13 June 2024

Waterfalls, Elephants and Black Holes


I’m gonna try something new today.

Usually, I come to this blog to write about a story that happened. Well, it’s usually a trilogy of stories, but who’s counting.  Part of me wants to come here precisely to talk about how less than 90 days after choosing my direction, I was permanently employed and fully settled exactly where I chose to be in Munich. After graduating from my Bachelor’s in 2013, I joked that I had learned to live life on 90-day intervals, but given how high my sights were set and how well everything worked out, this honestly has to be my masterpiece. And yet I don’t really want to get into that narrative. It doesn’t really feel like a story. So I’m starting this post with a few ideas in mind, but not really any direction. The only thing I know right now is that I want to touch on 3 analogies and cover 2 themes. Let’s see where I end up…

Under Control

Before diving too deeply into anything, I want to reiterate the analogy that my therapist told me claiming that I try to fit a waterfall of energy into a coffee cup of self-control. Well, for the first time since 2014, I’m having to meet loads of new people all at once, and a few of them have already corroborated that I seem to be a somewhat anxious person. So here we go again to that theme of me “holding back” even though I say I’m not. Admittedly, I’ve had a few conversations (and a recent experience) that made me realize what a tragically emotional fuck I truly am. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everyone who is overly sensitive is an “emotional fuck”. I’m just talking about yours truly over here. If you need to know the extent of it, I should point out that when I was younger and I saw a kid dropping their ice cream cone, I would reach a point of borderline-tears the second I saw (or visualized) their reaction. No joke, it was that bad. So perhaps there is something that people notice in my behavior, although that’s a hard pill to swallow because I pride myself in always staying one step ahead and reading people before they read me. But rather than going into that, let me just come clean about what some people are noticing.

The psychologist Jonathan Haidt came up with this analogy about behavior where our emotions are like an elephant and our reason is like a rider on top of the elephant. In a nutshell, he says that the rider more-or-less directs the elephant on where to go, but if and when the elephant starts charging in one direction, the rider is pretty much out of luck. In other words, our emotions get the best of us each and every time. To me, this is essentially the same as the waterfall analogy. Some of us can channel strong emotions into a composed figure 80-90% of the time, but once the waterfall (elephant) is loose, then it’s pretty much bye-bye coffee cup (rider). Btw, I would bet that I know which of my friends are this way. Again, I try to stay a step ahead and it takes one to know one.

As you can imagine, this blog (and my writing in general) have become the lid and leash that keep the waterfall and elephant in check. I experience things. I think about them. And I write them down. In short: I feel, I think, I express. So what you read here might seem emotional in many cases, but I assure you I’ve had plenty of time to either a) digest the even stronger emotions, or b) I took time to open the rational tap just enough to let some emotion flow. During a text conversation, a friend who is rather upset with me at the moment said “not everything can be decided”. The point was that we can’t and/or shouldn’t decide how we feel about things and we should just feel instead (I think that was the point, but again, not on speaking terms). However, I fundamentally disagree. You’d be surprised at how easily you can develop a habit of noticing/tracking your feelings or even making yourself feel one way or another. When I want to feel a certain way, I ask myself “why not” and let myself dive deeply into an argument about that (e.g. the first person that I really fell in love with happened after I persistently asked myself “why can’t I like a girl like this?” and subsequently admitted that my reasons were shallow). You see, some of us are so strong-willed, so stubborn and so arrogant that even we can’t win an argument against ourselves, so it’s nice when you can learn to play with that and trick yourself into whatever you want.

Anyway, where am I going with all this?

The 2 Themes

Now that I have mentioned 2/3 analogies that I wanted to, let me tell you the 2 themes that I wanted to cover: life and storytelling.

Perhaps some of you have read the theory that life simply boils down to “the story that we tell ourselves about ourselves”. If you haven’t read up on this, you really should. It’s fascinating. In essence, the reason why people have identity crises is because something that happens is inconsistent with their identity story. The reason why people get anxious or depressed is also often a matter of “o shit, I am not in control of my own story” or “this isn’t how my story is/was supposed to be”. But the reason why some nutjobs like myself are irreparably happy is because each and every obstacle or trial gets portrayed as “and this is when our beloved character first encountered ___, stay tuned for what happens next” (lol, it would be less funny if I were joking, but I’m not). Seriously, I’ve noticed that a few other friends have also developed this ability to look at our own lives from the 3rd-person perspective. And it’s the most liberating thing on the planet because even the most traumatic experience can be the source of a mere plot twist (hence why it becomes hard to follow either emotions and rationality if you feel one thing but realize another).

