It’s Better to Feel Pleasure Than Nothing at All

I have been in such a frustrating place the last few months that I have taken for granted the good that can come from pain. I can be somewhat masochistic (non-sexual) in my pursuits: I tend to gravitate toward whatever will hurt me. Because of this mental abuse I inflict upon myself, I am able to juxtapose the brief but stunning moments of lucidity that arise as a result. I have not been able to feel pleasure for years, so I think I need to feel the poignancy of feeling that pain has to offer. It’s a common song lyric: “It’s better to feel pain than nothing at all,” or something along those lines. I’m obviously not alone in this regard, yet I am starting to realize it’s not the sensation of pain I want, and it’s not just my antibody to the virus of boredom I keep catching. No, it is rising up from the depths of nothingness to a new high, breaking through to creative realms of self-fulfillment, that I am looking for. Because I know what sadness and depression and isolation feel like, I allow myself to experience new things more openly. I am able to reflect and articulate with insight and clarity regardless of how confused I might be on the whole.

I have been busy with school. One of my classes is boring and of little use, and the professor has commendable industry experience but can’t teach. The other class, however, is extremely fun, and for the first time in a long time, I enjoy doing something school-related (investment portfolio management). My recent focus on this has led to fewer sleepless nights and less rock bottoms. This state has me confused, though; I can’t seem to find even a simple job, but I am busy being a nearly full-time student. I am closer to graduating, closer to being more marketable, and I am starting to see a possible career path from classes like this. Having an income and a daily job is more of a reality in my mind. My apprehension has lessened. Is that a good thing? It’s almost annoying. If I am going to have some anxiety, I want to experience it full force instead of feeling its slight tickle in the nerves of my mind.

I am anxious because I am not anxious enough. It is good I am focusing on something productive, but I presuppose it is limiting my ability to make mental progress. I’m not in an extremely low place anymore; now I’m just slightly below the threshold of normalcy. Without a powerful opposing force, how is my inner fight for self-actualization going to play out? I’m not used to this. I’m not used to dealing with less adversity.

Curtis, are you complaining about not having enough problems? Yes, I am.

Maybe I am spoiled because I have been so frustrated, so bored, and so hurt that it is easy to go headfirst into any and every positive thing I can. Maybe I am lazy and know that it is easier to do things I don’t want to be doing (and get hurt) than to actually find what I want to be doing. And I know with that hurt comes change, so it is a shock therapy that will somehow turn me around while also providing an excuse if things don’t change.

During periods of deep despair, my senses are strengthened, my awareness is heightened, and my hope is spirited. But now, I am in limbo instead of in a good or bad place. I am closer to becoming a bourgeois denizen of society, yet I don’t feel ready to accept settling on mediocrity as a solution. I don’t know if I am ready to ignore some of my perceptions and step into the real world while fooling myself with the predominant notions of prosperity and success. The basic tenets, beliefs, and norms the common person accepts are hard for me to justify quite yet. Throughout this entire process, I have had the idea in my head that this reality is underwhelming. I can’t help but believe there is more to people, to life, to the universe, than this. No matter how many existential books I read or philosophical ideas I contemplate, I still feel like there is a definite point to this thing I find myself in.

Suspended in the air around us like a faint ocean mist are hope, love, courage, goodness, faith, dreams, wisdom, and progress. No one is immune from the occasional extraordinary encounter with these superhuman aspects of humanity. Life isn’t always fooling oneself – it does have moments that make the daily grind well worth it. I sometimes think, if I already know how the road ends, why would I want to take the same path as everyone else? The key for me is to understand that I must follow the same road map as every other person in the history of the world. With this in mind, there are endless combinations of side streets I can take. There are many people in this world who have taken / are taking creative routes and turns. I might be a unique individual, but the problems I am facing are not that unusual. I need to finally map this thing out. There is no reason to be underwhelmed with so many positive directions to choose from and so many astounding moments to stumble upon.

Part of me believes it is necessary to have moments of clarity and brilliance in order to triumph over the insipid existence I am destined for. Although these moments are enjoyable and productive, they don’t last because I choose to get hurt shortly thereafter. If only I could see that my life could be filled with more radiance and illumination all the time, while doing something with my actual life instead of just in theory, I would quit the foolishness. I need to embrace the path I am on right now and not presume every single thing is contradictory to what I should be doing. I need to stop trying to feel pain just because it is easy; I have not really put the work in that is required to feel happy. The same old nonsensical routine is wearing off, so I hope to finally move in a different direction. It is compulsory to surround myself with people, activities, and ideas that will lead to personal growth. If only I can focus on the satisfaction that can come from fighting for the good rather than fighting against the bad, and stop assuming the world I will be stepping into is not for me, I will be prepared for the next quarter of my life.

Thanksgiving with Xanax

This is the first time I have even been able to do anything at all with my mind in the last week.

