Ever found yourself unwillingly bopping along to Ronan Keating’s ‘Life is a Rollercoaster’ and you feel like there’s never been a more accurate description of your tribulations?
The highs are deliriously exciting and the lows punch the wind right out of your glorious lungs – too many times to count.
When you’re holding on for dear life during one of the hell-ride phases of existence, it can feel like you’re swinging wildly on a pendulum (or naked but for Docs on a wrecking ball, Miley-style).
But every time you brace for impact, logic whirs in to interrupt: you KNOW there has to be a backswing – and therefore things should, will, MUST get better.
Are there too many days where you’re going through the motions, wandering aimlessly, swashbuckling daily with existentialism, feeling utterly listless, or just generally wondering what on earth you’re supposed to be doing?
Rest assured that one day you’ll wake up with the jarring realisation that in order to experience fulfilment, you need to break out of apathy jail. Yesterday.
Truth Serum Time
I’ve always had a predilection for the bleak. It’s fascinating, it’s alluring and it’s miserably beautiful.
On dark days, I want to be consumed by sad songs and melancholy – as impractical as that is in beating back the funk.
During even bleaker episodes, I’ve felt like I’m being sucked into a vortex, down into an abyss, entirely depleted by darkness.
Over time I’ve clung tight to my sanity (and reality) by the very tips of my fingers; my footing’s been precarious and my resolve dented, but I’ve always refused to let go.
For years-long stretches, I craved distance and solitude, while loneliness gnawed at my always-cold toes.
I flaunted my “fierce independence” as a badge of honour – because it meant I didn’t have to let people get close to me, which meant I didn’t have to worry about shameful tears or predestined heart-break or a life of mess.
The flip side though, obviously, is that in living this way, I didn’t get to experience the benefits of dropping my guard either: the unbridled joy, the cup-runneth-over feeling of utter contentment, the joy of being completely at ease.
If you’re nodding along at this point, know this:
You may feel flighty and agitated and ruined by sleeplessness, but do not let go, Goddammit. You WILL come out the other side, knowing that the turbulence was worth withstanding.
There came a very distinct day when I realised that I didn’t want to live a life allured by the bleak anymore.
I didn’t want to settle for languishing, or wasting my days throwing all the magic-wish coins in the one unkempt well, only to sit back and wait for the universe to throw me a lifeline.
I wanted to break out of apathy jail.
So I did.
So, after consciously choosing to pursue my passion & purpose, I thought I’d offer up the 5 things I’ve learned from breaking free of everything that was keeping me stuck and indifferent and in a perpetual state of melancholic meh.
Y’all ready for this? Let’s go!
1. BE THE PIG IN THE MUD
There are two types of people in the world: The Thinkers and The Fat Pigs.
The theory is, given a choice between being a Thinker or a Fat Pig, you would do well to be the latter.
Fat Pigs roll about in the mud all day – they’re happy and fun-loving and utterly content in living in the moment.
The Thinkers, however, sit on the fence watching The Pigs and contemplating what it must be like to give in to hedonism; they ruminate on what it must feel like to have the time of their lives.
While Thinkers are pensive, broody, earnest motherfuckers, Fat Pigs are gratified pleasure-seekers, free of the burden of solemnity.
Straight up: put aside your well-worn thinking hat for a moment.
You don’t have to be hyper-analytical or actively engaging in D&Ms at every opportunity.
You don’t have to always be ‘ON’.
Limber up, Lovely, and mess about in the mud for a while. If nothing else, your skin will thank you for it!
2. RAMBLE OUT YONDER
Get outside your comfort zone.
Ignore the oftentimes overwhelming and irrational fears throwing tantrums in your head.
Ramble out yonder and try something “different”.
This might mean buying yourself a majestic guitar and committing to learning.
You’ll discover the power of will when you establish a routine.
You’ll realise that, despite the callused fingers, the umpteen stuff ups and cumbersome chord changes, you’re doing something for yourself, sparking creativity, identity, purpose, joy and sanity.
This could mean enrolling to learn an obscure new skill.
Love learning about meal choices and wine pairings? Take a class!
Have a well-buried dream to start your own business ‘one day’? Find a short course and enrol!
Want to knit sweater-vests for Agatha – your portly cat? Search knitting videos on YouTube and get to it!
Maybe you are allergic to small talk, but you understand the correlation between building your network and growing your business.
So set up a community group and facilitate gorgeous conversations with like-minded locals.
The point is, life is ridiculously short, so you might as well spend each day growing and evolving into the skin you want to be in.
As Edward Abbey once wrote:
“Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotised by desk calculators. I promise you this; you will outlive the bastards.”
3. CONSUME WITH INTENT
It’s easy to get sidetracked by the shit and glitter.
When you’re feeling rudderless, it’s easy for days to blur into one another, to spend too much time in the same manky pyjamas, to lose hours under a pilled blanket that really deserves a wash, to get stuck staring into nothing while your mind races on a hamster wheel alongside no one in particular.
In Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert explains:
“The philosopher Odo Marquard has noted a correlation in the German language between the word zwei, which means ‘two,’ and the word zweifel, which means ‘doubt’ – suggesting that two of anything brings the automatic possibility of uncertainty to our lives. Now imagine a life in which every day a person is presented with not two or even three but dozens of choices, and you can begin to grasp why the modern world has become, even with all its advantages, a neurosis-generating machine of the highest order. In a world of such abundant possibility, many of us simply go limp from indecision. Or we derail our life’s journey again and again, backing up to try the doors we neglected on the first round, desperate to get it right this time. Or we become compulsive comparers – always measuring our lives against some other person’s life, secretly wondering if we should have taken her path instead.”
