Self-Preservation

By Sonya Rehman

I think God tells you it’s time to change in very subtle ways. It’s never direct. It could be by way of a thought, a vision, a random conversation with someone, or an observation – something that jolts you awake. I’ve been foggy-headed for months; dragging my feet through a routine that wasn’t fulfilling me, a lifestyle and a state of limbo that felt like one long, never-ending, sluggish journey to the middle of nowhere.

Isn’t it a kind of insanity to keep repeating a pattern while expecting, hoping things will one day just pan out? I’ve written about it before; about my generation’s struggles to ward off a deep cynicism, a short-tempered impatience and a strange resignation to personal goals and dreams. I wonder where the fight has gone and what exactly led us here…

I don’t know about you, but for me, it was a strong desire to please an external world that expected me – not me per se, but society’s version, vision of me – to continue winning, shining and outdoing myself again and again and again.

But who was I in fierce competition with? Myself. The self-hatred grew, and winning on the court of life began to feel heavy, burdensome, draining. I was sick of it. I stopped deriving pleasure and that magical feeling of self-fulfillment which would, back in the day, come from a slightly more humble achievement that would keep my spirits high for weeks on end.

Every feather in my cap felt like a lie; a huge, colossal lie. I was fooling myself, deceiving myself. I was keeping busy doing what was anticipated of me, all the while, frittering away the days, weeks and months on work that was simply adding to the grand, glittering culture of show and tell: look, look at my accolades and achievements, aren’t I special, extraordinary? How hypocritical, to go against the seed of self-purpose, to wage constant battles, wars against your ‘self.’

But society’s expectations of you soon become your own personal expectations and goals. It’s an organic, strange process. And to deviate from the path set out for you, means to become an outsider, a reject, an outlier. On the other hand, perhaps we are at fault too, to some extent. We allow the external conditioning to take place and the expectations to mount even when we know, deep down, that something is truly amiss. Yet fear is constant and real – the desire for societal acceptance far exceeds the need to carve out a life true to your own dreams.

Social media has a powerful hand to play in it too: we’re the Look At Me Generation – beautiful, taut, shiny, fabulously fun in pixels – online – and miserable as hell in real life. Social media stimulates the need to cement, lock in who we are expected to be. Our profiles online are our personal billboards: this is who I am, this is what defines me. Finding fulfillment: the Holy Grail of our times.

We delude ourselves into thinking fulfillment will come tomorrow, but it never does. The hamster wheel keeps spinning, the clock keeps ticking, and we keep running. Fast-reaching for an unreachable finishing line. Loco.

God tells you to change when you look back on your life, remembering how you gave of yourself to people, experiences…bits of you passed around like fancy hors d’oeuvres at a slinky party; how naive, fool-hardy and magnanimous at the same time.

 

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