November 2016 – Part II

Friday, November 18th
… Everything is falling apart. The great deconstruction has begun, and I don’t even know why I am doing anything anymore. To forget that, I’ve been medicating myself with The L Word, and now I have to be back in the real world, and I don’t know how to act. Everything feels unreal, and all I can think about is me, me, me. So self-centered…

Sunday, November 20th
… I hate the dark. I can’t believe I forgot how much I hate the dark. … Maybe it’s my winter blues again, but I’m fed up with obsessing about sex & relationship. … I look around & no one in my circle of acquaintances has a functioning relationship. The majority of the people I know lose themselves in the relationship or stay with people who makes them feel insecure & anxious. So far I can see that relationships are not only pain in the ass but also a huge energy-sucking distraction. …

Monday, November 21st
… Along with the will to push forward with my plan despite all the uncertainty is the desire to hide & run away for another degree. The desperation shouting, I’ll stay in Germany! The instinct for immediate security warring against the intuition for risks. Risks I can even consider taking because of my privileges.
I realized that I don’t know humans. I don’t understand them, what is going through their minds, what makes them do certain things.
All these years, I’ve looked at them through the lens of all the narratives I’d gobbled down. But the people in the books are simpler. Less conflicted. They change, or adapt to change, easily. They have two or three big traits that define them – bold, funny, soft-hearted, nice, aloof, insecure, etc. – and none of them has a dusty collection of tiny characteristics that are clumped & dumped together like abandoned toys. They are single-minded in their pursuit, so sure of who they are. They get over traumas easily without having a relapse. They never have socially awkward conversations (unless being awkward is one of their traits) with strangers/acquaintances/friends. Other people trust & like them so easily that I am green with envy. They are rarely lazy. Sometimes there are genuinely nice characters whose niceness doesn’t vanish no matter what is done to them.
They are not humans. They are created by humans as some sort of idols, similar enough to humans but ultimately too good to be real. None of them are messy, disgusting, abhorrent, conflicted about the smallest and the biggest thing.
It’s not easy to be loyal and vulnerable. It’s difficult as fuck to stay true to yourself or even to find yourself. It’s hard to escape the feeling of being an outsider, warranted or not. It’s probably normal to hate the world & everyone in it, because they all sicken you without any reason. We think about, like, and do certain disgusting things. We run away or medicate our pains a lot. We blame other people, we victimize ourselves (although watching Jenny Schecter has shown me how fucking selfish & revolting that be), we become irrational on regular basis.
Goddess, what fucking messes we all are.

Tuesday, November 22nd
The people in my head are translucent paper-people, and I don’t know how to turn them into solid, flesh-and-blood people.
… I tend to be pretty unforgiving towards people – esp. those whom I want to like. Once they are inside my heart, I don’t care as much, but until then…

Thursday, November 24th
My head is a cluttered place; a bleeding wound. I vomit other people’s words out of my ears.
… Being vulnerable – being authentic – is hard. Being self-compassionate is uncomfortable. Engaging with my fears feels like I’m going mad.
… I crave certainty like a drug addict, and yet at the same time, I harbor a disdain for the society’s rules. I want chaos. I already am chaos, but then I lose my head, certain that I will never find my way back to reality.
… I look at the reading log for this year, and 80% of the books I’ve read this year were escapist reads. And I spent a lot of time in front of my laptop, watching movies and TV series. I have been emotionally numbing myself the whole year.
And maybe I haven’t been honest with myself, either. I am happy alone, but at the same time I feel like no one is going to love me. I do want to write, but I am terrified I suck at it. I do like reading, but I am constantly ashamed of my choice of reading materials. I do practise the mindset of enough, but scarcity creeps up on me again and again. I still measure my proud moments against what other people would be impressed by. I am still loathe to disappoint my teachers and professors.
… It’s difficult to see myself as I am, because there are a slew of things I want to become, but can’t do until I accept my current self. Humans are messy and ugly and always, always struggling. I want to create art that captures that struggle. I want to be honest. I want to stop playing a saint and just be my selfish, quirky, lazy, intent, struggling self.

