Saturday, October 26, 2013

To that someone

Let me start off by saying this is a pretty abstract piece. It's a bit sappy, but when I wrote it I realized how proud I was of it. I'm at a weird stage in my life where nothing seems certain. I don't know what I'll be doing a year from now, where I'll be, who I'll meet. This story, which should be taken as fictional prose despite its personal nature, is a manifestation of that feeling of uncertainty.

Hey you,

I've been feeling kind of down lately. And missing you, even though I don't know who you are just yet.

Sometimes, even when I'm not thinking all that much about the future, I feel a connection with you. Like, even though we're not with each other now, somehow we're still together. It's a comfort to me to feel your presence even when I don't know who you are.

Other times, like today, when I want to dream about you and what my life might bring, nothing shows up. And I feel like I'm lost, my mind running in circles, searching for you but always ending up back where I started; never actually returning to that feeling of knowing you, of being with you even when I can't.

Maybe this is all silly, overly sentimental romantic junk. I have so many feelings that I worry I'm just projecting what I want into reality.

But then I remember those feelings I've had. Of utter joy, knowing that you're somewhere in the world and so am I. That even though we're not together now, and we may not be together for a while, that eventually we will be. And that right now, in our own separate worlds, we're living simultaneously. Not in each other's lives necessarily, but moving in that direction.

I hope that you're really loving. And full of passion and understanding. I want to be those things for you too. I hope you're beautiful inside and out, and that looking into your eyes makes all my troubles melt away. I hope that when I'm scared, worried or angry, that being with you can cure even the darkest days.

I want all of these things. But first I have to find you.

And don't start to think that I'm not putting in any effort. I've been looking and hoping. I've been trying really hard to be logical and thorough. I've made some mistakes in the process, but that's okay, I think. Because the mistakes are what prove that you're still out there, not with me at this precise moment, but still in the world somewhere.

And that's some solace, because the mistakes can be incredibly disheartening.

I feel like I'm just starting to change my life. I'm in therapy now, for the first time ever. I'm taking yoga, too. These are two of the best decisions I've ever made in life. Instead of ignoring my feelings and pushing my problems away, I'm confronting them head on and looking for changes, physical and mental. I think you'd be proud of me if you could see.

So even though I worry that we're far away from each other - and even though sometimes I don't feel your presence no matter how hard I try - I do think that every little thing I do in my life is improving the now so that I can be good for you in the future.

I can only hope that in the same way, you're doing things that you hope will be good for me. And that when we meet each other, we'll be so ready that we'll never look back, never feel small or useless again, never worry about loneliness.

You're going to be the most amazing person in the world. I already love you, whoever you are. This passion swells in me and sometimes I don't know what to do with it. It just takes over my body and makes me want to cry my eyes out and grin at the same time. It makes me feel hysterical.

Well, whatever our circumstances are, wherever you are in the world and in your heart, I'm writing this now to let you know that you're not alone. And I don't feel so alone either. Somehow, I don't think that those moments of interconnectedness are only mine. I'm just waiting to see you finally. I'm so anxious. Get here quickly.

I'm waiting.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The 40 Days of Dating Experience

I stumbled upon it at the most opportune time possible. It was one of the first sessions of my interactive design class and we were looking at websites to determine what it was about their content that made them engaging, what we gravitated toward on a page and what kept us reading.

The page was The Great Discontent. The content that made it engaging was a picture of Timothy Goodman, who despite being depicted in a static photograph had a really visceral energy about him. The content I gravitated toward was a description of who this guy [Goodman] was. And what kept me reading were the words "40 Days of Dating."

It's not that I'm all for gossip and cheesy girly things. I don't necessarily see the word "date" and immediately find myself clicking through page after page. But when I took a quick look at the project Goodman (who is a designer living in New York) did with another designer, Jessica Walsh, I realized it was more than the typical romantic meet-cute or couple's blog. It was all about frankness and honesty, coming to terms with personal issues and trying to solve them.

And though I fancy myself a strong independent woman, I can't get away from the fact that I, along with most of the human race I presume, have problems - in relationships and in life - that I have to work through. And if "40 Days of Dating" could be one thing to get me through my period of grieving and self-loathing, then that was a step in the right direction.

