There is a Light that Never Goes Out: On Quarter Life Crisis
‘Write hard and clear about what hurts.’ – Ernest Hemingway.
21 days before I turn 25 on the 25th, I called my best friend and met in a shady coffee shop in South of Jakarta.
She had to drop her mom off at Pondok Indah Mall first so I waited with a glass of an awful Iced Latte, trying hard to read ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg while surrounded by a bunch of college students ranting about how dreadful their life are. I mused to myself and said internally: ‘wait until you got out of college and truly experience how it felt to have your world crumbles apart right in front of your eyes while you sat motionlessly and hide behind the long playlist of Netflix shows or sad Spotify playlist just to ease away the pain.’
My best friend arrived about 30 minutes after I settled in my chair. We talked about stuffs – nothing in particular, until I finally gather my courage to tell her what I’ve been dying to tell my closest circle since the beginning of this year.
“I want to seek help. I feel like I’m in the verge of depression.”
She was surprised. To her, I might be the least person in our circle that would tumble down this pathway. I’ve always been, seemingly, in control of my life. I choose this one particular friend to tell about this for a strong reason – she’s a very good listener, she’s able to see me beyond my strong facade.
She asked me,”What makes you feel that way? What is the urge?”
I opened up my notebook and told her some of the notes I’ve scribbled to record the symptoms of depression and burnout that I feel. I told her that at first I thought I just suffered a burnout (physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress). I once believed after I went home from vacation, it’ll get better. I went to New York earlier this year and I felt great for a couple days after I went back. But then the cycle of frustration continues. Lastly, I went to Balikpapan for a short vacation during Lebaran – felt really happy because I got to see my big loud family and hyped up from their annual pep talk about how my family is good at enduring hardship but then I relapsed again.
I’ve been suffering from insomnia – I know I’ve always been a night owl since back in college but it has worsened in an alarming rate. I can’t get to sleep before 2 AM in the morning unless I got help from medication like Lelap or sometimes I just drank one spoon of Actifed or one and a half pill of Antimo. I lost my appetite as well. I almost never eat, only once a day, and the rest of the day I filled it with excessive amount of coffee. I’m always anxious most of the time because I feel trapped, I feel like I don’t want to do this anymore – working, going through Jakarta’s toxic air and terrible traffic.
My dear friend listened to me patiently and advise me to avoid physiatrist. She believed that I can get through this. I trusted her more than anyone so I complied. We stayed and talked until the coffee shop was about to close and by the end of our talk I felt a sense of small relief, she had alleviates one of the most painful feeling that I’ve been experiencing lately: loneliness.
I feel baffled by myself afterwards, I truly didn’t realize the extend of my reserved nature – I was hiding my condition for months before finally able telling this to someone.
18 days before I turn 25 on the 25th, I called another friend(s). I was anxious to tell her because I’m afraid that it’ll burden her – she has enough on her plate, and I didn’t want to bother her with my problems. But, I trust my instinct and I told her. I felt odd and I thought about the meme which talks about the nature of my MBTI type (I’m an INFP).
6 days before I turn 25 on the 25th, I bought a book about depression written by William Styron.
William Styron is a suicide survival who battled depression for most of his days in his life. He thought on how depression has haunted him most of his life and he unconsciously denies and ignores it. He recalled most of his books who dealt with dark theme. I then thought about myself, how I feel more productive and genuine in my writing when I’m sad or in a melancholic mood. I’m attracted to sad things. I identify and relate the most to the feeling of isolation and loneliness due to my inability to truly connect to anyone.
4 days before I turn 25 on the 25th, I was rendered helpless by the death of a legendary voice from my teenage era.
It was the second news I’ve heard in one week that someone died due to mental health problems. I wasn’t a huge fan, though I remembered vividly I always jump in front of the TV, eyes 5 centimetres away from the screen whenever the 2000 hits ‘Numb’ is played in MTV. I was rendered helpless, unable to get out of my bed because of sadness. I decided to work from home that day and as I lay in my bed trying to open my laptop and start working, I think again on whether or not I should get help.
3 days before I turn 25 on the 25th, I hopped on a plane to celebrate my quarter life crisis.
Months ago I decided to visit Singapore because I want to see the works of legendary artist Yayoi Kusama and also hopefully watch one of my favorite band: The XX. Singapore is a busy city like Jakarta, but, there’s a sense of placidity that I could not find in Jakarta. As metropolitan as Jakarta is, the city is still communal-minded. There’s a weird judging look from people when you’re just hanging out alone whilst here in Singapore, I can walk around the city with my headset and no one would give a damn because there are thousands others that do this as well. Later at night, I went to Marina Bay Sands with my dear friends and we watched a light shows in the bay of this gigantic mall. During one of the show, they played one of the most heartbreaking tune: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence by Ryuichi Sakamoto. I was separated from the other and so I sad quietly, watching the light and the water danced in front of me while I thought to myself how I love seeing skyscrapers and city lights at night and yet I feel the unmovable urge to get away from it.
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald
Today is my birthday, I turn 25 on the 25th and everyone who travelled with me went home today but I decided to stay one more day to celebrate my birthday quietly. We parted away in front of the hostel and I went to Tiong Bahru to visit an independent book stores called BooksActually. I feel joyful surrounded the book and thrilled because I get to treat myself by buying three books and one mystery book from a cool-looking vending machine in front of the book store. Then I travelled here to the Book Cafe which I visited two months ago during my work trip to Singapore. I got myself a plate of french fries, a bottle of cider and as I embraced that yes my world is falling apart and I’m most likely depressed or in a journey to get there – I feel a sense of epiphany, everyone goes through this, the impending quarter life crisis. A phase where you feel so lost at life and start to think what have you done after you live for 25 years? There’re a mixture of feelings from insecurity, fear, hopelessness, inadequacy.
But, in life, there’s always a multiple choice and you’re always the captain of your own fate.
I’m now standing at an intersection, overwhelmed, and yet, I’m fully aware that I have two options: to succumb deeper to the depression, or to leverage the pressure as a force for change.
I look within and I know that my biggest strength has always been my enthusiasm for life and my ability to look at the brighter side of life despite being surrounded by darkness. I look within and I know my biggest drive to live a good life is my desire to make my family proud to make my Mother and sisters and my Oma and Papa in heaven look at me and say that I’ve been doing great despite being such a lackluster. Yes, I’ve failed but I’ve tried and I live with no regrets. I’ve always move forward and this time it’ll be no different.
Happy birthday to me, I’m a lion and a lion does not fear life.