Behind the Troubled Canopy

Tis the season of reflection.

I wrote three short entries on another platform last September and October. It was written during a period of struggle, as I had to cope with losing my job, as well as other uncertainties plaguing my life at that time.

Please Charge Your Device (Sep 3, 2019)

“Your battery is at 10%.” The familiar notification lay plastered on my screen. I can relate; I too am running out. Of everything.

I haven’t written anything outside work in over three months. Topics evade me, words fail me. Disillusion fills my space, of who I am and what I do, or even who I believe in. Before I discovered writing, I truly believed I had nothing about me to make a positive impact in the world, and now I find myself edging closer towards that same state of utter despair. 10 years. Time flies, but my wings remain clipped. I fluctuate between defiant and downcast, calm and chaotic. Jekyll controls my mind, but Hyde rules the heart. Often, Hyde wins.

My blog is almost defunct. Cobwebs where ideas once stood. Holes where stories were fleshed. What am I even doing with my life? Same glaring question flashing in my mind like jarring neon lights. My vision squints all the same. Then the crushing probe: am I even fit to call myself a writer?

Suddenly, I feel like an idiot touting myself as one everywhere I go, as if I’d even done anything to earn that title. Just a few crummy articles and a well-fabricated notion in my unpolished subconscious that I had the chops to hold my own.

I feel drained. I feel discouraged. I feel lost. Rinse and repeat, until I feel nothing at all. With each superficial charge, I lose a little bit of my longevity. Nights are easier to sleep through, and days are harder to live past.

The biggest irony of all is that I’m able to assure my [then] girlfriend of her own writing abilities, but I can’t seem to take my own advice.

We’re all trying to find our place in life, but sometimes it seems that life is a game of musical chairs, and I’m so afraid that there will be no seats left for me.

Sometimes I wonder if my inability to gel with a larger social group lies in a difference in wavelengths that cannot be faulted, or an aloofness for which I alone bear the blame.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m not trying hard enough to assimilate into society, and what it wants and demands out of me. Is it worth giving up the perks of the pack to be my own man?

Sometimes I grow breathless just by chasing after fragments of my own thoughts, trying to make sense of them. I feel a large buildup of screaming words pressed against my skull, like a flood desperately stemmed by a weakening dam.

Sometimes my mouth opens to speak but words are but only a trickle.

Sometimes I feel like a mime without a touch of elegance. Instead, I pound wildly against make-believe walls, hoping someone will realise they are in fact actual walls. But people continue to laugh at my act and I continue to humour them. Precious few ever catch the tear behind the mask.

“I can’t believe it’s already October.” Where have I heard this line before? That’s right. Last year, and the year before, and another year back. Sometimes I feel like a hapless passenger in the ride that is life, at the mercy of every corner taken too quickly, or every break too abrupt. I didn’t sign up for the whiplashes.

Sometimes I don’t even feel like I’m on the ride, just a silent observer as everything and everyone passes me by, no glances, no words uttered, nothing. Everyone starts with all guns blazing, ready to burst out the gates, but with each dose of disappointment and rejection, the bravado fades and sweet turns to bitterness, the kind that makes you want to pinch your nose, swallow the pill you’re forced to ingest, and throw it all up. Rinse and repeat.

10 months have passed this year. All I want to do is get the other 2 done and over with, except I’m not nearly deluded enough to think that a respite awaits me at the end; all it does is place me back on “Go”, and the game of Monopoly restarts itself. The best I can hope for is that they change my damn token.

It is difficult to keep the waves of fear, anxiety, and helplessness from crashing onto my shores of my sanity. Every day becomes a constant battle between hope and despair. To my recollection, there hasn’t been a consecutive victor.

I am again reminded of this struggle as the world continues to strain under the weight of our latest pandemic, Mother Nature’s way of fighting back. We call it Covid; she calls it Humanity. I know how you feel — I’m tired, too.

Our lives will forever be changed once this blows over. Telecommuting will no longer be just a scoffed-at fantasy, but a viable way to work. Businesses are forced to digitalise. Livelihoods are scattered as people scramble to find morsels of work to tide them through this period. “Oh no, what am I doing to do during the lockdown?” suddenly takes on two voices in your brain — one of a spoilt brat, and one of a man who just lost his job.

Writing has always been something that gave me hope, a skill to call my own, to hone, and to hold close. But, it isn’t even enough to pay the bills. Sometimes I wonder if this is a cruel divine joke, like finding a mirage in the desert; an empty bottle with no water; a lifeboat with a hole. Still, I search, often in vain, for a semblance of promise that everyone else seems to have, but the digging has left my nails, skin, and optimism broken. I used to think that everyone is born equal — no matter the social status, looks, talent, or intelligence, everything evens out somehow, but the figure in the mirror begs to disagree. The thing about having dreams is that without the means to accomplish it, all they are, are figments of my imagination, of a fantasy life I can never have.

All I am is a struggling writer, no, I can’t even say that. All I am is a man who dreams of flying while I’m falling through the roof. At least both outcomes consist of wind beating my face. Flying, falling, falling.

But, amidst the self-doubt enveloping me, I still choose to believe, that life did not cough me up to make me a spectacle. The ship has not sailed; the train has not left; not all hope is lost. Perhaps tomorrow won’t be a better day, and perhaps my despair will increase manyfold, but I remember the very sentence I wrote a few years ago that continues to tug my heart — and I usually hate my writing — “but dreams are dreams, and dreams are worth chasing, until my legs give up and my lungs are empty.” So continue chasing I will; navigating through the canopies of life’s jungle I go, and someday, I hope, and I keep hoping, I will find my clearing.

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