I’ve been spending the last half hour watching my own vlogs. Sometimes I watch my vlogs back, or scroll through my own Instagram, or even read my old blog posts. Call it Gen Z narcism, call it being a Leo, but I wanted to shed light on being more honest and vulnerable online. I think i’ve always done my best with being honest to my small group of viewers. I don’t like to glamourise, and I think that’s pretty obvious from the fact that I don’t blur things out or cut out the embarrassing shots of me, like crying or pimple-creamed faces or mid-sneeze noses. But I’ve been watching these videos of me living in my house, back in the Netherlands, and I can’t help but feel the loneliness coming off of them.
In my comment section and DMs, I often get younger people coming up to me and asking me how I do it. How are you always so productive? How do you find the time to keep up with your hobbies? How are you doing it all? Whereas in reality, I always feel lazy, like I’m not doing enough, like I’m running out of time (write day and night…if you know, you know). It’s definitely this weird blend of being a Type A + Impostor Syndrome (yeah, I just Googled ‘impersonator syndrome’) that = a mess. My view of myself as a student and basically employee of this capitalist system is always very warped and I feel both like an overachiever and a failure at all times.
More importantly, I feel lonely. It’s important to talk about the impostor syndrome stuff, I feel like I talk about my weird relationship with being productive all the time. In high school, when I took the International Baccalaureate (will she ever shut up about this? No, call this mental health reparations), I threw myself into my work. I was underweight, my cheeks were sullen, I never dressed up for myself beyond a shirt and jeans and I was a new girl in a new town filled with gorgeous and rich Instagram models. I was insecure and had no real self-confidence. I loved myself, sure (to be clear, I still do). Sometimes I felt good, but then I doubted myself and a person is so subjective, so abstract that it was hard for me to ground my opinions about myself—or anyone, really. But who can say I wasn’t a good, hard-working student if I was studying 24/7? If I really did ate, breathed and slept school, who could invalidate me then?
That changed, thankfully. In University, I learned the value of going out, of having dinner with friends and spending the weekends having fun instead of doing homework. I learned that professors have lives to live too and these experiences were going to go by quicker than I’d ever think. I learned the value of people, of moments, of living. I moved past the worst of my impostor syndrome freshman year of college when I took mindfulness courses and opened up about my mental health to the people around me, but I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling of not fully knowing myself.
Sure, I’ve just started my 20s. Who knows themselves at this age? Who knows themselves at any age? But my god, did it get lonely. I had built a life of being in the moment and of honesty that it felt hard to admit when it was difficult to be alone. My friends and family were more than gracious, constantly checking up on me and asking me if I needed company, but I hadn’t even come clean to myself, so I certainly wasn’t able to share with others what I didn’t yet consciously know. Somewhere along the last moments of my second year, I moved to a house my parents bought for their retirement (and for the rest of the family). It’s in a small village; a beautiful place where young families and perfect newborn babies live. The house is beautiful, with a backyard and three comfy rooms for me to choose from. But it was huge for someone who was living in a 15 meter-square room for two years. Too huge.
Like the Virgo Moon I am, I did a great job; I decorated the space, made it mine, cooked what I wanted, blasted music when I felt like I needed it, hosted lunches and sleepovers for my friends, had cleaning days on the weekends, took bubble baths when I felt like spoiling myself, listened to podcasts when I felt low. I did all the things I was supposed to do. And I loved it. I love having my own space. I love the quiet and the freedom.
But sometimes the quiet gets deafening, and when it’s bad, it gets real bad. Like, I have to make sure I’m on the phone with people at all times, or I start binge watching people’s vlogs on YouTube just so the house can feel full with human noise. Even now, it’s hard to admit these things because I’m quarantined with my family of five loud people (including the voice in my head) in a little apartment and sometimes I think, “I wouldn’t have to read while listening to the sound of my siblings slurping cereal if I was at home alone.” But come to think of it, I would probably start to lose myself if I had to be quarantined alone at home, paranoid and just hoping for someone else to start a conversation with me.
