Readers, I need your help: Relationships

Blogworld, I seek your generous assistance in the comments section. I need help in learning something about human interaction, introverts and college relationships. You are in for a long story, comprising of three characters (self included). Spoiler alert: includes my secrets to a successful relationship, unparalleled matchmaking skills and a guide to mathematical/engineering terminology.


Preface

Specimen A: The central antagonist is this guy who has been friends with me for about a year or so. We share several classes and have grown closer over time. He speaks an average of 5 words an hour and is not exactly the most articulate of speakers. He is often (painfully) awkward and the multiple pauses in conversations almost always makes me overcompensate. But I make him laugh and he likes poking fun at me, at my clumsiness and at my miscellaneous struggles with life, door handles and plastic bottle caps.

A has had a huge crush on the next important character in our story, whom we shall label B.

Specimen B: is a sweetheart. I met her when A was talking to her and couldn’t hide his embarrassment himself fast enough from the approaching me. B and I ended up being close independently of A, though we talked about him often. When A was still worshiping the ground B walked on, she was in a relationship with someone else. Therefore it took me months of encouragement to get him to cough up his feelings so that he could move on with her (and I would be spared the cheesy background narratives). I discovered later from B that A had this tendency to leave very dramatic messages such as “We need to talk. Let’s meet?” and end up talking about the “beauty of Euler’s equation“.

After nearly a semester and a half of pining over her beauty/her intellect/ everything which made her The Woman, he finally mustered the ability to confess his feelings. I particularly remember that night because B called me on the phone and narrated frantically what had happened at the same time that he was awkwardly messaging me on Facebook.  This resulted in an impressive diplomatic maneuver which resulted in the simultaneous pacification of both parties involved.

I learned that B rejected A.

B, who has spent most of her adolescence being bound to one relationship only, has never had the experience of declining a friend’s interest or asking someone out. She also considers A one of her close friends. A, who has had only one “long-ish” high school sweetheart is still coming to terms with rejection and also considers B one of his closest friends, and has a quota of speaking to 1.5 romantic interests a year.

They come to me for advice. I have not had a boyfriend and continue to uphold an impressive history of intimidating people with emotional honesty. Obviously I am graduating with honors in solving relationship problems. Call toll-free number 3141592653 and enter discount coupon WORDPRESS to get your free consultation.

B eventually re-acquired her mental equilibrium after having been “ambushed” by unexpected romance. I sympathized very deeply with A (having been in the same situation), so I decided to cheer him up by feeding him extraneous calories. He was unsure of how to proceed with talking to her and I suggested that they both give each other space (because I’m not very good at being a conversation conduit).

In the short span of a week or so, A deigned to inform me that he was now dating someone else. Dating. Not even asked out, but dating. If his story was to be believed, more than once. This person is a tertiary, minor character in the character in the story but let’s label her B+, because she followed B and because this is not an algebra problem.

I don’t know anything about B+ except for the fact that she outperformed A at the introversion game and is “extremely pretty”. They have been on numerous ( x > 1) dates and one very promising “Want to meet at midnight?”  request which resulted in a posthaste homework session in the densely populated Applied Mathematics library. Relevant relationship advice to prospective date-seekers: know your equations


Here begins the problem statement.

B+, as it turns out, is studying abroad at Hong Kong this semester. A has been complaining of loneliness and has been badgering me to “hook [him] up with one of my many attractive female friends”. Sympathetic to his situation and willing to comply, I asked him to choose a prospect (his tastes fluctuate wildly).

My match-making process is an intricate three-step procedure:

  1. I introduce two people with their full names in a well-lit public space.
  2. I bring up a topic of mutual discussion (classwork, weather, etc.)
  3. I flee.

Among all my achievements, being a good Mrs. Bennet is not one of them. The endeavor failed rather spectacularly, but it did not deter A’s ambitions to acquire a date before Valentine.  He begins to start asking questions about me. A very odd 1:30AM text message about requiring “a cuddle-buddy” was delivered to my phone, and it followed a long series of tangential evaluations of what I should be doing for Valentines’ Day. Subtly, the questions ranged from whether I was dating anyone currently (I am not) to which particular Valentines’ party would I be attending (The only thing I was invited for on Feb 14th was to submit my theoretical computer science homework.)

I usually like to eat meals with my friends because it gives me time to catch up with them without hurting too much of my study time. Casually, I asked to meet him in order to figure out, in-person, what was going on.

What happened next will amaze you. Or maybe not. It amazed me.

