I used to obsess about writing these every year. But this year I felt an indifference. Is it age? That I feel the choice to end and start a year overnight on a random day in the 365 days it takes earth to orbit around the sun a little arbitrary? That it feels a little sad that we need reminders to reflect upon our lives and set resolutions?
So why am I writing this anyway? I am not entirely sure. There is an awareness that the world is full of different people with different responses to living, yet there is a bias towards only certain ways of life. I am probably writing this to continue my ongoing rebellion against the mainstream narrative. And I am not the only one.
There was a debate on tech twitter over the last few weeks whether people should work 80 hours per week or not. Sometimes I imagine aliens from advanced civilisations visiting earth and feeling really peculiar at the things we argue about. Combined with the end of the decade and the end of the year, every other post on the internet is filled with people’s accomplishments and what not. I should be feeling really bad about myself, and I am pretty sure out there, there are tons of people feeling really bad about themselves, because they have lived so much less compared to their peers. That is, if living life is all about moving from one rung to a higher one.
It is saddening for me that human beings spend most of their lives chasing themselves into a frenzy so that they can feel adequate about themselves (except people who have no choice because of inequality). Maybe scaling ladders is the only way to avoid thinking about the existential despair that will surface if life is not about scaling ladders.
I feel rather disconnected from everything. I think this is the price to pay for the attempt to pursue inner peace. When we live in a world determined to generate competition and conflict, wanting to exist in some vacuum of peace means dropping out of the social order, and to a very large extent, giving up a sense of connection and community. It is difficult to relate when we no longer desire the same things in life, and therefore, no longer commune in the same challenges. Maybe if we are lucky, we can find some niche communities who are interested in pursuing the same non-pursuing.
I wouldn’t say I am much happier than before, but I am a lot less unhappy. Considerably less self-hating. I have time to read and the capacity to witness. My days of being in constant anxiety because there is some deadline to meet or some important meeting ahead is over. I stopped feeling so self-important and have embraced more of my fragility and ordinariness. I don’t miss the competition, and these days, I have ceased to miss the recognition. I like knowing that I have a self who is still relatively intact and existing despite the lack of uplifting that comes with being successful at a job.
Life is not only about accomplishments. We shouldn’t feel proud only because we are successful and have done well. It takes courage to attempt and survive failures. If you love life, there is joy in purely being alive. If you have a difficult relationship with living like me, you can give yourself a pat on the shoulder for enduring this pile of shit. If you are capable of making people feel loved, give yourself bonus points because life can be challenging and you’re helping to increase people’s resilience to them. If you’re not capable of giving love and receiving love like me, you deserve bonus points too because this is a very difficult condition to bear while being alive. Some of us just want to pay bills on time, spend quality time with family and quietly get on with life. There’s beauty in that. There’s beauty in not wanting more, to lessen the potential for damage that we will leave in our wake.
To uncondition ourselves from what the world has deeply ingrained in us is a long process. I started this process in 2015, and perhaps 2019 was the year I have finally learned to let go of things I was holding on to out of fear, familiarity and sentimentality. It feels like I have finally propped myself up enough to endure the disconnection I knew I was going to face. But I think this is a necessary disconnection to an old world I was conditioned to live in, in order to even have the chance to connect to a new unexplored dimension of life. There is a gladness in knowing I have finally started to live on my own terms, even if it comes with moments of despair, sadness and fear. But this is a despair, sadness and fear I am choosing, not thrown upon me because of a reality everyone else is subscribing to. I think 2020 will be a continuation of this deepening of an unknown and unnamed journey.
What about climate change and the pressing issues of the world you might say? There has always been blood shed upon the world, and there were always people like hermits and monastics choosing not to engage in that way. One may ponder why. I can only say I am trying my best just not to perpetuate the suffering I was subjected to and had subjected other people to, because of an unchecked psyche. I know I am a broken person, and learning to keep those sharp edges to myself (and hopefully blunt them) will take a lifetime of work.
(…and yes I know I am economically privileged to make these choices but it would be a travesty if I didn’t leverage upon it and instead keep on perpetuating a world I fundamentally disagree with, and a self I perpetually want to kill.)