Frame of Mind

A month ago, I signed some papers (poorly printed; Letran should really sort out their inks) for my “authorized withdrawal,” which is a polite way of saying I’ve dropped out.

My official reason for doing this: I wanted to look at my options, see where life would take me, taking advantage of the twee excuses young people make when they have absolutely no bearing on where they are in life and what they should do. You only live once, after all, and sometimes the way to live that life is to continually ask, and never get the answer.

While half of that might be true, it’s not the real reason why I’ve dropped out. This excuse was born from the anxieties all of us have — that we’re scared of the future because we’re blind to it.

What I’m saying is, you don’t use YOLO or any other aphorism as a basis for making an important decision. Aphorisms are romantic and lack any real weight. What you do use is something genuine, something that has enough power to push you out of inaction.

It could be anything. For me, it was a depression that festered and grew within me for years, until I could no longer handle living the way I did.

That isn’t to say that my life is some bleak tragedy worthy of becoming an episode of MMK. On the contrary, it’s quite a cushy gig.

I’m a cisgendered, fair-skinned, middle-class male. I don’t need to work for my education, and I don’t need to worry about getting harassed because of my gender, sexuality, or skin color. I have a full life ahead of me as long as I do what society expects me to do. There is a great deal of privilege intertwined with nearly everything about who I am, simply because God had dealt me with an awfully lucky hand.

So, the only tragedy here is how I chose to squander those blessings.

During my last day in Letran (well, last day in uniform), my political science professor insisted that I go to his class. It was disguised as a formality to my leaving the college, but more importantly, he used it as an opportunity to give an hour’s worth of sagely advice.

The class had the same strange ‘Socratic’ seating arrangement (Socratic because, according to the prof, it encouraged discussion by forcing the students to have eye-contact), the same septic class atmosphere, and the same familiar sense that whatever I was doing here felt like it had no purpose.

The professor asked us, one by one, to tell him and the rest of the class a problem. It could be about the government or the state, or it could be — as he was so keen on being oh-so-subtle about it— something personal that had affected us recently.

It was a low-rent version of an intervention.

He was dedicated to the act, though, and he really did listen to each and every one of our pleas, no matter how insincere we all were about it. When the time came for me to talk, I gave an equally insincere answer. And like all my finest lies, I presented it as a joke.

Regardless, the prof remained steadfast in his mission to become Dr. Phil, and told me this (non-verbatim):

“You know, whatever sadness you’re carrying, whatever problem you think you have: just remember that we have it worse. You’ve heard what your classmates are going through, haven’t you?

“I’m telling you this now. You’re going to regret this decision. If you need a change of pace, why not move to the dorm; get some fresh air? Don’t just give up just because you feel down. I’ve felt that way too when I was your age. Don’t be a quitter.”

That’s some top-shelf pep talk you gave there, sir.

I know he means well, and I know that he’s right (in a way). I just don’t think that making me feel more worthless was a good way of making me feel better.

I was diagnosed with double depression. Do you believe that it’s a real disease? A lot of people seem to think otherwise. And to those who do believe, they revere it to the point where they render it silly and illegitimate. I’ve seen countless posts shared by numpties on Facebook who subscribe to this victim fantasy; infographics and comics and lossy screenshots of ostensibly profound blocks of text superimposed on a drawing of a man floating on an ocean or something. They only represent an easily digestible description of teenage angst, hardly saying a fraction of what it’s like to have a disease eat away at you slowly and very surely.

I’ve suffered from feelings of hate and loneliness for years now, for no apparent reason other than my mind telling me that I deserve nothing else. And I should put my money where my mouth is, since there is absolutely no accurate way for me to describe it, either: I can tell you how I feel in metaphors and analogies, but it will never be as succinct as I would like. How could I ever describe the inability to feel happy?

I think the reason why I became a writer in the first place is to find a solution to that.

By now, you might be asking what the point of all this is. To be honest, I didn’t think of any. My mind still isn’t in a right state, so all this piece really amounts to is self-indulgent prattle (isn’t it egotistic of me to assume that you’d read this far into the piece?). “My, look at Jether wanking off about how sad he is!”

Look, I don’t like how this piece turned out, either. The whole thing is about as cohesive as a jigsaw puzzle with round tiles. I tried not to be angsty, but all that got me is even more angst than what was going on in my head. It’s bad, bad writing, and I’m sorry if I have offended you in any way.

But I’d like you to listen. I don’t think dropping out was a bad decision. I did it in the first place because I believed that it would help me recover. I still don’t know if it was the right decision, but I can tell you right now that bit by bit, I feel that I can be happy again.

I know that someday I won’t have to take a pill just to feel normal.