In which Shealea ineloquently writes about writing about her 2015 (without actually writing about anything that happened in 2015). At 2 in the bloody morning.
I personally find it difficult (and sometimes even frustrating) to write about my day for multiple reasons:
- One, because I wasn’t blessed with an eidetic memory (you know, like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory) and I can’t remember everything that happened – from the smallest of details to the most fleeting of moments – within that particular day. But I guess that’s the thing, isn’t it? People tend to be forgetful. We often (
and at times, easily) forget what happened: what we saw, what we heard, what we smelled, what we touched, what we said. What we don’t forget, however, is what we felt. But sometimes, even that isn’t a hundred percent reliable.
- Two, because there is an infinite number of possibilities to explore and a myriad of angles to consider. When we look back on our day, we don’t just think of memories or just reflect on the things that actually happened. Nope, these memories simply comprise the surface. Eventually, our minds wander towards greater, more perplexing thoughts: what we said that we wish we could take back, what we should’ve said but didn’t, what we regretted doing, what we didn’t do but should’ve, what we failed to do – all these what-ifs. And the ever notorious, what could have been.
- Three, because not everything is black or white. A day is never completely good nor is it ever completely terrible. Honestly, I really don’t see this as an unfortunate thing. It isn’t though; it’s just extremely inconvenient. Especially for a society that built itself and continuously thrives on labels. People have gotten accustomed to identifying things by boxing them under categories and marking them with specified labels. We like putting things in place, we like seeing things in order, or at least, a pretense of it. Generally, we tend to like drawing conclusions with clear, non-negotiable lines because doing so results in a clearer, more vivid picture. And seeing things clearly means we understand. To blur those lines, to make allowances, to fail at labeling something – it causes us frustration. Because it’s inconvenient. Because we dislike what we don’t understand. Because we view things that we don’t completely understand as threats. Because the idea of not knowing shakes us to our very core. Even though it shouldn’t. Even though labels aren’t always necessary. Even though some lines should be crossed.
- Four, because I tend to digress way too frequently. See reasons one to three. Notice how easily I went off-tangent. Notice how half the things I’ve written aren’t even relevant to my original point.
Now, consider everything I said regarding writing about a day. Finished? Good. Imagine writing about 365 days. Imagine summarizing all your experiences within those 365 days in an essay with a decent, reader-friendly length. Don’t you find it intimidating? I sure as hell do.
I’ve always felt that writing about things that are important and personal such as a year of my life is accompanied by a little, nagging voice insisting that everything has to be perfect. I start thinking things like, “Oh my god, I’m going to end my year with this post. It has to be incredibly written.” and “This is literally a new beginning. I can’t screw this up.” and “What are the right words? What are the right words? I can’t let myself settle for anything less.” I almost always end up driving myself insane all because I have this inexplicable need to get everything right, to capture everything perfectly.
Trying to write about my 2015 (keyword: trying) wasn’t a much different case. Just like all the previous years and all my previous attempts, I sat down, stared at my screen and prayed for a divine intervention. Or if worse came to worst, a lightning bolt that would miraculously give my mind an immediate jolt of inspiration. I typed up numerous paragraphs only to tap the backspace button enough times to erase everything. I kept starting over, switching angles, and second guessing myself. I grew more and more agitated. I continued to struggle with finding the right words and stringing them into eloquent sentences without coming off as grandiloquent. Basically the same story as all my previous attempts.
However, this time – for the first time, I started wondering why. Why was I so hell-bent on getting everything right? Why was I so keen on achieving perfection (
knowing that I most likely won’t)? Why was I so willing to drive myself insane for the sake of producing a flawless output? Why was I putting so much pressure on myself and on what I’m writing to the point where I wasn’t even enjoying it anymore?
After a while, I then began rationalizing. “Because,” I told myself, “it’s extremely important. This is the kind of pressure that is only present when something is really, really important to a person. I’m not really pressuring myself or being too hard on myself; I’m just being incredibly passionate. It just means that this matters to me.”
Now, as I write this, I can clearly see that it was wrong for me to think that way. The truth is, I was overthinking. I was placing too much weight and meaning on something that didn’t even deserve half of it. Or any of it at all, really. It’s a mistake a lot of us are repeatedly guilty of, yes? Which brings to attention the two most important things writing about my 2015 has taught me.
