The story of how I conquered a remnant of my past

I will unabashedly admit that I have done something brave today. I initiated a Facebook message conversation with a guy whom I was insanely, unhealthily obsessed for the last two years of school. Please excuse my naive self for believing that I was “in love”. 

This may sound terribly inane but allow me to put it in context. I did not just have a crush on this guy. I was literally, completely consumed with a burning passion for him and I have sacrificed many nights of sleep and nearly 20 months of my adolescence simply wondering if he will ever know of my existence. In retrospect, it seems as though having such an intimidating crush on someone who was so distantly acquainted with me seemed quite stupid. But somehow, I could never bring myself to get over it. After a while, it mellowed down to a sort of celebrity crush, the kind that leads to intense admiration from afar and serves as visual relief but nothing beyond that. I tried to get over my very chance emotional entanglement with this guy by telling myself that I was 17, and so what indeed did I even know about life or even about him.

I had spoken to him once, on November 4th, 2010. He was part of my scavenger hunt team and I thought he was rather charming. As events played out, my friends and peers were mocked at several checkpoints for random dares, such as coming up with pick-up lines, etc. My stupid hormonal heart went aflutter when he decided to ask me out. Since I am Maestro Supreme of masking my emotions, all my friends sensed that there was something more than just plain simple fun going on (at least with my mixed reactions) and therein began the endless rout of being teased and so on and so forth. As I studied in an all-girls’ school then, information spread faster than a disease vector in unsanitary conditions.

I very painfully remembered that I had forgotten to introduce myself to him. Not only that, as the day wore on, I took to being slightly mean to him, because I was so afraid that my obvious affection would show through and I desperately did not want him to know that I had, dare I borrow the cliche, fallen in love with him at first sight.

I was entranced, enamored, charmed, attracted, madly blushing and rather obsessed with this boy whom I had no possible way of contacting ever again. I didn’t have a blog, nor a Facebook account nor a Twitter account. I was literally non-existent online and email seemed too archaic and personal. I also didn’t have my own mobile phone. (quite a sheltered life, what?) Whatever I heard of him after came through to me via friends and of their friends. The press helped considerably as well. The genius that my object of affections was, he went ahead to win a scholarship awarded by NASA. I discovered that he even shared the same love of engineering and robotics as I did. In some way he was inspiring and awesome, and if it wasn’t for certain other unfortunate events, I was in a very real danger of staying forever charmed by this boy.

Something happened which made me re-evaluate my friends’ circle and discover that there were indeed some non-friends in that lot. Perhaps it was a combination of events, but it changed me rather deeply. One of my closer friends decided to start talking trash about me to the rest of the school, suddenly deemed me too uncool to hang out with and was greatly resentful of the fact that I was nominated to the student council over her. To make matters cumulatively worse, she started dating this boy knowing full well that I was deeply vested in him.

It was a harsh wake-up call, but I’m glad it came sooner rather than later. Though I struggled to deal with the heartburn and sadness of having to cut a toxic “friend” from my life, I was now also burdened with the fact that he would now forever remain unattainable. They broke up two weeks later, and in some sadistic parody, all the teasing had re-started and everyone assumed that I now had the fresh opportunity to try my luck with him. All the while, he didn’t even know me. Turns out my former friend went ahead and did or did not tell him of my existence. Indeed, it was a true soap-opera style lovesick drama that played out for a year or so.

For nearly a year, my obsession remained. I used to sit at the piano and compose pieces for him (all of which happened to be on C minor). I used to sit everyday at home and write these long letters to him, which were basically my diary entries just titled to him and musing about his life. I still have that hugely embarrassing portfolio of approximately 147 pages of penmanship. I even wrote stories about sending the letters to him and musing his possible reactions. But all day and all night, I could not stop thinking of him. It came to such a point that I could exemplify my situation only in a story. This was a work that is posted on my stories blog here.

