow me to pause briefly here to congratulate myself on an all-inclusive depressing morning – maddening existential questions, disillusionment with life and borderline migraine-like throbbing to boot. The coffee did nothing (anybody else think caffeine is overrated?) and the only one drowning seems to be me.
But, I digress! I was thinking about how afraid I left work the previous day, realising for the millionth time that I am a soul so beat, and so perpetually unsatisfied with the things around, so easily bored out of my fucking mind. I wondered, would anything make me really happy, ever? What if I feel lost everywhere? What if? What if I woke up one day and saw that all the things holding me back in life were behind me and I was free to live my own life, yet, I was still on the same path of no-growth I had always been? Worse, what if I couldn’t even wake up?
There’s a sneaking worry in some part of my head, of losing the faith and the passion that would eventually drive me toward creative heights, because I am currently spending my days in a job that sucks the soul out of me and I am gradually losing hold of my own self.
This kind of fear is dangerous once it raises its ugly head because the dust never settles on ones like these, the door is never really closed, it stays maddeningly ajar despite your best efforts to keep the damn thing shut. I had always understood my natural tendency to feel restless in a short span of time; I attributed that to a long standing itch of never having lived in any place, other than the city I grew up in, manifesting itself into my psyche in such a way that I quickly look for something new, anything new because things get too boring too fast.
So this particular morning the question in my head was, what if spills over into my future days? What if it gets in the way of ever attaining contentment in writing and making stories? I don’t mean the kind of restlessness that would make me disillusioned in writing (this is one thing I seem confident enough of to let the world hear it) but the sort of noise in your head that presents a giant empty white canvas as an answer to all of your questions in life. On my way home that night I felt the genuine fear that there is a possibility of unhappiness no mater what I did, and that there would be days when I couldn’t shake that off. What happens then?
All of this comes under the spotlight because of how much I was losing that will to go through something difficult right now in order to buy my way to freedom later. Soul-sucking work aside, my increasing tendency to function on auto pilot was starting to make me lose touch with who I am deep down. What made people feel alive? What made them get out of bed everyday? Here I am, left with no energy to actually put into work because I consumed all of it in completing the singular act of picking up my toothbrush and raising it to my mouth.
Sometimes I imagine myself just drifting through life, place after place, not staying too long anywhere because the bells would start ringing as soon as I got too ‘comfortable’ or one street or one lane got too familiar or I got tired of the view out of the window and it annoyed me when I woke up in the morning… What if? Will there ever be a place I call home?
(a self-berating post in response to this shall soon be put up some day. or not. what if i’m feeling too disillusioned to?)
This was that one line in the movie which was a class apart. Perhaps not universally truthful, but definitely one for the brain to mull over.
Whiplash is a good movie with very strong performances that jolt you from your lazy seats. In Hollywood, that stops being a good thing when they cross a line to become slightly more on the manipulative end (read Birdman) and less on the real and convincing end of the spectrum.
But even though it got a little hard to believe towards the end (have you seen anyone walk a couple of blocks after being rammed by a truck?), it had a very pointed message to convey and did so pretty well – suck it, dude and don’t give up on what you want to do.
This post isn’t a review of the movie – it’s about several instances in it which made me think. Perhaps it resonated with me, personally, because I was coming out of a rut myself, and things in life hadn’t exactly taken a turn for the better. An intention to change things around fell apart and ended up being a slap in the face, meaning I was left to make my peace with life being one long, repetitive ride of monotony.
In the middle of the recovery phase I watched Whiplash, and felt pangs of both wonder and shame at how easily we give up on things we really, really want to do. I am aware that it would be ideal to take inspiration from a slightly more real example than a Hollywood movie, but if you set aside the whistles and bells, you know that all you have to do is be so sure of what you want that no-one can take that conviction away from you. And that you keep trying. i was glad this movie wasn’t about prodigies; that even if you’re really good you have to keep at it and keep getting better.
