The power of email

Here’s a really weird thing I’ve noticed about social media. Facebook, Twitter, etc. are supposed to bring people, information and opinions closer to you. But this is also completely generic. There is no way we can be emotionally intimate with 1014 people all over the world, some of whom we have met only once, some we have added only because they are friends of friends and so on. We mirror this behavior in the real world by having circles of friends, and then even smaller circles of “closer” friends.

I’ve decided to send an email to two friends whom I haven’t seen for three months, and who are close to me. One was an extremely dear friend from back home who decided to keep her email account alive only because I refused to join Facebook until way into freshman year of college. We speak to each other very frequently and the emotional support that she provides me with makes me feel truly blessed to have her in my life. The other person is one of the most positive people I’ve met at college. She is so gentle, kind, positive, enthusiastic and artistic that I find it a sheer joy to be with her. She never fails to spread love to everyone and even though I realize that her medical sabbatical is necessary, I miss her. I always wondered what people thought about me when I wasn’t around, and now that these people weren’t around, I wanted to let them know that they matter to me.

I was a bit afraid to send out the emails, actually. I wanted to talk about my life and how things were going, but most of the words seemed to be related to stress and pain and worry, and I did not want to bring negativity to a person’s inbox. I ended up writing about absolutely random things in an incoherent mash of questions about them, opinions about improving the weather and unnecessarily detailed discourses about food. I didn’t want to seem superficial by telling them that “everything’s fine”, so I told them how despite everything I was trying to stay happy.

If I had my way I would have sent a hand-written letter, because nothing could be more intimate than that. But killing a tree, searching for varying addresses and delays in arrival made me stick to a digital medium. An email is the most private message that I could think of.  Obviously, I’m not talking about the kind of emails that arrive with 1000000 people in CC/BCC or carry the “FWD:” tag in subject lines. But I hoped to convey a lot more in the private audience that an email affords, than something that could be lost in the crowd, like a Facebook message.

I got back replies instantly. It makes my day to know that I have made two people feel special.The distance between us has somewhat affected our emotional proximity, but I also try to think of it as a way to provide more content to talk about. I hope they know that they are dearly loved and missed, and I will try my best to keep them in my noisy, busy occupied mind.

On judging and being judged

Judgement (Image Credits: thetarotdieter.blogspot.com)

(Image Credits: thetarotdieter.blogspot.com)

I’ve spent a large portion of my adolescence watching and discovering other people. I think one of the sole reasons that I am an extrovert is that I tend to absorb a lot of the world that is around me, visually and aurally. Given my compulsion to over-analyze details about my life and a pseudo-flimsy self-esteem, I think this bad habit was something I indulged in with unhealthy frequency.

It’s odd how I suppress all these internal realizations as I am a very transparent extrovert. I have difficulties lying or deceiving. This is not due to some obligatory moral ethos holding me back. I am simply unable to fake it. It can be construed as a good or a bad thing. Good in that, I am intrinsically honest. Bad, in that, it allows other people to manipulate me rather easily. One of the easiest ways I used to get embroiled in high-school battles was because someone would approach me, pretend to care about me, tell me of their emotional problems and expect me to agree with them. I’ll admit that I gave in to that all too easily. Empathy seemed like the only route for friendship to a lonely person.

Despite all my transparency, I could not openly express anger or spite as well I needed to. Through some force of personal grooming, I would isolate myself and let the negativity fester inside me till it had permanently stained the memory of that event.

For all my aggression, I mutely accepted the world’s rubbish by excusing them as immaturities. It dawned on me that at some level this was intentional. People did want to hurt me for no fault of my own. Or perhaps some perceived fault of my own. But despite that, I tried not to let these instances cloud my general opinion about that person. I make mistakes, too. It’s only right that I forgive someone else’s.

