On being a NEET, meditation, esteem and other embarrassingly useful New Age crap.
This is a heavily edited transcription of one of those horrid rambles that I record during feverish summer nights, half drunk, hoping that I’m actually reciting to some future typing self of mine, a whole article. If slightly restructured and edited to rhyme every once in a while, this would become clumsy confessional poetry, so I apologize in advance for that, and for the very abrupt topical changes from paragraph to paragraph. I’ve been having concentration issues for years, I’m sorry.
I’ll be back in formal education in April, since a strand of bureaucratic issues forced me to take a year off. Somehow, I was joyful to get a long-dreamed chance to, for a year, at least, dedicate my time fully to writing. Until then, I had finished a couple of pieces, in my spare time, writing during the nooks between recess and the arrival of the next teacher, or lunch and a necessary mood-blackening siesta. I finished, at most, five works in two years, and filled a folder with scraps for future novels, that I started to tear and discard as I, putting it in the least pretentious term that occurs to me now- “got better”.
The longest writings I had ever produced, I had produced for school. I was a dedicated student. My strategy for productivity consisted of under-sleeping, drugging myself with liters of caffeine – arousing a hypomanic episode – and hanging before me the boogeyman of some old, respectable professor that I couldn’t allow myself to disappoint.
Since I finished school, I’ve done very little. I took a book binding course; I started and abandoned a course of German for beginners, that was far too expensive to go as slowly as it did; and I started a publishing project titled The God of Noise, thanks to which I experienced the horrid organizational issues of underground cultural events, and met lovely fellows who appreciated whatever it was that I had to offer.
If I lived up to something, last year, it was gratefulness. The God of Noise provided me with very little money, and a sense of gratefulness. I was humbled to find that someone would be willing to exchange money for an assortment of collages and rather feeble poetry pieces, that I had printed in my father’s studio. I know that having such attention, and such retribution is a privilege. I hope that, if things go my way, I keep this feeling through the years. I hope that whenever I meet someone who appreciates my work, I’m still coy and delighted to received the privilege of their attention, like I did whenever someone stopped to see what I had arranged on the short table I had been assigned, at a sunny little garage fair.
Oh, well– These instances of happiness perhaps, were rare.
Last year I realized that I need to be in formal education in order to remain stable.
I suffer from an illness that keeps only the pathological highest and the pathological lowest of moods accessible to me. I don’t swing between the extremes of feeling, I teleport.
Being at home – currently, (but not for long), moldy, television-polluted, alcohol-reeking home all day, even writing, even working, even sewing the products of what I sometimes deluded myself into believing, was genius, I am still at home. I make very little money with whatever I do, and most days I have nowhere to go. My projects are the projects I make up for myself. I have friends, some spent last year in positions similar to my own- Some were finishing school, some had failed to enter college. Misery in company is misery still. I tried to get a job. I threw Curriculum Vitaes around like frisbees. One hit an old woman in the face, and slit her eyebrow. I’m going to court on friday. However, I failed to find a job.
At school, I was constantly validated. I seemed to have my place, and then finding out that most people whose floors I pleaded to mob, or whose books I pleaded to sell, whose phones I wanted to answer in exchange for pennies, didn’t even consider me worthy of being met, saddened me. It seems pathetic to admit, but most young middle-class people, and particularly the scarce subset that, like myself, has a tremendously unstable sense of self, is not emotionally equipped to navigate a world where no one gives a shit. Society is not my tiny catholic secondary school. No one pays to be here, and a lot of people’d better not be. There’s a lot of extra people for whom there’s nothing, and one has to forget oneself and allow oneself to be crushed into servitude, because at least then one’ll have a place at all.
If these seem like the obvious pseudo-realizations of a little boy who is privileged and naive enough as to be a danger to himself, I’ve got news.
However, this year I will be wrestling with public university. At least in that wrestle I’ll find structure.
I thought that having most of my hours occupied at school kept me from writing, but actually, it kept me writing. It kept me writing because it limited my writing time, and provided me with a schedule, a schedule attached to an academic goal -an inferior one, finishing secondary school-, but that goal gave me a sense of worth. I felt that I had a place, somewhere to be, and something to do, and I arrived at my desk to write out of an honest desire to write, not desperate for some self-worth, like I’ve been doing nowadays. Whether I finished something or didn’t, whether I wrote something of wit or a piece as dull as this one, the day had not being in vain.
