Friday, July 6, 2012

The Constant Terror of Being Alive


Life doesn’t stop, it’s the fast speed train that knocks you over, the endless carriages that whiz by as you try and count them down – waiting for it all to pass. And you hope desperately that it will all go faster, so you can board the final carriage and sit blissfully at the end, able to just enjoy the ride. At least, I've been waiting on that platform for a while, checking the time and waiting for all the heavy work carriages to pass me by so that I can sit in comfortable first-class seats.

The problem with this is, life is relentless. It doesn't stop until it's over. There are always tests, tax to do, bills to pay, emails to be written, calls to make, deadlines to meet, things you don’t want to do, days you want to retire from the everyday and take a vacation to an only slightly-deserted island where the other inhabitants exist solely to bring you mojitos and play soothing Jack Johnson tunes.

When I was in highschool the world was more or less the same for six years, we were all craving change so desperately we created it within the melo-dramas of our lives. For the most part, highschool was the collective moan of wanting to be somewhere else. It was always counting down the days of term, wanting it to finally be the school holidays. It was kicking down the door to Growing Up, getting our licenses, being able to drink, being able to Make Our Own (often embarrassing-now, great idea at the time) decisions. We, or at least I, was more often that not playing the waiting game. Waiting for my graduation ceremony, so that my Life could begin.

And highschool ended, and the life I was so looking forward to began. It didn’t disappoint but what followed me was the anxiety of more and greater responsibility and expectation. I was often terrorized by the ambiguity of my own direction in life, while I met friends during university breaks and wasn’t suffocated by the routine of highschool – the familiar faces of self-doubt and fear still found me, dressed up in new party clothes.

So I went to Spain, and finally – finally – I would have my peace. A rest from the #firstworldproblems of having to choose a career path as my degree drew to a close and my peers became increasingly more serious, successful and damaging to by self-esteem. For a year I would escape the terrors of everyday life and live only for adventure, fiestas and mid-afternoon naps. The summer months would be dedicated wholly to the expansion of my horizons (whatever that meant at the time).

Lo and behold, life doesn’t respect the artistically painted Van Gogh idea you have in your head. That time in my life would excite me and show me dizzingly the endless wonders of this world but it wouldn’t let me cut ties with reality. It was about as close to the sky I could get without leaving the ground.

It’s like Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Life is this dichotomy between floating away and sinking down. You can’t have one without the other. And even amongst all the brimming glory of travel, anonymity and wonder, I was still frequently paralysed by fear, terrorised by the anxiety of making decisions, doing things I didn’t want to do and the expectations and responsibility placed upon me (or that I placed so masochist-like around on myself).

It is this Constant Terror of Being Alive - that we are at once given the hard-won task of being in control of our own lives. As soon as you race to end of some marathon-week, the next one appears unexpectedly at your door step demanding more. You work so hard to close a door and the window flings open – I’m aware that’s not how the axiom goes but sometimes you just want to be in a room by yourself where you can shut everything out just for a minute to let yourself breathe. But as I said, life is relentless.

So in lieu of giving up, just give in to the fact that life is ball-breaking. Lean into the current rather than against the tide and make sure you are well aware of the fact that life will likely terrorise you well into the future. It’s just like taking a tequila shot, you never expect it to taste good – you just take it and know that at first it will make you want to gag, and then it will make you stronger, and then you will dance on tables without respect for social norms believing in your own invincibility (vodka also does the trick).

It’s this coping mechanism that’s got me through the disasters that life throws mercilessly upon us (and no, I’m not still talking about tequila…because that would be my other blog ‘Grace What Are You Drinking’). Somewhere between highschool and now I got to remembering that every single time I would swear to myself there was no conceivable end to the situation I was in, it would end, and it would turn out OK.

You can’t live life with your fingers crossed, hoping that one day all the annoying, terrifying or gut-wrenching realities of life will pick up and change residence. There is always something, there will always be something. So be all Ghandi like and give it up. You have two options:

  1. Accept the things you can’t change.
  2. Change the things you can’t accept.

It will get you everywhere, give it up – take that nasty, surprisingly sobering, tequila shot, swallow that sour-tasting fact that life is relentless – you’ll be better for it. Promise. 

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