For the first 4 months of the new school year starting with September, I felt a sense of freedom that I had never felt before. It was liberating having multiple days per week without class, having maybe 1 assignment per month, having no real attachment to the classes I was taking. These courses didn’t shackle me to live a routine lifestyle like previously, and this new sensation was exhilarating.

Being ‘Free’

When the classes had difficult content, or content that required additional time, the freedom incentivized sloppiness.

“I don’t need to know this to graduate.”

“It’s not going to help me in the future.”

“I took this for fun, not to struggle with annoyances!”

The math component of my comp-sci elective suffered. Any reason I had to work on assignments or learn the material was for classmates. To be able to work on group assignments without bothering them, or to help out my partner during labs. If it was an individual assignment, I would just not do it.

My attendance dropped from 100% to maybe 65%.

I would only attend classes that were “fun”. Either had people I enjoyed talking to, or classes that were relaxing/had interesting content. Classes that I internally deemed as “pointless” dropped in priority.

And all of this is fine.

Even if it negatively impacted my academics, or was contradictory to my previous lifestyle, all of this was things I had wanted.

When the new year rolled around, I had to spend some time evaluating the two courses I had. Which ones were fun, and which ones were pointless?

Turns out, they were all pointless. Great! That means my schedule just depends on how I am feeling that day. If I want to be at school for UBC eSports or the gym, I would go to class. If not, I could relax at home or take a walk outside.

I continued this for some more weeks, and slowly noticed that the colorful days I was experiencing were becoming more and more dull.

Maybe it was a motivation thing. I always have trouble continuing with the same thing day in and day out. I would skip more classes, and use that time to do things I normally wouldn’t – like shopping or going to new parks.

But the dull-ness continued.

Lessons

In October I had the chance to conduct an “interview” of sorts with someone at my future workplace about their personal values. It was an assignment for the ethics course I was taking that term, and while I was originally apprehensive about the assignment criteria, the interview itself was very enjoyable. I met up with C. (I promised anonymity), a lady maybe 5-10 years my senior, who had just finished her CPA exam and her 2nd year at Smythe. The conversation interview went well (in my opinion at least!), and I got to learn some stuff about pursuing goals. I then presented my learnings to my ethics class during a presentation.

In the script for my presentation, I wrote:

She only lived to accomplish her goals, and thus she lived from goal to goal. How she achieved those goals wasn’t nearly as important as achieving them. … She had finished her CPA exam. She had reached her goal, but now felt lost because she suddenly had nothing else to strive for.

This part of her story really resonated with me. I always knew that I had lived life in a similar way – from the pursuit of one goal to the next goal. As contradictory as it would seem, my world expanded knowing that there people who lived the same way as me.

So when she was telling me about how lost she felt without another goal to pursue, I listened. When she talked about all the uncharacteristic things she had done, I listened. When she explained her inexpiable worry, I listened.

And when my professor asked if I had taken away anything from the conversation, I said I did.

And then three months later, I felt like I wasted her time. Her warnings may not have fell on deaf ears, but it fell on an unlearning mind.

Being Goal-less

I can’t say that not having a goal was a miserable experience.

In fact, it was mostly an enjoyable experience, as described previously.

The miserable portion came from not knowing why I was feeling blue and not knowing how to change that. It had gone too long to just pass it off as being “under the weather”, but I had to real reason to feel sad. But the days seemed to bleed together, the nights seemed to become shorter, and relaxation became hard to find. My body felt rather stiff, even though I had increased my exercise amounts, and continued to feel just as stiff when I reduced them. I couldn’t find the joy I had previously exploring Zelda: Breathe of the Wild or mountain climbing in Celeste. Things kind of just melted together to form this abstract grey ball of existing.

Yes, I was existing.

Yes, existing is pretty nifty.

But why was I existing? What was I doing? If I didn’t have a purpose for this existing, then why did I need to exist? Plenty of unfair deaths happen every minute, so why was I able to exist without reason, if those with reasons couldn’t?

It was just like C. said. Things felt bleak, and continued to be bleak. Things you enjoyed stop being enjoyable, and you would constantly be a little more on edge than the previous day. There was this ocean called existing, and I was simply another rock being formed in it’s current. Why the ocean was forming me, was beyond my understanding, and that in itself was suffering.

Let me digress, I don’t feel that way right now, and frankly, I am having a hard time trying to encapsulate my thoughts and feelings of that time. It was like a light switch, once it was toggled on I could no longer see the dark uncertainties in the room. The confusion and feeling of being lost was terrifying. I couldn’t have any faith in the decisions I was making, I was losing confidence in the decisions I had previously made, and I didn’t want to think about the decisions I was going to have to make. It felt a lot like escapism, where suddenly my reality was going poorly, and I was trying every possible way to forget about it – even for just a minute. But nothing I tried worked, and everything continued it’s downward trend.

And that’s when I remembered C.’s story.

