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This Is Your Brain On Nothing

Sometimes I feel like nothing. This is something that happens more and more as I age: I feel like nothing. Don’t fret and fear for my mortality as this is not a cry for help but a cry out to motivate myself to feel something, perhaps even based in a reaction to overstimulation: when you can feel everything you also feel nothing. Every button being pushed means there is nothing left to push. This is a problem.

So what is this nothingness? It’s a restless, leg shake or an unlocking and relocking of my phone. It’s the reloading of a web page I have made six independent visits to in one hour. It is being so bored and without anything to do that you type a letter into your search bar and follow it to a place you think you need to go. You end up at a destination you don’t want to be in and wonder how you got there to begin with: you are in the nothing.

I’ve been feeling this nothing for a very long time. It’s something in between complacency and aggravation, tiredness and excitement. It’s that feeling that “I want to write something!” but without the meat of having anything on that skeletal desire. It’s the same feeling as “I want to eat!” but there being no follow up suggestion of what or where you want to consume. You stare into a wall of every option and that wall stares back, shifting its colorful face to a blinding white.

There is a sublimeness to the nothingness, like I’ve accidentally found myself at a yogic peace. That’s a lie, though. I know that nothing is actually a disguise for being overwhelmed by everything, options too aplenty to even opt into. It’s cultural suffocation. It’s the feeling of the weight of everything—websites, opinions, disciplines, words—pressing on you and you must choose which thing of the many things that you want to engage with first. Or do you not want to engage with it at all? It could be nice to sit back and do nothing. Enjoy the nothingness! Is that what the song “Enjoy The Silence” is actually about? That could be it.

Perhaps it is just creative frustration paired with anxiety paired with age. Perhaps it is just placing yourself against others, projecting your failures and successes onto them. Perhaps it is fear overcoming confidence, a hibernation of the self underneath everything else. Is that the nothing? Or is the nothing just nothing?

But your brain on nothing isn’t bad: it’s just unsettling. It feels wrong to be at a mental space where you don’t know what to do. Sometimes I feel like nothing—but is it because I have lost something? Or am I just in transition from one version of me to another? Or is the nothing truly a state of clarity, where you can move in any direction independent of any canon or ways of thinking? Nothing can be exciting because it’s an opportunity to make something. Is that what nothing is? I hope so. Nothing is really, really exhausting.

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