Other than simply trying to maintain my sanity, one breathe at a time, my late twenties which practically began right at the onset of the pandemic was essentially filled by the many efforts I put to work on some loose ends in terms of my relationships with people around me.
I’ve started seeing a professional (again) since last year, this time rather regularly. There’s this topic I’ve kept to myself for the last two decades, that I never really talked about to anyone else but I finally worked up some courage to deal with. I also took this presumably life-altering course called The Science of Well-Being from Yale, as suggested by a blog reader and also because I’ve always heard this course being referred to all the time whenever I binge-watch yet another TEDx talk on happiness and so forth. From which, I felt inspired to reconnect and rekindle past friendships that might have gone almost stale due to the nature of the awkward adulthood phase that these friends and I are navigating through. And of course, despite having previously spent more than half of our time together in long-distance, facing yet another LDR phase with my boyfriend of 8.5 years was not without issues and new sets of challenges.
Although not always directly, all these things taught me one thing. You’ve got to be brave to be a bit vulnerable to invite others in.
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?)
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 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.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I had my fair periods of bursting productivity. I completed my step-one fixed step training at work ahead of time, aced my French exam, went to the class twice a week virtually, wrote more than 20 poems for my portfolio website, revamped my childhood bedroom to an adult workspace, started a new obsession with houseplants and even created Excel spreadsheet to document its well-being updates, got myself a piano keyboard and taught myself from zero, regularly read papers and articles about planetary geology, started volunteering again, and the list goes on.
Yet a few months later, here I am, spending all my free time in the last few months either cuddling with my cat or binge-watching some shitty TV shows because I’ve run out of the good ones to watch. There’s no crap left to be given for things other than these two. Work hasn’t felt stimulating in a while either – and I probably haven’t been very receptive to new challenges too recently. I didn’t even have the willingness to spare some time to write here again. I gained some weight because I don’t exercise, I haven’t put my skincare on in months, and I’m only capable of the bare minimum of household tasks in the house, i.e. drying clothes and vacuum-cleaning. I’ve let my parents water my houseplants, a few died, and it’s been a month since the last time I checked on each one of them carefully.