Saturday, November 26th
… [I was at a poetry evening with a friend.] It was held in a studio place with a bit of run-down, starving-artist minimalist look. The people who came – there were many, and we were one of the early ones, so we had an ample time to observe them all – were very diverse in background & looks, but they all knew each other & we didn’t know these people, plus the music was too loud anyway, so we just sat there and looked around a lot. After an hour or so of socializing, some people read aloud their poems, and I liked having this read-and-share movement (also because it gave us a legitimate reason to sit around & not talk), but the poems… and the poets… they didn’t resonate with me at all. It’s definitely a matter of taste, but I couldn’t understand even the vaguest outline of their poems and it sounded like a string of words that conjured up all sorts of weird jumble of images – sexual, guttural, human waste. The theme or the form themselves weren’t disturbing, but what bothered & shook me the most was that I couldn’t feel the writer’s authenticity in their writings (except for one piece). The words felt empty, the whole presentation a cliché, and the art dishonest.
It is true that I am not into this twentysometing’s retro, hip & broke(n), artsy scene. The kind where the past seems to have been appropriated and the past authenticity turned into a grotesque cliché. Scenes where the said twentysomethings smoke pot, talk about having beautiful souls, and sprout Hemingway-esque poems (in the sense that they are vaguely misogynist and so male). … A year ago or less, I would have been intimidated into believing that an artist has to be like that way to be a “true” writer/poet. Maybe I’m being too hasty in my judgment/condemnation, but that’s the impression I had when we left the party. …

Tuesday, November 29th
… Does no one feel like this? Does no adult remember the emptiness? Does no on-the-cusp-of-adult experience this hollow space we call “self”?
… I am very rigid in my ideas of what I want when it comes to work. … Am I being too picky, so drenched in the privilege that I have my sight trained on too high? Or am I so afraid of working that I reject everything, thus deluding myself that I am “looking”, but at the same time still leaving the status quo untouched? …
I act and act and act out whatever I can get my hands on, because if I were to let myself be authentic, I’d probably sprout off some incoherent sentences at random, grin toothily, and scurry away.
… I just hate, hate, hate, HATE dealing with my emotions – there’s a reason why I’ve been numbing them for so long. I am not good at anything; this knowledge hits me like a brick on the back of my head, because my fragile ego had constructed this reassurance precisely to keep myself from this black-out. … And worst of all, I am disinterested in so many things that I can almost hear my neuron pathways dying off. It’s not that I find everything uninspiring or boring; I just don’t have any subject that I would dig into its depth to the center of the earth. …

Wednesday, November 30th
… Winter is the time of the year which I recoil from in the beginning and whose darkness I embrace eventually. Instead of brightening the room as much as possible, I am content with a flickering candlelight limiting my view to only what is right in front of me. Instead of feeling grateful for the technological advancement that allows us comfort (hello – radiators??!), I am annoyed that the city never truly sleeps, that it never lets its occupants recuperate.
I think that always being in search of my identity might be my identity. Perhaps because I had to learn the lesson about the instability of identity earlier than usual, and with more force than usual. Playing the various personas that are probably a part of me, all the while frantically searching for the core of my self, even though I know in the back if my mind that there is no such thing. But the emptiness – or the fragmentation – how to bear if without going mad?
… When we talked about “identity” in my Cultural Studies lecture, I encountered ideas/theories that opposed the Enlightenment notion of a core self. Certainly, how we perceive ourselves change a lot over the years, and I daresay it is influenced by external circumstances… but maybe it is a choice, you know? The characteristics that you choose to let go, and the ones you choose to hold on to. There are of course going to be parts of yourself that you are unaware of.
I feel so conflicted. … I do want to change, because I think change can lead to growth… but a part of me mourns the pieces I will inevitably have to leave behind, pieces that I have to let go in order to embrace new ones. Perhaps a human’s capacity for contradictions is limited. Another part of me, though, is terrified of both letting go and letting in. That part just wants to bury myself in the ground and talk myself into being content where I am right now.

November 2016 – Part I

Wednesday, November 2nd
… It’s strange, but I sense some learning curves (or growth spurts, or whatever-) some of my friends are going through. Things that you don’t realize you are in the middle of even though you are up to your neck in it. Freeing yourself from parental expectations struggling to stay vulnerable; recognizing that there will always be certain space between humans that can’t be bridged; learning to live with uncertainty instead of seeking certainty. …

Thursday, November 3rd
… I go to the trees when my head feels too big and time is slithering through my fingers like water. Gazing up at the ancient lives who have witnessed events from the far past and who will live to see the far future. My head shrinks back and I am enveloped by the life bigger and vaster than I could ever be. Smelling in the damp earth, my inner animal stops growling and settles back, content for now. …

