I feel despair twirling around me washing me down. It’s a familiar sensation, but the forefront of the storm does not come from me but from the one sitting next to me, seeking help. I thought I’d guided her enough for her to at least not to be afraid of this far-too-alien thing she’s working on, or more precisely for the moment, I’m working on. She’s a graduate student that needs help making an experiment work for her paper. I can see that she’s upset like she’s not used to being so helplessly lost. It’s just English, I remember telling her, mixed with some logic symbols so the machines can understand. I also told her: it’s like talking to a very stupid and yet very intelligent tool. My guess is that does not help one bit. People have anxieties, and this thing that feels nothing just deals in 1s and 0s. I guess it’s nice being so primitive.
The coffee is getting cold. Good thing I drank most of it before she came, the bitter smooth taste still sours my palate, just the way I like it, as it distracts me from my guilt. I move away from both the taste and the background emotional radiation so I can find a solution to this problem in front of the man-made screen with a man-made experiment using a man-made program that speaks a man-made language. That’s my domain for a time and that’s where I learned how to talk.
Easy enough, several misconceptions and curious explorations later, things start to work and the previously downcasted student becomes much more animated with suggestions of workarounds and talks of new visions for her experiment. It’s always uplifting to see that happen. I feel her mood changing from dark grey to white yellow, but I do not dwell on that either. All too familiar with that cycle. But for me, it’s kinda the opposite. When I cannot figure something out, I get pumped, and when I’m finished with it, either from giving up or succeeding, I feel down. There’s not much difference.
How can anyone truly despair when there’s so much left to know? I guess that depends on what you want to know. When there’s no longer any observer, will these 1s and 0s mean anything?
I wonder if we are being too loud in this narrow coffee shop that’s half-filled with students and people lounging about. Another gorgeous day. I feel a bit apologetic, but my companion does not seem to take notice, too wrapped up in her excitement now. Might as well, it’s not my favorite coffee shop anyway.
What you lost
is your biggest treasure.
How that hurts
is a gift you can’t refuse.
When you don’t look away
but humbly accept,
along with the cost,
one breath to the next.
Cast the burden
into the wings you fly with.
You better think
when they tell you it’s worthless.
Give a prayer
to the spirits you now know.
Can you comprehend it
the quietness in your soul?
I wonder if I’m useful to anybody. My “artistry” is but a drop in the salty ocean that is crashing with misery… No, we are not talking about misery, we are talking about something above and below the ocean. Something more tangible, I think. The spark that happens when a sharpened mind meets the proverbial metal.
The technical recruiters should be giving up on me now, now it’s been 11 months into my startup. Why should that makes me feel bad? Shouldn’t they be jealous? Not indifferent I’m sure… It doesn’t matter to me, it shouldn’t matter to me. I’ve learned they want you to pay the same price they are paying for a lesser good than they are getting. “What’s wrong with you?” They seem to be saying, “You are practically a beggar, out of touch with the real world.” Or was it just my insecurities?
I went to the real world, a coffee shop, to work. You see I get to decide how and where and when I get to work. It’s still something I’m getting used to. Like I can start writing at 1:45am because I feel my emotion’s sway and don’t have to worry about traffic and office politics tomorrow, today. So I indulge myself in a most important way. As I was saying, I went to this quiet and out-of-the-way coffee shop. It was not my intention to go to a quiet one for I like, and sometimes need, the hustle-and-bustle of the more urban coffee shops have to offer to get myself into gear. But this one is close and has good online reviews. It’s better than wondering where I should go anyhow.
They do have good coffee. And I saw a different type of people frequenting this place than the ones I’m used to. Instead of college students working on their assignments or tech workers going there for a change of scenery, there were people you’d normally see in a sleepy town: well-dressed older lady with family and older men with the kind of attitude you’d imagine they’d won the lottery. I felt uneasy in my Cuphead video-game T-shirt and faded jeans, on top of a ripped shoulder-bag and a laptop that has stickers on it. But I enjoyed the coffee.
