Back into the Fray

A week back into working in the urban jungle that is London. Things feel different – I guess largely because I’m different.

One difficult thing that I’m still coming to grasp is my hunger to do everything. When I’m out backpacking in the beautiful landscapes of SE Asia, I miss the mammoth menu of things to do, see and eat in London and cities. When I’m here, I miss the wilderness, the anything-goes attitudes and the pushing limits and horizons. I want it all; it’s incredibly hard to reconcile. I think it’s the main reason that I’ve never been able to specialise and focus on one thing. Because to focus on one thing means sacrificing the breadth of your experiences. This has always never been an appealing trade-off for me historically.

Being back has led to some interesting questions being asked internally. Do I want a focus? Is that why life feels lacking? If so, what is it? What is important to me? Money – I don’t need much. Success – completely subjective. I’m good at what I do, but reaching the top doesn’t appeal to me – it’s too egoistic to me. Family – don’t really want for one. Relationship – I’ve never met a person who can quite keep up. So what should I seek? When I think through all that I’ve done, I want to create a life where I feel the most alive, at peace – that makes me the most happy.

I don’t subscribe to the mass-prescribed modern life template. Be educated, go to uni, get a good job, find a partner, settle down, buy a house, have a family – in varying order but nevertheless the same milestones. Once you blow the template out of the water, then what? You get to decide what you want to do. 80 years of life where everything you choose to do is accountable to your decisions. And that’s terrifying – too much for some people. I still have trouble grappling with it but it makes the most sense to me.

Question everything. Why do you do the things you do?

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Self Reflection

The future is so uncertain and at times frightening, I don’t know what I want to do, I don’t know who I’ll “end up with”, I don’t know where I want to settle down and be. These thoughts would’ve been overwhelming and so heavy in weight a year ago, but days of recent times it’s not had the same influence.

To the person who I was this time last year, I know you’re in immense pain. The last couple of months and the months following will be the hardest and most heart-crushing pain you will have ever gone through. You will learn some truths that goes against some fundamental principles you held dear, but you will grow from it. Don’t try and hold tightly on who you were because that Louisa is dead and gone, all you can do is look forward. The new you is not worse or better but just is. You will be pushed to the furthest edge of the mortal cliff, you will come back having gained a better idea of where the drop-off is and make peace with it. All of this will be a trial by fire which will give you a new skin of cold, hard steel when you finally emerge – a process that is slow and not a quick transformation by any means. Well done on being you Louisa, I’m proud that you are still here and have made the last year what you have. Shit happens all the time. People will do awful things intentional or unknowingly, but do them they will nonetheless and that’s not within your control. You are the master of only your own actions.

One thing that I did learn about myself in the last year was the existence of my anxiety which has always accompanied me and been an obstacle in many situations. Living in London did not help things, being in such a high pressure city where there’s little love for strangers on the street, where there is little time to get from A to B it feeds anxiety and sometimes it would make me feel and act small. The new skin of cold steel has been priceless in gaining clarity on when this affects me and helps me challenge why it is I should feel small (to which the answer is always “no real reason”). It’s a big but subtle change. The best way of explaining this is to liken it to how Evie changes in V for Vendetta after V tortures to “free” her from her fears. I suppose when you’ve stared into the eyes of something so dark, nothing feels as bad anymore.

My lowest point last year was being unable to answer what my motivation was in life, what I wanted to do, what direction I was to have. When I rationally thought it through, I rationally saw that there was no point to my life. My life (as with all other lives, it is not special) is an accumulation of moments, relationships and knowledge learnt. But without feeling a reason (and I still don’t, this is not something I think I can change), nothing I do matters. It got to the point where I saw logic in ending my life – although I have to stress that I was not suicidal. There is a distinction, albeit nuanced, between feeling like you need to end your life and seeing the logic in ending life. Being the latter, it also allows me to carry on to see what the alternative is, because what else am I going to do otherwise? As dark and possibly twisted this post is, I wanted to be brutally honest about how I felt, what I continue to feel. I am still alive and actually doing really well. I have a new job and a new house lined up, I’m about to go visit my boyfriend in the US. I don’t need help, and I’m currently not seeking help. I feel perfectly in control and at peace with who I am at this moment in time and what happened. The purpose of writing this was to point out that no one needs to be happy 100% of the time. That’s not human. Dark thoughts happens in all of us, but they need to be conversed with. Why are you feeling the way you feel? Don’t try and shirk from it – the most unhealthy thing here is denial.

The event that threw me into the existential blender of the past year was atrocious. It is heinous, despicable and should never have to happen to anyone. But having spoken to people who have had similar if not worst tales to tell, and having had time to process, I’m glad it happened. I am who I am today because of it and what I did after. How much I learnt is something that I’m fiercely proud of which no one can take away from me.

How Far I’ve Come

I’ve now been back in London for two days. It’s been interesting to see the lack of change in the city contrasted against the changes I see within myself. I feel a different person and it’s made much more obvious being back in a familiar environment. Part of the changes are due to the travelling I’ve been on – I wonder whether if these will be long term, but there are also changes which I can imagine are due to what happened last summer.

Looking back on the person I was, it seems a lot of the stresses and anxieties I had came from the expectations and how tightly I was gripping on life. I no longer have the tension I had before and that in itself feels so different.

I was not in a good place before I went away so it’s kind of comforting to hear my close friends say that I seem happy and better when I stayed with them. But the pain still sits there and still hurts, I don’t think it will ever disappear and I’ve accepted it. Moving on isn’t necessarily to reach a place where things no longer hurt. This last year has taught me that it’s about making peace with what happened, fully accepting that it changes you as a person and having the courage to take the next step without letting it hinder you. It’s been a long, difficult process but ultimately I wouldn’t be the person I am today without everything that’s in my past. I have no insight on who I would be had things panned out differently and there’s very little use in wishing for things to have turned out otherwise. I love myself enough to not waste any time dwelling on that.