Like a bad penny

I think I was wishing for something that doesn’t exist when I quit here - an idea of self that pre-dated blogging and social media, where I didn’t feel the presence of anonymous others. Not that its a bad feeling - happily, readers here have always been benevolent. But the idea of “others” infiltrated me in ways beyond blog readership. I sometimes felt I was doing things for you. I sometimes felt I wasn’t doing things because of you too. I projected an audience watching me and then felt strangely beholden to it.

I blame the feeling watched feelings on my Catholic upbringing. It was supposed to be comforting, of course. You’re being watched from heaven and all that. And in some ways it was. In other ways, it struck judgement into the very heart of every move.

My favourite saying is that you have to climb the ladder to kick it away. I think I love it because it represents two very contrary things. Careful study and abandonment. But it’s not something I excel at. I tend to be a reckless student, a bit too eager to form my own opinion too soon. But then when it comes to abandonment I never quite feel that freedom to fully go my own way. Sometimes, I daydream things and even find myself baking into the daydreams the reactions of others; parents, friends, teachers, coworkers, even people I despise.

I guess I’m describing insecurity. Sure, I throw shapes that look a lot like confidence. Emigrating was probably the biggest - most people think emigrating must be terribly hard. But it wasn’t really. Actually that’s a lie, it was hard as hell - just not for the reasons people imagine. I didn’t even understand the ways it was hard as I was living it, the strange sort of falsity you encounter when as an adult you have to construct an identity in a place you don’t belong.

Emigrating was a superficial and dramatic way of kicking away the ladder - using distance to manufacture freedom I couldn’t have summoned living in Ireland in close proximity to family and history and things like that that can weigh heavily.

But then I got here and it wasn’t so much kicking away the ladder as beginning to climb a different one. And because it felt so new and arbitrary, I clung to each rung even harder. And eventually I found myself feeling stuck by things I didn't even necessarily feel a connection with.

I’m at an age that makes me question everything. I’ve run away from all the default decisions so there are no foregone conclusions. I’ve kept the blank slate. And yet I don’t know what to do with it. And I think because blogging felt like one of those rungs, I let it go. I hoped that some domino-effect of freedom would follow. But blogging was never really the broken thing in my world. In fact, blogging was one of the good things, even though it is a silly sort of activity.

I’ve always been interested in what we structure our lives upon because I seem to be great at deconstructing my own. Emigration blasted away familiar faces and landscapes, the physical and social underpinnings of my world. Not having connections left me without obligation. And yet it’s easy to wonder if this is precisely why it’s so hard for me to know what I want sometimes — if I’m missing a sort of cornerstone. I'm not talking about regret. But I am trying to understand what's still holding me back.
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