I sweetened this truth with powdery white lies. I dipped it in honey and it tasted sweet in my mouth, so I kept consuming more and more of it, just so I can tolerate it and I kept telling myself that eventually, I’ll snap out of my hunger for the plain and bitter truth and start to resist the urge to take the truth as it is. I promised myself that I’ll just heal faster if I say that everything is not as bad as I think it is, that it’s all in my head and I don’t need to acknowledge the severity of how my surroundings are affecting me. That I’ll just get over what I’m deathly afraid of or all the past traumas that I haven’t quite made peace with or resolved.
I promised myself that I’ll put up with the world’s rigged game and still win, for as long as I can endure it — wait no, that’s not an option: I have to endure it. That someday, everybody who ever believed I would amount to nothing would finally see that I can turn into a somebody that they’re proud of. If only I just followed their directions and ignore the inner caged bird within my heart that’s crying out for liberty, for autonomy, and for the right to fly through skies that lead to unfathomable creative heights.
And I believed that the sweetness would heal me, but it turns out that I’ve been growing sicker, wearier, and more uncomfortable. And now, I’m starting to become more aware of it. I’ve decided that it’s about damn time I confronted it and looked at each and every beast that has threatened to consume me right in the eye. Boldly and fiercely.
I used to justify what was being implied against me — that I was lazy, unproductive, self-absorbed, not intelligent enough, not social enough, not aggressive or tough enough, and too much of a childish dreamer. I used to believe that every piece of harsh judgment was true about me and that I didn’t deserve to create anything because I couldn’t create anything worthwhile due to my own deficiencies, which was largely why I had a huge creative drought throughout all of my early twenties — everything I touched turned to ashes and my dreams couldn’t be resurrected. I was cowardly and went in the opposite direction of my dreams. I allotted my very limited energy towards things that constrained me — applying for the wrong jobs, working just to get by, and listening to others who didn’t want me to pursue my dreams and instead do things for them which I couldn’t say “no” to.
I didn’t feel like I had my shit together. I didn’t feel like I could succeed in anything I tried, no matter how much I wanted to get out of basic survival mode and start thriving in a way that makes me in control over my own life and have more room to breathe deeply — and this is something that I yearn for more than anything else because all my life, I’ve been crushed by the obligations of others and felt guilty about my own existence, simply because I failed to conform, I failed to prove that I could be useful, and I failed to come out on top as number one in competitive races that I never even signed up for and never wanted to participate in.
I tried so many things that weren’t right for me and failed at them — I failed at electrical engineering, I failed at securing a basic administrative job immediately after deciding to quit electrical engineering, I failed at getting out of the underemployment wage trap, and worst of all, I even failed to get my dream job at a digital magazine after writing for months.
Are these failures still bothering me? Both yes and no.
They bother me because I’m a highly competitive person and a perfectionist (a shitty one at that, but still my compulsive tendencies to self-critique and bemoan why I’m not worthy enough factor into my perfectionistic, self-sabotaging beliefs) and I have a difficult time accepting failure and rejection — admittedly, even to this day.
But in some ways, they don’t bother me as much because they were never meant to be my life paths, and if I caved into a long list of soul-crushing demands, I wouldn’t remain true to myself and I’d just be getting by for the sake of appeasing those who think they know what is right for me — but it’s totally not right for me at all. I’d be even more miserable fiddling my thumbs trying to look busy in something that I couldn’t care less about and I’d be selling my soul away to people who do not respect my soul’s deepest calling — and I know, that throughout my life, my calling hasn’t changed: it’s to liberate myself from oppressive social constructs by creating a lifestyle in which my livelihood is not dependent upon drudgery or just getting by in something I am only halfhearted about.
Defining what is soul-crushing to me
Whether anyone loves or hates my writing or is indifferent to it, I love to write and I knew early on, I wanted to make writing a significant part of my life, even if I didn’t know it was at all possible to do it full-time. I thought that even if I had to work a job that wasn’t related to writing, I could at least be content with that, though deep down, I couldn’t deny that my biggest dream was to write anything I want for a living, with a minimum of $30,000 a year because being the minimalist I am, I can find a way to make it work and still thrive.
But as I grew older, the limitations were forced upon me. If I disagreed with them or rebelled against them in any way, I’d be shut down and be judged as a childish fool who couldn’t face reality.
I am not trying to imply that having a traditional job in a lucrative field is always soul-crushing because there are people who thrive in that kind of setting and enjoy what they are doing — and I’m happy that they do. But I don’t want to claim that it’s also right for me too because truly, it is not. I don’t work well under extreme or unreasonable pressure. I like taking control and being my own boss. I want to have work-life balance and a flexible schedule. I enjoy having total creative control of my output. I also want to be free to say what I feel most compelled to say and write things that people actually want to read (the things that people still are too afraid to talk about in mundane, everyday life) rather than producing things that are polished and perfect on the outside but are entirely lacking in raw vulnerability and authenticity.
To me, self-awareness is still not valued enough in society
Because I read so many articles, I’ve gotten quite good at telling when people are writing things that they think others want to hear (sugarcoating many difficult truths) and when people are actually baring their soul in a manner, style, and tone that may be difficult and even downright painful to read but in doing so, they are ultimately more brutally honest, cathartic, and resonant. And I love them for doing that.
While writing is subjective, I highly value the latter type of writing because it’s rooted in self-awareness. Writers who are unafraid to tell compelling stories of their lives — no matter how socially unacceptable they might be or how much they diverge from the path of exterior perfection — are the ones that I admire the most. I love how people share stories about their failures and how they worked through them and persevered. I love how people don’t defend the status quo and instead, criticize it and offer some solutions for anyone who feels stuck trying to keep up with the appearance of being put-together in a broken system while denying that it’s broken, out of external pressure and fear of saying anything against it.
And that is the kind of artist that I want to emulate — no advertising, no flawless exteriors, and certainly no fake pleasantries for the sake of gaining fickle attention. Just pure and raw introspection crafted in compelling sentences that get to the root of life’s problems and dare to look at life’s compounding and forceful sufferings straight in the eye.
And only then will I learn to accept my true self and heal.
And only then will I move on and thrive in my own way, the only way I can stand resolutely and then take on greater heights beyond anything my former paralyzed self could have ever imagined.