I’m never taking Xanax again. My new psychiatrist started me on it to deal with obsessive anxiety, mainly of the social form. I wasn’t having a major problem but he thought it couldn’t hurt to try out anyway. Well, after just one week, it seemed to have the reverse effect. It is often used to treat panic disorder, but I was panicky and psychotic. I could not deal with anything in my mind at all. I have so much work to do for school this quarter, but keeping myself busy did not have the same effect as it usually does. Bad thoughts were racing through my head no matter what I did; I can’t even put into words how I was feeling because it was a completely different frame of mind than I have ever experienced. 

This happened to all occur on a holiday week, and it culminated in spending my Thanksgiving in my apartment sick or in bed. It was miserable not only because I felt miserable, but also because I was letting my family (both of them) down. It’s not like I didn’t have the opportunity to have a decent Thanksgiving, and there are plenty of people who were worrying about me.

I stopped the drug the night before Thanksgiving, so it was probably a mix of the adverse reaction and withdrawal symptoms the next day.

I treated myself to a Double Cheeseburger meal from McDonald’s as my technical Thanksgiving dinner. That was dumb, because the gluten made my stomach even worse. But it tasted delicious. I’ve been lucky enough to partake in some tasty leftovers, though. You can’t beat green bean casserole.

Anyway, I’m back from that fiasco. I’m still getting my mind back, so I need to figure out how to write an actual blog entry again. I hope my friends had more normal Thanksgivings, and a happy official holiday season to everyone. 

Reflections from Lands End

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*I wrote this while sitting on a rock next to the crashing waves at Lands End in San Francisco last week. Lands End is a shoreline park accessible by hiking trails on the very outskirts of the city, overlooking the bay / ocean, the hills, and the surrounding headlands. Its coastal cliffs truly loom over the edge of the country. It is my favorite part of the city.

I am in San Francisco to get away from everything for the time being and to visit what I considered home for a year and a half. It has been remarkable at times and sad at others, for various reasons. There is so much I miss about this lovely city. I’ve walked about ten miles alone, capturing the crisp, light, clean air while traversing up and down steep hills lined with rows of colorful houses and trees fresh with life. I have been refreshingly drenched by the cool, drifting rain without the protection of a hood or umbrella. I have traveled the same peaceful routes as I did while trying to decipher my thoughts and the world surrounding me here before. I have spent quality time (which sometimes means doing idiotic things) with my best guy friends, met up with a few old friends / past crushes, and made some new acquaintances.

I am seated on the rocks next to the ocean, gazing at the beautiful scenery. But how can I be part of nature in its finest form? How can I be more integrally involved? I sit here and walk through the heart of magnificence but feel so distant from it; I see beauty but am unable to capture it. I am making a better effort than before to try to accept this nature around me. Not trying to overanalyze it, not letting its otherworldliness overwhelm me, not getting depressed because I feel like I am wasting an awe-inspiring environment. I accept it more for the inexplicable part of the world it is and feel less undeserving of the warmth it has provided to my soul. Still, I can’t help but feel a little confused and frustrated.

It reminds me too much of my isolation while I was here before; the same confusion was prevalent in many facets of my life in this city. I was distant and lost, with no way to discern my jumbled thoughts and suppressed emotions.

It reminds me of a lack of progress. By no means do I consider the SF experiment a failure; I made a tremendous amount of personal growth here. I started to figure out who I was, I made lasting friendships, I had joyful times and hilarious moments, and I enjoyed the city and its surroundings. It’s just, I moved away on the premise of temporary failure, on not being able to live and thrive in this city for the time being, on needing something different and familiar, on quitting grad school, on letting down my colleagues and family, on leaving my friends, on giving up so many things I was just beginning. So in my mind, there are loose ends that I can’t quite grasp or that I don’t want to think about.

On top of these reminders, I feel like I have to do certain things while I am visiting other places just to say I did them. This doesn’t always mean touristy things, but it can be seeing pretty sights, eating at nice restaurants, attending fun events, and doing other city-specific things. Because of this, it’s hard for me to go on my own path while visiting other places. In a perfect world, I would avoid most of the usual destinations and go on my own adventures, finding my own sights and roaming through the most serene parts of the city. This is possible for anyone, but at what cost? I can walk on sidewalks and through parks anywhere. I can sit and read next to a body of water in countless places. I can play games and sports and attend entertainment events with friends in plenty of cities. I can eat at nice restaurants and visit unique museums in thousands of locations. Once I spend a legitimate amount of money to go somewhere, I don’t feel like I can just aimlessly wander. The tranquil, undisturbed scenery is the only thing that is distinguishably different to me, but because of the apprehension I get from 1) being unable to explain and capture a city’s beauty and 2) constantly thinking I need to be doing more productive things in my short time there, it is hard for me to enjoy the moment. It’s too distracting. If I do something trivial and quiet to get lost in my thoughts, I incessantly feel as if I’m missing out on necessary things while I visit, but if I do something touristy, I do it halfheartedly and wish I were somewhere calmer. A similar feeling lingered in me while I lived here; I knew there was so much splendor to the city and surrounding area and rarely enjoyed doing simple things as much as I could have because there were always better sights to see. I feel like this beauty is not for me right now, that it limits my ability to think clearly. Maybe that is why I am in Chicago for the moment, because I would rather be in a place with no distractions.

