Off The Grid: Day 2

I don’t know what it is. This feeling I get everytime I lay my head down for bed. I have this need to just stand or sit still. Completely still. So still that if anyone paid attention long enough they’d probably think I stopped breathing. That for all intents and purposes, my body had just shut down, rejecting any form of physical movement.
My eyes, I imagine, looked dead. But inside my head and heart were racing.
There’s this one day during the Retreat, the few days that still makes me wince when I think about it, where we had sessions with a psychology team from UI (University of Indonesia). To be honest, as interesting as the session was, I felt completely uncomfortable. Like I was being put under a microscope when the last thing I wanted was to be psycho-analyzed. Especially in front of this group of people I had just gotten to know.
The kind uni students (or graduates, I forgot which) who talked to us that day were extremely kind. They carefully gauged the atmosphere of the room — we were all pretty tuckered out from the previous day’s exhausting outbound — and paced the session accordingly. They were open to listen to our opinions, giving us a chance to analyze our own and each other’s answers to the scenarios and questions given.
I was doing pretty fine at first. We weren’t pressured to give out our answers, which others could maybe jump to conclusions about. It felt nice to have these personal revelations about yourself. Even looking into the dark corners of your mind felt okay, simply because you were the only one seeing them. But during the final hours of the session, we were asked to imagine what our lives would be like in 10 years. How we imagined our own selves to be.
Those are the kind of questions that paralyze me. Not the ones that have A, B or Cs to choose from. The open-ended questions that let your imagination run wild, that disregard the concept of right or wrong.
But my biggest fear is that I’d let it run much too far. That I’d be setting myself up for disappointment when I set the bar too high.
When we were asked to write them down, I looked down at the small square of origami paper and laughed aloud. I would need much more space than this. I’d probably need to reduce the Amazon rain forest by half just to get enough paper. With each little wish I jotted down (each a bit vague in handsight — I had trouble pinning down specifics because it felt obssessive) I smiled and laughed and winced. It felt fun at first. Day-dreaming, playing dress-up and writing down a whole person’s history.
At some point, I remembered that that person was supposed to be me.
The longer the list became, the more this sadness seemed to embrace me. I felt like I was hoping for far too much, wanting far too much. I felt insecure, delusional. Like I was making myself believe in the impossible because that’s what I thought I was writing.
Most advice an adult gives you when you talk about your future runs along this main point: “Find the one thing your good at and go with it. Even if you’re terrible at everything else, be good at that one thing and you’ll mean something. You can be someone worth remembering.”
No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to fall into that state of mind. The paradigm that demanded I choose just one thing. Because I can’t. I really, really can’t. So on that strange little bucket list of mine I had a billion things going at once: I wanted to be a musician, a photographer, an actor, an author, a dancer, a journalist. And the more I accumulated those little desires, the more I felt my heart constrict.
This is too much, I say to myself over and over again even as I continue to write. Then the young woman who was giving the lectures, said we were to present our dreams in front of everyone else, making me even more flustered.
There’s no way I could read everything I wrote. I’d be up there all night, if it really came to that. I felt embarassed more than anything. They’d laugh. If anyone was to hear every single thing I dream of, I really believe they’d laugh. Hell, I’d even laugh. I do laugh at the mere ridiculousness of my notions.
So when my turn came up, I didn’t read everything I wrote. You might find it surprising when I say that I had no trouble singling out what I did feel comfortable with confessing aloud. A journalist. It made sense didn’t it? Everyone keeps on saying that I have this gift for writing (though I strongly think that’s debatable). Whenever anyone asks me about my future, that’s my go-to answer. Journalism. Writing novels. It has always sounded like the obvious choice, the safest answer. But I always say such things with reservations.
The person who gives out that answer sounds like a robot. I swear that person doesn’t even sound like me. It was a dream I once craved for. One that lit my eyes, my entire being. But that flame of passion has long been doused. It’s not that I don’t like writing anymore. I still do. It’s just that I’m pretty much clueless right now. I have no idea what I’m doing, being a journalist doesn’t even seem realistic any more.
And that’s the funny thing about dreams, isn’t it? They rarely seem that way.
I spent the entire day, juggling with this, finding the reason why I felt so conflicted anyway. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I like to read. Immerse myself in the stories of other people. And when you hear so many wonderful and inspiring things happen to all types of people, you can’t help but feel that you want a taste of that too. A taste of every single flavor.
I also remember waking up a few years ago and realizing that one day, I’m going to die (morbid thoughts for a pre-teen to have, I know). I feel like George Zinavoy in the movie The Art of Getting By. But instead of the awareness of my morality making me feel like nothing matters anymore, it’s pushed me to believe that everything does. I feel like the clock keeps on ticking and I barely have enough time to make something of myself before it runs out.
I wonder what my parents would say if I told them this. How I have all these little dreams in my head, that conflict with one another too often to be plausible. My Dad would probably be the voice of reason. He doesn’t mean to be cynical or harsh when he says things like that, he’s just realistic. “Noone can be all of those things,” he’d probably say.
But can noone really? Can’t someone be able to do all those amazing things?
Can’t that someone be me?
That question lingers for a long time in my head after I snap out of one of my ‘trances’. I take a deep breath and try to shake off that manic buzz.
Maybe, I manage to convince myself sometimes. And when I do, I find myself sound asleep.
— Karin Novelia, Hopeless Dreamer
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