When I was eight, I held onto my dad’s hands as he opened our tattered old copy of Little Mermaid. It was a random page filled with colourful hand-painted images of the characters and little icons to refer to the ocean and a knife, and the mountains. Between them, there were words, and for the first time in my short life, until then, I felt seen.
Eight-year-old me had big plans. I was going to grow up and become a writer. I was going to move away to a city far away from home. I was going to sit down in coffee shops and crank out pages and pages of my novel. I was going to host quaint little meet-ups for my admirers and read out loud sections from my stories.
Here is the funny thing: at 23, I have all of this. I am a writer living in a big city. I am alone, but not lonely. I have a few friends I care about and people who admire my work. I manifested the life I am living, and somehow, somewhere along this glorified, romanticised, idealistic version of the life I built for myself, I failed miserably.
Failures, when they come knocking on your door, are either loud and cinematic or quiet and subtle. The first kind is easier to deal with. When I failed my mathematics exam in Class 8, I knew I was done for. There was a finality to that failure, I knew it couldn’t be helped. But the second kind of failure, the quiet, subtle ones, they sit with you for a long time, and they gnaw at you until you come to terms with it. I realised my life was slowly falling apart when I found myself sitting in my dream workspace, in a well-lit balcony, the cool, winter breeze hitting my face and shuffling the careful calm of my untamable hair, and I fell asleep, at work.
The first time it happened, I wrote it off as fatigue. The second time I excused it as the lack of sleep. But the third time, the third time, I experienced the full fury of my self-imposed fatigue, I couldn’t find the will to get out of bed five days in a row. I like to think I am a resilient being, that I am strong and capable, with an infinite ability to compartmentalise my feelings. Somehow, going to work seemed impossible. Maintaining the jobs I already had seemed unlikely, words evaded me when I needed them the most and fear, like a forgotten, betrayed friend, came back to seek revenge.
Right now, I wish I could write this off as a “how to get over failure” success story. But the truth is, I am lounging in my failures.
Once upon a time, when reading was as natural as breathing, I read about “the comfort of discomfort”. The idea, despite how contradictory it may appear, is quite normal and very familiar to all of us. I need to learn to sit with my failures, with the discomfort it brings. For all the high achievers in the audience, to all those who have worked tirelessly to build a life they are proud of, and to those who dared to manifest a dream and follow an untrodden path, this discomfort is a familiar companion. I had a nickname for it – Binkonath.
However, as things seemed to work out for me and I found myself in the little things or forgot myself in others, I put Binkonath away in a small, safe, secure locker in my head. A few weeks ago, when my applications to study abroad remained incomplete, and I blabbered nonsense in a public conversation, Binkonath found its way out.
And then, I made a series of decisions, quit my job, slept in, stopped sleeping entirely, cut out people, went back to old and abandoned distraction tactics and finally, when I ran out of places, things and people to run to, Binkonath and I sat down.
I am still sitting with Binkonath, but at least now, there is a semblance of grace. We both are willing to sit silently in each other’s company until we get used to each other.
Christina Joshy is a post-graduate student of English Literature by day, an avid reader and a freelance writer at all other times.
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