I met a nice traveler, Jean Paul, and his dog while walking downtown today. He started off a conversation by showing me some of his art—a circle made of the words love, peace, and hope—and asking for a favor: one random fact. I told him I was really missing my cats today, but seeing a dog (or really any animal) made it a bit better. We got into a nice conversation, and he said that one of the best gifts people have to give, one they often forget about, is their own words and imagination.
I agreed; these gifts are some of the most readily available to us personally, but also those which we’re least inclined to share, despite the fact that they’re usually the most sought after by others. That being said, maybe it would be good for me to start sharing my words and thoughts more in real life. Maybe that’s something we should all try to do.
Stephen Hawking “once stated that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes.” That being said, maybe there’s a universe in which we were together. Maybe there’s another universe in which I finally looked right. Maybe there’s one in which I turned out all right. In which we turned out all right. Maybe there’s a universe out there somewhere or somewhen in which I was finally happy. Maybe someday that universe could be this one.
Does it count as urban exploration if you're just exploring your rooftop?
Let me start at the beginning.
I have a lot of trouble sleeping. Between the sleep apnea (which often ensures I can’t stay asleep, meaning by early morning when it wakes me up again I’ll just give up and get up) and always taking at least an hour before I can fall sleep, it’s safe to say that sleep doesn’t consider me to be its best friend. Most of the time, that’s annoying, but other times, I can live with it… such as when I sneak out onto the rooftop to watch the sunrise.
Despite how often it happens, I’m not particularly fond of getting up early, but there are some perks. I like being the first up in the morning, where I can pretend I have the house to myself. I like the quiet. I like seeing nature breathe in the first life, and doing the same. In the end, I guess morning isn’t that bad.
I recently came across a quote by Paolo Coelho about living your life to the fullest, and it stuck with me.
I struggle a lot with being present. I’m rarely satisfied, always looking ahead for something new to pique my interest and keep me entertained. I think it all boils down to me not being present.
I can very easily try to blame it all on my mental illnesses, but if I’m being honest, that’s only a part of why I act this way. Accepting this, I can take the portion of my not-presentness spawned from habit and work on changing it. I can try to listen better when people are talking, not just hear. I can stop constantly looking into the future, worrying past the point of reason how things will turn out and wondering what I might have to do to ensure things go the way I want them to. I can give the people I love the attention they deserve. I can do all the things Coelho mentioned to try to make my life as vibrant and fulfilling as I’ve always dreamt it could be. This has all been said before; none of what I just listed are new ideas. But if I can commit to instilling them within my life, then they might just work for me. Because if I’m present—finally, truly present—then the whole world opens up to me.
I recently attended a talk by Dr. Shatki Butler. Although her speech was filled with many thought-provoking ideas, one of the things that stuck with me most was what she said during a thought exercise. She invited us to mentally travel to a place where we felt calm and safe, and to take off our masks.
This struck me, because I realized in that moment that every last one of us has a mask we wear in front of others. Often, we have different masks for family, friends and strangers; masks intended to obscure the real us. I attended this talk with friends, people I knew well, or at least more than most, but I still found myself wondering who they were without the mask.
We get glimpses. Occasional views of the true person underneath.
Dr. Butler moved on, inviting us to search for the one idea that truly defines who we are. The one word that centers us, that we strive to live up to.
For me, that word was kindness. For two of my other friends, that word was love. For another, that word was optimism.
She told us that whatever we are, whatever word drives us, sometimes we are the antithesis of that idea. Sometimes the fear or the hate or the pessimism drags us away from who we are or who we strive to be. When that happens, we must go back to our peaceful place, look back to our driving word and allow it to center us.
We must take off our mask.
While I've been meaning to write about my recent trip home (I'll do it soon, really), today is not shaping up to be a day where I'm able to focus. My mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and she's undergoing surgery today. While everyone's been telling me not to worry, that's a bit like telling a fish not to swim; it's just not gonna happen.
So, while I should be doing things like schoolwork, instead I decided to cheer myself up a bit by watching baby animal videos. I thought I'd share some, since I can't be the only person who needs cheering up, so maybe they'll help you, too.
You can be a baby sloth wrangler. If that's not the best job in the world, I don't know what is, and clearly you need to reexamine your priorities.
If sloths aren't your thing, you can check out cute pandas playing on a slide...
...or even a koala joey going about its daily life. Warning: so cute you might cry.
If you're still down, might I suggest getting a pep talk from a cat? (I can't pick a favorite, so my top three are Jane, Marvin and 99).
