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Elegy for Eighteen

 

My scariest dreams aren’t the one where sleep paralysis takes over, my chest heaving like my ribcage is non-existent, or when late night thoughts revel for the person behind the body to recede. It starts as the most normal and real ones: me in the lecture hall, me in the midday sun and the narrow hallway curving against the rough of the street and the cement jutting out of brick, and then I try to speak. Consistently, sounds never come out; if they do, they’re hushed, almost muted.

Then the panic sets in when my screams confess to no sound. Or coagulated ramblings. Helplessness is my biggest enemy when the later years of my life revolved clinging onto small things; the giants of emptiness in the form of myself and in the world around me, daring me to live. And I try, and I somehow do. Until the helplessness settles in, and the tiny efforts and battles I win against life sink further and further until they become nothing. My throat, constricting itself, the chords of my body demanding release and command of at least my mouth and I lay agape, alive and then horribly attentive to the vast reality that awaits me. Why am I trying to scream? Why is my mouth shaped like that? Why are my eyes pointing down there? Where am I looking at, where am I going? Where is the noise?

On other nights or mornings when the dream would repeat itself, I’d count myself completely defiant against society. In the middle of a shopping mall, the muted whispers come out to rolling lapses of thunder. I lose control, completely apathetic to the masses passing by. I adapt this thinking in the real world where necessary apathy against constrictions allows me to seize the moment again. Still, I make no sound–but I at least tried.

I feel, day by day, I am sinking deeper into this apathy. I no longer want to try; playing with the notion of silence is a zero-sum game in which I haven’t won, not for several years, no. My everyday living teaches me that the moves I can make are increasingly meaningless.

My greatest fear comes to be the complete lack of control. The emptiness of power: not in absolutes or in this lust-fueled craze for it, but in the complete, innocent surrender. I no longer speak for a voice unheard, and no longer feel the need to mourn for it. Not towards the ceiling, woken from nightmares that I no longer feel a thing towards but the rush of blood lingering for only a few seconds. Not towards anyone at all, despite me attempting to reach out more and learn I just come back this hollow being. Not towards the world, who had given me so many tries in this ridiculous, winding path to just silence me when my heart had felt something again.

Death first came in the form of acceptance: where words have changed the world, their absence has failed me. I no longer know how to convey anything–maybe I wasn’t meant to.


I make it a point to annually reassess my worldview. Sometimes, I feel like one of the most selfless things you can do is to think about yourself for just a few days: objectively, that is. Against all the self-pity and agony over stress and responsibilities, I quiet down and disappear (the same kind of disappearance that means little to nothing to people around me). I come to terms with my own self. My lack of importance, my insignificance, all the failed and adjourned promises, and what I will do. What I could become, and what the world could make of me.

There are no more secrets to life that surprise me. The revelations tangling themselves around my head become overwhelming and nearly haunting. On some nights I stare up from my mattress (I would say bed but my bed is literally just a mattress on the floor) where I get this glimpse of the ceiling and my window, and see a gaping night sky fogged and empty. Wire fences and concrete stops litter the foreground, and again I remember my childhood fascination with the sight of a single non-lunar object in the night sky, lost to my teenage years when I never bothered looking up anymore. My various Google searches for star textures, the rifts in the cosmos and all their magnificence fill in the shroud for me–and then, where I felt most empty, creation had stepped in. I obscure what is lacking in the world with creation. I consistently talk about this in interviews and press releases; it’s one of the only explanations I have for “what keeps you going?“. Happiness comes in lines, omitted from daily life when all my self is rooted in what I can produce. For a moment, I think I make the world a better place. My LinkedIn page beams of the best parts of me, the bullet point list of accolades and awards that speak nothing about me in the night–staring at handheld mirrors, calling the unrecognizable body a fraud and imposter. Manic breakdowns become increasingly frequent wherein the world lets me morph into this daughter of turbulence: the built-in pain tunnels in, the men make me question my sanity when I demand respect or some semblance of worth. I begin begging for necessities as if I was undeserving of it, product of equating my worth with what I create. I know myself nowhere.

