Previously published on my Tumblr page, http://a-woman-apart.tumblr.com/
All through my teenage years I lamented the daily events of life. I hated waking up- especially late- but I stayed up so late every night that it was almost inevitable. I was homeschooled, but hated that too and could never concentrate on my studies. I was emotionally out of control.
My parents always told me that things wouldn’t stay the same forever. They knew that I felt “trapped in four walls” but they tried to encourage me. I vacillated between having grandiose schemes for things and being wracked with hopelessness. Even when things were going well, i was always waiting for the inevitable return to mediocrity. On my worst days, I would watch the clock tick down and just pray for nightfall. When nightfall finally came and I was in bed, I would toss and turn restlessly, both dreading and wishing for morning. I was dissatisfied in the very truest sense of the word.
Those hormonal, bipolar days are now far behind me. The hopelessness is gone, but a lot of the restlessness remains. I notice how strangely time seems to pass, with the seasons seeming to change overnight and days blurring together like the landscape on a train ride. Sometimes I look around and wonder just how I got here. I know it was through a series of choices, some seemingly insignificant at the time. Applying for financial aid, enrolling in a class, showing up, studying, going to work everyday, a little exercise here and there, maybe cooking today instead of eating fast food. If you take each day of work done and compare it to the whole, it doesn’t seem very significant, but when you add everything together, you have years and years of acquiring knowledge, building relationships, and self-discovery. Every action taken today brings you closer to some point in the future. You may not be at the place where you envisioned- in fact, you may be some place better.
So yes, there’s more to life than “chasing down every temporary high” because those highs that seem temporary could be a part of a greater picture of overall growth. We are told to “never underestimate small beginnings”. As for the lows, those are important too- they force us to look at ourselves, reflect on our actions, and make important changes. We often don’t work on fixing things until they actually break down, and after they break down we learn how to take better care of them so they’ll hold up a little better in the future.
In the end I see that my parents were right. Absolutely nothing is permanent. This also means that nothing is really guaranteed, either. We could do everything we can to maintain our health and security and still be faced with a terrible crisis in the future. Alternatively, we could be in the midst of a terrible crisis and a sudden solution arises. In my experience, things are a little less sudden and a little more gradual than that, but the bottom line is that “change gon’ come”.
So what is the meaning of life? I think it has a lot more to do with “rolling with the punches” than it has to do with arriving at some sort of set plateau of knowledge and understanding. The meaning of life is doing what you love, and sticking to it through the highs and the lows. It’s about being flexible, but not flaky. It’s about having principles and standing by them. It’s about loving other people and being loved in return. It’s about “knowing myself even as I am known.” It’s about discovering so much but always knowing there’s more to be discovered.
I realized that part of the reason that I’ve been so happy lately- despite the exhaustion- is that I am really doing something that I love. Studying music really brings me joy. I couldn’t see the point of all the drills and exercises that we were doing before, but now when I dream I see notes dancing around sometimes. I still can’t quite “hear what I see, see what I hear” but now this musical language is really starting to take hold for me. So no matter how hard it is, no matter how much I may struggle, despite migraines and staying up late with the homework swimming before my eyes, I know I’m doing the right thing. That’s so important. The point isn’t having an easy life, it’s overcoming challenges and feeling like my struggle serves a purpose.
There’s a video on the Youtube channel “Vsauce” about boredom. The host goes into talking about how when boredom often coincides with moments of great creativity. It requires us to think deeply about things and innovate to alleviate the boredom. Also, he showed evidence from a scientific experiment that people whose brains were deprived of stimulation (sight, smell, taste, sound) began to display hallucinations to make up for the lack of stimulation. We weren’t meant to do the same lifeless, boring stuff over and over again.
There’s a proverb in the Bible that’s as follows;
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but when the desire comes it is a tree of life.” -Proverbs 13:12
I think my heart was “sick” for many years and now I’m starting to come into my own life: my own religion, my own career, my own education, my own friendships.
I used to wonder for the longest time if some of my bad habits were from an addictive personality. Now, as I look back, I can see that each habit serves as a crutch for aid with one problem or another.
For example, at one point I was very “addicted” to caffeine. I would drink coffee in the morning and then have sodas in the afternoon to stay functional. Then I wouldn’t be able to sleep well because of drinking caffeine so late, and the cycle would repeat over again. When I finally got put on the right sleeping medication, I slept like a baby and started to forego even my morning caffeine. Problem = solved.
Before, I spent so much time on the internet as a teenager that I fell behind in school. I’m in college and concentrating just fine now, and that all happened when I began to get treatment for my mental illness. Problem = solved.
Now I guess my main thing is overeating, which I’m pretty sure is a combination of hormones, the side effects of sleep medication, and stress. If I can somehow regulate those things, I’m pretty sure that that problem will too go away. Also if I feel better, I’ll incorporate exercise into my day better. In the mean time, my “self control quota” is being fully utilized in just my day to day existence as an employee and a student. Does this make me a bad person? No. It just means that I only have so many spoons and they’re otherwise occupied.
So what have these things taught me? For one, I need to experiment with positive reinforcement. Shaming and guilting myself for my shortcomings has never resulted in my improvement. Maybe saying things like, “I deserve to feed my body healthy things” or “Let me exercise and get my blood flowing” and things like that work better than, “You pig” or “You’re eating so fast, you slob” and other things. Maybe I need to work on the issue itself and think of the “bad behavior” as more of a symptom. Once I get my anxiety under control, I’m sure I’ll be healthier overall.
Thinking like this, is just another of the ways that I feel like I’ve improved. I used to use caustic, critical self-talk at all times. Somehow, now, due to medication and to lifestyle changes my brain is calm enough to where I can actually reason with myself- my quality of life has improved. Life is about turning “oh no, it’s ruined!” into “how can we fix this?”
Trust me, life gets better- it really does.
it’s really cheesy, but whenever I get overwhelmed I think of these lines from Paramore’s “Careful”;
You can’t be too careful anymore / When all that is waiting for you / Won’t come any closer / You’ve got to reach out a little more
Just keep reaching.