I want to stop pretending so badly.
“Nobody dies a virgin… In the end, life fucks us all – Kurt Cobain.”
Creativity can be blissful and so it can bring people to complete madness. Arts are obsessional and obsessions can be dangerous. To my shame, most of these days I just stare at a blank white page on the computer screen. I know in my heart I love writing. The only problem, when I start I cannot finish one line. Seems like a paradox, I just wrote six lines. Alright, five lines. There are days like today when it just simply becomes unbearable. An undeniable self-doubt that makes me wonder, at what point did I ran out of stories to tell?
I’m not a superhero, I’m not some heart throbbing detective, crime fighter or a cunning lawyer, and I’m not even a witty politician. My apologies on that one, politicians aren’t witty. Most days, I am nobody. So I guess my story is kind of boring. After all, no one is saying, “Aabraa Cadbraa, Hokus Pokus.”
Now this is one line I repeat, more than I would like, to myself every day, “I don’t have to be a superhero or part of some great conspiracy or maybe a suspect in a murder case for my story to matter,” but in this world of digital freedom you do wonder at times whether you are really relevant. Whether you’re just a speckle of dust in an otherwise a great sand storm or an unknown face in a crowd, an identity that matters only to few. The only constant that I know is the fact that we are all irrelevant, the one truth I feel that makes everything inconsequential. So, am I really worthy?
It was just another one of those dull months, October 2015. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning and the house was quiet except for some dogs barking out in the street. I did a little bit of waving my hands and foots here and there, what we call workouts, for almost thirty minutes. Through it all, the only constant thought in my head was a simple line, repeating itself over and over again, how much I hate Mondays.
Mondays. Oh, hateful Mondays.
Depression is one of the most misunderstood psychological disorder. So many assume. So little know. My brain is all scarred. My psych all torn. No day makes me realize it more than Monday. All I want to do is scream, scream till my lungs give out and then maybe the pain from that will numb everything else and maybe, just maybe I’ll feel something, something other than the blade I feel in my heart. The feeling when you’re not really sad but you just feel emptiness. Each day I die a little more. It gets agonizing to the point where the only question that storms in my mind is what the fucking point of everything is. Every day ends up being unbearably repetitive. Kill. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. So many times, I just want to give up. Even on my best days, I don’t feel any better than my usual nervous wreckage. It’ll sound absurd but the only time I feel happy is when I’m angry. Go figure.
I guess when you have been doing something similar for almost four years and yet every day when you wake up, the first chain of thought in your head is nothing but despising your work, it a sign that you need to change your line of work. Well, that is the way I have been feeling for almost six months now, but I guess I don’t have the strength to start it all over again. Isn’t that how we all humans feel? We just want to stay in our own safe haven and never do anything which could give us any degree of uncomfortability.
Anyhow, I went through the same routine which I go every day, a black coffee, savoring the overly subtle smell of burnt cocoa, picking up the newspaper on my way to train station, arguing with the taxi driver for not taking the short way while we are stuck in an overcrowded road. Life’s just the same.
Routine. Kill. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
What makes a great parent? You ask hundred different souls that very same question and I bet you, you won’t find the same statement from two of them. We all believe in different ideas, different beliefs and that what makes us who we are. We all have our own identity.
My parents taught me everything that I know about being a human being, about being right, about being fair. The reason I don’t look at anyone with the same pair of glasses that everyone else does. I don’t see a boy who’s polishing someone’s shoes at the bus stop and I think, “Well his father’s a scheduled caste person and maybe they deserve to be nothing more than cobblers.” I look at that boy and all I see is the unfair treatment our society does on underprivileged children. I wonder why he doesn’t go to a government school, why does he not get a chance to make a better life from the one he knows currently. Why does he not get to see something better than pairs after pairs of shoes covered with dirt?
