Waiting for an exit

You are waiting. You’re not quite sure what for.

I first wrote “Waiting for an exit” in June 2021. I’d been thinking about ‘exits’, left accelerationism, and building new worlds for a long time by that point. This is not a post about left accelerationism and god, I don’t think I’ll ever write that post. Needless to say, I was stuck in the moment of stasis that was the late-lockdown-period and desperately craving a new world. Two years later, not all that much has changed; sub out the projected villains of one time for the projected villains for another. This is a piece that is primarily about how we find ourselves waiting for someone to give us our power, to tell us what to do, rather than taking that power for ourselves.

A previous version of this featured on my blog and in Lost Futures volume 4, thresholds. This is a revised and updated version. It’s definitely not perfect. There’s a bunch of clumsy phrasing, and I think in some places it reads like I’m a 1975 fanboy or hater of modern technology with the way it problematises most of modern living. That’s not my position at all—it’s just easy to take shots at the small moments of life that aren’t necessarily fulfilling.

This piece contains discussions of hopelessness, bullshit jobs, feeling like life is pointless, loneliness, alcohol and substance use, trauma, unlived potential, right-wing scapegoating (i.e. of refugees and trans people), casual homophobia, implied reference to sexual assault, blood, sex, and relationship breakdown. If any of these things would be harmful or distressing for you to read right now, skip this one. It is all relatively surface level and nothing becomes the focus of the piece (except perhaps hopelessness, loneliness, and unlived potential). The piece is not related to self-harm or suicide.

Tynemouth metro station at night. The times on the board read "Four Lane Ends, 23m; Whitley Bay, 60m"

You are waiting. You’re not quite sure what for, but you always find yourself waiting. For the train, for the tube, for the mortgage documents to get signed off. For the microwave to finish reheating your lunch. For your Amazon package to arrive. For someone to finally fix you. For that therapist to have an open spot. To get your ADHD assessment. You are waiting for something that will either call you to arms or tell you to lay them down. Until then, you are a statue, patiently locked in prayer. Hoping, waiting, commiserating.

You are waiting. Whilst you wait, you fill your time. With drama, Hinge, mobile games, TikTok. Your job. You know your job’s shit. It’s definitely one of those ‘bullshit jobs’ you’ve heard so much about. You could disappear and no-one at your work would even notice for a week, you’re pretty sure. You spend eight hours a day opening and closing spreadsheets and PDFs. You send emails. You receive emails. You go through the motions of ‘life’. You go to work, don’t do anything that you think is meaningful or important, and then you come home. You don’t really mind not doing anything important, because you’re not bought into the whole ‘having a career’ idea anyway. It would be nice if someone actually spoke to you like a person, though. You make a meal that requires no effort: jacket potato, oven pizza, tortellini with a stir-in sauce. You absent-mindedly stroke the packaging of your dinner as if it is the face of a loved one. You stand in front of the fridge eating individually wrapped slices of cheese whilst your dinner cooks, and by the time it is ready, you aren’t hungry. You eat it anyway.

You are waiting. New job. New people. You think you might even like your job. This is much worse. You have trapped yourself with the belief that you are truly willing to be here. You thank the gods every day for blessing you with this work. You’ve found your calling. Your purpose. You’re making a difference. You’re helping people! You tell yourself you’re doing something worthwhile every time you stay longer hours, every time you work at the weekend, every time you miss your partner’s birthday because there’s this grant / project / client coming up. You have taken the master’s tools and are doing a great job at keeping the master’s house standing. You think it feels better like this. And your colleagues… you think they might even like you! One of them had lunch with you the other day. You didn’t talk, just stared into the distance eating your meal deals, with the occasional mutter about something inconsequential. Three pound fifty now, it’s madness. Yeah. Can’t believe it. My heating bill was a hundred and fifty—

You are waiting. In the small moments the doubt creeps back in. You weren’t put on this earth for anything, were you? There’s no point in this. No point in the endless toil. ‘I do not dream of labour.’ You feel better than you did before but also sort of the same? It’s still individually packaged slices of cheese, food that reminds you of being seven, the occasional high-effort meal to remind you that you’re worth it, the occasional Uber Eats / Deliveroo / Just Eat delivery to get you through the week. You’re desperate for some fate to press itself to you, to stitch itself underneath your fingers, for some golden moment to tell you that you are the chosen one and there is some success waiting for you that you could have only ever dreamed of. But that’s not how the world works, darling. That fate is already there, swirling in the aether, ready for you to grasp it. You are waiting and drowning your sorrows in the worst Wetherspoons until the end of time and you are so far from yourself that you don’t realise the fate is already in your hands, pressed to your fingertips. Condensation dripping down the glass into divinity. Your god-hands pick up your pint, drain it, and leave.