Except that’s not how the world always works. Positive slogans that claim, “Treat others as you would like to be treated” are not often followed by people. You do not get treated by others the way you treat them. Some will treat you like princesses even on the days when life seems gloomy. Some will spite you no matter what. Some will merely smile back politely and make small talk as you wait next to them in the elevator. I learned that everyone, under the external layer of politeness, was judging me, evaluating me, closing off parts of themselves to me, categorizing me into some stereotype or niche in their head. For some people, this first impression process is cast in stone, with others, the labels change with time.

I’m not going to be very self-righteous and say that I don’t judge people, because I do. There used to be a point when I wanted to make friends with everyone so badly that I didn’t set up any stereotypes in my head at all. I wanted to know people for the actual real people they are, not what they represent. This liberal outlook was rewarded with coming across some very unhappy people all the more willing to siphon off their negativity onto me. But, like chasing all the good things of life, I persisted.

I am lucky that this trait has survived with me. In some way, how a person presents themselves to another person does influence my understanding of them somewhat. One of my prime judgmental criteria lies in how people talk about things around them. Are you constantly complaining? Are you using way too many superlative objects for mundane things about life? What are you passionate about? Those are the things that I will notice about you. If you show passion and dedication, or appear knowledgeable about a subject of your choice, you have endeared yourself to me. I may not necessarily agree with your opinion, but I will appreciate the loyalty with which you stick to it.

After high school, as I started meeting more of the world, I realized that there were other criteria as well. People liked me because I was skinny. People did not like me that I wasn’t pretty enough for their attention. People did not like me because I wasn’t fair enough or something. I still don’t quite understand how you can judge a human being based on their physical appearance, because I don’t they can help it. You are born and have grown the way your genetic structure and health habits have led you to. But pessimism, optimism, sarcasm and the like are all cultivated, by the person’s own choice, so everything about that is under their control.

I got into an argument with a friend once. She claimed that she would date only guys who fulfilled a certain physical criteria, as in tall, well-built, fit, etc. It sounded (and still sounds) rather shallow to me. She justified by saying that a well-maintained body shows some dedication and passion. Her stance was that a guy who knows how to look after himself is equally well capable of looking after her, if she should choose to be in a relationship with him. Physical maintenance seemed to be a way of showing how much a guy was willing to invest into well-being. While I cannot disagree that health is important, I still cannot reconcile that to the idea that all fit people must “look” a certain way. You can be fit and not be skinny. You can be fit and not have a six-pack.More so, she then turned the argument and asked me whether I didn’t estimate the dating potential of a guy through his looks. I didn’t and I’m proud to say that I still don’t. I may casually notice aesthetics, but even that is at an arm’s length. I start observing about you the instant you start talking. That tells me not just of a guy’s dating potential, but also of his friend potential.

The reason why I was compelled to write this rather rant-like post is because I have this acquaintance, who judges people and proclaims it proudly. We call each other our friends, but more often that not, he is brusque and nasty. More so, he isn’t afraid of dealing it out to me. Through the last few months, when my self-esteem was convalescing, I’ve shrugged it off. But now I have this instinct to hand my opinion of him on a platter. I try to tell myself that I am more mature than he is and that I shouldn’t let it bother me so much. He is not necessarily a bad person, and maybe I’m simply overreacting to his twisted humor, but somehow, I don’t think that I should accept his bad treatment. Pardon me, I seem to be reverting back to the behavioral cycle I referred to in the beginning. I think I’m just going to avoid him, minimize contact so I don’t have to invest mental energy in worrying about whether I have evaded his scathing criticisms.

Which brings me back to judging. Why should you judge someone? After all, do they not deserve an opportunity to feel special in their own right? Some people say that judging is a defense mechanism. Somehow by categorizing someone else in their head as something demeaning, awful or caricatured, people try to boost their own self-esteem. Blame it on my naiveté, but I honestly didn’t know that could be true. Until I heard a story from another friend who told me that the guy she liked rejected her because she was “too chubby” and then went on to gloat about it. I’m not here to evaluate whether or not my friend is chubby or isn’t or maybe she has self-esteem issues or whatever. But I do blame this guy for having such a shallow criterion. Are you really going to abandon a girl, walk out of her life, break her heart into possibly irretrievable pieces the day her clothing size grows by one unit? I realize I may come across as slightly sexist with the number of male antagonists in this piece, but I know that this sort of opinion is not just limited to gender, age, shape or any demographic.