She had reached her goal, but now felt lost because she suddenly had nothing else to strive for. Negative thoughts constantly went through her head. She began talking to her friends about wanting to quit her accounting career. She wanted to quit before she failed the exam. “It’s all over now, accounting isn’t for me,” she confessed.

Just a little bit before this, I had asked her if she had any advice to give her younger self.

“Enjoy the process.” “Enjoy the process or else it eats you up.”

Oh.

I had to stop thinking about the goal. About whether or not I was deserving of existing. Unfair deaths may constantly happen, but I am not at fault for them. I needed to not be so focused on accomplishing something or progressing towards something during every waking moment of my being. It is fine to take time to do actions that won’t bring me closer towards some goal or achieve. In fact, most of life is exactly like that. Reality is unfortunately (or fortunately?) not like a video game where your progress on a quest is black or white – either you increased it or you didn’t. It also isn’t as clear as a game quest. I’m not just conveniently going to know that obtaining level 30 will grant me access to additional skills and power, but only if I talk to the correct sequence of characters and perform their very specific tasks. Heck, I wouldn’t even know that killing this squid or crafting this hat brings me 0.02% closer towards the next level. Life isn’t as clear and straightforward as a game, and that is okay. A game is designed that way to make you feel satisfied about the time and effort that you put in, but reality isn’t a game.

Once I made that realization, the light switch was flipped on.

Normal…?

So I’m back to before, right?

No.

By every metric possible, I still am without a goal.

I still do live from goal to goal, where achieving the goal is of the utmost priority.

I still do not know what my summer is going to be like.

I still don’t want to attend my pointless classes.

But what does that mean for me in the end? In the long run, I’m still aiming to finish my CPA degree. I’m still planning to get a new computer. I’m still going to finish Zelda and Celeste. I can simply look forward towards finding my next goal, and until then I will enjoy the simple life I have right now.

Time Skip (Mid-April)

It’s been a month since I last added any words to this post. When I was originally written this, I felt like I was starting to get over the weird feeling of pointless-ness. It makes sense, because I don’t think I would be able to write anything if I perceived everything as “pointless” – this blog included. But then a few days later, I was feeling it again. At that point, I felt like I could better describe how it felt, but I couldn’t gather up the motivation or strength to even try to put it into words.

Whats the point of even writing this? None of this is ever going to matter anyways.

What kind of impact am I even going to have with any of the things I am doing? None of this will ever be remembered when I’ve died, in fact, it won’t even matter 20 years from now, let alone like 80.

I’m just wasting resources. I contribute nothing to this world, and all I do is consume things. Why am I even here? Why am I even alive?

I guess that sums most of it up.

But then I had assignments due. PA3 and a presentation. I am absolutely terrible at C++ and anything I try to implement inevitably breaks in multiple places. It was painful being so inept at it all. I got help from Rene, someone who has a completed degree in software, but it still was broken in so many ways. I felt so guilty and useless asking my classmate for help. I had asked him for help during the last assignment, and he just sent me his code, no questions asked.

This time I couldn’t do that, so when I had asked him some questions about the assignment a few days before it was due, I tried to phrase them all in a way that the answer wouldn’t involve him showing me any code. And it worked. But then 2 days after the deadline, the last possible acceptance date with 40% worth of deductions, I asked to see how he implemented one of his functions, and he just send me all his code… again. Rene was still helping me then, but 5 hours had passed and my code still had more holes than there were even methods. It was quite depressing just saying that my friend had sent me his code to compare with. I had wasted Rene’s time, and basically ended up copying a lot of my friend’s code because even though in theory we were doing similar things, his version of it worked, and mine wouldn’t.

Coming off a mindset that consists purely of “my existence is meaningless”, this was some pretty depressing moment. Now I just felt ashamed to be existing. I spent the next day of that weekend doing random stuff outside and avoiding my other assignment that was due that night. I ended up submitting that one late as well. I couldn’t even bring myself to feel embarrassed over that late submission. It couldn’t compare to the previous assignment.

Amidst this was the fact that my father had left for China the previous week. My grandfather was becoming incredibly unwell, and even though my family visited under 5 months ago and my mom had visited again just 2 weeks ago, my dad was going back to take care of him for a while.

This meant that the office had one less staff. That would have been manageable but our only non-family staff also had to return home (to Taiwan) because of family health issues. This left the office with only my mother. Which left me with the burden of picking up all the abandoned tasks.

Pressure & Expectations

I’ve always prided myself in not letting my actions or behaviour show whatever negative emotions I feel (generally). I do have off moments, and obviously, I do complain about it to friends, but I usually only complain about rather small things. Things that while incredibly annoying and aggravating, are not going to cause me to lose any sleep. The last thing that really got to me was feeling the pressure of trying to achieve the success my parents wanted to see from me back in second school.

That one was an interesting experience.

