Monday, 12 January 2009

Navigating the hinterland of despair

Indyeah's comment on my last post made me realise I'd generalised too much based on circumstances from my own life.

The capability for unique or new memories and experiences is never a constant, nor a simple declining trend proportionate to age. Life always presents the possibility of change; the patterns you follow in day to day life can always, in theory, be drastically altered. Every life is different, and undergoes periods of relative stability and then of dynamic change.

Nevertheless, as a trend overall, life perhaps does tend to stagnate and become rather more static as you get older: for numerous reasons.

In my case, the somewhat cynical outlook was a reflection of the "outward" decline of my own life over the last five years. l wish I could say my life was full of joy; full of hope; full of energy; full of moments to remember. My inner world is rich because it has to be: it has to compensate for the prison that I have slowly slipped into in my material life.

I am still seeking the key. I have changed enormously over the last number of years - perhaps even more so than the "formative" teenage years to early adulthood. Yet I still wander aimlessly[1].

The ultra brief history? Went to University. Studied Computer Science. Met my [ex]-girlfriend (who I eventually ended up living with for six years). In the third and final year of University, after flying through the degree for the first two years, everything fell apart. The reasons are extremely complex, very wide ranging, and I am still trying to comprehend them all even today, six years later.

Suffice to say, the person towards the end of the degree was nothing like the person who had decided to embark on it.

Since then, I've spasmodically contemplated a near endless list of possible careers, with no success. Signed up to cooking school to train to be a chef. Ultimately decided against it (after already having paid a deposit). Spent a couple of years in retail. Decided to train to become a personal trainer and sports massage therapist. Got qualified. Briefly worked for a gym and realised that it wasn't me.

Since then, just back in retail, just barely paying the bills.

I just don't know what I want to do. Where I want to go. I have ideas about the sort of life I'd like to live, but no idea what career to do to support it. My thoughts in this area are intensely volatile; they vary drastically day to day.

Books and music are mostly all that I have to keep me going. I cannot remember, in all honesty, what it is like to be generally and genuinely happy any more. It has been that long. I mean happy as in a overall state of well-being, as in a generalised notion that "life is reasonably good". Happiness for me only comes in brief moments, punctuating a backdrop that feels bleak and largely hopeless. I realise that happiness is probably not a wise "goal" for life, and perhaps should not be regarded as the purpose of live. But regardless of the overarching goal, you nevertheless want a life where the predominant emotions are not those of unhappiness, frustration, sadness.

I barely earn enough to pay my bills; I have a career development loan from my personal training course that will still take me another three years to pay off; I have well over £10k+ in student debt from university (which, ironically, I won't ever have to pay off any time soon since I earn so far below the repayment threshold); I don't have a car. I am, in several senses, quite literally trapped. Without a car it is very difficult to get out into the wilds; public transport mainly just takes you to towns and cities (as you'd expect), and is expensive - cities are expensive. In real life I have met very few people at all that I can "connect" with. 

I spend my days off alone, in my dream world, reading books, listening to music, drinking tea.

Life has the potential for so much... and yet I feel myself rotting away. I have no one and I feel that I am being denied the type of human experiences that one cherishes as part of a complete human existence: companionship, love, sex. A future. Hope. Change.

For I realise that I am ultimately the source of my downfall. I'm average looking and earn little money. But most significantly at all: I am a man without a purpose. Without direction. Nothing could possibly be more unattractive to a woman than this aspect. My Yin has gone. Each year seems more or less identical to the next; only briefer.

I look and hope for change, and am open for it: but I seem to lack the capacity for effecting it. I am master of my own destiny, yet I know not where to go, what to do, how to do it. I have expended vast amounts of effort and energy searching myself, looking for the answer.

Yet, despite years of trying, it has so far been fruitless. I look down upon myself: I dishonour myself. I utterly waste all my talents and capabilities; I disperse myself aimlessly without goals.

I feel profoundly low in energy of late. Days off are spent in quiet reflection, almost as if I have accepted defeat, the death of myself. A cloud of depression hangs around me. I live almost in a state of resignation. No one would really know, of course[2]: I go to work, I smile, I'm fine.

But not really.

I walk into the park, sit on the bench, marvel at the beauty of the sky; the sound of the trees whispering in the wind; the warming glow of a low sun in the winter.

I watch all the couples walk past, hand in hand, laughing, smiling, sharing a thousand tiny details: I watch and I wonder, why can't that ever be me?    

And then I feel pathetic. Pathetic, and denied any opponent to allow me to conquer myself as much as them: For how does one acheive victory in such material, vapid times? Where shall I find my honour?

I write this blog to fight defeat: I write this blog to make some sort of challenge.

For one thing is certain. Life is a struggle, and all you can do is keep going.

[1] Hence the blog title. Sleipnir was Odin's magical eight legged steed, not merely a horse, but his gateway to the different spiritual realms. Symbolically, you could say, Sleipnir represented Odin's capability to transform and operate his life across all levels - material and spiritual - therefore, Sleipnir could never be a mere ordinary four legged horse. I am looking for a Sleipnir within myself to transform and ultimately free myself from myself*.

*Again, much as Odin sacrificed himself to himself, on the world tree Yggdrasil to gain wisdom (and knowledge of the runes, amongst other things). So, somehow or other, I need to frame a similar "rite of passage", of self-sacrifice, to emerge, hopefully, with clarity on where to go.

[2] Obviously anyone truly emotionally/spiritually perceptive - i.e. usually a woman, since generally their power of empathy and overall emotional receptivity is superior to us men - probably realises almost immediately, even if I seem apparently fine and cheerful. It hardly surprising, therefore, on the very rare occasions when I've got even remotely close to "meeting someone", that they are usually very quickly put off and steer clear. I guess I can't blame them. 


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, you talk a lot about not having a love in your life. From my own experience, I'm happy to be alone right now. I've been in constant, back to back relationships for the last 10 years, which includes a 5-year marriage...and dating before that! I desperately need time to be myself and discover who I am without an "other".

In your case, if you don't know which direction you're going, it might be a good thing that you're not with someone. The beginning of a relationship can be all-consuming. I've also heard that the more you think about meeting that special someone, the less likely you are to meet them. Life seems to work that way, and I do believe that things happen for a reason. There's something you need to discover right here, right now.

You talk a lot about this on your blog, so I think it's time that you instigate some major change in your life, something unexpected. Of course I don't have all the answers, but as a blog friend who has become interested in your life, I feel like I want to encourage you in some direction.

You seem very artistic. You seem very philosophical. You seem like you enjoy the deeper elements to human existence. I don't know what to suggest or what direction is best for you. I think many of us are still figuring it out. I don't think we ever land somewhere and go AHA THIS is the external circumstances I've always been looking for! I think the change is indeed within, and then everything else will fall into place...not perfectly...but fitting to your particular existence, etc.

It sounds like you are good at thinking things through and evaluating situations. You are good at reflection. These are strengths. That said, perhaps you need to do something opposed to these things. Don't over-think, just act. Sometimes spontaneous action is the best in showing us what we need to see.

I could be totally wrong with my perceptions...but this is all going off what I know of you so far from the Blogosphere.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Vesper matey that you need to action some of these thoughts rather than just think or talk about them (and we are ALL, well mostly, guilty of that to some degree or other).

It's the old discussion that change is always inevitable and that it is up to us to embrace the changes and see them as a new doorway instead of a brick wall on happiness. It's seeing the changes as an opportunity which is of course hardest for those of us in a comfort zone - I REALLY suggest you read the simple and easy to read book (they are my favourites)! called "Who moved my Cheese" it really is brilliant at depicting the four main characteristics of people who are confronted with major change (though in the book we are mice of course) absolutely brilliant. Personally, although I had ambition and no blinkers when I was younger, I feel that my life is getting better and better every day as I get older and I now have the experience and confidence to know what to do when change presents itself, and that can of course mean consciously rejecting certain opportunities and embracing others.

There is also an element of acute awareness, as we get older, that time is slipping by fast and that the smaller things or events in life are as precious as the big things. Vesper is quite right in that it's good to know what YOU want in life before embarking on relationships BUT, there is a caveat to that, I believe sharing new experiences with a loved one is even more valuable than doing it alone - see the film "Into the Wild" or the book of the same, because ultimately, as a vibrant and intelligent young man, this was the most important realisation at the end of his own literally life changing adventure.

Indyeah said...

Sometimes even words fall I'll give you these by Paulo Coelho today..
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream.”

''Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.''

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”

And this I believe in with all my heart...
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.””
Aren ,go out struggle ,strive ....aim and reach for your goals.....Life's waiting for you....Both your friends have given you good advice....Sometimes its not time for words but action...this is one of those times......the action doesn't have to be big or soul changing.......It can be a very small one....just the first step towards better things in life....but it will be a STEP in the right direction right?
Go out,smile embrace life,keep looking for new opportunities .....and one day you'll find that which you are most good at,that which you were born for...
love?that will come when you least expect it...and it'll be forever...this I promise you...
BUT first it's all about you and ony you..
Once you learn to love who you are and see all that you can be.....
ONLY THEN will 'love' turn in your direction...
Have a good year....
and go out now...

