This might be the longest personal writing extravaganza yet, and one day I will look at it and think so many words! To anyone reading this, I am sorry; you are an unfortunate victim of my self-chronicling, a balance sheet for when memory fails me and a glance in the rear-view mirror is needed.
I’ve been using this journal as a storage for my milestones and personal musings for years now; there’s no reason to change that, even though there have been so many other profound changes recently. In fact, you could say that in the past six months, my life shifted like tectonic plates—slowly, inevitably, irreversibly.
It’s been a good shift so far. But not an easy one.
Many of my last year’s hopes on long nights with too much work and too little sleep had been focused on the mirage of this February: the moment when I finally move out of my old apartment, leaving behind someone else’s furniture and a friend-turned-burden (and how did that happen?). The rest of us, the three musketeers who have had long stopped being students and became working adults in the meantime, were not simply looking for a new apartment. We were looking for a home, a place we could mould to our taste instead of living in borrowed space and time and not on our own terms. We found it—a perfect apartment in a perfect location, and we poured money in it and made it ours. Finally having my own room made me feel like I could properly breathe for the first time in over 7 years, and I was sure that with having a safe space just for myself, everything would feel steady and better come March and spring.
It got worse.
Work piled up during the move and the nasty divorce-like drama that accompanied it, and then even more work was pushed my way with a flurry of manuscripts that had to be proofread in quick succession. I was craving peace and a chance to re-evaluate my plans for the future, and instead I choked on pages upon pages and hours upon hours of work. I neglected my family. I neglected my friends. I had to completely put aside my Baldur’s Gate writing project, and gaming, and books other than those I had to read, and on bad days I couldn’t even manage to feed myself anything substantial. I spent more sleepless nights slaving over projects in the past five months than I had in the seven years of getting degrees in two majors before that. I, inevitably, witnessed my body betraying me again and throwing me in a horrific loop of quite literally not being able to breathe. Just when I thought that at least the personal dramas were over, they returned to stab me in the back. And every time I missed a deadline, and every time I finished a task only to have two more spring up, I hated myself, tore myself apart for allowing myself to procrastinate and take breaks and daring to sleep when I simply couldn’t go on anymore for the night. In a way, the sped-up story of a workaholic I put myself through this year has been one of the biggest challenges I had to face in my life so far.
There wasn’t any breaking point, no last straw that would snap my back. I pulled through, by sheer stubbornness and refusal to give in, and somehow, during that time, re-evaluated my priorities and my future better that I probably would have if I could just sit back in a chair and ponder.
I’ve learned that I don’t want to be a leader, and that I abhor spotlight. Oh, I do hand out tasks—and no better taskmaster you will find than me; you can ask my colleagues and the people I supervise in more than one capacity to confirm that. But what I want to be is the steady backbone to a project, and not the visible boss who has to constantly validate it and deal with morons. And so I’m right now in the process of getting rid of the bane of my existence: my sf&f website, which I took over upon request by my company and which’s staff consists mainly of wannabe adults who in fact act like a kindergarten. The site is about to be sold, with my immediate resignation of my editor-in-chief position as a sale condition, and I fiercely hope the deal goes through by the end of this month.
I’ve learned that cutting things, projects and people out of my life is sometimes for the best, and I don’t have to feel sorry for it. Hurt feelings are inevitable, but I am not a people-pleaser, and that’s okay. I’ll be someone those I care about can count on, rather than a two-faced wraith trying to play it safe on all sides.
I’ve learned that no matter how reasonable it would be, you can’t force yourself to feel what is not there. I was set up on a date—and then went on a string of dates, with the prospect of marriage—with a very nice, successful, good-looking, smart and reasonable man. He’s 11 years older than me, but we complement each other well, I think. But none of that will ever change that I identify as an aromantic asexual, and that as someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction or romantic love, I need a different kind of connection with the people I care about. That connection is not there in this case. The thing is, I have been very upfront about this part of me, and it still seems like we could settle well together. But no matter how reasonable it would be—ultimately, I can’t, and I don’t need to. I already have a partnership with the two women I live with. We are not in a relationship, but we are a family and a household in all but label. And around the time I was set up with this man, I met someone I clicked with instantly, someone who looks to me like they are made of stars, and they became a great friend to me. Just what I need and like. I don’t lack anything in the relationship department. But that I ever thought I might have, that I ever doubted it (because that’s why I went to that first date in the first place), only serves as a testament to how little we are inclined to think of non-romantic relationships. At last I learned that I can proudly call my friendships strong and fulfilling and better than an awkward romance.