I need to stop overanalyzing my surroundings. This world has a lot of beauty to offer, much of which I’ve been lucky enough to see, but I’ve gotten away from the frame of mind needed to enjoy it. In the future I need to open my eyes and, without thinking, without worrying, calmly let nature speak to me.

Am I happy that I visited San Francisco? Definitely. I needed time with my friends and those moments of getting away to something spectacular. I just came back confused, my thoughts muddled, my path unknown. I’m eager to see what happens from here.

Neither Here Nor There

I wrote this as I was watching “Wag the Dog” the other day.

I watch a movie. I find myself not really paying close attention to it; my mind is wandering, it’s somewhere else. I catch bits and pieces of the movie, and bits and pieces of my mind. Shortly afterwards, if someone asks me about the movie, I can’t say much. I don’t remember any details at all. Then they ask what I was doing. What was I doing? What was I thinking? At least if I was daydreaming, I would have been using my mind for something, I would have gotten some utility out of it. But I find that I was neither watching the movie nor thinking about anything at all. My mind was taking a random walk, with no aim, no developed thoughts. I feel so frustrated that I can’t at least remember some of the movie. It’s like, I not only was just wasting my time sitting on the couch watching something I didn’t really want to watch, but I wasn’t even watching it. I could have been sitting in a dark room doing nothing, staring at a blank wall. I feel useless and stupid.

It’s been like this for years, and not just with movies. With school, work, people, etc.

I guess you could say I’m “neither here nor there.” Literally.

I don’t want to be here in the moment doing much of what I am doing, but what do I want to be doing? Why did I choose this exact path, anyway? I can blame a large portion of it on the ADD, but that still leaves part of it on me. As I’ve been realizing lately, I have made so many decisions based on boredom and confusion, and that’s where I went wrong. I want to be sure about decisions in the first place. I don’t really choose to do anything; I just do it because it’s there, except with sports and competition. In every second of my day, I want to be playing sports or doing something competitive and active and physical. I can not only enjoy myself and get some exercise, but I can live in the moment. I choose that. I wish I could have that same “making a choice” feeling at any other time. Any other time in life. That is my problem right now. I find myself almost 25, and I never wanted to make the choices I did in the first place, so what now? Quit what I am doing? Start something completely different? I have one part of the problem down, knowing this isn’t where I want to be. I just need to figure out the alternatives that work for me.

Everything I do feels like settling or wasting time. I believe that I’m meant for something much better / different, or that maybe I don’t want to be tied down by anything in life. If I’m going to find something, I don’t want to be doing something else that doesn’t contribute to my end goal. I have extremely high expectations – I want progress. And if I am going to be a drifter, I want it to be a choice. I want to be able to say, “I choose to do this random thing and not get tied down by it. I don’t have to do this for the rest of my life (in terms of a career). I might like it, I might not.” And I would be able to move to the next thing I choose to do, and so on. But this is aimless wandering. I choose from alternatives when I want neither. I just settle and wander and don’t really choose anything. Or I tell myself I strongly want to do something even though I know that is not true, that I am just trying to back my own decision up. Then when I don’t want to do it anymore shortly after, I get depressed and question my initial decision and sometimes quit, or I continue doing it halfheartedly (for me, that is quarterheartedly, since I have already started things halfheartedly). Then I feel like a quitter and an idiot. Then I do something crazy, like move across the USA or go on a long drive or go to Europe or start something completely different (that I don’t really want to do) to say I’m doing something. I want things to be choices in the first place. What I am doing is not really choosing; it is just going with the random flow. I need to find out what Curtis chooses to do.

It’s like I just entered into the world. I woke up and found myself in a specific position, with no information or idea as to what got me here.

This is how I feel. I have a lot of things to make up for. I have a lot of things to figure out. Maybe I will continue doing some of the things I am doing, and maybe I will reverse some of the decisions I made before. I want to set the course right from here, but it’s not going to be easy to match the past up with the future. I’ll do my best, though. And, honestly, I’m having a lot of fun (at times) doing this. I’m living. I might be confused, but I’m trying to deal with that confusion like I would deal with a complex math problem. It’s a puzzle, and I love puzzles. In a few years, let’s say I have things in order. I might look back on this time and wish I were here again, solving this riddle, just beginning to figure myself out. I might be bored without this challenge.

