Pain and suffering
Looking back at many of my old posts, it occurred to me that pain and suffering were common themes.
I’ve written about depression, anxiety and fear, bullying, and unemployment. At one point, I even thought I was cursed.
Somehow, I overcame these setbacks. Only for my world to fall apart when I got laid off.
During those low points in my life, I was scared. Resentful. Bitter. Hated myself and hated the world.
I was never suicidal. I think I was too coward to contemplate such a drastic move.
Nor did I seriously think of causing actual mayhem and violence.
Never went full nihilist, too.
In short, I managed to avoid succumbing to the darkness. What went right?
I never meant to fetishize my pain
I wrote about it a lot because writing is how I make sense of difficult and complicated things.
Of late, I’ve been thinking a lot about victimhood, as well as pain and suffering.
Lots of people talking about being victims these days. Some have actual grievances and trauma. Others identify with oppressed groups, emphasise their victim status, and compete in a victimhood Olympics.
That got me thinking about my victimhood. All the bad things that ever happened to me, and how I reacted to them.
“Don’t fall in love with your own suffering”
The full quote, uttered by Slavoj Zizek during a debate with Jordan Peterson about happiness, goes:
“Don’t fall in love with your own suffering. Never presume that your suffering is in itself a proof of your authenticity.”
My suffering has shaped me in many ways. It stamped the youthful naivete out of me. Made me more hardboiled, more cynical about some things. But I also grappled with depression, anxiety, and resentment. I had to struggle against falling too deep into the abyss, lest I can’t find myself ever again.
But, as I said, I don’t fetishize my suffering. In the sense that I don’t see my suffering as core to my authenticity or identity. For all that I have been through, I do not see myself as a victim.
I don’t want to be a victim. After the tears dry, after the resentment burns away, after all the harsh words have been said, after I wake up from trying to sleep the pain away…then what? I find that wallowing in victimhood for too long achieves nothing concrete.
There has to be a better way.
I want to be the hero of my story
I noticed that at the end of every post I’ve ever written about my pain and suffering, I always try to end on a hopeful note.
That hope represents a kind of existential courage.
I am the hero of my story. I overcame many kinds of setbacks and hardships, and grew stronger and wiser along the way.
What worked for me, over and over again, is my belief that that forward is the way to go. No matter what difficult situation I find myself in.
If the future is too overwhelming and frightening to think of, take things one day at a time. Revel in the present, appreciate the little things, and keep an open mind. Don’t be too proud to ask for support; there are people (even strangers) who care. Be kind in turn.
The important thing is to be on a forward moving trajectory. Head somewhere, anywhere. Being in motion sets off discovery, growth, and change. I find that if I keep moving long enough, eventually, I will chance upon some opportunities.
My suffering doesn’t define me. I can grow from my suffering. I know I will encounter more setbacks and hardships further down the road. But I believe that with courage, competence, honesty, and a good heart, I will be able to overcome them too.
At this point of my life, I am happy
Around this time last year, I was jobless and living under lockdown. My depression was back. The future seemed so uncertain and I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.
How far I’ve come since then.
I sit in my childhood room, decorated to my liking. Chill anime music plays from my laptop. A fitting song too: Get it by your hands (AtomH Remix), by Hiroshi Watanabe.
The night is cool and not too humid.
There are people who love me, and I love them in turn.
I have a job with opportunities for growth. I have hobbies that I take seriously. I’m healthy.
Some things could be better, of course. But I’m happy. Life is meaningful and that keeps me going.
I’m the hero of my story, and the call to adventure beckons me forward.