There are many ways to shrug off the feeling of being judged. Usually, the most effective method is to ignore. I’m sure there are several others, but learning to ignore is the most effective tool I’ve cultivated thus far. Don’t worry future self (and readers), someday, we’re gonna be above these nagging doubts that keep trying to claw us down.

A Place For My Head

Wake up in the morning. Wear my work face.

She is strong and driven and determined. She is on her way to get things done, and do them right. She’s the face that’s hardest to keep on and also the most fulfilling. In a strange way, it feels good when she’s clamped on me. But in other ways, the hinges refuses to clasp when I need it on me the most. She’s a temperamental face. But she makes me the happiest.

I feel like I’m worth something when I can be productive, which eventually results in me being happy. “I’ve got my life under control, ” I tell myself. Work face allows me to schedule some self-awards as well. The small kind, the one that only you can provide for yourself. Maybe I’ll have a Teriyaki Chicken lunch special instead of bland dining hall food. Maybe I’ll go say hello to that random stranger who needs help holding the door open. Maybe I’ll just lock myself up in my room and let my playlist drown me. But only for a while. Beyond a point, Work face wants to get back to the grind and I am obliged to obey her.

Work face is slipping off. More frequently than I want to, but I’m grateful for those days when I can keep her on long enough to call it a day.

With my friends, and their lives, I give Work face a break. Human beings are not rational, methodical problem sets that they can be dealt with in segments or in logical ways. I wear my Watching face.

She’s the one who notices how the grass sway and how people interact. She’s the one with hawk eyes. She’s the one thinking up of story lines and blog post ideas, about things to write about and things to do and ways to be creative. She’s also the one who is willing to do more than necessary. Like listen, contemplate, think and maybe even indulge in philosophy. I’ve found that my friends frequently need this side of me. But she is a heavy face to wear sometimes. She comes with her own emotional baggage, anxiety and the redundant results of far too many over-analyses and an unforgiving memory. She’s the first to jump at the sight of panic, but she’s also the one who is my storehouse of kindness and empathy. She’s all about poetry and aesthetics and the transient spiritual nature of the equation. She’s worried about the larger details of life.
I can’t tell if she’s at conflict with Work face. But that’s okay. Watching face needs her time as well. Though heavier, she fits me more smoothly than Work face, so I have no choice but to carry her everywhere.

There are several other faces that I wear and I would love greatly to expand on them all, but I don’t think I could be explaining the entirety of myself very well just by these vague descriptions and metaphors of what each face helps me do.  I have seven listed, which may be a variable number and often times, every other face besides Work switch roles.

Because this is not a conversation about faces. It’s about the medium that hosts those faces.

When I want to do something that cannot be filed under the functionality of any face, the information persists in my head. It’s sort of like a crash dump for when a compiler comes across an error in the code. All operations, whether valid or otherwise, that need to be processed after where the error is detected are forcibly written out to some remote inaccessible buffer and the program exits. Unfortunately, my brain cannot exit the confines of my head, and thus those ideas and memories lurk somewhere, waiting for a face to claim them and execute them.

I am now at such a point in my life that the random misfits have overcrowded the capacity of my limited brain. My head hurts. It wants to be acknowledged, to feel like it belongs. Unfortunately, time and fatigue are not exactly working in my favor. So I keep pushing things out. Procrastination on a whole other level. Work face has been a bit overused the last few days and she’s showing signs of wear. But I have to let her condition go by unnoticed until this endless, almost infinite stream of duties that are expected of me become something worthwhile.