So I set off reading. On my iPad at lunch, on my laptop before class, on my phone as I walked around campus. It was something to look forward to - something to make reading interesting again.

Because in the same way that my blog functions as a space for me to think and share thoughts, however rambly and emotional, the entries of the "40 Days of Dating" project were all about personal reflection and working out thoughts through text. And I found that fascinating and engaging. It was almost as cathartic as writing for myself.

As the story began, it was light and frothy. The anxiety about dating for 40 days was minimal, the excitement was apparent. But tension mounted quickly, just as it often does in relationships when you've gotten past the initial spark and just started to figure out what the troublesome quirks are in the significant other that you just can't quite come to terms with. Since our protagonists knew each other before the experiment started, it wasn't unexpected that these discoveries happened earlier rather than later. However the experiment went on, and through the dramatic turns for the best and the worst, I read with a heavy and hopeful heart.

I don't know what it was I wanted out of it, exactly. Did I want them to stay together so I would believe in the reality of true love? Did I want them to break up to prove that relationships are combustible for people other than me? I don't think it was either of these things, though arguments could be made for both.

What I think it was that made "40 Days" such an important read for me is that it involved a situation that I've been dealing with consistently the past few years. Essentially, I saw myself in what I read.

Once I got to a certain point in the project, I began to really identify with Jessica. She writes about being an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test (of which I am one too). She likes to avoid  confrontation despite that fact that she feels strongly (oh boy, do I know). She appreciates clarity and frankness (it's the best). She is also the type to hope for a life with someone she can count on (yup).

While these character traits are not too unusual in themselves, the INFJ personality type is alleged to be the most rare of all types (making up one percent of people). And as someone who has struggled with understanding and being understood by others, it came as no surprise to me that I could connect so well with this girl on a page whom I'd never met simply on the basis of us having the same result on the Myers-Briggs test.

Timothy, a name that has other connotations for me that I need not bring up in detail, was an incredibly strong foil to Jessica's personality. A serial dater and a spontaneous, jazz- and basketball-loving individual, this guy wasn't unlike the people I often find myself dating. He seemed to have a mysterious side (though it was laid out very early on that his family life was unusual as he was raised without a father), but with all his youthful vigor, energy and life experience, there was something soulful and fascinating about him. He had a lot of things to say and he wasn't afraid to say them. And even though I wasn't actually dating this man, I felt like I was - through his storytelling and through Jessica's. And he made sense to me - as much as he could. Because I've dated a Tim before.

But as much as I felt like I knew Timothy from reading his entries on the "40 Days of Dating" page, he was more of an enigma than Jessie ever was (though she is the one who is called an enigma during the course of the experiment), because I simply couldn't understand his variety of feelings and his convictions despite lack of assurance.

At times, Timothy teetered between feeling absolutely gung-ho about the relationship to completely unenthusiastic. He would say he loved Jessica, but then follow-up by saying he didn't think they worked as a couple and that things felt awkward.

These were feelings I couldn't reconcile, and I realized in time that this is part of the root of my own problems in relationships - and the problems of many. Often times our beliefs that a relationship is steady come from a desire to make things work. We feel a deep longing to find a kindred spirit and we search for it in that special someone. But then, as we're looking for the same confidence in our spirit, some unsightly reality kicks us in the head and tells us "Oh, you wanted this to work out? Well, I have another plan." And we have no choice but to follow.

I like to think I'm immune to the power of my subconscious in this area. That if I love something, I could stick with it no matter the circumstances. I can weather the storm.

Well, maybe that's true and maybe it isn't. Like Jessica, I think of myself as the type of person who likes to keep relationships together. But I also think that's part of our personality type. We never want to hurt anyone, and in trying to keep everything copacetic, we don't see our own desires crumbling around us.

INFJs are supposed to be intuitive, but sometimes I feel like my intuition leads me down the wrong path because it doesn't often take my long-term needs into account. It's all about wants - wanting to make other people happy, wanting to be happy myself (at least in the short term), wanting to maintain and never lose what I have.

But that's impractical.

At the very end of "40 Days of Dating," I was actually stunned to read how Timothy and Jessica parted ways. I had known from early on that they wouldn't work out (I think it had been spoiled for me somewhere when I was reading through articles about the experiment), but seeing it play out was even more intense than I could have imagined.

