A week ago, I wrote a retrospective in my private writings, but yesterday after rereading it, I found it profound enough to publish in this blog. Since the retrospective includes personal details, I had to omit them, but given the result ended up looking like a Mad Lib, I decided to reword the retrospective to skirt around such details. The reworded narrative is a bit nebulous and abstract, and I considered even giving up publishing it entirely, but perhaps there is some value in the end.
2018 was certainly not my best year. It kicked off with depression, and then the majority of the year was wasted from anxiety. It caused me to pace around aimlessly.
By the end of April, I did not want to go home: I had no internship and nothing to do for the summer. Then a miracle occurred – a well-paying internship two miles from my house, working for a boss who would later become my mentor.
Everything seemed to be fine until July, when something happened, and there was nothing I could do about it.
The following two and a half months were consumed by more aimless pacing, waiting for a certain friend, day in and day out. At its peak, I was nearly hallucinating, wondering if I would ever see the friend again. I was so hinged on this friend – I did not understand why, or what exactly I was looking for out of this friend. I simply sought the friend out for some kind of support.
The anxiety did not subside until I found this friend again for the first time in four months, and soon thereafter, this particular anxiety was replaced with anxiety about coursework (as one would expect).
But the mood swings continued, and at one point in October, my mood was at an all-time low. I could no longer tolerate living like this anymore, where the only thing I could really do was wait until whatever feeling I had passed. I felt immense loneliness – like nobody really cared if I lived or died – and there was no one to talk about it with. While I sought professional help throughout the entire episode, it never seemed as genuine as the friend I imagined in my head.
It was not until three weeks after I switched strategies in November when I began to feel under control again in years, although the pacing persisted. I could talk comfortably without later doubting if my friends were really friends or merely acquaintances. I was no longer afraid of my mood swinging back around after social events. I was no longer impatient about seeking relationships or new people.
Whereas at the semester’s beginning it seemed that the only choice was to disengage from my existing friends entirely and find new ones (because it often took them weeks to respond), by the end of the semester, I cemented the friendship I sought to make, and I was comfortable even casually discussing my particular situation with friends.
At some points, it feels discouraging – and even depressing – trying to enjoy time with a family that does not readily wish to do anything at all. It might seem that I am struggling at a relative level with my peers in terms of social skills and personal enjoyment, but I must remind myself that at an absolute level, I am doing spectacularly well. And even at a relative level, I learn from the mistakes of others and realize my own mistakes as well.
I think the greatest concept I have discovered is that people of my age – including myself – collectively make the same mistakes. When one person does not wish to talk, it’s not that it’s the fault of one party or the other. Collectively, our perceptions interact with each other, leading us to make incorrect assumptions. For instance, when a friend does not respond to me, is it because they really do not want to talk to me, or because they do not really know what to say but actually does have a desire for interaction? That’s the whole impetus behind my boss-mentor randomly calling me once every two weeks – he knows I want to talk to him, but I’m just too shy to pick up the phone and call him. If I can overcome those mistakes, I’ll stand out for having an unusually outward personality.
The worst penalty for interaction is rejection or ignorance, but the best consequence is connection. The average reward of interaction is positive. The logical conclusion is that I should interact more with people, including people that I already know.
If I feel queasy about talking to someone, it’s a sign that I should probably do it. When people come out of the blue to make casual questions to me, there’s only a slight thought of skepticism at the beginning of the interaction, but I eventually cough up a friendly response, and the conversation isn’t as bad as I think it is. This thought pattern should be similar for other people.
The world is tightening up – its individual components more connected, yet the clusters ever more distant from each other.
I write this retrospective because I want to declare victory against these struggles – the struggle for mental health, the struggle to find identity, the struggle to build character, the struggle to be independent yet united, the struggle to find love in a discordant world. But the war rages on: an important battle was won, but it would be naive to declare victory too soon. I look forward to a brighter 2019 that is not consumed by pacing around or senseless anxiety, but I nonetheless expect to find a new set of challenges to await me in 2019.
The adventure continues!