The Paradox of Never Enough
Updated: Feb 19
Dear Asian Youth,
Why do you write like you’re running out of time?
— Lin-Manuel Miranda
The clock’s hands mean nothing and that pile of handwritten notes taller than my baby brother is just…not tall enough. I’ve spent my hours hunched over a computer, writing out whatever is galloping faster than the treadmills in my mind. There’s nothing left on my list to cross out, yet it never stops growing.
It’s one of the typical Kafkaesque days in quarantine. Thailand is under lockdown again, and this pandemic never seems to end. I am living in this never-ending loop of trying to prove to myself and everyone else that I am being productive.
In a world where productivity is the most esteemed prize, what does “enough” mean?
I am not tired. I can write a lot more, and I should have written a lot more. Does tired mean I have done enough? If not, what does “enough” mean?
“Enough” is a paradox. It’s subjective to every individual, but what is enough for me? And for you?
At first, I defined “enough” as the time in which I am satisfied with the amount of work I’ve done. But living in this never-ending loop of quarantined days has left me unsatisfied with the amount of work I’ve completed.
Recently, I’ve hit a writing roadblock. A creative burnout. And this sinister dark shadow looms over me, screaming, “What if I am not a real writer? What if the choices I’ve made were all the wrong ones?”
Then, this feeling of immense dread plunges me into a cycle of binge-watching Youtube videos on “Productivity Hacks”, “Imposter Syndrome”, and “Creative Burnout.” This leads me to more procrastination, and I start feeling horrible about myself. Time is ticking away, but spending time in front of a computer screen all day makes me feel like time stands still, and there will never be an end to this.
There will never be enough time, and there will never be enough work done.
During one of my adventures within the vast ocean of Youtube videos, I came across a video essay that talked about the word “Kafkaesque.” This word is used to illustrate something that is illogical, bizarre and nightmarish, like the environment found in Franz Kafka’s stories.
One of the stories in the video really resonated with me. It is called “Poseidon”, where Poseidon, who is the god of the ocean according to Greek mythology, never had time to explore his own kingdom because he was always overwhelmed with countless piles of paperwork. And the piles never stop growing.
If only he allowed someone to help him.
At this time, we are all confined within our own homes and forced to stay by ourselves, drowning in the repetitiveness of life, my very own Groundhog Day movie. What if we stopped torturing ourselves and changed things up?
I believe the best gift we can give ourselves at this moment is a break. Although browsing through Instagram, Youtube and Netflix doesn’t qualify as productive time, churning out rubbish first drafts and adding tasks to a to-do list isn’t productive time either.
The paradox of never enough is something that has been disturbing me for the last few months. However, it doesn’t have to be a paradox, if only we understood where this feeling came from. The fluidity of the ticking clocks and the repetitive routines that pass by while we furiously type on a computer implants the feeling that what we have done today isn’t enough.
What if we just take a break and reflect on the tiny achievements that we have accomplished throughout the day, and congratulate ourselves? Maybe the solution to solving this complex paradox is quite simple after all. The jumbled mess of feelings and frustration may be complicated, but sometimes, finding the simpleness within things may be the solution to the whole paradox.
Remember to take a break. And stay enough!
– Yanitta Iew
Editors: Sandhya G, Zoe L.
Cover source: Raz Latif / The New York Times