We began the conversation with worries of graduate school admissions and as the conversation progressed, he began to express more of himself: his favorite food, his favorite color, places he recommended I visit, etc. He also began to punctuate his sparse conversation with compliments of me, such as (and they made me somewhat self-conscious): how tall I am, how well I write, how nice I am to underclassmen and how pretty my handwriting is. Now you know that being tall, writing well, offering unasked but well-meaning advice to underclassmen and having good penmanship are skills worth complimenting.

In a separate but similar instance, he not only dressed for Chipotle, which is not a locale suited for fine sartorial tastes, but he had also put on cologne. Without loss of generality, he continued to talk of his favorite movie and how we should watch it together.We continued to text each other after that and a very weird thought occurred to me: A might like me.

But why should he? I’m loud, relatively more annoying and verbose. Am I just a replacement for B/B+ gone by? What is all this confusion leading to? Does he even like me? Should it matter to me? What do I do with our friendship?


Testing the hypothesis

“When a weird thought first occurs to a scientist, they either acquire data or perform experiments to test the results of the situation” -(self attribution)

I will not deny that the thought of being admired was flattering. Besides, I needed more meals with him to figure out exactly where all his meandering was leading to, particularly since the days to Valentines’ were ticking down. I had several long, worn-out conversations with myself about what I would do if the friendship was changing. I am not physically attracted to him but I also come from the school of thought which says that personality >> jawline. I was not going to ignore my years of painful rejection history to serve the same treatment to him, at least without a balanced, well-reasoned evaluation of the situation. Did I even have the time for this sort of thing? Why would someone as quiet even find a chatterbox like me attractive? Did he even like me or was he just using me as a replacement for the B/B+ who have gone before?

In the midst of the overwhelming confusion, I sought the assistance of fellow scientists (B included) to gauge the matter. They all indicated, with a confidence interval greater than 90%, that he probably had feelings for me. In aspiring to be a data scientist, I have learned that until the source data says something is true, you can never trust a prediction. While what they said confirmed my suspicions, I was not willing to accept it until A admitted it himself.

A proceeded to ruin my calculations by specifying most certainly, but also vaguely, on the day before Valentines’ Day that <a person like me> could never be his type. There was no more of that conversational luster or cologne or questions about personal interests. I felt very confused because all the data I had collected thus far said otherwise, and surely I must have done something overnight to be so aggressively friend-zoned. Not only did he do that, he brought up his ex and discussed his preference for girls of a certain stereotype in great detail.


 Aftermath

I shrugged my shoulders and tumbled on with life. A week passed during which I didn’t try to speak to him at all, and then I remembered that we were still friends so I shouldn’t be mean. This was a grave mistake. We ended up with “movie night” scheduled to happen in my room. My dorm room is located on the 10th floor and overlooks the Harlem Skyline. He wanted to sample the view.

What started as a very rushed apologetic explanation from him in semi-darkness, because the view couldn’t be seen properly with the internal light reflecting off the window and how he could stay only for 30 mins. We sat at opposite ends of my bed and this huge awkward silence appeared from nowhere, parked itself in between us and remained so heavy that I was sure the mattress bent under the weight. I wanted to make it go away, but it didn’t want to.

When you are living mysterious moments in your life, always cut through them elegantly using my bravery-inducing formula. 

  1. Decide that you want to straighten things out and be annoyed with all this mysterious cue-dropping subtlety.
  2. Rationalize this brashness by declaring that life is too short
  3. Ask for the truth. Up front.

In the semi-visible neon ambiance and from the far reaches of the other side of the bed, I looked up and said, “Hey, do you like me?” as though I was asking for the time. He denied it. He said I was “just a friend” as I always had been.

Then, as the said movie we wanted to watch began, we moved next to each other on the bed, in order to not fragment my laptop. His arm decided to navigate to my shoulder and then proceeded to my waist. The reason why I was so surprised is this: I know for a fact that A is the sort of person who hugs a person once a year. I was to discover that apparently grabbing someone on the waist and then letting your hand stay there for nearly an hour is also completely friendly.

Because I am singularly a very terrible person and because I had some remnant of disbelief as to his first response, I asked the question again. Cue the cringing that is the predecessor of all cringes in the world.

There you go, this is why I will never manage to get along with people. Amazingly enough, he denied it even after his arm had returned to its rightful spot by his shoulder, and he departed with a very tight, long and involved hug. That’s when I metaphorically flipped the table and decided that I had survived internship interviews which were more decisive. What resulted was a very long, awful conversation in which I learned that 21 year old human males have no idea what the evolutionary concept of emotions are about. Or maybe I don’t. I don’t know.