Because it spawned out of seemingly nothing. A little built up tension here, a little misplaced comment there and suddenly it all blew up before our eyes.

That's true of most relationships, isn't it? The problems get pent up, and we sort of see them in our periphery. We try to address them, but we never fully get there. And if we never totally figure out how to work through our problems, then we let them consume us until one day BAM! (and not in the Emeril sense of the word).

Suddenly, there's a bunch of confetti falling through the air and all that's left are two deflated balloons where hearts once stood.

Obviously this isn't true of all relationships. As I have heard, there are some romances that stay kindled for years and years. But for all the great, steady couples there are, there are many more that break apart in what I assume is an eerily similar fashion.

It was this reminder that really struck me. When I've been broken up with - most notably several months ago - I've felt so alone. I've been so alone. Wallowing in my own grief, I didn't even know who to turn to. No friends want to hear you ramble on about your ex-boyfriend whom you love but who doesn't love you back. You can't keep troubling your family over these things.

For me, that's why "40 Days of Dating" exists. In the case of Tim and Jessie,  it was a way of working through their problems. But for me, it was the one working method to actually turn into the spectator instead of the participant. I could look at a relationship not unlike one I've had myself, see its faults, recognize why I needed out and embrace the feeling of being understood by someone who doesn't even know me.

Everyone may not have the same connection to this experiment that I did. Certainly, INFJs are not common, thus most people won't identify with Jessica. ENFJs (like Tim) are probably more common, but whether or not they'd be drawn to this kind of writing is beyond me since I don't know all that much about how they think.

Whatever the case, it is clear that "40 Days of Dating" has resonated with many people, not just me. And I'm glad for that. Because unlike many other things I read, these few entries on a webpage in a corner of the internet forced me to see that I'm not alone and that there's nothing wrong with me - something I need to remind myself of more often.

So I'm thankful that on that fateful day in my interactive design class, I happened to be brought to The Great Discontent. And I'm glad that after glancing at the page, I decided to find out more about what this whole shtick was about. And it's great to know that beyond the "40 Days of Dating" site, there will be an empire of storytelling - from a book to a movie and who knows what else. Because this is a story that deserves to be told. It's not one that will move any mountains, necessarily, but for those among us who are hopeless or helpless romantics, it will bring clarity to something we can't seem to wrap our heads around:

Love isn't by the books. A relationship that falls apart isn't the be all, end all. What we really need is to be with people who understand us - even if they are just words on a page. What speaks to us is what matters. I was lucky enough to have these 40 days pop out at me, screaming and begging to be seen. And I did. And I'm happier as a result.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

All the futures I could have

There have been a lot of things on my mind lately.

The thoughts are wide and varied. When I try to put them down on paper, it often comes out all jumbled because there really is too much to think of. I'm at such a weird place in my life. Everything is in flux. I'm not really in control of much. At least, I don't feel like I am.

What it all boils down to, though, is the future.

And that got me thinking about how many futures I could have had.

Two years ago and a few days back, I started dating for real. Had that relationship not been doomed, I could've seen myself with that person long term. Being in a relationship for two years would've had a tremendous effect on where I am now, physically and mentally.

Four years ago I was looking at colleges. I could have very well decided not to apply to the one I go to now. If I hadn't, I might've ended up in London. I might've gone to school near home. I might've been happier, sadder, lonelier, more hopeful, less enthusiastic, crazier. Who knows, really. But it probably would've been very different.

A year before that, my mom passed away. And while no one had any control over that inevitability, that is yet another thing I think about and wonder 'Well, what if she was still here?'

And that's not even to mention the myriad of other decisions I've made, experiences I've had, troubles I've faced and people I've lost. There have been many. One day can consist of no unexpected happenings...or a lot of them.

While I'm not ready yet to talk about what it is I'm working through at the moment, why I feel the need to "let it all out," as I mentioned in my previous blog, I do feel comfortable in sharing one thing:

I don't feel like I'm in control anymore.

When I arrived at university three years ago, I felt powerful. That's not a word I often use to describe myself - meek and awkward as I am. But with all the opportunities ahead, I felt I could choose to do anything I wanted with my life. Or at least, I could choose to pursue the major I'd already signed up for and then follow through with that career choice the rest of my life.