And of course, the moment where Fletcher (J.K. Simmons’ character) says “There are no two words more harmful in the entire English language than ‘good job’.” This hit me the strongest because I think that most of the time, the ordinary human’s reaction to “good job” manifests itself as complacence in the end and somehow you may end up falling short of putting that little extra fuel in whatever it is you want to do.
While writing this, I asked myself exactly why this scene bothered me and I was suddenly reminded of my English teacher from school, who did a rather excellent job of making me feel that I was good at writing. As the average class comparables were neither remarkable nor noteworthy (apologies for the snark), it had the high school student in me convinced that writing was my forte and my, ah- arsenal, as another teacher put it in a parent-teacher meeting at year end.
Of course, it is only a good couple of years after high school, when you’ve jumped head-first into the crazy, wonder-filled world of literature, full of scarily talented players; that you realize you are staring at a gaping hole in your own opinion of yourself you were so sure was true. And you’re looking left and right – wait, where’s the damn weaponry I was told I had?
Even worse, if this happens when you’re reading an awe-inspiring work of literary fiction, and one moment you are blown away by the depth of the writer’s work and their ability to put things into words and sentences in ways you couldn’t come up with while tripping on pot; the next moment you feel a strange sinking in your chest and the wretched thought has already entered your head: this is the kind of milestone you have to achieve and for all the “good job”s I got in high school, I might as well go BACK to school and start all over.
Of course, if I think about it – if I had somebody like Fletcher back then, I would most likely have shrunk into myself and wandered quite rapidly to the edge of a cliff. In all honesty this wouldn’t have done wonders for me. But that extra push you need, there are only two ways to get it – you or somebody else. And you will excuse me if I am not too hard on my thirteen year old self for not being self-aware enough to know what more I could have done (actually, I AM too hard on my current as well as thirteen year old self; but that’s a story for another day) especially when I was in a happy place believing that I was actually good at something.
I don’t blame anybody today. I do wish my schooling years were more fruitful, but you cannot change what has done and gone, you can only move forward, as Rocky says.
I also understand how much a “good job” can mean to somebody. And we mustn’t forget that sometimes when pushed too hard, people just close up and there’s a danger of them not trying harder.
I feel that the only constant thing in all possible, varying outcomes is to never give up. And this, of course, is something there’s no guarantee that school can teach you – either somebody comes across your life and makes that difference or you learn it the hard way. Or you receive a not-so-gentle reminder of the fact while watching a movie. Whichever way this lesson gets put in front of you, don’t ignore it. Sometimes we do not even realize that we’re giving up on something so soon. And all that remains is a wait for that moment when it strikes that maybe you gave up too soon.
Among the ones who were told “good job” and went on with their lives, I suppose very few are unfortunate enough to have that moment of self-reflection where they wonder if they could have been better at it and if they could have gotten farther than they had so far managed to. (I say unfortunate because, damn it- ignorance is bliss, gah!) Of course, nothing’s written on stone. Different things work for different people. I know this. For me, knowing full well the (limited) lengths of my “talents” a ‘good job’ would have done more harm than good. Having been given what I now think is a false sense of accomplishment, it felt like a rude shock to be faced with reality and the inevitable sense of inadequacy that is sure to follow in situations like this. I think this has somehow wormed its way into my conscience in that I am so dreadfully unsatisfied with my capacities as a creative person and constantly disappointed with how little time I get to devote to it in order to get better. There is no time to waste on bitterness, of course, and certainly none on maudlin journal entries (which is precisely what I do in an alarmingly repetitive manner). But on some days I do get angry when it becomes really hard to forgive the waste that was fourteen years of a school life. I am not perfect. Yet sometimes I get really angry and sad at the same time looking at the long hard road that lies ahead – never quite knowing how to keep going when you feel you’re not good enough and never quite knowing how to give yourself a break and admit that you’re not that bad at this, either. It almost comes as close to wishing that they’d never told me I was good at it, because the ensuing disappointment was starting to suffocate me. You just cannot help but think how things would have been different.