Please feel free to provide your input on what you think is going on. I trust that a group of articulated, wise , blog-maintaining folks like you have more experience in this matter than me.

Conversations in the darkness

The beautiful woman sat in the corner of the room, anticipating the questions from the semi-secluded stranger who stood before her.

“Do you believe in love at first sight, madam?” came the dreaded attack. It was loaded with powerful words. Belief. Truth. Love. In the simple act of this overt flirting, the stranger had already thrown away the comforts of subtlety. He was inviting the raw truth to him, so he would have it unfiltered.

For a moment, the lady gathered her arms and her words around herself.

“…I don’t know if I believe in love at first sight,” said the plainitive honesty.

Indecision was perhaps worse than a decline. But pushing any further would have been indelicate and the stranger, already ashamed that he had crossed one boundary, hesitated before breaching another. Perhaps deflecting through ignorance was merely to spare the horrors of an outright anticipatory rejection.

“I believe in attraction at first sight,” continued the lady, oblivious to the several branching outcomes that had played on in the stranger’s head.

“I believe in infatuation at first sight sight,” she mused, stumbling through the words, drawing them out through the nostalgia in her voice and  re-populating with the hint of forgotten memories.

“I definitely do believe in bad decisions at first sight but I still don’t believe in love at first sight.” she smiled brightly, knowing that this could have been a generic observation.

The stranger chuckled as he knew that he was being led on by his own curiosity and the flow of the conversation. “Why?”

“…Because I was taught, given, conditioned to feel that the true real, glorious and worthy feeling called love….”

The stranger shuddered as he felt the words power through him.

“…love is mutual, no?”

It was now the stranger’s turn to discover that he did not know the answer.

How to keep my new-found sanity from disappearing next semester

Winter break is ending and I am binge-blogging because I know that once college catches up with me, I will barely have time to sleep let alone write. A lot of things have happened during this break, things that I’m proud of. I’ve worked on myself to change my outlook on many different aspects of life. I’m worried that once college begins, and the external pressures that I have been pushing out of sight crop back up, my new-found resolve will crumble.

I want to trust myself better.

One of my resolutions is to not be a pushover. This should come rather naturally to me because I am quite aggressive and can even be territorial about the things that matter to me. I’ve been told that I “come on too strongly”. I’m not going to punish myself and say this is bad because it’s a part of me. Suppressing it for all these years has led to other people using me and getting away with it. Unfortunately, the new safeguards that are in place may not be finely attuned. Which means I am now paranoid about other people using me and treating me like a human doormat and at some level I am being reduced to someone who is transactional instead of generous.

I need something to remind myself of my goals and ambitions and needs. I need something that is capable of telling my barriers when to lock down on the situation and when to permit things to pass. I need to find other instant stress relievers. Writing is one of them, but in the vortex of blind rage, the last thing I am going to do is sit down and compose my thoughts coherently, let alone record them.

So I asked for advice from some of the most trusted sources in the world: my parents.

My father says that the primary cause of my insecurities and my unnecessary emotional stress is my poor health. He is right to a large extent. I don’t know why I thought I had bragging rights to the fact that last semester I survived for nearly 7 hours on a single green apple. Then I thought I was going to prove my strength by pulling off nearly 4 hours of sleep every two days. And then, I was expected to code up a proof for Leibniz’s formula for pi in less than 100 characters in a nightmare of a programming language called Lisp.  To top this all off, I would obviously be unable to solve the problem, burst into tears and start questioning everything from my math capabilities to the fundamental reason for my existence. Yep, this is the Amazing Race to Mathematical Understanding. I have inserted a proof here, for those people who do understand that this is truly less than 48 hours of nerve-wracking stress and worth only 5 points of my homework.

For the record, this is the Leibniz proof in human-comprehensive math. Image/Proof credits: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leibniz_formula_for_%CF%80

For the record, this is the Leibniz proof in human-comprehensive math. Image/Proof credits: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leibniz_formula_for_%CF%80

Indeed, I have lived the zombie life. No matter who you brag about this to, they will wonder how you are alive and marvel at your strength. Silently, they may think that you are surely on a path to an early death. Deep down inside, I know this is not sustainable and treating myself like a prisoner sentenced to hang is not something I particularly enjoy. So full points to father. Healthy body = healthy mind = 100% functional sanity = 0% worrying about what other people think/do/etc.

My mother reminds me of something else entirely.