No sane man wants to be a part of Delhi but I love its chaos, its relentless need to move. Though, I particularly do not enjoy the stench of urine on every hundred meters. The stench of urine on this one kilometer of a stretch, from taxi stand to metro, is so overwhelming that sometimes I just simply wish to poke my nose to numb down the smell. As I was just reaching the metro, a dog was barking with all his might on a rag picker. Why do dogs bark at rag pickers? Does it make them feel important, the way we shout when we want to make our point?
Delhi Metro’s train rides aren’t a lovely affair either anymore, people pushing into each other, kids laughing, crying, and unnecessary congestion. Just increase the frequency of trains, you idiots. Today especially, few gentlemen, well not gentlemen by the way they were going, were arguing and yelling at each other over some stupid issue I had no interest in knowing. So, I just hoped to ride through this one hour of hell and reach my little cabin of solitude, put my bag there and take few calming breaths before I start the day’s routine.
So, do you ever feel like that there was more to your life than the reality you are living now? Yes, I’m talking to you again, my silent friend. Did you? Do you ever look yourself in the mirror and wonder if the person staring back at you is really you? I do. And all I ever see is a stranger looking back at me. Somewhere along the line, we all forget what we wanted out of life. What if I had a higher calling? I like the sound of that, “higher calling.” The person who stares back at us isn’t what any of us expected to see. When I was young I had such vivid expectations from life but that was childhood, or so everyone says. So where do we lose the sight of the road and become something else? The answer might be very complicated or it just might be plain simple.
We all put masks on our faces every day we wake up. A mask which our loved ones will like, a mask which would be more acceptable with the society, a mask which will make us more likable by our peers or it could be more complicated than that. I believe that when we come to the very root of it, it’s always to be liked, admired or loved. I think you get the idea.
Every day I wake up and I think is this how I really envisioned my life. Waking up at 4:30 in the morning, exercising to keep a healthy build, have a black coffee to keep me awake and taking the train to go to the same old dead end job I always go to. The answer is no. I had great hopes and I always felt like we were destined to do great things. I was meant to be someone special. But isn’t that how we all feel.
Well, my office is on the tenth floor of a relatively new looking building in an area filled with buildings which are in different stages of aging and feel like they will fall today or maybe tomorrow. You might notice that I don’t give any details to what I do for a job, where exactly is my office. Well, it’s because none of it matters anymore. This is my story and how I started something new.
So, I wanted to be a writer and sadly I realized it just a little late. Late in the sense, I was already way forward in my career, you know, let’s just call it senior level douche at Doodle Inc., shall we? Don’t get any ideas about me, alright, I’m no douche. At least not in any sense of the word. So, I wanted to be a writer, realized it a little late, damn, what should I do? Well, I did exactly what a normal everyday Tom, Dick, and Harry does. Or in India’s case, every Ram, Shyam, and Ghanshyam does. No suspense alright. I did nothing.
So, few more months passed by, I started feeling suffocated at Doodle Inc. so, finally I tried to type something worth saying, but I guess that was my first mistake. You see, we as human beings are very insecure creatures. We all think we are bound for greatness, we were meant to be the next big thing. Long story short, I chickened out, I got scared, became too judgmental and couldn’t type even two articulate lines which can pass my first round of judgment.
I tried another stupid thing, or at least I thought it was stupid, I started writing my daily accounts. What happened when I woke up, what happened in the metro, what thought came in my find when I was taking stairs to my office, what happened when I came back home. Every nook and cranny, every little detail.
But before all this, there were countless efforts at writing short paragraphs to make coherent and articulate stories and every single one of those times, I just couldn’t muster up the energy to finish any one of them. The reason was very simple and core to human nature. Insecurity. Judgement. Our need for perfection. Every time I tried, the only thing stopping me from finishing the story was me, no one else. No one was sitting behind me, continuously criticizing, judging every word that I wrote or typed. My own need for writing was my writer’s block. What do I mean? I’ll elaborate just a little more. Yes, yes I know, I have just been babbling about that for almost a page now. But that’s the cost of spontaneity.
