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Shock Absorbers


Some weeks, I tend to feel like life is under control: no sudden events, expenses, or responsibilities. My commitments and daily routine proceed rhythmically, and I can have fun while sipping my morning caffeine and watching college lectures. I may even consider baking garlic bread. Things are certainly on fire, but mentally I’m in a state of equilibrium.

But it takes a single off-nominal disturbance to shock that equilibrium. The source of the shock could be anything: family, friends, relationships, health, school, work, hobbies, the news, and more.

Shocks related to school and work can generally be resolved through some effort. Since 10th grade of high school, I’ve developed a mindset of trying to enjoy processes more than their outcomes in school. As a result, I no longer care enough about my GPA to perturb myself about bad grades or exams. If it’s an ongoing project or the like (which I tend to enjoy and want to do well in), the shock is usually a signal to take a step back, reflect, and tackle the problem again.

However, shocks from most other sources can be harder to deal with. Here, you can’t just flip a switch in your mind to go into problem-solving mode. They may not even be problems you can solve; you’re just a second or third party subscribed to their effects. And that’s when you realize that life wasn’t fully in control. You were just obliviously coasting along in your life until things happening in others’ lives finally arrived in yours.

As much as adulting has taught me that nobody really knows what they’re doing, I think age and experience brings wisdom in the way we process and handle shocks in our lives. We build up our senses of pattern recognition and intuition so we don’t feel crippled at every instance of a problem.

I think I’ve gotten better at handling these shocks over the years, but it still isn’t great. After all, I wouldn’t call them “shocks” if they didn’t disturb my prevailing state. The worst feeling is being mentally paralyzed by a constant set of thoughts, and every such occurence is a new teaching moment for myself.

My shock absorbers can range from sleeping it off, to sweating it out with a workout; bottling it up and getting back to work anyway, to journalling about it. The Gen Z proven strategy of eating hot chip also works. These are mostly ways to cope with shocks though, and converting shocks into “useful energy” is something I’m still getting used to. Hard rock music usually catalyzes this energy conversion.

I suppose that with enough experience and a f*ck-it attitude, you can also be like Tow Mater and simply appreciate the bumpy road, even if you lose a few screws along the way.

Thankfully my college’s spring break arrived just in time for me to slow down and reflect on some of the shocks I’ve experienced recently. It’s also just a weird time in general. I feel guilty for thinking or writing about petty speedbreakers while we’re seeing first-hand accounts of people’s lives being turned over by yet another ruthless war.

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. I can’t bring myself to spend time by looking at my friends’ tropical vacation pictures on Instagram, so I suppose some self-reflection sprinkled in with doomscrolling is a kinda good use of my time and energy. Learning that the stuff I worked on last year has been deployed to aid in the ongoing war has helped me feel a little less useless too, almost a heartening anti-shock if you will.

Thanks for reading my mindless rambling, and let me know what your shock absorbers look like.

~ Amal