When I graduated from uni, it took me over a year to start working in the field I’d studied in. I spent that time travelling, and working at a pet supply store, and playing video games. (Fam, I played so many hundreds of hours of Skyrim, it felt some days that my life as Xin the Khajiit was more important to me than my other life.) A little adrift, I started a morning ritual where I would perform taiji, drink sencha-mango green tea, and reflect on some spiritual or philosophical text (most notably the Tao Te Ching).
Looking back on that year, I had this narrative that I told myself and others. I said, “I took a year off to heal. To recover from the exertion of study. That I was spending it improving my rocky mental health, and finding myself. Preparing for the next step in my journey.” But I realised a few days ago that I don’t think that’s true.
You see, I’m struggling just as much now as I was then. And I was struggling just as much then as I was when I was 12. I’ve come to wonder if my default state is “struggling”.
I do so much every day, most of it “productive” by some measure, and yet there’s so much more that I wish I could do that I don’t seem to get around to. Sometimes it takes me days to reply to a text message, like this in this wonderfully accurate (if slightly facetious) article. I just don’t seem to have the energy for it.
If it’s not work stuff, I’m consumed by the struggle of personal healing and growth.
And if it’s not personal healing and growth, it’s tea ceremony.
And if it’s not tea ceremony, it’s my relationships.
And I struggle and I struggle and I struggle, and there’s always more to do.
And it’s awkward because when people ask “How are you?” and the answer is “I’m struggling”, there’s an expectation that things are really tough and lots of empathy and compassion is required for this short-term crisis! But when it’s my default mode… I’m hesitant to mention it, because I know their “crisis supply” of empathy is limited, and if they realise this sprint is actually a marathon they’re going to cut me off.
And worse, I don’t know if it would ever be enough. I could get all the empathy in the world, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop struggling.
I guess I’ve just grown comfortable in my discomfort. It’s the only move left.