Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dazed and Confused

Never mind me. I just miss blogging. By “blogging” I mean thinking out loud. Of course most people would think I am nuts because I do have a blog entry uploaded almost every day, regardless if it is about a movie I just saw or the budget and itinerary list for a place I just visited. However, I really do not consider those as “blog” entries. Technically, they are, but why am I even explaining myself? Before all the travelogues and movie reviews, I wrote very personal blog entries, all of which seemed to have been forgotten since I started this travel gig. In any case, I am back, and I would like to do this regularly if it is the only way to hold on to my sanity. Perhaps, next week I would be doing it in Spanish, or in French. Who cares. I am back to thinking out loud. And where else to start best than with the redundant theme of Quarter Life Crisis. What the heck is a “Quarter Life Crisis”?

Well, most people are familiar with Midlife Crisis. You know, when you reach your forties and realize that you hate being a pilot and decide to become a stand-up comedian; or when you realize that you prefer men over women; those kinds of stuff. Well, I really could not relate to that for now because I am more than a decade away from that dilemma, but this Quarter Life Crisis thingy gives off a similar kind of vibe, although I associate it more with purpose, the adherence to routine, and taking risks.

I have been working in an office for more than half a decade now. I could not really say that I enjoy it, but suffice it to say that I find solace within the comforts of the known, of the assured, of the calculated. You wake up in the morning knowing that you have to do this and that, and expect the same returns of investment for what you do twice a month. I guess it boosts one’s confidence when you know what is coming at you, when you are prepared, when you are aware. Unfortunately, it seems as though this comes with side effects that tend to bore the hell out of people, or even make them ask if everything is worth all the fuss.

I hate lazy weekend evenings because my mind has the propensity to ponder on these things, but I guess I have to be thankful because they do give some perspective in life. Most of the time. Reading some blogs regarding the same topic and how some people handled it, it looks as though I am prepared to take a leap of faith and follow their example, until I see something else that diverts my attention and tosses me off track. Perhaps this is my problem after all, and I am just in denial after all these years. I really do not know what I want in life. Instead, I base these “wants” on that inevitable feeling of envy or that conceited sentiment of “I can do better” propelled by a world characterized by an ever-increasing culture of narcissism.

When I see a video of a polyglot demonstrating his or her languages on YouTube, there is that feeling that I have to study more so I can make my own, not because I have to but just for the sake of having one. Looking back, learning foreign languages has always been a hobby of mine, an enjoyable and controllable one at that, until the tables turned and it became an obsession that began controlling me. I do not think there has been a single day since 2003 that did not consist of something foreign language related. In my mind, I had to do it: the flash cards, the vocabulary lists, the verb conjugation drills, practicing a new alphabet or syllabary. Blame it on the lack of social life or sheer boredom, but it is the kind of life that I have been most accustomed to: the life of a student. I do not necessarily enjoy it, but it is the only thing I know that produces good results, thus that feeling of obligation that I have to keep on doing it.

There have been instances when I would wake up one day and tell myself that I would stop learning languages. I no longer have to. My Spanish and work experiences related to it have reached that point where I no longer have to worry about waking up one day unemployed or underpaid. Why do I have to torture myself with Japanese classes? Korean grammar books? Simulated French conversations? Mandarin tones? I do enjoy them once in a while but I must admit they are getting tedious, or perhaps my learning style is just convoluted. And for what, to get certificates? I have been working for half a decade now without any certificate on hand. I do not need it. I want it, or perhaps I think I do because that is what I have conditioned my mind to think of as a “want”. In the end, I have come to the realization that I no longer know what I really want.

When I see a travel entry featuring a place I have not been to, there is that feeling that I have to be there, not because I necessarily have to be there, but because I could afford to go there. Travel is something that caught me off-guard, to be honest. Before I started blogging about it, I surveyed some travel blogs and tried to analyze what I could get out of it as an activity. People do it for different reasons: some for an inexplicable case of wanderlust; some for the sake of livelihood; while others do so for that unquenchable thirst for camwhoring in front of a popular landmark; three categories of which I find none to be appealing.

I travel. A lot. But if you ask me why, my answer would most likely be: “Because I can” and not necessarily because “I want to” or “I have to.” I do enjoy the destinations I visit, and the memories will forever remain, but deep inside I do not see it as a calling to which I should really dedicate my time and money. Perhaps, I do it just to unwind and break away from the mundane routine once in a while. Or maybe I am just bored. Either way, travel has become an enjoyable distraction for me, a break from the boredom of the secured life, an encounter with the unknown. Still, I would be kidding myself if I say that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Perhaps, now, because I seem lost and confused, but I look at it as just a phase that would soon reach its expiration date. I do not need it. I want it, or perhaps I think I do because that is what I have conditioned my mind to think of as a “want”.

What the hell do I really want in this life, then? When I was in college, I could not really wait to get out because I had that feeling that the life that would come after it would be exciting and worthwhile. Surprise, self, welcome to the real world. Now I even think of going back to get a master’s or a second degree, and if I do I would probably think of getting out as soon as I can again, because I would be thinking that life after it would be better. When I am in the office, all I could think of is the next destination I am off to, but when I finally get to that destination, I would suddenly be thinking of the office, and the predictability of that daily routine that I have gotten to know even with my eyes closed. I know, right? What the fvck.

Maybe this is what the world has turned into given the “interconnectedness on steroids” brought about by this technological revolution that we are enjoying right now. Or maybe not. I do not think I am enjoying it that much, or maybe I do so for a short period of time, until I end the day staring on a blank wall thinking of what good it has actually done for me. Was it really that significant? Did it change my life for the better? Besides, what is my definition of “better”? That is the thing. Everyone’s definition of better nowadays seems to be relative, which is supposed to be the case because the word itself is a comparative, meaning it will always be relative in essence. If this is the case then “better” is simply unattainable for the mere reason that someone will always turn out to be better, and then someone else in comparison with that other someone, and then another one after them.