I feel out of step with the world only in a narrow sense. The journey of finding myself again is a necessary one and it has led me to surprising realizations. I’m crying more often these days because of the pressure and the release. It gets easier to keep fear at bay, though it still has its use, so it has its place. But something else is surprising, or perhaps not surprising: it takes a lot to really do what you really think is worth your time. As a result, suffering has become a familiar visitor ever since it has stopped being just a pain but revealed itself as an opportunity.
Living your life not according to social norms means suffering to a degree. The doubts pierce your heart and every step is a leap of faith. But you know what, I have lived a stable life with the usual things and found it lacking. Doing startup or anything at all requires grits. And using those grits, testing them, tasting the bitterness is its own reward.
The key is to see the colors behind the dark and gray. Just because you are happy does not mean life is going well and vice versa. It does not matter what kinda plate you have been served, there’s always a meaning if you are looking for something, and there’s always something. But if you are holding onto something too much, measuring the life you are living with something that only lives in your fantasies you are missing the point.
Life was never supposed to be easy. Even when we are chasing after an easy life, it’s not the goal we are chasing, it’s the journey. Our ingenuity and our spirit can only truly shine when we are in motion, making contact with all the wrong things in all the wrong places. Can you feel that? When you are only squeezing by, do you feel more alive? We are chasing the wrong things. Leisure and excess, they are what kills, not struggles and hurt. Live for it, accept it into your life, carry on with it, be worthy of it all.
I wish I can write whenever I want to write. As it is, far too often the inspiration comes, then I put my mind up to the task only to find… I have a dud. Whether it’s the wrong thing to start with or most of the times, like right now, the energy is just not there. I can conjure up the sentiment, the spark just barely lit but alas there’s no oxygen to make it a fire. Half-finished pieces are impossible to finish. The feeling just isn’t there anymore. So I start another one. It doesn’t really matter though, does it? I’m only talking about the same ol’ thing. Guess I’m just searching for the right way to say it.
Sentences that are show stoppers, I have some in my mind when I started writing this one, but they seem not appropriate now. Something along the line of “when the flow comes, it just jumps right over the cliff.” It made sense then, probably just something to bait myself into continuing the conversation with myself. Also if it is a waterfall, shouldn’t there be rainbows and pretty mists? Maybe it will work better in a poem? I like poems. They are like waterfalls with pretty rhythms instead of rivers or lakes that are too restrictive.
My mind wanders. It tells me to shut down But I can’t go to sleep yet. I am shutting down, this is part of the procedure. This may not make sense, but “you only succeed when you are no longer afraid of failure”. I guess that’s what I want to say. And I hugged a tree today. I’m not surprised at the aching in my heart anymore as I was doing it, transmitting my feelings over to this gentle giant who is more connected than I can ever be. I touched its branch, I brushed its spring leaves. It whispers about love in the wind. I trust it more than anything I’ve known. It’s my home. To be fair, I don’t normally hug a tree, I don’t need to.
I don’t know how to tell a story. I tried to sketch a telltale story about Rev and Qi. I tried to compile the world this little girl Ming lived in which may or may not have ever existed. But I don’t know how to continue. What’s the next plot? What if I get the characters mixed up? What if I’m no longer welcomed in their skins? What if I become bored by their stories before they ever come to life?
Arg… can’t think anymore. It has become too frequent, this mental grating. I want to do things, I start to do things, only to find out that I won’t be finishing them. No! I will finish this story..
I usually write with headphones on to isolate the noises. Silence helps me think, or not to think. This voice in my head is what writes. It tells me to say hi. Just kidding. But it’s not always there. You have to have certain mental energy level to keep the flow going, otherwise, it just flows right over a cliff… haha. There. And there’s no rainbows and pretty shorelines, only darkness and dampness. Something like exhaustion.