Friday, November 4th
I decided to follow my heart and be a writer, but I haven’t been writing.
I knew the road wasn’t going to be suddenly smooth, and I have to make the decision again and again, every day. It’s hard to find the heart, and a lot harder to keep it, because it’s helluva easy to lose it.
The human interaction between fictional characters (movies, books, etc.) – Erich Fromm was spot-on. They are imitations of the real thing, and we turn to them because it’s easier, more accesible, and less risky. But they also don’t linger. These quick bursts of warmth and humor are fleeting and they leave you feeling emptier than before, thus starting and enabling a vicious cycle. …

Saturday, November 5th
… I feel lost. Lost and scared, even though I know what I want to do. The decision to trust my heart was just the first step, perhaps the highest point for a long time to come. I did say I was descending (or ascending, or maybe it’s just straight ahead) towards madness.

Sunday, November 6th
Connection/Disconnection. Lately, that’s all I’ve been thinking about. That precious moment of shared human-ness, striking that space in us that is full of longing for belonging and of the need for connection. …
But also the disconnection – the dissonance in the melody of relationship, the surface of ego demanding spotlight. It’s time to step back, take care of our inner child, and ready ourselves for another meeting on the level of the spirits. …

Monday, November 7th
I am scared. I am scared shitless about the future. … I am afraid of turning out to be a mediocre writer, although I don’t see what’s wrong with that – perhaps it’s the social pressure of finding the dream job right away, the idea of our jobs representing who we are. … I realized that I don’t have many – any? – concrete, tangible fears. I am afraid of abstract things such as the future/uncertainty, and also of not being understood/accepted/loved by other people, but I can’t think of scary experiences in my life – for me, it’s a perpetual, long-term fear, not a moment of fear bursting into a flame and extinguishing itself just as quickly. I don’t want to play the victim card again (but I probably am), but when you have already experienced being an outsider, when you have already gone through several identity crises, perhaps your fear of spiders or operations cease to have such a huge influence on you.
In my melodramatic moments, I fancy myself an orphan – which is a slap in the faces of all the people who really do not have family, or parents who are so bad that being an orphan would be the better option. What I had refused to see, however, was how many people were trying to be my temporary family in small ways. But I never really let them, priding myself over my emotional independence, telling myself that while they were nice, I didn’t need them. Then, being a hypocrite that I am, I bemoan the fact that I am alone with my actual family far away.
Why do we isolate ourselves? Why do we push people away? Why do we punish ourselves?

Tuesday, November 8th
… I was feeling discouraged, and I did what might not have been such a good idea: I called Mom. My security blanket had been ripped off me, I felt hypersensitive and raw all over – like everyone was staring at me & judging me -, so I wanted to slip back to the role of a child and seek the comfort of my mother’s lap. Only she could not provide it anymore. So I start keeping things from her, and from my family. …

Friday, November 11th
… I don’t know how to love people whom I can’t see, touch or hear. I am constantly seeing only parts of their lives, and call me a perfectionist/purist/extremist, but I can’t love like that. I want the physicality of love or nor love at all.
… Is family a structure in which the members need each other or want each other? Is it both? Or neither? Or does it depend on the individual family?
… Maybe I don’t feel confident enough yet to face my family’s opinions. Maybe, one day, I will be able to comfortably share all of myself without worry or fear or anxiety. Until then, I’ll keep my life to myself.

Saturday, November 12th
Behind being torn about the future lies a fountain of feeling inadequate and the lack of my belief in myself. The fear of not knowing myself. Not trusting myself to be strong enough to survive the world outside of the academic bubble.
… I am afraid to trust my words, as if they are an entity to themselves, as if I could mangle them if I touch them. Maybe that’s because they seem to just pour out of me when I enter this zone of beauty – no, of life – and thus seem sacred. It must sound very pretentious to say that my writing seems sacred, but it’s not the really the words themselves; it’s the experience. …

Monday, November 14th
… I think it’s our human need to be understood & accepted that leads us to tell the people in our lives all sorts of things. We want to unload our most selfish, self-indulgent, and shameful thoughts on them, in hopes that they will absolve us from our burden, so that we can be light-hearted again, just like children after having confessed that it was us who has broken that glass jar.
But humans aren’t gods. We aren’t all-accepting, all-forgiving. We are often impatient and pre-occupied with our own lives. Other people unburdening on us feels intrusive –
I know all this and yet – and yet I find myself wanting to revert to being a kid and dump all of my problems on someone else’s shoes. The first person I think of is my mother, of course, perhaps also b/c I’m reading To the Lighthouse for my class and I am fascinated & daunted by Mrs Ramsay. …

First Year Is Over

I haven’t been blogging in the past six months or so. Every now and then, the desire to keep my life private creeps up on me and makes me hate the sight of my blog, which has been up and running for more than three years now (a fact that always manages to dumbfound me).

