I can’t believe a month and a half of this semester has already gone by. Since coming back to province I’ve finished a 30-day online yoga course, completed 75% of my giant puzzle, started a podcast, and had a birthday, and somehow not felt compelled to write about any of it. Well, that’s not entirely true, I have felt urges to write. Sometimes at school, something will happen and I have a spark of inspiration, but I find myself letting that spark settle until I can’t remember the thought that had caused it.
I’ve definitely been reading more regularly this semester, and I’ve done a better job at keeping on top of what I have to get done from week-to-week. My eating schedule has never been better, and I actually make myself omelettes every now and then. I even bought tomatoes the other day. I know, WILD.
My neighbor, Pi Kaew, is a third grade math teacher at my school, and since the P4 student-teacher, Gip, graduated, Pi Kaew and I have become much closer. It’s given me a chance to practice Thai, try out new restaurants in town, and just have a friend nearby. Why I haven’t written about her yet is unclear.
At school, my classes have been going much better than last semester. Yes, I have the odd class every now and then that pushes me to the verge of tears, but more often than not my classes are sweet if not receptive. I have more students trying harder, as they become more and more comfortable with the idea of speaking English. Outside of my class notes, I haven’t scribbled a word about this, anywhere.
I’ve even had some interesting phone calls with people from my past. This isn’t drastically different from last semester, but there are some that have happened over this past year that have revived and added depth to past friendships. The only record, other than what was actually said, exists in spoken forms, or — more tangibly — synapses in the brains of people I’ve spoken to.
My period cramps also suddenly got worse, which sucked. I had to take a day off from school, and turn back to the hot pink heating pad from Pi Porn for comfort. I think I only complained about this to my mother.
I don’t think I really felt that awful about not writing, until one of the new teachers at school came up to me and excitedly asked, “Are you writing a book?”
Apparently Gip had told her that I like to write.
The tense of the verb “writing” in this question had me stumped. I had started a book last semester, but hadn’t touched it since. I also had a novella from my senior year of college that I hadn’t revisited in a while. In the spirit of the technical accuracy of the present continuous tense, I responded with “yes” and proceeded to share the plots with her. She was so excited. I somehow felt like I was talking about people that had died long ago.
I really enjoy writing, and it’s incredibly frustrating to me that I haven’t found anything worth writing about. Every glimmer of an idea seems shy of greatness, to the extent that I don’t even let it try to see the light of day. At this point so many thoughts have clustered in my head, that I’m not even sure where to start in a pursuit to dig one back up again.
The perfectionist in me wants them to die and come back as more profound thoughts. The writer in me is disappointed.
Last night, I had an awful headache — not the kind that makes you throw up, but the kind that compels you to lay down, close your eyes, and keep your hands on your temples. I know that you shouldn’t look at screens when you have a headache, but I intuitively googled “stress headaches” and found a lot of symptoms that lined up with mine.
My first thought was “why am I stressed?”
Objectively speaking, I should not be. Any real deadlines I have ahead of me are not a concern. I have little to no commitments this week, and my classes have already been mostly planned. I’m reading a book, but it doesn’t need to be read by a certain time. I have to watch a couple movies for the podcast, but I was going to watch some movie this week anyway.
I thought about it long and hard and then threw on Headspace in an attempt to calm my mind. My mom called midway, urging me to take a painkiller.
This morning, I woke up at 4:30 am, earlier than I have before. I woke up, and I was stressed. The headache was gone, but I could still feel some part of my brain pounding with agitation. It was telling me to do something. Anything. But all I wanted to do was sit. I sat in front of my puzzle and fit a few pieces into place. I threw on the new Jonas Brothers’ album, and brushed my teeth. I washed my face and moisturised.
I didn’t want to do anything. I sat in bed, and had to turn off the music to give silence a chance to fill the room — and hopefully my head. The sound of a rooster crowing echoed through the soi by my house shortly after, and my eyes fell to my computer. I needed to write something.
As I write this, I can’t say that my stress has erased, but I feel more comfortable confronting it. Penning down what’s happened, or typing it rather, is like hearing someone else validate what’s been kept inside my mind. It’s occurred to me that I haven’t been honest with myself in the way I like to be, in written form. I’ve just stored everything in my head. For me that’s apparently the equivalent of being trapped in a small room and only talking to myself.
My creative writing professor in college said something interesting to me towards the end of my junior year. This was just before I was about to start writing my thesis, which is now the aforementioned untouched novella. We were mapping out our weekly meeting time and I showed her my schedule.
“I’m working a couple jobs, but I have this hour set aside just for you.” I pointed out. To me, it seemed perfect. I couldn’t have planned out my time better.
She frowned at me, and then smiled weakly, as if comforting me. When she noted my air of confusion, she explained her reaction. “Yes, we will have time to meet, but there’s something missing here. When you’re writing something, you don’t just need time to write it, you need time to dream.”
She described “time to dream” as being able to sit idly in a park or coffee shop, wander through a museum or listen to a train passing by at night. Time to let your mind take in the world around you and assimilate the sensory input into something beautiful, creative, and fresh. Our minds are machines, but if you give them nothing to work with, they won’t give you anything in return.
Perhaps this is the problem. In an effort to keep busy, and feel productive, I’ve deprived myself of the idle time that my brain learned to feast on during my senior year of college. I’ve been cruel to take it away, and am now thinking of efforts I can make to give it back.
Yes, this might mean less Netflix, and yes this might mean getting up earlier, but I think I need it. It would really be lovely to have something new up on my blog sometime soon. Maybe even this little exploration. But right now, I don’t know. I haven’t given myself a chance to dream.
This blog, medium.com/@aatal, is not an official site of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of Apeksha Atal and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State, or any of its partner organizations