It’s like waking up to realize someone else had lived your life and did a crappy job, but at least now you’re free.
It’s not easy to accept an idea which shatters your entire worldview. Some people choose to deny. Others decide to confront and retaliate against the idea. I decided to put myself somewhere in the middle, meaning, I’m not letting new ideas shatter my worldview so quickly, and I also don’t discard them entirely.
The writing of this piece had started as soon as the words have formed themselves in my mind. The hour was well past 2.30 AM, but I couldn’t pass out on it. Even if the writing of this piece will find its end in the following morning and its editing may come even later than that.
I had to start it right now. To make that thought real and give it an expression in the world. It’s not every day a person understands that they had failed in the battle against themselves even before knowing such a battle existed.
Realization Struck Me In The Shower
It’s the simple moments where significant changes occur in our lives. For me, that happened during a regular shower. I’ve been reading some articles people in my network wrote about the Law of Attraction and how what you choose to invest your energies in will manifest itself in your life. So, while showering a question dawned on me: What was I signaling the world?
It’s like I don’t have the energy to do anything.
I write a lot about my dreams, my goals, my feelings, but at the end of the day, I come home after work, binge on YouTube or Netflix or whatever, and go to sleep. If I’m feeling particularly productive, I’ll maybe play a game. And I’ll go to sleep feeling like I hadn’t accomplished anything that day. Which is true, but somehow, my mind omits that the reason was that I actively slouched instead of being productive.
But not being productive has some adverse side effects. For example, lots of stuff on my table, a trash bag with papers and empty bottles sitting for days until I take it out, clean folded clothes wait on my bed until I put them in the closet, and a To-Do list that never ends. It’s like I don’t have the energy to do anything. Things pile up, and my mind makes up that excuse that I will find the time to do everything I need to do in one go. Perfectionism never works.
That question in the shower made me think about the last decade and how it looked for me. In a nutshell, I gained about 30Kg in weight over the previous ten years. I gained about 70K dollars worth of debt. I finished my degree in about five years. I only started to work in my field two years ago. I still live with my parents; I’m unmarried, I’m alone.
That isn’t me. I, the man who always had a dream to develop a role-playing video game, to escape the vicious 9–5 cycle, to never worry about money, to have a six-pack, was living in an illusion of what life is supposed to be for me. I had so many things to accomplish. My Energy and drive to achieve goals disappeared.
I Found Inspiration Cleaning The Dishes
My mom is scheduled to return tomorrow morning from a work trip to London. So, before going to bed after my shower, I inspected the house. If my room was a mess, then at least the rest of the house should be clean when she comes back. My dad already went to sleep hours earlier. The only thing that bothered me enough to delay sleep was the sink and ton of dishes me and my dad had left. So, at around 1.30 AM, I found myself doing the dishes, not ignoring the fact that up until that moment I was slouching in my room and could have dealt with this a lot sooner.
Washing the dishes was the answer I didn’t know I needed to the question still looming in my head from the fateful shower. I started doing the dishes, and I found myself stopping from time to time to gather my will. I didn’t want to do the dishes. I had many self-defeating thoughts like:
- “I should just wash the biggest dishes and leave the rest to tomorrow.”
- “She will understand.”
- “I’m so tired.”
And yet, I kept going because something inside me pushed me forward. I love my mother more than anything in this world. She’s my best friend, and even though she can sometimes push me, it’s always for the best of reasons. Disappointing her or making her work after a tight flight was simply out of the question and even though my body was shutting down, I kept going. At around 2.30AM I had finished. My clutter was still around the room, but at least the sink was sparkling clean. Then I sat down to start writing this piece.
I Could Have Done Things Much Differently
The following day, after greeting my mother back from abroad, I tried to understand what kept me going. If I can understand where that drive came from, I may utilize it in other areas of my life. A thought that I had yesterday during the cleaning floated back into my mind. I was thinking how after I’m taking a plate or a cup from the sink, I can see how the work needed to complete the mission is diminished. The sink looks emptier. It’s a fairly common concept in productivity: Break your tasks into smaller tasks until they become trivial and then cross them off.
I’m already familiar with this concept, and it didn’t work for me so well in the past. I was skeptical that this was the reason I kept going even though I was tarnished and sleepy. But I had to admit that the same feeling of progress revealed itself when I put out laundry to dry. I can see the bowl of laundry emptying, and so I know the end of the task is coming.
I’m living a lie.
The last ten years were not visualized that way. My tasks during the previous decade were not visualized that way either. Instead, the last ten years are littered with failed beginnings. I tried to succeed many times in the past, having a general idea of what I want to accomplish but never planning it better and realizing what success means to me.
This behavior was also a defining part of my early writing. I had started a few books and never completed them. At least all of them were set in the same fantasy world, so each time I learned a bit more about my world. I had wanted to write a novel, but I didn’t know how the story would end or even have a vague idea of it before starting to write. I also wanted to release a book of short stories, and yet I never defined how many stories should be in the book.
Washing the dishes has a well-defined beginning and end: A full sink is the beginning. Success means cleaning out all of the dishes and leaving an empty sink. Simple.
I Have No Choice But To Start Over
As I was failing to put accomplishments under my name over the years, my energies dropped further and further. I used to go to the gym all the time; I used to wake up in 5.30 to run in the mornings; I used to meet people; I used to have big dreams. Now all I can think of is how I’m going to deal with my debt, who will want to marry me, buy a house. Life Goals I should have thought about so long ago.
I’m starting my thirties by literally discarding my twenties and starting over. Where some of my same-age friends already have a kid or two, I’m only now dating. In my thirties, I should have enough money to make a payment for a house, and instead, I’m withering in my parents’ house thinking about paying my debt, not how to spend savings. I’m living a lie. That shouldn’t be my life, and yet it is.
I can’t change the past, but at least I think I found a way to make the rest of my life better.
The Future Remains Bright And Hopeful
When I was in the army, there was a thing called “Desperation Table”. It wasn’t really a table, but we called it that way. When you start at an office job in the army, the other soldiers print out your full name in white letters and a black border. You divide the letters into pieces equal to the number of months you’re going to serve.
Usually, for men, the mandatory service is three years or 36 months. At the start of every month, you would color the previous month that ended. That way, you saw progress even though the only thing happening was the passing of time. You had a start and an end, and that pulled you through.
That’s what I intend to do from now on. I need to visualize my goals better. I need to understand the end of my tasks better and plan with it in mind. This idea even goes as far as my writing: Know your ending, and you will know how to write the rest of the book to get there.
The first step in solving a problem is recognizing it exists. Then you can do what needs to be done to address it.
For me, that journey is just beginning.