As luck happened, I met him again on August 26th, 2011. It was a very fleeting encounter. I did not dare to meet his eyes, and I was mortified of presenting myself to him ever again. I could not find the emotional balance between detaching the fantasy version of him in my head and the very real figure before me. Nor could I find the courage to speak up and pretend to be normal. I earnestly wanted, oh I had yearned so terribly, to tell him of my feelings but when the opportunity came to see his face, I was mute. It wasn’t that I was simply mute, my social skills were completely paralyzed. I said hello to everyone in the room except him, in case he mistakenly assumed I was partial to him. I made an awkward fool of myself, and drowned myself in tears knowing that I had sacrificed a valuable opportunity.

Other things happened. We graduated school. I came to terms with the fact that I would never be so unguarded with my trust (work in progress) and so on. I came to the States. He went to what I discovered afterwards was Hong Kong and life went on smoothly. I assuaged myself by saying that perhaps it was a good thing we were not friends, even. Then he wouldn’t have had to be involved in the drama that ensued. Perhaps it was better still that we were not dating, because my self-esteem was scarred beyond repair and anyway, we would have had to break up because academics and priorities. 

I joined Facebook, finally and was talking to one of my closest friends from high school. She was the one who helped me through when my entire friend network was collapsing and she has rightfully earned the title of being my best friend. We were ruminating about the past and he cropped up in the conversation. On a daring whim, I hazarded a friend request and it surprised me to no end that he even accepted. I thought he would have forgotten me after a year. But he didn’t. I don’t know whether that made things worse or not. He remembers me being awkward and clearly not at my best.

The year moved on. I will now shamelessly admit that I do stalk him from time to time, when I find myself feeling low. I croon secretly to his charming images and fawn over them. Don’t cringe. I’m pretty sure everyone has that one crush in their past who still makes them feel all gooey inside. As it turns out, he eventually won a prestigious position on a geo-climate mapping project to Antarctica. His friends cheered for him all over his wall. I silently glowed with pride in the rare moments that his memory came to me.

Just a few days ago, he was tagged in a massively attractive picture of himself and I was reduced to fangirling about it to my high school best friend. I grudgingly admitted that I would never in my life have the courage to ever speak to him. Under some crazy influence of adrenaline and peer pressure I gave into the huge fallacy of sending him a “Hello”. Believe me, there could not have been a more lonely Hello in all the world at that moment. It simply sat there against that brutally white, empty background, simmering as it were, proving my obvious token of stupidity and bravery. I tried to think up of a million excuses to justify it. Eventually, it got to a point, where I literally turned my phone off for a while and avoided using the Messenger app. If I don’t look at it, it won’t bother me, I said.

For five hours I didn’t have to. When the sun finally dawned on Hong Kong, I got a reply back, “Hi. What’s up?” So familiar. So disarming that for the life of me I couldn’t think of what to say. I then banked on some of my courage. Come on. I’m an international Ivy League engineer. I can design machines. Surely, I must be able to handle conversation with a normal human being. I now declare with beaming pride that I managed 20 minutes of conversation with him. I asked him whether he really did go to Antarctica. He asked me for my source of information. I felt that telling him I stalked his profile would be a bit too obvious. So I employed my high school best friend as a scapegoat. To my immense surprise the conversation continued.

I could not flirt. I could not even be as funny as I wanted to. I just couldn’t. But I could politely ask him very academic questions about his project to Antarctica.So I did. We talked about constructing triangulating micro controllers, and how to use radio waves to log data between three different ships and how to manage interfering signals and so on. I mentioned largely that my curiosity was fueled by work in similar domains and asked technical questions for the most part. Nothing better to hide social ineptitude than talk of whether 2.4 GHz is a good frequency for one robot to talk to another. Here is an excerpt.

No guesses on who is the over-apologetic one here.

No guesses on who is the over-apologetic one here.

He was funny at times, open and sharing all the work about his project with me. He used more emoticons than I did. He was surprised with a “Oh? Nice” when I informed him of similar interests in robotics. But he didn’t ask me any questions whatsoever. I terminated the conversation very politely with a “Well, thank you for your time :)”. He replied with a “No problem. I should get back to work anyway.” And I know that we will perhaps have no pretext to speak to each other again.

But I conquered my fear. I was not a complete ass. I made my existence known. I wasn’t too intrusive. I kept it short and then I ended what I had started. This is why this is is important to me. I am one step closer to feeling proud of myself. I don’t know if we’ll ever be friends, let alone something more. I tried, that’s all.