Beyond the self, I think about the world. I think about my sadness, and then disturb my thoughts with the reminder that the objective reality of much of the world is suffering far greater than mine. Then, I feel a brooding anger at myself for the sadness I have against the world and my circumstances. (Shut up, work harder. Shut up, work harder–repetition of a mindset that I constantly remind everyone around me to never infect themselves with.) I am obliged to act, but then am overwhelmed by my powerlessness, whether the ingrained difficulty of making positions in the place I come from, on the edge of boundaries in places unfamiliar.

I think of life and its cyclic nature; the disaster that humanity is bound to and the essence of things that I had never asked for. My long-sought severance to the people closest to me in belief that it would be for the better. The increasing desensitization towards the news and media, not because of lack of concern but because of the overwhelming uselessness and desperation I feel for the world. I listen to people united only by place and severed in every other means. My other fears include the people in power and the masses complacent with them wielding it; of systems that call for erasure and fight that I can no longer bear to live without doing against. I think about the people in deserving of the better, the weight of my life and the insignificance of my being and sorrows to the people around me and the fight they give out every single day, leagues above my own. When asked how I keep going, I no longer share personal anecdotes for I am fueled by narratives not of my own; redemption that mirrors what I wish to feel in wrecks and bottoms that I feel myself to be through, too. Collectively, the resilience of mankind propels me onwards and is the only hope I have left. (No longer in personal advocacy, meaning, or media–it is in the stories of humanity that I wished to somehow be part of.)

I feel. The last days of school where I was a little bit more attentive than usual, intentionally keeping myself awake in the 6AM bliss. Eyes peering at the natural borne-graveur in unattended streets and rotting pavements, the living conditions, the laughter, the white tents and parades contrasting against the unhappiness beaming in my house where the roof never leaks. My peers and their stories of poverty tourism and the embellishment of their egos. I feel the sad, gray pictures and the flowers in the guns and the rain against the march and the united betrothal to dictatorship.

Pretty people telling me to imagine living life somewhere in a foreign country with lifelong dreams to see the northern lights and clear skies on the regular; the idyllic, middle-class dream where we escape from our responsibilities and live life with everything we could have ever wanted. Same fantasies held up, fueled by teenage coming-of-age movies from westerners on color additives and pained teenage conversation. Alternatively, the picturesque in highway rides and sunroofs, swearing love in unpaid hotel rooms and the sought after late night conversations about life, the universe, and everything. There was a period earlier in the year before I heard back about colleges where I was in deep, deep, remorse about high school and what was essentially my life up until then. I felt that I had traded in too much towards school and work than enjoying myself–with the assumption that I had not gone into the things I’m because they intertwined with what actually made me happy. All tweets about the insignificance of grades and the articles clamoring at the failed high school valedictorian to the grueling oh shit, that’s going to be meI am actually going to die and fall out and be that depressed kid who did well, and be that inspiring story told to their kids by those people around me who I could barely explain a concept I listened to half-asleep towards. Like, maybe my sadness and self-wrought penance was because I spent the entirety of my life doing that. 

In my sadness, I thought about the highways with the billboards spelling out capitalism in their reminders to call god. I imagined the loud laughter in queen-sized beds with people I didn’t give a shit about. The kind we post pictures of in secret accounts and play games on who is more depressed. Thought harder and realized I don’t know if I care intensely about a single individual, let alone myself, and that all my thinking was for the world–if that makes any sense. Hollow since sixteen, I think, and that’s when I began to adapt that wider mindset. In the lunch table, I only speak up to question the absurdity of small plights. My parent speaks to me like I don’t know international affairs and still abhor the scent of newsprint; singular because the other doesn’t vote. (That dawning realization becomes an added on list of “right what was wrong” in the way I was raised, for all the mommy blogs to praise.) There is no winning or losing. I am both too intellectual and too immature in the eyes of people.

