I tend to write long essay-ish review posts, so this time I’ll attempt to write a bullet-point-ish one.
- had a day surgery to remove two infected cysts on my chest – it was very painful. I also developed two small keloids as a post-surgery effect for the first time in my life. The surgeon said it was expected because the chest area is prone to keloids.
- finally had the courage to pause my patreon account permanently (writing this now still gives me anxiety):
When I started this I wanted to believe I could make a reasonable living while doing what I love: making experiments and writing. I believed that getting 1,000 people to pay $1 so I can create and write for the public in peace without ever getting involved in corporate politics again was not an unreasonable dream. But after learning so much about myself I have realised I have neither the health, personality or the psyche to be a creator making a living through subscriptions. It takes a lot of self-promotion, and if you have been following my work long enough you will know I am almost allergic to anything that resembles self-promotion. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think self-promotion is bad at all, I am just too socially anxious to do it. I thought it was something that I could overcome, or at least I could do it on my own terms. But my health kept failing, and I cannot upkeep any semblance of a creative momentum. My journey is full of stops and starts, nothing sustained.
- got proposed to!
- got double-vaccinated (waiting for the partner to overcome her histamine intolerance issues so we can get boosted)
- acquired a printer so I printed postcards
- measured my ketones for the first time in order to understand more of my biological data
- picked up photography
- got introduced to the world of DACs, passive speakers and raspberry pis as an audio transport
- added /notes to this website to embrace shorter-form writing
- learning to co-exist with my messy brain
- restarted writing morning pages every morning since Oct 11 in an attempt to stop my morning doom-scroll habit
- got used to living in a semi-lockdown
- listened to a lot of 70s (before I was born in 1981 – anything before 1990 is probably foreign to me) music for the first time: Carole King, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac
- wrote 39 long-form posts (including this one) vs 39 (2020)| 45 (2019) | 59 (2018)
- read 52 books (but some were photography books) vs 41 (2020) | 55 (2019)
- 2,012,846 steps vs 2,175,497 (2020) | 3,561,874 (2019) | 3,695,978 (2018) – there is a stark difference compared to pre-pandemic times
In the beginning of 2021 I wrote that my goal for the year (if any) is to seek emotional freedom. Reaching the very end of 2021, I don’t have any objective measure but I do feel freer. It seems evident from reviewing the tortured entries I used to write. I read them now, and I am like why was I always so tortured, why was I always deluding myself with the stories I make up in my head?
I think (with some hindsight bias) that I was in an existential depression/slump that persisted from 2020. There was a turning point around the time when I wrote, “my messy brain“. I can’t articulate how and why, but I got fed up with being in a slump and being unable to will myself to do things I want to do. I won’t say I woke up one morning and changed overnight, but it was a gradual upwards trajectory in terms of reclaiming myself. I think the crucial difference is the acceptance that I may have impaired brain functioning and I need to work within that, not deny or ignore it. That made me understand what I can expect out of myself and what I cannot make myself do. It wasn’t positive thinking or that I could suddenly change my will, but rather a conscious redesign of my day so I don’t have to leave it up to my “will” to do things. Writing morning pages made a huge difference because I no longer started the day with doom scrolling, so I exhausted my mental capacity a lot less from the get go. More on that in a full post.
learning to be slower
I learnt to be much slower – I get a lot less frustrated whenever I have to do things that require a deliberate slowness, like chopping vegetables. I exercised less and gave up pursuing streaks, instead working with my menstrual cycle to determine my exercise schedule. I also learnt to demand a lot less of myself since I recognised my own impairments in several areas.
Picking up photography and listening to music allowed my brain to process a lot less words. I hope to veer more in this direction.
I am not sure if it is learned helplessness, but I stopped being so frustrated and upset with the whole virus situation. I saw that it was something out of my control, and that throughout history terrible things happened to human beings all the time, so why should I or the current generations be an exception? I could continue moping, or I could try to pursue whatever mundane aliveness I could have. Again, I just want to reiterate it wasn’t a switch I could turn on or off, but a very slow, deliberate attempt to recalibrate the way I think.
a good baseline
I personally believe human beings thrive when they are at a good emotional and psychological baseline. A good baseline that does not require much external stimuli. I feel that I have made great strides towards this in the past year, even if much of it is forced due to our personal movement being limited because of the delta strain. I think a lot of it came from efforts to down-regulate my over-stimulated brain. It is training myself to coexist with the initial difficult boredom that stems from a brain always seeking adrenaline and dopamine.
My usual skepticism and pessimism makes me feel that this won’t last, but I think this is a good state to end the year, at the very least.
Note: I think writing a review of an entire year on the last day of the year would not be very accurate since we have a recency bias. Nevertheless, this is a slice of this year from my current POV.