I’m okay today…I’m calm, I’m focused, I’m not emotionally distressed, I’m not depressed. But I don’t know how long it would last. I tend to cycle…I’m okay now, but in two weeks or so, I might be depressed, sad and melancholy. It’s just the way it has been.
I remember stretches of melancholy as a teen in high school. I chuck that up to just general angst and adolesence..it was my way of dealing. By my second year of university, I spoke the words ‘I think I am depressed’ for the first time. I didn’t quite understand it, I was very sad for long periods of time. It mostly had to do with school, I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t engaged with the course I was studying. Over time this feeling built up and two years later I had left and was never going back.
There was some euphoria, some utter terror and a lot of worry. I was the happiest I had been in years though, and I have been growing happier since. But I still cycle. Some days I’m good. Some days I’m bad. Since I have lived with this for a few years now, there are a couple of things I have learned from being possibly bipolar.
- It will pass. Whenever the dark cloud gathers and everything seems deary and the world feels like a terrible place. I remember…it will pass. Eventually I will be feeling normal again and life will go on.
- Something might be wrong. Often when I get depressed, especially for an extended period of time, it is a clear indication that some part of my life is not right. Perhaps there is a decision I’m putting off, or maybe I’m busy doing something I really should not be doing. In any case, it is a clear sign for me to pay attention and resolve the matter.
- An incredible amount of energy will probably be released when I come out of it. I find sometimes that after the dark cloud passes, I’m suddenly hit with epiphany after epiphany or I have a manic sense of creativity and productivity.
- Use the energy you have. I have learned to work with what I have. If I am dark and agsty, I would channel that energy into making some art, or making something cool. Or gather all that dark energy and focus it into work and being productive.
- Don’t take it too personally. I look at it like the weather. It is not something I have an incredible amount of control over. I wake up and realise am depressed. I don’t take it personally, I don’t feel bad about it. I sit with it, I let it be, I move about my life regardless.
The other week, I had just come off from a 6 week stretch of ups and downs. I had been depressed more than often. I felt myself getting depressed again and I got pissed and said to myself, ‘fuck that, I’m not going to be depressed anymore’. I seem to have been fine since. Its not a cake walk everyday, but I focus on what must get done and push on those. It seems to work.
This is my first blog post in six months. There has been a slow steady decline in the frequency of my writing; it was inevitable it was going to trickle down to a stop. I didn’t mind too much that I wasn’t writing anymore because I honestly felt like I had nothing to say. I didn’t even journal/write to myself as much. Without that ‘inspiration’ I felt moved to just be, live, feeling, and just let things sink into my bones.
There is a time and place for fallow periods.
It’s the New Year, and as most of us scramble yet again with our newly forged resolutions and recommitments, I am right there with you. I have been thinking at length for the past half year about my blog, my work and my interests and how to weave together online in a way that made sense. This is the latest incarnation of…what ever this is.
I started blogging in 2010 after I made the difficult but necessary decision to leave school and focus my energies on the things that I actually enjoyed doing. It was a time of great change and my life went upside down (in an amazing way). At first, I blogged and blasted out my manifestos and rants of what life should be and how the system sucks, and how to break free. Over time my blog became the space where I worked out my catharsis by writing any new epiphany or ideas I was obsessed with at the time.
Fast-forward to now, 2015 and I feel different. I’m not as angry, I’ve had some progress at reprogramming my mind, I’ve worked through some of my issues, I generally interact with the world in a different way, I’ve grown and I almost feel like I know what I am doing. I felt like I had nothing to say because I drew my writing inspiration from a place of angst or a place of lofty emotion. When you pass the stage of astonishment at profound ideas and you are in the trenches of working out ‘what does this mean’, the emotion passes/evolves and what you are left with is ‘the work’. But maybe ‘I have nothing to say’ is just an excuse for being lazy.
Life evolves, My blog has a new home, my old domain name is transforming into something else, I’m writing again, hopefully I find a rhythm, I’ll write about anything – the things I’ve learnt, the things I feel, the things I make and all the wonderful people and things around me.
Every year after my birthday, I try to make a list of things I learned over the past 12 months. This is what I got for June 2013 – June 2014
- It is quite interesting to see who comes to your aid at your point of need. There are friends who would put themselves on the line for you. This kind of friend is the best kind after family.
- The environment you are in – the actual city/suburb, friends, events around you have a very big effect on who you are and how you think.
- It is extremely important to have a space of your own, both physical space and time space. The more space you have with yourself, the easier it is for your true desires and impulses to bubble up, and the easier it is to act on them.
- Be focused on the end result (what you want), be flexible on the path (how you get it)
- Sometimes, the answers to the problems we have are much closer than we think. The trick is recognizing it.