Believe me, you would rather have a monster breathing down your neck pushing you beyond the norms than end up one day unhappy with your own capabilities. I think it’s better to be pushed to your limits because otherwise you will never really know just how far you were willing to go to get what you wanted. If you aren’t pushed, or you don’t fight harder even when pushed, it’s like you never did care enough in the first place. So even if you do get a ‘good job!’, always be open to the possibility that there are heights waiting to be reached. Nothing’s ever really too far if you believe it to be possible.
(Of course, no-one’s asking you to bleed all over your drums, though. Yikes.)
A necessary roughness, if you will, goes a long way in shaping you into who you are. And you end up being proud of what you become.
Joy is reading this on a Saturday afternoon and relishing in the comfort that you are not alone in melancholy, yet at the same time ridiculing yourself for indulging in it. What a delightful read.
“On Being in the Blues”
Jerome K. Jerome
I can enjoy feeling melancholy, and there is a good deal of satisfaction about being thoroughly miserable; but nobody likes a fit of the blues. Nevertheless, everybody has them; notwithstanding which, nobody can tell why. There is no accounting for them. You are just as likely to have one on the day after you have come into a large fortune as on the day after you have left your new silk umbrella in the train. Its effect upon you is somewhat similar to what would probably be produced by a combined attack of toothache, indigestion, and cold in the head. You become stupid, restless, and irritable; rude to strangers and dangerous toward your friends; clumsy, maudlin, and quarrelsome; a nuisance to yourself and everybody about you.
While it is on you can do nothing and think of nothing, though feeling at…
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Hahaha..Oh the perils of preferring to talk less!
Personalities are fascinating. You live your life thinking and behaving a certain way, only to realize other people don’t and are therefore obviously complete lunatics. How we process social situations and how we make sense of the world can be traced to the inherent ways in which our brains are wired.
Apparently, people are considered either introverted or extroverted. Of course sometimes we toggle between the two personalities to fit the situation. As Carl Jung* once said:
It wasn’t until middle school when I realized which end of the spectrum I live.
My first big sign: I didn’t like to be around large groups of people. Hell, some days I didn’t like to be around small groups of people. I would much rather sit underneath a tree, stare off into space or read a book. Maybe sit on a park bench and have a meaningful convo with a pair of mourning doves.
I know you’re absolutely stunned by this admission. After all, I’m a writer**. Even…
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My husband is reading this book for work called The Speed of Trust. He was telling me a story from it, that goes something like this:
The president of a university was preparing for a fancy dinner in his home. There were going to be government officials and major donors and other fancy people in attendance. As they were setting up, a delivery of beautiful, elaborate flower centerpieces arrived, which had been ordered by the development office of the university. But the president’s wife came to him and said there was a problem. The housekeeper had already prepared centerpieces: single violets that she had picked from the garden and placed in butter dishes. The president looked at the fancy flowers and said “No problem. Just send the flower arrangements back to the florist. We already have the centerpieces that Lola made.”
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Two days to twenty-one.
Not a bad today, so far. For a few days I had managed to duck despair as it marched on its usual rounds of interference, and continued existing with a range of emotions not widely considered abnormal.
Gloom, however, settles in uninvited. You see, a mind not majorly occupied by thought tends to be inhabited by those familiar, parasitic reminders of past failure and future uncertainty. To avoid this, the brain steps in, clamoring to fill the head with things I find far more worthwhile than what I am supposed to be working on. Bombarding my head with such pleasures is both joy as it distances me from the miserable present; and also disconcerting because it only reaffirms the sense of being at a complete loss when confronted with all things accounting. I silently watch people, intently working at their desks. I am quite sure each person here has a different level of competence, but I don’t know why- they ALL look like they’re very good at their jobs (meanwhile I am thinking about how accurately Steinbeck comments on human nature and drift onward to the more existential line of queries on life I seem to have a lot of). That can’t be right, I tell myself, and quickly snap out of it. So I shrug, assuming they must all suck at something or the other; and I dismiss, with a touch of asperity, the nagging voice in my head asking me to get better at it too.