When I was in Secondary School, I often started an essay about a week before its due date. I’d start writing outlines and short paragraphs that came to mind when reading relevant bibliography, but the essay per se would be written from 01:00 a.m. to 04:00 a.m. on the due day. I’d go to bed at 10:00 and wake up at 12:30, shower, have a liter of coffee -back then, a liter sufficed-, and finish the whole goddamn thing. The only way in which I could start and finish a text, would be the pressure of falling behind, of disappointing my teacher, of having to return to school in the summertime.
If I wrote a proper essay, a reward would be secure, if I didn’t, a punishment would be secure. Writing on the daily for an uncertain amount of money -that I thought of as ranging from zero to more than zero- didn’t bare sufficient pressure for me to sit down, start a piece, and finish it.
I’ve been writing scraps, great scraps of fiction, and poems. I finished two pieces in a year, and a poetry collection, and made very little money. A whole year of nothing, amounted to seven poems and two essays. A whole year of seven poems and two essays. What about those collages you made? I could ask myself. “Fuck you”, I could respond. I want to be a writer, not a collage artist, and a collage takes its time, and its skill, but it’s not writing. Writing is the most difficult thing that I’m semi-decent at, and even when I do it half-decently, it appeals to my sense of superiority. One reaches the finish line crawling, carrying a trace of blood like the tail of a bride’s gown.
Some days, I can’t write. I couldn’t finish anything. When I walked under the trees and felt that I was on earth by my own right, that I belonged here, that I deserved to sit at the table, I couldn’t concentrate. Under absurd depressive rage, I couldn’t concentrate either.
I’ve been attempting to off myself since age thirteen. Before getting professional help for professional reasons, I had considered committing suicide by train, like a certain relative of mine had been threatening to do for the last forty years. Sitting on my bedroom floor, I cried that there was no other option, really. Leading that imbecile sprout of a life, was excruciating, and I found myself unfit for anything better. I no longer dreamed of a “good, productive life”. It was either uselessness and ache, or suicide. I looked about, trying to imagine that soon, my belongings would be those of my father’s deceased son. Stung me the horrid pain he’d suffer, having for a home the scenery of the tragedy that broke him. I would give myself a couple of days to write a letter and solve a few nothings. Some time ago, I had asked a friend of mine for her psychiatrist’s number. I saw her twice. She gave me a narcotic regime, but refused to diagnose me. I was chemically impeded to cry, and, during the first days of treatment, far too sleepy to plan a suicide. I owe my life, not only to the pseudo-poetics of my neuroticism (what a petulant little sentence I’m pulling off, Dear Jesus!), but, above all, to the drug that made leaving my bed a heavy task, making, therefore, walking, or even riding the bus through the ten block leap to the station, akin to coursing the ocean via kayak.
I went to a concert. They played a certain song that so often had moved me to tears. By my side, a tall young man cried, pressing a napkin against his nose, while I tried to force the feeling. For a couple of days, I had been growing horrid paranoid delusions, and, after the concert, I walked the glistening, crowded streets from the San Martin Cultural Center to the obelisk, smoking, tempted, at every street corner, by the possibility of committing suicide in a humiliating and ineffective way, by throwing myself in front of a car. I can speculate on why I didn’t go through with it: I was elated to have found the solution to a crippling problem. It was a poignant, wonderful feeling. I didn’t grieve for myself in secret, pitiful and defeated, like I had done some weeks ago. I knew that it wouldn’t be long. I knew that sooner or later I would attempt to off myself, and wouldn’t hesitate. I knew that when I tried, I’d be successful, that it would all be over for good. If I had to do it there, I would, but, then, I enjoyed the feeling far too much. I saved myself through a paradox. Fantasizing about it was enough. I toyed with it, grossly hopeful, as if anticipating the glories of catholic heaven, but I ‘d like to think that I didn’t believe in heaven, not even in its convenient catholic variety of total amnesty and idle sittings by the chair of the universe’s creator. I hadn’t really enjoyed anything in such a long time, I hadn’t wanted anything in such a long time. I sat down at a cafe to wait for my father, who was to meet with a client nearby, and had offered to take me home. Later on, that night, I suffered the worst headache that I can remember.
