Jet Lag

Day and night, night and day. So filled with uncertainty and desolation that they all seem the same to me. 

Among all the prosperous cities in Taiwan sits a less robust one in the south, where there are not many competitions in sight; the pace is relaxing and leisurely, even a bit slow, one might say. Growing up there, failing is a feeling I had seldom experienced. Excelling at almost everything, namely everything I put my heart into, I could always win the crown like a breeze. Thus, I lived proudly and pompously under the belief that I am better than everyone else. Nonetheless, life is never to one’s likings. Currently studying in a metropolitan where it is a paradise full of all elites in various fields, unsurprisingly, my seeking for superiority encountered setbacks. I could not stop myself from competing with others, and when I noticed I was not the winner anymore, I broke down into pieces.

A suffocating type of fear laid siege to me. From dusk to dawn, my head was constantly bombarded with the self-inflicted worry that perhaps in other people’s eyes, I am nothing but a stupid girl from the countryside. Feeling a desperate need of creating an image of a winner, I forced myself to try every single thing that might, in whatever ways, be praised by others, so as to savor the mellifluous taste of accomplishment again. Yet deep down in my heart I knew it was just a facade. Fulfilled? Happy? Neither of those were the appropriate words to describe my feelings. At the end of the day, it was emptiness that surrounded me; as if I’d been drained of all the energy from doing the things I did not but pretended to enjoy.  

The sudden maladjustment cruelly took the pride out of me like abruptly hitting the brake on a fast-speeding car. I felt naked. My most embarrassing weakness that I am not as exceptional as I have expected was exposed in public for everyone to humiliate. Each change in facial expressions felt like a tease to me, like an arrow shooting into my bare skin. Was my dream only a far-fetched fantasy of mine? I began doubting myself. I was horrified by the mere thought of being trapped in mediocrity. I want to be of help to society. I want to make change. I want to realize all my aspirations for life. As to my ultimate goal? It is not to lose. But is life really a race? Is there really a standard to which people could follow?

So long have I lived under the fear that I suffered from depression in my first semester of college. It doesn’t mean I was too busy pitying myself to try new things, however. As a matter of fact, trying was all I ever did at that time. But everytime I did so, the priority to my consideration was never whether I was going to enjoy this experience, it was whether I was going to benefit from it. Minute grains of hope dripped out of my hand as I tottered back in the fight with my fear. Dark, cowardice, and wretchedness had held me hostage every single day in that half a year; I’d wake up breathing heavily, wondering why I was still alive. Because death, to my already ill and twisted mental health, sounded like a much more pleasant idea than eventually becoming a mediocre person. 

I abandoned my faith. I could not raise my head in the church and look at the statue of Jesus in the eye while I tell him that instead of loving myself, I had entered the abyss of doubting my existence. I abandoned my parents. I could not bear to see their eyes welling up with worries and caring when they asked about my life, as I would calmly tell them the delicately woven lie that everything was going great. 

But most miserably, I abandoned myself. 

I hated myself. I loathed myself to the degree that I thought I was a waste in the world, that there must have been some kind of mistake when God created me. I didn’t think I deserved to be happy, and I made every effort ensuring that there was finitude to my happiness. So small had I felt, like a puppy abandoned shivering in the corner of the walls, whimpering out of pain. I stayed motionless, feeling void infiltering my body. The monster in my head grew stronger and stronger by voraciously devouring all the sparks of joy in my life; and I, utterly overwhelmed and horrified, grew weaker and weaker under its devilish dominance. 

But things changed the day I read a poem about how everyone is living in their own time zone. It goes with easy words: “New York is three hours ahead of California, but that does not make California slow.”, “People around you might seem to go ahead of you, some might seem to be behind you. But everyone is running their own race, in their own time.” With that being said, there is no need to feel nervous about not making it like the others at the same time they accomplish their objectives; everyone has their own time zone, just relax. This short but penetrating piece of work striked me as lightning. I felt the switch to happiness and motivation clicked in me. Suddenly, my strength was pouring back into me like a showering of a lovely symphony. 

A slow but ongoing reversal begins. It was subtle, like a slight lifting of the sky, but still, it was real. There were little nubby buds on the trees. There was a graceful airiness to my thoughts. One month after another I had been held captive in the dark cell made up brick by brick by myself. Until this day, when I was finally free from all the fetters shackled onto me. I could feel nature singing harmoniously in the wind again. I could feel the earth breathing serenely under my feet again. 

Returning back to my very innocent, unsophisticated self, I was able to refind my interests and explore deeper into them. Drawing, writing, reading, editing; all those delights are now reliving in me. Even though time has passed before I could finally reconcile with myself, I do not regret any bit of this journey.

Not running faster does not mean not running at all. As long as I’m striving to reach the goal, I am already halfway to my dreams. 

I am still sometimes haunted by the diabolical monster of mine, hearing it howling through the door, trying to lurp into me. However, seeing things from a different perspective, I have learned to live peacefully with it. Instead of perceiving it as a pocket watch ticking aloud with the hands marching round and round, I take it more as a motivation, as a reminder to be productive and active about my dreams. 

Jet lagged I was, and through the darkest times I have been. I find my own time zone, at last.

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Cicely Hu

Born and raised in Taiwan, I am currently an English major at National Taiwan Normal University with extensive translation and writing experiences. I created a YouTube channel dedicated to English-to-Chinese translation in high school. Also received several awards for English writing, including national and school contests. In 2020, I received the third prize of the Literature Award in our department. Journaling and writing are my passion; I am now writing more about my depression stories in hopes of helping others.

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Jet Lag