Too Much To Chew

It’s been over a month since my last post. For that, I sincerely apologize. The truth is, there are a lot of reasons for this. I’ll try to be coherent in explaining everything and I’ll even try to find a way to put a positive spin on this as is the mission with all my blog posts.

This is a rather meta post, generally, since it’s about the blog. But it’s about myself and my state of mind as well.

I stopped posting mid-November. I figured I would just go back to once a week. Then I simply didn’t. My last post was on November 15, which was shortly after I had a big paper due, and around the time I had a lot of reading to do for at least one of my classes.

November 15 also coincides with my least-productive writing day for NaNoWriMo. I had a goal of updating my word count every day so I could get the 30-day badge. I realized that I didn’t have to do the full 1,667 words every day to get that, so I built up a bit of a cushion early on. By mid-November, I could go two full days without writing and still be on par to finish on time.

I wrote a whole twenty words that day.

As the month went on, there was more reading and more projects. I’m writing this on my only day off during finals week, the day after I turned in the paper I was stressing the most out about. Of course, it’s not the most stressful thing I have to do this week, but it was the hardest thing I had to do at home. For what it’s worth, I’m proud of the result.

But I apparently set out to challenge myself this semester and stretch my writing abilities. I say “apparently” because this wasn’t a conscious decision. And that apparent challenge was “how far can I push writing projects to the last minute and still get a decent grade?”

The results were: I can finish writing a paper the minute I need to leave for class and still get a B+.

To be honest, that’s not too shabby. But it’s nowhere near the 97% paper grade I got once last semester. Truth is, I’ve worked out a system that works for me. But last semester, I wrote papers at least the day before they were due, then fixed (or rewrote) them the next day. My papers were good enough that one of my professors recommended me for a job. Like, the chair of the English department messaged me to say a professor had put forth my name as a good writer and I should apply to this job ASAP. I was honored.

I received no such validation/ego-fluffing this semester. And that’s on me. One of my papers was even graded as “A-/B+” and I’m like, that’s not possible. (For the record, the actual number grade of 89.5% was a B+).

By the way, my system is as follows: Write a lot of bullshit and make it sound pretty. Or as one of my teachers emphasized, “Just make yourself sound smart and you’ll go far.” She’s the one that recommended me for the job, by the way, and she’s one of my favorite professors.

This next point ties in with both why I fell behind in school and on the blog: I’m lazy and easily-distracted.

Before the semester started, I disconnected my game system. This was a good decision, especially because my laptop sucks and struggles to play some pretty lightweight games. But when I started doing well, I rewarded myself by reconnecting the system. Can you guess how well that went?

I wasn’t as bad as I was before. Having the time away had helped a lot. I was no longer playing games and feeling nothing. I was actually enjoying them when I played this time.

But I used to be able to reward myself with games. Since that self-control ended, I began playing games first and doing important stuff second. And sometimes that would be too late. Instead of limiting my time playing games, I was limiting my time writing and working on things for school.

I’ve discovered that I do the least when I have the most to do, if that makes sense. It’s the pro of the procrastinator: Procrastinators are never bored because they always have something to do. But sometimes we’re putting things off because we imagine that if we ignore our problems long enough, they’ll just disappear. Hint: This almost never works. Almost.

I ended up feeling a lot of stress this semester. And don’t get me wrong, most of it’s my fault. The things I can control, I take full responsibility for. There are still some ongoing things I can’t control which are stressing me out, but those will be resolved one way or another.

Have you ever blacked out from stress? I have. It’s a very weird experience and not very different from waking up the next morning after a bender. I woke up trying to piece together the night before, but I hadn’t been drunk. The day before, I had driven to school feeling like I was having a panic attack. I was short of breath and my heart rate was higher than usual (Thank you, FitBit). I was also having a friend over that night, and I almost wanted to tell them not to come over because I didn’t want to worry them. But things calmed down.

However, I think I was just able to tune out everything that was out of my control for a little while to enjoy myself. But that might have taken a lot of energy I didn’t know I was employing. I’ve mentioned before that I think I’ve gone through manic depression, and it felt a little like that. More on that later.

As for reasons more relevant to this blog, I’m starting to feel a little like a fraud. I’m trying to figure out my own identity as a writer, as a person, as a personality. I want to be as honest as possible on my blog, because this is a very personal space for me which I share with people as hard-won lessons hit me in the head (sometimes literally) which I want to share with others. Also, having these abstract things written down makes them concrete. It might sound egotistical, but I sometimes re-read my own posts when I need some answers because, like many cheesy movies, the answers were inside me all along sometimes.

I started to feel like I can’t write about the things I want to write about. There are some topics I’ve wanted to go into that might be a little controversial that I’ve been too afraid to talk about. I’ve censored myself, despite most of my stories having fairly heavy language in them. So I was presenting myself as a fairly wholesome and self-aware guy but I’m nothing of the sort. To be honest, I think I’m kind of an asshole.

And with the amount I’ve sworn in this post, there’s already a tone shift in the blog. That might continue. A couple of my revelations were that my personal posts (the true stories, that is) tend to be the best and end up getting the most attention. My posts about writing barely get glanced at. Well, I wanted to talk about writing in November in response to NaNoWriMo, but I should have come up with a backup plan as well. All of my posts on writing get the least amount of attention overall, and I’ve generally enjoyed getting attention lately. My only conclusion is that other people write about writing better than I can, and I should stick with my own unique experiences.

Onto my last point: I might have gone crazy.

I’ll start this section off by pointing out that I’ve been generally happier lately. From an outside perspective, I should be feeling pretty crappy. In fact, 21-year-old me would be feeling pretty terrible right now because he didn’t know better and kind of sucked. But he’s dead now. I killed him and took his place. I’m wearing his skin, too, which is why I still look like I’m in my early-twenties.

But in keeping on brand with my self-awareness, I’ve realized this could be a false happiness or manic depression. I haven’t gotten to the point of punching a cinder-block wall that would scar me for years, nor have I cried on the floor thinking I should die until my dog came to cuddle me.

I’ve been worried that everything could suddenly collapse at any moment. But I’m also hopeful that this isn’t true. I’m at a bit of a paradox, here, because I remember after my last big breakup that I went through all the stages of grief and then ended up pretending to be happy. But after that period, a close friend looked back on it and told me I had gone crazy.

People like to say happiness is a choice. But I told the last person who told me this that that’s bullshit. (Sorry, Mom). Happiness is not a choice. When you are beyond happiness, there is no magic switch to be flipped. However, there is some wisdom in that statement, but it takes more than four words.

Happiness depends on your reaction. Huh, I guess that was only one more word. Let’s just chalk that up to my concision and be impressed with my writing abilities, shall we? Okay, no one else? Fine, I’ll just pat myself on the back.

Anyway, here is my personal motto: I can’t choose to be happy, but I can choose how to react. The things to which we react can be big or small. Sometimes the microtransgressions can build up, so I choose to react to those, otherwise I’ll agonize over how this or that is what I should have said to win a long-dead argument. Sometimes that means reacting in the moment, sometimes that means realizing it’s not important, and sometimes that means preparing my argument for the next time it comes up.

I might talk more about that at length in the future, but for now I’ll just say that I’m happy right now, but I’m worried I’m faking it. On the surface, anyone who knows my current situation and not the past tends to be pretty impressed with me. But to my closest friends, I’ve changed, and they know what has happened with me in my personal life—things I won’t talk about publicly right now—and I might seem like a different person.

However, I’m making the most of the moment, because even if I’m fake-happy, at least I’m some kind of happy, right? How’s that for a positive spin? Take it as you will, I’m happy right now.

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

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