But in three years I've lost that power. Bit by bit. Experience by experience. The more I know, the more I lose control. And as my dad has told me, not being in control is one of the things that can take the biggest toll on a person. We need to have some volition, some command over our fate, or else we feel lost and meaningless.

When I sat down to write this blog, it was going to be about all the futures I could have had. It was going to discuss the people I've loved who've broken my heart. The things I've imagined for my future that I now know will not come true - some because I don't want them anymore, others because I'm unwanted.

Regardless of what could have been, there is always what could be.

So even though there are things I've lost, people I'll never see again, experiences that I imagined and then had to leave behind... Well, there are infinite things that I haven't even considered that will, in fact, make up the rest of my existence.

That's a mysterious and daunting prospect. And I think part of the reason that I'm so terrified right now is that I'm afraid of the future never living up to expectation.

But what if the expectation is just that the future be unique and unexpected? Then what is there to lose?

I could end up being a journalist like I'd always planned, and maybe I'd love it. Or I could pursue a degree in something else. I could become a famous writer, thinker, creator, director. I could find the love of my life. I could be a mom. Maybe I'll decide I just want to own a bunch of cats or hang out in Central Park like the pigeon lady in Home Alone 2.

Goodness, who knows?

I've been ruminating so hard on what I don't have anymore, what I wanted and what was snatched from my grasp. But time goes on, feelings change, needs change and opportunities arise.

And there are a lot of futures left that remain to be seen.

I just hope I pick the right one. Or I hope it picks me.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

How I feel before letting it all out

This is an important day.

I think it was meant to go this way. This day of stressful living started and ended much in the way most days do. But it made some weird moves in the middle, twisted and turned until my body was trapped in an eternal state of unraveling.

So I'm ready to start the next chapter. And tomorrow I'm going to try really hard to do that. I've been looking forward to it for a while now. Without the benefit of companionship that I've had the past two weekends, I'm looking toward days and days of responsibility and hard work. They will be full of tension and I know I'll reach my wit's end.

I've been nearly at the breaking point for a while. The straw broke the camel's back a while ago. I had to let go of stability and open myself up to possibility. But that's not really an option when I'm stuck and I'm waiting for tomorrow, waiting for the next step in a process that seems neverending. There's no end, no solution in sight, but I keep barreling toward it - whatever it is.

As tomorrow begins, I will see how another type of person lives. I've tried for a long time never to be this person. Change scares me, I'm afraid to embrace new experiences because it means putting away a part of my past. Or it feels that way, anyway. And giving away a part of myself to embrace a new person is daunting, but it's beautiful too.

There's tension in my back. I've attributed it to bad posture, to sitting inappropriately as I browse through the infinite web of information on the screen in front of me. But it's more than that. It's like the weight of the world. I am Atlas. I feel too aware of what's going on around me and it overwhelms me with thought. Sometimes sadness, too, but I try to push that feeling away.

This entry is one I'd like to treat as poetry. I know what I'm doing tomorrow. I know what I did today. You don't know, however, or it's likely you don't. And that's okay.

Because what is important to see is that it isn't the activity or the details that make the experience, that incite the change. We choose to be who we are each day, to alter our course or to remain in the place that we've been. What we do is not as important as the decision to do something.

I'm doing something.

I'm letting it all out. I hope I have more hopeful and positive things to say once I've gone through with it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

List-less thoughts

This is an atypical blog. I don't have much time tonight before I should head off to ZZZ Territory/Slumberland/BeddyBye, so I figured I'd just share a few thoughts. In a list. Because I've been working with a lot of lists in my Interactive Storytelling class and because compartmentalizing helps sometimes.

1. I used to despise being thought of as fickle, but I do believe that I am someone who is always looking toward bigger and better things.

This isn't to say I'm always the "grass is greener" sort, but I do love thinking that I'm never stuck in one situation. That if I have hopes and dreams, I can achieve anything.

2. High expectations are my single worst vice.

I am a very intense person. I put a lot of thought into things. Rarely anything gets past me. Sometimes I have to pretend that I don't notice things even when I did. It's just the way I am, and if others find it strange...well, that's life.

