Photo by Iswanto Arif on Unsplash

From The Heart 3: The wake-up call to start living fully again

In the last post, I unexpectedly found myself recalling and writing about one of the most emotionally disturbing moments of my life: The moment I figured out that I was no longer able to neither feel nor express deep emotions. The moment I mourned — what I thought — the eternal death of my emotional sensitivity (When I was a child, I was quite emotionally sensitive, something I considered a shameful weakness and worked on distancing myself from, till it ultimately happened…).

From that day, life became plain. Actually, it had already become tasteless since a while ago but I wasn’t aware of it. The spectrum of emotions I had access to was so narrow, I rarely felt anything more than pure dullness. I was apathetic and indifferent to almost everything: success, failure, death, birth, connection, and loss of it… All of that didn’t mean much. Nothing moved me enough to get me out of my emotional jail, where the only reactions and responses I had were: Whatever?… Why should I care?… Life was boring and definitely didn’t feel like worth living. Clearly, during those long emotionally-dry years, I didn’t know that I was missing that much from life simply because I forgot; I forget how actual joy, sadness, compassion, disgust, etc felt. I forget that there was something called ‘emotions’ that colors our lives…

Hopefully, I didn’t sadden you too much by now — but if I did, let yourself feel it deeply then move on ;) — because I no longer consider myself that dysfunctional! Thanks to another major event that happened 5 years ago and that shook my whole existence and flipped it upside down, I finally manned up and decided to own my life back, reconnect back with who I really am and resurrect the forgotten and lost aspects of myself, one of which my emotional sensitivity (Now I consider this dimension of my being a strength, not a weakness and I am currently working on embracing it deeper and nurturing it further).

And this is the topic of today’s post.

My 25th birthday marked a huge transition in my life. On that day I submitted my master thesis, closing a long and boring chapter of my existence: I was no longer a student! Education in its stiff and rigid format (here, I am talking about universities and their likes) was finally over. And as you can imagine after uni-life is drastically different from before uni-life, especially in my case because like I’ve just hinted my study years were boring as fuck.

Without getting into too many details, after finishing my secondary education at the age of 18–19, I spend 6+ years as a university student, every 2 years at a new institution and in a new country (Tunisia, France and then Germany). By the end, I got 2 master degrees that I didn’t feel any kind of particular joy about finally obtaining. Based on this summary, you might get the idea that my uni-life was quite eventful and you are most likely puzzled why I am describing it as ‘boring’. Well, it’s because despite moving around that much, I didn’t do much except spacing out during half the classes, skipping the other half and apathetically spending most of my time avoiding and running away from life in my room at some dorm in some city.

Being quite addicted to introspection made things worse: I was perfectly ok with spending time on my own and nothing called for any change in that behavior of mine. Doing so spared me the annoyance of dealing with people and their emotions, that neither understood nor cared to even try to. Of course, it happened from time to time that I did other more interesting things but the frequency of such events was so low that nothing transformational came out of them. I needed a real disruptive force to get me out of my hole, a role that my first job perfectly covered!

Unlike the first half of my twenties, the second half was quite eventful, from the start. I started working full time shortly after finishing my studies. In the beginning, I was a bit excited because I finally joined the ‘productive’ life after many years of passively living by. I was hopeful that this new role will bring me some real excitent, some authentic joy, some deep fulfillment. I was longing for experiencing those positive subtle emotions that I was reading about (I started becoming quite the reader by that time) but still never experienced fully. I thought that the issue was external, not internal (it turned out to be both, but here I am mostly focused on the internal aspect — basically my role in all of this). And, indeed with time, I ended up experiencing some of the deepest emotions I ever felt, not the positive ones that I had in mind though… After a couple of months in the new job, I experienced despair, I experienced self-loaf, I experienced nihilism…

Here as well, I won’t go into too many irrelevant details. The most important thing to know is that my expectations were unrealistically high compared to what I found, which was also considerably shittier than at most jobs (I worked at 6 companies so far, and the context — as a whole — at that one was by far the worst). Bit by bit, my failure to re-calibrate my expectations to a never-ending degrading work situation (there were some serious political problems with the projects that I was working on) led to more stress, which built up to reach anxiety, and finally exploded (or rather imploded) with a beautiful burn-out. Within a couple of months, I was brought to my knees and this time not only my emotions were dysfunctional, everything in my life was broken. Ultimately, even my body let me down (asthma, exhaustion, pain in my chest, pain in my limbs…), something I considered quite catastrophic since I always considered myself quite sporty and athletic.

I remember how one night after I got back from yet another stupid day of degrading work, depleted out of energy, I went to take a shower and broke down crying. I wasn’t just crying. I was sobbing, something that never happened in the entirety of my emotionless life. I felt that I failed my life as a human being. That everything is just meaningless: my pride is meaningless, time is meaningless, people are meaningless, life itself is meaningless… I was scared of my own crying and this new vulnerable state I was in. I tried to stop the tears that were competing with the water in running down my face, but couldn’t. I surrounded and kept crying… The more I cried, the lighter I felt. I started liking the feeling but hating it at the same time.

After a couple of minutes, I finally regained some control over my lacrimal glands and pulled the brakes. The sobbing episode is officially ended. I felt the lightest I have been in months (probably years) but also the saddest. I dried the water but also the tears, put on my clothes and I went out to my room. As I got used to doing every night, I threw my exhausted body on the floor like a corpse and spaced out. My spacing out that night was different though. It was colorful. Mostly with dark scary colors but definitely better than that fucking ugly gray shit that has characterized the past 15 years of my life. Within that horrifying mix of dark emotions (the ones I mentioned 2 paragraphs above), a bright one started shining: It was hope for a better future, a future that I later decided to take control of and build up myself step by step.

Of course, the change wasn’t easy. That night was definitely the climax of my dysfunctionality. I reached rock bottom and thought that I crushed. But thankfully after a period of nihilism and self-loathing, my attitude started changing. I started re-writing my story. I thought that now that I reach rock bottom, life can’t get shittier, it can only improve conditioned on me doing some work. Little by little I started collecting the pieces of my broken self (now I consider that, that night was the night my stupid emotionless scared unnecessary-proud ego got assassinated) and started rebuilding.

It has been 4+ years since that day and that time, now I can finally say with a grounded pride and a healthy dose of self-esteem, that I did some work, that I grew up, that I improved.

“Life is growth. You grow or you die” — Phil Knight. Challenging myself and you to pursue a life of conscious learning and growth till the very last moment!