‘You’re 17 going on 70, you know that, right?’ the “edgy”, older guy at high school had told me after we’d had a two-hour discussion about life and where we want to be after uni.
At the time, I’d taken it as the biggest compliment ever. It meant that he saw me as someone who’s “deep” and mature enough to understand issues beyond my years.
To this day, I constantly get told I’m “mature for my age” by anyone new I meet. It’s been imprinted in my DNA that I’m the furthest thing from childish or immature. I’m capable of empathising and understanding issues that I couldn’t have experienced in my years – not yet anyway. I’m never out of my depth, so to speak.
The only problem with this though is that, like a 70 year old, I can get really set in my ways. I often tend to be a stubborn know-it-all. So when I mess up and act my age – or a little less mature than 25 – I get destructively self-loathing.
Which is why I had decided to, in essence, silence myself earlier this month by deactivating my Instagram account and disappearing from the online realm.
Just like basically everyone in the entire world, I’ve been going through a pretty tough time recently. The layers of bad vibes had been building up for a few months, with the base layer being the constant Covid-19 anxiety, followed by the loneliness and isolation, then the BLM anger and hopelessness, a sh*t load of personal issues, and to top it off, Egypt’s blood-curdling #MeToo moment. I was starting to feel like Rachel’s Thanksgiving trifle.
As much as I tried to bury my sadness and anger deep down, they always seemed to bubble over at the silliest triggers. I became a walking paradox: the most cheerful person in the (living) room, yet the most volatile. I’m emotional on a good day, but when I’m going through a bad time, everything I feel comes out in a tornado of unfiltered reactions. Just ask my family.
Most of the issues making me sleepless with rage weren’t even things I had experienced personally. I was over-empathising to the point where I had taken on the world’s trauma and internalised it.
And while I was happy to blame everyone for my unhappiness for a while, I quickly figured out that, as destructive and horrific as my tornado had been for me, it had also been rocking everyone around me’s boats. In my attempt to fix everything that was going on with me (and with the entire world) I’d accidentally destroyed a few things too.
This realisation broke me. I felt so ashamed and disgusted with myself. There I was, being an ally to every global movement while causing trauma to those closest to me. Suddenly, my anger at everything from capitalism to the patriarchy turned around and redirected towards… me.
And trust me, that’s a lot of anger.
So I’ve spent the past 3 weeks off Instagram, looking inwards rather than at my phone screen. And I discovered that by focusing on world problems, I was letting my inner emotions rot. I’d been using everything around me as a distraction from what was going on inside my own mind and heart.
This isn’t a post on how I suddenly discovered yoga and meditation and turned my life around. In all honesty, there is no conclusion here. I’m still angry at myself. I’m still disappointed at my lapse in judgement and at how, despite thinking I knew everything there was to know about myself, I was completely wrong. I have so much more to learn. The truth is, I just hadn’t messed up in a while, and that had led me to believe that I’d figured it all out for good.
I’ve started writing journal entries first thing in the morning; I guess you could call them letters to myself. While I’m still very angry with her, I’m trying to understand her, too. I’m trying to learn forgiveness.