I just hope that I’m not too far behind, that I don’t have to settle on something because I can’t go back to junior high again and start all over. There is only so much lost time a person can make up for. I do truly believe people can do anything they set their minds to, but it’s impossible to ignore the impact of surroundings and circumstances. I could not afford (both financially and temporally) to go back to school and become a doctor (if that is what I wanted to do). I couldn’t become a professional race car driver now because I didn’t get into it when I was younger. I can’t go to the NBA anymore because I stopped playing varsity basketball in high school. Et cetera.

In spite of these hindrances, I have plenty of time. I might be 24, but I can still do a heck of a lot of good with my life. It’s not like I have absolutely nothing to work with; I have my mind, my intuition, my special skills, my great friends, and my supportive family. I am confident that I will start doing things I want to do. I will make the most out of whatever decisions I make, and I will choose something in life to do without settling. This goes for career-related decisions, hobbies, interests, friends, and anything else that I can choose. It won’t be easy, but I’m looking forward to being involved in my own choices for a change.

And when someone asks me about the movie I just watched, maybe I’ll actually be able to tell them what happened.

Ready, Set, Ready

I want to move forward with my life. I’m lingering. I’m stuck in one spot.

It seems that 6 months is the limit I keep approaching living in one place. I want to move, to start something new. It is annoying that I never want to be where I am in the moment, but always somewhere else. I am a wanderer, a journeyman, a factotum.

If moving was not so difficult, I would honestly do it a lot more. I live in a small two-bedroom place now, by myself. There is so much I have brought here from home or purchased while in Chicago, that it would be twice as hard to move out as it was to move in, and so expensive to move into another place.

When will I learn? When will I settle in a location, both physically and mentally?

I have a final today, but the last thing in the world I care about is the profession I am supposed to be going into. I start another set of classes in two weeks. Don’t care. It’s not for me. Will I finish this stupid Master’s in Financial Analysis? I should because I’m about 80% done and someone else is graciously paying for every penny of it.

But naturally, if you start something out of boredom or confusion, it was not a good decision to begin with. It won’t usually end well. I am not a quitter; I just never wanted to do the things I started in the first place.

What is it in life I am seeking? What makes me different from everyone else? Why do others get it but I don’t? I’m not sure exactly how many years my mind has been in this state, but at least since junior year of college, I have completely been somewhere else. Is it the ADD? Is it my personality? Is it depression? It certainly isn’t a lack of hope or effort. I want things to change and have for years. I have been trying to help myself as much as possible. The doctors and psychiatrists and my friends tell me that’s the first step, the awareness of a problem and willingness to do something about it. But what is freaking being done? Countless medicines, doctors, diets, exercises, apartments, girls, vacations, interests, schools, jobs, cities later, where have I found myself? What did I expect to find when I moved? What is lacking in me that others take for granted? It’s easy to talk to Curtis from your perspective, but try being me and seeing how hard it actually is.

It’s like I have tried everything in my power, everything I can possibly think of, to change things for the better, but my fruitless efforts have left me waiting for something to happen. Nothing is happening. I’ve tried harder than everyone else yet have less than everyone else to show for it. If you don’t think I am trying, you are an idiot. You don’t know the daily struggle that is my mind.

I’ve had enough of people being easy on me.

I’ve had enough of people being hard on me. And being so hard on myself.

I’m starting to get to the point where I see having a normal life as being more and more unrealistic, that having at least some clarity is something I will never achieve.

I keep listening to “Glory” and “Mountains” by Radical Face, “Nuvole Bianche” by Ludovico Einaudi, “Down in the Valley” by The Head and the Heart, and “All There Is” by Gregory Alan Isakov, songs that I listened to in my flux phase in San Francisco before I packed up and left. I am so moved by them, by the emotions that I had when I listened to them in that weird new turn in my life. I expect something to happen when I get these emotions. I feel like a better person, a more focused and positive me, yet I can’t seem to find the exact outlet. It’s like something is waiting to burst inside me, but there is nothing to start the explosion. I’ve had this same feeling SO MANY TIMES. It clearly isn’t bad and feels like a step in the right direction. But why can’t it get past this feeling?? Why can’t I do something past this point, other than just saying, “I am tired of this and want to do something very positive about it right now”? Please, someone in the world, help me. I am at that turning point, waiting to be nudged in a certain direction, with limitless possibilities. I’m ready for that change. I’m ready to know, to be confused no more. I’m 24, and I literally cannot stand another day of this lifestyle. I have already let years slip by. I am not being the person I want to be.

Valet job, or another random vocation? Finance? Moving? Passions and interests? This stuff should be obvious. No, I don’t have to know everything at this point in my life, but it would nice to know something.

So starting now, it’s the year of Curtis. I’m sick of this.

Please try to hold me accountable. Figuring things out is long overdue.