Cracks In My Armor

This may just be my most honest blog post yet. I’m going to talk about why I’m scared to be myself. I’m going to talk about why I have this perpetual need to keep comparing myself against other people, and how I resort to punishing myself for simply being me. As it is, dear reader, I don’t want your pity or sympathy, even though you may be humane enough to give them to me. I don’t want them because I’m going to tell the story of me unadulterated, to remind myself that I have conquered several demons, most of whom have lived inside my head for years and whom I battle even now.

There was a time in my life when I was afraid of being alone. I was always scared of new people who interacted with my friends because I was terrified that my friends would always abandon me for that new fascination. As a kid, it used to be the new resident with the shiny toy. Over the years, this perpetual fear of isolation has morphed into a judgment of not being worthy enough. But I have come to love solitude. I have come to respect the fact that even I need space, if I am to search for truly worthy companionship. I have build my self-esteem to the point where I don’t have to feel like I hate myself.

Sometimes, I have this desperate need to be understood. I talk to my friends and family and they all advise me, and they make my problems look so small and stupid that I feel as though I’ve been a burden on them simply for existing.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m not interesting enough for a person. I am surrounded by so many talented brilliant people that I feel hollow within. It frightens me that other people can see through my facades and tell what’s going on because they know they have me at an advantage. So they do take advantage. Once that ordeal is done and their utility satisfied, they leave and I am left to wondering about the pieces of myself. I don’t play sports. I don’t watch TV, or at least I don’t watch what everyone else likes to watch. I don’t listen to the kind of things or read the kind of material that “everyone else” likes to do. I was given to understand that in this large world of people, I would surely find that one niche of people who would be like me.

It wasn’t school. Or High school. I was deluded when I thought that admission to an Ivy League institution could mean something. I haven’t yet found those people who like me enough to spend time with me.

My best friend rarely spends time with me because she’s always busy and because she’s in a relationship. Granted, we all have that phase when we are deeply enamored and therefore deeply vested into that one solitary person and his/her quirks. She doesn’t realize that I miss her. But then again, I’ve made these demands to her and somehow I am not important enough, so looks like I’m just going to have to accept it. This is probably going to sound incredibly whiny and you can heap scorn on me as much as you please (World lesson: people love to do that), I’m not important enough for anyone.

I’m a repository of other people’s dreams and expectations and their extremely fickle standards and somehow, anyhow, I am searching for that one answer to what my self worth is truly worth.

I would have talked more about relationships, except that’s probably not a Pandora’s Box I want to open just yet.

Or maybe I do. I live in constant terror of rejection. By friends, by that one crush, by that family who loves me so much. I feel as though I’m not doing enough to make these people proud of me. It makes me tear up every time when my parents say that they’re proud of me because deep down inside I wonder if I have truly earned the love and admiration of such people. I am trapped in my own convolutions. I have a problem with not getting enough love and not feeling I’m worth it when I am getting it.

I live in constant fear of being “annoying” and “lame”. Because that was what led to my abandonment several times, and I consciously try to fit in so hard that I don’t have to be seen as the weakest link. There are times when people around me don’t extend the same courtesy to me. For the most part I grin and bear it. For the rest, I run away.

Most of the time I don’t feel good enough or funny enough or anything enough. I read this very insightful post the other day about how people who are truly funny are people who have survived emotional wounds in order to recognize the true value of humor. The humor I’m surrounded with is merely pathetic wordplay and lame puns, and somehow everyone in the world loves those. I feel as though they are eroding away at my sense of self-worth. Have I stopped understanding people to not be funny anymore?

The other day I went to a friend’s party and two friends complimented me on looking “pretty” and “hot” respectively. One was a stark sober acquaintance. The other was a very drunk best friend (same one as above). I thought the former was being too kind and the latter was too drunk to know what she was saying. My friend is superficial at times and it bother me very much, but I’m coming to terms with it. The world has told me enough times that I’m not pretty or attractive and I’ve managed to deal with it by telling myself, “I don’t need to be pretty or attractive to be a successful, happy person.”

