Can you visualize that scene in The Walk in which Philippe’s foot was on a thin wire, tens of feet above the ground, and ready to set a legendary walk, while the other was still on the edge of the building? I don’t know if the director intentionally framed that deciding scene in such a powerful manner but it had left a lasting impression on me that I find myself thinking about it after a week.
I can’t remember the last time I highly cared about an exam which, in retrospect, would determine my course of action for the next year.
When I graduated from high school, I took the entrance exam for XU without an ounce of nervousness because failing it was pretty unheard of and, as far as my friends and I know, it was more of a formality before enrolling. I even fell asleep while trudging through mathematical problems, and woke up just in time to shade all the circles and leave everything to luck. I couldn’t relate to my batch mates who seriously took the UPCAT and ACET; in high school, all seniors took the latter and I remember the person at the back and in front of me submit scratch paper filled to the brim with geometry, algebra, and physics solutions. Meanwhile, I used mine mostly to test whether my pencil was still sharp enough for shading.
Needless to say, I was that high school batch mate who didn’t maintain straight A’s but, I suppose, was diligent enough to be trusted with major projects like writing for the class. I signed up for the math club in fourth year only because a) having a best friend in an organization came with the ease of joining, and b) having at least one extracurricular activity was a requirement for graduation. My only contribution as a member was leading the singing of the national anthem during a Monday assembly. In addition my primary concerns included: my friend forgetting about our barkada monthsary, my classmates finding out my admiration for a batch mate, and my chemically damaged hair which I slathered with a buy-one-take-one hair serum every day.
Anyway, when I tried taking a master’s degree last year, I was quite surprised when my college friend asked how I was preparing for the entrance exam and told me she browsed through review materials such as MSA’s. The time constraint did prove to be challenging yet I don’t recall succumbing to nervousness and worrying about my score because, in hindsight, I didn’t feel strongly about the course in general.
I agree when Sherlock Holmes said that a person would wish an incident, which s/he is anxious about, would happen sooner just to get it over with. I’m aware that, in the bigger picture, the NMAT is neither the most difficult exam I would’ve taken nor on top of the things that still matter. No one forced me into taking this and I can back out any time. Other people, especially those who graduated with a degree in biology, could perceive this test the same way I saw my college entrance exam.
But it’s the first step in painstakingly walking on a delicate thread, and reaching the other building which I have been eyeing on.
On October 4, I decided to set an indefinite leave from Facebook (except Messenger) because I realized how it was draining time I could have spent on more important things and it proved to be a distraction even while I was practicing “productive procrastination.” Several days after I didn’t experience any withdrawal symptoms, I ditched social media altogether and went on a Facebook-, -Twitter, and -Instagram sabbatical until the last Monday of the month.
It is an experiment on:
- how I can live without things which are so intertwined in my daily routine that I deemed these indispensable.
- my intent in using these tools. I’m becoming neither a Luddite nor an Amish but I saw myself checking my accounts without a purpose in mind. I was browsing through my feed only because I didn’t have anything else to do. “Interstitial zones” such as eating breakfast, falling in line at the grocery store, and waiting for my order in a restaurant have been filled with too much information online, which are usually unnecessary.
- the reason I procrastinate with and in social media. Once, I was learning about cell mechanisms which I found complicated but—later convinced myself that it is—worth understanding. I momentarily had the urge to check my Instagram and Twitter feed instead because doing so is way easier and comfortable, and gives me an illusion of accomplishing something.
I realized being inactive in social media is almost equal to cutting myself off from my social circles. It’s the modern-day equivalent to packing my bags to an unknown place a la Into the Wild and having zero updates about my family and friends. I do miss it although I still receive news through my brother. But to keep my usage in moderation, I have to understand how it can be irrelevant.
Recently, a part of my brain seemed unable to process terms such as ‘moderation’ and ‘socially acceptable’ that the succeeding days felt like being stuck in a black hole characterized by self-loathing and lack of productivity. A mix of shame, guilt, and a crushing headache is a perfect recipe to disappointing my superego which nagged me to analyze an issue instead of sleeping.
I don’t want to jump into conclusion and say I was depressed, as I am not well-versed in psychology and I didn’t consult a professional. Who knows, it was only proof and reminder that alcohol can trigger anxiety and depression. It’s associated with celebrating but as with other matters, too much of it is detrimental both in my short- and long-term living. Still, those two days were unlike any day of my life when I can safely state that I’m “just sad.” My biggest accomplishment was taking a bath which I did mostly to remove that pungent smell of cigarettes and regrets. My daily activities had been impaired and I spent most hours sleeping or trying to recollect fragments of memories. It wasn’t the kind of sad I can easily tweet and laugh about.
As a consolation, I tell myself that it was a learning experience and that being happy and comfortable all the time is impossible. After leaving out details that could tarnish my dignity, I told my father I was feeling under the weather and he told me having depressing experiences is normal; the important things are mind control and healthy coping mechanisms.
I have concluded that I feel terribly sad when: a) my id wins against my superego, with the latter causing anxiety and disappointment i.e. I’m not as composed and well-behaved as I usually think, and b) I hold irrational beliefs which lead to self-defeating thoughts and behavior. This is the reason rational emotive therapy appealed to me. Albert Ellis says, “People are not disturbed by things, but rather by their view of things.”
I also found that I feel better when I verbalize my thoughts instead of storing everything in my mind until it feels like on the verge of exploding.