When I was four, I often dreamed about death. In it, I would witness someone close to me getting shot, and I would wake up crying and begging my dad to not leave me. 

On a daily basis, I would feel a sense of dread when the night came upon us, as if the end was near. When we went to the movies, I felt deeply every word of “the beginning of the end”. My surroundings would darken, the screen would brighten, and the sounds would boom, but I knew that two hours later we would walk out into the darkness of the night.

I was hyper aware of the oddity of my existence and how the world that I knew would cease to exist the moment I died. I was aware of all of this before I knew how to put it into words. I didn’t understand why I existed in this world, in this moment in time, in this body, in this state of being.

I guess I just wasn’t used to being alive yet.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve never fully shrugged away the hyper awareness of my existence. It becomes more pronounced when I find myself misplaced in a social setting. Why am I here? Why am I alive, in this body, in this moment in time? Yet at this age my mind is calmer, as if tamed by the experiences of aging.

I think back to when I was younger and I remember a mind that lived in fantasy land. Worlds I created with my imagination, because the real world was still foreign to me. My mind entered dimensions that are now inaccessible to me. I did not know I was stepping into them when I did, but that was the magic of being four and not knowing a whole lot about the world.

The older I get, the more defined by my past I become. I fear that this will only exacerbate as time goes on, leading my preconceived fears to determine my next step. So I must forget. With conscious effort, I must forget all that is confining me to who I believe I am, so I can be free to become who I want. 

Perhaps my desire to live a slow nomadic life is a wish to regain my chance to live unfettered by my past. The constant need to reinvent myself, as if my life depended on it, is a struggle to regain the innocent self I once was. I do not know what resolutionI intend to achieve with this pursuit, only that my identity insofar as I know, depends on it.

I feel like I’ve never been passionate enough about anything. I love exploring, learning, and writing… but to say that I can write extensively every day is but a dream I don’t have.

In college, I studied interdisciplinary fields, applicable to whatever career I chose to do. I didn’t study anything technical because I was neither skilled enough nor ready to commit to a narrowed path.

In these moments of doubt, I like to come back to Goodwill Hunting. The film is, essentially, about choosing your path of passion. The math professor devotes his life to advancing the field of math. The therapist devoted his early life to his wife. The friends are devoted to one another, well aware of their limited fortune in this world.

Then we have Will, who seems to have both the intellectual and romantic idealisms at the tip of his finger. He’s burdened by a past he can’t change, but with the help of the characters above, he breaks free from his past.

I grew up believing that I can have everything I set myself to achieve. A career and a family, my own yin and yang. But I failed to account that these achievements mean nothing to me without that fiery, intense emotion I deem passion.

My job and my hobbies are parts of my passion, but never the whole. I like to dabble here and there, commit to one or two things for a while—then start fresh when the circumstances change. 

I can’t shake the feeling that a life without passion is a life wasted. The best I can do is hover near the top, but never actually reach the peak. Where is this nagging feeling coming from? Why can’t I, like Will’s friends, recognize my limitations and live life as it was granted to me?

Maybe I have commitment issues. Maybe, like Will (without his prodigy), I am hindered by a past I have suppressed. Or maybe my passion hasn’t yet been awakened. Murakami didn’t start writing until he was 29. Or, just maybe, my passion is laying dormant in this life, and my fate is not to reach the top of the mountain.

I recently watched Pink Skies Ahead, a film starring a 20-year old girl who just dropped out of college and moved back home with her parents. Set in 1998 Los Angeles, I would have been just a toddler. Computers existed in offices, laptops and smartphones were nonexistent, and life beyond your hometown was exciting beyond your dreams.

It’s crazy to think that one generation was all it took for life to change. Had I been born 10, 20 years earlier, my life would be on a different trajectory. My current job wouldn’t even exist until years after I graduated. Heck, would I even have studied the same majors, pursued the same career? Was my destiny largely defined by my birth date?

If you look at it from this perspective, the most secure jobs are those that have been around for a long time—and are not disappearing any time soon. Like writing, for instance. No matter how the book industry involves or the mediums through which books are published, words will never perish.

I would love to say that I would have become a writer in an earlier time. But the truth is, the chances of me becoming a prodigious writer in any alternate life are next to zero. A housewife aspiring to be an author, perhaps. An office worker scrambling to write in the wee hours of the morning, likely. 

I think of my past, alternate self with a fond, bittersweet warmth in my chest. Perhaps because it rings close to home, through the eyes of my parents and my grandparents. It was their reality growing up, and I can’t help but wonder if it had been mine.

When I think of my future, alternate self, my heart speeds up. The world changing at an unpredictable and exponential rate does little to assuage my fears. It’s easier to retrace a past that has survived the turbulence of time. I just hope I don’t project these concerns onto my kids, who will live to see through this reality.