I can’t tell you how pathetic it feels to be unrecognized or deemed ugly. This is one of the reasons why I vacillate between extremes. Universe, either make me beautiful, so beautiful that there is no doubt as to my true worth. Or make me ugly, so horribly ugly that I can revel in the fact that I am this way and that nothing can compete with my ugliness. My best friend, when sober, claims to be a good judge of such aesthetics and I have always been labeled with the “Not Bad”. Almost as if an afterthought, as though catering to that desperate hungry overwhelming need to be accepted and recognized and loved and appreciated. Isn’t that what everyone wants? To be happy?

Let’s now ignore this very large chunk of reality and focus ourselves onto more practical and necessary ideas – such as academics, a career and so on and so forth. Recently I got a 0/150 in a programming assignment where out of five files (four of which were solid code and the fifth was a little tool to stitch them together), I submitted only four (forgot the fifth). Without that one two-liner of a file, the rest of my code doesn’t work. It compiled but it didn’t “work”. And voila, a 0. I had several opportunities to re-check my work.

I am terrified of being careless. It’s not that I don’t know the material or that I’m not smart enough to understand it. Luckily, that’s one of the few things working in my favor. But the very fact that everything hinges on that one small detail which I missed. It might cost me a letter-grade, which might me a cost me a research position, which might cost me a job, which might cost me the disappointment of my immensely loving and caring family who do not deserve this for their efforts.

My father says I worry about the future too much. I know this thing for sure. Even though it wears my mental energy down significantly, I have this obsessive compulsive need to worry and it eats into my health, my sanity and moreover my happiness.

I worry that I’m not resourceful enough. That I’m not justifying the $60,000+ that my parents have invested into me in order to make something of myself. There have been times when I simply break down and ask them why did they choose such a futile endeavor and they justify by saying that they know this investment of their time, love, emotions and money is not going to fail. That I am molding myself into something worthwhile, even though I don’t know it.

I used to be scared of growing up. Because I didn’t want to abandon the love and joy of childhood for whatever it was. I remember being the melancholy little child wondering about the Big Bad World, and now that I am in the Big Bad World I have no way of going back. More so, I know that if I do go back I’ll end up repeating the same mistakes.

Tonight I have finally finished 6 hours of continuous finals. A decisive battle has been complete, but not won. I am so exhausted after last night’s weeping about my self-esteem. But more so, I have finally found a reason to be proud of myself. My parents tell me that one of my strongest attributes is the ability to pick myself up and continue. Today, I feel as though I might have accomplished that. Despite all my fears, I have come to moving beyond them. Solitude has become my friend. There are times when I need self-reflection, not self-criticism, but reflection. I am not as ready to chastise myself for the smallest things as before.

I’m still fighting the hardest battle yet, and that is to hold on to my sanity and somehow love myself.

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!

Midterm Stress

Midterms, writing and.....life?  Image Credits: http://tyshea.deviantart.com/art/Stress-54937221

Midterms, writing and…..life?
Image Credits: http://tyshea.deviantart.com/art/Stress-54937221

There are moments when I wonder if getting that grade is really everything that I’m supposed to do. I realize that I’m here, in New York, far away from home. This endeavor is a huge financial and emotional investment by my family. I don’t have any other course of option besides succeeding. Everyone tells me that these grades and education and everything are necessary in order to achieve something in life. Though I’m sure there are several exceptions, my father has maintained that an education is actually supposed to open up new doors for me. At the end of the day, it’s up to me what I choose. But which one is going to be “right” one?

I worry about whether this grade is really worth it. Whether it will really help me get to that still partially undefined goal of happiness that I’m looking for. I have this vague image of where I want to be in the next 5/6/7…(10, if I’m going to be really bold) years of my life. From where I am now, despite all of my current achievements, I still feel like that’s a long way to go.

Last night, I was up late, contemplating on why series’ equations are driving me up the wall. I was terribly frustrated with my problem set, and this fact wasn’t helped along by an upcoming quiz in the topic as well. I do horrible things when I’m anxious. Namely, I cry on the phone to my parents and shortly proceed to get annoyed with myself. Obviously they don’t like to see me unhappy, and they try their best, being at such a great distance. I know that the distance makes them worry unnecessarily, but I can’t help it. Which goes to make me even more annoyed with myself. There are times when I can weep only to them and they seem to be the only two people in the world who actually understand what’s going on.

