Today I am sad. I am sad most days, actually. I am beginning to accept that maybe this sadness is intrinsic to my personality. It doesn’t matter where I live or who I’m with — I am simply, by nature, sad.
Work makes me sad among other things. In the past couple weeks, I feel as if my bosses have thrown me to the wolves. I feel overwhelmed. I feel dumb.
I’ve thought about looking for another job, but I am also well aware that maybe this isn’t about the job. Maybe I’m the problem. Maybe it doesn’t matter where I work or what I do — I will always feel overwhelmed and incompetent and, of course, sad.
I now have over 100 books in my Kindle. I went on a download spree last week, so my Library is now filled with books that randomly caught my fancy.
I have no clue what the books in my Library are about. Some of them are classics — books that I had always wanted to read but never had the motivation to — but most are just random titles that made me go, hmm, sure, why not?
It is Saturday and I am looking for a new book to read. I tap Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li. A few pages into it and I realize that the book is about coping with loss and grief. It tells an imagined conversation between the narrator and her son who committed suicide. Heavy shit. I click the Back arrow and start swiping through the Library again.
I tap The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. I like the name Sigrid, and the title sounds neutral enough. The Friend? Mmkay. The language does not feel dense or heavy, but the story kicks off after the death of the narrator’s mentor who, welp — he committed suicide.
I put the Kindle down, I lie on my bed, and I stare at the ceiling. Is this some cosmic shit? Is this the Universe’s way of telling me to go ahead and just…do it?
I go to the sala, turn on the TV, and watch Dr. Foster instead.
The reason I don’t watch a lot of TV is the same reason I don’t listen to audio books at all: I am impatient. I want to know right away what happens next and, by design, motion pictures and audio books take their sweet-ass time to unravel a story.
In other words, nababagalan ako.
Sitting still in front of the TV is also quite distracting for me. I find it difficult to focus. I always feel compelled to check my phone, to look for summaries on Wikipedia, or to just let my mind wander while the characters on screen compete in an intense staring contest to the tune of some dramatic non-diegetic music. Okay, gets, yamot kayo sa isa’t isa. O tapos?
I finished Dr. Foster anyway, all two seasons of it. It wasn’t bad at all. I just hit the fast-forward button a lot, and I also read recaps online to fill in the gaps. Some would say this is sacrilegious — how dare you disrespect television?? — but, pffft. The hell if I care.
I need to read. I don’t want to work on a weekend, so I need to truly distract myself by reading a book. I grab my Kindle again and tap Janna Levin’s Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space. The title sounds cool. It seems as if this book is about the intersections between astrophysics and music but, apparently, it is not.
The book is about outer space, all right, but music? The “other songs” in the title are not songs as in audio jams — they’re the sounds of gravitational waves, the sounds that ripple through the fabric of the universe when stars explode and black holes collide. Geek shit but, okay.
The book’s language is accessible enough and the physics as described is not intimidating at all. The book also discusses the politics and the drama behind the multimillion dollar LIGO project, the experiment that successfully recorded the sound — or the “chirp,” as physicists would say — of two blackholes crashing into each other.
Think Andy Weir’s The Martian, except Black Hole Blues isn’t fiction. It’s real life. Three physicists (and hundreds of scientists and engineers) actually designed and built one of the most precise observatories on Earth. They pushed for the project against the advise of other equally talented physicists. There were betrayals, breakdowns, and confrontations along the way, which proves that science is not immune to personal conflicts and political maneuverings.
There are of course layers to ambitious scientific experiments that were not captured in the book — layers that may only be visible if you take a step back and look at the bigger social connotations of space exploration — but that’s beside the point. In any case, Black Hole Blues has been a good distraction. It is a good read. If you’re at all interested in astrophysics as told in everyman language, I highly recommend it.
I once had to interview a professional engineer, and one of the questions we had to ask was, “How do you define success?”
“Success is happiness,” the engineer said.
“And how do you define happiness?” I asked.
“You know you’re happy when you feel excited to go to work on Mondays.”
It is Monday tomorrow and all I feel right now is the weight of fear and sorrow pushing down on my shoulders. By the engineer’s definition, I am extremely unhappy and, therefore, unsuccessful.
But does happiness have to depend on how we feel about our work?
Honestly, man — why do I feel this god damn miserable?
*Apologies to Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta