I don’t know what to say anymore.
I knew what to say about ten minutes ago, when I was pegging damp clothing on the line at four in the afternoon. I carry no false illusion of any of it drying before tomorrow and yet that’s all I can think about now, rather than the flashes of insight, the debonaire prose that now eludes me. It’s almost cruel. Like a dream dematerialising as you awake. Like truth, I suppose, every time you recall it. I hold stubbornly onto a phrase, knowing that I lack the mental room for another. Before I flick the kettle on, I run to my desk and scrawl it on a notepad. The rest will return, I believe. Cavalier as fuck. What’s new.
It’s been six days since I handed in my thesis. The only thing that has mattered to me for two and a half years and now it’s over. The whole time all I could think about was the result – justifying my career choice with a grade, proving that I deserved it. I hit a wall in the final four weeks – creative artefact in pieces around me, questioning my decision to not only take three research subjects within the space of a trimester but changing my research question at the eleventh hour – essentially meaning that I had twelve weeks to research and write 20,000 words. The downside of being a big-picture thinker is that it is difficult to fine-tune the signal – especially with anxiety running interference. Somehow I found my second wind, and made it to the finish line, two days before my extension date. I don’t know if it’s any good. I bat away requests to read it from well-meaning friends with “Maybe” and “One day”. The truth is, I don’t want to even look at the damn thing again. Maybe ever.
What I didn’t account for was the freedom on the other side. Do you know what matters on the other side of your thesis? Fuck all. At first there is sweet relief, that you believe initially to be indulgent. Sleeping in past seven a.m. Late breakfasts. Taking pleasure in reading again. And then the questions begin. What’s next for you? Look, I know people mean well – but I can do without my reverie served with a side of existential crisis, if that’s okay.
So, I journal, I finish my current roll of film. I draw lazy circles with my feet and stare off into the sky. As if on cue, my latent creative energy rushes to fill the vacuum. I humour it. The revelations come, sometimes at speed, and I grab at them, let them hoist me towards their dizzying heavens where I exist for a time. I’m fortunate to have friends that know this process, and act as spotters, cautiously encouraging me, nodding that yes, it’s a good plan, an excellent plan. Groundbreaking, revolutionary. They are eyeing the ground, calculating whether they are any match for the inertia of my downfall. New post-it notes make their way onto the wall and I eye them critically, satisfied. No one is surprised when I can’t get out of bed the next day, equilibrium eluding me as it does. Hours later I feel the low-energy ebb. These smaller cycles don’t frighten me anymore. All I can do is try to navigate them with a modicum of self-awareness.
And so here I am, waiting for new paths to materialise, waiting for a grade that doesn’t even matter. I’ve spent the day creating work far more eloquent than anything I turned in. Sorry fear. Maybe expectation is the mindkiller after all.