It’s also weird how my anxiety is inversely proportional to the regularity of my meals. Or maybe it isn’t weird.

But you know what really snapped me awake from this? It was the sound of a blaring siren at about 12:30 AM in the morning. Some poor sick soul was rushing to save their life. Some wrong-doer was going to be caught somewhere. They’re playing out the story of their lives, while I’m sitting here in some comfortable dorm room, capable enough to write, privileged enough to have the loving support of my friends and family, of having a roof over my head and access to a meal (as compared to the thousands who don’t). I do not have to worry about whether I would live to see the next day.

There I was a few minutes ago frightening myself with the shadow of a midterm. Even though I’m calmer now, I still get annoyed by the fact that I let such a relatively trivial thing get amplified in my mind.

Come on. There are bigger battles to be fought.

Gossip

The following is a guest post from a very insightful friend of mine. He has recently graduated from high school, and this post with it’s beautiful literary  structure and fresh earnest voice, seems to capture succinctly some of life’s lessons that he has learned and would like to share. May I present Gossip by Siddhant Dubey.

Let's talk about gossip. Image credits: http://idilsalihakuntuz.deviantart.com/art/gossip-60888863

Let’s talk about gossip. Image credits: http://idilsalihakuntuz.deviantart.com/art/gossip-60888863

GOSSIP.

Is it a noun, or a verb, or both?

Is it futile, or can it stir oceans?

Is it a whisper, or is it a war cry?

GOSSIP. GOSSIP. GOSSIP.

It’s all we do.

It’s all we’re capable of.

It’s all that’s engineered within us.

We can’t help ourselves.

We can’t help ourselves at all.

We need to know what he did a moment ago.

We need to know what she did ten years ago.

We constantly: Need. To. Know.

It’s a joke for some – an ordeal to engage in.

It makes others take their lives.

It ‘livens’ up a conversation.

It gashes someone’s self-esteem.

It generates laughter.

It disintegrates dignity.

It’s a quick exchange of opinions and statements.

It’s incessant.

It’s cruel.

It’s a burden that will explode if we don’t pass it on.

It’s the same burden that will destroy someone’s pride and possibly their life.

It can make you cry.

It can make you scream.

It can make you regret.

It can make you scheme.

It can make you shatter.

It can make you howl.

It can make you shiver.

It can make you scowl.

THE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH IT IS TO IGNORE IT. Yes?

ABSOLUTELY.

THE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH IT IS TO DISPOSE IT. Yes?

COMPLETELY.

THE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH IT IS TO GENERATE IT OR PASS IT ON. Yes?

NO. HAVE YOU HEARD OF THE WORD ‘DISGUSTING’? THAT’S WHAT YOU ARE.

Some people don’t bother – The best option to keep.

Some people falter – Stop it, you’re not that weak.

Some people dismiss – that’s the way to be.

Some people cause – You have no right to be bleak.

__________________________________________________________________

Thousands of people kill themselves out of depression, out of being the centerpiece of judgment, out of not living up to expectations and out of sheer morbidity caused by the comments generated on their race, gender, sexuality, and other things that serve no basis for judgment.

GOSSIP IS A WEAPON.

It must be handled with care.

Disposed off when received.

Unloaded when aimed.

Enucleated before the intention of being made.

I gossip too. But with so many people taking their lives because of not fitting in or being accepted, it sucks that I’m contributing to even a fraction of pain in this world.

This is going to sound sappy to you (it most certainly should not, though) but you have to pledge with me:

I will not judge from this day onwards – be it on the basis of race, sexuality, gender or ability. I will not engage in incessant talk about other people and most definitely will not continue a piece of hurtful information for the sake of ‘fun’, ‘fitting in’ or even under ‘peer pressure’. I will not succumb to it.

Trust me, the world will be so much better when everyone stops gossiping. But this thought and idea has to take birth by itself, inside of you. Just regarding this and stopping at that will not do.