Back  in India, every Saturday evening, we would go to a nearby Hanuman Temple (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanuman). Every month, we would attend a long ritual, I forget what the precise name of it is, but it was a sort of recounting of the heroic tales and prayers asking for forgiveness and blessings. At the end of the prayer ceremony, all the attendees would have to tie a sacred yellow/red/orange strong on their hands. This string was so strongly bound that there was simply no way to take it off without cutting it. All day and all night it would stay on the wrist of your choice. It was a string that would protect you from all evil and guarantee the blessings of the deity in whatever task you chose to perform. Maybe it was years of conditioning, but I have become so used to it that without wearing the bracelet/wrist-band my wrist feels a little odd about it.

I think it was this ceremony, the Satyanarayan Puja. Image credits: http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=98851

I think it was this ceremony, the Satyanarayan Puja. Image credits: http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=98851

I don’t know if it protected me from evil, or whether I felt that I had divine approval about any task by virtue of the string alone. But I do remember my mother telling me that whenever I was angry/depressed/hurt, I should look at the string and remind myself to calm down. Years of wearing the string taught me that every time I look at is, it serves as a divine reminder that I have better things to do in my life than be frozen by my own stupidity.

I haven’t been able to attend any such ceremony ever since I arrived in the States. But in memory of that turmeric-dyed string, I now wear a sports wristband with me. It has the flag of the United States on it, so religious symbolism aside, it serves as a direct reminder to what my overall purpose here is: to educate myself and become a better, upstanding member of human society.

Like Wonder Woman's bracelet, this has the power to let e be truthful to myself. Also, it resembles her costume and so is doubly awesome and supercharged.

Like Wonder Woman’s bracelet, this has the power to let me be truthful to myself. Also, it resembles her costume and so is doubly awesome and supercharged.

As long as I remember these two things: stay alive and stare at band when in trouble, I think I’m going to be okay. Finally, I feel a bit more equipped dealing with the next semester now.

How I (am trying to) rebuild myself: Self-awareness

As promised in my previous post, I would write about how I’ve been working on myself. Since this is very person specific, and I usually write very personal things on this blog, I’m just going to ramble on and hope you find something remotely meaningful in all of this.

Firstly, I’ve been putting off embarking on this journey for quite a while. It happens at the end of every year. I always look back and wonder, “Oh my goodness, I’ve changed so much since last year.” When I say things like that, I sort of re-affirm a very stupid postulate in my head that I have arrived at the peak of my transformations and emerged as a final product. Philosophically, I’m aware that no human being at any stage in their lives is a final product, but somehow I always delude myself by saying “Look, I’m at least past the manufacturing stage”.  So this year, in order to make some serious improvements to that, I’ve come to accept that yes, a lot has happened the past year and perhaps something comparable if not more will continue to happen next year and the years after. This leads me to self-awareness aspect 1.

Aspect 1: I don’t adapt to change as easily as I think I do. This is okay, as long as I’m not deluding myself into believing that the change has already happened. Being slow > being completely ignorant.

Aspect 2 (technically, Sub-aspect 1):  I am a shameless expert at deluding myself. Need to stop that on an objective level.

This year started off with a day that was just like any other day, except everyone felt suddenly festive and had holidays. Some childish part of me used to give into the hype about New Years and literally wait, Cinderella-style, for some miracle to occur when the clock struck midnight. Perhaps the biggest personal miracle of them all was to realize that it was literally just the same as any other day. This means that every day is equivalent to a new day and therefore I can apply all the hype about fresh beginnings to every new day as well.

Aspect 3: I can use my self-deluding skills to convince myself of positive things.

In the midst of all the festivities going on, something rather awful happened. For the first time in my life, I got a C+ in a core class that I enjoyed. The class for which I got the C+ was on C++, so the grade appeared to be some sort of parody of itself. This rocked my GPA somewhat hard. It rocked my emotional stability somewhat harder. How am I supposed to celebrate and be merry with this sort of cloud looming over my head? I was waiting for the disappointment and the latent depression to take over, until I realized something important. I got that C+ because I was so busy worrying about my GPA. Well, the worst happened. My GPA has sunk to 3.15. The worry that had sapped off so much of my joy and energy finally materialized and……I’m still alive, the world is okay and spinning on it’s axis and to be honest, the damage is quite minimal and more importantly recoverable.

Aspect 4: I have an extremely awful habit of worrying and corroding my self-esteem based on (future) events that I cannot control. Now that I’m standing in the midst of the metaphoric rubble, I realize that failure, at this level, is not quite bad as I thought it would be. I may still get a job. I may still be able to graduate. I may still be/aspire to be a good, loving, kind human being.

