191: Why I Don’t Want To Be Successful

“Why do you want to be successful?”

We were asked this during a (sponsored) discussion today, and the replies were what people would expect. To attain my life goals; to have a happy family; to give myself a sense of pride. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with those answers, but I immediately realised I have no interest in chasing success.

I mentioned that success is defined by two things, which is aptly supported across three dictionaries. 1) Achievement of personal goals and more importantly 2) Receiving recognition for said achievements

Merriam-Webster

suc·cess noun \sək-ˈses\

: the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame
: the correct or desired result of an attempt

Oxford Dictionaries

success

Line breaks: suc|cess

Pronunciation: /səkˈsɛs

NOUN

[MASS NOUN]

1. The accomplishment of an aim or purpose
- 1.1. The attainment of fame, wealth, or social status
- 1.2. [COUNT NOUN] A person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains fame, wealth, etc.

success

noun UK   /səkˈses/ US  
-  [U] the achieving of the results wanted or hoped for:
 – [C] something that achieves positive results:

Not that my answer getting brushed off matters anyway, but I do start to wonder what is it that makes us all want to be successful, be it in our or society’s eyes? They claimed the answer was to make people around us happy, skeptically, over any personal benefit. My thought is that success leads to money, which buys us the opportunity to make people around us happy. Success alone does not make people around us happy, even if they feel happy for us.

I agree with the making people happy part. I have always believed in doing things for others jusdt to see them happy, even if that beautiful smile on them lasts barely a minute, simply because I can’t feel happy doing things for myself. I have never felt much sense of achievement despite success – my proudest personal moment thus far was commissioning from OCS, yet it felt empty because I couldn’t share the joy as I would have liked.

What I can’t agree, is how they disregard the second definition of success I offered. A word of measurement, in this case success, is a social construct. Society defines what success is, the word itself is meaningless on one’s perspective. I gave the example of a myself playing soccer – no matter how successful I think I am at my level, I wouldn’t be considered successful in others’ eyes until I hit a certain standard, say being in the school team. Simply put, for all the definitions offered by people, one wouldn’t think of a happy beggar with a family as successful.

I do not want to be successful not because I lack ambition, but because I have grown disillusioned with chasing success. It never ends really, achieving goals only leads to the creation of more goals vertically, rather than horizontally. I want to stop seeing the need for recognition in things I do, because success perpetuates society’s perception of the desired route in life. It’s crazy here, how success as a teenager means getting straight As, into branded schools, a perfect GPA, then a high-flying career. This is how success in Singapore is seen from society’s eyes, and I do not want to be any part of that. I had good grades before, but that did not make me any happier than I was. It’s lonely at the top, and I rather help someone else to the top and be successful, if that what makes them happy. Being successful means you are seen as a model for people to follow, when people should choose their own paths in life instead.

Success, to me, is not important in life. What is important living true to one’s values, one’s faith. I believe happiness is being encompassed by what we believe in, where we actually feel complete and in line with our life goals and views. That no matter what society pressures us to feel, we are at peace with ourselves for the things we do. This would give happiness far more empowering than what success brings.

I do not want to be successful because neither would the chase nor attainment of goals bring me happiness. I do not want to be successful to perpetuate society’s guide to life. I do not want to be successful to limit myself from being happy.

I am learning how to be happy without being successful.
Ironically, if I do make the above happen, that would make me successful doesn’t it?

P.S: I’ll leave a quote from what many would consider definitely a successful person:

Stirve not to be of success, but of value

Albert Einstein

190: Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent

Enter RICHARD, Duke of Gloucester, solus:

But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:

And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain

Act I sc i
Richard III

(From No Fear Shakespeare)

But I’m not made to be a seducer,
or to make faces at myself in the mirror.
I was badly made and don’t have the looks
to strut my stuff in front of pretty sluts.
I’ve been cheated of a nice body and face,
or even normal proportions.
I am deformed, spit out from my mother’s womb prematurely
and so badly formed
that dogs bark at me as I limp by them.
I’m left with nothing to do in this weak, idle peace time,
unless I want to look at my lumpy shadow in the sun
and sing about that.