I do not know how many of you have heard of Amanda Todd and the terrible life she suffered. But if you have time, please look it up and empathise with the fact that there are so many people like her who need help and don’t know what to do except give up entirely. All of you who say “suicide is for the weak” are shallow-hearted fools who cannot, for the love of this world, see that suicide is a terrible, terrible act that anyone can succumb to when situations and people in their lives lash back on them with hatred.

I will also take a moment to talk about body image.

Being overweight myself, I know what it’s like to be conscious of body image.

It makes you feel awkward and uneasy and terrible.

There are people around us who may seem confident and poised, but that may not always be the case.

And so that gives you no right to comment on anyone’s body image.

Bulimia is just one of the very few social and emotional issues that we come across and disregard as “gross” or “disgusting”, but we need to understand that people are driven to this because of other people’s comments and expectations and that is the most unfair thing I’ve ever come across.

No one should ever be able to dictate over someone else’s body image.

Everyone’s aim should be to get healthy. Not to get skinny or be pretty.

Lastly, to everyone who’s having problems right now, be it regarding body image or sexuality or acceptance or anything at all, please consider talking to your parents about it. They may not seem like it, but they know their stuff, and they will understand. Your close friends (trustworthy ones) are also worth confiding in. For everyone who feels like that isn’t an option, feel free to drop me a message. Because no one deserves anything like this happening to them. Don’t let this emotion of self-doubt hover over you, because that’s not going to do you any good.

Thank you.

– Siddhant Dubey

Rehashing past relationships – 1

It's been a long, painful journey. But I'm finally at the end of it.  Image credits: http://andreapun.deviantart.com/art/the-insecure-moment-155449186

It’s been a long, painful journey. But I’m finally at the end of it.
Image credits: http://andreapun.deviantart.com/art/the-insecure-moment-155449186

 

Despite the fact that most of the important struggles of being a teenager center around issues of acceptance and insecurities, learning about relationships is something that never seems to follow a monotonous route. Just when I thought that I had them all easily figured out, and that it was a matter of being mature and retaining my objectivity, a new form of the same problem comes along and puzzles me. In fact, I’m fairly sure that this post is not going to be the last of what my lessons have been on this topic.

I can’t explain to myself why I had a horrible four year long disease of desperately wanting someone in my life. It was almost as if, at some level, I was testing myself for whether I could be a good girlfriend or not. Maybe it was the hormones, or the peer pressure of the environment I was in, or very simply the lack of new people I got to meet that drove such a natural need to an obsessive drive. To date, I’ve had several unrequited crushes and one really awful trauma of a relationship. This data is really inconclusive, because it seems like I’m comparing the relationship potential of different people. Each person whom I’ve harbored affection for has been very unique to me, and has (unwittingly, perhaps) taught me several lessons about myself, for which I’m always grateful for. In chronologically ascending order, I have learned more about people and so have looked for the next prospective boyfriend with some altered criteria/opinion of boys in my mind. In the recent past, I’ve discovered that these experiences have changed me, even. So I cannot tell you if this is a good track record or a bad one.

I don’t mean to brag, but persistence is something that comes naturally to me. When I first realized that my affections would not always be returned, I told myself, “It’s okay, I just need to change <insert alienating factor here> about myself and I’ll be good to go once again.” More often than not, I couldn’t find out what those alienating factors could be, so I tried to change myself on several dimensions. Including my evaluating criteria. Maybe I had unfair expectations from someone else. This was something I was wont to do to myself, so it didn’t surprise me too much that I could apply this rubric to everyone else. But with every fall, I would complete a damage assessment report and tell myself that it was thoroughly educational and that now, I was completely ready to face what the world passed on to me next. Except that I wasn’t.

To an outsider, it would appear that a series of unrequited crushes implied that I was making the same mistake repeatedly. But a closer look at the finer nuances taught me a lot more about myself. My first crush (okay, so the past me really did not know what she was doing with her life then) was a sort of friendship that fell apart because my parents disapproved of me investing my valuable study time in futile pursuits. In hindsight, they were probably right. But back then, it didn’t feel so futile. The lesson I learned from this was that I had to manage my priorities in life better.

