Personal

As reconciliation

Three weeks since graduation. To account for this in-between space is to list down those dull, routinary procedures I can count in a single hand: eat, sleep, look through mildly entertaining content online, read a few books, make the occasional errand for a grown-up requirement. I always picture this kind of time in my life—dipping in and out of it—as an in-between, which comes right after the end of an identifiable period (university education) and before the start of necessary work (a real, tedious, money-making however little, nine-to-five job). This was how I often felt about the summer, for instance: I wanted it to be over right away, so that certain actions clarified their sense of meaning or purpose if they happened in a real place. All that thinking. But I tend not to do well in circumstances where I am not doing anything for too long—other people have told me to rest first, but avoiding the lure of the concepts around emptiness sometimes is reason enough.

Optional: attempt writing again—surely, this time, the results will be different—then quit it. For nearly a month now I’ve been stuck with the same first sentence for an essay which I’ve been meaning to write, and it seems impossible to follow. I think I keep confusing not yet finding the words with not wanting to write anymore. I suppose all writers think this, but I don’t think I’ve ever really been convinced by the idea that writing is, as most people put it, my chosen passion. That inasmuch as I should laugh at myself for being unbearably cynical, dissatisfied with everything, the idea was simply to better learn. I’m uncertain if it ever really was about the practice, when I shifted to creative writing, as opposed to the intellectual stimulation, and much of my own work is in fact about how I try to justify my vague commitment to writing.

To tie up certain contradictions: for instance, am I to reconcile something so close to self-hatred—in its moments—with proceeding with self-explanation; or my insistence on privacy in all aspects with the respite of its public showing; or the preference to tell with the demand of myself never to fall into that trick again. Everyday, I feel I keep entering into the same excruciating reconciliation with writing—writerly subjectivity (a term which I may have now developed a secret hatred for), like a consciousness I can’t give up, or which I have yet to give up on.

And it’s not as simple to me as just deciding to write about something else, as I had more than once been advised. Without a deadline now, I can’t convince myself that I’m just tired. Rather it is like asking myself, if I speak frankly, how worthwhile it is to keep looking in a mirror.

It may be easy to dramatize this, and, as I am reading Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being now, I am reminded of that statement in the middle of the book: when things go wrong, we tend to use and talk in metaphors of heaviness. The cross that we bear, the pressure of history, the weight of suffering that we have no further strength to carry. But Sabina, the mistress of the character Tomas, despaired from lightness, not heaviness. Considering how Kundera used it, I think the problem of lightness is here inter-translatable with the problem of emptiness. Perhaps someone failed to warn me of it.

I recently encountered a beautiful story by Lydia Davis, from her most recent collection of (very short) short stories Can’t and Won’t, entitled “Writing,” and I couldn’t help be attracted to the phrase: “quit writing and learn to manage.” So don’t be like the people who are just living in their heads—with all their concentration, often only to one side. At the potential point where it would, in fact, be more comforting to be finished with engaging in subterfuge and contradiction (self-machinations), I want to tell myself: quit writing. Become a real person.

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