A couple of weeks back, I realised the way in which we take strength for granted. Unwell, I found myself bedridden for about a week. For all the times it has been rare in my life, I voiced an indefinite and unwavering no to all that was offered outside the vicinity of my room. It was potentially the first time I, alone, had to take a stand – and against myself.
It had not come instinctively either. In fact, sitting in student health, I informed my worried friend I’d be at work the next day. She asked me to consider taking time off. I agreed, looking away. We both knew I wasn’t listening, never mind, preparing to act on her recommendation.
Five minutes into my appointment, and my doctor was writing me a medical certificate – without even asking the question. Perhaps she knew stubborn on first glance.
As much as I was frustrated, a lot of me knew it was a good thing – I just had to hear it from someone else. I needed the decision taken out of my own impatient hands. The truth is, my body had asked that I stop – multiple times too. I had merely refused to acknowledge the signals. I knew what it would mean. And yet, as much as I rejected the idea, the potential perpetuation of this futile feeling was enough to hit my stubborn legs back into bed for a series of mornings after.
I struggled through the week. For someone who is motivated by the concept of seven activities a day, and four times the amount of people, to be limited to one space and one thing – why, even to wake up with the intention of doing shit-fucking-all – was my worst nightmare. Not solely for the fact I spent so long in my room, I felt caged.
After ignoring my frustration at the circumstance, I came out of the week feeling well-rested. Better yet, I was newly motivated. I wanted to start running again, to get back into pilates as soon as I could. I was determined to get on top of assignments, to catch up with people whom I had missed, to spread some damn good energy with the return of my exuberance.
What I had to open my eyes to was the alter ego of my motivation. She was the reason I got sick in the first place. The issue is not that she can’t say no. She’s open, and she’s pretty opinionated. No, the problem is she doesn’t want to.
It’s a contract between self, and it consists of one line. It says my life is and will be an accumulation of people and places and events and experiences. Even more so, a spectacle of spontaneity, of memories that make me feel the greatest I can in any particular moment. My signature is printed next to this line. It’s messy because I signed it when I was much younger. Back then, I had to be told to slow down. To turn off the lights and my smiley, awake face at 3am. I’ll tell you now, little has changed.
The mere difference now, is that there is no voice of reason returning me to the “supposed” right track. It appears I’ll go gluten free before following the breadcrumbs of stability and balance.
All I ever hear and repeat, is yes.
And this is so satisfying – I thrive off the state of being busy. In fact, I rarely do “down-time”. I’m of the restless kind, satisfied by one place only for a certain time. I assert change like confidence. I assert it for the sake of an interesting life, for the sake of my own continuing interest in it. I believe such to be an important quality of living. Surely, for satisfaction, we must remain inherently interested in our own version of the present, and of the future, even, in the people we interact with and the places we find ourselves.
I have learnt recently that this desire for change and spontaneity has the potential to be detrimental. And not solely in the state of being sick do I believe I would have encountered this lesson. It’s an inevitable stage I reach every now and then, and to differing extents. The state of being ‘everywhere’. Of everywhere, but nowhere at all. It’s the only way I’ve ever been able to describe it.
Here, I spread myself so thin that I find myself having not committed to anything – or anyone for that sake. I become apt in the beginning of things, even in sporadic and inconsistent interaction.
Eventually, I find myself questioning the value of anything if it is to remain incomplete. The value of all that I do if it’s not been done to my best ability.
And the answer seems easy, right? Just fucking prioritise. But like down-time, the practice of narrowing down my opportunities is another thing I don’t really dabble in. I’d rather throw myself at them all.
You see, my issue with prioritisation is this: how is one supposed to know indefinitely what is good for them at any given time? Because it makes me feel good or alive in one moment, does this imply I’ve made the right decision? Perhaps, instead, I ought to be driven by long-term satisfaction? No, by both? But how will I possibly know when to be swayed by either extremity?
Too often, I devote myself to a particular side. I exist either by the pull of my heart, or by the reminder that I ought not to rely on such a fluctuating sense.
To follow your heart, it seems, is as satisfying as it is not. I’m uncertain yet, as to whether this is a personal issue: perhaps I struggle with the flexibility of feelings. I need to be in touch or aware of them consistently. Otherwise, I’d argue it’s an issue of society. We’re made to feel wrong for following our heart. It’s depicted as radical, as risky – something that by all our power we should avoid. We’re taught it will only lead to instability. And bloody hell, the worst thing we can possibly be in this world is unstable – right?
Maybe, just maybe, had someone not informed me I’d feel this way – had they not made me question the reliability of my heart – I wouldn’t get here at all? Maybe I’d feel absolutely complete; satisfied in the action of all I openly desire.
It’s not even solely about heart versus obligation, though. Warning: his is about to turn into another attack against capitalism. Seriously though – embedded is this idea we should spend the most of our days working. The goal is to make more money, to extend our career, to attain all those things we label goals at the start of each year. We’re taught about the importance of progression. Last time I checked, there was no time for living in the moment in Darwin’s little theory of evolution. It’s about the future. If for too long, we do such that is for now, we’re trained to feel unproductive. We’re told we lack direction.
When I choose to spend time with people, to bask in experiences or even, the mere moments I may not find myself in tomorrow, should I feel guilty for choosing other than that which is progressive? Or in some unconventional way, can the moments we follow instant gratification also be expanding? Even if they stem from a place of utter simplicity in nature – if all they really do involve is company?
As much as I debate with the subject, I don’t think I’ll stop following my heart. I don’t believe it really is a choice thing for me.
Sure, this method of living is risky. It throws me off, it makes me vulnerable and sometimes, it distracts me from what I perceive to be my eventual goals. But I ought to remind myself of another, even bigger goal of mine: to live a spontaneous and experience-filled life. I ought not to feel bad for doing so.
If I ever do get lost between my heart, and my arguably more sound mind, now shall be the time I do it. I’m young, and part of me wants to make these mistakes purely for the sake of writing another story like I do now.
Maybe, in my experience, I’ll learn that actually, they were wrong. Life is not about balance at all. In fact, in those exact moments we exist out of balance, only then will we find ourselves actually, truly, and finally- living.
Otherwise, I suppose I’ll just reside to my room and ponder where a sane person would have called too far.
That’s all for now.
Photos by Darina