Why so exhausted? I don’t know. I gave the tree my stories and it just stood there and took it. It can do nothing else, so it does not waste any energy to. But we are free agents of this same amount of life, and we get to choose: to spend it wisely or poorly. I’m more like hosing it in every direction like you’d imagine a tree-turned-person would. Like there’s no tomorrow. What’s this? It looks interesting. Can I have more of that? Speeding towards that on the way there. Eat, fresh, pray, repeat. We are all but vampires who are zapping for life wherever we can find it, steal it, bury it. Is this why we are here?
A life is a life, in my opinion, no matter the form. I feel the connection with my chickens when I look them in the eyes. They are evaluating me and finding me lacking but trustworthy and that has to be enough. I wonder if I can communicate with them or human beings as well as I can communicate with a tree. I doubt it. Maybe it’s a trust issue. After all, if the tree finds a way to betray you, you always know where to find it. You know about its simple and powerful ways and they will never change. Chickens die, people change. Whenever I look them in the eyes, I see doubts and needs which are too similar to my own.
I’m a coward. I want to preserve the simplicity by not diving deeply into things I know I will lose, hence the sentence “you only succeed when you are no longer afraid of failure” all the way the heck above, out of place, way back when I didn’t know where to put it, or why the heck it’s there in the first place. Ah! Maybe that’s the secret: maybe it’s not about telling a story, maybe it’s just saying anything, as long as it’s a byway of reaching something real. You don’t have to know what it is yet, you just have to know it’s there. And trust, that there’s always something, like that weird-ass tree, who will do the listening.
Sorry about the choppy beginning, Tree, it gets better. I promise.
How did it begin? Oh, yeh, “write something down in the notebook each day, that’s the assignment.” The literary teacher said. That was.. high school. I found that I liked it, it’s such a soothing sensation, where I can talk to someone, some future someone, at ease, without worrying about being judged. I can give a voice to myself. Take my time, flush out my meanings. So there’s no other’s gaze and close inspection to worry about. And oh yeh, the deflection. We should talk about the deflection.
I can read your thoughts. Or, if you prefer, I think I know what you are thinking. It’s a .. sucking sensation. Like, there’s some part of my brain has been sucked out and there’s vacuum inside. Do you know what I mean? I can see you seeing me. I see this thing that’s outside of myself, that’s supposed to be me. I feel alien, awkward, unsure. I never liked it.
I’d like to be within myself as long as I can manage, if you would let me. Mother, I know you love me now, but you never tried to hide your resentment of me. I see myself through your eyes most of my life, but I’m OK now. I want to stay with myself.
I can have my castle, it’s dusty and new. There’s light and shadows, where I used to hide. I can touch my soul, my mind, without fracturing it with thousand pairs of eyes. With a kind gesture, the gentleness beckons the spring and winter. I can be as elegant as I want, not rushing to some non-existing expectations. What I was saying again?
Words are how I talk to myself. Images in our memories are fine and well but we tend to forget. Without black and white and on the slab at some point of time, we skip through without markers to charge the veins of discourse. For even when we are by ourselves, perhaps especially when we are by ourselves, we need to remember the jungles and mountain ranges that we encountered. Not all are even like the ocean, or as far away as the moon so nothing appears to ever change thus has nothing to record. It’s not about the details, it’s about the map that you will need some day. Without it, you won’t go far.
To guide yourself. Blah, blah, other people talk, blah, the personalities and must-haves. But you, my friend, is the only person that can give yourself the answer. Listen to the voice, catch that glimpse of something. Don’t ever forget. It’s a lifeline. It’s the divine guidance. It’s all too easy to lose yourself if there’s ever only the noise.
May the words be with you.
Some people are born with big heart. Good for them. If you are like me, somewhat raised differently and learned not to trust the heart or feel its sway, then you have to relearn accessing and following your heart. Why do this? Because all good and lasting innovations and explorations come from the same source. The goodness can only be sampled if one has the capacity of an open heart. Learn arts, learn the many aspects of life, don’t let distaste foul your palate, nor disagreement shut off your eyes. See them all, let them in. The pain and the lightness. They will guide you. Nothing else will.