On Chaotic Energy


During my summer trip home to the US, I crashed at a friend’s place in South Philly. “Susan, I never realized this about you before…but you have such a chaotic energy.” I laughed out loud, finding the term simultaneously amusing, endearing, and probably true at (many) times.

I like to think that I thrive on chaos, a life where I’m headed either nowhere or everywhere, usually ending up somewhere in between. It was particularly true this summer, as I tried to squeeze in 2.5 years’ worth of life into 2.5 months. Hop on a flight every week, bouncing between reunions & weddings & graduations & a billion babies. Schedule work calls across odd hours in constantly changing timezones (“Which continent are you on now?”). Squeeze in overdue catchups with friends between work retreats and trainings. Change plans last minute to fit in extra cities and a newborn. Lug around a broken suitcase and lose a charger, multiple earrings, and a Fitbit. Fly back to Taipei and find an apartment within three days of getting out of quarantine.

The chaos was out of control. I hated the days it threatened to slow down, days that should have felt peaceful as I worked uninterrupted out of my parents’ suburban home. Without it, I felt stuck and bored and lost, all of which bothered me far more than the exhaustion that comes otherwise. But I’ve also been reflecting a lot on how to get this under control, how to tame the randomness that is my life, the unquenchable thirst for novelty, the relentless pursuit of friends, the inexplicable need to fill every single minute.

I’ve been back in Taipei for exactly six weeks now, but I have no idea where the time has gone. I do not like this. I came back declaring that I was going to become an introvert (insert 个屁啦 here) in an attempt to be more disciplined about my time, but that has definitely failed – just like every other time I’ve attempted this.

It feels like the more I try to fill my time, the less I feel that I’ve done; that I may certainly be living in the moment but I’m not sure that I am living the moment. To live the moment, I have to understand what the moment is; how beautiful this day, how dear this friendship, how precious this moment. To live the moment, I have to understand what I’m giving up for it; I can’t just live in it and the next it and then the next next it until I’ve realized too late that I didn’t fully appreciate each of these “its” for what they were.

So that is the cost of chaos: for every time someone has told me that my life seems fun, busy, full, exciting, adventurous – it is, and yet I’m insatiable. I’m sprinting through the buffet of life without taking enough moments to savor and digest, which makes all of this feel almost…meaningless. Fun is easy. Laughter is easy. Hedonism is easy. Purpose is hard. But if I were to take a guess for myself, it is not fun, laughter, nor happiness that I’m pursuing with my chaos. It’s purpose – meaning and depth; how to make this life count; how to love hard and lose harder; how to look back at these moments that make up months and years and be proud of how I’ve spent my time.

My trip home this summer made me more confused than ever about where my future is, which makes time feel scarcer than ever, not just in the every day, but in the now and later. I can’t quite figure out to live in the present while planning for the future (is it possible to do both?), how to spend enough time appreciating the past while pursuing novelty, always. I want to live the moment properly, during it, before it, after it, to make sense of the chaos and how it all fits into the big picture of my life.

I like my chaotic energy. I like my life and its randomness, spontaneity, unpredictability. I do think I’m living my life to the fullest with the highs and the lows, the many incredible and beautiful and heartbreaking and breathtaking moments that I have had. But full is not enough; it can be full of junk, or be a fleeting full, a full that gets forgotten precisely because it’s not of quality. So here I am again, alone in a cafe on a Sunday night, finishing a reflection that is six weeks overdue – but, I think, one step closer to where I want my life to be…even in the chaos.


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