I struggle with freedom. I am a creature of routine - I like lists, and plans, and things set out in advance so I can settle everything down and hop through it all one little hoop at a time. And I like routine. I like the easy productivity that comes with it, when my free time is limited, and so rendered precious, and therefore lends itself to a neccessity of action.
Recently, I have had no set plan, no routine, and I have landed myself in some unpleasant places. Not drastically unpleasant, that is - no pits of despair or Sloughs of Despond for me. More like sitting in a field where the grass is just damp enough to soak through your trousers and leave you feeling faintly ignominious and a little bit sad as you glance at the bumblebees and butterflies who, all of a sudden, seem a little more judgemental in their existence than any pastel-coloured insect has any right to be.
If life is a series of wagons, I have fallen off a lot of them. I have neglected this blog, neglected work, friends, job-hunting - productivity in most senses of the word. Why? Because I either have too much free time, and therefore squander it all because it seems endless and I may tell myself that glorious lie "I'll do it later", or else because a lot of things happen to me at once and I become so busy that the very thought of trying to deal with anything else winds me up to the extent that I give myself an existential headache.
I am not here, however, to dwell on that. I have now recognised the problem, you see, and in my book that is the first step towar whacking it over the head with a mace and jumping on it until it stops being sastisfying. I know what I need to do to sort myself out and get my fragile facade of competence back on track.
The problem here is everyone else. Not what they're doing, but rather what they're not doing. And what they're not doing is having this problem.
Perhaps it is simply that I made the executive decision to go straight from school to university, ensconcing myself in the company of fellow scholars and dusty tomes rather than going out and ice climbing, skydiving, or digging wells in Africa like many of my fellow students have done.
I do not regret my decision - I like dusty tomes much better than I like dusty bottoms of wells in the midday sun - but sometimes, filing through my Facebook feed and seeing pictures of people I knew as fellow schoolgirls now doing all the things I was told were essential so far as affirming the usefulness and worthwhile nature of my existence at my age . . . I sometimes looked at myself, sat at my desk with my third packet of Minstrels open at my side, watching the rain snail down the window while I wondered whether or not I could be bothered to make myself lunch before looking for another Spotify playlist to motivate me through my next hour's revision of Freud, and wondered if anything I could do or be would, in the end, measure up.
Ah, "measure up", the phrase so often uttered as an instant segway to the wangst of your choice in every Not Another Coming Of Age Movie ever. Measure up to what? To expectations, most like, but whose? My parents'? My friends'? My peer group? Or simply what society tells me I should be doing and wanting at my age?
Why should I care?
Was it not bad enough that I already spurned most mainstream social occasions in favour of typing up a blog post at midnight while I waited for my neighbours to quiet down? Was I wasting my youth and vivacity by not doing anything and everything right now? Why was I not more involved in politics, in leadership, in adventure, in causes, in protests, in fun and love and laughter and group pictures that stare out at me from every social media outlet telling me that I am missing out?
Did I now have to stare down at my swiftly-cooling pot noodle and see in the chicken-flavoured dregs the ultimate futility of my existence simply because nobody else was struggling with that feeling too?
I speak, of course, only from inside the confines of my tiny little mind. In all likelihood, I am not the only one feeling this at all, and in all like likelihood I will be just fine, and muddle through one way or another at the end of it all.
Still ... it raises some interesting questions, doesn't it? Who's really judging me? And whose expectations am I judging myself against? Is it simply a matter of human envy playing upon the mind of a slightly insecure young adult, or something more?
Questions, questions, questions. But are any of them worth answering?
~ Charley R