Julie was most of us. Or perhaps, we were all a Julie once. But most ridiculously for me, Julie is me.
It might be long overdue, but my boyfriend and I finally watched the movie the other night. After five minutes of processing the prologue that somehow felt a little too embarrassingly familiar, he broke the silence by saying, “Why do I have a feeling that this woman is essentially you?”
And he was right. Julie is me – a more reckless version of me, the kind of person I would become if I deliberately let my truest colours shine unabashedly and allow my impulses to redirect my life to all territories I was always too afraid to venture into, and a more satisfied one, perhaps.
From quitting a presumably prestigious program because it did not resonate with what poked her curiosity, deciding that she’s now attracted to how human’s minds responded to all sorts of stimuli, only to end up choosing photography and writing over a well-respected and promising field, also getting scared of not being able to navigate her own steering wheel in her own life that she cut off the stability that felt like gluing her foot to the brake pedal – I could go on and list every single act she did in the movie but the underline was that, I found myself (and a lot of us) in her.
It just so happens that my upbringing of mostly values and principles shared in eastern cultures anchors me and grounds me to never dare myself enough to make split-second decisions as bold as hers. I was taught to always have a degree of self-control to constantly make logical and conscious decisions to suppress my itches and avoid chasing something on a whim, for better or for worse.
—to friends that are perhaps no longer.
Maybe it’s something in the configuration of the sky and celestial objects floating in it, or simply hormones – nonetheless, lately I’ve been drawn a lot towards the feelings that come from every interaction, or the lack thereof, between myself and human beings surrounding me.
I’ve particularly been lost in thoughts during several occasions where I was made to reminisce about the connections I made in the past. Friends, mostly. People who used to rub off on me the way I rubbed off on them, mainly because we shared so many mornings, afternoons, evenings, and maybe even nights together. And the things we said or did not say. Unspoken dialogues that could’ve perhaps glued together the cracked walls, one-way monologues that might’ve been a much-needed icebreaker, or overflowing questions to imply that I still care – if they’d let me.
To you, friend, whom I once knew, who used to be;
It’s fascinating, the things you discover as you age. Things you never necessarily learned from anywhere, nor previously heard of, and yet they somehow come about unabashedly – and that you get to experience them firsthand, which is also the sole reason why you come across them in the first place.
Certain states of mind, emotions, and feelings – they materialize out of sheer serendipity. Sometimes, it’s unannounced. For better or for worse, they may change you inside out. Even if it’s just a temporary surge of happiness, or ache, or anything in between. Even if it dies out immediately. Sometimes they show you things you didn’t know you had the capacity for, or they help you search through the depth and range you’ve been carrying with you the whole time. And that is perhaps all that you ever need out of it.
I don’t know what it is, and I don’t think I have the interest in figuring it out either. Let it be undefined. Let it remain unchallenged. Let it just live. Grow. Nurtured. Linger. Become. There is no need to guard one. It may last, or it may not. Whichever path it chooses to roam over, I am embracing it. It may fail me, or it may enliven me. There is no anticipation or expectation, just leaps of faith in believing its sole intention.
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.
I had this conversation with my boyfriend of eight-and-a-half years the other night.
It was triggered by a random question that a friend got when we played a little game of Q&A by flipping through random pages from What Makes You Tick? The Question Book the night before, when she was having a sleepover at my place. The question was, “Would you want your partner to confess to you if he/she had an affair? Have you come to an agreement about being unfaithful?”
She and I had disagreeing opinions at first, although I guess by the end of it she was swayed by my perspective and decided to also go with my answer. (If you’re curious to know what it was, you’ll have to wait until the nearing end of this post.)
I was then intrigued to ask that to my significant other because only then I realized that in our more than eight years of being together, he and I never really talked about these things. Which perhaps could be a good thing I suppose, considering that the sole reason was that there was never any occasion, i.e., any trigger, which compelled us to have to have a discussion about it.
Nonetheless, as our relationship ages, at some point it becomes important to know where each of us stands on those difficult questions. Because as solid as we hope our longstanding relationship to be, one would never really know what could unfortunately happen in the blink of an eye. And it does no harm to be well-prepared by figuring out each other’s preferences in handling such problems, so that you don’t end up hurting someone thinking that you’re saving them instead.
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.