letters to lana del rey (17)

Dear Lana,

I was thinking about missed opportunities just now, specifically how missed opportunities affect us in the long run. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how all missed opportunities have done for me is propel me to write about how many opportunities I have missed.

Usually, when I get sad about the past, I would just get another tattoo. Since this isn’t exactly the best time to get a tattoo, I’ve decided to take a chill pill on that.

Lana, I think only yearning for the future keeps me from sinking back into the past. It’s such a strong instinct — nostalgia. It isn’t necessarily reflecting on the past with rose lenses. I know my past was pretty horrible, and I know in many ways my past has limited me from achieve all that I wanted to achieve. But, despite not having the greatest time growing up, there’s always an instinct to think about that time, particularly during my adolescent years.

I think, for me, my adolescent years were the worst years of my life. They were magnitudes worse that whatever I felt during college, yet they are also the years I find myself reflecting the most on. They are years that happened. I am experiencing the years that followed. Now that I am happier than I was in college, I notice that I think more about the future now, as opposed to attempting to understand my past. I don’t really read Freud or Camus anymore — the subject matter no longer interests me. I have less of a need to attempt to understand why things happened the way they did.

Thoughts that do interest me: my career, my relationships, my network — it’s very adult-like.

I still write a lot, and I’ve been taking up new hobbies like singing and drawing, but at the end of the day those are just hobbies. I’ve stopped looking at any art or writing I create as me creating something of importance. At the end of the day, I am still just trying to make sense of my current life as it stands. And as for the current life as it stands, it is a pretty ordinary life. I am not trying to be extraordinary any longer. And because I no longer feel extraordinary, I no longer feel my art and writing have any sort of importance. I am just an average guy trying to live through life, like all the other average guys out there.

I wrote a short line in the dedication section of my last book:

Here’s to forgetting about the past.

Despite all the personal writing I have done in undergrad — over 200,000 words scribbled on various Google Docs and blog posts — I still have so much to go in terms of understanding how I became the way I am. I have, for sure, made progress. There’s a difference between how well I understood my intersectional identities before and after I dumped all of my thoughts into various sheets of paper. But, at the end of the day, I realized that I would never achieve what I set out to achieve even if I dedicated my entire life to understanding my past. It just doesn’t work out that way. A much more productive and fruitful way to spend my life is to just forget about my past and think towards the future. There is so much that is uncertain about the years to come. I have plans, but I am not too attached to my plans at the moment. I understand that plans can change, and I am no longer attached to this identity of mine that clings to plans as if my plans were my dear life. The world ahead something else,

I realized that writing isn’t that hard. Dumping your thoughts on a empty Word document doesn’t take that much time. I remember, in my angsty moments, I could churn out 1,000 words every hour. Anxiety and stress are great motivators for writing, and I don’t care enough to actually edit my writing. That would imply that I care about my writing, and I’ve never really identified with being an artist. Being an artist means caring about creating art, and I never really considered the stuff I put out writing worth reading.

The hard part is to achieve mental fortitude, which depends from person to person. It is about overcoming the past in any way possible. For the longest time, I thought overcoming the past meant attempting to understand it. I read so much literature and philosophy in an attempt to understand my past. But now, I realize that isn’t it. Conquering and understanding never meant the same thing. Overcoming the past means forgetting the past.

letters to lana del rey (16)

Dear Lana,

Today, I was thinking about how I became more mentally stable over the years.

There has been a lot of serotonin memes going around in the meme pages that I follow. The prevailing sentiment is that people’s issues will be solved by having more serotonin. I get the point of the meme — it references some psychiatric literature that claims depression is the result of some imbalance of hormones — but it is one of those memes that makes me question why people feel the need to ascribe pathological underpinnings to all of our emotional issues.

I read an essay a couple of years ago offering a sociological perspective to our current mental health crisis, particular in regard to the role of pharmaceutical industry in quintupling the number of depression diagnoses over the past couple decades. One of the biggest takeaways from the essay is the claim that people are becoming more and more uncomfortable with being sad, which results in people searching for a pathological explanation to explain feelings that are realistically very common. Obviously, big pharma eats that shit up.

Don’t get me wrong, Lana. I have taken antidepressants before, and I get the point of them. But, it seems that people around me always ascribe their feelings to some external cause.

It’s the same with capitalism. Some people always blame capitalism for their issues, and I don’t understand why. For sure, there are many valid critiques of capitalism. But, no one lives in a purely capitalistic society. It seems when people are blaming capitalism they are more blaming society more than blaming capitalism. I used to do research on the relationship between capitalism, burnout, and art. I wrote a couple of solid essays on it, and it was quite interesting. But, somewhere down the line, I realized that I couldn’t take myself seriously because it seems so abstracted from real life.

Having more serotonin won’t make people happy. Abolishing capitalism won’t make people happy. Concepts like serotonin and capitalism are real, for sure. But, oftentimes, I feel when people are talking about them as source of their problems, they are attributing their emotional turbulence to sources outside of themselves, so they don’t have to address the more fundamental issues that are real to their lives. I don’t know, Lana. That’s just my two cents.

letters to lana del rey (15)

Dear Lana,

Sometimes, I feel I get so caught up in the future that I lose sight of the present.

