life is (not really) a sine wave

Fourier series-formed image from Mike Bostock

Well, for starters, it’s just plain cliché to describe life as a sine wave. Yeah sure, it has ups and downs and it’s a perceived never ending rollercoaster.

Fourier analysis (/ˈfʊrieɪ, -iər/) is the study of the way general functions may be represented or approximated by sums of simpler trigonometric functions.


In mathematics, a Fourier series tries to take any periodic and simplify it down to simply sinusoids. Waves that are predictable, rhythms and revolutions that act as monads, constructively and destructively combining to create complexity.

This is how I imagine life is more like — a series of many waves with many ups and down that seem to coalesce and fuse into one another. The weekend for example is a high point we climb to before the low of Monday comes riding it straight down. But every morning, that cup of coffee (a minor constructive interference) gets you just a little more motivated out the door. Somedays, work piles on a little too much (a destructive interference). Add more waves. Did you break up recently? Destructive interference that brings the picture down overall. Did you get a raise? Ride that high for a while.

(I could take this analogy on forever lol. Wow, I miss studying math.)

I got a little too drunk recently and read through my own writings from the last few years, and came to a realization that my mind has fallen into a sort of dull humdrum, my brain in a fog.

I felt reduced to a single wave. And its amplitude wasn’t very big.

That felt weird. It was weird that I wasn’t so furious at the spotlight on Asian hate crimes, or so disheartened about the role Facebook plays in the world with its current events, or just s/mad at all the current events. Where did the misery I was in just a year ago, with the abrupt changes COVID brought, go?

I had thought of myself as a passionate, fiery person, full of opinions, angry at the world and always disappointed in my helpless inability to change it, always on the lookout for the next thing to conquer. I’ve always identified as the 13 year old who wrote a page long letter to the English teacher, rebelling against an assignment for being stupidly long and useless.

If you ring the same set of alarms enough times for a sustained period, eventually the brain drowns them out.

And when my drunk self discovered myself going deaf, I panicked for a bit. Self doubt and questions pinned against my own self worth came in flurries. And, uh, being drunk did not help.

Why am I still at Facebook? Am I even trying to go to grad school? Am I even good enough to? Am I good enough at math to do so? What about wanting to pursue education? What are the jobs like for education? Will that disappoint my parents? Is it right to just be so, idle, and remain where I am? What are my dreams? Am I pursuing them enough? Would my young self be happy to see who I am today?

Thankfully, I passed out and clearly did not put these thoughts through the “be logical and make some sense, Jenny” machine. Also, I’ve committed to sobriety for a month.

Yet these questions have some validity. Stated like the nerd and lover of math I am, I do want more sine functions in my life. Where at first I was saddened that my life had become so dull, I understand now that my brain has rather come to perceive this complex wave of life as a single curve, of which I’ve somehow found comfort in.

(Monster Hunter has inspired this next analogy.) I’m no longer in the haphazard search for the “next main quest” in this RPG, and rather I’ve settled for exploring this open-world gameplay where I’m no longer jumping up and down about every little (or monstrous) new challenge I come across.

I now have the time to breathe and think about the options that are in front of me. Each option requires careful and perhaps long preparation, and most importantly any option requires the acceptance that I cannot take all roads, and that the ending of this game may change forever. In the meantime, I can stay in this routine without grinding all of my stamina. It’s a blessing that I’ve been able to be relaxed on this function, so much so that I am willing to take on more new functions that will take me through bigger turbulence, and not be overwhelmed by that possibility.

and I’m fucking excited about this newfound confidence and surge of energy and need for a new adventure.

So it seems like I haven’t changed. I’m still the one to stir the pot, and there’s a fire still within me. For the moment, instead of being an uncontrollable wildfire incinerating everything in sight, I’m slowly simmering away at something potentially delicious. Maybe just don’t let the stove on for too long.

life is (not really) a sine wave