It's been a while, hasn’t it? I remember how much I used to fear the feeling of endlessly talking into a void. Incessant yapping. Empty and dark. Not even an echo. The thought kind of makes me chuckle now ‘cause isn’t it so funny how everything is so straightforward? Our hyper-aware, overthinking brains get so complicated but surprise, surprise; the solution to the void I feared was by filling it with me. I’ve moved beyond the thought of “oh, perhaps one day someone might come across my website!” and have grown comfortable with the thought, “I’ve made this website for me to look back on, to like, to dislike, to criticize, to edit, and to create!” I’ve begun to create for myself, and that’s essentially what I’m here to talk some more about.
I’m about a semester away from graduating and getting my Master’s, which will hopefully be the last diploma in a while. The idea of leaving school is great…it’s wonderful, even. But that means I’m about a semester away from figuring out what I want to do with “the rest of my life.” The rest of my life is, in retrospect, a bit of a far stretch. But when I’ve only ever known school and school and school, the prospect of looking at my own career outside of academia suddenly seemed very real—like, gaping canyon real. Empty, dark void real.
So, I started in a place I knew best; YouTube. Upon watching Damon Dominic’s video on self-help books, I thought, why not try it out? I’ve always been into self-improvement, and although YouTube is a great place to learn, my track record says I learn so much more when I’m immersed in a book. By chance, the only book on his list that I could find for free was The Art of Nonconformity by Chris Guillebeau. I’m still making my way through it as I write. The book is meant to be a light-hearted approach to the big life questions (what is my true purpose? What am I meant to do with my life? What kind of impact could I leave on the world?) And yet, despite the approachable stories and language, it is still a heavy world to step into. There is, of course, the underpinning annoyance with the fact that most of these self-help books are often told in a very masculine and privileged voice, but that’s a huge story for another time. Regardless, it’s heavy ‘cause it meant I was making a promise to step into a realm I had never really fully been to before, at least not like this.
On top of reading, I am also heavily driven by spirituality. Since I had been doing my shadow work, my spirituality has taken the front seat, which hasn’t always been the case. I used to make decisions based on my pragmatic (overthinking) brain and adjust based on intuition later, once discomfort starts trickling in through conflict, tension, and ominous dreams. But my recent tarot readings had all been loud and clear, providing a unified message; I need to let my spirituality lead my decisions because I am at the turn of a new chapter. And it makes absolute sense once you think it through rationally. As I finally leave school, I can no longer remain on autopilot and rely on dreams and aspirations I had built in the midst of puberty and the convoluted process called growing up. I had goals and manifestations before this whole thing started, but I had never actually sat down with myself and fully confronted why I’ve wanted the things I’ve told myself I wanted for so long. Essentially, my brain was on sleepwalking mode, filled with fog that I and others have put in there, so I was going to have to trust a different sense this time around.
It surprised me that most of the things I wanted were merely vague outlines of culminated internalised indoctrinations and expectations of others. When was the last time you did something for yourself, without the advice from or company of others? When was the last time you bought or did something because you simply wanted to, not because it’s a good investment for the future? When was the last time you actually asked yourself what you want to do with the rest of your life, instead of listening to what others tell you you should do? When was the last time you did something just for the sake of doing it, and not to get “better” at something?
I knew that so many of what I thought I wanted were actually just automated responses to fears people instilled in me. I think at my core, I am a creative, a community-helper, a healer, and learner. I want to make art, I want to write, I want to become connected to the people in my communities, I want to travel and learn about other people’s ways of connecting and creating, and I want to grow and reflect for the rest of my life. Yet, when it came to manifesting my “dream life,” I was playing a game of chicken with myself, running around in circles. I would start to get obsessed with numbers, manifesting a certain amount of following so I could get the audience and community I wanted. I started manifesting awards and acknowledgements within the artistic and creative fields I was interested in. But who is it all for? If it is for the “fame” and “fortune” that society tells you to want, I was on the right track. For me? There was not an ounce of me in my manifestations. I was manifesting based on the fears that had been instilled me; not having enough money, not being successful enough to live a comfortable life, not being recognised enough to have my ego satisfied, etc etc etc. Once I locked myself in my room for the whole weekend and wrote everything down with pen and paper, I realised I didn’t want any of the things I had been manifesting at all. In fact, when I am musing outside of societal fear, I actually don’t want many material things at all. Also, not that material things are bad things either. If you want a million dollar mansion then manifest and work towards it! It just wasn’t what I wanted. So why was I manifesting and working towards it?