Maybe I am boring as fuck for wanting to live for things I can’t even directly impact. Maybe I should eat cigarette butts and mimic movies with troubled Nat Wolff because that’s going through life easy; rebellion for all the wrong reasons when you act against the system solely for reasons of pleasure–with no intent to actually remove systematic barriers. The pained system, the highways, the radio station with crying Filipina ladies and desensitized radio hosts trying to dissect another tier-three intensity case picked happily by editors for the amount of emotional invocation they can bring about. I think about everything from the cracked pavement to the sight of all the dreams that are far brighter than mine from the tall hotel room. At night, the lights all slowly go out and I interpret it as some sign: it’s likely going to only work out for us. Narrow category, people with lights bright enough to see and streets shining in the after hours, and it still immediately seems so diluted. That’s unfair.

Wrapping around, I think creation is the only concrete thing. Creation of words, missions, campaigns, agendas, careers with the Ivy League degree and the unending email threads. It further validates my grueling self-hatred when my productivity dies. Listen: while I am here, alive, I think the most beautiful thing I can do is to make things a bit better with what I have. I refuse to go until the good I have done outweighs the bad. Summer 2018’s wake-up call was telling me to stop mourning my past selves when they’ve all existed long enough to return once again and face the world–and so the world shall be faced with the boring, anti-Wes Anderson agenda. I imagine myself old and disheveled, like Daria post-run except as an angry writer for something that matters slightly more than a late night talk show. I imagine the last ride home from high school to commutes where the pavements are new and kempt and the kids all run with schoolbags. To myself, I hope for no regrets and to not be written off as the common talk of the people I knew back then. There shall be no love letters sent out from a dying world.


Quora tells me for the first time, in plain and basic English, that I should go ahead and die. Usually it does this in other sleights of tongue, in hushed anonymous bylines like Student at nowhere university, or the old alumnus bitter and with the Top-5 school and answers that blur the line between hope and confusion and I imagine the stranger in the shoes that fit just like mine, so desperately longing to find a single reason only for the foreign-blooded psychiatric expert who has sworn to had to see people do it in front of their own eyes go ahead and fucking type go ahead and kill yourself as one of the leading search results.

Here’s the regular panic attack rundown. The caps lock flashed on, the desperation and anger and emotion that can never truly be conveyed in text (nor in 8,000+ word blog posts, it seems) or the endless scratching of skin. I stare at the ceiling in anger of how useless I feel with the sum of my actions and life.

I get so desperate and tired of ranting to people around me who have been waiting for me to die or something so I blast my sadness to strangers on the internet. One person recommends me philosophy and drugs, saying that he had similar experiences in the past. Their message is so well-written and speaks of good intentions, being the nicest one of the empty comments about how much meaning I have to give, or how wonderful the things I have to experience are.

There’s no denying that the world is beautiful, and I actually feel slightly disconcerted at anyone who thinks that life isn’t. The sky alone, despite the emptiness at night and the fog has the magic of the infinitesimal; it wraps around me cornered against the screen frame of my bedroom in affirmation of the meaningless. Nothing matters, so everything does, I repeat to myself. But the Tumblr screenshot reposted on my feed that reeks of 2012 listing down things like milk tea and the sound of birds chirping or the waves crashing against the shore that instead bring back the disgusting sound that reminds me of my living state or the past traumas ingrained that have everything to do with waves and the ocean and the belief in it stops, temporarily. I instead have to think about things I find nice, which is the beautiful thing about free-will and subjectivity. Human creativity and expression, the only things that I will never be able to understand straight-up without pondering and questions as opposed to all other knowledge that can be gained from textbooks and time. The sound of the night sky and the air conditioner rumbling and the smile of someone I reach out to. The places I imagine when it’s late at night and we talk about dreams, though I never really will get there–I think. Progression and journal publications and listening to people talk about things they’re deathly excited for. Light bouncing around thin blinds and closely watching hidden rainbows in the dew and puddles post-storm. Music and all the orchestras I have yet to listen to, the sickening realization that there is still so much story to dissect in my favorite genres and so little time. Someone thinking about me, at all, in a way that is tangible to me.

