In my room, on the wall next to my bed, there’s a decorative corkboard. On the board, there are labels identified in different colors of mini sticky notes with different emotions written onto it. Each piece has a cluster of pins underneath it. Before the day comes to an end, I have to shrink everything that has happened on that day into a pin to a single emotion.
I started doing this after the _ th session with my therapist. She said coming to terms with your feelings would help me better understand myself than she or anyone could hope to tell. When it first started out, I made 5 labels with their respective emotions on a relatively smaller board. Today, the board has shed and grown three times the initial size and I find myself sticking new labels and sticky notes of emotions regularly, almost every month.
*This is a creative writing following the concept I originally tried in the first blog: Drop a Pin on the Mood that You’re in. The concept was inspired by the lyrics of the song Power On by James Blake. If you’d like to catch the mood of the writing, I highly suggest for you to check out the first blog!*
Judging purely from my encounters, (most) people either speak or listen. It’s only one of the two. No one can do both at the same time or at the very least, they certainly cannot perform either as good as the other. Unless they’re some well-functioning human being, you either let the words out faster than your mind can piece them together or you let yourself observe from the corner only to be overwhelmed by what everyone else is saying.
I am most definitely a listener. The strange thing is that there are not a lot of confident listeners out there in the world, not a lot of people are proud of being able to listen well. For a long time, I too while was always aware enough to acknowledge the fact that I can listen well, did not find it the most comforting or assuring personality trait to deem it of high value. That of course, is not true.
Sidetracking a bit, I draw a specific group of people towards me, whether it be to make friends or of romantic interests. One of the big niches in that specific group of people are people that are looking for a social outlet to let out their inner dialogues. It is similar to how most maybe keep diaries or upload a very upset rant on Facebook. They want someone in the world to know that they are suffering and just that fact alone already helps and soothes them. This is where listeners come to play. I have a rigorous history of meeting people who unluckily never met a willing listener, who needed exactly just that.
I listen… to a lot of stuff, some light with chuckles and some reeking heavy of burden. A bulk of them I did not consensually ask to listen to, some of them happen to be too much of what I can handle and securely keep. I may be able to listen to people, but to digest what the other said and appropriately respond well to it is a whole other thing. The worse part is bringing back home with you what you heard from the day, especially if it’s uncomfortable gossip or an unwanted secret. You feel that you don’t have the right to be carrying these spoken words in your mind, partly because you didn’t ask for it and partly because you have no window of opportunity to deny listening to it. I only want to listen to what I want to hear.
Are good listeners rare? Are we small in numbers in every region of the world? If so, the feeling of being hooked and dragged with the hope that I can offer my sensitive ears to the ones that need them is a destructively assuring feeling. But in reality, it is not a tug-of-war between two siblings arguing over the TV remote. The actual pulling tension happens after the conversation ends. I do not listen well all the time and it is kind of wishful to ask for me to give my attention whenever someone feels like it. And so when I get dragged into a conversation I do not feel capable of sitting through to the end and do not perform as well as the last time I was dragged in, there is this shadow of doubt that wants me to believe that I have disappointed the people who have trusted me to listen and ultimately myself since this was supposed to be the one thing I was good at.
No one person has made me feel this way. Instead, this was a result of a cumulative effect.
This was an old feeling. I felt this way during the early days of realizing who I was and what I could offer to the people I care for. I remembered going to bed on that day with heavy baggage but I did not know where to stick my pin at. I was not exactly tired. I did not feel manipulated. I definitely was not frustrated because there was nothing to be annoyed at. Then, I thought of the word ‘overused’. But, ‘overused’ is not an emotion, it is a condition. I picked up my phone and searched for other words that could replace ‘overused’ but carry a similar dread. In the end, the next best word in the realm of the emotion vocabulary ended up to be ‘tired’. I settled for ‘tired’.
That night, I stuck the pin to ‘TIRED’. To make it a little special, I made sure to pick a pin that was a little oxidized, a pin that was worn out even before usage. Tired, rusted, and overused.
In all my life, I remember three moments I was actually angry at a real person. The other times were mostly frustration or being irritated with my surroundings and the situation I was placed in, not at a real person. I was never angry towards the environment I was situated in before. I think of angry here differently from the milder disturbing feeling as it brings some indication of an offence to my identity. The feeling denotes a more serious rage or fuming tone to it. It is different from being frustrated. There has to be a strong rational upsetting reason for me to be angry.
A few weeks ago, I got angry because someone did something I did not like when I was particularly convinced that there were so many preventive measures to stop or to ask them to think twice before them doing what they did. It was a valid reason to be mad at that someone. But with most cases, if you have a soft spot for that person, you cannot stay mad at them forever. That anger may have lasted a long 30 minutes in my world, but 30 minutes is still only 30 minutes. Poof, and it is gone.
The real upsetting event was what followed next to the anger-inducing incident. In fact, nothing actually happened. The people around who witnessed me getting angry walked away and continued what they were doing before. The upsetting part is that not long after, they started laughing and talking loudly like there was no one guy (me) sulking and fuming in the corner because of what happened. They did not care to go up to ask if I was okay or if I needed a break or a shoulder to lean on. Them laughing like nothing happened implies that the thought of considering how I felt never came across their thick skulls.
