Ponderings on Existential Crises, and the Return to Nerdiness

Whilst I have been prone to frequent existential crises for all my time in university, and long before, February brought me to a whole new level of self-contemplation and re-evaluation. After dealing with two failed friendships, two stupid crushes, and a shit-load of poetry, I began to question not only who I am, but who I want to be.

In my last blog, I wrote about the ending of a toxic friendship, and explored the idea of rebuilding my life in the aftermath. It took me the rest of February and the duration of March to reach a point where I feel like I’ve moved out of a state of grief over that lost friendship, and finally started rebuilding a life that I want to live.

I have this philosophy that when it comes to emotions, the best thing you can do is to feel them in the moment. Fully feel them. It’s the healthiest response, I believe.

There were days when my emotions crippled me, days when I lay on my bed weeping to Ed Sheeran songs, feeling isolated from the world, scared to talk to the friends I did have because nothing could possibly fill the void of the friendship I’d walked away from. And there were days when I lay on the floor of friends’ houses, laughing hysterically, with a freedom that I’d never quite felt in the co-dependency of that previous friendship. Or days where the only things keeping me sane were coffee dates with a dear friend, where we’d read each other poems we’d written, and compare the sitcom-esque nature of our lives. By letting myself feel the pain, and the joy, and the numbness, I began to patch up the gaping hole in my heart, until scar tissue formed, and I began to feel a little bit less like a zombie.

There was an emptiness within me that remained, even after I “got over” that past friendship as best I could. (Even though I have moved on, I would not say I’m “over” it, because that loss has become a part of me, and I don’t believe we ever “get over” things which fundamentally change us. We have to shift the balance of ourselves to make room for them. But I knew I’d moved on when I stopped writing poetry about him).
I didn’t deal with this emptiness in the best way. I focused too much on my need to be needed; I gave too much attention to people who I knew were never going to view me in the way I wanted them to, or feel for me the way I felt for them. And naturally I came away feeling disappointed, embarrassed, and awkward.

I realised that I haven’t been acting like myself, and that I don’t create the impressions I thought I created, and that I don’t particularly like who I am, at times. To quote a poem I wrote the other day “I’ve been typecast in a role I never asked for.” I feel trapped by my appearance, and my inappropriate sense of humour, and the way I act, trapped by the reputation I’ve earned myself. I was reading this article the other day about how women who have my body type/shape never play the leads in movies; they always play the “best friend” role. And I felt such a strong sense of annoyance at this, and I was all “I’m gonna smash the patriarchy! Beauty standards are bullshit” and every other slogan I could come up with. Because it felt like that was true of real life, not just movies, that I missed out on the main role in life because I didn’t look the part. I feel like people fit me into a certain box based on how I look. There is no actual evidence to back this up, it’s just a hunch, but I felt personally victimised by the impossible beauty standards of society.

In typical Eliza fashion, I spent a couple of days sulking and being all “woe is me” because life was just so unfair and we live in a patriarchy and the world is against me, blah blah blah. And then I realised that my problem is not other people’s opinions (opinions which were possibly just a figment of my imagination to begin with). The problem lies with me. I had this moment where I looked in the mirror and thought “whose eyes am I actually looking with?” I wondered if it was me, looking back at myself with dislike, or if it was the idea I’d constructed of other people’s views of me. I thought nothing more of it for a few days.

A couple of days ago, I found myself reading through some of my old blogs, and I had this moment where I was completely dumbfounded. I was reading the words that my past self had written, almost a year ago, and I was a different person. Past Eliza was eloquent, and interesting, and passionate. That girl was going places! I looked at my reflection in the computer screen, and just stared at myself, thinking “What HAPPENED?” I didn’t recognise myself. I didn’t recognise Past Eliza OR Current Eliza. I lost myself, sometime within the past year. I became so consumed by my comfort zone that I lost the essence of who I am.

Something had to change. It was time for action! I wanted to be a go getter again, and what do go getters do? They take action! I got up at 7 am the next morning and went for a run. I don’t like how I look? Well THAT is going to change. That was the first stage of the wakeup call.

Stage two occurred later that night. I was at a poetry open mic, which I’ve frequented throughout this semester, and normally there are a couple of my friends there, but on Monday there were, by the end of the night, seven. Seven of my friends there. There were three different currents of awkward undulating just below the surface, that only I was aware of. I can best describe it using the analogy that my life is a soap opera, and everyone else has missed an episode, but they’ve missed different episodes, so no one has a full understanding of what is going on in my character’s story arc. As I was performing poems about one of the two stupid crushes that I mentioned earlier in this blog, it occurred to me that at least five of my friends thought those poems were about the other one. Awkward. And it sparked me thinking that maybe my life is a bit too dramatic? Certainly ridiculous, at any rate. Lately I’ve found myself in too many situations where I come away feeling foolish, and I decided it’s time for that to change.

I always joke that I’m an attention seeker, but it’s not really a joke. If you’ve been following this blog from the start, you probably came to that conclusion a couple of years ago, but I figure I should address it anyway. I am a dramatic person. Sometimes I inadvertently cause drama; other times I am merely a magnet for it. And sometimes I do risky drama-causing things because I’m bored with my dull life and I’m impatient and want something interesting to happen. Also I was raised on romantic comedy films, so I have this deep-rooted belief that grand public gestures are the key to gaining happy endings. They’re not.