3. There is a lot of beauty in the world, but most of us fail to pay attention to it.

Today I was struck by how wonderful it is to live indoors. To have a roof over my head, floor under my feet, a bed to sleep in. This is a luxury that I consider a necessity, and it's beautiful that I've been given a life with such ease and simple joy.

4. People are way too complicated for my liking.

When I think something is predictable, the human race proves me wrong. This is my eternal struggle.

5. I am very self-centered.

But aren't we all? And if we aren't, how honest are we being with ourselves?

6. Escapism is the worst, yet most effective form of catharsis.

When I've forgotten my woes, I feel the most freed from them. Even more than when I actively combat them. There's something to be said about the value of escape in the face of perpetually troubled thoughts...that is, it works.

7. Fun is fundamental.

It is hard for me to understand how people find joy in serious careers, or cerebral and unemotional subject matter. I am all about having fun and feeling enthusiasm for everything I do. I wonder if this is true for most people.

8. There's no reason to lie to someone's face.

If you aren't honest, you're likely to show your true self despite your kind fa├žade. Why even try to pretend you're someone who you're not?

9. Time inspires very contradictory emotions.

It ticks away and stresses us out, but when we have some of it to spare, it has the most relaxing presence of anything in this world. Time is a frenemy to all.

10. Sometimes this all feels too weird to be true.

Who are you all, anyway? As my dad and I have discussed a couple of times recently, it is so strange to think that when you are in a public place, you are surrounded by people who are part of your story, but who have stories of their own. We're all separate, but intertwined.

That's it. I think I'm going to do more of these in the future. It's a bit weird, I guess, but it was the blog I needed right now.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Where am I?

It has been over a month since I last wrote in this blog, and that feels sort of inappropriate, seeing as how much has gone in just 30-sum days. What makes this period in my life not worth documenting, whereas in the past I've spent hours upon hours writing blogs about the most insignificant topics?

To catch you up, I'm back at college. It is my final quarter on campus and while I do try to remind myself that one day I will look back on these days fondly, it's been hard not to grow tired of university living.

My classes are going exceedingly well, perhaps for the first time in recorded history. While they may all advertise themselves as time-consuming, drop-it-if-you-can't-handle-it sort of courses, I have not yet been dissuaded.

What I have, however, been dissuaded from, is any attempts at civility with my neighbors. With my friends off campus in an apartment and myself still on campus in a dormitory, I'm surrounded by individuals whom I don't know, yet who know each other. It is lonely, despite being enveloped in perpetual sound.

This is a great metaphor for real life, I think. We often enter the outside world and are forced to abandon our bubbles of introspection. There are so many babbling beings walking the Earth, that even with our iPods in ear, our cell phones in hand and our eyes glued to whatever the closest digital screen may be, we're always surrounded by sound.

As someone who is often struck by the dystopic (god do I hate that word, but I'm using it anyway) nature of loud surroundings, I've had to confine myself lately to my room, blasting all sorts of white noises to keep from going insane. If the sound of someone crunching on a potato chip drives me mildly bonkers, then having someone sporadically cackle down the hallway has become my greatest foe.

Which means, at the moment, I'm balancing between good and bad - the sweetness of a few good hours of classtime studying subjects that don't make me want to rip my brains out, and the perversion of a crowded hallway, inundating my room with the raucous noise of disrespectful peers who never seem to do any work.

Goodness, I sound angry.

Well I guess I am.

Because with this being my last quarter as a true college student, I was hoping to finally have the experience I imagined when I was a high schooler. I dreamed of walking around a beautiful nature-filled campus, alone and in silence, peacefully taking in my surroundings and preparing myself to devote time and thought to work.

Instead I feel how I'm sure many do when they are freshmen, starting out in college: surrounded by people who don't seem to take anything seriously, and don't seem to value the tranquility that I covet.

Perhaps I am misjudging, however when it's 2 am on a weeknight and I hear someone blasting gangster rap, I can't help but feel compelled to believe the stereotype in my mind.

This was a disjointed post, probably because it's been so long since I've written on this poor neglected blog of mine. And whether or not anyone chooses to read my nonsensical thoughts, I'm glad I have this here, to rant and to rave, to lament and to enthuse.

So I'm going to try to use it again, less sparingly.

But for now: Bed... Unless my neighbors decide to run down the hallways screaming for the rest of the evening.