I love the crisp sharpness of January mornings. The air quivers with anticipation but also shines with the soft gleam of reflection. Today, I want to share a little epiphany I had recently – and it’s not a pretty one.
In these pages I try to foster a community of strong independent women. All women, that is, because we all have the potential to be both. But while I write about female empowerment and bettering yourself by travelling the world, I’m far from being an expert at life. Today, I want to share one of my dark little secrets – I’m in a good place right now, but I know I could revert back at any point and think it’s time we talked about it.
I may have thousands of social media followers, but I also have thousands of faux pas and self-inflicted disasters under my belt… or at least more than many people rack up in a lifetime. Why? It took me a long time to figure out, but it’s actually fairly simple. Like a moth is drawn to the light, I am drawn toward darkness. I crave self-destruction.
I always thought of myself as a fairly tame teenager. I never ran away from home or even slipped out without permission. Sure, I was rude at times and I went out for beers with my friends after school – but who didn’t do foolish things at fifteen, hoping the allure of the forbidden would rub off on them? But looking back, I can see that all these little acts of rebellion were wooden planks which later came together to form the shaky ladder into the dark corners of my heart I have been climbing ever since.
It all sounds very dramatic, melodramatic even. Self-destruction. Darkness. These are ominous words with uncertain meanings. It isn’t as bad as it sounds – sadly I think this affliction is fairly common, especially among the young generation. There is something incredibly glamorous about losing yourself, losing your heart, falling into the deepest abyss of pain and shattering like an empty crystal vase.
Songs, movies, popular culture – they have all given us troubled heroes and heroines, so beautiful it hurts and so hurt it’s beautiful. Marilyn Monroe. Kurt Cobain. Princess Diana. Hunter S. Thompson. Amy Winehouse. Strong but fragile. Admired but heartbroken.
What unites them is creativity, brilliance, fame and deep sorrow. Whether suffering from depression – a dangerous beast I, too, occasionally have to battle – or substance addiction, they were all profoundly sad. And somehow, in our young restless minds, many of us confuse these two aspects of their image – we believe that their brilliance was a result of their pain. We muddle the two together until all we are left with is the belief that self-destruction breeds beauty.
I can only speak for myself, but I have been down this mental rabbit hole many times. To me danger is magnetic and, as I understand it, has many forms. It can be an irresponsible alcohol-fuelled weekend with teased hair and pitch black eyeshadow or that person that will never be good for you. If I see someone with morals jagged enough that they could scar my heart, I want nothing more than to let them. It’s not because I don’t believe I deserve the best – it’s because I believe that is the best. I savour the pain, as if it enriched my life and made it more interesting, more worth living.
And frankly I’m still not convinced it doesn’t. Sometimes I feel like emotional torment makes me more creative, makes me better at doing what I love the most. Sometimes I feel like I need suffering in my life to keep producing creative content and writing in a way that is easy on the ears, eyes and hearts. This is a short passage I put together in a dark period of mental turmoil a few months ago:
“Pain propels my prose to unprecedented heights. I can put pen to paper with a smile on my face, but nothing makes it glide as smoothly as that smile dissipating.
Regret, rejection, ruthlessness – these are the unlikely friends in need who guide my hand as I force it to paint the inside of my mind onto blank pages. They gather the words I normally struggle to recall and silently arrange them into neat metaphors, cleaning up the edges of my clumsy sketches.
I thought tonight would be unproductive, because things were going so well. I wanted tonight to be unproductive. Happiness is like a rainbow coloured goblet of honeyed liquor, it lulls you into blissful oblivion with each sweet droplet. Until it runs out or breaks, which usually happens sooner than one might expect. Want my advice? Drink it just as it is poured instead of saving it for later as by the time you are ready it will be no more.
Of all my misunderstood talents, one will never cease to amaze me. My capacity for self-destruction. Why must my throat be clutched by suffering’s torturous claws to give voice to the song within? Pain should breed pain, not beauty – but I have found it to do both.
The crux of the matter forces me to glorify emotional torment. I love that which kills me with such intensity that I wonder how I am still alive. Do I chance upon pain or administer it, subconsciously but steadily, like a somnambulist walking through life with open unseeing eyes, moving but unmoved?
In its absence, I sometimes romanticise pain. I even long for its deafening roar to pluck me out of lethargy whenever I get lost in an abyss of darkness. I design scenarios aimed at reopening my scars and searing them with fire. Stubbly tinder and blazing infernos. I can either burn up or shine brighter than the flames engulfing my mind. Which it will be, I cannot say.”
Reading that passage makes me feel a million things, but the main one is anger. Why is danger so appealing to me? Why do I willingly expose myself to pain? What is wrong with me? But the truth is, I’m one of many people going through something similar. Society has made irresponsibility, be it fiscal or emotional, sexier than it should be. Maybe it’s a phase. Maybe I – we all – will grow out of it. But each time I toss my heart onto the familiar rusty knife and then twist it to deepen the wound, I become less sure of it.
Kicking this habit is one of my bigger goals for 2015. This year I want to become better, more responsible, to work on my commitment issues and to get my life in order. This year I want to stop glamorising self-destruction and concentrate on self-improvement. I’m done needlessly making myself into a martyr and making choices that hurt me in the long run.
Maybe I’ll even stop flirting with danger and actually give my heart a chance to pick the nice guy, both metaphorically and literally. Because let’s be honest – why deck yourself out in pearly strands of tears when you can help heal the world with your laughter?
Do you think we glamorise pain as a society? Can you relate to any of the feelings I describe here? What is your big new years resolution?
All these photos of me were taken once upon a time by the talented Evgeny Rezunenko!