This is, perhaps, the biggest downside of not knowing what you really want in life, or at least not having the balls to pretend that you know what you want, believing that you really want it, and going after it. Come to think of it, if things are to be thought of this way, then that fvcking thing called “purpose,” which everyone is bound to be blindly chasing around half of their lives would probably not be as complicated. Maybe purpose is not something to be found, but rather something to be created, not by the superficial online world which has taken your attention hostage, but by you yourself. Such big words and ideas that seem to make a lot of sense! But for now I might as well just dismiss them as incoherent thoughts produced by an aloof and bored brain.

I still do not know if I should lean towards spontaneity or routine. I have been pro-routine all my life and I did not turn out to be that bad, well, from a myopic and materialistic point of view. I am living a comfortable life, and I thank that rational side of me responsible for doing so. But fvck you, rational self. Why do I still feel like there is something missing? And why are we always encountering a rebellious streak wanting to break free from all these that we have so far considered to be “good” and “comfortable”? Questions. Just questions. Where are my answers?

Again, I will just hold on to a theory I have devised for understanding myself better when I was still in university. I want a lot of things in life, not because I really want them, but because I really do not know what to want. It is just logical. When one strong desire is not present, there really is no reason to strive hard for anything, but everyone else seems to be doing so and you get the feeling that so should you. And so you come up with options that you might end up liking, only to feel the pressure and strive hard to be good in each and every one of them when you know perfectly well that you cannot excel in all and must concentrate on just one. I think it is called a “niche”.

You have a lot of plans and goals and there is always that “what-if” feeling. What if I do not choose this one but it ends up to be the path I must really take? What if I choose this one and fail miserably? And so you opt to chase them all. Having so many plans would eventually mean not having a plan at all, because of your eagerness to accomplish all of them out of the fear of regret, and not ending up anywhere because there is no clear direction to go to. I wish I could be like some people allergic to planning who just choose to go with the flow. They have no particular goal in mind but in the end, they enjoy the ride anyway. Whatever the outcome, they had fun. As for me, I choose to battle the waves and preoccupy myself too much steering this fvcking boat to almost every direction I think would be yielding the best results, but end up wasted and not contented. After all, we all end up downstream now do we not? Might as well just enjoy the ride, then?  I wish it were that easy, but for someone who has become so accustomed to a calculated life it would really be that difficult to unlearn that rigorous habit.

What is the purpose of this blog post? Nothing, I am just thinking out loud. Or perhaps there is something after all. Maybe this is just my way of evading surprised reactions if and when I finally decide to enjoy the thrills of impulsiveness, of living in the now instead of in an overrated future that might not even come. Besides, that is the distinction, is it not? I see routine as a defense mechanism to counter the uncertainties of tomorrow, a safety net to assure that the results would somehow be acceptable; while spontaneity tends to highlight immediate gratification and living for the moment. And those two are best represented by the two facets of my life that have had influenced me the most: languages as indispensable skills necessary for securing my future; and travel as a method of enjoyment making up a good present

Exhausted. Those two should actually go together, but this complex dilemma is what I get for owning a stubborn and hyperactive brain. Nonetheless, I know that those two will always be in competition for consuming me whole. I wish I could find a way to one day unite them for something common. Maybe it would not be that hard to do. Maybe.

7 creature(s) gave a damn:

Anonymous said...

I feel exactly the same way and I am a decade older than you. Choose ONE thing and dedicate your life to it or when you reach my age there's one more thing you could add to your bag of emotions - despair.

ihcahieh said...

@Anonymous - Aray ko, hehehe. Not a very rosy picture but it is kind of relieving to find someone who is experiencing the same thing. Are you doing something about it? Hope you don't totally surrender, though. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi again! I think there are many people in the world who are in the same situation. I see that you have a penchant for language and it's great you're you're now studying Korean in HUFS. Would it surprise you to know that I am in the same school too? Lol.

ihcahieh said...

@Anonymous - Ralph, is this you? Haha, guess not. You know I'm in Xiamen right now if this were you. Anyway, thanks for the input. I am really glad that I'm slowly getting out of this phase. What are you studying at HUFS?

Anonymous said...

Haha, no. Oh you're done with Seoul? I'm taking Korean Level 1 btw. Have fun pursuing your dreams wherever you are!

Arlet Villanueva said...

Hi there -I can't pronounced your name-!

HAHAHA I know this was posted almost a year ago, but it felt like I was examining my own feelings (except on some personal preferences like language learning). You commented on my blog that you're just resurfacing, and boy that's scary... I don't want to take that long in this phase.

Baka magpangabot pa ang quarterlife and midlife crisis ko. HAHAHAHA

ihcahieh said...

@Arlet Villanueva - I guess everyone goes through this phase, but not everyone writes about it. That's why I felt kind of obliged to comment on your blog because: a) You did everyone else a favor by sharing your own experience, somehow invalidating their fears that this is an abnormal scenario; and b) Because you appear to be in the same situation and someone needs to invalidate your fears for you.

As for your worry that your quarterlife and midlife crises might overlap, well, I think for some people it might just happen. All I can say right now, based on my own experience, is that you yourself would be the one deciding when it ends. Happiness. Purpose. Whatever you may want to call it. They are simply hard to achieve because it takes effort to do so. Besides, misery is comfortable, and a familiar one at that.

Kapit lang. Lilipas din yan. And as I always say, after half a decade or so, pagtatawanan mo na lang yan. :)

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