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“What is evil”, I sit in front of my laptop at 3 in the morning with the weekly mini-essay prompt and the empty document staring back at me. After a few hours of unproductive brainstorming, I realize I don’t know how to explain evil in my own terms. In my political theory lectures, it’s anything that strays man away from the state and the law. In the true crime podcasts I listen to, it’s murderers and serial killers. In religion, it’s the devil. But what is it to me?
I probably don’t know because I usually run away from anything resembling evil in my life rather than confront it. I recall my lowest point in life so far, and I write this with it in the back of my mind. I was a junior going through one of the most academically stressful points in my life, tucking away my deteriorating mental health under piles of schoolwork. Everytime I attempted to take a step back, I felt overwhelming guilt and didn’t even know where to begin to unpack my negative thoughts. After months of dwelling on my past, thinking intrusive thoughts, and damaging my self worth, I felt like I didn’t understand myself anymore. I used school and the people around me as an escape from myself and the dark place my mind pulled me into. And even then, even when I was at my worst, if you asked me what evil was, I wouldn’t be able to respond. I felt as thought I had completely shut off and entered a numb state of mind. I didn’t process what was going on or the root causes of the reason I felt the way I felt. I didn’t know then what the “evil” in my life was, and I still don’t.
I was under the impression that after this low point a couple years ago, I went through an intense enlightenment period where I solved every problem in life and fit every puzzle piece in place to finally put together the bigger picture of self growth. there’s no way I would be dragged down by that evil again, whatever it was, my past unresolved experiences? An emotional void of some sort? I still don’t entirely know, I’m just guessing. But how would I know what to watch out for in the future if I couldn’t even identify this source of internal evil in retrospect? How would I know how to better guide myself through that evil if I didn’t even understand what it was to me? Did I really even put the pieces of the puzzle together during my so-called post-depression enlightenment or did I just open the box, dump all the pieces on the table, and call it a day. As time passes it feels more and more like the latter.
This brings me to the present— California. Every time I’m here, every time I’ve visited, I’ve seen it as an escape from my reality. I convince myself that nothing can go wrong. It seems like there’s a naturally adopted mindset and lifestyle that comes with just being here. There’s something about California that makes me feel like I have it all under control and everything is going to be okay. I’m finally in a state of calm and happiness where absolutely nothing could ever go wrong again. This is what I tell myself as reassurance. If I force myself into a positive reality, I won’t have to worry about slipping through the cracks into that evil place again. Don’t get me wrong, there are many great aspects of life here so far— the environment, the independence, the idea of a clean slate and new beginnings. But telling myself my new phase of life here is one hundred percent perfect doesn’t feel like a positive affirmation anymore, it feels like forced brainwashing. It feels like it would take one thing going wrong for this mindset to completely fall apart. Why am I so scared of anything challenging the unrealistic values I hold onto?
Because I’m scared of, whatever it really is, the internal evil present in my life, that it’ll catch up to me again and maybe make things even worse this time around. Sometimes the feeling is inevitable, no matter how good I think I’m doing or how well I think I’ve transitioned into my new life. I feel the heavy feeling start to settle in again as negative thoughts persist in the back of my mind. Like I’m transported back into the dark place I once was and feel isolated and uncomfortable in my own head, but most of all exhausted. It feels like the growth I thought I made never really existed, and never will exist. I wonder if I will ever know what it is or why it’s there. I spend so much time trying to escape it, to not look it in the eye, that I don’t know how to define the evil in my life. I’m just running from the unknown.