“If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders – What would you tell him?”Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
I…don’t know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?”
I’ve recently taken a vow of silence in my own free time – as in, I have stopped speaking and simply gone about my days of isolation in complete silence. Listening to what’s around me, and searching for insights brought up from my mind. I’ve also been writing some more too.
Through this, the aforementioned quote came to me in reference to many of the things that I’ve been focused on in my life. In recent months I took upon a project to provide help and guidance to people who need it, primarily on YouTube. This was actually a very exciting undertaking initially because I felt that I was on the right path in regards to what I wanted to do.
However, I think I was wrong, but for reasons that I couldn’t fully understand until recent insights in my times of silence.
To provide some minor backstory, it’s been a very rough few months for me, to put it mildly. I had a relationship breakdown, and to describe the importance of it is to describe what was essentially my “life project”, so to speak. I was building my life around the relationship and was intending on moving countries – I was also studying to become a counselor, focused in on several different projects (including the self help one), fervently saving my money..you name it. It was my top value and I had the fire and drive behind me to prove it. Almost everything I did was revolving around that relationship. It was the glue that held everything together.
The ending of that relationship destroyed me. If you imagine, for a moment, the flooring of a house collapsing in on itself, consider what would be left. Maybe some scattered furniture here and there – perhaps even some scaffolding. But everything else is dust, and a mighty big cleanup job is necessary. That house was me. My closest friends saw how broken I was, which include some very close online friends (who I am eternally grateful to have). The very core of my strength was completely and utterly crushed. I was a husk that felt like death would be a release for months. The frog people saw on video was a frog that was incredibly good at holding himself together and not breaking down in tears.
And yet through all that unspeakable pain, I carried on. I carried the weight of my projects, my work, my health, my money. And while I thought I was on the right path, the collapsing of my entire world brought about some startling clarity over time as to what the roots of some of my supposed values actually are. I became more insightful. Through that insight, I recognized that I was burdening myself with responsibilities that simply were not ones I wanted to have.
When I started to study counseling and started my self help work, I went in with the thought that “I like to help people. I like to see people do better, and become heroes.” My reasoning was sound, in that it aligned with what I enjoyed seeing – prosperity, especially in youth. I teach for a living, and it is a wonderful thing to see.
But what I had failed to listen to at the time was the lingering, subtle doubt in the choice I had made. And now that I am rebuilding my house, through all its remains, I could see those markings and truly examine them.
My entire life, I held the notion that seeing people do well, and being good to people, was a good thing – and I still do consider this a good thing. But I also burdened myself with being the one man that is responsible for other people’s problems. I was the problem solver – the sage among friends and the motivator behind everyone’s actions. I cannot count the amount of times friends and family have specifically come to me to ask for help with certain issues. I’m very good at solving other people’s problems – I always have been and have the experiences and feedback to prove it.
But the problem was that I, at some point, made it my duty and didn’t even know it. It came from a place of “helping people for the sake of it”, rather than “helping people because I want to.” Not doing so, too, was a choice that made me feel intense guilt and anxiety. As if I were a bad person. And yet I became tired of the parasitic nature of some people. I also needed to work on my own problems, too – something which I burdened no one with (and again, I am eternally grateful for my friends who were there to listen to my struggles, you know who you are). But it was hard for me to do so when so many other people had problems and they relied on me!
And thus over time, resentment, hatred and exhaustion slowly crept into my life. Sudden, random thoughts like “Oh for fucks sake, this shit again? It’s not hard, why is this moron incapable?”, and other bitter, angry things popped up. I examined it but didn’t fully understand it. I considered that it came from a past of bullying and distrust, but that never felt quite right. But now I do understand it, and it comes from the fact that I had burdened myself with others problems out of some altruistic notion that it’s good to do that. I didn’t get anything out of what I was doing. Small bursts of joy came from the thanks given (albeit only sometimes), but it simply grew tiring and soul sucking.
And so, through this, I recognized that maybe I really do not want this. I helped a lot of people, but I also became resentful of a lot of people. I also felt that I was being taken for granted much of the time, and many did not recognize or comprehend the amount of mental work it took for me to help them solve their issues. That is a two way problem – one was me not putting my foot down enough and saying “enough”, the other was some people using me as a way to feel better about their issues, but doing nothing in reality to rectify them.
Thus, I started to ask “What about me? What’s in it for me? What do I get out of all of this?”. These were painful to ask myself. I had quite an emotional moment going through all of this and really being honest with how I really felt. There was tremendous guilt, most of it unearned. But there’s also relief in understanding myself a little bit better. Understanding that while I have made a mistake – and ones formed from deeply ingrained ideas – I can now change directions and not make that mistake again.
I am happy that I did do my YouTube work, and I’m also happy that many people got a lot out of it. It’s a good thing, and I have received monetary support from some people which I am very grateful for. Not just that, but I’ve also had heart warming messages from many others that have told me that my work has helped them tremendously. They took actions according to my work and got results. That’s great.
But I am also happy to be done with it. There was a darker side to all of it, where many simply came to me to ask a thousand questions, tell me about how hard things are for them, and take no action. I was used as a pillar to be leaned on, and without any understanding of how much weight that is to bear. My fault for not saying “enough”, but it’s also on them for not recognizing their dependency, or recognizing that when one takes something, it needs to be paid for. If I’m going to honestly be harsh on it – no one is your pillar to cry on and shame on you for not having the decency to pay thanks to the help given.
My advice on this, is people need to learn to solve their own problems. I have loads of problems, particularly given that I have an entirely new house to build back up now. But I rarely burden others with them. I have good friends who I speak to, but I ensure I balance out with gratitude and offerings of my own. It’s a give and take relationship. And if you really do need help with something, there are countless, professional services available. Pay for it and do not expect handouts.
Ultimately though, speaking to others does nothing if you take no actions after the fact. Other people are not solutions, your actions are the solutions. Give up looking for the out through inspiring people and counselors, and begin taking the actions you need to take, even if it requires gritting your teeth to the point of bleeding. Guidance can help, but it means nothing if you do nothing.
If I can continue to work on a YouTube project helping people while silently bearing the agony of losing my world day by day, and never, ever giving up on myself, you can pick your own pieces up and carry on with your life, too. It just takes you recognizing that you have a choice, and you have the power to lift yourself far beyond what you think.
Choose life, your life, and shrug.
Carry the weight of a thousand worlds within my heartSentient Glow – Periphery
I’ve had enough of this
I have to trust I will pull through
This is the end
Don’t ask how we lost our way
Follow the stars to the place where we used to lay