For a long time, a friend has wanted to take some self-defense classes. During the lockdown, she learned that we had some institutes nearby that had the classes she was looking for. Since Covid-19 containment measures have eased up in Portugal, and gyms and other establishments are open again, she figured this was the perfect opportunity to start. She asked me to go with her to the place and, although I didn’t want to have the classes myself, I figured I could go for a walk. It’s been a while since I have taken one, as I’ve been spending most of my time at home. So, that day after work, I went with her and while she had her try out class, I walked.
In the town I live, we have this long, straight road with a walking and cycling paved path next to a long road, which connects the city center with the closest beach. It’s lined by decent sized detached homes with small gardens, and through the closest parts to town a kind of suburb has grown. The walking path is separated from the roads by threes, with gaps for pedestrian crossings I don’t trust because no driver is ever going to see you before you’re about to cross. It’s the kind of path that’s too straight and too level, with not much going on besides the rows of houses that slowly thin out the further you go. Mind-numbingly so.
If you look straight ahead, it looks endless and, for the next thirty minutes or so, it might as well be. It’s both the perfect stretch to turn off your brain for a while, and to let your mind wander through subjects you’ve been avoiding. If the weather is just right, it becomes a short, walk-able version of going for a drive we see so often in American movies.
There aren’t many distractions along the way. At most, a bike goes around you and quickly pulls away from you. Or perhaps you find the odd group talking as they walk. Otherwise, it’s just you and your thoughts – or your music, if that’s the kind of company you’d rather have. If it was closer, I would sometimes just stroll in the evenings when I need some time to think, or maybe to be away from everything.
I have had an inbox with hundreds of unread email for years now. Throughout the years I have set up some rules to manage the flow of emails, directing Patreon updates, newsletters, and promotional things to specific labels. Google’s automatic email categorization has also helped surface the ones I care about. Recently, however, I decided to make some improvements and, perhaps, get that unread number down to something reasonable.
The other reason I have so many emails is because I don’t really delete them. If I care about them, I read and then return to the inbox, satisfied that they are no longer highlighted and not counted as unread. And those from the categories I mentioned above? Chances are they are not getting read to begin with. In fact, I would have set up a maximum age for those emails if Gmail had let me – a newsletter from a year ago is not something I will ever care about, I think.
Thus, I finally decided to return to using Thunderbird as my email client. I have always been quite fond of it and it does everything that I need of one. Its biggest sin is that its rules only apply locally, which means that I don’t benefit from them on the go. That said, I can set retention policies and its search is much more in line with what I want than Google’s.
So, throughout the week, I set up rules and filters, handling the bulk of them. And for those that were too few to justify, I went through them one by one, doing my best to prefer deletion over merely leaving as unread. Imagining a room filled with read letters, none particularly worth the space they occupy proved useful. The next challenge will be going through those that are read and cleaning them up!
It’s weird to write those words because I don’t know when I began being afraid of sharing the things I like with people. I can point to some perspective changes throughout my late teenage years, such as when I understood that there were parts of who I was that I needed to change. Regardless, the reality is that I’ve struggled to share and be open about my likes and dislikes for too long. I felt like my tastes were so unrelated that the spaces I had wouldn’t fit – after all, I was so afraid people would see that and simply walk away.
I wanted a space to be the entirety of me, because there was nowhere I could be the entirety of me. Yet I also craved the attention, and the knowledge I reached a lot of people. Of course, such is impossible. Specially because the only place I can be me is within myself.
It took me having the freedom to define myself on my own terms. It took having the freedom to experience, explore and simply understand what worked for me and what didn’t. And, I’m sure I still have a long road in that regard, but I think I have a much more clear idea of who I am. Enough for others to notice, too.
I also learned that, while I can try to be likeable by everyone (or at least not hated), it’s unpleasant to regulate myself based on what people I don’t like would think or not. In a workplace it is a useful skill, for sure, but my social life can be so much more than that – and even if it wouldn’t, I’m at a place where I’d rather focus on the relationships that I do have and cherish, than to be stuck with ones I’m not particularly pleased about.