Maybe this is a symptom of getting older, becoming more tied to this earth through the vividness of the past.

I remember hearing about Freewrite, a distraction-free writing tool. It looks like a 2000s gameboy with a screen that doesn’t look like a screen, a vintage-looking modern spin-off of a typewriter. The latest model came out this year, I believe. They come at $500-$600 apiece.

Writing on my laptop is easy. Typing is fast, vocabulary definitions appear as soon as I need them, and distraction is one click away. I didn’t realize just how much clicking away I was doing until I blocked all but my writing sites during my session. The number of times I was tempted to google the thing I was talking about (re: Freewrite) is insane. The amount of times I let myself sneakily google that thing with the incognito window is embarrassing. My attention span is fickle at best.

We have created tools that are so good at everything that it’s harming us. We now have tools to counter those harmful effects that we created, whether it’s as drastic as Freewrite or as simple as a Chrome extension to block websites. We are innovating solutions based on problems that we created for ourselves. We’re in a rat race against ourselves.

But hey, innovation—right?

When you stop multitasking, you realize how much stimulation your brain craves. How fidgety you are because your fingers aren’t swiping. How hard it is to just sit there and stare blankly at the wall, because gosh, when was the last time you had time to do that?

I can accept that you recognize the flaw in our inventions yet refuse to do anything about it. Most don’t. But I can’t accept the denial that modern age multitasking is more detrimental than good. These devices have been masked as an all-in-one tool to both increase our efficiency and completely consume our minds.

But as much as I love to glorify the times before devices were a household good, I know that the solution is not to backtrack our steps. Innovation is inevitable, and our lives are fundamentally better because of it.

My day job involves working at a screen, neck strained, for hours a day. My hobbies are now moving digital, always involving a digital device of some sort. I love my life. But however amazing the experiences are on-screen, I want my devices to remain as they are: tools to help me achieve my goals. 

My grandparents don’t use technology. My parents don’t have social media. I used to think they were missing out; now, I wonder who was the fool.

When was the last time you did nothing? Not working, not talking to someone, and definitely not staring at a screen. Just noticing the scene around you, observing. Being.

Whenever I catch myself in these states of nothingness, I can feel my internal monologue building up to a mental breakdown:

What do I do next? Do I need to keep working, or can I take a nap? My eyes hurt. I need to stop looking at the screen so much. But what else am I supposed to do? It’s too hot out. I shouldn’t go out. I’m tired. I want a nap. My heart is palpitating again. Why do I keep having irregular heart beats? Why is my life so boring? I want a kitchen. I need to learn how to cook. I need to move more. But I’m so tired. Why am I so tired? I want to watch a movie. No, I should read a book. I spent too much time on YouTube today. I shouldn’t take a nap. I will go to bed early and wake up at 6am tomorrow. Why do I feel like I’m the center of universe, and once I die, everything else also dies? Why am I so hyperaware of my existence? I’m scared. Did I eat too much today? I need to throw out the trash. Am I hoarding too much? I should throw out all the empty boxes that I don’t need. I don’t have enough summer clothes, but my closet feels too cluttered already. Why do I still feel my chest beating? I’m hungry.

Do you know how tiring it is to have this incessant monologue buzzing in your head? I’m sure you do. It’s exhausting. It’s even more annoying when you finally lay on your pillow at night and the more emotionally painful thoughts hit you. They are worst when you let your guard down.

I think this is where meditation steps in. I keep embracing and kicking it away, back and forth. It was easy during the cooler months of the year, when I would take long walks outside. Sometimes multiple times a day. It’s easy to take meditative walks, but it sure is hard as fuck to meditate in the same space that you sleep and work in all day.

Anxiety is a side effect of an overstimulated mind. Learning to do nothing is essential in order to find peace of mind.

It’s not that being busy is bad. It’s the fact that you feel like you need to fill your void with busyness, that is bad. If you were told that nothing matters in life, would you still be this busy?

Because, honey—nothing matters in life. Whether you act upon your anxieties or not, it doesn’t matter. It won’t affect the course of the universe, and it surely won’t affect you a whole lot. Life doesn’t make you anxious, your thoughts do.

Intermittent periods of idleness nurture your creativity. Don’t be busy all the time.

We have an endless supply of creativity in us, but it will run short if we occupy its space with clutter. Creativity thrives in boredom—that’s why we tend to get our best ideas in the shower.

I believe that creative work is only going to become more indispensable. It’s the one thing that we can’t produce en-masse. All jobs can be replaceable except those that originate from the mind and the mind itself. Maybe it’s a naïve assumption, but it doesn’t change the fact that creativity is how I make sense of the world.

If mental well-being is not important enough to make you consider slowing then, then perhaps you would do it for the sake of creativity. If not for yourself, then for your work.