A few weeks ago, I decided to take another route to work: a bit more expensive compared to the usual route, but with lesser potholes.
So I drove, with the GPS turned on in case I missed the turns. I missed the first one, and I decided to trust my gut feeling, looking at the ole signboards and keep going straight. I was nervous to the point of not realizing how long I drove – from the unfamiliar surroundings until a curved road brought me into a familiar road, at last – and it was indeed a different route from what I planned to take. At last, I arrrived at work safe and sound, despite taking a bit more time compared to usual, because I drove slower while I was nervous and losing confidence in myself.
Maybe…my life is like that, after all.
29 was the age I thought I would be happy: a great job with a great pay, a great husband, a great car, a great house, and a great family. Dream big, I used to think, for it would be the best way to motivate me to reach the so-called success. Until I learned the hard way that effort, no matter how great you thought it was, won’t always translate into success.
I was losing my marbles, I crumbled under the pressure. I was suffocating in the darkness. I hated those feelings. I hated…me. Me myself, the person whom I used to encourage with all my heart, was faltering. All because I just couldn’t see the meaning of the light at the end of the tunnel. All I could focus on was the darkness inside the tunnel. At last, I withdrew myself from the tunnel, but I took the darkness with me.
I knew my family was worried to see me like a living corpse, holed up in the dark room. There were days when the darkness felt calming, but there were days when the dark energy was choking me, trying to drag me away along with it. The only light in that dark room came from the screen of my laptop, playing dramas on it. Episodes were played, fingers tapping on the keyboard, the cupboard kept talking. My world revolved around dramas, because the light kept me distracted from the darkness around it.
Then, I decided to try getting out of the dark hole…by devoting myself to a job. I made up my mind to do the best in whatever I would end up doing at that time…and off I went to McDonald’s. I started working there, and I held on. One day, two days, three days…months passed by, but I was still plagued by the darkness. No matter how long I worked, pulling 12, 16, or even 20 hour-shift, it won’t go away. Of course, I did get better in terms of mingling with other people, but I would always be nervous around them. Years of dissociating myself from people turned me into an awkward potato: I was never truly there even in the outside world.
I wanted to break from the darkness, and perhaps, I was thinking that maybe spending more me-time would nurse me back into a somehow normal being. I quit the job, although I was already so close to become a Store Manager (I got picked into a fast track management program) and my pay was good. Everyone was sad about my departure, but they expected it; they somehow saw that I was different and won’t stay there for long, but somehow I’ve lasted longer than what they expected.
Breaking off from the darkness and the long hours proved to be difficult, because I only got more stress and more hours from the new job; still, I give it my all, because it was the only thing I could give,: my all. I believe that my parents’ prayers were finally being answered when I got a job offer, this time a desk job with normal working hours. I decided to start over with a clean slate, as usual, giving my all and learning the ropes without feeling shy to ask questions. I bugged people, asking them lots of questions here and there, but those questions helped me to learn everything faster as I picked up the new things I needed to know for work. I didn’t care if people saw me as a loser because of my past, because I can show them what I got in the present.
Darkness didn’t let me go that easily. Again, it came without any warning, strangling me using the hands of another person who is very dear to me. I wanted to hate that person, but I did not want that person to be consumed with darkness too should I started spewing hate. Soon, I found myself wrestling with the idea of running from the darkness again: will I make it through this time?
I went back to my parents’, at the same time keeping my panic self under control over the unexpected situation. I was angry at myself, at everything, at everyone…
Until I spent the time watching my parents living the life after retirement.
Their daily routine seemed almost boring at first: they would wake up early and tended their little garden, building and planting everything from scratch, cleaned the house, went out to buy groceries, cooked lunch while bickering about ingredients and food (at the same time commenting behind each other’s back while talking to me), and then sat over drinks muling over random things and making random comments at the TV shows. Their mundane lives was almost therapeutic for me. Although I was mooching off my parents at that time, they didn’t say anything. They fed me and took care of me, just like how they watched over me when I was drowning in the darkness. Though things changed, they remained unchanged; the only thing changing is their graying hair.
It was almost like a wake-up call for me to leave the darkness behind, to let go of its crawling presence, to free myself from its embrace. I…deserve to be happy. Only by finding happiness within myself could I make my parents smile instead of worrying about me. I had to part ways with them since the holiday was over and I had to stay by myself, but it was not the same anymore. Instead of the darkness, I chose to turn on the lights myself. I cooked for myself. I took care of myself. I tried to embrace this weird stick that is myself.
Or maybe, I was never normal; I was always the weird kid.
The kid who made herself pick up reading because she was curious about the content of the colourful books.
The kid who wouldn’t stop asking “Why?” to everything. (Yup, I was that annoying kid.)
The kid who transferred schools so many times because her family moved around a lot, hence causing her to always start her school year later than her peers.
Yet, she was the kid who would surprise everyone by emerging as the top scorer in the examinations held a month after her transfers.
The kid who would rather spent her holidays at the hostel instead of burdening her parents with the transportation fees.
The kid who never yielded her first place spot in the school except in two instances over the course of five years in secondary school.
The kid who seemed to sleep all the time during the public study session but ended up reading the textbooks to sleep every single night.
The kid who made history of being the first recipient from her school to get a national award.
the kid who made the decision to quit everything despite being someone who would never quit anything;
and the kid who is still alive until today, despite those days when she would think of extinguishing herself to join the darkness.
Happy birthday, weird kid. You’ve done well hanging on, and you will only get better. Do well, because you will only do well in everything you want to do.
your 29-year old self.