It’s 2:00 AM and Work face has literally registered her protest by slithering off me and lying like a smoking hulk on the table where I have a problem set due tomorrow and I’m still at question 3 of 6.

This gives me an opportunity to dump everything into this big white box here so that I don’t go to sleep and dream. I don’t like dreaming when I’m asleep. My brain believes in combining the random elements of my existence from the real world and from the residue of shadows and phantoms into some utterly believable illusion, which keeps me trapped for the rest of my slumber. Luckily that’s been approximately five hours each day for the last week or so. Every evening, when classes end, I come back from work and I tell myself that I’m probably going to need to pull an all-nighter. My roommate, who is under comparably equal pressure, laughs and says that she should start keeping a count of how many times I say that and then proceed to crash at the relatively early 2:00 AM. No, not early in the morning. Where I’m at, this is early in the night. At this time, I can still text a normal person and know that they will reply to me within their time, because everyone is up and about.

But I can’t. My body and bones are tired. My brain is not doing the simple functions right. I’m walking into glass doors that have the letters CLOSED in capital letters on them. I’ve forgotten that I need to sign the white slip before my credit card payment gets processed. I am trying to use a pencil eraser on a pen mark. The list is endless.

And I can function like this no longer. So, I  thank all my faces and my weary head for doing their job right.

Next weekend, I will make the time to go spend at least an hour in solitude at Sakura Park. It’s quiet for the most part, has several cherry blossom trees and I think the scenery is beautiful. I’m usually not an outdoors person, but in my head, that’s a designation for a place where I need some kind of detachment from this world. I want to play on the piano for at least an hour. I want to write a story for my other blog.

My faces need rest and my head needs to breathe. Goodnight.

Why I pray

Honestly, I am not a religious person. I don’t even know if I count as spiritual. I do know that I have a hyperactive imagination that borders on legitimately crazy, and this makes me susceptible to several self-created phantoms. So, you could say that I’m borderline superstitious, or maybe even a little too sentimental about minutiae that shouldn’t bother me.

I don’t know why I’ve always been indifferent to religion. Or the idea that there’s some larger force at work here, some fundamental drive that’s constantly pushing the universe one step closer to perfect equilibrium.

My mother, a faithful Hindu devotee, chants the Sanskrit names of deities when she’s worried.  She explained the mantras to me once. I remember a few because I’ve heard her sing them so many times that the memory is stuck in my head. But mostly, I remember the stories associated with each name, though. When I feel like my life is literally spinning out of control, I hear my mother’s voice recite the chants in my head. I can recite a few.

My mom says that prayer often gives her immense faith. She feels that the few minutes of her day that she spends recounting the names of powerful deities give her enough strength to go on for the rest of the day.

I feel more in control of my day when I have a plan and a list of things that I can cross out as each of my tasks complete.

But even then, there are moments when I feel small and weak and literally giving up. That’s when I try to channel my inner spirituality and say, “Hello divine authority, Not quite sure if you’re receiving this communique, but I’ve managed to deal with the world in this way today. If you could please take care of the consequences while I take refuge in my dreams, I’d be massively grateful. Many thanks.”

I imagine that as soon as I’m done registering the complaint, there’s a beacon somewhere that makes me feel better. It’s inside me, actually. It says “Your request is pending.” Maybe I’ll never know when my request gets processed. Sometimes, they happen automatically. Sometimes, I need to put in a little more effort from my mortal side in order to make it happen. But the sheer act of delegating responsibility, I feel lightened already. I  don’t know if the other authority will take care of it. I just tell myself that by delegating, I’ve made it someone else’s business, so I have no jurisdiction over it anymore.

Yeah, it makes me feel a whole lot better.

I pray because I don’t want to go to sleep another night hiding from my own tears. I pray that the sick friend in hospital is still fighting the good fight. I pray that I will be able to deal with whatever comes next. I pray that I am not confused. I pray that I’ll be able to recognize my body’s needs right, I know these are the small petty things, but I pray for them. I pray for them because I somehow feel that by extending my range to include people from farther reaches of the world, to encompass all the evil, all the misfortune and pray is really not something that will result in much of an effect. So I keep it small. Maybe sometimes it’s the small that makes a difference.