So, as I was saying, way before I started, I become judgmental of my own work. The reason was again very human in nature. Pride, I guess, maybe. I was worried that if anyone read any of the material I wrote, they’ll think little of me. See, I was very good at my job at Doodle Inc. I wasn’t senior level douchebag for nothing and with that came pride. The deadliest sin.
Before even starting, I kept losing the battle, over and over again. But my dear friend, that’s when I learned, every day is just a battle in the grand war we call life. And I want to win the war, even if it means falling on the ground day in, day out.
I was good in school and I was always liked by the teachers. Books always made more sense than people. I was what you would call an all-rounder, good in books and good on the field. But looking back, I ponder isn’t the reason behind all that was to be liked by everyone. By freaks and geeks. I’m good at a lot of things but one thing I’m not good at is understanding people conscience, their morality.
The whole reason for my existence is to be loved by everyone else and yet I struggle with people. I’m uncomfortable at a social gathering, doesn’t mean I’m not good at them, I just don’t understand the point of them. Hell, I don’t even understand social media. Yet I want to be liked by everyone else. It’s a confusing loop if you ask me.
I still remember the first time I kissed Sam. The sad part is I remember because it wasn’t good enough. At least not as good as I had hoped. In that moment, when we were standing in the library, our hands shaking, our breaths ragged, her arms glistening with little perspiration. I was afraid, in that moment, whether I’ll be good enough. This kind hearted soul trusted me enough and was going to let me kiss her. Would I be good enough? The fear of being good steals away the pleasure of the moment. I missed the thrill of my first kiss because I wanted it to be good enough.
Sam was beautiful, a girl who was ahead of her time, a girl who knew who she really was and what she really wanted out of her life. We just know. She really knew. She was beyond everything. A girl who lived only for herself, who flew with her wings soaring high. Sam could have been much more but I never really let her be or saw her as more.
The things we are willing to do just so that it makes us feel good about us for five minutes.
We all hope that the person standing in front of us can read our thoughts, that they can understand everything word we want to say without us even saying it. We hope so because we all are afraid to admit to our flaws, we all are scared that the raw truth of our identity will push them away.
The fear of being accepted by our peers is the worst kind of fear you can imagine. You don’t feel the same fear for death. Death comes and takes you in one moment, but the fear of existing kills you moment by moment. And how do we exist? In a society, surrounded by peers, people we call our family and friends. The people we take coffee breaks with, the friends that soothe our pain in time of hardship, the employer who pays our bills. It’s the fear of being good enough in the eyes of other that deviate us from the path we always hoped we would take.
I knew a lot of people, good people who had a family, had some money, a house or whatever they wanted and still didn’t looked like they had it all figured out. Sure they looked happy on the surface but were they really content? I cannot say for sure, but it never looked that way. They looked sad, behind a mask of a fake smile. I notice things. That is what I’m good at. I can notice a fake smile without any effort. A mask laid on concepts of the way we all have to talk and fit in. I tried it too, a mask of a fake smile. Sometimes we can be a hypocrite without even knowing it. I got a job that paid well, had a girl I could call mine and four walls I could call home. And yet I always felt empty, incomplete and unhappy. I don’t know anymore what happy means.
The circle of people who seemed important to me was all on lines of stereotypes. The geek, the overconfident jerk, the bubbly girl, the idiot and I needed to figure out where I would fit. The concept of a social circle – the biggest cliché there is. I became someone I never really wanted to be. I became dry, laughed at jokes and became competitive, but always unhappy. All the effort and energy for something which never really made me happy. Tears of a clown, right?
I did cry, well not with the tears, and I was disgusted with what I’d become. I was angry with myself, angry at breaking the promise I made to my ten-year-old self. I was lost, stuck in my life. So I did what everyone does these days. I googled. Get it out, laugh aloud. I googled, how to make sense of your life.
Embracing the life you have is the answer almost every self-proclaimed self-guru tells. But when I was a child, I used to sketch, doodle all day on a piece of paper. That life I could embrace. Or maybe when I used to spend my entire day lost in my books, those days I can embrace too. Sitting on a table, working ten hours a day isn’t a life worth embracing. Going on a coffee break just to get rid of the boredom I feel from working isn’t a life worth embracing.
When we were all young children, life was so beautiful, we all lived in our fantasy world. Or maybe it was just me. I don’t know. I had my fantasy world, one which I had filled with so many vivid imaginations. The world I tried putting down on paper with some color pencil. You know, everything goofy little geeks do. And then, for some reason, I stopped and I don’t remember why. Again, maybe because I wanted everyone to like me and a ten-year old always living in his world of color pencils and a piece of paper, talking to himself just wasn’t gonna cut it. We all lose touch with what we wanted or loved as a child.
I know the whole ordeal of making sense of your life seems like a losing battle and I felt the same way. Well, it doesn’t stop religious fanatics from trying. But I don’t have the stamina for it. It was so depressing that once I thought the only way out of it was to kill myself. But I couldn’t just go running around telling my wife about that. So I tried telling her how confused I was with everything in some sort of informal way. We do strange things for the people we love. We lie to them, we lie for them. There may be some bumps along the way, but we never stop wanting the best for them. That’s what makes it such a tough job but kind of the best job in the world. She was a good listener and seemed sympathetic in a slightly distant way. I knew what my problem was but how do you just go on about telling your wife you are depressed. She is bound to take it personally. I had almost made my mind but I needed to see if there were any alternatives.
The next thing I knew, I saw a therapist. I was reluctant at first, but my common sense prevailed. Dying isn’t the best answer. My therapist was somewhat fifty years old man, little patches of gray hairs, sunken eyes, a bald spot and scruffy facial hairs, all in shades of withering gray or white. He was a very good listener but I guess that’s where his ability ended. He seemed always a bit distant to me, maybe he had seen too many whining self-absorbent puppies like me. Whatever the reason, on some deep level, I felt like he knew he couldn’t help me. There wasn’t anything about me he could see which I hadn’t seen and felt myself. And I guess he was good enough for the people who had no clue what their real problems were or maybe idiots who were totally out of touch with the truth about themselves.
I really needed help and it was difficult opening with someone, showing someone behind the mask, so I never really moved onto someone else. I couldn’t tell anyone how dark and ugly I feel inside. We fenced each other for weeks, I always talked about mundane things, while my eyes counted down the seconds on the wall clock, and he always nodded his head in response. Strangest thing, he never really took any notes.
It was in one of those sessions when I first admitted to him that I sometimes thought of committing suicide. He smiled at that little confession. Strangely that was the first time I remember him smiling. I had admitted to him that I never blamed anyone else for my misery, my woeful tale of life. All that made me uneasy were my own doing and were just an attempt to always out do myself. I admitted to him that I even thought he could never really help me out.
He just smiled and I thought he was just amused by me. It was then when I realized I had become vulnerable enough and sure enough, understanding my conundrum, he replied, “That much I had figured on my own.” I just sighed. “If I understand you right,” he said, “You mean to say that all your worries are just because you are too ambitious.” I gave him a little-confused look and he added, “Or you are too much dependent on others approval. Because your words don’t make any sense.”
It is strange how we end up believing that we will find ourselves through someone else’s eyes. We struggle for not fitting in, we are mocked for being different, until one day, one day when everything changes and everyone suddenly wants to feel different, no one wants to be another face in the masses, and that day is what we wish for. The problem is that when that day does come, we have been so lost in opinions of other, so buried in our shell that the idea doesn’t even sound true to us and we still struggle. What I’m trying to tell you is that we all are born different and there is no shame in being different. There is nobody like you and that is the point, we all are different.
“I don’t know, doc, I was young and I was angry all the time. I’m old now and I like to believe that I’ve tamed my anger. But I know I’m only trying to deceive myself,” I said, to which he replied, “We all lie to ourselves, we all are afraid to admit to our imperfections. For you, it’s a bit more difficult than others, you know, your whole life you have lived with the belief that you are better than everyone else and now it’s difficult to step up to your own identity. You follow me.”