Since I can’t amuse myself by being a lover,
I’ve decided to become a villain.

189: Rebirth

“The most racking pangs succeeded:
a grinding in the bones,
deadly nausea,
and a horror of the spirit
that cannot be exceeded
at the hour of birth
or death.

Then these agonies
began swiftly to subside,
and I
came to myself
as if
out of a great sickness.

There was something strange in my sensations,
something indescribably sweet.
I felt younger,
lighter,
happier in body;
within I was conscious
of a heady recklessness,
a current of disordered sensual images
running like a millrace in my fancy,
a solution of the bonds of obligation,
an unknown
but innocent
freedom of the soul.

I knew myself,
at the first breath
of this new life,
to be more wicked,
tenfold more wicked,
sold a slave
to my original evil
and the thought,
in that moment,
braced
and delighted
me
like wine.”


Robert Louis Stevenson,
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

188: Chandelier

Chandelier
Sia
1000 Forms of Fear

The chorus of this song has been stuck in my head in patches for the past two weeks, yet I was unable to put a name nor rhythm to it until today. I don’t know why I woke up today (at 4pm, no less) suddenly being able to recall the song. A check on the video and the lyrics kinda made everything clearer how beautifully deep and dark both this song and MV is, and something I could relate to.

Party girls don’t get hurt
Can’t feel anything, when will I learn
I push it down, push it down

I’m the one “for a good time call”
Phone’s blowin’ up, they’re ringin’ my doorbell
I feel the love, feel the love

Sun is up, I’m a mess
Gotta get out now, gotta run from this
Here comes the shame, here comes the shame

1,2,3 1,2,3 drink
1,2,3 1,2,3 drink
1,2,3 1,2,3 drink

Throw ‘em back, ’til I lose count

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier

But I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ‘cos I’m just holding on for tonight
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ‘cos I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight

If people notice, I usually skip the repetitive parts of a song’s lyrics in a post to capture the essence of the song. However, for Chandelier, each repetition in the verses is important to highlight the addiction the persona is struggling with.

I like how some parts have double-meaning, a superficial happy one with a possible dark undertone. Read the lyrics “I’m gonna swing from the chandelier” and “I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night”, and it’s easy to imagine someone having a good time releasing herself for the night. But if you think harder, and deeper, it’s easy to imagine more morbid images as well considering this song is about struggling with addiction, as expressed explicitly by the post-chorus.

The video is another matter altogether, showing a young ballerina dancing through a modestly-furnished empty house. It’s important to note that this is a young girl portraying Sia, and struggles with life addictions usually stem from traumatic events faced at a young age. Expressing herself through dance in an empty house is a way of setting herself free. The greatest struggles are always faced alone, and we have to find ways to keep ourselves sane. (Interesting to note how she started in the middle of the doorway above ground. Gives a chilling image when you enter the doorway and someone’s feet is off the ground in mid-air doesn’t it?)

Her room looks more run-down than the rest of the house, with a concrete floor and faded paint with graffiti on the walls, differentiating it immediately. The kitchen looks a little better, yet still gives a dark atmosphere, and when we move into the living room it turns brighter with a warmer tone. She transits from the living room to the hallway, getting close to her room, then running back to the former immediately – showing how easy it is to return into the comfort of darkness, but struggling against doing so.

Notice how each repetition of 1,2,3, 1,2,3, drink is the same dance move, showing how it’s a familiar routine already ingrained subconsciously. And that what addiction is, it becomes a part of us and consumes to the point of dependency. But for each scene (in the room and living room), she breaks away from the repetition at the last 1,2,3 drink.

I think the part where she plays with the curtains is the most chilling one, especially when she enclosed it further up her neck and waved goodbye.

