The ripples in my coffee have a beginning and end, I notice. It begins somewhere in the middle of an opaque brown surface and ends at the ceramic brink. But these ripples have to be shaken into existence – stub the table leg with your toe or drop today’s paper somewhere nearby and the ripples will come. It’s nice to remember that every person’s life is as mundane, as exciting, as significant, as insignificant as mine.
I decided that a tattoo with a concept of balance would make me so. The Yin and yang – bold, outlined, pierced into my skin, with the avant-garde colour scheme of monochrome on beige – was itself balanced, and so I reasoned that its presence on my wrists would make me the message, incarnated. This morning, I can’t drink my Caramel Macchiato so much as stare at it because I am over-thinking .
With time, I realised, it is easier to pick out the false starts before they do any damage. There is at least one maxim regurgitated all too often: balance your life. For those of us who live in unevenness, this maxim is, at best, useless and, at worst, implies that we are not trying hard enough, that asymmetry is unnatural and symptomatic of weakness; Being balanced is difficult only because it’s impossible.
What impedes us from “perfect” balance is fear, and this fear manifests itself, quite slyly, in the seemingly innocuous two words: “What if?” We are products of our environments, and my environment says that if you’re a young adult and your life is in a mess, you’re going to be a disappointing failure working at a nine to five job.
The “what if” ricochets in the confines of my skull whenever I try to pick the errands I should run in the day, when I try to decide where to eat for lunch, when someone makes a pass at me. It worsens in the middle of the night when insomnia consumes me mercilessly whole, with the thought of soon to be permanent decision and its various potentiates. And my rational Self – the cool, collected Self that knows better than to indulge such fabrications – drowns out until I am saved by exhaustion. My mind has become awry from being weary. Why am I plagued with this poison, this fear, this curse of the subjunctive.
The “What if” became “what now.” I was no longer panicking inside my head but out of it, no longer dealing with the what-ifs and would-bes, but navigating my reality as it came. Each time life got hard or scary, the choice was mine to continue. And it was a remarkably difficult choice to make. Before I had began to make my own decisions, the tattoo was a potent idol, but as I struggled through life (so far), it was a tacky decoration. Wisdom and maturity cannot be summoned in the form of a popular trend formed by the buzzing of needles. Countless of times, I thought of how nice it would be to swallow a dozen pills and not waking the day after. As I thought of Death, I was also surrounded by it.
Death’s imminence has a way of shoving itself down your throat. It’s good at making itself known, felt. But with it choking me, I came to realise how trivial many of our so-called problems really are. When you muse over your impending insentience, the shit that gives us headaches start to seem excruciatingly petty. Your quibbles, the fights with your loved ones, holding onto grudges, the fights with your damn pets, stressing over decisions and promotions, or whether or not the cute guy across the cafeteria who keeps smiling at you is actually winking at you or someone else behind.
We’re all travelling towards death. Whoo cares? Let it be, make your move, forgive, and forget. Cést la vie!
God, we’re petty.
Death also forces to examine our lives. Assuming that you only have one shot at it coerces you to ruminate on how you spend your remaining amount of time in this crazy world. We should make the most of it, savour every fleeting moment, do our best to appreciate it, as it exists, start “living”. But living life like a fruit fly makes us rash and potentially hurt the people who love us, and being balanced is difficult only because it is impossible. Having fear and a disorganised – even if slightly – life indicates that you are a person. A person without the consciousness that produces at least a little fear or slack is delusional to a dangerous degree, if not psychopathic. I’d even say that it is fear keeps us breathing, and acting despite the fear keeps us most alive.
The choice to escape my toxic imagination is a rule, the rule, not an exception. It’s why I’m in between session of removing my tattoos, and I’m choosing to be so fearless that the tears rolling down my cheeks are due to something that went into my eye – I don’t know, like a a speck of dust or maybe a branch – despite its excruciating pain which I believe is ten-fold the pain I felt when I got tattooed. Living and making choices, to me, is kind of like being in love. You must risk the fall.
So I may be terrified at times (okay, almost all the time), but I’m just as courageous.
For the absence of fear means the absence of courage.