And finally, know that you're going to be okay. I know things are so hard right now. I know you're tired and all you want to do is give up. And that's okay; it's okay to feel like that. It's okay to be sad, it's okay to cry, it's okay to feel. But please don't give in. Don't give up. I believe in you, I know you can get through this. My brother once told me that it doesn't matter if things have been going wrong for seven weeks or seven years; things always pick up in the end. Things will pick up for me, and they'll pick up for you, too. If you ever need to talk, I'm here.
You got this.
(A bit of added inspiration, because try as I might I couldn't end this post on a serious note. Angry, oddly inspirational wolf memes. Thank you, internet.)
I recently visited Patrick’s Point with two of my closest friends. It’s a small, coastal state park offering acres of forest and gorgeous cliffside views of the ocean.
There’s something intrinsically relaxing about the ocean. I currently live in a part of the world where the beaches are cold, the waves constantly stormy, and the sky is almost always overcast. You wouldn’t think the beaches would be all that much fun to visit like this, but although it’s rarely comfortable enough for us to brave the water, it’s still stunning to sit and watch.
The beaches I visit aren’t ones that fall into most people’s ideas of beaches. There’s no warm waves or sun-drenched sand, but I’m glad to be able to experience them. I’m glad to have these examples of nature’s beauty so close to my doorstep. I’m glad I have the ability to leave my house to visit them. I’m glad to have friends to visit them with. I’m glad days like this exist.
Today I’ve been wondering if there are people out there who feel as old as they are in years. I know that time as we think of it is a human construct and age is really only useful in terms of development and awarding people liberties, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s anyone who looks at how many years they’ve lived and thinks, yes, this exactly is how old I feel.
I’m nineteen, pushing twenty, and how old I feel fluctuates. Sometimes I feel only seventeen, but other times I fall somewhere between ninety and one hundred.
I was thirteen when I stopped caring whether I lived or died, and I think I felt roughly seventy; just old enough to leave me in purgatory, waiting in an in-between place, caught somewhere between life and death.
It was on my eighteenth birthday that I sat in my room absolutely dumbstruck, incapable of wrapping my mind around the fact that I’d made it that far. That was when I hit ninety.
Every moment since then has felt precarious, apprehensive, like it could all very easily end the next day, but I had made my peace with it. I had lived long enough, like I had ninety-some odd years of experience behind me.
I believe it’s on the days when I’m feeling the brunt my depression that I feel old.
It’s only when I’m anxious do I feel seventeen, but not my seventeen, not in my late eighties and most of my way to where I am now. It’s another man’s seventeen, the borrowed year of a seventeen-year-old with a mind that felt and perhaps even was ancient. It’s on those days when my skin is too tight and my fingers dance and itch and I feel scars between my shoulder blades. It’s on those days when I pace too quickly and I can’t take a deep breath and I feel the need to fly to another place even if it means having to fight my way out of this one. I feel the need to fight, to escape, because I can’t convince myself that I’m safe here, or anywhere people know me, where there may be someone who recognizes my face. It’s on those days where the only way I can describe the thoughts in my head is by borrowing the life of man I dreamt up, and we’re seventeen again.
I’m seventeen, today, and I look it. Already that’s fading; I’m growing older, back to the safety and impermanency of a grown man who knows his years are numbered but can’t make himself care.
I don’t know if I’m safer when I’m seventeen or ninety-nine, but I do know I’m safe here, tonight. I may make terrible mistakes, say or write terrible things, but no action I will take will kill me. Not while I’m in this house.
After all, seventeen is too young to know when to die.
I’ve been meaning to write a post—any post—for several weeks now, but all I’ve really managed are several half-finished catastrophes. I want to write something humorous, but I haven’t really been capable of it, so hope this post will serve as an acceptable explanation.
For the past week, I’ve had a mug of hot chocolate sitting on my desk.
It’s a bit like a ritual for me to have hot chocolate on days when I’m having a very hard time, and on this occasion I pulled out all the stops: extra scoops of cocoa mix, milk instead of water, and little chunks of Ghirardelli chocolate. As I was about to drink it, one of my roommates came to my door so we could go to class. It was a day when I was proud of myself just for getting out of bed, and I wasn’t entirely sure I was up to leaving the house, but he was encouraging me, and didn’t look like he would take no for an answer.
By the time I came back, the drink was ice-cold, and likely already starting to go bad. I told myself I’d take care of it that evening, after I’d finished my homework and relaxed for a bit.
I then promptly forgot about it.