Aren O. Týr said...

Thanks for the insightful comments guys.


"I desperately need time to be myself and discover who I am without an "other"."

I completely understand that.

I've been single for well over two years now, so I've had plenty of alone time. And when I say single, I mean absolutely single, not even any sort of brief relationship of a casual nature, nothing at all... Obvious to say, unless you are someone who has specific reasons, a deliberate choice, generally no mid twenties man wishes to lead a life of celibacy, if nothing else...

"if you don't know which direction you're going, it might be a good thing that you're not with someone"

Whilst my heart says otherwise, intellectually I agree. And as I said, I think a lack of direction is a particularly unattractive state for a man to be in...

"There's something you need to discover right here, right now. "

Indeed, and I really need to find it!

"Sometimes spontaneous action is the best in showing us what we need to see."

Funnily enough someone else previously recommended this. So again, I think you're absolutely right.

Now, at the risk of sounding incredibly contradictory, I ask myself "Yes, but what?"

I've become utterly useless at spontaneity not because I am someone who can't be impulsive (far from it), but because I've become so entrenched, and now, in recent years, so financially trapped, that I can't see what to do. What to do, what to do, what to do... If I was reasonably well off and not saddled with pressing debts, at this stage in my life I'd probably fill a backpack and randomly travel the globe, exploring, with no particular aim, until illumination came.

But I don't have that luxury, so I need to think much more laterally...


I'll have a look into the book and film.

"BUT, there is a caveat to that, I believe sharing new experiences with a loved one is even more valuable than doing it alone"

I completely and unreservedly agree with this. As the proverb goes,

'A problem shared is a problem halved, a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled.'

Or something along those lines.

Meanwhile, it is quite suitably ironic that our paths have completely randomly crossed on the blogosphere. For several reasons.

I used to live in Bangor where I went to University, so I used to love the North Wales scenery. After I finished, one of the other career paths I "tried" and failed on, which for whatever reason I forgot to mention in my original post, was photography. I spent a lot of money (or rather, my mother did) on a D-SLR setup at the time, a Fuji S2 Pro with three different lens, with the completely sincere intention of trying to make it as a professional photographer. I was particularly interested in nature and landscape photography, much like yourself.

(Whilst I can't be entirely certain, I think I may even have been to one of your seminars? Did you once do one at the JJB Gym in Bangor, on portrait photography? Specifically on working with light to bring out anatomy. I might well be confusing you with another photographer in the area, but your name seems vaguely familiar.)

Anyway, I pursued it with a great deal of intensity for perhaps six months, but for whatever reason, probably confidence more than anything, I never actually took the critical first step of moving beyond having a portfolio to actually making some money through either commissions or prints.

The dream, like so many others, died off and never became a reality.

In any case, that was a long time ago, and I have since sold off all my camera equipment, as much due to the fact that I got sick of lugging an DSLR with a bunch of lens around in a big camera backpack! I've just got a little Pentax Optio digital compact these days, which although extremely limited in capability by comparison, serves it purpose of "capturing memories" and isn't half bad considering how tiny it is...


On an incidental side note, another random, quaint, and persistent dream of mine has been to open up a tea shop. But not just not any tea shop. A truly world class specialist tea shop and cafe, where nothing other than having the most extensive and complete selection of tea and teaware would be acceptable, and the mission would be, unequivocally and without the slightest compromise (Virgoan perfectionist tendencies to the fore...), to serve the finest cup of tea in the UK, if not the world.

I'm a bit of a tea nutcase you see, with a whole chest of drawers full of different types of loose leaf tea.

I'd go much further than anyone else. How many cafe's make their tea with pure mineral water? None that I've ever encountered. Yet I'd go even further and match the particular characteristics of certain mineral waters with corresponding teas. And yet the quality of water fundamentally determines the quality of the tea. No tap water is ever as pure as water from an entirely natural source.

Water quality, brewing time, leaf to water ratio, water temperature and brewing vessel all need to be precisely controlled to make the perfect cup of tea, and these variables are all grossly different depending on the type of black, green, oolong, pu-erh, or white tea or tisane being made...

Obsessive, yes, But it's the same type of attention to detail as to what is involved in producing the perfect composition and exposure for that perfect photo.

Anyway, enough of my tea obsession!

Rationally and economically speaking, the location would have to be critical, and in the current global recession the probability of such a shop being successful is low. It is questionable whether the market exists sufficiently; for somewhere so specialised would likely only be a success if it achieved such a reputation for being so outstanding and unique that people were willing to travel far and wide just to visit.