The future is full of possibilities; it is so uncertain and has the potential to be so amazing. I want the future to be amazing. The past was difficult at times, and I want the future to be different from the past. I don’t think I’m willing to relive the past again; I would rather have an easy life than a life full of wanting. But, since I did want to achieve something in my past, I eventually got to somewhere that will allow me to have a future that I want.

Lana, sometimes I forget that the future is the product of the present. What is the point of planning out the future if it ignores everything that is happening at the moment? It seems quite far-fetched, don’t you think? The present is quite satisfying, but I feel like I’m constantly looking for ways to escape the present. I guess holing up in the same room all day has started to nibble at my willpower. It’s an coping mechanism, I suppose, for people who have been confined to a place for a while — the yearning to escape.

I wonder, when Dantès was confined to the Château d’If, did he maintain his sanity by imagining the feeling of the sea splashed against his ragged skin one day?

I haven’t been to the shore in awhile, Lana. I really like large bodies of water, and its quite unfortunate that I have not gone to a large body of water in a while. I miss submerging my body in the ocean, eyes stinging from opening my eyes under green waters. I miss finding salt crystals in my hair the next day, tasting the sea once again in my morning shower when I run water through my hair. I miss finding sand in my buttcrack.

All I wanna do is get high by the beach
Get high by the beach get high

letters to lana del rey (14)

Dear Lana,

I watched an episode of Spongebob today. It was Season 12, Episode 25: Escape Beneath Glove World. It was the first Spongebob I watched in a while, and by a while I mean since I was in elementary school. To be honest, it was a lot creepier than I remember it to be.

The episode brought up some interesting commentary on the authenticity of human and machine consciousness, not to mention some eerie critiques on the prison industrial complex that utilizes prisons to propel scientific advancement by subverting ethics.

The setting was in an amusement park complex called Glove World, a direct allusion to Disney World, filled with its own rendition of a cryogenically frozen founder that continues to be commodified. It reminds me of the actual Disney World, brimming with an image of artificial paradise that hides a internal surveillance and enforcement system observable by some authoritarian regimes. When I went to Disney World as a child, I was able to overlook the sense of fakeness, mostly because I wasn’t able to perceive it. Now as an adult, I am unable to have the same experience without this connotation.

The thing about Spongebob and Patrick is that they never grow up. They went to Glove World in the early seasons, and they continue to go to Glove World with the same fascination. The disillusion I feel with Disney World has never occurred to them. The idea of Spongebob and Patrick themselves represents this idea of adults who never become adults, instead remaining children even as they participate in the workforce.

This attitude of viewing the world like a child allows them to be happy for sure, but it also does not allow them to see the world in all of its grotesqueness. Spongebob is unaware that he is being pretty blatantly exploited at the Krusty Krab, instead viewing his job as the greatest job in the world. He could very well be enjoying flipping patties — it is very satisfying, I admit — but I wonder how much of it is a defense mechanism that creates a sense of double consciousness to justify the absurdity of his experience?

I wonder if I actually want to be Spongebob. I would be happy as Spongebob. He seems happy, right? I want to be happy. Do I want to Spongebob? I don’t think I want to be Spongebob.

letters to lana del rey (13)

Dear Lana,

I was thinking about the concept of the family unit today, mostly because I was studying up on annuities. The family unit seems pretty arbitrary, to be honest. If I die, then I will most likely leave my estate to my immediate and extended family. I understand why my immediate family is important, but I don’t really understand why my extended family is entirely relevant. They are people that aren’t too relevant in my life, so why is it so customary that your inheritance is split within your family once you die?

It reminds me of my friends who don’t have entirely good relationships with their family — how they identify more with their friends than they do with your family. I understand the intuition of it all, but I don’t think I would ever live that way. Unlike family, you choose your friends. You choose the allocation of your time in your day. In general, you spend a significant amount of that time with your friends. Yet, because you choose them, friendships are also guided by implicit principles that friendship and finances go separately. When you go to a restaurant or a hotel or a sports game, you split the costs. Even if you don’t split the cost, there is an implicit credit system that facilitates planning.

I don’t know, Lana. Leaving your inheritance to your friends seems… off. Family, on the other hand, seems to be separate from credit systems. You don’t really think in terms of owing people things as family unit. You give as much as you are asked, and you take as much as you are comfortable asking. When you die, you can’t really use your money in the afterlife, so you just give it to whoever you feel comfortable giving it to. In terms of the people in your life, only family represents a state of implicitness that is free from transactional guidelines. But, I’m still not sure why that is. It seems that there is something inherent about it.

letters to lana del rey (12)

Dear Lana,

I used to believe that I wanted to hang out with “interesting” people. There used to be people in this world who shared their life story or their thoughts on the world, and I would be enamored and enthralled by their experiences and by their insights. They would possess some sort of wow factor to their existence, and I would eat that shit up because I believed that I was boring and I would be more interesting by associating myself with people that were “interesting” to me.

