I’ve woken up at 4am after a shaky four hours’ sleep. I’m wearing the same shirt I wore on a Saturday night out in Clapham; it is now Tuesday and the blessed thing still smells of wine, sweat and takeaway pizza. I found it in a pile with all my other clothes which now means, clean or otherwise, the shirt’s unique aroma has now bled into all of my outfit choices. Wearing it is a statement: today I will smell.
It is not the best way to start any morning but, of course, it’s not the worst either. Realising that is called perspective, and perspective brings me neatly to my topic: vision.
I am not talking about vision in the metaphorical sense; (metaphorical vision is much like perspective which is something I will mention again later) I am talking about my literal vision. About three weeks’ ago I had surgery on my detached retina. The surgery has not worked and the doctors are now considering giving me another, more serious, operation that I could take six months to recover from. I had planned on travelling to Vietnam with my girlfriend, but I also plan on not going blind and so recovery takes priority.
Hence we go from vision back to perspective, from literal vision to metaphorical vision, from motif to theme. Recovery from the last surgery meant cancelling a trip to Zante with three close friends and the possibility of this surgery has meant cancelling a trip to Vietnam. I say trip. My girlfriend and I planned to move there, work in hostels and generally live a bohemian, new-aged lifestyle for the foreseeable (no pun intended) future. Perhaps we are being punished for our idea’s lack of originality. God felt that there were too many twenty-somethings out there, swanning around the Amazon, growing beards, not showering and generally just being a nuisance. I’m not sure if I believe that God exists. However, if she did, I should imagine that it would be an awful lot easier to micro-manage people if they stopped fucking off to different countries and riding around in rickshaws. Or if they just stopped being busy in general.
What does all of this have to do with perspective? Even though both cancellations have been made at a fairly large expense to my wallet, I do not care. I mean, I do care, of course I do, but not all that much. This is not because I am some kind of laissez-faire, hard-ass who is willing to let the chips simply fall where they may. It is because the money is not what worries me. When I tell people about my detached retina, and the inconvenience it has caused, I usually talk about money because people can empathise with that. People understand losing money and, generally, it is a fairly light conversation. However my real worries, the two that have lead me to wake up at 4am, are that I my eye is fucked and that I now have no idea what I want to do with my life.
Having no idea what you want to do with your life is sometimes described as the quarter-life crisis. It is when people in their twenties realise that they are no-longer the all-knowing lords of the universe that they were when they were apathetic, not-giving-a-fuck, responsibility-less teenagers. Instead, they now have to put a modicum of thought into the shape of their future. I say ‘they’ – I am 23 years old myself. Though I suppose the reason I say ‘they’ is because the whole notion of a quarter-life crisis is the most ridiculous fucking thing I have ever heard of… Of course that doesn’t stop it from being the very thing that is currently giving me temporary insomnia.
That I have no idea what I want to do with my life makes me no different from pretty much every other person on the planet. That my eye is completely fucked makes me wonderfully unique in a way that I would rather not be. The former is a vague worry, an uneasiness in the stomach, that all people feel as they scroll down their Facebook feed and spend their lunch breaks comparing their lives with someone else’s. The latter is an actual situation that I actually have to do something about. Namely, I have to recover.
But there’s a kind of cycle created here; recovery is boring because it means resting. It means relaxing. It means not doing things. And not doing things is exactly what causes 20-somethings like myself to panic about the monotony of their unlived lives. On other hand, if I did do things, exciting things that stopped me from worrying about my position in the world and caused me to fall in love with life again, then I stunt my recovery and make my eye worse. I have two problems; the cure to either would make the other worse. My solution to this paradox has been to live vicariously.
Because I had planned this trip with my girlfriend and, quite frankly, there is no reason why she shouldn’t still go. When she first heard the news, she acted selflessly and immediately said that she would stay in Bristol with me. But that would just mean that there would be two people stuck living back with their parents (having just quit their respective jobs and cancelled their respective contracts on their flats) rather than one. I have to move back in with Mum and Dad; I left my job to go travelling and now I can’t get a new one because I can’t work. But Helen does not. If she goes, she will be happy, much happier than she would have been if she was jobless, flatless and stuck in a maybe-we’ll-go-to-Vietnam-when-my-eye-gets-better induced limbo. If she is happy, then I am happy too. Not as happy as I would be had I been able to go myself. But like I keep saying, this is about perspective, which means compromising, making the best out of bad situation and realising how shit things could have been.
As for vision, so long as I have enough eyesight to see pictures of her happy, the screen of my Gameboy and the lager in front of my hand (because no-one likes pouring lager on their face), then perhaps recovery won’t be so bad after all. At the very least, I’ll be much easier for God to micro-manage.