I realize that a dismissal like that makes me sound arrogant, and I laugh at how far from being arrogant I am, in actuality. I think for arrogance to manifest itself in a person’s character, there is a particular kind of energy and smug (over)confidence that is needed, neither of which my tired being can conjure at the moment.
The brain’s response I explained before is an action that, apart from being a deliberately induced distraction, also serves to reaffirm my acute discomfort at being among regular people. Writing, then, seems to be the tool of my subconscious to chisel the misshapen self-esteem into something with structure. An impromptu journal entry such as this sometimes singlehandedly keeps me sane.
I am pretty unsure of this post, but I think I am going to hit Publish anyway, just to keep this going. It is important to me to figure something out while writing, be open to a change of thought and overcome my discomfort in most situations. People don’t make it any easier though.
On my way back home, the sky was a magnificent scene, worthy of being painted and frozen in time. The sun was making love with the clouds, playing peek-a-boo and the way the rays shone out through the clouds- it was glorious- meant I was staring out of the window of the car like a hungry puppy who had just spotted a meaty bone. I suddenly felt much calmer, overwhelmed by the realization that everything is not quite so lost if you still have your sense of wonder with you. Others might immerse themselves in menial things, but if you can spot the magic when it pops up before your eyes, you are still whole, somewhere. And not as broken as you think. You just need to keep growing without losing hold of the important things.
life is a tangled mess of misfortune and failure, and here I am trying to book tickets to watch ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ for the lowest I could afford.
Sometimes I am never quite sure of how to deal with all the wretchedness. You see, when I am alone, I feel inclined to be strong and vow not to be brought down by all the continued setbacks. When I am alone, I don’t despair nearly as much as I do when I lock myself in a room only because people make me feel shut-out. Most miraculously, when I am alone, I succeed at my attempt to see the humor in every struggle to keep myself alive. Also, never forget about perspective, you know? With the current state of things, I have come dangerously close to losing my sense of perspective and my sanity. Loss of perspective comes very easy when you’re alone in a room and there’s lots of uncontrollable sobbing involved and strange pains in your worn-out chest. So when I come to work, which, although at this point in my life is the single most nerve-wracking duty of the day I have no choice but to attend to, something as simple as deciding to go read the daily news is enough to remind me of the thoughts my much saner self was capable of forming: the world is burning, quite literally so, and it is essential that I not lose it completely and elevate my own weeny conflicts to much exaggerated levels, considering how the world is at war and people are dying as a result of thoughtless decisions on the part of a few ruthless men.
I started the day off looking at a picture of small children in Israel escaping the monstrosity- their safety precarious and not guaranteed. Browsing through other articles lead me to a news report on how Gaza was using civilians as a human shield and there was all this talk of war strategy- coldly, blandly, in the face of death and misery among real humans whose fate wasn’t factored into the decision to set off explosions all over the place; there was mechanical reporting, the 21st century substitute for real journalism, perhaps; and there were cryptic quotes from people supposedly in control of the situation. Depressing, hugely depressing. I, however, mention this not to set off a debate that shall never end (I hate obnoxious political discussions), but to explain how the larger picture is a not-so-gentle reminder to keep our own pictures in perspective with the sufferings of others. It’s hard, understandably so, but I can’t help but feel strongly about this, perhaps with an urgency because personally, I currently live in an environment where important matters are trivialized and menial things are given undue attention.
Not a single day goes by without me wondering: ‘what has the world come to?’ Where I live (not by choice), all I see are people who’ve become robots, nothings, brought up on whacked-out norms and convention, dictated and handed down for ages by people we no longer can trace in order to push them off a cliff.
