I want to go back home.
It’s been a difficult semester. It almost feels like Groundhog Day – I’ve reached a point at the semester (usually towards the end) where I’ve finally decided to write and reflect on the happenings of a (typically) turbulent 16 weeks. I wonder why it’s always this way. The cycle constantly repeating with no alternative end in sight.
I’d promised Maa that I would really apply myself this semester. I promised her I would make her proud – not to her explicitly, but internally, I knew I wanted to see her smile. I was determined, and with a head full of hope and ambition, I headed back to college.
This time around I’d started off things pretty well: I was waking up at 5 AM every day, going to the gym regularly, getting some studying in and turning in my assignments (for most classes) on time, and doing well at that too! I was pleasantly surprised. Scratch that. I was fucking ecstatic. I felt like I was finally striving towards sustainable progress and was going to see the results of my work.
However, beneath all this newfound optimism and zeal for daily life, there lay an unfounded fear. The subtle yet undeniable anxiety that it would all come unraveling. The rude awakening that would bring me back to reality.
When would this end?
How would I fuck up this time?
Why hasn’t it all come crashing down yet?
Lo and behold, it came. And in the most dramatic of fashions.
Two nights of drunken stupidity later, a half semester of progress came undone. The exact details of what occurred needn’t be relived presently. The time for that has long elapsed, and I’ve gone through more than enough replays in my head. I’ve felt substantial guilt, pain, and sorrow at what had transpired, and if only I could go back and take it back, I would in a heartbeat. Alas, time moves only forward, and as much as I turn and look back, I feel the whiplash of Father Time’s relentless march that refuses to halt.
There’s an unending fluctuation of emotions that waft over me, wave after wave. Moments of numbness are all but common now. As if I’m thinking, “What the fuck just happened?” But beyond the incredulity, there lies not only acceptance of my circumstances but also an unwillingness to fight or change my status-quo. What’s the point?
The occasional feelings of disbelief and denial come together to serve up a nasty discombobulation. “That didn’t actually happen, right?”, I ask myself. Oftentimes, in moments of turbulence and intense emotional duress, such confusion is commonplace.
Sometimes, feelings of anger and bitterness flood my psyche. I see only red, and I curse my luck and life that seemingly it is always I who ends up in such situations. But when it’s all said and done, what I feel the most is a deep depression and an unrelenting loneliness. They’ve been my companions for as long as I can remember, and they’re a mystery I am yet to solve. Perhaps, they cannot be solved, and I can only learn how to begrudgingly live despite them. At the moment, I cannot say, and somewhere, I do not want to think of that reality.
For better or for worse, I am a flawed human being. Those who know me well are aware of that. With those flaws, come the inevitable mistakes, and I’ve committed them time and time again. A friend of mine once remarked, “The pain from your mistake persists until the lesson you needed to learn has been learnt.” Somewhere, I know that’s true.
But what about those around us? When someone we know makes a grave error, what do we do? Do we react with immediacy, or do we take a step back from the situation and assess our next steps carefully? When someone we love does something terribly wrong, what do we do? Do we distance ourselves from them until they “learn their lesson,” or do we stand by them as they introspect and repent?
Beyond this abstract, complex philosophical discussion, what I think matters most is kindness. Here’s the thing with kindness – most people mistake it for weakness. That’s not entirely surprising. Kindness is often the harder of two choices, but it’s often mischaracterized as passivity or avoidance. But when you really question yourself, in any situation, what would be the kind thing to do, you’ll often receive an answer that might not sit too well within an emotionally excited or distressed mind. Kindness, especially in the face of cruelty or viciousness, is a virtue that is unfortunately uncommon but sorely needed in today’s climate.
Most people face situations with reactivity and not proactivity. And what is even more evident is a lack of empathy for our fellow human beings. When we are in a position where we perceive wrongdoing against us, we are the first to desire empathy. However, when the tables are turned, and we think of a person who has wronged us, empathy is the last thing that comes to mind.
I am an emotional fool. I have been called deluded, a victim, a hypocrite, a liar, and a lot more. When I introspect, I am, often, my own biggest critic, and I leave no stone unturned when I bash myself or drown my self-image in the cesspool of hatred and unkindness. But when I heard these things from people I loved, people who I thought loved me back, I crumbled. I felt shattered, and the thought that some people are too broken to be fixed pervaded my mind. Internally, I fear I think myself undeserving of true love or happiness. These are not objective truths, but self-imposed lashes that I have willingly accepted and ingrained into my psychology.
Perhaps, these things hold some truth to them. However, somewhere, deep down lies a budding seed of hope. A seed that is struggling in the darkness but nevertheless fighting to grow and reach toward the warmth and light of positivity and self-compassion. That seed takes root and tries to combat the contradictory thoughts within my being, and it is the byproduct of that seed that causes much internal strife.
Do I just stand by and watch while these thoughts begin to strangle my mind and eat at me from the inside out until there’s nothing left but a vitriolic and distorted self-image? Or do I temper these criticisms with a shower of kindness and deep sense of belief in who I am fundamentally as a person? Do I allow the judgements of those around me to impact me so deeply that every day I view myself as a growing burden? Or do I choose to live the way I want to irrespective of the opinions and thoughts of people? Do I really want to spend my time worrying over the thoughts and feelings that people will continue to harbor regardless of whether I do the right thing or the wrong thing? Regardless of whether I live a “good” life or a “bad” one?
There is no conclusion I have drawn from this debate yet. As I said, I am an emotional fool, and thoughts of such magnitude are seldom resolved so quickly. Clarity will come when it has to. Respite will come if it has to. The only thing I am aware of is my need to pause and breathe. One day at a time, one moment at time.