Updated: 5 days ago
It’s not even a misty haze that looms over my head blocking my vision of the distant atmosphere anymore, it’s the ongoing air conditioner blowing the filtered air inside where it turns into dust and settles onto the surface of the duvet. It nestles its way into the seams of the fabric resting weighted on me. It secures me underneath, cuffing my ankles to the bed frame because it knows there’s no purpose for my awakening anyway. That’s what these days feel like. Back in the winter it used to be the ever-gloomy skies of which I could hardly find through the skyscrapers, and now it’s the ceiling, the walls, the dust from the air conditioning unit.
Months ago I felt almost invincible, as my intrinsically lonely and antisocial homebody enjoyed (for a second) remaining inside for the safety of myself and everyone else. The time to finally think was, for once, relaxing. Perhaps this was because I knew the whole world was inside with me. Perhaps it was out of an unknowing fear and concern. But it’s this state we are in now, this end-of-summer, forward-looking, subjectively-hopeful state where I stay here watching the country force life back to normal with a fear of remaining fearful. I’m not even of those with lingering fear, but I am with those who have a dangerously deeper sense of loss than even previously. Back then I could navigate the serene parts of the city by looking up and following the few clouds I could find. But now, looking up just makes me feel far smaller and insignificant.
Life’s perspective changes as you grow older, and pre-Covid I knew that with 24 around the corner for me I had to slow myself down from feeling like time was slipping away, because it wasn’t. Now, time has stopped. I recently heard someone say that time feels for us as it does for prisoners: completely skewed and unclear. But the scariest part for me is that time hasn’t stopped, only parts my mind has. Fall is still on its way, moving plans are still being made, money is still being earned and spent and I am still getting older. But the feeling persists of my feet being nailed to the carpet where the dust embeds itself next to them. And it isn’t a grounding feeling, it’s a stranded feeling where I am unable to catch the subway that consistently rushes by every five minutes outside our Astoria window, like a dream where my legs don’t work and I can’t find my voice to get anyone’s attention. Instead all I feel I can do is try to focus my scattered brain on being creative, try to dream only realistically about goals of the future, and try to do a facemask instead of rip the cuticles off my fingers until they bleed.
I try to avoid the thoughts of the purpose behind human existence that had already frequently occupied my brain before all of this. Those thoughts fueled a lot of my work, and now it feels nearly unbearable to let cross my mind. And with this has come a long and painful lull in my work as well. With attempts to distract myself I looked at a lot of ‘happy’ artwork, (mine never really was) and I tried to mimic that, perhaps as a therapeutic method to appreciate the smaller things in life, to try to use distraction to supplement contentment. But just as social media swallows up my self-esteem and personal serenity, these forced happy drawings of which I tried posting daily were a synthetic concealer to both my work and my mental health. I thought I was strong enough to make myself be happy by enacting it through my work, through this false persona of my Instagram account. But who was I kidding? This can’t truthfully work for anyone. And with that realization then comes releasing the guilt that comes with falling off my creative roll. I am very good at supporting others in this, telling them it comes in waves and not to worry. I can give advice, but I haven’t been taking my own; it’s quite a different level of skill.
So it’s here that I come back to nature, for a different and more intense set of reasons than from months ago. With a need to find that honest and utter silence to dwell in, cry in, breathe it in and listen to my own unfiltered mind for a minute. I feel even more now than months ago a need to leave New York City, a place where a fast-paced mind can thrive, but where self-love and self-assurance which has yet to exist to its fullest in me, cannot. So perhaps our move to the west coast will be something in store a little bit sooner, and perhaps it’s a part of life that can continue at a normal pace for myself, to re-instate my own sense of time.
A change in the sense of time isn’t the totality of the problem here either, but it’s the juxtaposing feeling that it has stopped altogether while also feeling as if summer has flown by and never actually happened. Just as the air conditioner, which has been on high for the last two weeks straight and should be filtering the air in a room instead feels as if the dust is far more still than it ever was before. And I think that’s the mental challenge in all of this: taking advantage of time while also letting it slip by in the ways it needs to, in a way that is healthiest for your own needs. I am yet to find that ratio, but it may just take addressing the setback first so that you can figure out the rest along the way, letting time take me along with it.