But when I Google so desperately for a reason, it’s useless to try and reason that the world is beautiful. It is, and infinitely so–but there are times where it just no longer stands as something I can be in. I think microscopically, me in the bigger scheme of our earth: the damage I have done to the people around me, my insignificance to the things I do amounting to nowhere. I get angry at all the congratulations that take away the self-made aspect to myself, and then doubt if those two words are applicable to me at all. I think the world is beautiful, really, but it no longer stands as something I should be a part of when my presence deteriorates its beauty, or wipes away good from the people around.

For the sake of my own sanity, I need to die in a way that I can mark myself as a martyr. I leave behind a will granting the grand sum of my 40USD savings to a noble cause, specifically urge people to do anything but create a teenage-focused support group. I read Aaron Swartz’ series on self-betterment over and over and over again until my next reread allows me to predict what’s coming up next. Every quoted researcher, scientific experiment and finding. My note is entrusted and hidden deftly on the web, where it remains in perpetuity until the domain expires; hopefully it doesn’t since it is set to auto-renew. Many nights, the solution seems that to reclaim myself I must erase it all, you see. Myself, my being. It’s the perfect solution as I seize control and for the first time feel powerful and mark the end of something, while doing a favor to everyone around me. The Quora girl says that all it is going to do is make my enemies happy and my friends sad. I don’t think I have either, and if I have the latter than at least someone is happy. My thoughts trail off to the fact that Google SEO should really get the girl off the top of the search results (not really the top, there are non-functioning hotline numbers pinned over, which is a great attempt).

Sometimes, I just want to feel sad and be accepted despite of it. I get tired of hearing familials take credit when everything was an “in spite of” instead of a “because of”, and it gets so bad that my fist is a common friend to the quivering glass table I work on. I get tired of myself and want affirmation that I suck, and then receive it and sink deeper into this wallowing pool of nothing. I learn to bottle up my feelings and story so badly that I feel like a stranger to the people I talk everyday to, unsure of which parts of myself I had sent out but fairly certain that it covers nearly nothing. My body is a chamber for whoever the person with this name was supposed to be, and I exist sickly and apologetic for missing out on so many things. Summer is marked with that sad, long, and overwhelming depression where some days I just scrolled and destroyed my mind with thoughts and infections of a community I can no longer fight for if I continue hearing. I grow so bitterly irritable, in hatred of almost everything I am. I want this to be who I am.

On my eighteenth, my bitter Generation Z story is that I was shit on for wanting to go to a record store because the six-minute drive was an unpleasant welcome. I get terrified of asking for anything, or talking for the whole day. We eat mediocre conveyer belt sushi and I feel guilty about the cost because I have to pay it back sooner or later. I make off-shoot conversational talk so well I rival pathological liars, and keep up the dead persona to make inevitable severance easier. The day before and after was spent in an outlet mall in the dead of California; my mind knows that I despise it with every inch of my being. The chain malls and the state itself, that is. People’s dreams and photos on the bridges and my sickening feeling that I would forever be an unwelcome traveler in their ground. I get depressed because when zooming out, my heart sinks and realizes how sad the day was with the only thing I asked for being shot down at eighteen. My mind could take the restricted living but not the imposed ignorance on foreign affairs. I blast off at that. I blast off at people in tired clothes and wish to end conversations earlier so I can continue living on–and write them off as a waste of time. Decide to escape so I can do good, because the toxicity and culture where I was bred is a place where I will never grow and help as it just continues to grow into something I loathe. The whole trip was uneventful, but it made me so endlessly bitter and angry. More than ever, I scrolled through the news and the political climate and was disgusted at my powerlessness and saw girls march for basic human rights and saw myself begging on my knees for the same thing months later and thought of all the raging times I Googled “how to kill myself” or “how to get it over with” to spare myself from what they would say is the unbearable period of teenhood when I am sick of the fascism and the authoritarianism under roofs and wars against intellectualism and age and everything else that these kids are good at whining about. My time in California and seeking a school that I still don’t believe I deserve to be in and my exhaustion at the moment the first thing people did when seeing my acceptance letter was to take a picture of the fucking screen instead of thanking me for the hard work I had done / taking credit for everything I had ever done in the beginning listing down falsehoods in broken timelines led me to this placid space. I wanted to zone out and destroy myself over the world and all these people and thoughts. Continuing, I felt nothing.

