I called a friend today, waking up with a familiar pang in my chest, despair I often push away. We traced familiar circles around a conversation we were having, probably for the billionth time then. “Life is nothing but perpetual yearning” — I lament, acutely self-aware of how dramatic it sounds.
The first time I stumbled into fractals was the visualizer on the WinAmp media player. Remember those endless abstract images that drew you in as you played music? I would stare at them for hours together while my dad played his favorite 80’s music, meditative and lost. I needed to know everything there was about them. I spent hours zooming into them, each iteration pulling me in, making me question what I thought to be a smooth edge, revealing complexity every click.
There was probably only one other time where I sought comfort as frenetically as I do now, my first year of undergrad where I had just moved out of home. I got back into listening to dad’s favorite music and found myself flirting with fractals. I vividly remember asking my calculus professor, a tall, portly man with a thick Malayali accent, about fractals — completely aware of the irony in it. While calculus assumed things to smoothen out as you zoomed in, fractals became vivid and detailed — while I wanted all my issues with the new place to smoothen out and fall into place, they only grew bigger, demanding more of my attention.
Back then I kept revisiting my angsty teenage self and how I yearned to belong, tracing back familiar conversations I had with my sister, only now a little more cognizant of my own biases, a little more aware that while I was on the edge of the set, I could have dramatically different behavior.
While I outgrew of how unsettled I was feeling, I don’t think the yearning ever actually went away. I kept seeking things I didn’t have, wanting them to happen (instantaneously if they could), hoping that I wouldn’t burn out in all the effort of chasing them. I felt like I kept dealing with the same problems in life, over and over, each time finding a new idea to hold onto until it collapsed, leaving in its wake only a metaphor scribbled in the corner of my journal.
Comfort now is in the journals of Virginia Woolf, in learning how to mourn and in accepting that mourning doesn’t take away from life. While I had always engaged with the loss of a home, the loss of spaces I called mine, and in the loss of people — I was always looking to not feel it anymore. To build a tombstone, a mausoleum, and not have to think about it again.
Today, I attempt to look at the feeling every time it comes up, to remember what I valued in those spaces, to go back and revisit the people that made these spaces accessible, and in the shared expression, find a glimmer of comfort that would let me get ahead. To find a little more complexity in every iteration, and to appreciate the beauty that comes with zooming in. To look at it as a reflection off of a lake or a surface, not seeking guidance or clarity, not attempting to take it to be the only truth but merely a likeness.
I think my questions want to be seen as well, even if I don’t have any answers. Maybe for today, the acknowledgment is enough. I also attempt to learn kindness, to not turn myself inside out for how often and deeply I feel about an experience.