The next one was blatantly indifferent. I don’t know why, but it seemed like I was trying too hard to make sure we had a lot in common in order to try to get my affection across to him. But he didn’t care at all. This one didn’t leave me with very conclusive reasons as to why my charms didn’t work. After making several sweeping changes to myself and not getting anywhere, I finally concluded that if it wasn’t me, maybe it was him. I don’t mean to judge him here. I want to convey that we were probably incompatible human beings and he never really progressed beyond seeing me as a friend. The lesson I learned here was that I had to retain my originality to not fade into the backdrop of humanity.

No. 3 was rather surprising. I was probably a little too sensitive to what might have been construed as harmless flirting. But my mind went into overdrive about it. It was also rather unfortunate that the girl I used to think was my best friend went ahead and dated him, knowing full well that I was attracted to him. She had never been one for discretion or modesty, so soon enough the entire school knew about the mess ( I dread that he may have heard some of it too). For a while, I punished myself by convincing myself that I had to learn to get over this guy for my friend’s sake. Until, I discovered that she was a superb back-stabber, the rare varieties of which till date remains unmatched. I don’t want to judge her for her motives. But the resultant that followed was that I not only had to get over this crush, but also for my previously abiding affection for this friend. The lesson here was that I barely knew him enough to consider myself dating him.

Then came my “relationship”. While it had it’s pleasant moments in the beginning, they faded out rather quickly to some very harsh truths. In the perpetual cycle of being denied, I really wanted to be able to prove to myself that I was girlfriend-worthy material. So, I literally delved into this relationship without knowing who the other person I was dating really was. Some harsh revelations followed. But I still persisted in this sinking venture for quite a while, because I thought I was strong enough to adapt to the change, and also, perhaps that he would grow up. The lesson very easily followed. I had too low a self-esteem to actually consider myself ready for a relationship. But I learned exactly what the lower limit was. My ex taught me exactly what NOT to accept in a relationship , with anyone. Also, I was too vastly incompatible with him. Some adaptations do not come easily, especially when they are not required.

What followed was another extremely stupid lapse in judgement, that I detailed in my last post. But basically, I was impatient, on a rebound and I very clearly got rejected by saying that I wasn’t attractive enough. It taught me to accept my self-image, to grow up from the immaturity of chasing a relationship with people who very well weren’t capable of supplying the affection I wanted.

I used to think I had seen it all. I pictured myself as one of the respected elders who have seen enough of life and who can nod their head and smile, when others around them complain of the problems they once suffered. But that assumption in itself was a mark of my immaturity. Life treats other people a lot harder, and I shouldn’t dare to complain because of all the other factors that have gone right for me. Today I like to think that I’m wiser. Perhaps the biggest sign of this maturity is that I know that I probably haven’t seen the last of it. More of these disappointments will come and go, but as long as I keep that report card of my own lessons, I’m likely to grow into a stronger (hopefully better) human being.

Learning how to forget

I usually tend to remember anything that has been spoken or read aloud to me. When I try to remember something, it comes back to me almost as if I’m watching the video footage my eyes recorded during the time of the memory. The advantage of remembering something at that level of detail is that I can jump to my favorite parts, pause, annotate, add little reminders to myself, comments about my own behavior, observations about others’ and then continue. My brain allows me to edit these videos in a fashion where I can even mix these up by categorizing them under certain emotions. I went on to sort them under people, events, occasions, emotions and reactions. As a rather lonely child, I would mentally store many of the conversations I had with people around me. The larger the repository of life experiences I had, the easier it would be for me to know what kind of a response would be appropriate in multiple situations. It was likely that I could even find trends in the behavior of other people that would help me to predict their behavior to some extent and so, model my own.

Some of the disadvantages of having a memory that let me preserve an almost infinite capacity of history is that it took me some time to realize exactly what I wanted to populate the space between my head with. There seemed to be two main partitions. The academic one was clean and well-maintained. Information input into it was a routine and fairly smooth procedure. But the other section was devoted to the more “problem” aspects of my life, namely, what comprised of social skills and being accepted into a larger collective.

