I always feel a bad-kind-of-weird whenever my birthday rolls around (I think).
I remember feeling really shitty on my birthday a handful of years ago, and what I did to overcome the feeling was writing on the back of a receipt I had with me at the time the things that I felt thankful about. It was a good exercise, I think, and it helped curb my spiral at the time.
A couple of years ago I reread that receipt-list-thing (I think) and cracked a smile. I was a small bit proud of my younger self for taking care of himself in such a way. How nice of him.
I find myself not feeling great again tonight, which is why I have turned to the blog to duke it out with my thoughts here. My wife isn't here for me to kacau (she's in her final week of her second European tour), and besides, I really don't want to take up anybody else's time with these unclear feelings and thoughts.
I have two "happy" memories when it comes to my birthday. The first was the time my parents got me and my brother small foldable tables that were green (and I think there were pictures of Batman and Robin on the things) for my birthday. My parents don't typically get me or my brothers anything for our birthdays beyond a nicer-than-usual dinner, so this memory kind of sticks out in my mind.
The second memory is from my first year degree at Institut Pendidikan Guru Kampus Pulau Pinang. The other TESOL boys pranked me on my birthday (I think I wrote about it in this blog, I can't be bothered to check at the moment) by saying that one of their motorcycles had broken down and asked me to help. When I arrived on the scene, they pelted me with raw eggs (as opposed to hard-boiled eggs, I guess) and threw flour at me. We had a good laugh and took pictures (or at least that's how I remember it).
Every other birthday doesn't really register in my brain. I know that my father got me my first camera on my 20th birthday (I think), but I don't know why my brain and self have not tagged it as "happy" per se. It's just there. Every other birthday was either meh, or a variation of what I'm feeling right now, a feeling of dread and anxiety bordering on crisis.
I've been saying "I think" a lot in this post so far. This is because they are statements made with my memory as the primary (and singular) source, and I cannot be sure of what my brain chooses to retain and/or modify. Malcolm Gladwell has a couple of good podcast episodes about memory and how it's weird on his podcast "Revisionist History" (the episodes' titles are "A Polite Word for Liar" and "Free Brian Williams"). Those two episodes changed my relationship to memory, particularly my own, and I think it'll never be the same again.
Back to my birthday and me. I think about why I feel this certain type of way when it's my birthday. Is it because I'm, like, getting older, therefore closer to death, therefore less time to do the things I want to do and achieve the things I want to achieve? Is it also another reminder of how I'm still not where I want to be in my life as a actor/writer/musician, and so I feel bad about how little I have done and how I haven't really made anything I could really be proud of yet, and time is running out and I'm not even improving my skill-set and at this pace I will die not having achieved my versions of "success" after having taken into account how much privilege I was born and continue to live with and will forever be remembered as a disappointment, not only to my parents (because that's a given) but to everyone else too?
And then I think, am I only doing this to myself? Could it be possible that I don't have to think these thoughts, but I choose to think them anyway, only to justify to myself why I'm feeling shitty? And when I have told myself why I'm feeling shitty, I can continue feeling shitty because there's a legit reason to feel shitty, and I get to feel sorry for myself and wallow in that self-loathing and hate? And while I'm wallowing in the pits of despair, I have an excuse for not working on myself to becoming a better actor/writer/musician/friend/brother/person, because hey, who could be a decent person under this much pain and anguish, right? So am I just giving myself an excuse to be a shitty human being?
I don't think people care about me. But people prove me wrong. Some people, anyway. And I don't think I'm worthy of people caring about me. I oscillate between thinking "Why doesn't anybody care about me??" and "These people are wrong for caring about me!" pretty steadily. But I do understand that these are just my thoughts and my thoughts cannot be trusted, at least not a hundred percent. I also have to believe people when they say they care about me, and when they act in ways that show that they do. I have to believe their words and actions, because they can't all be liars, right? I'd like to think I have nice people around me. I really do think they're nice people. And that's nice.
But I do have to somehow take care of myself jugak. Care about myself jugak. Fight the voices that say "I'm shit" that come from my brain jugak. I am not only the voices in my brain. I contain multitudes, and I am valid in this multitudiness. I have to believe that, if not for my own sake, then for the sake of the people that love me.
I feel like I have to do the gratitude thing again. Here goes:
1. I am thankful that my wife is also my best friend. I am thankful that she's an amazing person, and that she cares about me very much. I am thankful that she finds some joy in my existence, and my co-existence with her in time and space.
2. I am grateful that I the band IDLES exist and make wonderful music, perform it with such vigour and energy, and are playing in my head currently.
3. I am thankful that I get to make Youtube videos for a living currently. it's definitely not something I hate, and I don't think I absolutely suck at it (most times, although sometimes it's a seesaw).
4. I am grateful for books and my continuing to read a wide array of them. I do wish I read more books, yes, but hey, I read books every now and again, and they have helped shape me into the human I am currently, for better or for worse, so there's that.
5. I am grateful I get to perform on stage semi-regularly as a theatre-actor, an improvisor and a musician. The times that I am performing are the times that I feel most alive and most useful to the people around me, and I am thankful that I have the opportunities to do those things.
6. I am grateful for the podcasts that I listen to regularly. I love them. They give me life. They are as follows in no particular order: The Anthropocene Reviewed, Freakonomics Radio, Good One, RadioLab, The Valleycast, Welcome To Our Podcast, Comedy Bang Bang, Conan O'Brien Needs A Friend, Dear Hank & John, Delete This, Dynamic Banter, Off Camera, R U Talkin' REM Re: Me?, Threedom.
7. Thank God for jokes.
8. I am grateful that I have enough resources to be doing what I am doing right now, which is taking my sweet time typing away at a laptop, not having to care about how I'm going to pay rent, or the car's next payment, or where my next meal is going to come from. I am grateful.
9. I am grateful that I have this blog as a punching bag for me to figure out what's going on in my brain.
10. I am grateful that I have found it within myself to write this blogpost. It has helped, somewhat.
I was actually planning on getting some reading done before turning into bed tonight (I am currently on Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, after being blown away by his other book, Sapiens), but midnight is fast approaching, and my least favourite version of me (besides sick-me) is sleep-deprived-me. Maybe that's why I'm currently feeling shitty. I had a late night last night, as I do most Wednesday nights when I perform short-form improv at The Joke Factory at Publika.
Maybe one or two pages and then get to sleeping, yeah Anwar?