Time anxiety: idealization, restlessness and stagnancy

For as long as I can remember, spare time completely overwhelmed me. The lapses between a summer and a busy school year made me feel like I was drowning in a stagnant, suffocating plane of reality. Vacations felt like like tests of grasp of sanity at times – the new relationship adopted towards time in the absence of routine made me restless, feeling doomed and underperforming.

Organized time meant linearity, purpose and cosmic order. I don’t normally subscribe to such rigidity but time anxiety is a real thingit’s a case of cognitive dissonance: obsessively hurrying time along while simultaneously resenting the past as an overgrown burden of responsibility.

By __ you should already be ____ with ____ and have gotten over ____. With the passing of time comes so much expectation and disappointment. Obvious to say – but altogether tragic and a phenomena reinventing itself over and over again. With the build up of time, a the history of your material presence in the world develops and sometimes it tells the story you wanted – but most of the time it tells one slightly, if not entirely alternate. As someone with who inserts idealization uncontrollably to the point of paralysis into nearly every passing thought, the life narrative – or the concept of a personal timeline – crumbles under imposed standards of ideation.

This is all to say, relative comparison, comparison that places me in a relatively successful position in live in the time considered, unfortunately flattens the ideal I have set for myself. It is so much easier to live in the shadow of the most put-together, experienced and self-assured than to be proud of yourself. And while there are plenty of rather obvious ways that I can rationally see myself as not doing too bad for myself, this perspective is unsatisfying. I feel so entirely unequipped to make anything of myself but the optics say otherwise – and that is what is most frightening. Did I con everyone into thinking I could do this? Did I con myself for believing I could get somewhere?

Because I feel like I know less every single day. 

Time to think brings out both the best and the worst in me. My professor recently explained that in is in our time alone, uninterrupted, no stimulus, no distraction but simply contemplation and drifting thought, that we develop our true selves. If the self is cultivated in moments of silent reflection, I think I might be desperately trying to quell the development of my true self. Or perhaps I’m just afraid of starting with contemplation and slip quickly in rumination. I think this goes for most of us, time spent obsessing and driving yourself crazy over your life narrative and the perceived inadequacies and imagined  insufficiencies is never too difficult to pass. Spare time presents this choice: self-cultivation vs. self-demolition. Tearing myself up over previously suppressed anxieties seems to be my default approach to passing time.

I absolutely fear stagnation. The tension between my past, present and future self is unparalleled. The past self is so unhappy with how the present self handles things and the rather lacklustre reality she’s managed to construct. My present self constantly compares herself to both the expectation her past self developed of who she is supposed to me and the nostalgic and idealized version of the past self herself. My future self is bewildered by the massive amounts of failure both were able to make but just as unhappy with the state of things and gets frustrated thinking her past self could’ve handled it better. I feel regressive in stagnation. I know that doesn’t make any sense. But in the passing of time I feel, through the lens of nostalgia, constant waves of regression, as though I can’t quit failing myself, summed up in the phrase, “I’m getting worse.”


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