And I know – this is pretty much the advice many give. I’m certain I’ve given the advice myself in the past. But it’s one of those that I had to learn by myself, regardless of how much I knew what the right path might be.
So now, sharing isn’t so scary. I’ve mentioned it to a couple of people, and they seem to agree I’ve been much better in that regard. I must admit. I’m quite proud that I managed to get here.
My sister bought a house. It’s a forty year commitment to a house, and at least ten years of struggling to save money. I moved in with her, just like we had planned from the beginning. The new space is nice: there is plenty of more space for us to be, and the house is in much better space than where we lived. It is warm inside, despite how early we are in spring. And, to be quite honest, I like having a window and waking up with the sun.
Adapting to the new space was quick. A matter of expanding the space I occupied – now, I do have the space to just be in my room. I thought that, perhaps, all those years living in the old house would have made me somewhat attached to it, but I am honestly merely glad we have finally left. Staying would have meant sinking a lot of money into something that wouldn’t ever be ours. It wasn’t particularly comfortable either. And, honestly, my room felt more like a space to sleep in and where I’d retreat when needed, than a space where I could express myself. Perhaps better described as I space I was constrained to, than one I lived in.
It still feels quite odd, however. It’s been at least a month now, and I can’t find within me anything resembling an emotional response. And that should be okay — it is okay. It never felt mine, so why should I feel sad about leaving it behind? Still, somewhere in the back of my mind, a whisper says I’m strange for not feeling much. A whisper I hope to one day never hear again.
A little trip to the land where everything is possible and dreams come true. A little evening with nothing but a friend and and a smile that grew. I come back with memories, the ones that fade with time. But the journey is worth, lighting the fires of hope once more.
There are still empty pages to be filled and things to be told. There is still ink to be used.
It’s not time to rest, yet.
I won’t lie. During the last two days, I mostly read Akarnae. It’s a nice little YA book which proved to be entertaining enough despite some issues I had with it, and it is rather nice to have something to keep my mind busy. It’s nice – comforting even – to be able to do this once again. It’s hard to not be excited when it feels like I have found (again) something that might make life more bearable as I deal with the less pleasant sides of it.
Beyond that, yesterday I went out to hang out with somebody. Told myself that I was going to try, even if so I could say that I did. Truth be told, it was nice having a one-on-one conversation even if I felt like I was terrible at it. Not having to worry about forcing my way into conversation, lest everybody just talks over me, nor the frantic pace conversation usually takes when there are more people involved. It felt pleasant, unlike many other interactions I have had before.
I don’t believe much will change, however. It’ll merely complement my current life as it is, and maybe prove to myself that I can, even if in my own, clumsy way. But that will be okay. I know I won’t regret it, and that is what matters.
The fire consumes the page, slowly destroying its contents forever. A blasphemy. Yet… I put another one. I haven’t burned enough yet. There are still things that must be forgotten. Memories that nobody must know. Stories that must be lost in the sands of time.
Another page burns. Not as an attempt to erase the past, but as an attempt to forget. To forge something new, unfettered from any mistake.
You are supposed to grow from your mistakes, to learn from them and become a better version of yourself. And, slowly, the transformation will happen, perfecting the imperfect. That is why it is important to not lose sight of where we came from. Otherwise how would we stop ourselves from repeating the past?
Yet sometimes the past becomes crippling. Acceptance is supposed to be freeing, but instead it feels like giving up. The fear of others finding about it becomes paralyzing. The certainty that it’s not going to merely go away. If only I could make it disappear… or at least detach myself from it. Make it about somebody else. Somebody who I am not anymore.
Or, at least, I hope to distance myself enough to stand tall. To be able to interact without the fear of failing once again, even if deep inside it is all still there, locked up in a cage far away from everybody. To pretend, even if it is a lie, that I am normal, that there are no shackles and no scars.