In my search for a new place, I found myself obsessing over the smallest details. Too ugly. Ceramic floors. Outdated furniture. Not enough sunlight. Too ugly. Just totally, stubbornly obsessing over the things that wouldn’t bother me in an item I purchase.

Almost 2 years ago ago, when I left my college home to escape covid, I had to come to terms with leaving my stuff behind. A whole bunch of sentimental items I collected over the years, donated and dumped. The move was a catalyst to my minimalist journey. It’s been 2 years of living in furnished, temporary homes that would allow me to not attach myself to things, and I’m feeling confused.

I regularly discard the things I no longer use to make room for the things that fit better into my life. Yet as I’m finding myself moving into the 5th place in less than 2 years, I feel all but settled. Yes, it’s exciting. It’s a new place, a new chance for new beginnings. A new neighborhood to explore, a new home. But on the other hand, it’s not my home. It’s not my apartment, not my room, not my kitchen not my couch, not my nothing. Even the things I do own, they’re not really mine.

I pretend to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, yet I am deeply attached with the idea of finding the perfect environment for myself, without committing to the time or effort that is typically required. I’m stuck in a contradiction I created for myself. If I want the former, I need to embrace the imperfections and instability of my surroundings. If I want the latter, I need to forsake the ability to just pick up and move.

I want both, and that’s the story of my life.

I feel like I’ve been stuck in this in-between stage for a while now. For the latter half of 2021, actually.

I usually get unstuck by having a realization about myself that helps me feel okay with what I’m going through. This can come in the form of getting advice from others, or from reflecting about it over time. I’ve had some small realizations these past few weeks, and yesterday was one of them.

I’ve been watching this psychiatrist who streams his therapy sessions, and I stumbled upon a video where he explains why we are unhappy and having mid-life crisis earlier in life. It’s because our reality is different now. There’s an abundance of information that didn’t exist for prior generations, so comparing our trajectories to theirs doesn’t make sense. Our life is no longer composed of our immediate surroundings, but from an online network encompassing unlimited number of communities. Also, we’re biologically programmed for survival, not happiness.

The answer is obvious, but sometimes you just need someone to spell it out. He himself went through a years-long early life crisis (dropped out of college, of becoming a monk, of Harvard—to become a Twitch streamer), which forced him to solidify who he was. As someone who isn’t ready to attend therapy, watching his therapy sessions and relating them to my own life was like finding a gold mine. I’ve always been interested in psychology (hello, psych major), so hearing him synthesize ideas into digestible anecdotes was just what I needed.

It feels like it was just 6 years ago (wtf) when I had just started this blog, trying to my find my voice. In some ways, I have. But in others, I feel even more jaded by my past. I seem to keep storing the negative experiences in the front row of my mental library, readily accessible for when I want to make myself miserable.

I think the whole point of me journaling is to use my logical, present mind to revisit and tend to the emotional, teenage mind that still lives within me. I obviously have a lot of unresolved emotions that cause me to be fear-driven today. Understanding that my turmoil may come from uncared for experienced is great; not because it’s the solution to my problems, but because it’s a way to start dissociating from my past self.

I’ve been having vivid dreams every night. I would say 2-3 of them, and I always remember the last 2 upon awakening. It’s often the last dream that jolts me awake, leaving me feeling restless yet unable to go back to sleep peacefully.

It wasn’t until I started vlogging daily that I realized how persistent my sleep problems were. They’re debilitating. They partially have to do with my inability to maintain a consistent sleep-wake schedule, and partially because I’m an overthinking wreck.

Many a time I’ve thought about drinking coffee, which would treat the foggy morning hours in the morning—at the expense of a normal bedtime. I do not wish for my sleep schedule to become regulated by a substance either. This leaves me with treating the real issues that are keeping my mind awake even during those supposed REM hours.

This move was harder than I could have imagined. I think we all romanticize the idea of moving, as if the act of doing a 360 of your physical surroundings will bless you with a new start.

