“Enact change,” I tell myself. Along with the primary tasks of keeping up with college curriculum and job seeking efforts in the recent days, I’ve been making the time to review old entries on this blog, updating structure on the backend, and consistently publishing updates. As far as the “change” to be enacted is concerned, it runs in the plural and spans multiple aspects of my life, far too numerous to capture in full in a single composition. Nonetheless, as I put my focus towards how to change things, I’m inevitably drawn to lines of thought evaluating what it is I’m changing, and why it is this way. I’m reflexively wary these thoughts, only because past experience has shown them to be the gateway to negative rumination that ultimately yields unproductive thinking and they feel like things I’ve already captured somewhere along the way. But at this age, I now have a confidence that wasn’t there before in my ability to productively navigate them.
The most relevant (and an apt starting point for this stream of thought) is the wall of large scale projects without any smaller goals to claim motivational progressive wins from that I mentioned at last update. When everything is framed in the context of a faint light at the end of a long tunnel ahead, it enables that response to check out and run on a pseudo “autopilot” mode. In the context of this blog, there’s been no impetus to draft updates over the past year when the COVID pandemic has rendered the days mostly the same: staying home, working, schoolwork, chores, exercise, eat, sleep, repeat. With so much to be done already, incremental progress missives end up falling of the mental to-do list entirely.
Yet, the environmental circumstances are only part of the picture, as there are plenty of people out there that have managed to thrive throughout the pandemic—I figured I would have been able to count myself among them, considering how little changed from the day-to-day of the old world. Sure, there wasn’t much to write about and a looming sense of lack of time & energy to do so, but I also recognize that there weren’t any significant efforts made to generate noteworthy conditions worth reflecting on. I’ve traced this lack of engagement back to an unintended consequence of my past self’s choices in how to deal with the copious mental-emotional trauma. I tried psychotherapy, forgiveness and reconciliation, but nothing took. In the end, having so many negative thoughts and emotions without any form of relief in sight, my last-ditch effort was to devalue and distance myself from feelings altogether and pass it off as philosophical stoicism. It did the trick over time, but from where I stand now, I find myself wondering if that approach ended up having dire unintended consequences that are a bigger problem than the original one they stemmed from. Shutting off feeling included the positive just as much as the negative, and the absence of the latter in recent years has emphasized the lack of the former. A sense of “passion” is highly elusive these days, and makes reaching sustained flow states harder. Ascribing little value to interpersonal relations and suppressing highly empathetic nature has insulated me against the anxiety and strain of both quarantine and current event news cycles, but it also keeps me from appreciating the relationships I do have to their fullest and earnestly building new ones, from friendships to romances.
Given that these factors have been at play for so long, it becomes difficult to answer my own question as to what the plan even was. Ten years ago, I held the notion that I could isolate and remove myself from life (save for matters related to work), fix myself out in exile, and return to my friends and family someone who wasn’t a tortured failure of a person that they could be proud of. Over time, indirect-yet-obvious calls for help went unanswered by those few with whom I hadn’t ceased communications with, and the bad thinking in my head was reinforced—perhaps there was indeed just something fundamentally & irreparably flawed about me. Nobody seemed to care about me, and eventually, I didn’t either. There stopped being issues to privately resolve and people to return to, only helpless despair and the wish for some terrible accident to relieve me of life without me having to be the one responsible for creating the permanent void that everyone who knows me would be left to deal with. In the handful of years since those darkest times, I’ve been able to reconcile a lot of those internal issues. My self-perception of the more recent years tells me that better version of me still exists on some deeper level and will emerge in time under the right circumstances/individuals.
Yet, my active consciousness doubts if that’s actually the case, and demands a more proactive attitude than waiting for some undefined optimal conditions to find out. “Enact change,” after all.
It is unclear at what point one crosses the line from self-improvement to narcissism, and knowing how many years I’ve spent tinkering with the puzzle that is myself, I’m not sure what side of that line I’d end up on. What I am certain of is the opportunity cost of continuing with this approach to life. I’ve also made many meaningful connections with people who do reciprocate my interest in their general well-being and success, relationships that I’ve failed to cultivate and sustain because I’ve been so closed off to the idea that anyone would. This stoic shell no longer serves me, and I want to move past this position of surviving and one of legitimate flourishing.
Getting the grades and finding a new source of income are top priorities, but I’ve got plenty more going on backstage. I’m working my way up to overhauling the format and voice of these blog posts and transitioning it to something less along the lines of a public journal and more along that of a structured web log. With the courses of this semester comprising subject matter I already have a good amount of existing knowledge in, I’m putting that would-be study time towards getting through a backlog of technical reference books I purchased but never got around to actually digesting. Also on the roadmap are additional self-studies to pursue certifications to bolster the resume while I finish obtaining an actual academic degree.
It’s doubtful I’ll ever return to being the social networking & real-time messaging enthusiast I was back in the early days of the iPhone and mobile internet, but I can at least do away with this sequestered form of existence. “No man is an island,” as it is said.