I was talking to my father (literally, the best friend and coach and everything-awesome-in-a-human-form-that-cannot-be-captured-in-my-Mom) about it. This is what he said, “You don’t take a class hoping to get a good grade out of it. You take a class hoping to truly understand the content matter that has been presented in it.” I have to love what I’m doing. To be honest, I do love what I’m doing, except intangible worries of the future make me so anxious that I am borderline dysfunctional.

Aspect 5: I cannot control people. I can control how much I interact with them and what those interactions should be like, but beyond a point I am free to exercise my independence and not worry about ruffling anybody’s feathers.

This comes from a long history of being a people-pleaser. Now I’m not going to say that it is altogether a trash-worthy philosophy, because I still believe in people being kind and nice and courteous and respectful of their fellow humans whom they share this Earth with. BUT if they don’t know their boundaries, it is only right to you and to that other person that you take the initiative to specify the boundaries of the interaction. I still love making people happy and I’m not ashamed of it. But I don’t have to force myself to interact with the kind of people who literally set off my internal alarms.

I’ve been trying to put Aspect 5 into practice even before the new year, and its worked out very well. I hope to keep it this way.

Aspect 6: I do not eat to feed my body. I eat to feed my brain and the ancillary systems, which happen to be my body. So, if I respect my brain and its operations, I have to give due respect to the other things that make it functional and effective. I openly promise (in writing, mind you), that I will not brag about having slept for less than 5 hours every night. I will also not brag about my terrible, terrible food habits.  (Updates are in progress. I promise. In writing. Fingers uncrossed.)

During midterms, my body is composed of 50% blood and 50% this.  Image credits: www.starbucksmelody.com

During midterms, my body is composed of 50% blood and 50% this.
Image credits: http://www.starbucksmelody.com

Not going to begin on the “Body = temple” cliche here, but you know what I’m talking about. I’m almost 19/20 years old and it’s high time I take responsibility for what my hands put into my mouth, under action from my brain which clearly has other priorities besides health. I have been hitting the gym and waking up with all sorts of aches and pains, but that’s okay. A warrior must always train herself in other techniques as well. I can’t be expected to survive college if I lack physical endurance.

Aspect 7: (This one is rather hard.) I would like to be able to respect myself better. I have come a long way from salvaging my self-esteem, but I don’t feel fully confident with myself yet. I don’t expect to achieve this within the year, but through emotional de-cluttering, I’ve become a lot more happier with myself. I try not to think about issues which make me question my self-worth, because if I don’t have to deal with it up-front on a daily basis, it’s not worth my time.

For example, my obsession with superficiality and “not being pretty enough”. I don’t mean to sound like I’m flattering myself here, but I’ve received several compliments and opinions and arrived at the conclusion that I am actually quite okay. Most people say that I look “sweet/pretty”, so they can’t all be telling me the same lie. But here’s where the game takes a level upgrade. Their opinions (or even my own on this subject) honestly don’t matter anymore. I have never claimed to be Head Authority of Pretty, nor am I aspiring to be one. The people who are around me don’t care, so I should stop poking and nettling myself with saying that I’m not good at being something that’s very unnecessary to my existence by default.

I am going to sign off now, because I think I’ve said most of what I wanted to say. I know this list is not complete, and I hope that as the year passes by, I’ll be able to report a happier progress on these issues. Also, to my readers, thank you for reading as always. Please feel free to drop off feedback. Super Happy New Year to you! More importantly, if you have any resolutions/changes/goals, good luck to your success on them. Goodnight!

How I (am trying) to rebuild myself: Relationships

It’s the winter break. There is no other sound besides my staccato typing and my breathing and the thermostat. The house is quiet. My mind is quiet. After a long time, there are no claws of fatigue trying to pull me down. I can now hear myself think and it is important to me that I figure some things out about my life. The year is ending, so I have ample opportunities for a fresh start. At least psychologically. I’m going to talk about a few things that I do that have literally helped me mold myself better.

Firstly, in order to make something better, you need to know the current state it is in. 2013 was a year of a little too many revelations about who and what I am and how I respond to different stimuli. With the assistance of a great psychotherapist, I have managed to find where I have disconnects in my thought and behavior. I’m not saying everyone has to go through that, but one of the key processes I have discovered in bringing self-improvement is being absolutely brutally honest with who and what you are. Also, if like me, you have an additional self-criticism feature turned off, you have to turn it off. At least for the duration of this process.

