Do you ever feel as if you’re torn between what it is you want for your future and what you feel like you’ve missed out? My whole life thus far feels like such a conundrum. On the one hand I know exactly what I want in terms of my education and career. But my problem, I feel like I’m missing out on life… so much of it that sometimes I purposefully go and butt my head against the wall just so I can feel alive. Do I feel guilt? No, not really, sometimes I only wish I had the courage to do it yet again, other times I simply just do it. Experience is a funny concept, whilst growing up I was forbidden from experiencing the world as my mother literally kept me on house arrest till the day I turned 18, yet during all those years of “captivity” I’ve had so much experience that it’s those that I have experienced that are making me feel as if I have already reached the last years of my life. Maybe it’s the types of experiences that one goes through regardless of their active participation in the “choosing” process. Whether we are put through obstacles in life because it was simply meant to be or because we chose to end up in that predicament – although some may argue that choice isn’t a factor due to pre-determination – the point is that these experiences shape us and make us who we are, wherever in life we happen to be. I think this is what I’ve been questioning. This past semester has been liberating and frustrating in terms of school and work – for the most part I have thoroughly enjoyed it despite the frantic moments of stress, food poisoning and university technicalities. But in regards to my personal life… Well I wish things made more sense rather than nonsensical.

Periodically my life will feel like it’s been flipped upside down, things start to get agitating, I being to slip into states of depression and anxiety and life seems to be a little more complicated than it needs to be. Usually when this occurs, I know exactly what the problem is and exactly how to cope with it. This semester none of it seems real and none of it seems bearable. I wish I could pinpoint the origin of these weird mixed feelings, but upon further examination and reflection I continue to arrive back at square one… agitation, depression, anxiety and a perpetuating sadness that lingers for a duration that is far too long for my liking. What I miss most is the regular modes of habits that I usually engage in to make myself feel better. For instance, getting into my car and taking a cruise, going to Barnes and Nobles and drowning my thoughts in the waves of books neatly stacked upon each shelf, driving to “Asian-ville” and grabbing some much needed Taiwanese food, the beach or even just going to Temple… My main problem in Egypt – aside from the obvious language barrier – transportation, or really the lack of self-transportation as I am reliant on others to get to and from places. But even if I had my own means of transportation, the places I usually visit are not even available… So I spend my time scribbling on pieces of paper or typing away at the computer, literally spilling thoughts on paper! It soothes my mind and hopefully if someone is reading this they will find something useful from these ramblings to take away.

It’s early in the morning, I have my computer but my battery adapter is unfortunately, still missing in action. My last post was scribed almost incoherently on two pieces of paper before I borrowed a friend’s computer to type it! It’s weird; I didn’t even realize just how much I missed writing with a pencil and paper until my battery adapter decided to short circuit! There’s something very therapeutic about watching my hand move across the paper scribbling down various combinations of letters that create a word, followed by a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph, and finally an entire piece of paper is covered in scribbles. Watching my thoughts being translated into endless linguistic symbols, slowly filling up the page as my hand tries desperately to write as fast as my thoughts are streaming. Of course I’m constantly pacing my thoughts, I can’t scribe nearly as fast as I type, but the experience is nonetheless soothing and therapeutic!

I thought of a funny memory the other day, a very rare encounter with a moment in my past when I remember having a pleasant “family time” moment. This was back in the mid-1990s, can’t recall the exact year but I do remember the house we lived in. It was located about 5 minutes driving distance from my high school, the house was our first, a cozy two story – our first and our last house as a “nuclear family”. The house holds quite a few of my most memorable recollections, but also most of my skeletons… things I’ve tried very hard to forget or simply stored away for temporary amnesia. Others, well let’s just say I’ve tried to lock them away in a place where they will never resurface again, or at least that’s always been the hope. So my happy memory… There was this one time when everyone was home, we were watching some Chinese game show. Contestants on the show had to perform a song, skit or a combination of the two. This particular contestant was performing a skit from some old Chinese drama, a soliloquy. At the end of his speech, a fellow friend of his, strapped to a cable hanging from the ceiling came swinging across the stage dressed as a ghost. I can’t recall the skit or the context; I just have this sweeping image of this guy dressed up as a ghost swinging across the stage. It was pretty hilarious. I remember all four of us looked at each other before bursting into hysterical laughter… We laughed for a good 10-15 minutes. I often wonder what ever happened that we couldn’t have more of these moments. I’m not really sure why in my moments of despair or sadness I torture myself with memories like these, but over the past 3-4 years I’ve tried to bit by bit unlock some of these skeletons from my closet. Sometimes I think I dream of going back to moments where I felt that life made sense, even if it’s only for a brief moment, the point is that I wish I could capture and replicate that feeling of jubilee. Then again, I think I mostly revisit these moments because I’m an emotional masochist.

