The Backstory: Embarking on the Expedition
This is the documentation of the expedition I am newly (in honor of this New Year) embarking upon in which I will experiment with and experience living in the present. It entails truly, honestly, and unabashedly addressing each and every moment for what it is: Pleasant or painful, brilliant or boring.
Every instance and event in one’s life should be memorable. When considering how much of my life thus far has been lived on autopilot and in a state of passivity, however, the mere prospect of this journey towards what seems like simple awareness is both daunting and exhausting. To the average onlooker I am a successful, motivated, functioning member of society who has most of the normal characteristics of a healthy young female. However, in the recent past I found myself letting set societal norms define me to the point that I was no longer living. I wasn’t myself and I didn’t know who I was outside of what people told me. I wasn’t conscious of whether I was happy or sad or even content. I forgot how to feel and instead just was that preconceived ideal that everyone saw: A successful student, a doting daughter, and an exciting friend. Everyone told me I was fine or even better, and so it seemed as if maybe I was.
Until suddenly I wasn’t. I stopped eating because I started realizing how unhappy I actually was and had put on weight because of it. Then I ate until I couldn’t stop. I wasted away to the point of near death and then I was so desperate to reach an equilibrium–get back to “normal”–that I became sick in entirely new ways. I used food and exercise and countless other things to avoid feeling or thinking about what I was doing or could have been doing in that present moment. I became obsessed with the future and recovering from the crash that I found myself in after that blissful period in which I was on autopilot. For a time (over a year), everything was strictly in control in terms of numbers whether that meant calories or miles or pounds or minutes or days or even grades. However, my life continued to collapse around me. All I wanted was a sense of normality. I wanted to stop feeling the desperation (that often led to depression or bingeing) of wanting to recover as quickly as possible even when I knew that it would at the very least take time. Patience. Forgiveness. I wanted to skip all of the that bullshit just BE better.
Progressively things did get “better.” Whatever that meant. I came to realize what I was putting my body through and the limitations that came with the entire situation. It became inconvenient and I could no longer live that idealistic life I had always imagined. In addition, over time society and those people who had put me on such a pedestal of accepted excellence realized I had fallen and looked down at me as if I was a broken bird. The pity and judgement was nauseating and so I at least attempted to reverse the physical damage…at least to a point in which the shock of my drastic transformation could be hidden quickly.
However, even as my body recovered from my trip on autopilot and the successive crash, I still was still running away from the recent past, avoiding the present entirely, and obsessing about the future. I was terrified to face day-to-day life and dreaded moments that weren’t planned or times in which I had to simply be. I was even afraid of seemingly normal social situations in which I might have to live up to the person that I was since I knew I simply…wasn’t.
It was like sitting in a quiet car with an anxious, agitated, and awkward stranger whose eyes constantly shift to find an escape. I had to constantly be moving, and I had to constantly find a diversion of any kind because when it came down to just me and myself, I couldn’t look myself in the mirror. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t like what I saw if I looked objectively; it was just that I didn’t want to form an opinion that might go against the preconceived picture of that “happy” person that I was “before.” I didn’t want to even allow myself the opportunity to fool myself into thinking that I was fine or that I had achieved anything since I clearly hadn’t returned to what I considered everything. Thoughts like this were dangerous and encouraged complacency, which was at the time unacceptable. I knew what others thought of me. I knew what qualities defined me at a point in my life in which everyone told me I was perfect…and I knew many of those qualities had been transformed. Maybe permanently. In my head one and one had to match up. That person that I was had to return in order for my happiness to be restored. Happiness was something that would come in time, not something to look for in the moment. It had to be all or nothing. I had to have the ideal body and mind and life in order to have or do anything that didn’t involve reaching these shining standards.
I kept my eye in the distance, and whenever it was diverted, whether by a new person, experience, food, or opportunity, I would generally either block it out completely or take it in so mindlessly that I would end up wishing that I could forget the departure from my single-minded, dogged, and ultimately destructive “plan” entirely. Sometimes I would even convince myself that actually never happened.
And I would always ALWAYS promise myself that the next day would be different. I would get right back on track to that trek towards idealism. I would continue down the path towards the past that was my assessable picture of perfection.
I thought it was the ultimate, foolproof plan. Once I reached “it,” whether on the scale, on my report card, by my jean size, or even by running that half-marathon, things would just BE better. Just like that.
After all, these things were attainable. They were measurable and I figured that once they all came together that would be the moment in which I was finally allowed to be happy. Furthermore, I would know when I could happy. THEN I could relax. THEN I could enjoy life day-by-day and not feel anxious about anything possibly leading to me veering off the path to happiness and further deterring my “progress.”
Unsurprisingly, happiness didn’t come when the numbers did, and so I pushed harder. I became more focused and more self-obsessed. I reassessed and came to the conclusion that better wasn’t best. There had to be another piece that I was missing, after all, since reaching my initial goals didn’t satisfy their projected outcome. From the outside I may have looked much better, but on the inside I was retreating further and further: refusing to engage until I was sure I was ready to make my reappearance to…life…in full and in exemplary entirety. Again, it would be all or it would be absolutely nothing. I would hide until I was sure I could astound, not creep back into the light before I was the total package.
This blog is about turning my life around. Or at least the story of the process and progress. It’s about living my life and engaging with the now (and possibly inspiring others to let go and take a real look at what they want for themselves regardless of what others tell them they should).
It’s about living without worrying about “being happy,” or what that should even entail, and instead just focusing on what and who do make me happy (or, on the other hand, what makes me anxious or distressed or sick or bored or even melancholy).
It’s about not having a plan that takes over my entire life and instead focusing on taking things for what they are. Every experience, every task, every bite, and every opportunity should be approached separately and distinctly with a sense of honesty and open-mindedness. Every moment should elicit a thought; an opinion or idea or emotion that can be recalled. Although these instances may eventually all culminate into a full picture, this blog is an experiment with keeping that picture as vague as possible in order to allow as much beauty and diversity and feeling to be incorporated upon its completion. About adding as I go.
Ultimately, it’s about living in such a way that I will be able to remember this endless and uncomfortable, breathtaking, mysterious journey that is life, wherever it may lead, and about the conscious decision to make memories on an expedition embarked upon for no other aims than pure adventure, curiosity, and the desire live in such a way that ensures the impossibility of the regrets of the past unknown: Living a life that genuinely deserves documentation.