l o s t i n l i m b o

By an anonymous student

I was in the park, running, trying to process the fact that one of my friends just lost her only son when I got the call. It was my sister. She said in a somber broken voice, "listen, something's happened to Dad". I stopped in my tracks as she explained how Dad had a stroke, and he's been in a comatose state for 6 weeks. I was beginning to wonder why he hadn't called for a while, it all added up now... That was about a year ago. By some miracle, my dad has moved out of his coma into what I can only describe as a "permanent" vegetative state.

It's kinda like a really old crappy computer. It might power up for a second, look like it's about to work and get back to normal, only to crash on you and shut down every time. The movies always show the fun side of comas. People need to decide whether or not to "pull the plug", insurance pays for everything and there's a big jerk off resolution at the end where everyone laughs at the funeral. This movie is different. 


In countries where you can't decide to let someone go if they're suffering, you just sort of have to wait for them to either jump up and tango or kick the bucket for good. Meanwhile, there is nothing to do except listen to shitty advice about "hanging in there" and how this experience will "bring you closer together". That is some low-brow bullshit, even by UCG standards. 


Initially you hope it will get better. When it doesn't get better for a while, you begin to lose it. You start telling yourself you wish it went to rock-bottom straight away, then you could at least decide how to deal with it. My Chemical romance had it right; "I'd rather go to hell, than be in purgatory". 


That's the thing about limbo. In most situations in life, we are presented with an outcome and we react to it. Got a bad grade? Take the resit or don't. Got dumped over text? Tell your ex to fuck off or move on. The order is situation > outcome > coping. You cope with the outcome and not the situation. That’s ingenious. By adopting this mindset, you can skip over the anxiety, stress and sleepless nights that come with worrying about what will happen. 


But, this makes you uniquely unprepared to deal with limbo. Where you don't know where things are going, or even where they could go. There are too many possible outcomes to imagine and prepare for. This is why people stress about their tinder matches and career prospects. People begin imagining situations that are practically impossible, because they combine elements of different events and ideas into one coherent narrative that makes no sense. It gives them an outcome to deal with. 


Avoiding anxiety through inventing outcomes and preparing for them might be helpful for the CIA, but not for you. The more you imagine outcomes, the more life will work to disprove you. Problems in life fuck you up because they trap you in your head. Once you invent a series of options for you to deal with, you will only be prepared for and hence deal with the problems you already predicted. This prescriptivist approach to problem solving will make it harder for you to deal with things that come up. It can seem impossible to move on. 


We're either becoming or already are adults. Part of being an adult is realising that life is not a game of chess, it's more like a game of monopoly. You can't win, you can only mess up to the point where you've lost. Problems are not games to be won, but moves in a much bigger game. Not making a move and being okay with it is also a move. Don't always try and do something about. As humans we are creatures of action, and our drive against uncertainty is why you can read this typed article on a screen that now fits in your pocket


By accepting uncertainty, you will limit your drive to do things but you will gain immeasurably in self-esteem and security. You won't want an A on every course, because it's okay to explore things and not prove how smart you are. You won't double-text because you'll realise its okay for people to take their time and be weird about dating. You'll be okay with never being able to speak to your dad again, because you'll realise that moments you already had with him are what made you value him, and whatever happens now will be the best for him. 


This is not some broad-spectrum life advice. Sometimes it will pay to just want to get things done and live short-sighted in life. Sometimes being chill and laid back about situations will help you see the bigger picture and make you react better. What you need to do is know when to switch mindsets and find out what approach works for you. Remember, limbo is out there, it's a part of life. You can't avoid it, you can only choose how to face it. 


As my Pa would say, "So, what's it gonna be kid"?

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