Whenever someone asks me how I am doing, I tend to say “surviving,” so as to soften the blow of not knowing the answer with a self-deprecating humor of sorts. Sometimes, it really is just that. I’m alive and surviving.
The beginning of this year was very positive. I was optimistic. Even the last letter I wrote was an announcement of new stories I was excited to write about. Except, it’s already October and my draft is still blank.
I feel defeated not by the absence of the stories I thought I was supposed to have by now, but by my acceptance of its absence. No one talks about defeat when it’s just miniscule, a little inconvenience akin to having damp socks. No one talks about pain when it’s only empathetic. It’s not even your problem to begin with, some might say. No one talks about sadness especially when you’re functional.
I noticed a big shift in myself this year. I’m fully aware that it is in response to last year’s series of heart breaks: friends leaving, failed attempts to connect with people I genuinely liked, uncertainty of life amidst a global pandemic and political turmoil, and loneliness without actually being alone. Without even noticing, I suddenly found myself trapped inside my own walls and I can’t seem to get out of it.
I intentionally disappeared this year — disappear in a sense that I was just there, nothing more, nothing less. My existence this year was on autopilot. My friends tell me they miss me, even though I still see them once a month. I could say the same thing. I became passive, I became an observer.
I stopped reaching out to friends. I stopped attempting to build new friendships. I stopped maintaining the ones I still have. It’ll save me the pain of a goodbye, I told myself.
I also haven’t spoken to my closest friends back home. Two of them even moved here a few months ago but I found myself putting a distance between us. Another close friend is leaving in two days and yet, I’m nonchalant about it; I almost didn’t say goodbye. The thought of leaving Japan through a potential work opportunity didn’t excite me, and worse, the idea of moving and leaving people behind didn’t scare me.
I have gotten so used to people leaving that the idea doesn’t bother me anymore. I didn’t like myself when I was saying goodbye to those people. I hated that I couldn’t accept their departure. I was guilty of being angry at them. And then one day I wasn’t angry anymore. I was just ok with it. It’s a defense mechanism for when they eventually leave. This is an easy assumption.
On the surface, some could say that I have finally reached my inner peace, a sense of contentment and acceptance. I had thought the same until recently. At this point I’m not sure if it’s even victory or defeat anymore. I like to tell myself that I am content, but at what cost? I sometimes catch myself missing multiple versions of myself that I once knew. Photographer, theatre actor, a friend — I’m not one of those anymore.
The pain and discomfort made me colorful — quick disclaimer to not glorify self-destruction — I wrote plays and wrote stories about their departures. I channeled the emotions through theatre. I was a better friend when I knew I could lose them. I was kinder to myself. And then I was okay. And then I stopped creating stories.
That fire was snuffed out and with it, the colors it once illuminated with its flames. I don’t do those things anymore and I’m okay with it. It always feels strange when you try to comfort someone when they’re not necessarily in pain or when they’re without grief.
I could tell myself it will be okay, but how do I do that when being okay is the cause of my discomfort? This is not even a call for help, but I wish it was.
I do miss it, my old self. I was so much more colorful when I knew how to process grief and defeat. I had more life when I was writing letters to people who have broken my heart. Suddenly, I don’t have letters to write anymore.
When I started this letter, I had thought of addressing it to myself. I had imagined a resolution to my woes. And yet I have none. Even now, 744 words later, I still don’t know how to properly talk to myself.