Secondly, we will now indulge in my second-most-favorite activity. making lists. Make a list of problems you want to tackle. You can make it on paper, or on your favorite task-managing app (this might be better if it has auto-reminders set in), etc. It doesn’t matter what the medium is as long as it is tangible and visible. I’m no expert in psychology but I find that if my goals are visible and present before me, I strive to work towards them better. So make the lists. As many as you want.

Disclaimer: This worked for my best friend and she sort of suggested that I get this method out there. Also, this is not supposed to be some definite astronomically accurate calculation which will tell you everything about life, the universe and everything. No, these are numbers that you create in order to help you get some idea of what your end goal is/should be.

Now I’m actually going to talk about the process, so bear with me. You’re also very welcome to walk with me. I am an engineer, so it’s easy for me to crunch numbers. I understand completely if you’re not a math person, but believe me, when the numbers that you have generated tell you something, you’re less likely to not believe it.

  1. Make a list of all the attributes you want to see in a prospective boyfriend/girlfriend/friend. Seriously, write all of them down. Even if they range from “Must not be a serial killer” to “Can play a musical instrument”.
  2. Adjacent to this list, write down how important each attribute is to you. Depending on how precise you want this to be, you can grade this on a scale of 0-10, or 0-100. For example, if you’re a person who really doesn’t care about a person’s background, write a small number against that. Whereas if it matters to you what religious/political affiliations a person might have, write a larger number against that. This scoring also should be consistent with “deal-breakers” about a person. For example, if you prize good manners above financial well-being and someone scores less against that, clearly, that’s not what you want. (As per your own data.)
  3. In the next column, jot down the name of a person you were interested in/are interested in/could be interested in. Score them against each of your criteria. Be honest to yourself in what you really think about this person. For example, one of my criteria was spontaneity. People are obviously more likely to be spontaneous when they have the time to be spontaneous, but I hadn’t quite considered that.
  4. Repeat the process for as many people as you want. This applies to friends too.
  5. Once that’s done, you can now calculate how each person works with you either by adding the totals and comparing the highest. Or, to be more fair, you can calculate the weighted average of each person. So this way, their score is more precise in the aspects that matter to you. Weighted average  = Sum of ((attribute 1 x value of attribute 1) + (attribute 2 x value of attribute 2)+..(keep doing until)…….(attribute n x value of attribute n))/(sum of all the values of the attributes). “n” here represents the last value. So if you have 15 attributes, n = 15 and so on. If you’re using Excel, like I did, use =SUMPRODUCT(<person score>, <value of attributes>)/ SUM(<value of attributes>).
  6. The numbers should tell you something about what sort of people you like, if you didn’t know that already. They will also somehow show how important some of these values are to you, which are more important, equally important, less important. If you were unable to decide whether to focus your attention on Person A or Person B, the numbers should tell you which one is worth more of your time.

So, there you go. It’s sort of like creating your own compatibility generator, except without any magic, or random rules or any arbitration such as the letters of their names and so on. I remember, back in elementary school, when my classmates had this weird game called FLAMES, which was supposed to determine relationship compatibility via some arbitrary elimination of letters. I’m not quite sure how the entirety of relationships that we have with people can fit into the meager category of 6 letters, but I guess at that age, it’s the closest approximation. This one, however, is custom-built, mathematically rigorous, and as my friend told me, “quite effective”.

I will write another one shortly about evaluating myself. As in, my strengths, weaknesses, areas I need to work on, areas I deserve to treat myself on and so on. If you want to follow me along that journey as well and maybe discover something that might help you or amuse you, please feel free to join me.

P.S: I don’t think I’m as grateful to me readers as I should be. Massive apologies. It’s my New Year’s Resolution to work on that. Thank you, everyone, for reading and for following me through this incredible transformation that has been 2013. I always believe, and my mother always tells me to, that the best is yet to come. Happy holidays and best wishes!

Perks of self-assurance

Off late, I’ve been coming across several articles listed as “Top 15 Reasons Why Being Single is Great” or “15 Cute Things That Couples Do” and so on and so forth. As a single person myself, I was surprised to find that I didn’t actually empathize with several of their arguments. Most of the ones I’ve come across seem to say that being single implies less maintenance, less of a time commitment and so on. Some of them also seemed to treat being single as some sort of transitory phase into the next relationship. “Being single gives you the opportunity to stake more prospects out”, “You don’t have to be answerable to anyone but yourself” and suchlike. There were even a few that seemed to treat being single as some sort of an unfortunate incident that was meant to be “coped” and “dealt with”.