- If you really want to change, the universe makes it a little bit easier (at least in my experience)
- Stretch yourself…and grow
- Always be as true to yourself as you can be, even if you fear people may not like that you or agree with that you, even if you lose friends.
- Be the leader/mentor you wish you had
- Quality over quantity – in possessions, in friends, in partners.
- Sometimes, you have to put down the books and engage with life in real time relying on your instincts.
- When money isn’t an issue, it is easier to think strategically
- Don’t be afraid to feel pain, to feel hurt, to feel betrayed or let down. Pain is a necessary part of life and it won’t kill you.
- Don’t fight the system. Pimp the system.
- My mother REALLY doesn’t like it when I grow an afro.
- If the same advice keeps coming up from different people, give it some consideration.
- Be open, live with an open heart even if it is hurt and bleeding.
- Systems are better than goals
- Face your fears, every time you do, you get a bit stronger.
- The less girls you entertain, the more time and energy you have and the simpler life is…generally
- It is really hard to make a list like this
- Cultivate your quirks, embrace your unique interest and voice. In today’s world, you must own who you are.
- Deciding what to eat everyday is quite the chore. I need a chef to handle that for me.
- It is possible to fall in love, and have another person by the mere virtue of their existence provide a compelling argument as to why you should be a better person.
- Try to plan or at least keep in mind the long haul…a year, 10 years, 100 years, it helps to ensure you keep the main thing, the main thing.
- I am going to die, it could be as soon as tomorrow, or as far as decades from now. But with every passing day, I need to get out all these things inside me.
As 2013 drew to a close, I like almost everyone in the world sat back to reflect over the year gone by and the new one approaching. I spent a ton of time reading, thinking and loafing around in between the party sessions. What I realised that I had for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, was an even deeper sense of calm and peace. The feeling that you have something that works, a way of being in the world that feels right, a little effortless. With that realisation and the books I’ve been digging into (Daily Rituals: How Artist’s Work, Steal like an Artist, The Wisdom of Insecurity, etc.) a couple of themes begin to surface.
Process > Outcomes
For 2014, I’ve decided to abandon the popular framework of goals…the obsession with trying to achieve such and such by this time, etc. I’m going for a more process-oriented outlook than a result-oriented approach. I have a very clear vision of what I want more of in my life, but I also understand that it is a process and the jump from point A to point B will not be immediate. Somewhere along the line I might even decide that C is a better fit.
So right now at the start of the year, I’m not putting a lot of focus on if I eventually succeed or not, I’m focusing on what I have control over…doing the work. When I review myself each month, the first things I ask myself are ‘did I put in the time’, did I do the work, did I blog, did I make the art, did I do the reading, did I do the tasks that push the idea forward. Setting and sticking to a day to day routine that allows me to steadily put in work day by day in relation to the projects/goals in place for the year.
Basically it’s a focus on the process of becoming as opposed to focus on the desired result. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our life” – Annie Dillard. So I don’t judge success by achieving the goal. I succeed by being able to live the right way consistently day by day. To paraphrase a Will Smith quote, “focus on laying this brick as perfectly as you can and soon enough, you will have a wall”
(Bonus Reading: Hunter S. Thompson on Purpose and Living a meaningful life)
Self Expression and long deferred projects
I am taking a bet, embarking on an experiment. My inner intuition has been that I should focus on those things that really interest me. The common advice and tendency is to conform, defer your dreams and work to make enough money to be able to pursue your dream. Though I am a freelance graphic designer and that is one aspect of my dream, there are so many other mediums/products I’ve always wanted to explore. Now these things I’m doing first for the sheer pleasure of it. If the way I spend my days is how I spend my life, then I want my life to have more of the things that interest me and less of an obsession with making money and such. It would not be easy, but I want to see what happens if I focus on my intuition and inspiration in working and creating. How would that affect my life, my relationships, my business?
New, and unfamiliar things/experiences
At the end of last year, I had the overwhelming feeling of being in a rut of doing the same crap every day, every weekend…it was sickening. So new experiences, learning new skills, brushing off old forgotten things are the order of the day now.
Usually, as the year picks up pace, I find myself overwhelmed and clouded by the different needs and motives of people I’m in contact with or do work for. This is a sensation I refer to in my head as falling asleep, becoming progressively numb to my inclinations and inspirations. I conform to the world around me to make money off it and suppress my own opinions or ideas. I want to be more consistently present in my genius so to speak. This is a big reason why the whole self-expression thing is important. On a macro scale, I want to be more open to life, to the universe, to live without expectation and dive in each moment and each day wholeheartedly and really experience things. This is my spiritual practice for 2014…practicing being present.