Initially, I did not use any content filters. Anything and everything that people around me said or did or indicated would simmer in my head while I pondered on how to process them. I was perhaps too young to differentiate between what was appropriate or inappropriate then, so I didn’t know how to tune the noise out. Perhaps another reason why I couldn’t ignore people so easily was because it conflicted with this innate need for social company. I wanted to be talked to. I wanted to talk to other people. It was only years later I realized that different people prefer different conversations. But when I was at a stage of still looking for what the suitable criteria would be for a friend, I was accepting everyone and anyone into my life. Nobody had set me out into the world with an instruction manual clearly delineating what I would like and what I wouldn’t. While playing back those memories, I realize that several of the ones that affected me very deeply should be promptly transferred to the recycle bin. It was then that I learned to forget, and more importantly create a defensive mechanism that would prevent similar from being stored into my memory again.

Even while remembering, it seemed easier to recall the situations and people who affected me negatively stronger than those who had a positive impact. Instead of letting these go, I stored them as future references of how mean people could be, as a lesson to myself. Effectively, I was telling myself, “Look, Person A did this to you. This is what he/she is truly capable of.” If their behavior did not seem to comply with their usual state, or if my perception of that person had somehow been colored before I met them (Yes, I was terribly impressionable then), then this wouldn’t surprise me. Otherwise, I would try to convince myself that their misbehavior was probably unintentional, or maybe they weren’t talking about me or maybe they just had really poor communication skills and I was misinterpreting. Yet, the memory never really faded away, or better, erased itself.

As a self-conscious teenager, my perception of self amplified. I don’t mean that it gave me a huge ego boost. I mean it literally made me scrutinize my every movement like some internal paparazzi. For some reason, known only to my past self, I managed to conclude that in order to be socially acceptable I was going to have to analyze my own behavior to a greater degree than I scrutinized others. They could do as they please, they weren’t subject to my power of mutability. But I was. Eventually, it morphed to a situation where I would over-analyze my public behavior and begin to store a growing series of memories dominantly comprising of my unacceptably bad behavior and my mistakes. I could let others off the hook. However, I couldn’t extend that same courtesy to myself. Worse, when I was in a foul mood, I would masochistically play back these memories to myself and punish myself for not having “done the right thing” (kept my mouth shut/ thought twice/ calmed down/ taken action, etc.). In a nutshell, processing this much bad data was wearing away at my fragile self-esteem.

Internally, I justified the self-abnegation by claiming that I was allegedly guiding my own character to some ideal of “being a good person”, something which seemed to be the largest common factor of all the people around me who were socially popular. But what defined being a good person changed with time, attitudes and people. I could not possibly try to disperse myself over such a large, diverse, albeit conflicting, pool of attributes without having some semblance of independent choice. It started with parents and my family. Their ideals took priority and as I interacted more with the outside world, I began to know what I liked and what I didn’t and whether my preferences in themselves were all right. I was not going to let that annoying sneering voice inside my head question my worth.

Some of the tactics that helped me get rid of the excess junk was to allow more of my work/academics/hobbies to infiltrate my mind. This way I was too busy focused on doing something productive than nitpicking myself. There was always writing, which helped me clear out my system to a large extent. Whatever it is, I think that’s a unique discovery cycle for each person. There is no sweeping general solution, unfortunately.

One of the biggest cleanup tools that helped me excuse, if not completely forget about, those awful memories was accepting the fact that they were mistakes. Surely, if I had reasoned enough with myself to learn to forgive other people for making their mistakes, I could do the same too. I was not going to treat myself any differently than how I treated them, or how I wanted to be treated by them. More so, I had learned to laugh at myself. Looking back at myself, there have been some pretty comical incidents which felt anything but from a first-person perspective.By forgiving myself, I was minimizing the importance of negative memories inside my head. I wasn’t blaming anyone for anything. It wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t that of someone else’s either. Circumstances would happen. Without remembering them as mistakes or unfortunate incidents, to be more precise, I would be disrespecting the gravity of the situation without making myself wallow in guilt about it. It was okay to make those mistakes, at least for the first time. It was okay to be me.

In fact, it was one of those realizations that prompted the creation of this blog. I can now safely look back at my thirteen/fourteen year old self and not cringe at myself. I was naive, I was silly, I was mistaken, I was young, I was many things back then. But today I have grown up (or at least, I’d like to think so). I have to be many more things now. I am many more things now and that’s what matters.