You are waiting. On a Sunday you speak to your dad out of a sense of necessary routine, keeping up the rhythms of life with the people you ‘love’, but you have never really connected. All of the appearance of life but none of the vibrancy. You go to the pub or sit in his garden and have a barbecue and you meet his friends and they’re all the same as him. So many unspoken words sitting in the lines on their faces, so much distance between them as they sit in the booth or on the bench. Once, you saw two of their hands touch as they went to pick up the same chicken wing and they lingered a moment too long, and there was some real hope in that moment until one called the other a ‘bender’. One day, out of nowhere, on a quiet night in July, your dad reaches across the timeless gap and places a stiff hand on your knee. “Don’t be like me, son. You’ve got to make something of yourself. Chase your dreams and eat the world and make something new. Don’t be like me.” You don’t know what to say at first, before you mutter a nonchalant “I will”. You are shaken to your core but still you are waiting.

You are waiting. Saturdays with the lads. Sometimes you go to the cinema to break the routine of pub and footie and endlessly swiping. “Shall we go to the Three Pigeons this week instead?” Change it up. The same loop of people whose unlived lives sparks up for one brief hour a week, when the haze of booze gives way to the closest thing they can get to vulnerability and intimacy. You find yourself watching The Breakfast Club on repeat and wish you had ever had even one moment of connection like they have in that film. You watch films like The Truman Show and Inception and they feel like a memory, like you’ve seen them before. They’re stirring ancient parts inside of you: rusty cogs of godlike creation. You watch TV shows like Westworld and LOST and Twin Peaks and - there’s something out there, isn’t there? If only you could leave. You have a stirring sense that the world might be right outside your house and you would never know. You are waiting and you cannot leave. You play games like The Stanley Parable and Disco Elysium and you wish someone would just show you the door, too.

You are waiting. The economy’s gone to shit and you can’t leave your house and you guess this is just it, death and taxes and all that. Now the economy’s gone to shit and you can leave your house but you can’t afford to. Now the economy’s gone to shit and you can leave your house and you have to because you can’t afford to heat it all through the night. Now the economy’s gone to shit and it’s the fault of refugees. No, trans people. No, the EU. No, the left. Choose a new scapegoat to get you out of your head. Choose a new enemy that you can get high on crushing. Choose a new idol to put on a pedestal, some new god to save you. A new person to be disappointed by. Another celebrity you used to love committed an atrocity live on TV, but you post comments underneath the videos ‘cancelling’ them talking about how they’ve been really misunderstood. You ignore your god parts. You are filled with a sense that the world will soon close in over itself, seal us all into the vacuum, and you’re excited. You’re excited for when you won’t have to spend the energy to breathe through this anymore. You’re kept up at night with the question of the universe’s expansion. If it’s expanding, what is it expanding into? You know the answer is more about the space between things increasing. You want the answer to be ‘into the outside’. You want to go outside. You can’t remember what that’s like.

You are waiting. When you were young, people tore holes in themselves in front of you. Poured blood and trauma onto your new trainers. First your parents, then your lovers, then your best friends, then your enemies. You were sad then, older than your years and full of grief, but part of it excited you. Like you were alive for the first time. It wasn’t just the brains on fire or the bloodshed, but the idea that there could be something else. That life didn’t have to be death and taxes and boredom; we could opt out, find something else. We could fuck off the job and the buying a house and the marriage and I don’t know, live in a commune. No, live on the road. No, live in New Zealand. Live anywhere but here. Live somewhere other than the small town that’s built us into these awful people who keep stabbing each other in the back. You’re older now, but you try to resurrect the feeling by going to six festivals a year, bonding with strangers whilst you take pills and stay up until far-too-late having Deep Meaningful Chats by the fire. You think this is it, this is the new world, this is the way of being that I have craved my entire life, and then you have a sales report due at 10am Monday, a presentation for Wednesday. Dead Moments of Change. The new world slips out of view, lost in the haze of work.

You are waiting. For some princess in shining armour to save you or some knight that needs saving. Someone whose lips or hands or body might save you. Someone whose love could fix you, tell you that you’re not this filthy broken thing. You are waiting for the appropriate amount of time to pretend that you’ve cum. You are waiting for the appropriate amount of time to break up with her, because it’s her birthday, so it wouldn’t be the right time. You are waiting for your body to stop aching whilst never doing anything to make it ache less. You are so concerned with your aching spine that you never stop to ask yourself what it’s trying to tell you. You never try to hear the lessons of your body. Instead, every single second of your damn life you are waiting. You never look up from your phone to see the exit signs hanging above your head. You step over the trapdoors to the underworld without seeing them, close the fridge on the portals to another world. You never stop to understand that the way out is everywhere—it’s in your fucking hands—you just have to make it. You are waiting for nothing and nothing will come, over and over. You are a god grown lazy. You contain the power of ancient things—to love and heal and form new life—and you spend all of your time working out the quickest bus route home. You are a god and you spend your precious life trying to work the Trainline app.

You are waiting for some spark to awaken your circuits, bring you back online. You feel these glimmers of some other world and turn away because you are afraid of having to build the world you want. You want someone or something else to eat your fears for you and make your dreams come true. You are waiting for someone else to be doing what you should. You are hoping that someone else makes the new world whilst you scroll Rightmove. You are waiting, and you will never stop waiting until you hear the call that is coming from inside the house. Your heart is begging you.

You are waiting.

You are waiting.

You are waiting.

Pick up your god-self from the sofa, turn off the TV, put down the book, stop checking your emails every two minutes, hold the hands of those you love and take the exit. Build new worlds with your ancient hands.