If you’re nodding along chances are you’re working out that: pacing doesn’t help; crying makes you look old, sallow and sunken; decision fatigue is bolder than ever; and sleep is a wiley wench – mocking your exhaustion.
- Consume with intent
Whether it’s an anti-pasto platter or the FYP feed on TikTok, be conscious of what you’re taking in and how it is affecting you.
As Chief Wiggum says on The Simpsons: “I say, if it feels good, do it!” And if it doesn’t, STOP.
UGLY TRUTH TIME:
Most people are slaves to their screens.
They may have great intentions to spend “just five minutes” researching the next series to binge-watch, but next minute it’s well past 2am and they’re bumbling through the rabbit hole, forgetting how on earth they got there to begin with.
Successful people, however, consume with intent.
They take what they need to enhance their project, they exercise discipline by stepping back with a resolution, and they get back to doing what needs to be done.
Create first, consume second
This is particularly relevant if you are a creator.
Carve out time to always work on your project first and then consume afterwards.
This natural order of creation and consumption means you are continuously putting a notch on the side of progress.
Some call this “eating the frog first thing”, and others refer to it as prioritising.
Point being – leverage your creativity to be productive before you dive into absorbing and consuming the content created by others.
The creative process provides catharsis
For me, writing without a filter is not bravery, but an absolute necessity.
To achieve catharsis, I exercise, I breathe, I release.
As with every writer that seems prone to existential crises, the gravity of any situation has always been eased by expelling; via paper and pen or laptop, it doesn’t matter – there is simply a compulsion to get it out via the written word.
Years ago, I read an article which argued that once our words are in plain view of others – be they in a blog post, or article, or as a book of poetry, or whatever – they are no longer our burden to carry.
It’s as if in freeing the thoughts from your mind and the weight from your chest, the piece becomes its own entity, where readers can take what they will – because it now belongs to them.
Once you put your words to the page, in whatever form that may be, you are free.
As Ash Ambirge puts it:
“Throughout any sense of uncertainty or volatility or wobbliness, there have always been words. They have been a grand tool – my greatest ally. [Words] have allowed me to create from nothing. They are an infinite source of power and punch when I might not have otherwise had access to it.”
And as Kathleen Adams, Founder of The Centre for Journal Therapy in Colorado, explains:
“My therapist listens silently to my most sinister darkness, my most bizarre fantasy, my most cherished dream. And I can scream, whimper, thrash, rage, exult, foam, celebrate. I can be funny, snide, introspective, accusatory, sarcastic, helpless, brilliant, sentimental, profound, caustic, inspirational, opinionated or vulgar. My therapist accepts all of this without comment, judgement, or reprisal.”
There are a myriad of forms of help, guidance and therapy available.
But one medium that works for so many is writing. The process is invigorating, cleansing and addictive. It’s also free.
Maybe you should give it a try.
You might just find writing becomes an integral part of your daily routine.
It is mine – and I can’t imagine existing any other way.
4. PLAN A BUCKET LIST ADVENTURE
It’s okay if you don’t know what you want.
Certainly none of us know how our lives will play out in this era of unprecedented WT-?
You could have the trajectory of your life plotted, and within one innocuous moment, it can all fall away – leaving you at a dead-end, staring deep into the abyss.
When I felt perpetually stuck in gaze-transfixed-nothingness, hoping to one day wake up to ‘things’ being as they once were, I was at a crossroads.
I had to make a turn, grit my teeth, push on and start looking for utopia elsewhere, lest I get pulled into the vortex of despair.
What helped me find optimism swimming alongside gloom?
Planning a whirlwind adventure without letting a budget, finances or an actual booking factor into the process.
Planning the itinerary for your bucket list adventure of a lifetime can help to give you a renewed sense of purpose, because the process serves as a carrot luring you towards the life your heart craves.
No, you may not have the funds to set out tomorrow, but fuck it.
Plan it anyway!
Always wanted to drink apple-tea in a bath house in Istanbul? Put it on your list.
Desperate to learn what altitude feels like atop the Jungfrau? Find the AirBnB you’d book in Lauterbrunnen and map out your days in the alps.
Nothing propels you into the life you want quite like a vision board and the potential for a gorgeous adventure on the horizon.
It may not eventuate tomorrow, but armed with purpose, optimism and a custom bucket list, your compass is pointing you in the right direction.
5. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, CONVENTION & MEDIOCRITY
One of my girlfriends is fascinated with absurdism and existentialism; another likes to downward dog her way to a zen state; several of my nearest and dearest take solace in a midweek fishbowl of wine; and I take comfort in writing in the serene, slow hours before the world awakens.
Whatever provides consolation and sets your heart alight, once you make a conscious decision to overhaul your life and pursue your very own path, stagnancy recedes and misery gives way to contentment.
It matters not if you’re battling lack of sleep, drive, one-too-many dalliances with the black dog, lethargy with the status quo, or all of the above and then some: nothing changes if nothing changes.
If societal expectations, birth order, family values, toxic workplaces, or gender roles have insisted you “stay in your lane” and you’re thinking, FUCK. THAT. SHIT…it’s time, my friend.
IT’S TIME TO RAGE:
Against the machine.
Against mediocrity, misogyny, patriarchy and conforming to a path destined for the ordinary.
As Dylan Thomas insists:
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Want to know what the upside is to realising you are beyond ready to break out of apathy jail?
It means you’re one step away, my friend.
You’re just that little bit closer to figuring out the purpose of it all, to find your way to meaning, to leave languishing behind in the muck and squalor.
All that’s left to do now is sketch out a plan and get your ass into action.
You’ve got this. I just know it!
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