ISSUE Magazine

“What the fuck am I doing?” by Atiqah Mokhtar

Here’s the deal. There are going to be some days where you ask, “What the fuck am I doing?”

Sometimes, a lot of times, the question is going to be spat out in sheer anger; it will contain your immediate aversion towards the circumstances you face. You may shout the question, you may hiss it, or maybe it will just be muttered through gritted teeth, but either way your detestation will ring clear in those six words strung together to represent your dissatisfaction.  Those will be the days where you emphasize the rudest word in the sentence. “What the fuck am I doing?” You will relish the harsh, staccato pronunciations. No forgiving stretched-out vowels to redeem your speech.

Sometimes it will be a culmination of frustration; it’s going to be the question that comes out at some point down the line when you’ve been harbouring your discontent, becoming a human pressure-cooker.  Your reservations have fermented, and one day something will happen to trigger those pent-up feelings. Maybe it will be a spectacular combustion, shit will hit the fan and things will blow up in your face. Or maybe you’ll just be looking out the window one day, doing some mundane activity, and something suddenly just clicks into place, and you lose it.

You will find yourself asking this question when you are fed up with your incompetence, these are the days you can’t quite align the person you think you could be with this other person who seems to be continuously screwing up and who happens to be you.  It will come after an email from your boss pointing out yet another mistake, or maybe after one of those conversations that feel like a complete waste of time, because you left everything that you wanted to say unsaid, and you don’t understand why you can’t communicate properly anymore with this person you once thought of as home.

Sometimes it will not be rhetorical. You are going to genuinely question what you’re doing and why you are doing it. You usually won’t find the answers, probably not at that moment, and it’s never easy to work out. But sometimes you do. It’s always worth asking. And if you’re brave enough to question something you are doing, stepping out of your cocoon of familiarity and habit, then you are also brave enough to do something about it.

When you ask this question, maybe it will be directed towards a companion, someone whom you trust enough to show this uglier side of you, the side that is unsure and willing to admit you can’t figure this out on your own. Sometimes you ask them just to have someone else be aware that you are in turmoil, other times I think you secretly hope that that person will actually have the answer.  Or maybe it won’t be asked aloud at all, it will be heard by no one except those within the confines of your head.

And sometimes, when things are going particularly badly, it will just be wearily said to yourself, nothing more than a quiet acknowledgement that you are unhappy and things should not be this way, but you don’t think you can do anything about it. You are left with nothing more than a drained feeling, and maybe you will direct the question to God, because you finally understand that there’s no one left to ask, no one else who can answer you. Or maybe you will refuse to ask anymore. You will stop asking altogether, and some part of you will break.

It won’t always be bitter, though. Sometimes, believe it or not, you’re going to say it in jest. Like when you’re hanging out with your friends and you’re fulfilling that dare they’re making you do and are in the midst of committing some utterly ridiculous act. You will say the same words, “What the fuck am I doing?”, but it will be between bursts of laughter, seeing your friends bent over in their mirth, clutching their stomachs and each other for support. You will ask the question, but expect no real answer, because you are doing this for people you love, and you don’t mind being a fool for them, with them you don’t have to question why.

Occasionally, you are going to ask the question in nervousness. You will look at this particular person, standing there with their back to you, neither aware of your presence nor understanding how they affect you, or how much you want them to be affected by you in turn. You will walk up to them, and as you do this, or even as you stand behind them, with your hand hovering over their shoulder, you will ask yourself what the hell are you doing, what are you doing? You will ask this as many times and as rapidly as your heart pounds and maybe you’ll find a reason, and maybe you won’t, but I hope so badly you push ahead anyway. Tap that shoulder, and smile when they turn around.

And, of course, you’re going to ask this question when you are scared. When you don’t know what’s coming around the corner, there is no horizon, no lights to guide you. Any logical deduction you can attempt or any intuition you’re supposed to have no longer works, and you have lost the foolproof surety in your actions that brought you down this path in the first place. What the fuck am I doing? What do I do? You simply don’t have faith in your decisions anymore, and this question is asked over and over, becoming your mantra.

Here’s the deal. There are going to be some days, some points in your life, where you ask, “What the fuck am I doing?”  And then you’ll carry on. Life goes on even when you have no idea what you’re doing.

(Photo by mendhak on Flickr)


Atiqah said the word ‘fuck’ by complete accident the first time. For some reason she wanted to find all words ending with the suffix -uck and was haphazardly trying different letters. Buck, luck, duck. Then she decided to try it with an ‘f”. Her mother was not pleased. atiqahmokhtar@gmail.com.

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This entry was written by atiqahmokhtar and published on 06/09/2012 at 12:37. It’s filed under Atiqah Mokhtar, Essays, ISSUE4, Musings, Writings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on ““What the fuck am I doing?” by Atiqah Mokhtar

  1. Michelle Bunt on said:

    This is beautiful – I can relate to just about all of the scenarios you posed, and it is immensely evocative. As I was reading I found myself reliving all the different emotions that went with each scenario. Most of all what I liked is the reminder at the end that despite our confusion, ambivalence and fear about not knowing what we’re doing or where we are going, “Life goes on even when you have no idea what you’re doing.”

  2. atiqahmokhtar on said:

    Thank you very much Michelle! When I wrote this, I remember hoping quite feverishly that people reading it would be able to identify with at least some of the variations as ones they have experienced, I’m glad you do. And the reminder at the end is something I still try to tell myself when I am caught up in one of these wtf moments. Thanks again 🙂

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