In order to prove my point here, let me just tell you now that a lifetime ago I already lost the only thing I’ve ever wanted. If you don’t know what that is, well, you either don’t know me much or you haven’t read this blog carefully enough because I’ve alluded to it. I never truly wanted a career, and I never reeeally wanted to get into the politics of arguing nationality. The only thing I wanted was to emulate the very environment that I grew up in: a happy home with a loving family. But alas, next to the chapters on migration, job-hunting, and romantic relationships, part of my story also includes a non-public chapter on life itself and how a family may or may not begin.

The second theme, storytelling, is quite present in my mind these days. On the one hand, the job that I have been hired for deals precisely with storytelling, and I couldn’t be happier about that. On the other hand, things like the ending of Game of Thrones have proved to me that in the end, the one thing that people are most obsessed with is a good story. Even if you have the potential for one of the greatest stories of all time, you can easily blow it. So a huge part of me now wants to take a shot at creating such a story myself. Truth be told, part of the motivation behind this blog and behind some of my irrational and risky antics, is because I have always wanted to write the greatest love story of all time (hence why, among other things, I would even risk going to Bolivia for someone I briefly met on Tinder and got to know through distance). But coming to Munich has provided me a sense of security and stability that I have never experienced before. And that is perhaps why I drunkenly came up with the final analogy that I want to mention.

Everyone is a Black Hole

I was having drinks with some friends in Vienna, and tipsy Ed made a comment that I am not sure I had even properly thought about before. I said that everyone is essentially a black hole “but the trick is to stay on the event horizon before you lose yourself in them or they lose themselves in you“. Some of us are good at falling in love (crossing the event horizon) while others tend to see how much they can pull towards their own horizon, and I guess it all depends on your mass (ego) but most of us have done both. If your immediate reaction is to get caught up on the technicalities of black holes, by all means feel free to message me privately for a proper argument. The point is that sometimes you emit more net energy/attention, other times you absorb it, and people get drawn to each other depending on 1) which of the two you project and 2) which of the two they need.

I go into this mega nerdy analogy towards the end of my post because I would say I am a master of falling in love and losing myself in other people (trust me, dude, I tested this by swiping right on Tinder in Austria and I ended up in Bolivia for a year). But as I mentioned at the end of my last post, I now want to master my own death, and I’ve come to the realization that a huge part of me is dying to live forever. Let me rephrase: a huge part of me invests all its energy on a story that might live longer than myself, and every time it ends/dies I have to bring myself back to life with a new one. That’s why I always wanted to be a dad and fall madly in love with someone. I know that I will love my kids more than life itself, and I also know how to look someone in the eye and fall in love with them (multiple times, if necessary).

So it’s been easy to create horcruxes left and right. But like Voldemort, perhaps I accidentally created a extra one. Maybe at some point in all of these stories, especially the unwritten ones, I lost a part of me that I didn’t notice. Maybe the rider is not in front of the elephant because there is no elephant, and maybe my coffee cup is simply a bottleneck because the waterfall stopped flowing at the very source. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I always wanted to be the same kid that grew up in the perfect family unit, but that overly-emotional kid got swallowed by a black hole of “let’s think our way out of this one”. If you need me to put it more bluntly: emotions usually come into the black hole, thoughts generally come out, and that’s why people think I have such a thick skin as if few things affected me deeply (not the case given my kid-with-ice-cream-example).

Let’s cap off this analogy about “the boy who lived” by saying that I never wanted to grow up. Now that I am perfectly settled as a grown-up with a stable location and income where I could eventually start a home, I want to bring that boy back. The very next thing on my bucket list besides being a dad has always been “write a book”, and that emotional little guy is the only one who can truly write it, so he needs to live again. I have known for over a decade that if I could choose how to die, I would projectile myself into a black hole “just to see what happens”. And I’ve also always said that the one superpower that I would want to have is mind-reading. In case you don’t see the pattern: I don’t care if going into a black hole or into someone’s mind means that I will reach the darkest part of the universe and never come back. To me it will all be worth it because at least for a split second I will know what was there. So after going through all sorts of drama (and excitement) the last 5 years, and after overcoming a number of issues since I was 15, I really want to take this opportunity to dive into my own black hole. It’s pretty great that I can post this and not look any of you in the eye. Believe it or not, every time I share one of these posts, I log off Facebook and avoid checking for at least 12hrs (usually). And I know people read it because despite the number of likes, I can [obsessively] see the statistics of who and where is reading (again, I like to be one step ahead, friend). So the beauty of my situation is that very few of the people I see every day are my Facebook friends so I can share all of this and choose to be alone without getting lonely. Then again, writing and self-discovery require being completely alone without getting lonely, and I have developed a passion for all three of those. So let me put all the pieces together by concluding with a fictional conversation that’s been going on in my head when I think about understanding myself and others:

You know nothing, Jon Snow

“Well, I only know that I know nothing. But thanks for the tip.”

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