The Weight of the Hours
So I haven’t written in over 600 days. There are many reasons and excuses behind my inactivity on this website, from failing to focus on my YouTube channel to dedicating more energy to my day job as well as going to therapy after several depressive episodes. I won’t address the latter in too much detail but I have wanted to come back to writing for quite a while and I do want to offer my two cents on how the analytical skills I have used to write critical pieces such as the ones I publish here played a part in both my depression and my current journey to recovery.
I think it is incredibly difficult to accurately describe what it feels like for people my age to live in a world where, literally EVERY DAY, we are confronted with how shitty the world is. I’m not claiming to be the voice of my generation, or even “a” voice of “a” generation, but something which baby-boomers and other non-millenials often fail to take the measure of is the energy that it requires to be under 30 in 2017 and not give up on humanity. I don’t mean that in my usual hyperbolic style, but rather literally.
Look, I can’t say my life is a prime example of systemic oppression. I am a white cisgender man living in a rich country with a graduate degree, working at a job that doesn’t conflict with my views. I am very aware that I am one of the lucky ones. I know that I will not wake up one day and feel like I’ve wasted my youth chasing the unattainable capitalistic dream my peers have been fed since birth. I know that I was born with enough privilege that I will most probably make it work because the system is rigged in my favor. I even think identifying as gay gives me enough edge that I cop less shit about my privilege than most cishet white men.
Yet, living with that knowledge is truly exhausting. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is that your work as an activist/ally only makes sense if you bring awareness to your own social circles, and that can become an emotionally-draining process as well as a constant source of conflict with people you truly care about. Even when you cut yourself some slack and let things slide because you just want to take a break from calling out everyone on everything, guilt follows you around like the shadow of the sellout you feel you’ve turned into. Deconstructing harmful tropes, unlearning oppressive behaviors, and confronting prejudice (especially your own) is absolutely necessary and I don’t think I or anyone deserves cookie points for trying to be a decent human being. But I also cannot deny that it took a toll on my psychological well-being.
The point here is not to blame my mental health issues on current political conjunctures or my attempt to help achieve social justice, because there are numerous personal experiences and neuroses that have nothing to do with either which have still led me where I was before I started therapy. What I want is to reappropriate this platform after feeling unable to contribute without coming down with a case of the mean reds à la Holly Golightly. Remember: I just have a lot of feelings.
For the longest time, I felt like I couldn’t realistically invest in anything for the future. And to a certain extent, I wasn’t wrong. Truth be told, I don’t make nearly enough money to think about real estate [Side note: I also happen to live in a city where it would require me saving my entire salary for LITERALLY 15 years to buy a studio…] and finding woke people to date is the least rewarding enterprise I’ve ever undertaken. It is worth noting that both property and monogamy are two tenets of a hegemonic system that I don’t particularly desire to live by. I wouldn’t feel too pressed about it if I lived as a hermit, recluse form this neoliberal heteronormative bullshit that is pushed on me by my loved ones and by the law; but I don’t, nor do I aspire to.
Just like most people my age, I can’t reconcile my wanting to be successful with my wanting to be a good person. Just like most people my age, I get a lump in my throat whenever I see a classmate from high school add a metaphorical peg to their car, and then I feel shitty about getting a lump in my throat. And just like most people my age, I struggle to find through the gaze of my family, my friends, or my co-workers, a version of myself that I don’t feel anxious for.
What therapy has helped me understand is that there literally is only so much you can do. You’re born at a moment in time and you’re given a certain set of tools and it’s up to you to lift yourself up for as long as you can while helping others do it for themselves. When you do the work, you can’t demand gold stars and pats on the back, but you can be kind to yourself. Michael Cunningham wrote:
“We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep—it’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself. There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we’ve ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult.
Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.”
There really is plenty for me to invest in, just maybe not in the traditional way. All I can do is try to cultivate empathy in myself and others, hoping enough of the good hours will bloom in the midst of those that wilted too soon that it’ll have made the world a slightly less ugly place.