I tried to find my real self, and he wasn’t worth finding

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I have the emotional depth of a kiddie pool. There isn’t a lot going on in here. It’s a shame, really. I’ve always wanted to be brooding and mysterious. The brooding I’ve got covered – I’m mad for a brood – but I am far from a mystery. I have what is medically known as a labrador brain. If I ever manage to acquire a bit of mystery in my life I am so excited about it, I feel compelled to tell the whole world.

But I wanted more. I wanted to know there was something greater inside me. So, I tried to contact my inner self. This was a risk. Frankly, I am not too fond of my conscious self. The idea of unleashing a babushka doll of inner personalities sounds like hell itself. I wanted an Instagram-friendly subconscious awakening. No repressed memories, all earth tones and discovering that you were beautiful and perfect all along. Inner-self-confident, not inner-self-aware.

I started with meditation because it involved sitting down. Also, it was one of the few forms of self-actualisation that came with a handy app that could send you a push notification when you had finally achieved enlightenment. I was working long hours out-of-state and sleeping in a serviced apartment, so I sat at the end of the bed with my headphones in to block out the noise of crying through the walls and listened to the guided meditation.

I tried to have an Eat Pray Love journey of self-discovery.

There is nothing less soothing to me than someone trying to sound soothing. It’s like dropping the phrase “don’t be afraid”, if I wasn’t afraid before, I am now. The recording told me to close my eyes and think about colour in my life. Colour, it said, would be the trigger for taking notice of the world around you. Slowly, I opened my eyes, ready to notice and appreciate that I live in a colourful world. I looked around the serviced apartment. The walls were white, the quilt was grey, the sheets were white, the bedhead was black, the curtains were grey, the ironing board was grey on a white base, on the white walls, in a black frame, was an abstract painting of grey on white. I deleted the app.

Next, a friend introduced me to the very trendy concept of “morning pages”. The idea being that you wake up in the morning and write and write and write. You let your subconscious take the wheel and write you a little letter. I’ve always wanted a pen pal, I thought, so why not? Advocates for pages claim it is a shortcut to creativity. They say it will get your creative juices flowing. The problem was, I did not want to “get the creative juices flowing”. The imagery disgusts me. I don’t think creativity should be a juice, I don’t think it should flow, and I especially do not want to know about any juices that may or may not be flowing inside you. I sat at my desk with a workbook and scribbled every little thought that came to my mind. Being first thing in the morning, on day one my subconscious was mostly concerned with having a cup of coffee and wondering what I should have for breakfast. After a week of dedication, I was able to push past these simple concepts and start to ask the big questions like, what should I have for lunch later?

My profession is already jotting down streams of consciousness on a blank page and trying to drag meaning out of it. You know what they say, “Do what you love and you will have monetised your ability to feel joy and transformed it into an economic necessity built on a foundation of fear”. What I needed was something completely out of left field, an entirely new form of creative expression that will at once sweep me away and reveal the true me in its wake. How hard could that be? I’ve always assumed I was a prodigy, from that basis life becomes a process of elimination. Exactly what am I prodigious in? I have never in my life picked up an oboe. Am I an undiscovered virtuoso? Unlikely, yes, but we cannot completely rule it out. Now, it finally made sense. There was a great artist deep inside me just waiting to be released. It’s like what Michelangelo said about the sculpture already being inside the marble. You see, I understand Michelangelo because we’re both great artists.

Every art supply shop I visited was having a closing-down sale. That was also a sign from the universe. It was a cry for help. Art itself might be over without my intervention. Soon, I was creating a daily pastel artwork, taking great care to carefully blend colours, and create something beautiful. What’s more, I managed to keep these works to myself. This wasn’t art for display, it was by me and for me, enclosed in my own little notebook. How brooding and mysterious. My work for the day complete, I wandered into the next room only to see my daughter with a pile of crayons working on her own piece of abstract expressionism. Suddenly, I realised that all I had done was pay an exorbitant sum of money to make colouring seem artistic and pretentious. It’s a cliche of modern art to say “my kid could do that” yet here she was, proving it correct. I suppose it’s easy to access your inner child when you are a child.

Maybe depth isn’t for me. I should be satisfied with wandering through the world, freshly delighted by each day. An empty-headed darling, barely capable of object permanence, untroubled by the deeper problems of the human condition, interested only in where that kid got a balloon and if they are handing out balloons somewhere, and whether it would be weird for a fully grown man to ask for a balloon? Sorry, I got distracted for a moment there. Perfectly, peacefully distracted by the colourful world all around us.

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