Actually, guilt may not even be the correct word for it. Guilt seems to imply that there is something wrong to be admitted, but for this particular situation, 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 when 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 in my parents’ house to live with my family, being distanced from my partner, friends, or colleagues who 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 does 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?)
If you’ve read this piece and the other, for example, you’ll know I haven’t been feeling okay for quite some time. Although I’ve tried to convince myself to accept this situation for what it is, getting back on track is not as simple as pressing the reset button in my mind and hoping that I will immediately be blessed with the inspiration and urge to fix whatever is currently wrong with me. And I’m starting to think that maybe, the underlying issue is something a lot more fundamental than languishing. Maybe, instead, it’s a wake-up call, a sign for me to look for answers not in: “How do I fix this issue?” but rather, “Why do I even have this issue?” or “Will I still have this issue even if the pandemic never happened?”
Because, maybe, the pandemic is just accelerating what is bound to happen eventually either way. That I’m in a dire need of something meaningful, and I’ve dismissed the thoughts way too many times simply because I wanted to believe that my life already falls into a good place.
Because why on Earth is it not? I have an ideal, well-paid job that is not too demanding; my family and closest ones are (physically, at least) healthy; I have a very understanding significant other despite however much I’ve put his patience to test, and the list goes on. I have way too many reasons to be thankful that it might sound confusing at first for my therapist on why would I reach out to her again.
Nevertheless, this constant self-questioning convinced me to finally order a copy of this book regarding Ikigai yesterday. I’ve watched almost all TEDx Talks and read many articles around this topic for quite a while but I’ve never really got a chance to really read the whole book about it. It’s essentially “a term that embodies the idea of happiness in living,” a BBC article said, in which the concept (at least according to the western interpretation of it) can be laid out in the following diagram:
This post, however, wouldn’t centre on the exploration of ikigai since there’s a whole lot of sources everyone can check out separately if you’re interested. But of all materials on seeking for your ikigai I’ve seen thus far, they mostly start with the question, “Do you spend most of your time doing what you love?” And frankly, I feel quite ashamed when I admit that I can’t say yes to it.
Ashamed indeed, because I’ve hustled so much and sacrificed a lot to even get to where I’m at today, only to later realize that I can’t fool myself to fall in love with this routine.
Have I only considered all these things as nothing more than just a challenge? A curiosity merely to be tasted and not fully indulged in? An ego to win and feel satisfied? A competition to prove my worth? An accomplishment solely to feel great about?
Simultaneously, there’s another feeling that I can’t quite establish the name of yet. As I said earlier, it feels close to guilt, at least. Probably because there were quite a bunch of people who wanted to be in this position, and yet I was the one chosen for it, only to admit later that this might not be the best fit for me and those people would’ve probably enjoyed it more had they become the ones who got the opportunity instead.
(Although, I would argue that regardless of my sentiment towards this situation, I still managed to always deliver the expected outcomes and be an asset for those environments I am in. And after all, isn’t how much you actually brought to the table regardless of how you feel about it worth more than anything in this system we, unfortunately, live in?)
Yet again, however much of an asset I tried to become, I feel that those did more favours for others rather than my personal reason for being – which is something of almost the opposite of ikigai.
Sure, acing things and performing excellently bring personal satisfaction too from time to time. But when it comes to something you don’t sincerely care about at the core of your heart, sometimes it feels more like draining yourself out without even the ability or resources to recharge appropriately. Meanwhile, there’s a void of a massive black hole you’ve constantly ignored hanging around, just waiting for its moment to suck all those “satisfaction” until there’s nothing else left to be felt.
As I’m searching for purposes and reasons to feel excited about waking up tomorrow, I guess I just have to learn to deal with whatever’s coming my way like a responsible adult. Even though I’ve never been anything but it all the time. In spite of countless, “Why am I even doing this? What’s the point anymore? Why would I choose pride over joy?” I know that at the very least, I never regretted any of these choices. I know that had I not consciously chosen to throw myself into this situation, I would’ve probably clung to the past for the rest of my life, being curious and wondering what could’ve happened instead. And there would probably be a part of my younger self who couldn’t forgive me for not even trying.
After all, when I first started the event that led to all these sequences of contentious occurrences, I had one question, and one question only in my mind: “Can I?”
And now that I have the answer: yes, apparently you can, I’m happy to at least know that I no longer owe my younger, clueless but ambitious self anything anymore. The only person I owe something to is my future self, who deserves to live a life where she doesn’t have to constantly question, “What am I meant to do? What was I built for? Why am I (still) unhappy?”
Even though it’s a long winding road with no ends in sight, I owe her a start. Two roads, will once again, diverge in a yellow wood, and she will no longer be able to travel both. I’ve taken the one having a better claim, but she might have to take the one less travelled by. And that’s okay for it would’ve made all the differences.
Here’s to appreciating life for how it’s unfolded, and designing life the way we’d love it to unfold in the time ahead.