(Current tea whilst I type this: "Morning Dew"; a blend of Japanese sencha, sunflower, cornflower, and rose petals).

Aren O. Týr said...

Indyeah, fine words, I hope I might be able to find within myself what I need to take the action you speak of.

Tomorrow would be a fine day to start. I've got it off work. I ask myself, what am I able to do that's new?

I draw a blank. I don't know.

You quote Coelho as saying

"And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream.".

And, it makes me think, perhaps its corollary is also true:

"No heart suffers more, than when it has given up all its dreams.".

On particularly bleak days, I sometimes feel that is precisely what I've done.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Aren O. Týr,

Sir, is one saying one desires to understand that elusive secret hidden within the walls of Waterloo Bullring? I hasten to warn you, one will need to leave behind all one's belongings & friends before journeying, & one will never again return to thinking in the ways one is accustom'd to. In whiche'er way one might contemplate proceeding, I bid you a very fine evening, Sir.

I am, &c.
Colonel Brandon.
Nature Diary

Aren O. Týr said...


As wisdom weaves its mysterious wings through your words, I must accept with due caution taken your warnings given.

I have burned plenty of bridges, so burning a few more will not, with too much regret, give me more than I can bear; whilst I'd rather not leave behind all belongings and friends, perhaps, perchance, I can but find a way to bring along those who would wish to join me on said journey, as we embark onto shores, as yet, unknown...

Thanking you sir, for your heeding, and thus taken under advisement.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
French Fancy said...

I haven't got time to read all those interesting comments on the left - but I intend to return tomorrow.All I want to say is that happiness is a very transitory emotion, well I think so anyway. Most people do not go around in a state of blissful happiness really. Contentment is a far better emotion to aim for.

You sound a very self-aware soul, much more insightful than I was at your age. I wasted the years from about 20 -35 and, indeed, it is only now (I turned 50 last March) that I can truly say I feel contented and in 'a good place'.I know it is a truism but things happen so unexpectedly sometimes, I'm proof of that with how I met the man I live with.

You just mustn't give up hope that you'll meet someone.

Back tomorrow

Anonymous said...

Mr. Aren O. Týr,

It is a weakness on my part, all to often repeat'd, to convince my self that my experience of life might be of some value to another whereas the fact becomes clearer to me after some quiet contemplation, that I do not matter, never have matter'd & never will matter with respect to the path another person might take thru' life. Indeed, it is an error of presumptuousness on my part to think otherwise. I say this not as some form of mock humility but because I believe it true. What will happen, will happen because one is verily in control of one's future howe'er much it might seem not to be the case. I can tho' confirm the wisdom of that truth Ms. French Fancy spoke of, that of a good companion, by repeating those words of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 4:9-11:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their hard work. For if one of them should fall, the other one can raise his partner up. But how will it be with just the one who falls when there is not another to raise him up? Moreover, if two lie down together, they also will certainly get warm; but how can just one keep warm?”

I bid you a most peaceful evening, Sir.

I am, &c.
Colonel Brandon.

French Fancy said...

see, I did return to read the comments. They all speak a lot of sense. It seems to me that you are sort of trapped in your feelings of semi-despair and melancholia.

I've had a good look at your interests and wondered if there was any way you could go travelling for a bit. You seem to like Scandinavia-could you not just take off and 'see what happens'. I know it sounds scary but it needn't cost that much money and you might have some adventures on the way.

It would just shake you out of the mindset that you seem to have got into. Anything must be better than just drifting around feeling that life is passing you by.Someone once said to me that I needed to throw my hat over the wall.I did and lots of things changed in my life.

Go on - throw it.

French Fancy said...

oops - maybe I should have read your long reply first. Pressing debts are not really good if you want to change your life around. They are swamping and depressing and no doubt one of the causes for you feeling so low.

Can you perhaps make a plan for a definite date in the future. A plan to just run away and see what happens?

Cynthia said...

Hello Aren, I came over to find you in a sad mood. I hope that your feelings have improved. I think the worst feeling is being stuck. So anything you can do to make a change with lighten your mood. I hope I'm not intruding with my suggestion.

Indyeah said...

Please drop in and pick up something!:)

Aren O. Týr said...

Indyeah, I am still considering my response(s) :-)

But thank you for the comments everyone. In the meanwhile, I have written a new post for the blog tonight.

Work and a lack of time are annoyances that interfere with blogging, haha.

In any case, I'll respond to these later comments in due course, I promise...

Aren O. Týr said...

Oh, Indyeah, I see, you were referring to something entirely different on your blog... Thank you!

I will respond tomorrow, for the night is late and I need to get off to bed now! :-)