So now I have a mug of completely inedible hot chocolate sitting on my desk. Every time I sat down over the course of this past week, the mug was staring me full in the face. It gradually took on a splotchy color, and began to grow mold.
Still, I did nothing.
I would just open up my laptop, blocking my view of the cup with my screen, all the while hating myself for being utterly incapable of taking care of it. It’s a ridiculously simple task: just carry the cup out to the kitchen, dump it in the sink, and rinse it out with water. I wouldn’t even necessarily have to wash it by hand; I could just use the dishwasher.
Every day, the task would get minimally more challenging, as the milk spoiled and the mold grew more boldly towards the edges of the cup.
No matter how simple a task it may have been in the beginning, or realistically how simple it is now, I still find myself unable to take the step.
Depression is full of situations like that.
You have things you should be doing, things you need to be doing, things you know shouldn’t feel this daunting. Yet the energy needed to accomplish or even begin the most menial task is so monumental that you put it off. Putting it off, of course, means these tasks increase in complexity, until you have an Everest-sized list of things to do and no energy to do them. Meanwhile, new tasks are added to your list every day.
My analogy for depression changes almost every day, depending on how it’s affecting me. Some days it’s like a fog, obscuring even my closest surroundings. Some days it’s like drowning, where you’re fighting with everything you’ve got but you just can’t make it above water on your own. This week, it was like freezing to death. You know you have things to do: you must shoulder your responsibilities, you must get off this mountain and go back to a place where you will be safe and alive. But the snow cradles you, the wind whispers to you, and the lure of the mountain promises that you will be better off here than back down where your loved ones are. The snow cries for you to stay where the winds assure you that you are safe, and the winds try to convince you that you would not be better off back where you came from, that your family and friends don’t want you anywhere but on the top of this mountain. You know the mountain will kill you; if you stay there it will get you eventually. But the snow feels warmer than your mother’s arms, the winds feel kinder than your friend’s smiles, and you have to wonder if it would be worth it to climb all the way back down.
There are days when I’m not sure. There are days when I feel the best course of action for me and those I love would be for me to remain on this mountain until the snow overtakes me, and I can hurt no longer.
This is wrong.
There will always be days when I forget the mountain top is not a place I should be, but that I belong back down at the foot of the mountain. I belong not alone and clinging to the side of a snowy cliff but back home in the village surrounded by those I love. I belong with my friends and family. The snow is not warmer that my mother’s arms or my dad’s laugh or my brother’s smile or my friend’s company. The winds are lying when they say those I love don’t love me back. The mountain is a trap.
I belong at the foot of the mountain.
So do you.
Every summer, my family takes a camping trip, usually to some national park in the western half of the United States. Several years ago, on one such trip to Yellowstone, my dad recounted a conversation he had overheard several years prior, as we were finishing up watching Old Faithful.
Dad: “I was watching this maybe fifteen years ago or so, and there was this family sitting nearby. After the show was over, the teenage girl turned to her parents, giving this loud sigh, and she said--” *whiny voice* “You’ve seen your stupid geyser, can we go now?”
For some reason or another, this line has been cemented in all of our memories, and has become something like a slogan for our camping trips. Since then, every trip we’ve taken, Ian and I have used that line: “You’ve seen your stupid [insert monument name here], can we go now?”
This summer, the line was brought up at the Grand Canyon. We had visited once before, ten years ago, but decided to visit again, as Ian and I hardly remembered the place.
We also visited Antelope Slot Canyon…
I use our annual camping trips to center myself; to bring my head back down out of the clouds. The trip, like many, was hot and exhausting, but also beautiful, amazing and fun. Visiting places like these reminds me of how outstandingly beautiful this world can be, and helps steel me for the rest of the year.
When we arrived back home, we had only a day with our dear lizard, Leo, before he passed on. I'm not presently able to go into detail, but while I didn't know Leo very long, his death brought to the forefront of my mind several things that I've been struggling with for a long time. I spent the majority of that week revisiting my concepts of mortality, death and meaning. I get stuck in my own head too often, and Leo's death took me away from the world for a little while. I think it's positive and necessary for us to spend time mourning and reassessing the various notions and facets of our lives we've built up over time, so long as we don't let it consume us for too long. In a world where we are constantly searching for reasons and meaning, we have to come to terms with the idea that there may not always be a reason, whether we believe this idea is true or not. I think it's good for us to try to build ourselves up, to center ourselves, to provide ourselves with things we can hold onto when we're struggling to work through these sorts of things. I believe our camping trip came at an ideal time.
I have no idea what I'm doing.