I realised I was sick of writing and reading poems about the plenitude of guys who didn’t like me back. There is nothing to gain from wasting time and heartbreak on things I can’t control. My future is bright, if I let it be, and I need to stop holding myself back. I need to learn to prioritise the things that actually matter, and the things that can get me where I want to be. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt this year it’s that I should only allow space in my heart to the people who actually want to be there.

That was wakeup call number two.

The third one crept up on me. Ever since Monday, I have been well on the way to returning to my former state of glory. I’ve exercised every day, I’ve eaten super healthily, I’ve made to-do lists, I’ve started studying for my exams. Hell, I’ve even done laundry! It’s no longer a matter of returning to the level of Past Eliza, but rather cultivating a new, improved Future Eliza. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I was casually over-thinking one of the other occurrences from Monday night. At the poetry open mic, during the interval, I’d been chatting to a friend of a friend, who I’d met a couple of times before, but never really spoken to. We were talking about literature, and I said myy favourite novel is ‘Jane Eyre’, before immediately mumbling something about how cliché I am. Then later on, he asked what I planned to do with my degree, and I said “I want to be a TV screenwriter, but I don’t know if that’s very likely.” It was only when I was over-thinking about it today that I realised I always do this. I can’t tell people my favourite novel without putting myself down and labelling myself cliché. I can’t tell people my career goals without assuring them I know it’s not going to happen. When did I start apologising for the things I care about?

Earlier I was talking to one of my best friends, and I made some joke about the robot revolution being imminent, and she replied with “not you too!”, because it was so out of character for me. So I explained that my robot obsession goes a long way back, and we ended up having this conversation about how she’d never seen that nerdy side of me. And then it clicked, and I realised what was still missing. I’d lost my nerdiness. Almost completely. I hadn’t just lost the things that made me interesting; I’d lost the things I was interested in. And any traces of it which remained, I hid every time I talked about them.

For example, to say my favourite novel is ‘Jane Eyre’ is the simple answer, the answer I give everybody. Whilst it’s true that ‘Jane Eyre’ is my *one* favourite novel, it’s only the top of a list. My other two favourites are ‘Divergent’ and ‘The Hunger Games’, which I generally don’t tell people because for a long time I was scared people would look down on me for liking popular YA fiction, rather than classics, etc. However, just because those books are my favourite, it doesn’t mean I think they’re the best written, not by a long shot (though I could talk for hours about how they’re an allegory for society/for being a teenager, etc, and that they’re very valuable books in that sense). If I had to name a book which I thought was amazingly written, I would say Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’, which I hated till I finished it, and then loved it with a passion. Or Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’ collection. Or George R R Martin’s ‘A Game of Thrones’. There are so many books which have inspired me, but I don’t mention them, because I’ve forgotten how to be a nerd.

Just like I’ve forgotten to believe in my goals. I grew so used to people telling me (verbally or nonverbally) that I’m unlikely to succeed in my career goals, that I’ve internalised that message, and feel the need to tell people that I know it won’t happen.

I don’t know how I ended up here. I used to be a badass; I used to know who I was and what I wanted and where I wanted to be, and I used to make things happen. I was the girl who worked her arse off to make her dreams come true. I was the girl who worked four days a week during exam season in her final year of school, to earn money to go to Estonia. I lost that spark. The Eliza I am now is a cheap knockoff of this amazing inspiring person. And I’m horrified to see how far I’ve regressed. I’m scared of the space I take up, scared I don’t deserve it. So I try to un-complicate myself. I give short answers to big questions, and I try to justify everything I do, because I’m scared that someone will say “You’re wrong, you don’t belong.”

So here are a few truths about me. We’ve addressed the books bit, so:

If you ask me my favourite singer, my generic response is Lana Del Rey. I love her, completely, and she is indeed my favourite singer. What I probably won’t tell you is that my favourite song is ‘Autumn and Me’ by Saving Jane, because I know you almost certainly won’t have heard of it. I also really love Ed Sheeran, and his song ‘Save Myself’ is one of the main things that got me through the pain of ending a friendship.

My favourite film is ‘Thelma & Louise’, but actually most of the other films I love are romantic comedies, because that’s what I grew up watching. But given that I’m doing a degree in Film & TV Studies, I’m super self conscious about my taste in films. My former best friend was the biggest film nerd I’ve ever met, so the six months of “How have you not seen ‘Star Wars?’” still haunt me and make me feel inferior. And honestly I spent the past seven months feeling like I did not belong on that course because I clearly liked the wrong type of films. Then I realised that that’s bullshit. I have an independent mind, and just because I have different taste in something, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Also, I used to be really into history, and I was extremely obsessed with Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution. Then I became fascinated by Soviet history. Until A Level History stole my love of the subject.

And as I mentioned, I have a slight obsession with robots.

And my favourite philosopher is Kant. I have a purple t-shirt with “Kant touch this” on the front.

So that’s me, Eliza the Nerd. It’s good to be back.

NERD
(I promise my photo editing skills aren’t actually this terrible. It’s 1:25 am, dudes!)