There’s an alternate reality where I don’t have crippling regrets in my approaching thirty. And it doesn’t involve a story about girlboss’ ambitions, nor daydreams about living in Scandinavia, nor making overdue amends with people who share your blood—not that kind. The premise is about living your early 20s carelessly, pouring your hearts out and accepting love where it might’ve been promised. To let one guard’s down where it felt safe to do so, and to quit building fences out of insecurity and fear of not being able to be vulnerable enough to let anybody in.
I feel bad and ashamed for even inviting those thoughts into my headspace. How did I allow myself to be so beaten over silly summer flings that could’ve been? To even dare to ask myself, have I traded my best years with the comfort of a safety net, that in the end doesn’t even feel so sturdy anymore?
I don’t know if I would’ve been happier or just as desperate. I would perhaps circle back to the same old situation anyway, wondering if I had done enough to allow myself to be happy.
Will I ever find out whether it is stagnation or unpredictability that would bring me more happiness and/or cherishable memories at the end?
I am in a state of paralysis, I guess, and I need any possible kind of force to move me.
Actually, guilt may not be the correct word for it. Guilt implies that there is wrongdoing to be admitted, but for this particular occasion, I don’t think that there is. I just haven’t found the exact term, and guilt feels to be the closest to what I’m currently feeling despite missing a certain justification.
There is this specific pattern that being in isolation had brought me to, which I’ve noticed more over the years. It began when I was still living in Edmonton, where oftentimes, especially during winter where everyone couldn’t be bothered to go outside and be in a -20°C weather, I would spend so much time alone that it forced me to only interact with and process my train of thoughts. As much as the loneliness felt miserable, funnily enough, there was also a good outcome that is being able to understand myself and my surroundings better despite the unpleasant process.
During the pandemic, even though I’m not quite literally alone since I’ve been back to my parents’ house to live with my family, being distanced from my partner, friends, or colleagues which were the people I’ve drawn closer to in my adult years, has somehow also brought the pattern back. I was never the kind of person who needs to regularly talk to or text other people as most of the time I can enjoy my time alone, and with the added fact that we’re not obliged to interact every day, the habit of overanalyzing things finds its way back to me. As a result, I have also added a category in this blog called the Pandemic Pondering to document my contemplations.
And while it seems that I’ve been experiencing explosions of ideas to write about recently, it seems to be more of a collection of sighs and whines instead of some fruitful revelations – although I would also argue that some of it do contain quite a bit of enlightenment in my self-discovery journey. I’ve been treating this blog as my primary source of therapy, and I do appreciate that some people sometimes swing by to remind me that I’m not alone. Nevertheless, I would still joke to myself that I should probably edit the tagline of this blog from “words, whimsies, wanderlogue, and whatnot” to also adding “whines” in front of it. (Well, shall I?)
Akhir tahun ini, umur saya akan menginjak angka 28. Artinya, lebih dekat ke kepala tiga dibanding 25 – yang biasanya adalah batas usia untuk masih pantas disebut young adult. Agak aneh, mengingat kalau saya bertemu dengan orang-orang berusia dua puluhan awal saya masih suka berpikir, “Oh, masih satu generasi lah ya kita.” Hingga saya sadari, adik saya sendiri usianya sudah 21 tahun saat ini, dan kami bahkan lahir di milenium yang berbeda! Bahkan mungkin saya adalah salah satu acuan baginya saat memikirkan contoh figur orang dewasa. Yang dianggap dan diharap sudah bisa memegang penuh kontrol akan hidup masing-masing beserta segala tanggung jawab dan konsekuensinya.
Padahal, salah satu yang paling sulit dari menjadi dewasa bagi saya justru adalah mengelola self-control. Tahun ini sudah tahun keenam saya hidup tanpa rutinitas dan jadwal yang ditentukan oleh sistem, namun rasanya saya masih tergopoh-gopoh dalam memegang kemudinya.
Among other things, which are mostly the awful ones, the pandemic has strangely helped me reevaluate many views in my life. One of them is the realization that the common mindset of “work isn’t meant to be happy, it’s meant to be done so you can use your paycheck to afford things that make you happy” may not only be outdated, but also a little peculiar. I used to live by that motto, thinking that it doesn’t matter if I have to spend more than half of my awake time every day dealing with things that are less interesting than my leisure activities. Because at the end of the day, I get paid for it, and I can then use my income to afford things that not only I genuinely love about, but also won’t be able to afford otherwise, such as travelling.
But I never noticed how sad that idea might sound, until the pandemic.
It was around midnight local time, and I remember looking out the window to watch thousands of silver specks scattered among the pitch-black sky for quite some uninterrupted time, feeling at ease. That week had gone extremely fast, and I could hardly believe I was already flying above the Indian Ocean by the end of it. I had no time to process anything, as I was only allowed to make decisions after decisions. And there I was, in that window seat, off to another phase that I was both excited and terrified about.
I tried to record what I was feeling, as those eight hours would be the first time in that week where I got to sit back and not be in a rush. But I could only come up with a tweet draft, which never saw the light of day anyway.
It doesn’t feel quite right saying this, but if there’s anything good that the pandemic has taught me, it’s about self-compassion.
I guess we can all agree that the entire world collectively tearing apart is one acceptable excuse for how you haven’t been behaving like the “better,” more functional version of you. I myself have been abandoning so many things that were once a part of my routine, that I now feel guilty about.
It’s funny that ironically, the reason why I’ve come back to doing something through writing here is because I’m posting a tedious trilogy of self-loathing regarding: 1) how I haven’t felt good in months, 2) how I’ve been hating myself due to my extremely low level of productivity, and 3) how I hate myself for judging me based on my level of productivity when in fact, I’ve also done a few personal milestones that I never expected to do otherwise. Sure, these things aren’t resume-worthy and more of a leap forward in my self-healing journey, but these really are the things that define who I am when any resume-related labels such as work positions or school are stripped out of my identity.