Surprise, surprise, there are some people who choose to be single. Yes, you heard me right. Choose.

 I’m not denying that being in a relationship is it’s own charm and that, as social creatures, human beings are bound to look for groups and so on. The argument for relationships is very strong and I’m not refuting that. What I do object to is the way that people seem to need some sort of re-assurance that being single is okay. More so, there are actually some people who are completely indifferent as to whether they are in relationships or not. Simply because these people have other priorities and other emotional investments to take care of. If I’m caring for a terminally ill parent, looking for a relationship could very possibly be the last thing on my mind. As are other single parents. While these people may be eventually want to socialize, it’s not as though the fundamental core of their being is based on whether someone else will bestow their affections on them.

I may have some equally stupid arguments to present to those who say that “Being single means you don’t have to put in as much into looking good and feel good about it” and so on and so forth. Firstly, I hope to be in a sort of relationship where my looks are not the founding factors. Secondly, even if there was no one to appreciate the way I carry myself or treat myself, I would still do it well because I like to appreciate myself as well from time to time. What I mean to say is that a relationship shouldn’t really be the determining factor invested into self-maintenance. Granted, you may not need to please another person, but pleasing myself doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning those practices. I think I should still exercise because I don’t want my body to start failing me. I think I should still wear make-up if I want to because everyone has the right to indulge in their inner selves before the mirror. It’s one of the rare occasions I get to analyze the finer nooks and crannies of my face and tell myself that I’m doing fine with my flaws and I’m looking presentable enough to myself.

When people say that in order to look for a relationship, you need to love yourself first, they mean that you should love yourself for being yourself. You do what’s good for you. And you do it because your body is the shell that will carry you around for as long as you live. You do not do it because you’re hoping someone else will notice. That’s not confidence for the self, that’s confidence for a show and unless you’re in an industry or an occupation that requires it, that’s definitely not what’s worked for people. Either to get in relationships or stay in relationships.

But what seriously frustrates me is the people (some of whom are around me, some whom I’ve left behind, most of the devotees of advice pages titled “Ten Ways To Get Him To Call Back”) who have many many reasons to love their situation, to be happy with their life, seem to be perpetually upset. Why? Because their object of affections won’t return their feelings to them.

To be honest, once upon a time, this was me. But since my last rejection, since the superficial healing, I’ve been working on re-building myself. Now that I’m scaling some depths of my former self, I see how deeply the scars have affected me, and not just emotionally. Not once did I truly relish the joy of being satisfied with the company of my friends. In some weird way I was looking for that one super-close friend who would manage to satisfy all of my emotional needs and due to the wide spectrum of emotions I experience, it was impossible for me to find that one person who could encapsulate those needs. Then, I did get into a relationship ( most immature mistake to date), and I realized that I needed to work on myself before I went around understanding what this concept of love/dating/sexuality and relationships was supposed to be.

Now that I’m done moralizing, here is my extremely battered two cents from the depths of my grubby pockets:

Happiness is free and self-generated. Image credits: srikandiunik.wordpress.com

Happiness is free and self-generated.
Image credits: srikandiunik.wordpress.com

1) If you do feel somehow disadvantaged by being single, don’t. Literally, tell yourself that you want to celebrate being you and do all the crazy things you wanted to do. Do the things that deep down inside make you proud. And ven if you started off feeling incomplete and weird and lonely or whatever, eventually you will realize that there’s nobody else who keeps you as fabulously entertained as yourself.

2) Be happy with the existing number of people around you. Friends. Family. Pets. Colleagues. Or not? People who make you happy. Obviously, there’s nobody as great as making you happy besides yourself, but when you feel the need for human company, remember that you do have an existing support network. And they love you, no matter what. Seriously, go look into your dog’s eyes or watch your cat cuddle up against you and find a reason, any reason, to feel like you are not complete, not loved, not cared for, or whatever core reason it is that fuels the obsessive urge to please other people. That’s what it means to be self-assured. To know that you are actually empowered to make the most of your life, and that you alone can make it happen.

3) I had only two cents. Now go enjoy yourself!