One may ask what in the world an emotional masochist is – let’s define it, according to

Emotional (adj.):

1. pertaining to or involving emotion or the emotions

2. Subject to or easily affected by emotion

3. Appealing to the emotions

4. Showing or revealing very strong emotions

5. Actuated, effected, or determined by emotion rather than reason

6. Governed by emotion

Masochist (n): 

1. Gratification gained from pain, deprivation, degradation, etc., inflicted or imposed on oneself, either as a result of one’s own actions or the actions of others, esp. the tendency to seek this form of gratification

2. The act of turning one’s destructive tendencies inward or upon oneself
3. The tendency to find pleasure in self-denial, submissiveness, etc. 

So by a simple merging of definitions, an emotional masochist would be someone who is reliant on painful emotional experiences for pleasure or gratification. Please note that one can “Google” the term “emotional masochist” and a variety of sites would appear defining an emotional masochist as someone who is emotionally codependent on others in an adverse manner for gratification. I’m using the phrase strictly in the sense that this is self-inflicted and completely codependent on one’s own introspection rather than on another’s immediate direct action or influence. In brief, I think part of the reason why I believe myself to be an emotional masochist is because that’s really all that I know. Sometimes in order to feel alive or simply awake I have to revert to painful memories before I catch myself obsessing and wishing that things could be different. Rationally I know it wouldn’t make a beneficial difference. I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for those experiences – or maybe that’s just convenient for me to believe in. Perhaps, regardless of what I may have experienced I would still be the same person that I am today, to some extent, I know I’d like to think the former because I’d like to believe that if things were different, I’d be a better person today, or at least a person that I would be more satisfied with…

There’s a memory from high school that makes me sad but I often think about it when I’m in group settings. I remember I constantly saw people making connections, people formed bonds called ‘friendships’ – best friends, girl-friends, boy-friends, friends forever, etc. – platonic not romantic, back then I always thought that these relationships were ridiculous, superficial and in some instances just plain pathetic as often times I would find the same people who termed each other as “friends” gossiping about each other behind their backs. But underneath all the bitterness, well it was partially really just this yearning that I would be capable of establishing a relationship as such. I wish I could go about life without having to constantly think, even under an altered state of mind I am still unable to quiet my chattering mind. When one desires one’s world to be in silence and revert to the usage of substances and still is unable to achieve temporary gratification, despite that the method used may be a detrimental remedy then what else can one revert to? Would the logical answer not be death itself? Perhaps this is a sign suggesting that one ought to confront the real problem. Then again, maybe death maybe the only silence of the mind. Perhaps death is the only silence of life.

There’s a river, a boat and you have a bag of rice, a chicken and a tiger. You need to cross the river with all three items but you may only carry one item at a time. The tiger will eat the chicken and the chicken will eat the bag of rice, how would you bring all three items across the river? — I remember this riddle that my grandfather (from my father’s side) used to tell me when I was young. I remember lots of these! I guess one could call them mind puzzles, riddles, or even logic games. I loved them as a child and still do! Of all the grandchildren, I guess my grandfather really took a liking to me. He used to help me, for countless hours on my homework. During leisure time, he would often pose riddles similar to the one I’ve elaborated. I often think that my interest in philosophy ought to be attributed to him. My love for puzzles and strategic games, they were always – and still remain – an important part of life, but he really fostered my intrigue, ultimately into one of my Bachelor of Arts degrees. I’m lucky in that sense, as much as I lament about not having the family relationship or the memories that I often associate with the idea of “family,” I tend to forget that there are cheerful and pleasant memories already stored in the depths of my mind, memories I often forget as I’ve spent too much of my life focusing on the negative ones. If one believes in predetermination, one can surely still believe that what we “choose” to focus on is still a matter of choice. What one wishes to focus on can ultimately impact one either positively or negatively, often times more than one can comprehend – or maybe more than one would wish to acknowledge. Things can always be better but it’s about finding acceptance and moving on. One can only control one thing, our own actions and reactions, everything else will be left for future unraveling. Sometimes I just need to remind myself and hope that the reminder will one day lose its place as a reminder and become a part of daily life. Who knows, maybe we have no control at all, maybe it’s just feeling as if we had control and being able to think that we have a tight grasp of this facade of control that makes us feel better. So… were you able to solve the riddle?