Not to mention that last part when she gave a little curtsy three consecutive times with a twisted wide-eyed smile, only keeping it when she does the move. In between, it is expressionless, showing how we put up a fake front for the world (a curtsy is usually done after a dance performance) but truly dead inside, no matter how alive others see us.

187: Infinity


Infinity (Choreography)
The xx
Performed by: Olga & Dima
Choreography by: Sergei Zmeyok & Katherine Buchtiyarova
SYTYCD (Ukraine)

Adapted from the youtube description of the video:

He is a black angel, a demon. He came to earth in order to understand what love is, to know the feeling of the unknown, and fell in love with an ordinary girl.

In the end, she realizes that the devil came to her in the guise of a human. This led to the girl having mixed feelings, yet unable to resist the temptation and seduction of evil.

After all the time, after you
Had you seen me with someone new?
Hanging so high for your return
But the stillness is a burn

Had I seen it in your eyes
There’d have been no try after try
Your leaving had no goodbye
Had I just seen one in your eyes

Could you tell?
I was left lost and lonely
Could you tell?
Things ain’t worked out my way

Wish the best for you
Wish the best for me
Wished for infinity
If that ain’t me

Give it up

I can’t give it up
To someone else’s touch
Because I care too much

Give it up
I can’t give it up
Give it up
I can’t give it up
Give it up
I can’t give it up
Give it up
I can’t give it up
Give it up
I can’t give it up
Give it up
I can’t give it up
Give it up
I can’t give it up

Give it up
I can’t give it up

186: Demons

Demons Choreography
Imagine Dragons
By: Grace Carpenter Choreography
(bad sound quality alert)


Demons Choreography
Imagine Dragons
By: Last Minute Films

It’s quite a coincidence that I saw the two videos above, hoping I could get to dance to the song somehow. True enough, luckily my hall dance’s lyrical hiphop choreo is indeed based on Demons.

This song is something I could relate to deeply – there’s a darkness within me other than my depression, and the part of me that I was/am trying to curb. It’s that curious part of me that wishes to experiences everything deemed undesirable and looked down upon, the part that believes sins and stuff frowned upon by society are are alright based on two conditions – ensuring the we’re in control (and not addicted, dependent, etc) and do not hurt anyone (ourselves included).

It’s this part of me that I wonder if anyone could be willing to tolerate and accept, it’s the part that brings about much uncertainty into others’ lives and little security. It’s the part of me that I’m beginning to be afraid that nobody could see value in. It’s the part of me that turns people away, far and wide, afraid that the beast within me would make me turn against them. I suppose it’s this darkness that has caused me to lose people I love.

The demons in me are something I have to live with, they’re very much a part of me that, I regrettably have to admit, fed me energy through hatred and anger. These are the same demons that would not allow me to falter when everything turns against me, that refuses to back down when the going gets tough and find a way out by any means necessary. These are the demons that made me able to be what I could be when everyone else thinks it’s difficult or says otherwise. And these are the demons that made me hurt the people I love and blinded me through pride and arrogance. The same pride and arrogance that has brought me to heights which I now find meaningless. Though I realised it too late, thankfully they are now very much under control, despite the continuing uncertainty of them returning with the capacity to hurt without remorse to those who I felt has wronged me, especially to those who have betrayed me.

Perhaps learning to dance is another way I could express this struggle within me, and though writing, poetry and photo/videography could help me share the visions I have in mind, people are simply observers and less likely to feel the essence of what I’m trying to share, unlike through dance. I wonder if I could ever find someone willing enough that I could share these demons with without hurting them. It is increasingly more difficult to connect with someone and have myself willing to be vulnerable. In fact, I think nobody would really want to be exposed to someone else’s demons, except me.

“I wanna hide the truth
I wanna shelter you
But with the beast inside
There’s nowhere we can hide.

