Side note: Glasklar is a German expression which means that something is as clear as glass, it’s easy to understand and see-through and evident and does not require any further explanation.
I just had a full-blown mental breakdown (or as much of a breakdown as people like me will be able to experience one). If I had to compare the feeling, it’s like when you’re sunbathing on a boat-deck. The sun is warming your skin and there is no place you’d rather be but you’re getting warm, so to cool off you decide to go for a swim in the deep blue. It looks so enticing, so delicious, so inviting. But the water is not up to temperature yet, and instead of easing in, you jump off the boat, something you’ve done a thousand times before without ever having any repercussions. But this time is different and you realize it instantly. You’re almost giddy as you jump off and are flying a split second through the air before hitting the water with all the world’s weight on your shoulders. You submerge much deeper than you anticipated and like sharp needles, the freezing cold water washes over your body. You open your eyes and look up, you can see the sun reflecting on the water’s surface as the air bubbles dance around you, and you hold your breath – you know you’re almost there. And then you break the surface – your entire body and your mind are in shock and it takes you a second to realize where you are. The cold sensation makes you gasp for air, and desperately you want it to stop, but the boat has moved on and you can see it slowly moving away. So, your gut-reaction is to panic and follow the boat, trying to yell to get the attention of whomever steers the boat, but every time you open your mouth, a hoarse sound comes out, and this feeling of defeat rushes over you.
That’s what it feels like. But see, with having jumped off a million times before, I know that if I stop for a second, take a deep breath and just let it be for a second, this sensation will pass.
I make millions of mistakes every day, sometimes by choice, sometimes by accident but I make them anyways, because that’s what life is about. I made a very big one a few weeks ago, one that put me into a spiral of self-destruct. See, whatever I do, I find comfort in knowing that at least one other person on this planet has gone through the same and that one other person probably has written about their experience, so if I read enough, I will find someone else that I can relate to. While people and their experiences are always unique to that one person because their circumstances are unique, as humans the one thing we can rely on is that we are a collective that collectively can share experiences. So, while I may be the first person that has gone through all my experiences collectively, I am hardly the first person that got married and six months later decided to move to Asia without her partner (not for good mind you). The truth is, most people had to do that probably under worse conditions. Or while my upbringing was unique to me, it doesn’t mean that I am the first daughter of an immigrant emigrating. My point is, when we connect with others we find ourselves connected, we find ourselves taken care of, we find ourselves just a bit of comfort in a very uncomfortable world.
So, back to my mistake – I recently, consciously or subconsciously, made the mistake of thinking that what I am experiencing was unprecedented. I am working on my PhD and have at least another year to go, I have a bit more money in my funding pot left (for at least another three months) which means that if I can’t find another solution, I’ll have to move back which would be great as in being able to live with my amazing partner again, but it also would put me into a lot of fear of maybe not being able to finish my PhD. There is the quarantine on top of things, and just in general disbelief that two years just had gone by so quickly… I had lived with all these feelings of discomfort for a good while now, trying to manage them as well as I could which turns out not very well. I figured all of this would pass, if I would just let it be and not worry too much, not think about it, not be scared, not fear for the worst. But today I broke and I called my husband and just dumped all my emotional baggage onto him. And you know what he said? I’ll tell you exactly what he said – you’re not unique. Every PhD student always goes through the exact same thing, ALL THE TIME.
Then he proceeded into reminding me of when his PhD-contract ran out in 2014, right after we had gotten married and what nightmare it was of trying to get his permanent residency in place, before Norway had a chance to kick him out. He reminded me of all the odd jobs he did to stay where he wanted to be. He reminded me of hustling like crazy while I was halfway across the world in Asia. He reminded me of how many times we both sat shoulder to shoulder defeated over things we couldn’t change and he reminded me that it all worked out because it always does. And then I remembered some awful situations that are too ugly to repeat, emotionally and financially. He reminded me of how many jobs applied for before actually getting offered my position now (it was 117 jobs- 117!). He reminded me that stability is an illusion and that while we both like the feeling of being stable we actually thrive most when things were very rocky. It’s because of this uncertainty and uneasiness that I was able to learn Norwegian in a few months’ time, that I was always working part-time despite my studies, and it was because of that uneasiness that we never took anything for granted. There should be comfort in that – in knowing that the uneasy state is where we become resilient.
Here’s the other side of when you take a second to relax in icy cold water. You realize that the only way to get anywhere is to move slowly and steadily and that eventually you’ll get to where you need to go. And if you think about it, there was a reason you jumped into the water in the first place, so remind yourself why you did that and it all will be okay. What you’ll have to do will become glasklar and all your fears will dissipate. And while the world may still weigh heavy on your shoulders, take comfort that everyone’s shoulders are heavy these days and that if we stand shoulder to shoulder we can support each other… Now, I understand freezing cold water may not be the best metaphor, hypothermia and what not, but my point is still solid.
It seems the whole world could need a bit of glasklar right now, so let me leave you with this. Goethe’s ‘Human Feelings’
Ah, ye gods! ye great immortals
In the spacious heavens above us!
Would ye on this earth but give us
Steadfast minds and dauntless courage,
We, oh kindly ones, would leave you
All your spacious heavens above us!