Instead of Rebuilding, I Shall Become Formless

After a series of events in my life, I have found myself in a spot that’s all too familiar. A position of self-ruin, a position of powerlessness against circumstances and events. A low that I always end up in after every major downturn.

Formless (artwork by Zen Clavillas Solano)

I was going to sit down, open a Word document and re-evaluate my values, list them down and painstakingly go through the details, the whys. Plans, courses of actions and a strategy—that’s how I cope ever since. That’s what I always do. I always try to read up on a ton of books or a series of articles until my brain is too tired to absorb every self-help information. Until my mind is at a state of cognitive dissonance because of all the clashing principles from the different school of thought.

Reading is good, don’t get me wrong. Yet no matter how enlightening all those concepts, principles, and ideas are, binge-reading worldviews and philosophies never really made that much of an impact on my actions except a temporary intellectual high and having something that I can regurgitate to friends and acquaintances. In the end, I would always relapse and fall back down then try to rebuild myself making new rules and telling myself that lie: “I will kill my old self and be reborn anew.” Only to repeat the cycle again.

Then it hit me. The things I read were just guides. They were references and not a magic pill that could magically turn me into a different person once I absorbed enough. I was using learning as a replacement for actual tangible actions. This is why it seemed like it never worked.

There’s a danger in becoming an insight junky without proper supplementation of action, especially when I happen to take a look at the lives of these particular influencers, gurus, and authors I read from. They seem to have their lives in order and have figured everything out. My fatal mistake was trying to pressure myself into becoming like them just because of how insightful their teachings are. I fooled myself into thinking I can operate my life in the same manner they do. Just because I know how they think.

Every time I did something contrary to what I know I should be doing, I beat myself up. I tell myself, “This is not the principle I believe in,” or, “How can I allow myself to be contradictory?” Internally I am unforgiving of my hypocrisy. It’s something I have struggled with ever since I started my quest for learning. Surely I should be consistent. Surely I should stick to one guiding principle and just roll with that for the rest of my life. After all, that’s what everyone does right? Well, not really.

Turns out not everyone is completely consistent. At some point, people will challenge their own beliefs and principles and that’s perfectly natural. Change is natural. I realized I was holding myself to a standard I have forged not by my actions but with what I’ve only witnessed. I realized my method for self-improvement was stapling an idealized version of myself and trying to emulate it.

My obsession with structures and processes are misplaced. Life is not one huge task that I can tackle just by relying on one method of living. It’s more complicated than that and I’m excited to see what life has in store for me.

So instead of continuing this self-defeating and self-pressuring process. I opt to be formless instead. I’m young, I shouldn’t take myself too seriously. People say that early 20s is a time for self-discovery and laying the foundation. Not the time to be aggressively trying to fit into a self-made stereotype.

Formlessness is not giving up nor having no goals. Formlessness is about adaptability and acceptance. It’s about appreciating my tendency for growth and change. I, as a human, am fallible. There will be times that I will contradict myself and that’s okay. It’s okay if my mindset of not wanting kids might change. It’s okay because I am human, not some fictional character.

I’m not disregarding core values and beliefs; they are important. Identity and individuality are important. But seeking to be complete this early in life and rushing towards self-actualization is mentally taxing, to say the least. Right now, I know whom I want to be, hypothetically. I have goals, I know what I want. At the same time, I have to acknowledge that circumstances in life will challenge and reshape these ideals.

Why am I trying to rebuild myself? Why am I trying to rebuild something I haven’t even completely built yet? Why am I holding myself to a standard that I haven’t even thoroughly explored yet? I should stop saying things like I’m totally sure of them, that they’re my final decisions. There is a time and a place to be unwavering—to be firm—but this is not that time. I must learn to compromise. For now, I shall be formless like water, taking the form of whatever holds it.

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