Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reise, Reise

It is now mid-autumn 2014, and I am sitting in the dark in my room in Cambridge, listening to music and thinking away. I'll have to pick myself up and go to gym practice with the rowing team eventually, but that's not for another two hours. I have somehow managed to find myself in a moment of peaceful solitude today, so I switched off my phone, made myself a cup of coffee, and I am lavishing in the luxury of not having to think about anything. I know that if I don't enjoy it now, it will quickly go away.

Between formidable work stress, dealing with personal losses, and managing sporadic anxiety attacks, I haven't had the chance to feel so tranquil in a very, very long time. It's as if time is finally standing still, and I can freely catch my breath. It feels nice for a change...

It recently dawned on me that I've changed a lot as a person over the past two years. I was browsing through some of my older photo albums on Facebook one day, and I realized that I can no longer read into the eyes of the guy tagged with my name -- they strike me as the eyes of someone else: someone younger and more naive, who looks tired and pensive all the time. But no matter how hard I try, I just can't make out what he might be thinking or feeling in any of the pictures.

That saddens me, but it's OK to let it go. I promised in 2012, upon breaking up, that I would just let myself feel whatever it is that I need to feel, and then let go of the old life belief system. The unfamiliarity of my old photos means that I've managed, at least to some extent. The past few years have been mostly about letting go of things.

The hardest of them, by far, was learning how to gracefully to let go of my grandmother. I had always imagined that losing a person would be a well-defined event that would turn my life upside down. But the truth is that, sometimes, people slip away unnoticed. Her awareness, memory, and sense of self slowly crumbled over the years, while I was busy moving between the US and the UK in a frenzy, and by the time I was ready to admit to myself that she was no longer able recognize me (and no longer remembered who she was), it was too late. She had just faded away, slowly and peacefully out of cognition. I love her with all my heart, but when I hug her now, I just can't help but wonder whether it really is my grandmother that I am hugging, or this scared, helpless old woman who is desperately asking me to take her back home to her parents' house. Perhaps it doesn't even matter any more, I just put my arms around her so that she feels safe and calms down, and that in turn brings me peace.

And then I let go of the idea of romance. I don't know when or how this happened, but I knew that something had definitely changed when I heard "I love you." this one evening, and my first instinctive reaction was immovable disbelief. "Don't be stupid, there's no such thing. You'd never fall in love with me if I were homeless, disfigured, or illiterate, because you would have never even given me the time of day to learn my name; you don't love ME, you love this person who just happens to be me," I thought to myself, while mimicking an uncomfortable smile and silently reaching for more coffee.

I didn't know how to react, not wishing to hurt feelings, but yearning on the inside to reveal that there's no such thing as love; friendship - yes; partnership - maybe, but I have yet to find it. But love? I'm afraid not...

Once these two were finally out of the way, everything just got easier. I then gave up drinking, and I gave up on punishing myself for things that are out of my control. And wanting to please everyone at all costs. With every little thing that I was giving up on, life felt more and more liberating.

*   *   *

I was walking home from the office in Mountain View, California, almost a month ago. It was just after midnight, at the end of a long day which had been unusually productive, and which I was feeling very happy about, and I took a moment to stop on the bridge crossing highway 101 and look down at the traffic flowing underneath. I put my hands on the grate, pressed my face against it, and just stared.

There's something hypnotizing about watching the cars running on the highway. It's almost as if looking at them from above gives me a guarantee of freedom. Freedom from what exactly, I don't know, because I feel like I've been aimlessly drifting through life since forever now, fueled by nothing but my skills and my insecurities. But freedom, nonetheless...

I wonder if I'll come to look back on this picture two years from now, and not be able to understand what was going through the mind of the young man who took it. By now, my blog has become a trail of mental bread crumbs, leading back to versions of myself which no longer exist, but which I acknowledge the loss of, almost as if they were good friends that I once knew.

I read a book the other week. I had jet lag, and was feeling very tired in general. It was a nice book, but my favorite part about it wasn't the content, it was the acknowledgements section:

"This book was written over the course of a few years by several different people, all of whom were named David Eagleman, but who were somewhat different with each passing hour."

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