This isn’t a sob-story post, just so you know. Or rather, just so I know. It’s half an admittance, and half an act of honouring my feelings. I’m trying to learn how to do that more often. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written posts like these, only to draft them or delete them altogether, lest I felt like an oversharer. But I can’t imagine what others must go through, going abroad or living alone for the first time, confused and lost and just friggen’ tired of making their third bowl of pasta that week, but too afraid to try anything else. Smiling at their family on video call when they ask because it costs so much just to be breathing in this country. Awkward and stiff in a dorm with strangers, crying from the sheer frustration of not being able to do the laundry in peace. Or worse, living in a mess that isn’t caused by you but they’re not family so you have to figure out how to live with it. Learning how to be a good student, even at university, is a hard thing to do. It’s mentally draining for some. So, consider this a solidarity post.
I know that my loneliness is rooted in my need to grow up, to learn how to love myself enough to be okay with the radio silence - the same thing we’re supposed to do in meditation, right? To know myself enough to be the only reassurance I need, to feel whole enough that I don’t feel the need to fill my space with other people’s energies..but that’s a lifelong journey, and that stuff is not easy, no matter how much we oversimplify it with our “move in day!” vlogs and dorm Insta-stories.
So, next time you’re being a little harsh about this whole adulting thing, ask yourself if you can be kinder. Chances are, you should definitely be kinder to yourself.
When I think of 2017, blurry organised chaos filled with emotions comes to my mind. Anyone can tell you that trying to find a theme amongst this chaos is just as meaningless as life itself, but if not for the human condition, then why not at least try?
My cheesy self would choose ‘introspection’ as one of the biggest themes of 2017. Despite my dissociation clouding how I perceive memories, I can pick out major events in the past year where I sat down with myself and thought hard about what I wanted and needed. Of course knowing what you need and actually doing it are quite different, but I was finally able to close the gap between the two. In terms of The Self, 2017 was a great year. All the energy, time, and thought I put into me has caused Me to be a priority.
Of course, logic says that everything needs to be balanced and I can say I lacked it quite a bit last year. The high school-themed nightmares slowly became university-themed and now I dream of meeting my friends that I haven’t talked to in a while. It’s hard for me to admit this (partially because this will be shown on the internet for the whole world to see, but also because I’m way more prideful than I’d like to say), but spending so much time on myself has lead me to become somewhat lonely. Of course, I can’t entirely blame it on myself. I moved halfway through high school and now I’ve moved to another country for university. I also need to be more gentle with myself (a resolution for 2018, if you will), and to cut myself some slack since I made so many new friends in my first semester of uni.
There’s also no point in being caught-up in it. I’ve wasted so much time micro-analysing and criticising myself for every small mistake. Life’s too short!!!!!!! Time is a human construct but it’s a new year, I have been reborn, and I will preserver with more knowledge and wisdom than ever (wow I can not get any cheesier).
I’m not really in to listing all of my resolutions, but I like to speak things into existence, plant the seed, and see the harvest (shoutout to you if you know where that’s from).
Which is why, 2018 is going to be the year where I become more open. I will reach out to people, and give them an actual chance before judging them and overthink myself an exit from the not-yet-existent relationship. I will make an effort to ask people about how they're doing, how their days are going. I will call people more. I will make more plans to hang out with people and actually follow through.
I will become more open to art, both in terms of creating and discovering. I will let myself be surrounded by new content all the time. I will not scare myself into not making art before I even start (a very bad habit of mine). Who cares if it turns out bad? Who cares if it's mediocre? Who cares if it's good? Post it. Share it. Tell people about it. Read it aloud. Sing it aloud.
I will be softer, to people and myself. I will allow myself to make mistakes and to continuously try to better myself. I always get super productive in the beginning of the year and kind of wither into a disorganised mess towards the end, but who's to say it can't be mental spring all year round, right?
It's never good to be stagnant. We're allowed to constantly reinvent ourselves. I think I have an innate worry that I do not completely know 'myself' and what that means. But like a painting, or a song, or even a book, I wasn't born 'me'. My identity is an ever-changing, ever-evolving thing and that should not terrify me as much as it does. I am not 'me', I am becoming me. Prepare yourself for another cringe-worthy quote: life is the story/process/adventure of becoming yourself and that has its own beauty when you think about it (or romanticise/glorify like I do, but hey, it works).
So, here's to 2018! May we continuously better ourselves, each other, and Mother Earth.
P.s. 2018 is also gonna’ be the year where we uplift each other. So, if you didn’t know, this is where that harvest quote is from:
You’re welcome. Now you know. Therefore, you deserve a shoutout. This is me shouting you out, you great reader, you. Boom.
© Selena Soemakno. All rights served unless stated otherwise.