When I first heard the word, 'Nihilist', I was in university surrounded by a group of like-minded friends much more intelligent than I. Someone made a joke and everyone laughed, and I laughed along too pretending to understand it. For fear of humiliation of my self-inflicted ignorance, I vowed to google it later that night. Here’s what I found:
To be honest, I didn't really get it. And I dismissed it, and went on my merry way. Little did I know how much I would identify with it a mere few months later.
Fast forward to me, sitting in a tiny attic bedroom in downtown Toronto, summer 2016. I was unemployed, and completely bored of life. For #immigrantreasons, I couldn't get a working visa right away after graduation which rendered me helpless, watching my friends attain work, a.k.a. a reason to get up in the morning. At first, I was reduced to spending my days like a young 1950s socialite, planning activities with all of her employed friends pretending like she had a life whatsoever, cheerfully giggling off my anxieties. When I ran out of money to do even that, I just lay around at home waiting for the minutes to tick down and for the day to just end. It didn't matter that I had any interviews, or any sort of freelance work; I suddenly found myself wilting under the complete lack of structure in the days that seemed to stretch on for years. I felt like a small gerbil, trapped inside a clear plastic ball, slowly being deprived of oxygen as I frantically spun my wheels.
I found myself running out of reasons to care, growing more and more disillusioned. Who cares if I had all this time to do anything that I wanted to, create anything I dreamed of, go to the beach in the middle of a weekday? Applying to jobs was pointless because sure as hell no one was going to read it. After a while, I found myself unwilling to go out for fear I would spend, period, and this withdrawal was when the nihilism began.
It first started as a joke I would tell my friends, but then it started feeling way too real. In school, I could always compare myself to someone else and tell myself, Hey, you’re not doing so bad right now. But after graduation, I felt empty - like I was just another face in the crowd, anxiously waiting for my life to begin. I quickly sunk into a pit of pointlessness - what was the point of trying to claw my way anywhere if my life was meaningless in the grand scheme of things? How could I possibly hope to make a difference as just another young, unemployed 20-something? A GRAPHIC DESIGNER? Why couldn’t I be something more useful, like a doctor, an architect, or an engineer? If I couldn’t even be the best designer/artist, then who was I? Why am I feeling so crappy about this, there are far more important things like the refugee crisis, social injustice, acts of terrorism to worry about. And the cycle continued.
I finally did end up getting a job, so I could stop worrying about financial woes, but that’s not the point of my story. That long, dark period of unemployment taught me some really important lessons. Firstly, it taught me how to spend a whole day in Toronto for under $15 (it takes a lot of self control), and it also taught me how far I could walk across the city without wanting to collapse.
Let’s be real though, it taught me how to:
In the past, I’d almost always made things seeking external validation - there wasn’t a single thing I could make without imagining an elaborate social media campaign out of it - but now, I try to tone that down, and create things just for the pure joy of throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks (not literally unless indicated as an art performance). That summer, I gritted my teeth and researched/practised calligraphy and hand lettering for days on end while streaming Parks & Rec (I still look back fondly on my Beyonce lyrics series), sketched random people in the subway/cafes/the park whenever I could, and most importantly, actually took steps to work on the ideas I could only before imagine. I get so excited even now when I see how shittily I made things before, compared to how I make things now, and become so proud of how high my standards for myself have risen (yeah, that whole thing about mastery taking 10,000 hours? That’s a 100% true).
In the end, I also learned that no matter how pointless things might feel, no matter how many people might be better than me at the thing that I do - no one else could do it like I do, and at the end of the day, everything I made was just for me, to express myself to the world even if no one gave a flying crap. Sure, there were days that were god awful -- oh so many days -- but through it all, I learned how to live with myself, my creativity, and my faults so that that summer, while tons of friends found themselves in foreign lands or glamorous jobs, I found myself in that tiny Toronto apartment.
Like Shia LaBeouf says: “Don’t let your dreams be dreams.”
Hello, new readers! Welcome to my blog. You’re probably wondering - hmm, why does a graphic designer/artist/UI/UX designer/whoeverthefuck wanna write? After all, I didn’t major in English in University. I didn’t even minor in it. Well, I tried but honestly, it was way too much work with everything else going on with my program. Waterloo LOVES their longass degree names: for instance, my degree says “Bachelor of Arts and Business Honours Co-op, Majoring in Fine Arts, Specializing in Digital Arts Communication.” It’s almost like the longer they think it is, the more intelligent we’re supposed to be, so you can see why there might be no more room on there for an English degree - plus, I don't even think there's enough paper for it.
I used to - and still do - have a love for English. I have since middle school when in the 7th grade I wrote a school play that ended up being an hour long and satirized fairy tales to make them modern day sagas. For instance, Pinnochio was a media agent, who encouraged plastic surgery and had Cinderella’s step sisters as clients. I know, it sounds amazing.
I then went on to write several more plays, excelled in literature, lived through the hell that was Higher Level IB English (Streetcar Named Desire anyone?), and thought I’d live to pursue literature as a double degree along with fine arts in University. I saw myself as Hermione Granger - I could, and SHOULD do it all! However as my O-level results go to show, electing to take ten subject exams actually requires you to study for all of them; resulting in a wildly diverse report card consisting of 5As, 2Bs, and a C, D, and E respectively. My life since then has turned out to be a similar struggle, of me wanting it all but having to work with less - but that’s okay because I’ve really lowered down my expectations since then. Reaaaally loowered.
For instance, my life post-University: I don’t miss school at all to be honest. Let’s be real, paying international tuition sucks a bag of dicks. Due to financial stress and the guilt that I didn’t actually deserve the education I was receiving, I developed serious panic attacks in my second year of university where my world moved around me in a hazy, vibrating motion that absolutely terrified me. It was like the worst high of your life, and walking on the street to school, I was scared I’d get hit by a car. My cognition was so terrible, I thought I was having vertigo and was reduced to lying down on the couch watching Community for days on end. But that had to stop eventually when I *finally* got diagnosed for acute anxiety.
So that’s why I don’t miss school! Learning is wonderful, and I try to educate myself all the time, but I can’t forget the anxiety of having to deal with life, friends, relationships, school, volunteering, and extracurricular activities in addition to never being able to forget the fact that my entire experience literally hung on my mother’s purse strings.
But I have to admit, life has been a little bit emptier since leaving school. When I was 10, I used to dream of being 25, daydreaming about the independence I would have: my glamorous friends, drinking at some hip and trendy bar after work (maybe less of the drinking part), being in the supposed prime of my life. Now I'm 24 and like Cinderella's pumpkin carriage at midnight I collapse into a lumpen, tired heap on the floor. So my solution is to return to writing, in a diary I can't extensively rip the pages out of, and hope that consistently writing/drawing on here fills up this empty space that school has left behind. I also hope this helps you a little too, so whether you agree with me, hate everything and wanna burn it on a pyre, or want to discuss something something cats, contact me! Let's be friends, or further our friendship if you already sorta know me as an awkward Facebook acquaintance.After all, we all definitely need to start somewhere.