As minimal as I have become with my stuff, it was a headache wrapping my mind around all the things I had to pack. It made me really uncomfortable seeing that I needed packing boxes in addition to the suitcase, carry-on and other small bags/boxes that I already had. This is after I had already given away a few of my things, namely my futon.

I forgot how attuned to my environment I am. Once I arrived at the apartment, I spent about 24 hours moving in, a good part of that bleaching, moping and wiping the years of evidence from previous tenants. Putting my stuff in was a small chore in comparison. 

My mind was wholly consumed by this move until I felt like it was my home. My mood was erratic, frustrated at the landlord’s lack of responsiveness to the myriads of issues that arose in the days leading up to my move. Mind you, I didn’t move to a pristine apartment. I ate and drank only when I could no longer ignore the hunger pangs and my dried up throat. I refused to shower until I was physically exhausted.

I still see the markings on the wall, the imprints left from my uneven mopping on the marble floor, and the dusty surfaces reflected by the sunlight. These are the signs that I haven’t adjusted yet, because when I do, these common small problems become part of the backdrop of my regular environment. That’s why we react strongly to people’s idiosyncratic places, but are entirely oblivious to our own. 

My space is bigger. The white round table I got at my old place now pales in comparison to the dinner table. The apartment is one floor, yet the distance from my room to the bathroom takes more steps. The lighting in the bathroom makes me feel good when I look at myself in the mirror. The windows are soundproof, letting in only the constant hum of the traffic and the garbage trucks announcing their arrival with a mechanical A Maiden’s Prayer.

I’ve slept three nights here, and I’m back to my regular, moody, nightmare-infested self again. It still feels eerie to have a kitchen and a bigger everything: bigger bed, bathroom, floors, sofa. The many windows lighting the apartment make me feel more exposed, no longer in a cocoon looking out the one and only window facing a quiet street.

I don’t miss my old home at all, which I had worried about. I guess this means I’m adjusting well.

Of course, now I have a very important mission to accomplish. And it’s surely going to make the apartment feel less empty with the litter, toys, bed, food, and scratching pad lying around.

I was raised to believe that outside was a dangerous world, especially as a female. Both my parents are very skeptical, sometimes cynical, people. They tend to assume the worst in every situation, so predictably that I often leave a conversation wondering why I asked for their opinion already knowing what they would say.

But I’m not the best at reading people’s characters. I can easily believe anything a stranger says, only to question my judgment hours later when I’m by myself. It’s safe to say that I’m not good at forming my own thoughts under social pressure.

Perhaps it’s simply because I like to fit in. I modify my attire and behavior based on the community around me. I don’t like to stand out, at least not externally. I find my thoughts molded by those around me, only to reconvene with myself when no one’s watching.

I now understand that this behavior was a way for me to adapt to my changing environment, to fit in, and to keep what I liked. Adaptation is key to survival, after all.

For most of my life, I believed my parents held the word of god. I grew up thinking that they spoke Our truth. Not necessarily The truth, but Our truth. I have always resorted to my parents for the final say in every major decision I’ve made; to move forward without their consent felt like I was jinxing my own future.

When I graduated college, I realized that my thoughts could differ from that of my parents, and that it was okay. It’s an obvious statement, but one I was blinded from for most of my life. For anything that was unfamiliar, my parents were my source of truth.

For the first time since last year, I have been living outside the confines of home and school. Though I have been working full-time, I have a lot of time that I didn’t have before. This time has become precious in allowing me to sit with and formulate my own thoughts.

My goal is to continue developing my identity, all the while knowing that my current beliefs may very well change with time. I tend to feel conflicted when my beliefs and actions don’t concur. I can accept differing opinions, but I have yet to be able to empathize with those who hold them. The remedy is to broaden my field of acceptance, thereby minimizing any dissonance I might feel towards differing views.