About a week ago, I started to wake up slowly.
It began the day after I got back from the Pacific coast. At Playa Escondida I spent two days of drowsy, sleeping wakefulness, during which time I only stirred from my hammock to flop on the grass, or float in the sea, or wander down the beach and half-heartedly gather shells. After such a long and lazy pursuit of restfulness, I expected to get right back into the swinging rhythm of Quito. And yet, somehow, I didn’t.
I felt that some more rest was justified; after all, the journey back to Quito had been relatively fraught. We had climbed 3000 metres on a winding road in the cold, wet dark, an essay of a trip that was punctuated by horns blaring periodically and sudden, commathetical stops on lonely roadsides to pick up wailing candy-sellers. Our only ray of hope was a Technicoloured paper picture of Jesus stuck to the front door, who I’m afraid to say I lost faith in when he continued to smile benevolently after the bus’s twentieth near-miss. Maybe the meek will inherit the Earth; but at the moment, the mad own the roads. Afterwards, I told myself I would take it easy, and so I did. Tuesday, Wednesday evenings were spent in, with the company of wonderful movies (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and a glass of wine.
I noticed a shift in my mood on Thursday. In the morning, I woke from a fitful slumber. I remembered this feeling: the journey on Monday, drugged on antihistamines; jolted awake at an unfamiliar bus station, I had had enough time to briefly stretch my legs and then return to the bus and sleep. There was no reason to wake up. This is a pretty terrifying sense of deja vu to have when you know that you’re in busy Quito, and you have to be at work in under an hour.
This feeling persisted over the weekend. I started from a glutinous stew of sleep to a daytime that seems just as thick and placid. Come 11 o’clock, I would enter the witching hour. From then until 6pm, I moved as if sleepwalking, my limbs zombified. Several times, many minutes would pass at a time before I realised that I had been daydreaming. I had no motivation or desire to go out, and why would I, when home was so safe and so boring. I thought that I had nothing to contribute, and lay in the turnover of covers with strange and unreasonable thoughts passing through my head. What’s the point of anything? What am I doing here?
Most of my posts have focussed on new experiences in Quito, and on adventures around the city. It’s so easy to write every day about how amazing South America is, how kind the people are, how strange the confectionery is. All these things were, and are, true. The people of Quito are always so kind and speak always too fast, the confectionery is ever more mystifying (I still miss Green & Black’s), and every day, things here continue to be exciting and varied. It’s just my attitude that has varied. I have had a week of really stinking, depressing homesickness, and at the moment everything in Quito is not quite as magical as it appeared before.
There are two quotes that I have found, recently, that I think have captured what depression feels like to me. These are:
Melissa Broder – “What idiot called it ‘depression’ and not “there are bats living in my chest and they take up a lot of room, ps. I see a shadow”?”
and Matt Haig – “To other people, it sometimes seems like nothing at all. You’re walking around with your head on fire and no-one can see the flames.”
Now, to be honest, I’m not in as deep as all that. The beings in my chest are more the size of fruit flies than fruit bats. I still feel a little unhappy, and it’s okay to feel unhappy, sometimes, even when you’re on the adventure of a lifetime. I love it here; and yet I found myself Googling ‘follies in Scotland’ today. I suppose that indicates how much I miss home. Or do I? There were problems in Edinburgh, I know, even when I was there. I was sometimes lonely, it was too cold, I never had enough time to write. Now that I think about it, they are exactly the same issues that I face here. So what do I really miss? The highlights: Blackford Hill on Christmas with my family, the Cobbler with Anneke, the drinks I had out with school friends.
Today I think I can answer my earlier question, What’s the point of anything, sort of. There isn’t really a point. There isn’t any deep meaning to the work that I do, and yes someone else could probably do it instead of me. I know that when I am feeling good in Quito, I enjoy a great deal of things for their own sake: I love to read, I enjoy photography and long walks around my city, I love the street food and most of all I love the people here, their language, their looks and their outlook. The meaning of life is to give life meaning. My mistake the last week has been to feel that motivation causes action: that I should feel good in order to do these things. I’m a native speaker of English, and have a parent with a degree in English; shouldn’t my grammar be better? I’ve confused subject and object: I do these things in order to feel good. Motivation follows action.
I don’t feel amazing yet. But I’m writing this at 11 o’clock, and there’s a patch of blue sky out the office window. I’m going to eat well for lunch, and hope to call my parents. There’s a silver lining.