Living in the Labyrinth

I always used to think that life was made up of distinct chunks. I believed in life events: in getting over negative experiences and turning your life around, in resounding successes and monumental failures.

I took it for granted that life proceeded in a linear fashion, in one direction only, and that once you got past a certain “checkpoint”, there was no turning back. I took life to be a zero-sum game, and it was kind of bewildering when i just recently realized that the world is more like a sandbox than it is like a race track.

it’s weird being an ISTJ while having borderline traits. (And yes, I know about the five factor model and about MBTI not being legit, but it works, alright? Even some psychologists admit this much.) On the one hand you like order and routine, on the other hand you’re completely clueless and you dont know what youre doing half the time. Maybe i need structure in my life because i can’t get it in my head.

Seeing life as reducible to separate events is representative of the black and white thinking that permeates all areas of my life. I need everything to be definitive. But how do you make sense of happenings that sit somewhere in between, or those that are too trivial to be classified as “experiences”?

By being so categorical, I’m ignoring the subtleties of everyday life, and not allowing myself to take away from them everything I potentially could. I can’t even accept something that’s not uniformly good or bad, let alone learn from it.

life is neither linear nor unidirectional. it’s okay to admit that there’s no such thing as “fully processing” something that happened years ago, and that your past still influences and shapes you, and will continue to do so, in ways you’re not even aware of (You don’t need to be.).

even though im so absent-minded, the present is all that exists for me. except “the present” stretches all the way back from my childhood up until about a month into the future. That’s just about the span of time that simply always feels important.

this is because my life has always been about surviving moment to moment, one turning point to the next, gesture after dramatic gesture to manage whatever crisis im dealing with at the time.

My memories are fragmented, my past an incoherent mess, and i can’t integrate my experiences into a holistic perspective where i could either celebrate my victories or learn from my mistakes. Everything is a blur, events are superimposed on other events, things seem critically important but you have no idea why, kind of like a map you don’t have the key to, or a maze you can’t navigate.

Looking at life as a series of chapters to complete has had the opposite effect to what i was going for: instead of moving on, i dwell on the past. everything feels like the present because in my mind, it is still happening, i am still living through it, i am still trying to “get over it” and forget about it.

but i dont need to forget about it. i can treasure my memories without clinging onto them, and looking back at them at various points in my life i can take away from them whatever seems helpful or relevant.

Everything induces the same amount of dread and anxiety; everything seems equally urgent and deserving of my attention, potential challenges ahead and past defeats alike. Even distant future used to make me at least as stressed out as whatever my current dilemma happened to be… until i stopped planning for it because of how unpredictable my own emotional reactions made it. How am i supposed to know what goals and ambitions are attainable in the long run, when i don’t know if tomorrow i’ll be down in the dumps or on top of the world?

I lack foresight. im so preoccupied with alleviating the pain that im feeling right now that i neglect to consider how my impulsive decisions are going to affect me in the future.

what’s changed is that now i have no concept of “the future”. it’s more than just being stuck in a rut; i have entirely given up on planning ahead, and i can’t see myself ever doing anything other than what ive been doing for the past two years, which itself is starting to feel like a small infinity.

maybe i’ve always been like this. maybe the only difference is that back then, i always had something concrete to look forward to: the next exam, the next school. (yes, i was sold on the idea that i was “smart” because i had a good memory. so it hurt twice as bad when i started to realize how dumb i really am. the Polish educational system is seriously flawed.) Now, though, there’s no “logical next step”. No more deadlines, no more exams, no more being told what to do. If i want a future, i need to create it.

Maybe all my assumptions were wrong. Maybe while it’s not healthy to obsess over the past, it is okay to incorporate it as part of your story and accept that it has made you the person you are today. but not in the sense of somehow fundamentally altering the essence of your being, but rather as a necessary stage you needed to go through in order to become what you were always meant to be… kind of like a caterpillar becoming, well, maybe not a butterfly, but a really self-confident moth.

Oh, and life isn’t a zero-sum game or a race to the end. Other people’s success doesn’t take away from my own potential & capacity for authenticity and fulfilment. Comparing myself to others doesn’t give me any useful information about how to make myself happy. And nothing’s as clear-cut as i thought, so id better enjoy the sandbox instead of pretending it’s a race track.

I know im being vague and unrelatable while somehow managing to be obvious at the same time… and i have a penchant for mixed metaphors… but im being honest. small wonder im so shallow, considering the amount of time i have spent unable to get past thinking about anything but myself.

Maybe it’s time I reached some conclusions.

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