One. We have grown accustomed to thinking highly of beginnings and endings. This concept played a part in many of our religious and cultural practices until eventually, it integrated itself into our traditions. Think about it. Most of our holidays and celebrations praise either the beginning or the end of something. The first and last days of Ramadan. Independence Day – when colonization ended while our freedom began. Graduation – the day we finished high school (and for others, college). Birthdays – the day we began our lives. Just to name a few.
New Year’s Eve is all about completing one year and starting another one. It represents both a beginning and an end – leaving certain things behind and paving the way for new things, saying both goodbye and hello. On this day, it’s a tradition to come up with New Year resolutions – a list of activities and goals we wish to accomplish by the end of the year. I don’t think any person can deny that there is always a part of us that’s ecstatic to have a new year. Personally, New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday because of everything it represents: hope and redemption.
But that’s the thing, isn’t it? In glorifying the beginning and the end, we sometimes lose sight of the middle part – the part where the actual journey is, the part that forces us to learn and grow as individuals. And this isn’t just about the year or writing about a particular year. This is applicable to practically everything in our lives. Sometimes we plan so far ahead that we fail to see what’s right in front of us. Sometimes we are so consumed by what used to be that we forget where we are now. Sometimes we are so driven to reach all these milestones that we fail to appreciate the steps and lengths it took to actually get there. Sometimes we concentrate too much on what and how we were at the beginning that we fail to notice how much we’ve changed and evolved since then. Sometimes we build up this fantastical future for ourselves, and when life doesn’t meet our expectations and we lose our way, we beat ourselves up so much without ever realizing that there’s a lot of middle parts left to turn things around. Sometimes we forget about what’s in between.
And I find that really depressing because what’s in between is what comprises the story of our lives. It’s what ties the beginning and the ending together. It’s what makes the beginning all the more difficult to part with, and the ending all the more worthwhile to have. The middle part reveals more of who we are and who we can become because that’s where all the struggles and adventures are – the things we have to experience and to overcome in order to become better, stronger versions of ourselves. Quite frankly, what’s in between the beginning and the end is the best part, and it certainly does not deserve to be overlooked.
Two. It’s okay to be messy and to write incoherently. I know, I know. When we were in elementary and even in high school, we were given guidelines on writing and taught to follow them to the very last letter. A good essay is supposed to be comprised of an introductory paragraph, a body and a conclusion – in that exact sequence. A good story should have an introduction, rising action, a climax, falling action and a conclusion – in that exact sequence. Coherence, unity, and emphasis – these are the three words our teachers repeatedly shoved down our throats as we learned how to write.
When I write an essay (or anything at all, to be honest), I tend to fixate on the structure of its flow. As a person who is rather easily distracted and has the tendency to go off-tangent, coherence and unity have always been two of my top priorities when writing. It’s an ongoing, interminable battle. Sad to say, I’ve lost more than won. There have been plenty of days when I failed to write anything substantial not because I had nothing to say, but because I had too many thoughts and I didn’t have any idea what the hell to do with them. But more often than not, it’s usually because I get so caught up in trying to put the pieces together in a sensible, organized way that I end up with nothing but a blank.
While writing about my 2015, it was only then that I realized how counterproductive I was actually being by doing so. As I obsessed over organizing everything, I lost sight of a number of my sentiments and forgot some of the thoughts I want to write about. It was ridiculous of me to attempt to force my ideas and insights into a single, organized train of thought all the time. It was wrong of me to obsess over being skillful in my choice of words and finding a smooth, logical flow. Simply because it doesn’t work that way.
And similarly to the first lesson, this isn’t just about writing. Life itself doesn’t work that way. When we blindly fight to get our way in life and when we obsess over smoothly moving from point A to point B, we miss out. We miss out on risks, adventures, possibilities and opportunities to become better individuals. We miss out on making mistakes and eventually learning from them. We miss out on feeling the full extent of our emotions. We miss out on being. Basically, everything that makes living worthwhile.
Life doesn’t come at us as an orderly, single-paced flow; it consumes us with reckless abandon – in all directions, in different speeds, in forces, we cannot reckon with. It doesn’t just touch each and every one of us; it exerts a push and topples everything in sight. It isn’t merely a set of arranged steps we’re obligated to follow. It isn’t simple or quiet or gentle. Rather, it is messy and chaotic. Life does not dictate a predestined pathway; instead, it wrecks all of us completely and without mercy in the most hauntingly spectacular manner. And writing about it pretty much feels the same way.