I woke up one morning and didn’t recognize what I had become. What was my reason to get up, to shower, to brush my teeth, to dress, to step outside and lock the door behind me? I used to love skipping stones on the river. I wasn’t very good at it, but my father used to show me how it’s done and I liked watching him. I gained as much pleasure from looking for the perfect stone as I did from actually skipping it. Various people in my life have told me some version of “I like you” or “I love you”. I’ve never really understood what in particular stood out to them; what I had that others didn’t; what made me the perfect stone. The fact is: I am not nor have I ever been the perfect stone. I am deeply flawed and acutely aware of my flaws. Am I simply loved for existing then? I have a hard time wrapping my head around such a claim, given the fact that the earth suffers from overpopulation.
I’ve always had my head if not up in the clouds, at least leaning out of the window looking ahead. My friends were invariably older than I was at each stage of my life, I read the books that were required reading only three years ahead of where I was at. When I was in high school, I read things on the university curriculum. In the first semester, I read books pertaining to the second semester; in the second semester, I read things from the third and so on.
I’ve only ever had long-distance relationships. It has been suggested to me that this is a clear sign that I have commitment issues and indeed I may. With so much to choose from, how can one ever be certain to have made the right choice? Clinging on for life to the choice I’ve made to save face has never been my modus operandi. But: am I doing just that right now?
When I was a child I first wanted to become an archeologist, by way of mimicking the interests of my sister. Then came a fascination for chemistry, which I gave up as swiftly as it had come. Instead, I zeroed in on journalism. I was hellbent on becoming a journalist, always on top of developing stories, reporting facts, not unironically, in, what has become the slogan for a news corporation which does the exact opposite, one way only: fair and balanced [sic]. If journalism didn’t work out, I’d become a novelist. Or the other way around. I hadn’t made up my mind yet.
I betrayed what I wanted to do because I was in love. Logistical problems meant that if I wanted to keep the relationship going we would both have to compromise. I had always felt more at home in the anglosphere and yet, in another ironic twist, my American girlfriend led me to only seriously consider studies in Germany. Something which meant that unless I was to undertake the ridiculous task of studying English or American Studies in Germany, I would have to pick something in German. I didn’t want to become a German teacher and I could imagine myself as a journalist in an English context only, so my eyes wandered over the curriculum in search of another appropriate field of study. Law was suggested to me by forces more rational than I as a good compromise between my love for the written word and something which enabled me to pursue a good career and make a lot of money. I was in love. I had the foolish notion that I needed to provide. I read up on law, decided that it was a way for me to incorporate my wish for justice into my studies as much as I would have been able to with journalism, if not even more so, and I went for it.
5 years later, I have studied law in both Germany and France and I have had the fortune of interning at great law firms. I have had the opportunity of participating in and coaching a moot court, gain some insight into mediation and negotiation techniques. In all this time, doubts remained. My artistic side, or literary side rather, got cut woefully short and slowly the feeling crept underneath my skin that I wasn’t really doing what I had set out to do. I didn’t feel at home in this system. People, not inherently more intelligent than I, were getting better grades than I did. I felt frustrated, but also imprisoned. I started growing bitter, losing my humor and exchanging it for cynicism, stopped seeing people, started drinking alone. I let myself go until I didn’t let myself go outside anymore.
It is hard to say when depression hit me exactly, which choices led me down the path to darkness or which well-intentioned comments played a sinister role in bringing me to my knees. The fact is: I am here and it is hard to get out.
So when I woke up this morning and looked into the mirror, I had no idea what the hell I was looking at. Shattered dreams, broken promises, hopelessness, or vitriol directed against myself? Failure, mistakes, someone who has let himself go? An outcast of society, trying to masquerade as belonging to it?
It’s Mardi Gras, so I’m just another person pretending to be someone else.