Don’t wanna let you down
But I am hell-bound
Though this is all for you
Don’t wanna hide the truth

They say it’s what you make
I say it’s up to fate
It’s woven in my soul
I need to let you go

Your eyes they shine so bright
I wanna save that light
I can’t escape this now
Unless you show me how

When you feel my heat
Look into my eyes

Don’t get too close
It’s dark inside

It’s where my demons hide”

Demons
Imagine Dragons
Night Visions

185: Ghost of You

I knew that relapses are bound to happen in this process of numbing. My mind refuses to allow me to forget you, and the recent spate of consecutive dreams is just a testament to how hard it’s fighting to keep you safe from the part of me that wishes to wipe you off every little memory I have. It’s very much like Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind isn’t it? I’m fighting the ghost of you.

The most potent dream, two nights back, involved us going through buildings in NTU, and culminated with me running away from you on the rooftops of North Spine. You (or rather, my mind) had to remind me about why you left, and I was taken through our memories of what happened in the build-up to that day when we decided to go our separate paths.

The dreams made me realise that signs of me dropping into depression were there when we were together, and breaking up was the catalyst in triggering a full blown episode. Remember when I found no interest in anything, and just wanted to take a break from everything a few months after I ORD, when you tried so hard to get me up and moving? Fuck, typing the sentences before made me realise that I’ve reverted back to the second-person pronoun ‘you’, rather than the third-person ‘her’…

Naturally, I wondered if there were to be any difference if I were to be thrown into full-blown depression while we were together. Thinking back, I knew there was little chance of that happening since she was the one who kept me in place, the weakening glue that was keeping pieces of me together. Yet, the curious mind tends to wonder and come up with different permutations. Perhaps she would have stayed, perhaps she would have rekindled her love for me and emphatise with what I would have went through, finding strength within herself and finding value in me enough to stay. Sad to say, I believe she would have left anyway and I would have been in a worse situation than I am now. Sad to say, I believe she is better off without me and that no matter how much I still love her, I would not be enough to bring her to heights she could achieve.

I guess it is of no coincidence that she starts to flood my mind (yes, i’m making a conscious effort now to type ‘her’ instead) at the same time I find myself falling more and more infatuated with a person. It’s like that bad experience you once had consistently niggling you when you’re about to attempt something for the second time. I hope it is only a matter of time before the ghost of her would be locked in a place so far and deep in my heart that it would no longer cause any haunting so bad that I cannot handle. Her ghost would forever be with me, simply because my love for her is what keeps it alive. I don’t think one would ever stop loving anyone, and definitely not for a person whose faith once stemmed deeply in love like me.

I do not believe in closure, as it has never ever did work for me. I do believe in the power of love, and I hope if I could ever find someone special, to look deep within me to reignite the spark and overpower the darkness that has engulfed me once again.

And all the wounds that are ever gonna scar me
For all of the ghosts that are never gonna catch me
If I fall
Down

Ghost of You
My Chemical Romance
Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge

184: Infatuation

linked: https://esseispercipi.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/121-why-i-love-braces

YOUNG: What’s the difference between love and infatuation?
VAN BOOY: I think you can love someone and be infatuated with them, too. But infatuation is immediate, while the sort of love we talk of in the West is something you build with someone. It’s a trust.
YOUNG: So infatuation is fleeting, while love you really have to build and work for and maintain?
VAN BOOY: Yes. Infatuation is very exciting, though.

 – On Love, Grief, and Long-Distance Travel

There’s something about being infatuated with someone that makes you feel a little tinge of spark in your otherwise dead heart. Sometimes you wonder if you could ever feel as alive once again, and that spark could lead to that burning fire you once felt which made you feel oh-so-alive.

We all have our own preferences when it comes to being attracted to someone (mine notably being braces, short hair and big beautiful eyes, among others). It’s definitely an exciting moment when you realise you’re infatuated with someone. For me, I tend to get a little shy from my usual self, but at the same time able to find everything under the sun interesting to share with the other person. Of course, sometimes people tend to take it as me being weird, but those who know me better would understand I’m being myself, and that should be a compliment to that person. It’s as if the world turned a little shade brighter and I hope the other person could see it too.