My mom doesn’t quite understand what my form of praying is, because it isn’t so ritualized or popularly practiced as chanting and observing festivals are. But sh’es glad that I’ve found some kind of spiritual outlet, and she always encourages me to keep this practice open. I pray that I can make her proud.

I pray that someday I’ll be able to look back at myself and be happy with the past me.

That’s why I pray.

Also check out: https://freestylerevolution.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/religion-realism/ written by a more traditionally spiritual friend of mine.

Scribbles about writing, art and the need to express

To be fair to the people who read my post objecting to a profusion of love stories, I did not mean to be offensive, nor did I mean to hate romance genre as a whole. If anything, there was a certain reason why I still let the beauty of romance touch me. It’s just that there are moments, as captured by that post, when that power to evoke seems misused.

I reflected on writing that piece after quite a while, and I almost thought I should abandon it. Why? It’s because I’m too sensitive about my own work. Art and other forms of expressing the human emotion deserve to be encouraged. After all, an author or an artist could be pouring out their heart and soul into the piece.

Recently, I have been using several images from Deviant Art on my pages. As a person who is incapable of drawing even a straight line freehand, I am always in awe of what the members of this community are capable of. They often request for critiques and comments. Who am I, a lowly mortal, to claim that they should alter it in any way? By merely viewing these galleries and having an account of my own, have I really earned the right to judge someone else’s expression?

Trying to discover what lies at the core of my graphomania Image credits: Spirit in flight by TheArtist777 on dA at http://theartist777.deviantart.com/art/Spirit-In-Flight-389273882

Trying to discover what lies at the core of my graphomania
Image credits: Spirit in flight by TheArtist777 on dA at http://theartist777.deviantart.com/art/Spirit-In-Flight-389273882

It seems very brave on their behalf to offer up the baby of their imagination up for such scrutiny. It’s a moot point that nobody actually dares to express their dislike in the comments section, but I still do not know if I am so brave as to publicize my work so openly. I rarely post links to this blog on any common social media networks and most of the people who do follow me on this community have never been exposed to any other form of my work. They could very well ignore it and scroll past to other things in their life, but they don’t and I like to flatter myself with the idea that they probably like what they read here.

I sometimes wonder why I write. Especially this blog, which is my first non-fiction endeavor and as such, more reflective of my reality than anything else. Is it for an audience? Is it to prove something? Is it all for myself?I love writing because it helps me provide some form of a carrier to all the emotions in my head and it gives me a valid reason for expressing them. I love writing because it feels like the only way I can find some sense of coherence to organize myself.

I love writing because I love reading. I adore stories, they’ve manged to keep my imagination alive. I always imagined that one of the most important component of our childhood that we carry is our stories. True they may be considered as fairy tales; they are imaginary, they are lies that do not reflect the big bad world. But they did give us the power to conceptualize ideas and dimensions that were beyond our immediate reach. They allowed us to experiment with life via their characters and ideals without tainting ourselves.Strangely enough, for me, it is actually easier to write stories than write non-fiction.

In my stories, mostly science fiction, I am allowed to create a universe from scratch and alter any variable in the equilibrium as I please and create whatever I want out of it. It is literally a blank canvas, supported with a lot of established fact and speculation. Real life seems to be much richer, much more varied in scope and much more powerful, precisely because it’s tangibly, painfully, real. I cannot choose where the stories begin or where they end. I am just guided along by the plot of my own mundane existence, aware that everyone else is surviving their own and somehow, this all adds up in the overall sense of equilibrium.Yet, in some mirror image of the cosmos, I try to write, picturing my humble ordinary life as something worth recording about. No more am I writing for the sake of the imaginary. I’m “keeping it real”.

