So today I was yet again not writing, while also not doing any of the readings I’ve been tasked with reading, and instead leveling up Archaeology on my Night Elf Hunter while listening to the very enjoyable Imaginary Worlds podcast. On the one hand, it gets me through the day. It’s coasty. It’s … it’s just easy and simple and anxiety-free. It’s a way for me to avoid a whole bunch of potentially upsetting chaos (read: everyday life).
On the other hand, I thought, I have the privilege, the absolutely fucking disgusting privilege of being able to sit in front of my computer all day playing computer games and listening to podcasts, and nothing else. Ostensibly this is not true; I am going to have to do a shitload of work for this Masters to work, and I am going to do that, because I always do my work. It’s not always been enough, and it’s certainly not always been on time, but I’m getting over that phase. What I’m not getting over – well, let me phrase that differently: what I’m not getting towards is a point where chilling and coasting and avoiding potential, hypothetical stressors that, from experience, I objectively know stress me out far more to imagine than to actually go through, is not enough for me, to a point where my staggeringly charmed life becomes a platform for me to do all of the mind-bogglingly awesome shit that I keep imagining that I want to do.
And that’s the question I now face: am I just imagining that I want to do these things? I have one big project in November that I’m looking forward to, but other than that …
Because another thing I was mulling over today was how I Became A Writer, which was that when I was 13 years old I really liked Harry Potter and decided that I could Do That Too, and didn’t think about the consequences that pursuing this lofty aspiration would have on my psyche, my attitude, my prospects, my general well-being – and, I mean, it’s not like that would be reasonable to expect any 13-year-old to consider with appropriate severity, so that’s not the issue. The issue is that I threw myself fully into something that I didn’t understand the consequences of because it was a fantasy that I had, and being young and responsibility-free I had the freedom to indulge in it. It ended up being something that I pursued for many reasons, including fantasies of fame, self-esteem and, for some reason, beating people in arguments (that’s a power fantasy that I keep coming back to and I think I should probably talk to somebody about it), and because it was What I Was Meant To Do. I had, completely without realising it, done what so many unfortunate idiots have done throughout history, and that is to craft myself an epic narrative that justified itself by merely existing. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I actually considered that this was unhealthy, and not until early this year that I realised that I am not, in fact, A Writer. I am a person, and I want to do all sorts of shit.
Or do I? Because if I imagined that I wanted to be a writer, only to find that I really just wanted to Be Up There with J.K. Rowling because she wrote books I really liked, if I latched onto this grand ambition that was so grand it covered up the very small, specific reason for having that ambition to begin with and got carried away with it to my massive detriment, then what else have I imagined that I want when I really want something else, something far simpler, smaller and – quite possibly – more attainable?
Or, because I have anxiety and overthink the fuck out of everything: what haven’t I imagined that I want? Do I actually want anything at all? Or are my so-called desires nothing more than fancies I distract myself with while waiting for the ever-looming smog of anxiety to pass, knowing full well that that’s not how it works?
It’s not a question of what I want. It’s a question of if I want at all, and if I can tell the difference between actual desire and the fantasy of it.
Do I actually want to write Tallulah?
Do I actually want to learn how to draw?
To play guitar?
To be confident in myself?
To make a YouTube Channel?
To Come Out Of Myself?
How can I trust myself to know any of this shit?
And if I can’t – which is the angle I’m going for, in case you hadn’t picked up on that – then where the fuck does that leave me? Because regardless of what I want, in purely practical terms I cannot keep on doing this. One day I will be forced to pick up the years and years of slack I have let slip from my hands, and I will be completely unprepared for it, and be bitter and resentful about it and dig myself at least one hole to sit and mope in when the bubble inevitably breaks.
And I just think of all the times I try to talk myself into being passionate, try to give myself rousing pep talks about purpose and discipline and doing something really big with my life, or even something really small and manageable and practical, and allowing for all of my neuroses and anxiety and depressive states and just …
Does this actually work for anybody?
How do people actually want to do things at all?
Because I don’t think that I do.
And I start to think there’s something wrong with me, because it should be pretty fucking apparent that you do or do not want to do something.