Then there are those special times when you meet someone who doesn’t tick any of the your preferred boxes, yet you find yourself attracted to them for some reason. And the more you keep wondering what is it about them that you’re so attracted to, the more you feel infatuated by them. It’s like being curious about a book, and the more you divulge into the pages, the more you find yourself immersed by it, and sometimes even overwhelmed by every word in each page. Yet, just like the reader of a book, you cannot get in touch with the characters no matter how much your feel connected to them. Being contented with having the opportunity to even have a glimpse of their lives is the only thing you could comfort yourself with.

People tend to mistake infatuation for love, and that’s how guys end up chasing girls they barely know. Then girls find this new found attention quite tingling and sweet, and if they find us attractive, willing to get into a relationship with. These people also feel that love is about possessiveness, and it’s quite saddening to hear people bending over their back to possess somebody, and encouraged by their friends. Many people do learn love this way though, getting into relationships out of pure passion and blind infatuation, overwhelmed by this new feeling they’ve yet to experience. Of course, if years down the road they’re still happy that’s brilliant. Not all relationships turn out this way though, sadly. Love is more than just a feeling. Love is trust, faith and hope.

I still find myself attracted to those I’m infatuated with, but knowing there’s simply no hope to get closer to them for some reason or another. That there’s no way for me to fall in love with them because of circumstances, and I doubt I am the right guy for them anyway. As I’ve alluded to in my previous post, it would take some crazy (and independent and strong) girl to see value in me and actually willing to get herself involved with my life. The funny thing is I’m starting to feel it takes a similar transient to do so, but us being free-spirited transients, would be unable to keep each other on the ground.

Since I’ve reached a stage where I understand the difference between love and infatuation, and that love is not about possessiveness, it’s hard for me fall in love again. Love is more than simple passion, sacrifices have to be made, you have to lose yourself and integrate your identity with the other person. This means other factors – family, religion, finances and career to name a few – would come into play, making a relationship that much more complicated. This revelation has made me more appreciative of being able to even feel infatuated with others.

Ironically, instead of wallowing in self-pity of being unable to do anything about my emotions, no matter how infatuated I am with someone, I get a sense of strength knowing I am able to control my feelings – thankful to have my life graced by their beauty.

183: Negative Feedback Loop

“The whole thing seemed to draw on a few of the recurring themes in my life: I Cannot Date Like A Normal Person; Everything Good In My Life Is Over; I Will Never Have A Real Career Or Any Money; and, my personal favorite, There Is Nothing Redeeming About Me Except My Writing Ability.”

http://freethoughtblogs.com/brutereason/2014/04/09/disrupting-depressions-negative-feedback-loop/

It’s difficult trying to get out of the negative feedback loop.

I realised the loop simply gets bigger and bigger, until I do not know where to start targeting to get myself back up on my feet. I think it’s time I accept that I have lost faith in love. Like in the post I linked above, it’s a negative feedback loop that prevents me from being able to open myself up again. There’s this fear that if I were to find someone special, it’s this growing darkness within me that would eventually scare them away, like how it has done for so many people I’ve opened myself up to. It’s hard to put into words, but concerning relationships, a negative feedback loop goes something like this.

1) I cannot afford to date women, because I have not much time nor money.
2) Even if she doesn’t mind me not having much money, I’ll get frustrated at not being able to afford to buy myself opportunities to do something for her.
3) Even if she doesn’t mind that I’m unable to do so, I’ll have to hide my concerns away for she won’t be able to handle it.
4) Even if she is willing to handle it, who the hell in their right mind would want to get themselves involved with someone in depression?
6) I have to hide my depression, to make myself attractive.
7) Even when I’m attractive, I can’t afford to date women.