I’ve learned that great passion only needs a whisper to burn bright again, and that it’s worth going after. All the best and brightest moments of my life are inseparably connected to studying philosophy. On the pages of this journal, I previously called philosophy my poison, a fire that burns me from the inside and makes the pain feel so good. That is still true, and it’s a drug I can’t give up. Which is why I put together a medieval philosophy project, and this week I was formally accepted into a PhD programme. There’s nothing quite like the dive in the aspiration of thought even beyond the limits of brilliant science, and I just got myself four more years’ worth of a plunge into the abyss. What a brilliant fall it is!
And finally, I learned that I like plants and that there’s a shift in perspective in taking care of plants that more than resonates with the shift in the way I look at my own life now. I live in an eight-story building in the second biggest agglomeration in the country and I have two trees growing on my balcony, a number that is to be doubled come next week, and already they are my sanctuary and a sight both anchoring and humbling. You see, the thing with trees is that they’re long-term: they take time to spread their roots and grow tall and proud through sun and wind and rain. Plant-thinking is thinking in years and decades and changing seasons. It’s slow and steady. It’s patiently working towards a distant end goal. It’s a lack of fidgeting. It’s certitude.
The journey is the destination has always been my personal motto. That will not ever change. But recently I added another one: it is what it is. Whatever is happening is mostly out of my control. It is what it is. Nothing more, nothing less. It brings me something rare—peace of mind. Seneca would be proud of me, I imagine, of the person I am slowly moulding myself into, like a 30 years old bonsai deliberately cut and twisted into an ultimately pleasing form, sure in its growth by witnessing minor ripples in weather pass without much ultimate harm, and its restraints fall away one by one. That is the hope, anyway.
The search is never over. The fight never stops. But desperation can be exterminated, and challenges can be enjoyed, or at least held at arm’s length. And settling into a comfortable place, growing one’s roots and lending one’s trunk as a pillar and support to people one cares about, can be as worthy a long-term goal as aspiring to greatness.
During my old and brief stint at going to counselling, my therapist told me I was switching between acting like two vastly different people. He was right. There’s the loud and tumultuous and outright flamboyant woman who faces the world with stubbornness and logic and calculation of pros and cons, and then there’s the quiet, contemplative, but also emotional wreck of a man who has to shout himself hoarse if he wants to be heard, and bears all our shame and regrets on his shoulders. They both have names. They talk, even if talking mostly means reassuring murmurs on one side and gasping sobs of a slowly oozing wound on the other.
Recently, I finally started seeing the similarities between the two personas, enough to acknowledge that they do in fact stem from the same core; they simply rise to occasion at different times. But I will not stop separating them and calling them different names. It still makes more sense to think of myself as a team rather than an individual, a mixture of both that comes off as a genderless study in opposites, shark-toothed smile and late night musings about the universe and a fuck everyone who thinks they can judge attitude.
But I and I, both of us, the one who handles public and the one who handles myself, we have been slowly growing into our skin. We took a small piece of the world and carved a room with birds on the walls and plants on the windowsill in it. We learned what we do want and what we don’t. We came back to our one great poison and love, willingly and without care for how big a challenge it set for us, and we are happy about it. We stopped looking at ourselves through the optics of good/evil and right/wrong; we simply do what we must to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror, come morning or deathbed. We dropped what was weighting us down, and we are tentatively reaching for what we want—not a fleeting reprieve, but something pulsing and solid like the steady heartbeat of the decades in front of us. We are changing our rhythm. We are taking roots. We are becoming someone who doesn’t hate themself quite as used to be. We go out without a reason and get soaked by rain, because we can and want to.
There’s solidness and cautious hope in it, and there’s contentment that’s new and raw and cherished.
It is a good feeling.
ISTJ, degree in philosophy, works with books, lives on books. Cat lady in training, bookworm, gamer, daydreamer, F1. Cake is better than sex.
Current Residence: Ostrava
Favourite cartoon character: Watari Yutaka
Personal Quote: It's about the journey, not the destination.