I doubt whether a lot of people really grasp how deep the fire burns. A while ago I had made a note in my journal how one fine day reading the international section of the News couldn’t help but make you feel like too many countries were in turmoil all at once, and the respective reasons bordered more along dubious lines (but aren’t all modern man-made conflicts dubious?) than sane ones. I wrote about how the world had reduced to something so easily inflammable, people blowing up and taking offence at the merest comment or observation. Turmoil, more turmoil. There is more talk of rape and teaching women to stay away from men than there is healthy talk of sex and the good it does and the beauty of real lovemaking. There are more shouts of ‘why?!’ than attempts to understand tough policy decisions that may be beneficial in the long run. There is an endless debate on gun-control and violence. Perhaps the lone genuine gun-enthusiast cannot have an opinion without being judged and probably cannot proudly teach his son to be a good aim and a responsible human at the same time. This is the 21st century and my country has banned homosexuality. What good is it to have ‘equality’ emblazoned in dramatic letters in Constitutions and Declarations of Independence if we do not even understand the word’s literal meaning? Nobody’s equal, man. Nobody. Watch how people treat their house help. Look at how the different girl hides who she really is. Ignore the man who is slave to his parents. Walk through an office place and you see the difference between the fancy and the excessively fancy and the enigmatic fanci-est determined to stay in fancy glass cabins – Nope, no such thing as equality. I’d like to see Fanciest cabin-man have lunch with a non-fancy new employee and I’ll go easy on humanity. Maybe. (Not if they talk about number-crunching or an obnoxious political discussion ensues.)
The Internet is flooded by the voice of the ‘rebel’ youth, you know everywhere you look people putting it out there that they’re all for women’s rights and such. Article after article I seem to come across, loud arguments for feminism and equal rights and against rape and rape culture- stop! I’m not denying the internet can reach places and it’s good young people are aware of what’s morally right, but if everybody starts saying the same thing over and over on a virtual space that the right people at the top may not even notice, it gets a little redundant and -(I foresee your expression of contempt) overstated. If you know a certain act is wrong, and if you’re just writing to say it’s wrong- what’s the point? I’m sorry (I really am. You should look at my face right now) but will it stop the particular bad-doer in some creepy part of the city from doing said bad thing? Would it broaden the mind of that little-minded creep who tends to stare at women? Would it stop a murdering hand from slaying his victim?
Believe me, I am as helpless as you. If I am questioning the need for raucously loud opinions on the web and other media, I am also wondering what, then, could actually bring about some sort of change. I am saddened by an uneducated man, more so by an uneducated woman. I am angered by educated men and educated women who cannot teach their children to be better humans. I ridicule the foolish rich, happily. I am perplexed by pointless confrontations and road rage. And though it makes me uncomfortable to reveal this: suffering makes me suffer. So maybe this is why reading all the shouts made me feel like they were just getting lost in the noise.
It made me feel like I had nothing to write about when everybody was talking about these current issues day after day. Perhaps selfishly, I wished just to live in some part of this world where all kinds of crazy artists and intellects were accepted and where people didn’t kill each other so often. That’s when I noticed that fact about the International section. Oh well. Never pays to be selfish.
today has been strangely not bone-crushingly hard to get through. Perhaps because I decided to try and face just this one day more. Perhaps because I held on to my sanity (not without effort). Or perhaps because I decided to actually write something. This is both depressing and encouraging depending on which way I look at it: that i had no work to do so i turned to writing; OR that it’s a bit of a personal achievement, me reaching this far in a single attempt and so close to hitting publish for the very first time. The whole thing comes full circle to the necessity of perspective I spoke of: it’s very easy for some and very hard for others to look at the bigger picture. For me it becomes easy whenever I’m able to separate my own demons as far as possible from my sense of reason. ‘Cause you know you’re in trouble when the two get introduced.