The other day I was reading Malone Dies by Beckett, which is a very long-winded plotless commentary on the essence of the self by portraying a dying man who faced humiliation from being unable to performing daily tasks. Quite possibly, I think it’s the exact opposite of what I’m feeling right now.

It’s super weird — I used to ruminate on the past a lot. I don’t really do that anymore. The past is in the past, and I’ve already gleaned whatever lessons I could learn from the past. I have problems in the present, so there’s not much use in thinking about the past. The rational thing to do is just move on and think about the future. Now that I am an adult, being rational is a lot easier to do. Adulthood is accompanied by the absence of emotional intensity, and the only natural filler is rationality.

Considering how much I used to write, I always thought that my future would be filled with manuscripts churning out left and right. Whenever someone older than me tells me they’re interested in art or writing, I would ask if they still engage with their passions, and I would be always surprised when they tell me that they don’t really spend time on their passions anymore. This was me asking as a student. Of course, professional life is somewhat busier than student life, but I thought there’s still plenty of time during the weekends when you can pretty much do whatever you want. Given this free time, I always wonder why people don’t spend time on their non-work projects.

Now that I’ve reached the point in my life where I am considered old to most college students, I’ve started to understand why people stop pursuing passion projects the further they get into adult life. For me, it’s because I’m a lot more emotionally stable, and nobody likes making art when they are emotionally stable.

I’m convinced that there are only two motivations for creating art: pain and boredom. I am quite bored nowadays, and that invites certain types of art, but I’m definitely not at the point in my life when I’m just in a constant state of emotional distress. There’s just something about being young that necessitates an absence of emotional regulation. Looking back, everything seemed more dramatic. As I read back on my journal entries, I start noticing how often I cite feeling a lack of control in my life — as if all aspects of my existence was reactionary to certain events that have happened to me or certain people I happened to meet. Now I feel like I have control over what happens to me and who I meet, so I don’t really think the people I meet or the events that happen to be tremendously influential.

There’s this weird dynamic where certain people influence you, but you also influence other people in the same way, and there is no contact between the people who influence you and the people you influence. For most of freshman and sophomore year, I felt as if I was always the one with less experience than the people I meet, and it was a constant process of being influenced. Then, junior and senior year I started to realize that I had more experience than I thought I did, which led me to inadvertently influence other people. The difference between these two states, from what I’ve gathered, is emotional regulation and indifference. It’s this ability to not feel things strongly, which allows us to move forward in our lives with ease.

Before, I usually turned to writing as an outlet for intense negative emotions. There was this necessity to write because I didn’t have any other outlets to channel my emotion. I don’t really feel those emotions anymore. Everything is mild. Pain is mild. Joy is mild. My life has been reduced (or elevated) to a mellow existence. I am mellow, and I feel quite undeterred by my surroundings. The winds blow back and forth, but I don’t really care which direction the wind blows. My life is mellow.

The unfortunate part of a mellow life is that you don’t really have any pressure to do anything. Things are chill, and I, like most humans, are pretty averse to change. I’m at this crossroad in my life where I’m considering if I should trade this newfound freedom I have to follow through for appreciating what I have and living a risk-free life. What is it that I value — freedom or gratitude?

Life comes in phases. You are born, and then you die.

If you want to get specific, you can say: You are born, you work, and then you die.

If you want to get even more specific, you can say: You are born, you go to school, you work, you get married, and then you die. You might do some things that are a little fun in between, like going to the movies (that’s what people do for fun, right?). There is no specific order to do things (you can get married before you start working, or you can go to the movies before you get married), but the phases are static nonetheless. One phase in our life is defined relative to the context of other phases.

At every moment in our lives, we have the choice to embrace freedom or gratitude. I feel like gratitude is something you exercise when you have lived most of your life, which leaves you able to appreciate the life you have lived. That’s quite the opposite of what I feel. Thus far, I feel like I haven’t even begun to live. I feel like I’ve been born yesterday, and my entire existence is boiled into potential that has yet to be set ablaze. I have so much freedom that I’ve yet to exercise, and I don’t want to feel better by being grateful for what I have. I want to feel helpless attempting to do things I never imagined that I would ever accomplish. I want to face the vastness of the universe. And devour it.

// PAIN //

When we are in a state of turbulence, we crave stability. When are in a state of stability, we crave activity. The pendulum swings one side or another. We want what we don’t have at a given moment in time, and once we are adjusted to one side of the pendulum, the force of wanting what we don’t have eventually overwhelms us to want the other.

I used to think I wanted to be free. But freedom, in many cases, is the same as loneliness. Freedom means living independent of others. Living independent of others means living without attachment to others. Living without attachment to others means loneliness. It is unfortunate we cannot be free without being lonely.

In my positive psychology class, I was told that my emotional turbulence would decrease as I age. For a time, I thought that was true. Being 23 was a lot more emotionally stable than 21, which was a lot more stable than 18. Things have recently turned a corner, and my life is a mess again. Maybe on the aggregate emotions become a lot more stable, but specific instances have just as much power to influence my state of equilibrium as before. Things can happen, and it would affect me just as much when I am 23 as 20. No matter how much “experience” gets lumped in between those years, there are some things that don’t seem to get better over time. The intensity of the emotion is the same; we just have more experience to understand that all emotions would pass eventually.

Does that mean what I’m feeling now will pass? It’s 3:54 AM on a workday, and I’ve been writing for the past two hours. It has made me feel slightly better, but even that feeling of being “slightly better” is just a feeling. If I could sleep until morning, then I’m sure I’ll be overwhelmed with the same sensations when I wake up. If I can’t, then I’ll wake up in an hour or two and write more then. I thought I reached a point in my life when I was done with writing, but saying that I am done with writing for good is like saying that I won’t be sad again for the rest of my life. To be honest, there was a part of me that thought that was the case. There was a part of me that thought I would be happy for the rest of my life. How silly of me.

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