I’ve not given myself much downtime lately. On the one hand, it’s great. My hours are packed with art and music and laughter and friends, and I’m lucky to have enough to fill every moment of every day with these things.
On the other hand, I’ve not been giving myself much time to just sit and think – to process, to filter and sort and categorize. I used to hoard hours of downtime to indulge my anti-social, introverted tendencies. Those hours were necessary for my mental health.
“Used to” is the operative phrase here.
And it’s hard to tell why I’m doing this – why I’m happy to be tired all the time, to find myself preoccupied with finding ways to fill those once idle hours.
To my benefit, it has been a boon for my productivity – I’m writing more, I’m thinking about new stories, fixing old stories. And the lack of time spent processing means it’s coming out more in my fiction – stories are bent towards the things I’ve been unable/unwilling to think/talk about, and I honestly feel like I’m moving into a new phase with my writing – one of honesty, hard-won lessons born from past and present pain, writing from the deepest places of myself, mixing those truths with fictions until I reach a happy medium where it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not.
It’s hard to convey how exciting that’s been for me. Reading slush, and going back through older stories, I can see how we want to hold our stories away from our chests – to write from a place of intellectual honesty, as opposed to a place of emotional honesty. Write what you know, they say. But knowing and feeling are different. Feeling is so much more difficult than knowing. It changes over time, because of who we are. What we want. The people we are versus the people we want to be. It unites all of us.
I slept a lot today and fiddled with edits of a story I’ve been trying to rewrite since last year. But my mind kept wandering to things that have happened in the last few weeks – thoughts I’d been having and not having, feelings I’d been feeling, but not feeling. I’m struck by how loud it is in my head.
Usually when I feel this way, there’s a small voice in my head, barely able to be heard above the cacophony, that’s telling me the truth – mixed in with all of the fictions I spin about myself, my life, my choices. So I stopped trying to write after a while, put on some music and laid down on the living room floor to stare at the ceiling, and I asked myself over and over again what I’m doing.
Since I was eleven, there’s always been something I wanted, that I ached for with every inch of my existence: To play music. To be a criminal profiler. To be a scientist. To write. To be fitter. To be desired. To communicate. To connect. To love and be loved.
And as I lay on the floor, pushing away anything that was contributing to the noise, I kept coming back to the same thing:
I don’t know.
I don’t fucking know.
And I’m not sure if this is something that comes with getting older, or as we slowly pull ourselves in line with the person we want to be.
I feel unanchored. And maybe that’s why I’ve been filling my time; because looking at my life, I finally don’t know where I’m going to be in two years. In five. In ten. Will I be happy? Will my definition of happiness have changed?
For most of my twenties, I was terrified by the idea of knowing what the shape of my life was going to be – to see all of the steeples come and go as I dutifully leapt over them. And out of fear, I worked on becoming untethered. I erased all possible futures and focused on days. Moments. Seconds.
And I am happier than I’ve ever been. My life is as close as it’s ever been to the one I’ve always wanted.
But now as I slowly become consumed by that small voice in my head, I begin to wonder if I was right.
This post has given me no answers, but it is what it needs to be. I just wish I knew what that was.