It was the omission that ultimately made me ticked. The lack of obligation to consider that a person may not be feeling right even if I had all the reason to feel the way I feel. The lack of consideration to cheer that guy up. The lack of empathy to react to the boiling kettle in the room. The failure to respond to stimuli. The lack of acknowledgement of my presence in the room. The lack of genuine humanity towards me.
That was the sourest feeling I’ve felt in a very long time. It was like I was not allowed to be angry by their standards! It was as if I was refused this very human emotion someone who took the time to put this exact feeling into a word called ‘anger’ centuries ago. I felt like I had been stripped of the ability in open expression. I was no longer harboring hatred towards the person who made me angry in the first place. In the search for someone or something to place fault at, I initially grew to be angry at the people who ignored my feelings in the first place.
But to be angry at such a huge collective for an event that was sparked by a single person in the first place, seemed petty and unreasonable. Eventually, I decided to be mad towards the proximity of time, place, and the surroundings I was in at that particular setting. To say that I was mad at the people who did not care for me at the time is not accurate. I was more disgusted with the attitude they embodied, angered by the fact they could laugh like nothing happened minutes after they knew I was upset.
Yeah. That night, the pin went straight to ‘ANGRY’. There was no doubt, no hesitation. But for the first time ever, I was not really angry at a person. I was angry at a social atmosphere, something that is not alive.
The next day, I woke up uncannily depressed. That anger which I so truly underwent had morphed into sadness, from blood red to orphan blue. It is a personal cycle that I go through. Usually, when I get angry, I get sad later on because my mind then goes off to tell myself what I can do better and that I could have done better. I was then ashamed to be as angry as I was before towards that one person who started it, the others who escalated my anger, and the room we were in itself. I am always doubtful of myself first before others. Thus, I’m not confident enough to stay mad at someone or something. I’d rather be upset and disappointed with myself than towards a real-life person. It’s easy to blame myself than others because I know I can measure up to the accountability I fixed on me than to constantly rely on others.
You can take a real good guess where the pin ended up on that next night.
I attribute my success to only two things: hard work and luck. But the share of the two is not equal, I am not too kind to lady luck. I like to think that some of my greatest feats were exactly just that: mind to hold and by me alone.
Arrogant, I must sound. A habit I have to slap me from my high heels back to my old rubber sandals is to give thanks to God through a short prayer. I would toss out lines, such as ‘I am nothing and this is nothing without You and Your help’ or ‘all this for Your name’. It is to ground me, to put me in my place. It is my arrogant sense of humility.
To be humble is to say grace at the dinner table even though you were the chef who cooked every plate and dish. That is because your efforts are not yours alone to commend. Every ingredient on the table was handpicked by some farmer who took the time to cultivate and sow the seeds. Every seed on the ground could only grow as healthy as it could be with the worms contributing to the land to sustain its healthy soil system. The rain and shine must show mercy to the crops, too much of either is a sign of a bad harvest.
Recently, I had been on a mean streak of personal successes, some of them were said admirable by my peers. But I would like to remind you and myself that they did not come from nowhere. Whether it was from me or from God or from both of us, there is no room for other speculation. I got what I got because I initiated and worked for it; God showed mercy and allowed the rest.
Yet, people are quick to say that I am smart. They linked my success to some bestowed higher mental capability to excel and stand out from others. They suggested that I do not need to work harder than anyone else as long as I do just as much as everyone. According to them, I would always be achieving better because I am literally ‘better’.
Infuriating. Because they do not know what I have been through. They do not know my past. They do not know how soul-sucking it was to be from an intense and pressured academic background. They do not know the punching defeat that comes from the older people teaching you to use other people’s achievements as your benchmarks. They do not know that I had to learn to be content with myself, by myself. They do not know that the real effort I put in putting myself out there is the preparation for the emotional recoil regardless of success or failure.
I struggle so hard for more than seven years because I was far from being ‘smart’. What is more of a struggle was knowing you were not born with extraordinary brains but everyone else around you did. I remember very vividly the day a friend of mine who sat a few desks away from me who (unfortunately) gotten an 84 for Chemistry; he usually scores around the 90 range. I inconsiderately asked him why he didn’t score as high as he usually did. He lashed at me. He burned our bridge. He was my first whiplash.
Smart? I wish I was so. I stutter so much, I think so much but so little of the thoughts materializes. You know who’s smart? You. I’m at the bottom of my own intelligence tier-list I created.
A notification pops up on my phone:
“Hey, jiefouli! Congrats on your _____! You must be so smart. I see that you’re a more than capable person, can you help me with this task I have?”
Read, seen, blocked.
If they had asked me for help without relating it to my intelligence, I would have eagerly offered a hand even if it was because they saw a published accomplishment with my name on it.
Tonight, I felt smart. I felt clever for denying to lend help. These are the moments I treasure. Knowing how much I’ve walked through: the self-inflicted shame from not being good enough or from comparing to other’s IQ, times where I felt I made a wise and thoughtful decision is something I hold very dearly to. I have enough whiplashes. God is my whiplash. His unworldly pressure alone is enough.
The pin goes to ‘SMART’ on the board that bright night. Goodnight.
Thanks for reading! All stories are fiction.