Before that, it was in elementary when I seemingly didn’t realize how much I was affected by the fear of failing to meet the expectations that just got set by my 12 year old self’s acceptance into Middle Years (pre-Synergy days). It was the realization that I had achieved something, that others I perceived as superior did not achieve. If others know you have achieved something, it’s easier for them to expect you to achieve something else later. I remember the PA broadcasting a familiar voice, telling me and six (if I am remembering correctly) others to go to the principal’s office. I was confused. I didn’t recall doing anything that I would be in trouble for, and the others were all too good natured to do anything dumb that I would have. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I was being grouped with these people. Even though I knew them, were good friends with some of them, and interacted with them on the daily, I had always grouped them in a tier higher than myself. If there was a class hierarchy, I definitely did not command the same power that they did. So when we get the news that we were accepted, I was so confused. Eventually we went back to class, and I sat back down at my desk near the middle of the classroom, grouped with three other students (of which I can only remember 1, the other two I’m not sure of). As the class was beginning to settle down, I looked inside my desk to find the pencil I was going to need to take notes. When I my hand moved towards the front left side of the desk’s inside, I did not find my mechanical pencil. Instead, it was a piece of paper saying “Congratulations!”. To my surprise, everyone else in the class seemed to know what was happening when the PA went off. As Ms. Scott confirmed the details for everyone, the guy to my left congratulated me as well. It was all very nice of them, but I couldn’t help but feel a little uncomfortable. I attributed it to not being used to receiving praise (and I’m still really bad with that), and moved on with my day. I later realized that’s when I first felt the pressure and fear that comes with expectation. Ms. Scott sure seemed to have known about it before I could realize it myself, and I’m thankful to her for that.

I guess the point of that whole story was to say, I have a difficult time handling expectation.

And boy, did I feel like there was a lot of expectation on me.

The timing of these flights aligned with the fact that I was the most capable I had ever been (in terms of ability to do accounting-related work). I was basically able to do anything that wasn’t finalizing tax reports. I realized that, and suddenly I felt this huge pressure to have to do work at the office.

I don’t actually make any money. I live off my parents, and that allows me to not worry about spending money on living expenses and entertainment. All of that, as well as my family’s entire finances depends on the income from my mother’s public practice – the office. If I add in any of the memories of previous years where my parents (mom especially) work late, sleep at the office, and generally become incredibly stressed out when there were more people to split the tasks around, I suddenly left so much pressure.

That’s not including the 15 page group report I need to constantly communicate and coordinate (communication really is the biggest struggle out of any group project) or else I lose the sustainability certificate that my extra year was for. Sparkle in my normal life obligations, my grandfather’s diagnosis being some sort of blood-related cancer (I haven’t even really got to research it much), and previous commitments to things, I was not a very carefree man. While not exactly the same, I could empathize a bit with Atlus’ unwanted burden of carrying the world up. The support that held my world up was seemingly crumbling before my eyes, and I had to do something. That something ended up being everything, and the stress of trying to have to do everything was making it that I wasn’t doing anything.

Honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t snapped and become broken yet. I guess in a way I’m too proud to let it really show. I’m so obviously conscious of this fact, and at my lowest I have only briefly mentioned it to friends. I guess I am putting so much focus on trying to survive until my academic commitments end, until my father comes back, and until April is over, that I’ve not really got the chance to think too much about all of this.

Post-Stress Feelings (End of April)

My exams are over, my report is done, my father is back, and everything that seemed to be stressing me out has subsided. Of course, I’ve still got to be at the office every week-day (and sometimes weekends too), but having only one thing on my plate is much more manageable than 5. My time at the office is going to have to end early too, as I get to move onto my next task – being a personal chaperone. A family friend is coming over, and as my parents aren’t going to have much free time to take her around, that duty has been put on me.

Not that this is much of a problem though, as exploring Vancouver is a much more enjoyable task than filling out T3’s and T4’s. In fact, I would say it’s much more akin to a break than it is a duty. Shortly after that’s over, I’ll be off on a plane to China to see my grandfather. Possibly the last time I see him, depending on how well he can handle his condition. Considering the fact that he doesn’t eat very well or stay very health, it’s quite likely that is will be the last time. It’s at times like these that I’ve slightly thankful for not having developed such close connections to my grandparents. Of course, I would prefer to have been closer to then (physically as well), and they would definitely prefer it too, but being not as close makes it easier to handle them passing away. I wonder how my mother’s going to handle it, as this is her father. My father’s parents have already both passed, and neither of my mother’s have so I’ll have to wait and see. My father has always been a champ at controlling his feelings, while my mother is the exact opposite. My mother’s probably a bit too busy to think about it right now though.

I think I should end this blog. Writing this has spanned close to six weeks of time, so I’ve already lost track of what I have covered, and what I haven’t. But that’s the trademark of anything I write, so nothing new here. Maybe I’ll do an blog about how my next week with Catherine is like, but don’t hold it to me.

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