The Endless Cycle of Introspection

Sometimes it takes an impending change to jolt us awake. It feels like I’ve been running on auto-pilot for quite a few years now. I’ve begun to wonder who I am and what I really want again. The misty idea of where I’m heading has become all together obscured. Do I even want to keep moving in this direction? Have I been moving at all? Why did I start wanting all these strange things I’m pursuing? When one change comes, for some reason, it starts to feel more possible to change everything, to choose a different course entirely.

It feels so scary to let go of all the goals I’ve been clinging to and clawing at for all this time. But there comes a pivoting point where I have to ask myself if the person that wanted those things is even still me. I think the brain likes to default to routines and rituals to conserve energy. It’s tiring to always be asking yourself why you’re doing the things you do. It takes a lot of brain power to start something new.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to contemplate recently is my seemingly life-long body goals. I think right from the very beginning, I never truly believed I’d achieve them. Although, I thought I’d get closer than this. The image in my head is still a high-school girl. The popular one with the perfect body that all the boys try to talk to. The older I get, the more obvious it becomes. That image is unattainable. My window of opportunity (if it ever existed) is quickly closing as I stare down the last two years of my twenties. Am I still going to be chasing the “perfect” body when I’m 50? Perhaps it’s time to start loosening my death grip on that aesthetic before this uphill climb starts to become a desperate, inevitable decent.

Why was it so important for me to look a certain way in the first place? All my inner longing has just left me years of unappreciated youth and a blindness of my own strange form of beauty. I’m sure I’ll look back on the body I’ve had with envy soon enough and wish I had enjoyed it more instead of wishing it were different. Still this battle has lasted long over a decade. It feels so foreign to let it go, not to mention the crushing sense of failure and acceptance of defeat.

I guess overall, I’ve realized that all I really want is to enjoy where I am, wherever that might be in any given year, at any given moment. That’s all any of us can do. Anything else is just wasting time we could have spent being happy. But after 28 years of immense self-hatred and dissatisfaction, I don’t know how to turn my inner dial to “happy.” Sometimes I’ll catch myself realizing how much better I’d feel if I dropped all of my self-imposed obligations and just let life be what it is. It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling. It’s true freedom.

My ego is always quick to chime in and say, “BUT YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” It yanks me back into old habits much easier and more frequently than I find those moments of surrender. The older I get, the more apparent it is that I’ve let the driving force of my life become fear. Fear is what inspires nearly every action I take, every thought that swims in my troubled mind. I’m always afraid if I don’t do this, that will happen, or if I do that, this will happen. I’d much prefer to move from a place of curiosity and love. But fear is such a primal force. It is so powerful. It closes down my ability to love, to access that higher self inside. I’ve known fear so much more intimately and often than I’ve known love. I’m terribly sad to admit it. Do I still have time to change that? Was it ever really my choice?

Some days I feel like I have an immense amount of free will. It seems completely possible to change course and fall into new patterns. But other days it feels like I’ve never had any say at all. Everything I am and everything I have been feels like a heavy weight around my neck. Standing still is all I can manage. It’s hard to believe I can simultaneously be every aspect of the self I embody. All of the shifting selves I’ve ever seen staring back at me in the mirror. Were all of them me? Or am I none of them? Can it be both?

Getting to witness the unpredictable and constant nature of change is one of the privileges of growing older. There is a point as a teenager where it really feels like you finally know it all. But life doesn’t stop. You keep going. And you realize you never knew anything, that maybe you never will. For me there was a beautiful, mysterious comfort in that realization. What a relief to know all the dark certainties I once held about myself and the world were just illusions, transitory passing clouds of perspective.

A big part of me has stopped trying to pin down or predict what is coming in life. Maybe that’s why it suddenly feels more possible to consider enjoying the present. When you aren’t sure of anything, it becomes much harder to move with aggressive conviction in any one direction. It seems much more practical to just enjoy where you are in the journey. Life was never a trip from point A to point B. It’s an expedition, an adventure through uncharted territory. Tomorrow I may push aside the brush to find a beach or a desert or a cliffside or maybe just more endless forest. It’s frightening, but it’s also what makes life worth living.


Quarter Life Crisis?

This past weekend I made an impulsive decision. Which now that I think about it, is quite funny. Normally I agonize over the smallest decision for hours if not days. Yet this, fairly big decision, I made in a matter of what felt like mere moments. So what was this decision? To dye my hair blue/green, of course. Some of you are thinking “dope” while others are cringing in horror at the idea. I, myself, have been oscillating back and forth between those two reactions. Ultimately after receiving positive feedback from the first person to see it in real life and seeing it come together with a full face of makeup and nice outfit has made me decide that I love it.

I can’t say when exactly the first inspiration to do this took hold of me. I have dyed my hair black and dark auburn in the past, but it has been a few years since I’ve done anything to it. Looking at it in the mirror the last few days, I just felt it looks rather dull and lifeless. I was craving a change.

When I was in high school I fancied myself an emo/scene kid. I would backcomb my hair to make it look bigger, wear all black (I still do that usually), etc. I had always wanted to dye my hair either a lilac or green color. However, I knew my natural hair was too dark for that. In order to successfully get those colors, I’d have to bleach it first and that is something I am still not willing to do.

Recently my hair looked somehow lighter than it used to, I also considered that perhaps hair-dying technology had come farther now. Long story short, I browsed around, found a color dye that was supposed to be for brunettes, bought it, and just went for it when I got home. In the end (I don’t know why I was surprised) it came out MUCH darker than the picture of the box, nearly just black. However it does still have quite a blue/green hue to it.

Anyway, the point is, what made me want to do this? Part of me thinks it has something to do with the fact that I turned 27 last year. I’m nearly into my thirties. I know that is still young, but crossing that threshold does scare me. Maybe I felt like my window of opportunity to do things like this was shrinking. It’s easier to get away with stuff like this when you’re young. It made me think of a line from a movie I used to watch “quarter life crisis.” I wonder if that’s what this is.