I’m at the bookstore, looking at titles. Title, titles, trailing my fingers across spines of books and plastic-wrapped covers, stopping when it feels contrived and insincere, like I’m trying to pretend to be some quirky heroine who languidly brushes her fingers against books and records and other things she loves.
I look around. I see a table full of Kazuo Ishiguro novels, absently note the store is having a special, 20% off a book with the purchase of another item. I walk past the crime and mystery section, the movie tie-ins; I see the books on religion. I’m aimlessly wandering around. I feel restless. I pick up a book to read the synopsis, put it back. I glance at the poetry section, wondering if I could randomly pick up a collection of poems, read it properly and not give-up on it halfway down the line. I feel irritated at the idea of being disappointed with a book I choose, which so often happens. I realize I’ve reached a certain level of doubt where I sometimes no longer blame the things I don’t like for not liking them; I somehow believe it is a fault or flaw of my own.
I am suddenly angry, but I’m not sure at what. I try to direct my anger at something specific and external, I look for something to blame. Eventually I feel angry at myself as well; some other part of me is telling me to stop looking for excuses, and to pull myself together. I am angry at something, whatever it is, and in return, I am angry on behalf of that whatever-it-is at me. Does that make sense? It feels like I’m starting a fight, I’m at the cusp of a brawl. My bitterness and my spite is pushing me over the edge, making me aggressively shove the person I’m picking the fight with, and at the same time I am that person being shoved, and I am shoving back. It feels frustrating and futile.
Going back and forth between shelves, I have a sudden acute longing for a book that would make me fall in love with it, I want to just pick a book and have it be one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life, whose pages will grow tatty and dog-eared as I re-read it countless times, thumbing through my favourite passages. I want to read something, and I want it to make me feel. I want to feel.
I realize I’m looking for something to fill me up. And then it hits me, this feeling of something missing, some bare space between my left ventricle and my mind. I am lacking. Because why would I need filling up if I wasn’t empty to start with?
My existing definition of self-discovery tends to associate it with self-improvement. I gravitate towards an interpretation that self-discovery is positive, life-changing, and fundamental. It means finding out more about yourself in a way that gives you assurance in who you are as person. I imagine epiphanies achieved after periods of turmoil that lead to realizations about your inner-strength and your capabilities. I assume that self-discovery means finding a way to be more content with yourself and your life.
It just occurred to me, silly girl that I am, that to find out more about yourself isn’t limited to things that are good. What about when you discover the parts of you that you don’t like?
Atiqah is constantly making lists and scribbling untidily on available scraps of paper in an attempt to decipher her thoughts. Besides lurking suspiciously around bookstores, she likes emails. email@example.com.