Selective permeability

I was reading some of my old journals this weekend. It was a refreshing experience to connect with the thirteen year old me. I didn’t know so much back then, and I spent several pages trying to convince myself that I was indeed ready to “grow up”. Perhaps what my past self meant by that phraseology was that I wanted to be taken more seriously. I was tired of being a baby. I was tired of having my stronger opinions laughed at. I was ready, indeed, for some respect from the adults around me and my peers. Evidently, I was not prepared for all the inhibitions and childhood constructs that I would have to let go, and how painful they would feel. It would be a cliched reflection to wonder why I didn’t stumble across some divine resource of wisdom entitled “Adolescence 101”. That’s when I wondered, do teenagers actually welcome advice? Maybe all that I wanted to know was around me, but I was too busy being angry and angst-ridden to listen to it. Or maybe, I learned through field experience.

From what I’ve observed, I was heavily biased towards accepting advice from my peers than from my parents, or anyone comprising of the faction of adults. There were moments in which it seemed a constant struggle, the teenagers at clash with their elders, in order to prove some point that the adults really didn’t care about. I grew up in a society that had some deeply rooted stereotypes about teenagers. They’re supposed to be angry, confused, rebellious, arrogant, frustrated and closed off from those not going through the same emotions as them. I made it a personal point to prove a few of these stereotypes wrong. A weird trend that I noticed was that the more I tried to break out of a particular stereotype, the more I was reinforcing some other one. I was rebelling against the common stereotype of being a rebel and so becoming one anyway. And in our society, the number of stereotypes is not finite, so it became particularly hard to evaluate my score. There were moments when I gave up. The world thinks I’m an arrogant, self-obsessed frustrated being? So be it. It was tiring to combat opinions that have been established by generations of teenagers before me. But then, the intrinsic drive to be different and suchlike would take over and I would be back at the front lines of a 7 year long battle.

One of the reasons why my friends’ advice resonated with me was because I knew that they were going through the same tumultuous wave of change as I was. Some were a bit ahead of the curve and some were a bit behind, but we were still within a recognized isolated bracket. It never occurred to me to question their opinions. I reasoned with myself that sooner or later I would be going through what they were going through or had gone through anyway, so I might as well acquire as much information about the phenomena before it happened to me. By sheer virtue of age, I didn’t question the credibility of their world views as well. I know now that a few were really messed up, and I consider myself lucky not have been so enamored by it so as to pencil myself in as a member of their cult.

But the advice from all the well-meaning elders around me was passed through several filters before my mind took it up for consideration. They had prior experience with growing up, yes, but that was so long ago, that circumstances were widely different then. The generation gap was too wide to be bridged by some simplistic analogous comparison. Another one of the more (evidently) nonsensical reasons to discard their input was because my adolescent mind refused to understand that any adult soul could empathize with the magnitude of confusion I felt. How could they possibly understand the fine nuances until they were actually inside my head, or in my position? So, I inferred, that their input was actually just an educated guess.

Experience has served to prove that all of these miscellaneous perspectives were heuristics. Everyone’s growing experiences are different, so the only person who was fully capable of writing a manual customized for myself was me. The only problem was that by the time I was capable of performing the feat, I thought I would not need it anymore. This condition works only if we believe that growth stops when you’re an “adult”, which isn’t true. There’s a stage of maturity that follows when I realized that I’m actually waking up a version next.0 of my yesterday’s self.

However, to be duly grateful, those heuristics did give me a fair approximation of what I was to expect. More so, I came to realize that there are moments when it is more important to have company during disaster than actually be prepared for that disaster. So, I went on to try to confront the world with whatever supportive padding I could get from my peers and my friends and family stood by me whenever I was injured or letting go of the fight. It doesn’t matter now whether their advice was accurate to which degree. What matters is that they trusted me enough to share whatever knowledge they thought was valuable, and they hoped I would find it the same. I came to respect their gesture more than the actual content. It might seem a bit interfering at times when someone else offers their opinion, but I’ve come to know that it’s a form of showing that they care. After all, the people we care about are as helpless to safeguard us as we are susceptible to change.

Maybe I’ve inherited the same behavior myself. I try not to suggest solutions until I hear out the entire problem from all dimensions. I don’t know if the people who ask for it actually adhere to what I have to say, or maybe it just comforts them that someone out there is ready to hear them out. I like to listen people talk about their lives, because it’s an opportunity for me to get a sampling of the varied spectra of human existence. But I respect the fact that they trust me enough to let me know about the trials of their life, and I try to be as helpful with my limited experience as possible. I consider it a sign of personal growth that I’ve arrived at some point in my life where people respect me enough to personally allow me a glimpse into their lives. To summarize to my thirteen year old self, I think I would say, “Everything’s going to be okay. The universe is going to approach towards some equilibrium where everything, literally everything, will work out for the best. Keep the faith and stay strong until then.”