The hunt for pain

Teenagers are stupid. Children are worse. This class of naive humans is a bit too creative for their own good and come up with surprising solutions to their problems which make sense to no one but them. I am, of course, simply mad at my own past self and generalizing to a diverse, rapidly changing generation. But meh, who cares.

Here’s another kicker: privilege can be a pain in the ass sometimes. It might or might not be true but it sure as hell is what I have felt a lot of times in my past and I’m pretty sure my peers have too. You see, I come from a decently comfortable background. I have caring parents, a peaceful household and financial security. I moved to the boiling pot of urban stew people call Delhi in 2007 and when I came here I was struck with both a cultural shock and a huge dip in living standards. But my financial status and household environment have both been improving steadily since. And that’s good, I’m grateful. But it’s left me a bit confused.

“If you can build a B-Plus city with a C-Minus geography, that’s pretty great,” reassures Daisy in Turtles All The Way Down, a recently published novel by John Green. In case it isn’t obvious, the city is a metaphor for self and geography for your access to resources/upbringing. These 14 words are a godsend to millions of teenagers who are increasingly having to deal with more stress and getting worse at it, according to a huge body of research. That sentence asks us to stop comparing ourselves with the best all the time, after all in most cases the best started off with raised platform. Do the best you can, and let it go.

But what if you don’t have a C-Minus geography? What if life has given you an B-Plus geography to start with and you’ve only managed to build a B-Minus city with it till now? Well, there’s only two ways a naive mind would respond to this:

  1. I can do better. Let me put in effort and push myself. (Sure, a majority of us are *totally* doing this.)
  2. There must be something wrong with my geography I don’t know about. After all, I have done the best I could!

Hmm. Well, I don’t know about you but option 2 does seem a whole lot easier to me. And so it did to my past self. I began my journey to find not myself, but my hidden pain. The antagonist of my story.

I was bullied in high school. At least, I think I was. More like other people thought I was, actually. How can I be sure whether it was trauma or drama? I also deal with obsessive thoughts and mild depression, I think. Oh but come on, what teenager doesn’t? But surely one can’t ignore the eating disorder I developed as a kid which led to public image issues and crippling social anxiety. “Crippling,” are you serious? You have friends, be grateful.

Voila! There it is, limbo. Constant uncertainty about your image of yourself. The need to justify your laziness but somehow work towards your dreams. It’s almost easy to indulge in self-sacrifice. “I will devote my life to research, choosing to ignore any temptations of earning money,” I tell myself, preparing for the possibility of financial instability in my future. Or perhaps it’s so that I can tell myself I sabotaged my own career later. Who knows, I can barely keep track of my thoughts. Hey, perhaps that’s a disability! Reader, you know anything about this? At worst, being a hypochondriac sucks right? I should totally get brownie points for that…