“Of course I follow you, I’m not an idiot.”
“There, that cockiness. You see.”
“There’s not an off switch, you know, no matter what you want to believe,” I replied, once again my anger and frustration winning over.
“You know reality is often stranger than fiction, we all are lost in our own ways,” he said, giving his words of wisdom.
“Well, a really good random thought, what the hell is the point of that, what that has to do with this right now.”
Apparently, it had to do with everything.
No matter how turbulent our history was. That’s what it is. History. And it has no place in the future. How hard it was for me to write the first page that I ever wrote. I was scared and in a manner, I was worried about what you are thinking now, “Man, he just rambles on about his shitty life, his shitty back story.” That was one strong reason why it took me forever to write one complete page of something that was a coherent account of events. First 500 words that I was happy with.
You won’t believe how many times I procrastinated. And the reason was always the same, I was afraid and almost always I would end up giving writing before writing anything. I don’t remember where I heard it, maybe some good TV show, but it tells my story perfectly. It was the story of a traveler whose car got a flat on some stranded road. Unluckily, he had no tools in his car to change the tire. Luckily, he saw a house some five hundred meters ahead and thought maybe I should ask them for a jack. But in middle of walking he started asking all this questions to himself, what if they don’t give me the jack, what if they give me but ask money for it, if they ask money for it how much should I give them and when he reached the door of the house, you know what he said to the owner, “To hell with your jack, you keep it.”
The point I’m making, we are so focused on the art of perfection that sometimes we don’t even start anything new because we are afraid it won’t meet our standards. Well, where is the fun in that? I wrote this entire page just so I can get out of the habit to judge myself before I’ve even started and man, I just jumbled on, writing whatever came into my mind. It may be total crap, or it just might make some sense, what it’ll do I have no idea. But I guessed it’ll give me a rhythm.
And maybe it did. After all, you’re reading this, aren’t you?
The day I started it, savoring the moment, the smell of Royal Indian Blue ink, etching one coherent thought on a piece of paper and it went something like this, “I want to stop pretending so badly.”
That’s where I remember one beautiful line from Marvel’s Luke Cage, yeah you got me I’m a nerd, a superhero fan, I guess, a little bit, we all are. It goes a little like this, the past is the past and the only direction in life that matters is forward. Never backward. Always forward. Forward always.
Believe it or not, that did it for me, and I typed and I typed. Well for six pages this time. But that’s when it struck me again, the need for perfection. I was a bit idiotic. We don’t live in dark ages anymore, so I went to everyone’s savior. No man, I’m not talking about God.
Internet. Don’t laugh, it’s not funny. I searched, browsed here and there. Found tons of articles online, serious videos on YouTube, telling, suggesting how to get rid of your writer’s block. Writing how to books. You name it man, I did it. I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone, but the simplest one of them goes, just write. What the fuck. Just write. What the hell is that supposed to mean?
It’s a great advice, but like every advice, it looked stupid. What it meant basically was, don’t be judgemental and start criticizing your work even before you have finished it. That’s all. But how do we do that, there is no on and off switch in our head. We live in a digital age. We are so competitive these days that I guess, everyone wants to have a great story for even their child birth. “Yo Dude, I was born in an airplane.” Not bad, right?
Will someone quote my words someday? The thrill that thought gives me is exhilarating. But is that why we write? I do not know. These were just a few of the struggles I had when I began and I’m no Stephan King or JK Rowling now, I’m still an amateur writer who is trying to write his first story.
But I finally did it, I wrote one story. One tale which was coherent in every sense of the word. I mean it’s not “A Tale of Two Cities,” or “The Da Vinci’s Code.” Hell, it’s not even good enough to be passed for any form of writing. But then again, it’s just me criticizing my work.
I titled it, “Writer’s Block.”
Comments and likes are the fuel that drives us to write better. Few thoughts, that’s all I ask for.