What happened in those six months is largely irrelevant now. I visited family, met old friends and made new ones. Learned a skill or two, forgot a thing or three or fifteen. I wrote diligently in my diary, re-read a lot of old favorites, watched TV series and movies whenever I could.

A semester has passed. Instead of feeling smarter, I am filled with a mixture of dread and indignation at the realization that I am very ignorant and there are so many things I don’t know about, and there won’t be enough time to learn about them all. (Also, my brain wouldn’t support me in this endeavor anyway.)

I think in the first semester I was filled with motivation and the self-conscious need to prove that I made the right choice. So I purposefully overbooked my schedule, struggled to keep up the course reading (at least 100 pages a week, which, admittedly, isn’t a lot), ended up skipping quite a few classes, and my attention was always trying to be everywhere when really, everyone knows I suck at multi-tasking.

I decided to try a different approach in the second semester. I cut my class load in half, made sure I had enough time to prepare classes and go to library and plan large assignments weeks ahead. This approach left me more relaxed and allowed me to go in-depth with the subjects. At least, it did in the first few weeks. Then life happened, my time and effort were needed elsewhere, too, and I ended up falling behind on the preparations, and the deadlines for the big assignments had already snuck up on me. So, re-prioritization happened, then exams happened, then the semester was over.

Mentally speaking, I had my annual winter blues in the first semester, but on the whole I was so happy to be alive and to be studying what I wanted.
How fast humans get used to being comfortable, and seek for more “comfort”! I am still happy to be alive and doing what interests me. But I am also filled with self-doubt even though external evidence suggests otherwise, and I have to think about what happens after my B.A. degree, and whether I want to have an exchange semester. This feeling of inadequacy is probably a universal human feature.

Of course, by writing only about my academic life, I am not telling the full story. Or at least a fuller story, for no one – not even me! – can tell everything about my life. I started growing my own herbs. I’ve been good at taking care of myself, and I am learning to be more accepting with self-care and self-love.
When it comes to other human beings, my growth undergoes more rollercoaster-like changes. I often find myself in loneliness. It is not a loneliness that seeks a specific role to be fulfilled. I am not aching for a concrete person, either. It is a more general loneliness, the kind we can rarely escape from. Even when we are connected with other people, there are parts of us that feel disconnected, estranged, neglected. This is of course totally normal since we are individuals and all differ from each other. This spot of loneliness becomes a danger zone when it begins to spread and take over our perception of everyone and us. Its toxins are uncertainties and crippling doubts. Is the person really with me because s_he wants to be? Are they tolerating my presence just because they are bound by social norms? Would they meet me on their own volition if all social duties were stripped away from them?
The “dangerous” part of deciding to be authentic is that you always run the risk of people glancing at the vulnerable, real you and carelessly moving on, because they decided you don’t look interesting. This isn’t really anyone’s fault. No one can force anyone to like or be interested in anyone. But especially when you are not sure who you are yet, when you find that you don’t have strong opinions about many things because you realized that you know so little and you want to be open-minded, having your plainness confirmed can be devastating. Even though you resolve not to let anyone’s opinion determine your self-worth, your wound still bleeds.

Maybe we all of us are lonely beings, and our imaginations of a tightly knit community of people who understand us perfectly and love us tenderly are just that – imaginations. Even if you were lucky lucky lucky enough to be part of such a group, sometimes time and distance place even the strongest bonds under strain. Maybe this is why we are so much more vocal on social media about our relationships with others. The photos, the updates, the comments, the tags – they all hint at such fun, heaps of intimacy, best friends foreva.
Have I become a cynic who doesn’t believe in any relationship anymore? Actually, if possible, I’d like to think I am developing a more positive attitude towards human relationships. Maybe the reason we focus so much on our relationships with others is to escape from the fact that we are lonely beings at core. As much as we might like someone, we cannot understand everything about them, or maybe even accept all of their faults. We’d like to believe our own pretty words when we tell someone that they will always be special to us. We take better care of others in hopes that they will in turn take care of us. At the end of a day, we simply might not have the energy to take care of anyone.

