Spacey: A Blessing and a Curse

"Spacey. It's a word I use as more of a code really, to describe a deeper psychological phenomenon that has really affected me these past couple of years: dissociation."

It's Voyage Night and I start off my (more than) 3 minute presentation about Tanzania with a word that's starting to enter my daily vocabulary. 

spacey, spaced out, spacehead. ground control to major tom.

Dissociation is a key symptom of depersonalization and derealization disorder. Essentially people with these conditions feel out of touch with themselves and their surroundings. Their body does not feel like their own. The world around them feels dull, numb and hazy. In Tanzania, I sometimes spent hours, wide awake at night, staring at the light outside my bedroom window because I thought it was too bright, I couldn't believe that it was real. 

Being spacey isn't fun. It makes being in the moment really hard, even when I know the moment is amazing and awe-inspiring, I just can't enjoy it as much as I want to. Tanzania was essentially a struggle against by own brain, a fight against my instinct to live life with my guard up and detach myself from everything -- painful or otherwise. Trying to be present and experience joy is a lot like catching raindrops; most of the moments will slip through your fingers, but if you don't hold your hands out then you'll never catch anything, never feel anything at all. 

I wonder -- if nobody is listening to my voice, am I making any sound at all?

Transitioning from Tanzania to San Francisco happened in such a quick blur. Travelling long distances alone makes the spaciness worse, and after a week in I still wake up unsure of where I am. Being jetlagged and being plunged into the demands of Launch did nothing but make me dissociate even more. 

It's unnerving, how much being in the UnCollege space reminded me of being in school -- something that isn't an entirely pleasant memory for me. Even after "running away" from Singapore and the anxieties it wrung out of me, I'm still being haunted by the worst of my neuroses. I couldn't concentrate fully during workshops. I took notes mechanically only to read them and realize I have no idea what they really mean. 

What's holding me back? A fear of commitment that opens me up to the possibility of failure? Or is the spaciness a preemptive move to make sure I don't psych myself out and wind myself up to have yet another panic attack?

I've learned to slam on the brakes, before I even turn the key. Before I make the mistake. Before I lead with the worst of me.

Or -- and this is a frightening realization to have -- maybe I'm okay. Maybe being spacey can be as much as a blessing as it is a curse.

In my first coaching session with Jon, my UnCollege mentor, we delved into what happened to me in Singapore and how in order to "survive" I went into what I like call autopilot mode. Yes, I was very unhappy but I also had the foresight to realize that since there was very little I could've done about my situation (except leave Singapore, which I eventually did but that's another issue entirely) it would be detrimental for me to not do what was expected of me -- study hard and get good grades. So I got to work. Tuned out and pushed aside those negative feelings for long periods of time, long enough to get shit done and that surprisingly worked. Jon pointed out that this work ethic, this ability to power through is a very powerful tool to have. 

If all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.

While I am grateful that Singapore has taught me the value of hard work, a great work ethic and perseverance, I left because I knew that to get the most out of life you need more than a hammer. In a weird way, I gained that Get Shit Done mentality because I started being spacey. Detaching myself from my deep sense of unhappiness to be functional helped out in a lot of ways.

There's another case that happened this past week where I realized spaciness can be useful. One of the things I want to get into while I'm here in San Francisco for Launch is poetry, more specifically spoken word poetry. I was researching poetry nights when a friend of mine who lives in the same building shared this event he was hosting on Wednesday and it happened to be a poetry night. It was a last minute decision to go, because I had a long day of workshops and goal completing and I wasn't sure if I even had the energy to fully be there. But despite my residual jetlagged fatigue and spaciness, I went to the Poetry Night which was in this quaint little cafe called The Laundry.

I was very adamant at first that I was going to just sit back and soak in as much poetry as I could, but eventually the sign-up sheet fell into my hands and I said, Fuck it. I'm doing this. I signed my name and frantically searched my blog for an old poem to read (I ended up reading Elephant in the Room).

I wouldn't have said, Fuck it, if I wasn't spacey. Being spacey allowed me to ignore all the red flags that popped up in my head telling me, this is bad idea, you will crash and burn and fail miserably. While easily being able to say fuck it is not always the best approach to making decisions (see: leaving Singapore and dropping out of college), in this case it paid off. I went up to that mic, read my poem and got an amazing and encouraging response from the audience. The high I got from the adrenaline rush lasted well into the night. 

Launch has been a crazy experience so far. On one hand, I am excited to go for it, say Fuck it and learn as much as possible. On the other hand, I also feel like I need to relearn how to be alone and comfortable in the grind, especially since I have a lot of unprocessed feelings about Tanzania and just what's been going on in my life (and brain) in general.

If anything, I've come to embrace the spaciness. It's a curse when it prevents me from being in the moment and deriving joy from the things that should make me feel excited, but it can be a blessing too, a force that can Launch (haha get it) me further and higher. Space isn't that bad anyway. Sure it can make you feel insignificantly small. But that's where are all the stars. And honestly, it's the only place I want to be. 

'Till next time.

--Karin Novelia, launching herself into a new frontier.


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