While sprawling on my bed, it struck me how a phrase from Thouny‘s “Waiting for a Messiah” could used to be describe my own life with a painfully startling accuracy. Thouny describes the setting of the seminal 90s anime Neon Genesis Evangelion as being neither in a state of war, nor in a state of peace and rebuilding, with citizens able to live a carefree, normal life again, but in a “continuous moment of waiting”: a “pathic” state (I originally read this as “pathetic”).
However it is not so much war and peace that I am suspended between.
During the summer of 2015, I took my first set of official exams. Something that had preoccupied my life since the start of that year, effectively blocking out every other source of existential meaning in my life. I virtually stopped writing my novel and reading during the spring of 2015. I delayed my every interest and desire that was not to revise. Day in, day out, I would lie on my bed (due to lack of motivation to actually sit in a chair or stand) and memorise my notes for endless hours, before putting my pen to a mountain of past papers (literally), some of which I was doing for the second time. This phenomenon, examinations, had become life-consuming. In those days, those 6 weeks, that was really all there was to my life, except from the unpreventable visits to the Internet that procrastination gave birth to. But there was a great desire for knowledge and for creativity that was in those days repressed and held back, it felt like killing myself and putting my soul in cryostasis. Intellect and creativity are the heart of my identity- without them I cannot truly be myself. I died for six weeks, but whether I could resurrect was another question. I promised myself that that day, that day of my last exam, it would be like the cutting of the umbilical chord- and I would be free again.
A splendid, unheard of 10 weeks of holiday were to follow, but those lay to ruin. The first four weeks I was made to visit China with my father, quite unwillingly and being obliged to mix with family members for long stretches of time and being away from a comfortable workspace, when really I just wanted to be immersed in studying everything I could not in those painful weeks and talking to my friend (I really only had one friend at that time). In the end I neither had a good time with relatives, nor did I manage to do the tons of work I had set myself to do abroad- which I anxiously knew I had to do because I would never get this time again. But in retrospect, I did endless amounts of research. I read an unbelievable number of essays on Revolutionary Girl Utena, which I may have never been forced to do if I had been in England, and I downloaded countless articles on politics and the lives of artists. But this didn’t matter. In my eyes, I had failed.
Then, upon returning to England, I saw a tight six weeks that remained. The first two weeks quickly disappeared to fulfil a deadlined project. The next 4 weeks were filled with dread and restlessness, unable to settle on a certain title or topic area, and knowing that my time was as scarce as ever. Although I read some fiction, I was never able to indulge in my interests on the scale that I wanted, and had promised myself in order to make up for the loss during the first half of the year. The pressure and the choices I presented to myself were like overwhelming gargantuan giants. This was my first period of ruin. My examinations had left me unable to rebuild my life again. During exam season, my organisation may have been impeccable, but now it fell to pieces as I became unable to make choices and my life became devoid of a structure. There also loomed the picture of school in autumn, which solidified my inability to truly escape from the “school” mindset into the “non-school” mindset and just relax and be happy. I had to study the things I enjoyed during summer break, or I would never have that chance again!
School came and my book on the Viennese fin de siecle remains unfinished, even today.
What I promised myself was a lie, a paradise of lies. The truth is that in the suspended state, there is no place for interests to flourish.`
My school life was an ceaseless torrent of homework after a long day at school in weekly cycles, in which every Monday I would count towards Friday. But what about my holidays, surely they would be the time to relax?Although I should really be in a state of joy at my results and at the fact that my first set of exams are over, the ominous shadow of next year’s series of official exams loom over any rest that I may take. I am neither in a state of examination, nor in a state of relaxation. I am in a state of perpetual and relentless waiting. I will chide myself for not doing enough revision, I will chide myself for not having enough rest.
It is painful. I look into my holiday window only to see more revision in place of classes and homework, there is no real time for rest and interest fulfilment on a grand scale in my holidays.
Even more symbolic state is the very fact I am in a period of education which has the label “UNIVERSITY=END” stuck on its head. I had worked hard during 2014 to get to the school I am studying at now, I worked hard to achieve socially acceptable grades, but I am constantly reminded by teachers that this is a transitional state. I am not here to enjoy myself, I am not here to read the millions of books in the library that I can freely access (but I do not have the time to read), I am not here to fulfil my obscure interests, such as fin de siecle France, 90s Japan and semantics. Everything I do now is merely for university. Every society I attend, every book I read. There is no time to enjoy things in themselves, no. Everything is hankering desperately towards that assigned End that I must now achieve.
It is an existential pain. There is only waiting and dread, there is no freedom. I would like to think there is an end, but I cannot be certain of that.
It is driving and naively believing that the end lies behind every corner your are about to turn, when in reality you are stuck in an endless cycle of corners.
But I would like to believe that perhaps the corners will change shape, or that the rules of driving may change. But I am not the only driver of my fate.