Reflections of the Year

Today is Christmas Day. The line, “So this is Christmas, and what have you done?” from John Lennon’s hit, has been running around in my head the last few weeks. That line gives me a touch of anxiety every year, even though the song itself is lovely, and this year has been no exception. Self-reflection is a seemingly perpetual state of being for me and that line usually reminds me of everything I wanted to accomplish over the year and failed to actually do. Sigh.

I watched a video yesterday about what they call “hurry sickness,” and I resonated with it. Being a chronic procrastinator in my late teens and admittedly being lazy about many things, I told myself I would not be like that in my 20s and somehow found myself on the polar opposite end of the spectrum. Yet, the last few years, I’ve come to the end of each year and asked myself why, for all of my frenzied efforts and sometimes feverish workaholism, am I still in a similar situational place as I was the previous year? It seems that trying to do it all doesn’t actually accomplish more… This year I’m yet again in that spot of examining the last 12 months and I’ve found that I am my own worst enemy. I have burnt myself out yet again — a common theme and something I go through at regular intervals — and it’s becoming a bad habit. Hurry sickness is defined as “a behavior pattern characterized by continual rushing and anxiousness; an overwhelming and continual sense of urgency.” Hi, that’s me. Time and I have always had a complicated relationship and it has ultimately become a frenetic obsession. Not only does this affect mental health, but it also affects the physical. In the last two months: I had an emergency room visit with severe GI distress, followed swiftly by RSV, followed then by finding out I was positive with my second bout of c. diff this year, then having constant and painful chest pain and deducing that it was likely costochondritis caused by weeks of coughing from the RSV and overexertion, and now I have covid for Christmas. Hm…maybe I shouldn’t be so shocked. One of those weeks in between everything, I worked 55 hours, somehow fit in three workouts in the gym downstairs, and also fulfilled my weekend obligations. I owe my body and mind an apology.

As I am forced to quarantine in my bedroom right now, I’ve started my annual mental end-of-year review and I am disappointed to report that I didn’t finish a single creative goal that I had set for myself at the beginning of the year. I feel like I worked most of the year away, which is a bit disheartening, but I am at fault for it. Overtime was the name of the game. At one point, I was working three part-time jobs and picking up other side tasks. I can’t even say that I have much to show for that either, except a stressed out body and worn out psyche. Living in a world where money keeps the wheels of society turning does seem to warp my brain. I haven’t quite figured out yet how to push past it entirely. Not only do I fret about making enough to keep my bills paid, but it is also hard not to fall into the obsession of trying to monetize every single creative pursuit I have outside of my regular job. Once I cross that line, creativity no longer becomes a form of self-expression and stress relief, but becomes yet another side hustle and thing to worry about. If I commodify my work, purpose and originality disappears. Not to mention that it exacerbates my imposter syndrome! This is possibly why working on art has been so anxiety-inducing recently.

I feel like this post is turning into something of a journal entry with no clear direction, bear with me. I lack the mental capacity right now to pull everything together in a concise way.

I move too quickly. I am swept by the river current of the pursuit of the American Dream. Success is what we are all told we should strive for, hard work is praised, a lack of hard work is lazy, sleep deprivation is accepted as a fact of adult life and taken lightly, and productivity is paramount. I live in a world that is filled with virtual comparison, an obsession with instant gratification, a constant overload of information, and short attention spans. I could blame a million things: social media, capitalism, an increase in technology, consumerism, but critiques exist on those things already, and I need to remember that I am ultimately in control of my perception of things, regardless of my environment’s influence on me. I feel like I am at risk of digressing a bit here — in summary, I need to learn how to live slow in a world of fast. Ignoring the fact that the American Dream is a dream for a reason, I will never achieve my own goals and dreams if I continue to try to outrun time itself.

Having suddenly found myself in a spot where I have no choice but to be in a small space by myself for a few days, I decided to allow myself to mope about it for a bit, which ended up being helpful for my attitude towards my predicament, and then I decided to embrace the crawl of time. I was pondering the similarities between mandalas and labyrinths, how both slow down and focus the mind, while coming to a state of meditation. I turned on some classical music and drew a mandala, tuning out the constant buzz of my brain. There was no sense of urgency in finishing it or making it look nice. It was just a methodical process of uncovering each layer and watching the design unfold, almost like an envelope. By the end, I felt calm and balanced again. Maybe I should probably look at life the same way, moseying through each chapter, letting it slowly unfold and create a larger design. Slowing down is beautiful in concept, but hard to practice. My next plan is to find a labyrinth and let myself slowly wander through it, losing myself until I come to the open center. Interesting that with the mandala, I see it as starting in the center and working my way out, while with a labyrinth, I see it as starting from the outside and working my way in… I wonder how my brain will feel after walking a labyrinth.

I feel as if I am losing my train of thought again. Illness…

My only goal for the upcoming year is to achieve better balance in my life. I will be in more of a box with my daily job, hours-wise, which I feel will beneficial for me, and I will need to say the word no more often if I want more time for my passions and the things that bring me joy and purpose. I’d like creativity to remain an outlet of expressing myself, and even if it did lead to some kind of monetary outcome, I would still like my focus to be self-expression and not being beholden to unrealistic goals and fake standards. I would like to actually finish my own projects, although I also do not want to sow seeds of anxiety about not getting them done in a certain period of time. Do them because I want to do them, not because I need to do them.

Anyways, I ramble. My mind is weary. I think I will allow myself now to do some nothingness. This post is far from the usual travel-y things and poetry that I write, and it is not organized, but it is a mess of my thoughts written and that’s all that matters to me. Be slow in a world of fast. Maybe this year will be an experiment on what happens when you stop moving at the speed of light. Only time will tell!

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