Does your heart grow with exertion or is a heart’s capacity more or less limited?

Moods and blogging and living

I haven’t written anything for this blog in an awfully long time. I hadn’t completely disappeared as I write (or try to, at least) every day over at http://www.365pagesof2014.wordpress.com even if it’s a sentence or two.

It still astonishes me that my blog gets a couple of hits every other day or so. It amazes me more that people follow my blog in hopes of… of what, actually? I would like to know. So please be so kind and help me make a better blog out of this string of long, rambling posts! I appreciate it. :)

Of course, I can’t promise I will do whatever you want to… mostly because I’m terribly moody. Some months I am full of fresh ideas and my brain keeps whirring until I write them down and mostly I’m totally pleased with what I have achieved. Other times I have to struggle to get each word just right (right now is one of those times).
I look back at posts I have written ten months ago and wonder at how energized and restless I felt at that time. I still remember my excitement over choosing books for my Wednesday Reading Wishlists, the way my fingers flew over my laptop to make a way for all the words tripping over themselves to get out.

Lately? I’m more… subdued is the right word, I suppose. Maybe it’s the winter’s blues, maybe it’s the cold or the exams I didn’t really study for… I feel like my heart is trying to bust its way out but the rest of me refuses to move. My brain doesn’t want to think. My eyes don’t want to see. My arms are heavy and my whole body weighs me down.

Is it because I’m oh-this-close to saying goodbye to my family and our permanent living situation forever? It does terrify me deep down, this living alone thing. I can be very responsible if I want to be… but again, it depends on my moods. Some days I have to drag myself to do stuff and often I’m too self-indulgent and I just lie around doing nothing.

I’ve always had difficulty to live in and enjoy the present. I don’t know why I have to feel impatient and restless all the time. This way, I also get distracted a lot. Especially lately. What the heck is happening?

Plain Truth – I

Plain Truth is my 6th Jodi Picoult book, yet the thoroughness of her research (at least seemingly thorough – I’m not an expert on the Plain people by any means) and the realism of her story continue to amaze me, even though I expect them by now from her.

I bought this book almost thirty months ago because it had the name “Jodi Picoult” on it. I started reading this book a couple of days ago because I was interested in the way the Amish lived – without electricity, keeping to themselves, feeding themselves and living in a simple way. It’s like Sarah Fisher said in the book. “Normal” people show up one day at Amish farms, thinking living Plain is the solution to all their problems. I have no clue whether this is true. But sometimes I do, too, long for the simplicity of life. (But there’s no way I’m becoming Amish because I’m secure in being atheist.) I wonder what it will be like to live and work in a farm, sustaining myself without relying on the world’s heavy and tangled web of market economy. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid of growing up, of taking my valid place in the society that I wish all choices were taken off my hands. Maybe, if I worked all day and had no time to question and analyze my values and future plans to death. Unfortunately, there are two problems following this thesis: 1. Given how I am, I’d still continue to think and express doubts about what I am doing is correct. 2. I’d still be no closer to the answer than before.

I’m not going through existential crisis this time, because I already did and left it behind me. Now I’m just constantly trying to squelch the fear that I might not succeed. By succeed I don’t mean becoming a top-notch lawyer like Ellie Hathaway in the novel (I’m still appalled that she got rapists and child molesters acquitted in order to become a successful defense lawyer.).  I just want to have a healthy job with reasonably pay and secure future. The rest -being happy, spiritually grounded and morally healthy- I can take on or, at least it requires hard work from me but with input there is output. I’m just worried that I think too highly of myself because people praise me based on my grades. In a society where having good grades implies that you are smarter and somehow “better” than your fellow students, I fear of being overcome with Hochmut. Being able to boast knowledge about atomic physics does not give you the right to look down on people who don’t know about what you consider basic knowledge. People -especially the Korean adults (maybe other Asian societies, too)- consider your value as a person heavily based on your academic accomplishments. But some people just aren’t meant to be academics and analyze ancient texts, pore over books and write long papers using fancy words. Their strength lies elsewhere, and who says we have the right to put mental labor above physical one?

Indirectly, the book Plain Truth helped me realize this because the Fisher family and also Samuel Stoltzfus taught me what being humble truly means, and it has nothing to do with denying your accomplishments and everything to do with not placing yourself mentally on a higher level due to the said accomplishments.  Wikipedia defines humility as selflessness, as egolessness. I call it equality.