This is written in the span of one hour, so if it doesn’t make sense or has grammatical mistakes, I am sorry. Neither does my life so I guess it’s cool.
Lately, I haven’t been able to really write poems. There were phrases and lines that I thought were fine, but nothing came close to that burst of creativity and ideas back in April. But then, I just got home after three weeks of traveling and this experience has woken me up in some ways. So instead of writing poems like usual, I am going to betray my username for a while a share with you an epiphany that I had, one that was sparked by the accumulation of thoughts in places in three countries. I am a nerdfighter, and not until these three weeks, I never knew what that meant; I did not know how John Green changed my life for better or worse.
It’s quite simply, really. John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars and Looking For Alaska (two of my all-time favourite novels) and more, has reminded me to live by showing me fictional lives thought through in hindsight. He made me realize life itself as a limited and unlimited experience that is only actualised if one understands.
Was I in a pool of mental turmoil and did John save me from the brink of self-harm? No. It was actually after reading his books that I fell again and again (as many has experienced) into a deep pit of depression and existential crisis. The first time I read The Fault in Our Stars was the day after my cat died. It was the worst thing that ever happened in my life. There were nothing I cared more but I lost my kitty just after three years. I felt like life has cheated and I would give up my life just to spend one more day with him. I still would, to be honest. I am not the most mentally stable person I know, but like everyone, I had my own trials and I passed through all of them before. 15 May 2014 is the date I simply gave up caring anything because I never felt so much pain before. The day after my mom took me out for tea with my aunt and grandma and tried to make me better. Walking in bookstores always makes me feel better; that’s what I did. I went into a bookstore, picked up TFIOS, and went home. When we almost reached home, just three more minutes of walking, I had a breakdown on the street. It was the first time I went home and my cat wasn’t there. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and I couldn’t stop feeling everything was going to end. Like always, I resorted to escaping for a while and tried to read the book I just brought. It changed everything.
I finished the book in five days. I was still having severe anxiety because of the passing of my cat, but the grief I felt then, as I am feeling now as I recalled the incident, was greater, sadder, and clearer. That is one of the reasons why I get very protective whenever people criticize John Green as an author. He saved me. If you haven’t read TFIOS (and you really should), it is about Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, two cancer survivors trying to cope with living and find each other and hope in their worlds of sickness. At least, that’s the story for me. I really like the philosophical elements in all John’s novels. In TFIOS, in particular, it is the limitation of mortality. Hazel is a teenager who faced death more than anyone should ever have. While she is trying to live her fullest life, she understands life doesn’t come easy. The fact that she needs a machine just to breathe is a slap in the face that death is nearby. It’s John Green, the story is going to be extremely sad. So I won’t spoil whoever hasn’t read that; those of you who did would know what I mean. How do you cope with grief that is unbearable? How do you learn to see when life doesn’t feel worthy to do so?
Now, grief comes in different ways, as many ways as happiness comes, too. There can never be a comparison of two individuals’ emotions. Some people have had worse, most people probably do. I am not saying that losing a pet is the end of the world, but it certainly was for me. You can’t compare lives, and you certainly cannot compare grief. But what John says about the oblivion of lives, that some infinities are bigger than other, that it is all about perspectives and you learn to find them, is like a crack in a submarine. Everything rushed in, I was overwhelmed not only by the numbing grief and pain in the submarine, I was being attacked in all senses that that is life. I can’t change anything that happened. It is sad, it is tremendously tragic. Somehow, that was cathartic.
Slowly I started to see clearer. Yes, I still think life has cheated. But I also had three amazing years with my first family cat. He had brought me so much joy. He was one of the rare pure good things in my life. I still have two more babies. I have my life ahead of me. I had just finished my first year of university and my life was just getting started. It is scary how grief can blind you from seeing all that. “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations”, so I turned to something better, I turned to writing.
I am a weird amateur writer. I am most productive when I am lost emotionally. In my most unstable hours, I manage to produce some of the favourite lines of myself. So I guess, that’s not really that weird after all. It helps me to know John is more than just an novelist, he also was an English major, he also has mental issues and his confusing years. But he managed to turn them into his own constellations and touched millions of hearts he will never get to meet one by one. Live your best life by creating lives, let them be fictional or not. Remember life. Remember to live. That’s how John Green saved my life. He pointed out to me, better than anything that came before he did, life sucks but life moves on in a changed manner.
Now, why did I say my traveling inspired all of these? I know what TFIOS means to me and it means the world to me that my dear friends have read them and understands. I have visited Ireland, Scotland, and the Netherlands with my good friend and there were lots of moments when I stopped to think, and found myself mute. What am I doing here? Shouldn’t I be finding a job or reading something for my academic career? Does it matter to take hours of flight just to be on this particular soil to see things you can see on the Internet? Why do I matter when millions of people have seen what I saw?
Of course, there were lots of existential crisis. Most of them, I don’t have answers to, and probably never. But great things happened, too. For the first time, I am going out on my own and experience the world as a graduated adult. I saw things as writers I love and admire did many many years ago. I saw the natural beauty of the world that was so sublime it made me think in poetry. To end the trip with a bang, I met up with dear friends that fate has set us up on the internet because we happened to love John Green and Hank Green and what they do. It is crazy to just think about how things like this would’ve been impossible just a few decades ago. I have severe anxiety every time I leave home for a trip and that’s the time I recall Paper Towns, another great book by John Green. “I go to seek a great perhaps.” If I don’t do it, I am living less a life that I can live. There are just so many years I can live, days even. I used that line, or borrowed, for a poem that I wrote for my graduating class. Telling ourselves that we should carpe the diem out of this trap we called mortality and take chances. So I am trying to do just that, to live like Margot Spiegelman as best as I can with a hint of Hazel Grace. Tread adventurously with caution and boldness.
I still can’t believe four years of university are over for me. Even though I am determined to pursue postgraduate studies, sometimes what my friends suggest clings to my head, especially at night. Am I continuing my studies simply because I am not ready to leave school? Am I wasting money to do an MA in English literature, one of the most unemployable majors possible (sigh)? Should I be going out for a job to start gathering experience? Should I think better? I honestly don’t know. There are just so many things I want to do. I want to do research. I want to make an argument, make a voice. I want to be a writer. I want to be a poet. Fuck, I want to be a goddess heiress with a castle full of cats and Nutella. But life sucks and we don’t always get or even know what we want. So what I am trying to say is, John helps me by (a) showing me to live you need to know your life is insignificant in a long course of history unless you do something about it, (b) showing me some people can have it WAY worse (yes I do realise comparison doesn’t work but hey, I am healthy).
That’s why I want to do something with humanity because it touches the core of our being. It is the essence of what we are. Literature, philosophy, history, many more, they are what we are. When I get to contribute a part to one of these fields, I will live, through myself, and the people who will get in touch with the things I thought of and said. Although that isn’t exactly what Hazel says, I do believe we are more than what we are. Poetry, for now, is my attempt to shout to those who would listen. I AM CONFUSED. I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. MY FEARS ARE EATING ME. But I write them down one after one, they are keep beating me for all I care, I am putting them in words to make myself the boss of everything. I am not throwing away my shot.
Okay, I realised I used quite some length to talk about my cat, as I do always. But really, John’s books have been my lifeline, what he and Hank do have inspired me in so many ways. They have led me to great friends that I would have never met if I never watched their videos. They made things happen. To quote one of my favorite songs ever, why, oh why can’t I? DFTBA!
this is quite positive, isn’t it? someone sends me this when I start to relapse.
if you don’t agree with what I get from John’s books, don’t murder me. It’s okay. Have your say.
also, photo credit to John’s Facebook page.