Though my preferred experience of life is when it washes over me like a fine mist, life unfortunately cares very little about my preferences. Recently, it has been settling on my tongue like the aftertaste of an ill-timed nap, or the enduring alliaceousness of a particularly garlicky curry.
Put simply, I am having what is colloquially known as “a hard time”.
In 2021, I packed my bags and moved 5000 miles away from everyone who loves me. As a reward for my irreverence, the chemicals in my brain produced a giddy, floaty feeling that lasted the better part of a year. I saw pretty things, I self-soothed by talking shit about the Bay Area, I let myself be exceptionally receptive to woo-woo. When difficult things happened, I smiled at them. Armed with a newfound resiliency, I was gently amused by everything: the departure of my friends, my illiteracy, the loosening of my relationship, and then its complete unraveling. “No matter!” I exclaimed, a born-again optimist. “I will shelve this icky feeling and smooth things over with a fun weekend getaway!” Repeat for 50 weeks.
But even as I was coasting on the validation of a few exceptional encounters, buying into philosophical frameworks that affirmed my most hated parts of self, and paying special attention to the objective charm of my sweet little existence, I was aware that, like all things, my bliss would eventually come to an end. Lurking behind my childlike wonder was the knowledge that this heightened state of being was temporary, knowledge that I tried to smother with more outings, more producing, more confident declarations of joy.
I couldn’t hold on forever. Slowly, like the weathering of sedimentary rock, my happiness began to crumble. The tripwire for delight became difficult to trigger. Once-shiny things were dulled by repetition and subsequently lost their luster. I learned that my unshakable zest for life is, in fact, shakable. For some time, this was fine, since I was riding on such an unnatural high. But eventually, I regressed to the mean, and then regressed beneath it.
I found myself in the pits. I looked up at the heights and grew bitter that I was not still there.
One year ago, my only goal was to have fun. But now that fun has been had, I think that I might also enjoy “meaning” and “connection” and “a sense of belonging”. I’d like to know and be known. I’d like to do high-impact work that improves lives. I’d like to be loved in the light.
I once answered the call of meritocracy, willing to waste my time completing paperwork so rich people could get richer. But my tolerance for misaligned endeavors is much lower nowadays. Life is easy, life is good, but I can’t help but want optimal. I desire to rub my grubby, greedy hands over everything. Community, conversation, romance. More novelty, more experience, more time, more, more, more.
Fleeing toward the next big thing worked once, and I’m planning to attempt it at least once more. But I realize that it is not a sustainable solution. There will always be lovely things that I can’t have, at least not all of the time, and constantly moving elsewhere will only show me more of them.
I have been thinking about how to leave, and how to leave in the direction of good. But I think it might also be rewarding to express gratitude for this unique moment, to welcome the wonders that emerge when I am brave enough to believe they exist.