Then I watched the Social Dilemma on Netflix. Yep, this is where it all goes down hill. I knew it gave everyone an existential crisis, but I doubted this millennial obsession with being “unplugged.” I considered myself to be a curatorial online consummer. I had followed the “rules,” so to speak. I only followed people who inspired me, empowered me, motivated me, and allowed me to learn the knowledge I wasn’t getting in my syllabi. I followed artists, activists, teachers, healers, psychologists, and friends and family that I actually care about. I barely spent over an hour on Instagram everyday. And yet, when I deleted Instagram for the first time, I felt like a piece of my life was retreating back to me. I suddenly felt a little less stress about not having enough time in the day to do my thesis. I felt like I was falling asleep when I was telling myself to fall asleep. I gravitated towards books more often than my phone. And even then, with the little dependency I thought I had, I was still fighting this urge to scratch an itch beneath the skin. Every time I saw a pretty sunset I instantly wanted to put it on my story. I took a nice selfie and immediately started editing the colours of the photo for a post. I worried that one of my friends had been waiting on a DM to be answered while I was away. I began growing nervous about not keeping up to date with recent political events. At some point, I even thought, “well what’s gonna’ happen if I decide that I want to make money off of Instagram?” when I had literally no intention of being an Instagram influencer. Clearly, I was a little more dependent than I thought. And I redownloaded Instagram…like five times. And then I deleted it again. I even noticed that once I deleted Instagram, I started getting lost in other apps just for the sake of scrolling, just as The Social Dilemma had predicted. Suddenly I was back on Tumblr for an hour straight as if I was fourteen again, or I would watch TikToks until over midnight, which I hadn’t done in almost a year. It was grim. At some point, I was refreshing my emails every hour just to find something to do on my phone. Who does that?! It’s no wonder so many of us are sleepwalking, there’s too much noise!
The last straw was watching a video on this guy who deleted social media for a month and began to explore nostalgia through traveling across Portugal without wi-fi and capturing the moments through an analog camera. I had never watched a single video from his channel, but it popped up in my recommended page and it brought me a feeling I hadn’t felt in a very long time. The video instantly brought me back to summer and winter holidays in my oma’s home in Bali while I was growing up. Spending months in a house without internet or a working laptop other than the old PC set up in her office, dedicating a whole week to sitting on the patio with a really thick fantasy book, and only having access to an old Blackberry and a nice polaroid camera to capture my moments with. The guy said something about how, due to technology and the information overload it has caused, we no longer have the space to remember. Because we have so much space to capture things with our phones and social media, our memories are fleeting. They are encapsulated in a few seconds and a few thousand pictures we never filter through anymore. But when we don’t have the ability to capture that many moments at once, it forces us to stay in the moment so that we can engrave it in our minds. His theory is true to my experience with my vacations in Bali. I don’t have many pictures other than the ones my mother took on the family digital camera, but I vividly remember the sound of the birds flying around my grandmother’s home at two in the afternoon, I remember the feeling of hot sand under my feet with the sun throbbing on my shoulders, I remember the smell of sunscreen and chlorinated pool and grilled fish near the ocean. I can conjure these memories and they come to me so quickly and deeply, I’m always a little disoriented when I come back to my present surroundings.
So…what does this have to do with confronting my current self? Intentional living. That’s what’s securing me on my path towards my Higher Self. Kloee Taylor, one of my favourite spiritualists on YouTube talks about how you are always on your path. Even if you somehow find yourself driving down a different road, you were meant to go through it so you can get back on the road you need to be on. Thus, you never actually go “off” your path. Despite some insecurities back in high school, social media has done immense things for me, my growth, and my learning. It had always been a part of my path, and it did great things for it. But now, I’m deleting all of my social media apps not to “focus on being more productive,” I do it so that I can have as much space in my mind to do the things I actually want to do with my life; figuring it out, being reflective, creating, trying, failing, and doing those things with mindful intention to ensure that I am making the most of every single day I get. It’s fine if I re-download the apps six hundred times, but now I have the awareness and sensitivity towards knowing when they’re taking way more space in my brain than I can afford. And it’s also not revolutionary. Growing up traveling, I spent so many months away from my own country, without a local number to get constant wi-fi with. I know this deep reflection and being present on a day to day basis. I do it almost every year. I think it’s also probably why traveling with my family while growing up was always extra magical. So what’s a little more intentional living everyday?
In conclusion, I leave you with these questions: