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.
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.