Rather childishly, when I first started writing, I wanted people to give me feedback on it. I wanted the people I knew to take the time in reading what I’d written. Since these people already knew me as a person, instead of a writer, they always offered positive or the vague “Yes, it was nice” response. I don’t mean to say that they didn’t mean it and were lying to me. I simply felt that in an effort to be nice they might have added a buffer between what they actually felt and what they were telling me.

I foraged some more on the internet, looking for readers. I soon found some of them. These strangers, who did not know me, liked my writing and had several good things to mention about it. These were the people who had been granted the liberty of shooting my work down in the mud, and yet they chose to say that they liked it. This might come across as a cliche, but this is what happens in my mind.

How to be superbly flattered and unbelievably suave at the same time Image credits: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/and%20i%20love%20you%20random%20citizen

How to be superbly flattered and unbelievably suave at the same time

I’ve even had days and people who did not like my writing. They were the ones who came back to ask me what my English grades were, since my writing was so bad. They were the ones who picked on my piece for all the shoddy editing and all the errors I had thought my ideas were large enough to cover. It hurt so terribly. I’m ashamed to them, that despite their hopefully well-meaning advice, I was still susceptible to holding a grudge against them. On another level, that input has made me even more paranoid about my grammar. Does that make me a better writer? A good writer? What does that make me? Perhaps a sentimental, emotionally-driven person who has no underlying coherence to her thoughts and is deluding herself that the world will forgive her tiny errors in light of her projected ideas.

At the end of the day, it seems rather disappointing to conclude that I write eventually for myself. Even when I didn’t have any readers of my work, no appreciation or censure from the outside world, I wrote. More so, even when my writing is ignored and stashed away under the annals of something that is more relevant and more interesting to the rest of the world, I would still write. At this very moment I cannot tell how many people are reading this, but I know that even if that number is 0, I would still write. Then the whole need to write and to be expressive seems to fuel a very self-centered need. I wonder if all art is like that? Are we serving some other driving instinct than just pleasing ourselves?

I can honestly say that I do not know. Maybe someday, in the midst of all these words and ideas, I’ll find out. Or maybe I won’t and I will continue to be happily trapped in this void. I’ll just need to invest more emotion into my writing to find out.

Why I dislike extremely mushy stories (too frequently)

...Time to get my anti-mush suit on.... Image credits: http://snigglefritz.deviantart.com/art/Classic-Romance-85676456

…Time to get my anti-mush suit on….
Image credits: http://snigglefritz.deviantart.com/art/Classic-Romance-85676456

I’ve been reading some of the works that my friends have bounced off me. Most of them are stories about passion, romance and more importantly about finding love. While at some level I understand that love is indeed a very important emotion, it seems to me that the romantic aspects of it are more highly exaggerated than other forms. Since I have experienced a relationship before, and several unrequited crushes, I understand that there is some appeal in the depiction of soul and yearning. Yes, I can relate to that once in a while. I know what it’s like to be “lovestruck”. Granted, it’s a beautiful feeling that’s very versatile in terms of writing, creativity and general art content. But forgive me, I need a break from this genre.