As a whole, everything I’ve just spoken about is an aspect of the idea of presence. The theme for 2014 is not resolutions or goals or things to achieve. Resolutions are usually things that you feel you SHOULD do, rather than things that you WANT to do. I’m trying to grow and evolve by staying true to my higher desires (which are actually things like being healthier, more creative, better at business, learning). And I follow my path by focusing on the ‘be-ing’, the practice. It is diving into the mundane, the ordinary, the day to day. If I do that well, perhaps without noticing I would also get the ‘things’. But even if I don’t get the ‘things’, the pleasure would be in the doing…and that is even better.
I am a perfectionist. Somewhere in my teens, I picked up the idea that I needed to be perfect. I thoroughly embraced my faith at the time and was inspired to live my life on the next level, a shining example of moral conduct and personal excellence.
That’s all good and well, except I tend to take things to the extreme. I set incredibly high standards for myself and would beat myself up if I made a mistake, or failed at something. I always felt like I had to be on point, on the ball, all the time…so much damn pressure.
But perfection is a fantasy, and eventually life catches up with us…in its glorious fuckedupness. My pursuit of perfection went so far and my frustration with falling short repeatedly built up so much that I finally gave up. I stopped trying and began to learn to be. I let myself off the hook.
Now I’ve learned that perfection is an illusion, something to be sought, but never attained (perhaps only in hindsight). A guiding star, rather than a destination. Life is messy, and flaws are distinguishing features.
Sometimes when I have an idea or I need to create, I have high expectations for how I want it to turn out…the higher they are, the less likely I would start working on it. I’ve learned to make allowance for fuck ups. I fly right into the creative storm knowing full well that I would only probably reach 80% of the awesomeness I seek…if I’m lucky. This ensures I actually do produce things, and perhaps…one out of a hundred would actually be perfect.
I’ve never felt like this. In my entire 24 years and 28 days on earth, I have never had this feeling. For the first time since I started designing, I don’t want to design. I’m actually avoiding clients, avoiding their payments too. I don’t want to be in that system, I don’t want to be enslaved. I don’t want to HAVE TO design.
I don’t mind designing, I just don’t want to have to do it. I want to play again. I want to have fun again. Its crazy, I’ve avoided so many calls, I’m actually having clients rock up at my door to see if I’m okay. Usually I can sit down and bear it and get the work done. Now though, it feels like death. The only way I can work is if the client is there with me physically and I’m under the influence. That way I don’t feel the pain.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot, talking to people as well, trying to figure out what’s happening with me. Most people say ‘take a holiday’, and that option sounds great…I proceed to daydream about chilling on some secluded beach, or roaming the streets of a sleepy small village town talking to craftsmen and artisans. A month to do nothing would be great. Because that is what I would love to do…nothing. Wake up, eat, do nothing, sleep. This never-ending torrent of productivity is breaking me. Why are we so busy?
A lecturer of mine once remarked’ “the human race is far too productive”. I agree with him, we create a lot of worthless things. But I guess that’s the process to eventually making great things. Last night I read a line by Hugh Macleod, ‘Success is much more complex than failure’. To succeed, you actually need to try, you need to make calls, schedule meetings, move up and down, create something, sell something, work long hours, and so on and so forth. On one level, it feels like madness, put in all this effort, get to the top and then what? Why not just chill and enjoy life, do the minimum required to get tokens (money) and just enjoy the simple pleasures. I envy the bum on the street sometimes, that guy has no care in the world (well, except for deteriorating health and possible death from exposure to the elements). But, beyond his next meal or his next drink, he seems to have no care in the world. That’s pretty legit.
We are not wired that way though, or at least we are not programed that way. We need to succeed, we need to do more, be more., We need to be moguls, juggling 15 different projects at a time to feel successful, to feel like we are keeping up with Kanye and the Kardashian. It’s a delusion, a disease, admittedly one that is useful, one that has gifted us with so much as a race.
I don’t know, I don’t know what my point is writing all this. I am just ranting. In conclusion, I would remind myself that success is relative, and it is best to prescribe my own definition for my life. A definition that makes sure I strive as hard as I possibly can to tap into my potential, and also makes sure that I truly I’m happy from the depths of my soul.
Last night, I took a critical look at my life and my efforts and realized something very important. I had inadvertently given all my energy, creativity and time to furthering other people’s dreams. Everyday, people come up to me wanting my help in furthering their vision, a magazine, an ad agency, a club, a clothing line, and so on. I don’t mind, I have a gift; I can use it to move people’s dreams forward. It’s a problem where I begin to neglect my own dreams, my own ideas, and the things I want to create because others are more urgent or more convenient or more quickly profitable than mine. The fault is completely mine, and somewhere inside me, a part of me has rebelled and won’t let me design anymore until I create the things I’m supposed to create.
I guess I have no choice then.