Christmas has passed and now dawns the obligatory reflection on the past year. I’ve had fun. I’ve got no regrets. But one thing that has occurred to me is the fact that for the first time in my life, I have had to adjust to feeling like my life is permanently in stasis. I am neither on the move, nor settled. I have no real aims or desires. Little to strive for other than securing my first 9-5 job.
After graduating from University, we all need time to adjust, it’s true, but when you’re floundering amid job sites, interviews and sometimes rather useless career advice, it’s easy to see how graduates such as myself struggle to do just that.
My graduate experience has seen me coming to terms with the fact that, for now, my life is stagnant. People say this is a time for ‘endless opportunity.’ I have an expanse of time in front of me. The struggle is knowing how to use it effectively.
After returning home from university, my mind, so used to being stimulated, even overloaded, struggled to cope with the sudden inactivity. Days passed when I laid on my bed feeling truly, inescapably depressed; anxious under the weight of having very little to fill the days.
The future appeared as an endless abyss of time – days unfolding before me that had no real significance. I felt my mind teetering on the brink of insanity as I meditatively watched my mother’s hand stirring her tea every morning, wondering what I would do with my life that day. Psychologists have made links between depression and boredom. A mind unstimulated can create a mind that is unsound. The only problem with my mind, however, was its inactivity.
Emily Dickinson wrote in her poem ‘One need not be a chamber to be haunted’ that the greatest terror to be found is within ourselves. Forget ghosts, our brains, our minds, are the most insidious presence of all. Left alone with my thoughts on a daily basis became lethal to me. Monotony killed all creativity. The most genius people in history have had days where they have woken up encased in despondency, unable to quite contemplate why everything seems so distant from themselves. Keats once said, ‘I do not feel in the world’, and I relate. There’s nothing worse than feeling out of touch with yourself.
I tried to immerse myself in literature, politics and history to find some way of staying connected to the world, and to myself. I found comfort in reading things that inspired me. It reminded me of what I love and what is most important to me. The greatest among us can, so easily, slip into the recesses of our own minds and become dominated by our fears and anxieties. The test is how you dig yourself out.
Ever since I was a child, my mum has always been fond of speaking to me in metaphors. Her metaphor for me now is that of a flower – one that has been weathered by the storm and has, at times, nearly perished in the frost and must now protect itself for the winter ahead. The winter may be cruel and unkind, but it will fortify the flower for later years when the frost inevitably returns. This flower will protect itself under a layer of earth ready to bloom in the turn of Spring. For now it must wait, recover, and learn to be still.
Perhaps I will look back on this part of my life and realise that stillness is exactly what I needed. I needed to learn how to lead a life not under my own tyrannous dictatorship. In short, I needed to give myself a break.
I have no resolutions to make for the New Year, but all I know is that I want it to be varied. I want my life to be an ‘exhausting profusion of passions’, a series of mistakes and set-backs that are remedied by moments of intense happiness, glory and pride. I want life to be something I progressively discover when sense and experience deem me able to. I want to know and experience all, but remain curious.
And when all the chips are down, I will remind myself, as I try to do every day that, I am alive and I am advancing.