I see people walking around holding hands, talking about/doing very romantic things to each other. All of my friends are in very strong relationships too, so you will excuse me if I say that occasionally I do feel an inexplicable pang at not being in the same state as them. However, my opinion on that has changed. Earlier, I was so eager to fill this supposed void, that I went and committed a series of bad mistakes. Then, I recognized that I didn’t need a boyfriend to function optimally. Now, I simply make a mental note in my head that if someday in the future I do land up with a boyfriend, he’ll be a kind, special good human being. It’s okay if I don’t have one now, because somewhere the person I want is evolving into this beautiful state and evolution takes time. This entire anecdote was to prove that whenever I read sappy literature, I am not endowed with a feeling of being “inferior” or “incomplete” because I don’t have some immature, emotion-driven, rationale-deprived soul sharing the responsibility of my existence.
I’m going to detail some other reasons why my impression of such a powerful genre has been ruined (hopefully momentarily):
  • I am an engineering student, most of my reading is technical, prosaic text. My favorite recreation genre is science fiction (no surprise there). When I’m feeling experimental, I would probably forage a bit into a romance story and allowed my emotions to be reduced to jelly. But the keywords here are “Once In A While”. Maybe it’s just my luck but I’ve been swamped with reading these sort of works for the past few days and frankly, beyond a point, it is annoying and pathetic. Some of the best love stories I’ve enjoyed always had the romance as a sub-plot. Which implies that the characters have something else to do with their lives besides weeping incessantly/moping. Love is this chance beautiful thing that’s come their way. But they wouldn’t be completely debilitated or comatose without it.
  • As a reader, and maybe as a human being, I have a certain emotional capacity. This means that the depth of each individual emotion is inversely proportional to its frequency. I will be moved to tears once, twice, maybe even a third time. But I find it impossibly difficult to empathize with your character if he/she starts to condemn the world just because the object of their affections refused to smile their way for a few minutes. No, my heart is not going to break because you were kind to another girl instead of me (especially since I would prefer someone who is uniformly kind to everyone). I get that people in love overreact, and there’s also the whole Art imitates Nature belief from the Renaissance. But after a while, I can’t refrain from earnestly wanting to douse the protagonist in cold water and force them awake to the reality of life. There is no humanly possible way your heart strings are torn every single time. No way.
  • As a self-proclaimed (rather pretentious, I apologize) authority on unreciprocated crushes, I know what it’s like to suffer very painful self-esteem issues and deal with the monsters in your head. I know how helpless and pathetic and terrible it feels to realize that your emotional well-being is so heavily dependent on some other authority who probably doesn’t even register that you exist. I don’t judge people for being insecure. We all have our own problems to deal with. But what really annoys me about romance writing and is how sometimes the literature seems to feed into the low-self-esteem obsession negatively. Again, this is also based on frequency and even the mood of the reader. When you’re feeling nostalgic or depressed and you want to empathize with a statement like, “It’s so hard to stop hating yourself because he/she didn’t love you back” [or some such equivalent], I completely understand. You’re allowed to have brief lapses into grief. But too many of those lapses and we have a wallowing specimen. When you’re in that sinkhole (as I’ve been), it takes a lot of effort to to start loving and respecting yourself. Literature or ideas that convey that you should continue missing the creature that hurt you simply disrespects the effort it takes to recover from such a harsh self-lesson.
  • Absolutely outrageous comparisons annoy me. It takes the skill of very few talented writers to pull off a romance story filled with poignant silences and the like. As a logic-driven person by nature, I fail to comprehend how there is supposed to be a deeper meaning in a non-answer. Other such “deep” examples happen to include a couple that has a sparse conversation over breakfast and then you’re supposed to realize that the breakfast is actually an extended metaphor for their relationship and how the butter can be compared to diplomatic conversations smoothing out their life and so on. These authors are striving to evoke emotion by deriving meaning from literally nothing. Much as I appreciate quiet, reflective pieces, I do not like metaphors or comparisons that are “so far out” from my mental capacity that I need to strain myself to understand them. It’s bad enough that its packed with mush. It’s worse if you expect me to infer it from trivial examples and no psychological precedent. Breakfast is breakfast. Domestic squabble is domestic squabble. They are not interchangeable.
To be fair, this was also biased by my innate distaste for the genre. This genre has been popularized by so many high school girls and unbelievably large number of authors that without a truly fabulous setting or incredible talent, its all too easy to fall into a category of stale. Perhaps I should go finish a problem set or two and then return to this genre, in order to redeem its value. Maybe it is a reflection of my own emotional short-comings that I can’t empathize with their love stories as well as I’d like to. Until then, to all my story writing friends, please explore other genres. Seriously. Or send me the non-romance ones. Right now, I’d much rather read a botany essay than another one of those drama-oriented works.

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.”