Every mental illness carries anti-treatment tendencies – here I refer to general tendencies in behavior, that I’ve perceived in the communities that I’ve been in contact with, and, here, I don’t mean to characterize every individual who suffers from the mentioned illnesses; but it is not rare to see paranoid schizophrenics, for instance, vilifying their medics, under the belief that they are part of a great conspiracy to keep them from unveiling some great truth. Among those with bipolar disorder, I’ve found, it is not rare to abandon treatment and give oneself to pseudo-science. “In the end, my mood swings were consequence of an Omega-3 deficit”, says Stephie, who hasn’t slept in three days and has begun to converse with flowerpots, “Three salmons and I’m C E N T E R E D!”, she celebrates, waving her hands, then she bangs her head against a wall, while singing “Kumbayá”.
I am not recommending that other mentally ill people imitate my self-harming behaviour. What I’ve done is less than ideal. I was discontent with the professional I was seeing, and the prescribed treatment wasn’t working. I should have found another professional to continue taking medication. Yes, I should have taken my medication. I’m trying to get my life more or less together without it. I might be carrying an absurd wight. The thing is that medication without environmental and behavioral improvements is nothing, and at the time I found myself, not energized, but sleepy in the same shithole, and paranoid. My medication and my environment deprived me of the pathological highs, now I lived in pathological lows.
I’ve been trying to meditate. I’ve noticed some slight improvements, I believe. I used to meditate myself into sleep– I had this application on my phone, this guided meditation application. Oh, well. A few days ago, I read a blog post about meditation, on Sam Harris’ website, and, oh, well. I tried it. It works. Or at least it does as a placebo.
Between many imageless noises that I fade into and openning my eyes, I drift into this beautiful sensation that I might be a visitor of the present, and I am invited to affect it. Oh, well- It sounds horrid, really. Yes. I am stuck in the present, we all are. I am seduced by wonderful visions of the future, but the future always degrades into the present.
Being a NEET for a year was alienating. Everyone seemed to be going somewhere, making something of themselves, but me. And then, the self-esteem begun to cling to anything. It will sound pathetic, because it was: If my shoes were better polished – Yes, I’m eighteen and I wear leather shoes on a regular basis -, than some older man’s, I felt better than him, for instance. If someone’s clothes were stained, but mine were immaculate, if someone had been transpiring heavily, if someone had worse acne than me– I didn’t feel at home in the world, I didn’t feel that I had something to do, I didn’t feel that I had somewhere to go, or something to provide, I felt like a waste, I felt undesirable and inferior, I felt that my presence was unnecessary. One needs a sense of community, one needs the illusion of a function in a social group, one needs something to do.
I can see why many mentally ill NEETs are being seduced by extremists. I don’t want to excuse them, but alienation is sickening. Some days ago, I read a thread of tweets, that inspired an article on how racialists might be trying to engross their lines, infiltrating communities of mentally ill young men. I felt as if my life was barely advancing, that anguish worsened my symptoms. Other people’s comfort reflected what I lacked, and I had to live through this unfairness. I also understand the cultural relevance of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. His audience consists, mostly, of young men who feel like I felt. Maybe they’ve been mentally ill and unemployed, out of education, and out of training, for years, and they need to be provided a theoretical framework from which to build a life for themselves. This framework’s factual validity is a different affair.
At the time of editing this piece, I am, in a vague way, enthusiastic regarding my future. I don’t know how long it’ll be until the next blow. For about a week now, things have been going my way, and I am rather glad. I will carry on in that very enjoyable, not at all alienating, suicide notesque tone of mine: I’m just beginning, and I fear that there might be no place in the world for who I want to be. I can picture myself in ten years, I can picture myself in five, but I don’t know what I could be doing next week, to eventually get there. I don’t know where to begin. Ambition can conjure wonderful potentialities, but knowing the practical details to satisfy it is a whole different affair. I’m just beginning, and I fear that no effort will ever suffice. It’s too much of a stretch – Just like an infinite amount of numbers is contained between two wholes, between where and what I am, and my aspirations lay infinite impossibilities.
I don’t believe in destiny, I already believe in meditation, and that suffices. I’ve been spending my days mostly writing horrible fiction chronically unfit for publishing. Unsatisfied, I’ve begun to speak like one of my own characters. Whatever, I hope you’re happy.
Disponible en español: https://wp.me/p9HP7u-2d
Picture by Keith Dannat.