Apathy in the California summer. Dread and the missing for something familiar. Existing in places where I am not physically am.

One night, I talk about my hardships. The things that still come as passing memories and the events that took me half a lifetime to learn and realize were not okay. It’s impossible to listen–of course. The conversation ends early. It was the sixth time I tried and the sixth time I was shot down and it should’ve been a lesson to keep quiet despite feigned promises but instead I still believe, which is the worst thing to do. Giving up, the story instead lives in abstract accounts scattered in blog posts and illegible poetry. I think about the girl who would have loved an apology back then.

Then, I realize that I am somewhat immune to this all. Nothing even matters. The six failed attempts just lead me to the logical conclusion that I should never do that again and should accept my nothingness. I fall deeper into this incurable summer depression. I go mad. There’s no manic work period anymore, and I find that getting out of bed in the morning is a chore until I’ve slept either 20 minutes or 16 hours. I make temporary friends for days and then drift to new groups. I say sorry and have more fights in the upstairs hallway. The man with my last name says something about how stupid this generation is and I think about how he doesn’t vote.

At Ace Hardware, I pick up rope. I remember the stupid Quora girl. I remember all the films and people and places that I have never met with things I have yet to learn. I think about my dwindling supply of money and all the people who could forget about me with ease, playing guessing games as to which ones knew I had it coming, or who would think that there was a huge problem with teenagers and technology these days. I think about the grand insignificance of everything and switch my mind to a mood pretentious akin to the Beat Poets, watching things again to try and understand my place and find meaning and instead find sad reasons and life stories that I fear my life is going down through. There exists mockery of the person I am, again, and I don’t know who to become. I get tired of counting chances for people and myself, having given up and failed so many times. The motivational speaker talks about bravery and courage and success stories and I just think about exhaustion; the internal limit of the child and the posters that warn of permanent solutions to temporary problems when the temporary is an overwhelming abyss that has been haunting me for too long. I think about myself in countdowns and clocks, and spend my nights with bad things to distract from the world plummeting around me, to which I dare to beat it to the bottom.

If I go, it better be for something reasonable, they say. My letter has to be so flashy and inspirational that the news media picks up on it only for the editor to search for my name in their overflowing inbox with the unread slash rejected news pitch to when the body was still breathing: we all do things too late. I think about when I died and how it was actually so long ago, back then after the love but long before the midsummer breakdown. I look at the world and all the reasons it has given me, and there simply are no more–but that doesn’t take away from its worth and value in others. I ask for too much and am inherently so futile. Our clocks all run differently, as they say to motivate. I beg of those words over and over, but this one has been long overdue.


 

  1. Personally presume that I am more likely to be a bad person than a good one with how often I’ve had to try to assess myself on those ends.
  2. It seems that these days, nothing I do holds any meaning. The world is a cruel game on connections with all the anti-civility. It hurts that I have to write that I am interested in creation for social good when it should be the direct assumption for all. Slowly, I write a plan to erase everything.
  3. To oblivion and back is the greatest journey that we can embark on; there are no more stars for us in this life.
  4. Life stories are not up for debate. Let my misery discomfort you and let the past I bear give more reasons to fight for the person I have become today. Let all my sorrows prevail throughout and fuel the things I build and care about, as if it is an emotion that exists for reason and reflection rather than just self-abuse and pent-up dismissals.
  5. Find yourself filling in the gaps of the people who still stand present.
  6. My favorite summer was in the province, not because I was disconnected and in a different environment–but because the radio there first played Fall Out Boy and I heard the songs ringing in my head, the bass lines thumping and the lyrics so infinitely verbose towards my middle school mind. I pieced together lyric videos on Sony Vegas so carefully, plotting out each wipe and deciding what combination of glow and text coloring to use and editing the timing with carefully positioned splits. I never knew what they looked like but I knew the colors and fonts of almost every lyric video and the names of the safe Limewire uploads. On the rides, my thumb would roll through the iPod and the light blue screen; my secret world in a place that had always dared to take me. It was bliss. No other music has made me feel that way. It’s my special album. I should seek out the exact collection of lyric videos that was my go-to one day, if it comes.
  7. If only words were bigger than this.
  8. I wish I had said goodbye when I wasn’t trying to stave what was left of myself together.
  9. Since about February, I have only ever cried out of anger, I think. The last bad ones that sucked up the pillow and the night were the ones about being good enough to get to school. Now it’s usually about the fact that the photograph of the acceptance letter was taken before a single shit was given about me. Exhaustion is heavy. My reasons are stupid. Confirmation of the past statement gives me more motivation to be tired and further give up.
  10. Eighteen brought me nothing.
  11. For someone who thinks in the macroscopic, how constantly would it have taken one thing to life me from this.