And then I’m like “oh right I have a history of depression” and it turns out I’m right, there is something wrong with me. He puts a point on the board!
And so I’m thinking maybe I need to re-visit the idea of medication.
It’s very privileged of me to have the kind of revulsion that I do toward the idea of me taking medication. Other people? Sure, other people might actually need medication, but not me. I’m just dealing with a behavioural thing; the reason I haven’t gotten through it yet is due to a combination of having to peel away so many layers before I actually get to the real shit that’s affecting me – which is just bad luck – and habits of avoidance and procrastination and delegation built up over the past 18 years, which is also bad luck but I haven’t exactly helped things any.
Except that this utter inability to tell whether I actually want to do anything with myself sounds a lot like depression, and I thought, honestly thought that I was past that. I know I’m a hell of a lot better. I have actually wanted things in the past year or so, and felt it very keenly. And maybe the rest of it is just fear and residual low self-esteem, symptoms that linger even after the cause has long since resolved. Ghosts in the machine.
They do say that self-diagnosis is a bad idea. I’m starting to see why.
What I’m really getting at, since I know full well that all this talk about medication and depression and the question of how we know that we truly want anything is probably not something I can adequately process at 2:13 a.m., is that I already know that my trying to convince myself that I should be writing Tallulah since I have more than enough free time to do so, should be doing all of these things that I tell myself I want to do, never works. What I don’t know is why it doesn’t work. What I wonder is if it works for other people, and why I’m the odd one out. Or if I’m just using a bad strategy and need to be doing something else.
As always, I know one sure answer: “just do it”. It always works. It has never not worked, in my entire fucking life, but the lesson also never sticks. And I know, objectively, that this is part of the lesson, part of what I have to learn: that I may never have that autopilot option available to me, considering how long it’s been and it still hasn’t gotten internalised, so if I want shit to go a certain way I have to make it happen, have to exert myself every single goddamn time and that’s just how it is, sometimes you get dealt a shitty hand, etc.
But then, I also haven’t really tried to make it a habit. And I know that works. I’m still doing my workouts in my room – far from nightly these days, but still a good 2-3 times a week on average, and compared to where I was last year I’d be lucky to get in 20 workouts in a 52-week period. I’m getting back into waking up in the actual morning as opposed to the afternoon, and I’m really liking what it does for my daily attitude and outlook. So maybe I do actually have to do that thing that so many writers advise other writers to do and literally write every single goddamn day. And when I say “write” I mean “add to the word-count of a specific writing project”. Because I do write every day, if you count texting and status updates. But I don’t want to count those. I want to count what we would all probably call Actual Work, and I want it to be regular and consistent and I want it to fucking go somewhere.
How do I know I want that?
Fuck it, maybe I don’t. Maybe I just tell myself that’s what I want, because that’s how I’ve learnt to try and motivate myself into having a purpose, because without a purpose, I have learnt to believe, I am depressed and miserable. Except I love not doing anything. I love boredom. I love quite moments to myself that consume more time than I can imagine. I also love getting so absorbed in some project that before I know it the day is over and I haven’t done a hundredth of what I have the energy to do.
I hate to say this, as an enlightened millennial, but I don’t think I can do this shit with videogames and social media in my life. Maybe I’m just imagining that, too.
But even if I am, so what? It’s all I’ve got anyway. What else am I supposed to go on?
The other alternative is that I simply don’t want to do any of these things, and that the reason I try to talk myself into wanting them is because I’m ashamed of who I am if I don’t want to Do Something With My Life. Because then I’m just some asshole living at home without a job and no social life and no desire to change any of it who is totally okay with it.
Okay not the social life part, but the rest of it. That’s not what a responsible adult looks like.
Jesus. Do I really imagine that I want to be a responsible adult? Is that really what my life goal has become? No wonder I can’t fucking talk myself into doing anything …
This all deserves more consideration, but for now: 200 words a day, starting tomorrow. I could say 2000. I could even say 1000. But I also want it to actually, y’know, happen.
200 words a day, starting tomorrow.
I really, really hope this works.