This depression is sapping my energy at an unprecedented rate. I no longer have a means of escape, or what people put it, excuses”. I keep finding things to keep myself occupied, yet it only brings about another cycle of a negative feedback loop. I wanted to express myself through dance, I can’t find a partner to connect with, I don’t have the right technique to be good enough for people I could connect with, training is frustrating because I can’t get the technique right, I can’t express myself through dance as I would like.

Same thing for soccer. Despite having good statistics in terms of assists and goals, I can’t find myself enjoying the moment. Hat-tricks are something to be happy about, but I don’t feel so because I didn’t feel I had a good game. Today I had 2 assists and 1 goal, yet don’t feel happy about it because I felt I didn’t play well and couldn’t help the team win.

For studies too, especially studies. When I can’t do well as I could, not absorbing or remembering things as well as I could, it’s hell frustrating. Then there are those people. These are the same people that go “I think he’s just lazy, he got the time to play soccer, dance, have supper… why can’t he complete a simple assignment?” If only they understood that it is not a matter of will, that doing those things actually keep me alive, even when I don’t feel so. I guess the feedback loop doesn’t help when people would start to consider you ill-prepared to take up positions or trust you with work because of the state of your mental health, when you desperately need them. Then there are times that you fear they take you out of pity rather than based on merit. See how this negative feedback loop keeps repeating itself?

I even realigned myself as a person. I used to strive for the best, then found no meaning despite achieving things, and lowered my standards considerably. From wanting to do well in studies, now it’s about simply surviving through university. I’m not any happier getting shitty results, but I’m learning to accept that until I get myself back on my feet, it’s about pulling myself through no matter how depressed I feel about things. Failures now feel like an achievement, especially being able to complete an assignment when I used to be able to breeze through them with a spark of inspiration or something. In fact, it’s been awhile since I had something to spark my creative mind, I can’t find myself picturing photos or videos anymore nor ideas to write as easily as I could – a simple note could take me hours to write.

I guess solitude is what I’m appreciating now, because what goes on in my head is so dark that it would be a burden to people around me. Sometimes it shows unconsciously, when people ask why do I look so sad or down, when I literally feel nothing. This is what it has come to, being unable to feel, being numb to things around me that I can’t get angry nor happy. Sometimes it’s really nothing that has me stoning and able to immerse myself in the silence about it. Thankfully, I’m glad there are no bouts of panic attacks anymore so far, despite the nightmares that still happen.

There are so many misconceptions about depression as though it’s a contagious disease that should be avoided, or it’s a simple matter of lacking will to fight. In fact, many depressed people are as normal as they could be in front of people, and usually it has reached quite a horrible state if you no longer see them around. That no advise nor deliberate actions are needed to be done, but a simple acknowledgement of availability if we ever need help. That we could trust you wouldn’t disappear like the rest, and would not try to simplify the matter, nor change the way we think. That you would not treat us any much different than the person you once knew. It’s people that did the things stated before who make us withdraw deeper into ourselves, and begin to be distrustful of people. The more we open ourselves up, the more we meet those people, and the stronger the negative feedback loop gets. I do not disagree that nobody likes to be around sad people, and it is not easy to listen to what troubles people when you could so easily wrap your head around it, but being there (even at unearthly hours like 3am) would definitely help us feel that bit better. It is understandable though, many times the words I write are so ugly and dark that I contemplate releasing them, leading to many lost poems and prose which I did not think twice about chucking into the trash. (This.)

I got myself through the darkest point of my life very much alone and whenever signs appear that I’m beginning to slip back into it, it’s scary knowing I no longer have a means to escape. It’s with this growing darkness that I have to live with, hopefully not for the rest of my life, and while I did it alone, I kept telling myself this doesn’t mean other people should. While it is difficult to block out the negative feedback loop that gets larger with the darkness, I would like to believe that somehow, someway, something could trigger in me again and break the loop, and have me seeing things with the eager eyes I once had. (A tongue-in-cheek post about how to write on depression here)