Sometime in the past year, I realized that people who were allegedly “interesting” can be quite drab. I’m not sure when the realization settled in. I think I just became disillusioned to a lot of people in my life who fell from grace. It’s not that they turned out to be less interesting as I originally thought they were; they were still just as interesting, but the appeal of being interesting in the first place faded away. I realized that I didn’t necessarily want to spend time with people who prided themselves on how interesting they were. Being interesting to hear from isn’t the same as being fun to be with.

Lana, I feel like this is a relic of my clout chasing days. It was all a part of a past when I believed I could be more interesting by associating myself with interesting people. I realize that this isn’t what I value anymore. I used to think that being interesting was the most important thing in the world. I’m not sure why I felt that way anymore. It seems like such a ridiculous concept to me — boiling the value of friendship through a dimension of perceived interestingness. When I say it out loud, it become even more strange.

It’s so weird, Lana. Why was I ever like that?

letters to lana del rey (11)

Dear Lana,

I’ve been thinking a lot about what constitutes a good past. I often write about how I wish my past were different with the assumption that if I had a less turbulent past that I would be less angsty. I’m not sure if that is a good assumption to make.

Lana, I’ve been thinking about whether my past makes me more or less of an empathetic person. Do you think experiencing hardship actually makes you more empathetic towards other people who experience hardship? These days, I’m leaning no. I think experiencing hardship just makes you more indifference towards other people who experience hardship.

When I think about the current state of my life, I think in absolutes. In reality, however, it follows relatives. I am in a relative state in my life, compared to another relative state, and another. The state of dissatisfaction persists not because I have not achieved with what I want to achieve but because mentally resolution does not come from achievement.

Understanding the world is by definition a function of selective perception. We see what we want to see, and we ignore that which does not follow the schema we have already constructed in our head. Going against this instinct is tremendously hard, as it is something that has been established sometime in childhood and adolescence. Being able to challenge this instinct amounts to taking control of existence, which I find to be impossible given my deterministic understanding of motivation.

A good past. Would that free me from the cycles of selective perception that I find myself following into? Or is it something more human, as if perception is influenced by events a lot less than I previously thought it did? I’m not sure, Lana. It sure would be an easy way to live life: if I had the answer to all of life’s hypotheticals.

letters to lana del rey (10)

Dear Lana,

I’ve been thinking lately about how we all have difference tolerances towards spending money. When I was younger, I was super averse to spending money. It was something that was drilled into me because my parents value frugality.

Today, I spent $35 on granola bars with Amazon Fresh. It was the first time I utilized this service, and it was a bit shocking that this service even exists. It almost seems too convenient. More and more, it seems that I don’t even need to leave my house to function in society. The markups on Amazon weren’t that significant. If I could get one grocery delivery per week of all of my groceries, I would never need to leave my house. I already work from home, and I am no longer constrained with the need to get food at the grocery.

Technology has an interesting place in making our lives so much easier. Technology also makes living life a lot cheaper, which leaves a lot of space to spend money on other things.

Lana, I’ve been thinking about traveling a lot lately. Obviously, I can’t right now, but I still want to live somewhere far away. I’ve been in Philadelphia for too long. Even New York seems pretty boring after a summer. I can’t wait to move from one place to another, before I inevitably settle down in some modernist house in Long Island. If I wanted to spend my twenties in my parents house, I would have decided to be a freelance website developer. But, since I am not a freelance website developer, the world will have to wait.

letters to lana del rey (9)

Dear Lana,

Today, I unsubscribed from the Daily Pennsylvanian’s daily update. It is an action that signifies that I no longer care about what going on in my alma mater. I’ve started to read about it less and less lately. That is a past life, and only the future awaits those who are stuck in the past.

Lana, I’ve been brushing my teeth so hard these days that I’ve been consistently drawing blood. Before, I would only draw blood from my mouth if I flossed extra hard. Now, I draw blood whenever I would brush my teeth, morning and night.

I wonder why I’ve been drawing blood from my toothbrush, Lana. I’m not brushing particularly hard. It’s not as if I accidentally swallowed some formaldehyde while dissecting a frog in my 7th grade life science classroom. I don’t need to brush that hard. I just want to brush my teeth because that seems to be what adults do these days: brushing their teeth.

Lana, I don’t particularly feel like an adult. What are adults? They are just people who do adult things, like brushing their teeth. Don’t get me wrong; I have been brushing my teeth all of my life, but now I am actively looking forward to brushing my teeth every night. That seems to be something that adults do, right?

I think back to how Tolstoy kept on yearning for his youth, but I find that idea to be very unrelatable. I don’t think there was ever a phase in my life where I didn’t want to move on to the next phase in my life. When I was a child, I wanted to be an adult. When I was an adolescent, I wanted to be an adult. Now, I am technically an adult, but I don’t feel like an adult. I want to feel like an adult, Lana. That’s all I wanted all of my life.