 


 

It should work the opposite way. Amidst the grand vastness of things, we are all insignificant and dying–propelled into this chaotic malevolence orchestrated by no one at all and randomness, condemning us to live temporary lives with feelings. Look closer, they say. The beauty of the world and the mountains; look at them even through pretty, over-filtered wallpapers and imagine the photographers and the editors painstakingly piecing them together, making you love these unseen places that you would have otherwise never considered. Stop listening to the useless people on the radio and then find love in the streets, in kindness where the world has so harbored its absence. Find love in someone. Find love in all the people you meet, their stories and their essence and never seek it in return. Find love in eighteen and the filled ballot and the greater world over the one-point addition. Find love in action, where our bodies and ideas are still alive and beating and in search of meaning.

But I see only the plight of a greater world. I saw myself in places near happy only if next to the advancement of something much bigger than myself, forcing every principle of chaos back and reinventing entropy itself. Towards progress, I can never leave the places I’ve passed by for the past eighteen years behind. Reflection leads me to the grand assimilation of all our worldviews and ideas towards life: if we could only think a bit less of ourselves and more of that grand nothingness, every nook would be a lot more kinder with every human tugging towards selflessness.

I’ve given up far too many times to count. I’m nowhere and everywhere in between, a walking ghost in demand of the sadness, solitude, and press. I cared about everything. Not individuals or people, nor feelings or standalone advocacies but the world, in general. The pursuit of a person’s happiness, even for the day. Things that we are so sorely lacking of yet are forever welcome to.

In an increasingly fascist world where it seems that everything is meaningless, rebel against it all by caring so intently. Fight emptiness with the wholesome search of good. I think the world is worth fighting for because of the people around you–and even if you were alone.

My exhaustion has nothing to do with my belief. I am everything for the sun and its renewal of our chances, but things are still so temporal. I swore something down back then and I’ve waited for days to inch brighter, towards something that would give me meaning. Nothing comes, constantly. I get worried about my will to fight, but it still is there. It exists independently from the strength I have, and there is only so much that an eighteen-year-old can do and be.


Eighteen brings me the loneliness of the world, the inhibition only of numbers and now that I am here–I am a constant nothing. The ballot machine miscounts and in a room filled with people, my worst fear comes alive: my voice is silenced and the only thing I do is scream with no sound. I am eighteen and alive is a vestige and it is the product of subtraction of marble and lime on a ground and half-empty mausoleum.

There is so much good. There is so much to be. There is so much to love.

But at eighteen my only wish was for everything and all of me to be wiped away.

2 Comments

  1. Chia, says

    You changed my life for the better when I came across your blog, long before Yale. I don’t know if that’s worth anything, but I think it’s worth saying.

  2. A friend. says

    I stared at the screen for minutes, half an hour to be exact, still trying to wrap my head around this article. I am pretty sure I only partially understood your feelings, (and still do) but I felt I need to say something…coincidentally, two songs started on my playlist “As the Lights Go Out” and “Weight of the World,” and I would recommend listening to them in that order, hopefully it can make you feel better.

    No words I can say will pull you out of your plight, no words I can say will instantly make you feel better, nor these songs will guarantee make you feel better, I can only hope. But the least I can say is that I’m here, and I’ll be always here, I may be late to the news, I will have moments where I don’t understand you, but I’ll be here, reading your blog, and supporting you and you have my email address so you know who I am.

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