Perpetually Unfinished
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
 
I never seem to spend any time in my apartment anymore. I spent all of tonight at meetings-- went straight from the El after work to Kresge, and didn't make it back until 11:30 PM-- but that's nothing compared to last week. Between 4am Wednesday morning and 4am Monday morning, I was in my apartment for approximately 11 hours, and I was awake for maybe four of them. Thanks, of course, to the Wednesday-Thursday Springfield trip, and the Friday-Sunday trip to DC.

The DC trip was really quite an experience. I keep looking back on the Saturday IMF/World Bank protest, and the first thought that comes to mind is "It was really small." Which isn't fair at all, since the fact that the Sunday march was about 100 times larger shouldn't affect my interpretation of it, but I can't really help it.

Saturday was the reason I came, and Sunday was just an "Oh, that's convenient, we're in DC already" sort of thing-- I am very much a feminist at heart, but for some reason I've never really been driven to turn that into activism, although maybe I should be. Anyway, Saturday's was a good protest. There were a few thousand of us, and we flowed through the streets and drummed and shouted and challenged the neoliberal status quo, which is always a good thing. It wasn't a big step towards growing the movement we were talking about at dinner last week, the one that we need to revolutionize global trade and bring economic justice. But it was something; we were there. And I must admit that it stirred something deep inside me, the something that makes me an activist, to join my voice with the people around me and yell "This is what democracy looks like!" (Or, almost as good, "Our world is not for sale!" and "El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!") It fed my soul a little, I think.

But I don't think that's all I'm going to take from this trip. It was also an adventure that I shared with a number of really awesome people. And, by the end, I felt connected to many of them. It's not a feeling that I get to experience very often, so it meant a lot to me, in its own small way. Was it only a temporary connection, one which dissolved when I stepped out of the van, never to be regrasped? Or are there pieces of it that can be held onto? I really don't know. Feeling connected to people is such a precious commodity that I'm reluctant to let go of any opportunity I may have, although I don't know whether my desires are that relevant anyway.

In a lot of ways, I feel positively starved for closeness right now. I'm not sure that's a good thing. I mean, I'm glad it's driving me, because I can feel it pushing me to take risks that are out of chracter for me, and maybe they'll pay off. But I think it's kind of keeping me off-balance, uncentered. It pulls me away from being inherently satisfied with who I am as a person, and focuses me on what others think of me as I try to figure out whether friendships will develop. And I'm sure it makes me seem needy and hinders the natural development of said relationships.

It's hard. Life is hard. But it's pretty good, regardless. I have so much more to write, but I think it'll have to wait, since I should really get some sleep.
 
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Sunday, April 18, 2004
 
I'm going to try to write in here more. Even if that means writing at a time like now, when my thoughts are all over the place and I can't hope to come up with a coherent entry.

Work has been interesting. It's been a struggle, as I have to work hard to get my feet under me and start feeling at home, but Friday was a better day than earlier in the week and I might just be getting the hang of it. One thing I didn't expect is that one of the biggest challenges has not been directly related to the work, but is in fact being organized. I've had to develop filing systems and methods of organizing intricate to-do lists to keep track of dozens of tasks (30+ in my ffrist week); I've learned that people are very concerned with what they call a "workplan," which means I need to compile all the different things I'm being asked to accomplish and then list what tasks must be done to get me there, with timelines and target dates for each piece. I need to find ways to keep track of the tremendous amount of information that's been given to me over the last two weeks, and I need to make the connections in my head and have each section mentally accessible at any given time. It's rough, especially considering that, well, I'm Britt!

I did get my first paycheck today, though. That was cool. It only covered my first week of work, and was more than I make in a quarter at work-study. (Granted, I've always been really bad at getting the hours to reach my work-study limits, but still.) That's kind of freaky. It seems like I ought to feel very rich, but it's pretty much going to take two months of paychecks to save for the down payment on a car, and then I'll be paying in the ballpark of $500 a month for car payments and insurance. Ugh. Still, I should be grateful. I'd love to treat anyone to a drink (or for folks under 21, umm, ice cream?) with my first paycheck, just ask-- really!

I went to Flattop on Friday night. I've been to Flattop maybe 6-8 times in my years at Northwestern, and every time, I get 2-3 bowls of food. And of those many bowls of Flattop stirfry, over the course of many years, they've all been pretty much the same thing. Literally. And then last night, for some reason, I decided to go ahead and get it as a soup. And it was amazingly delicious-- the best meal I've ever had there. Why didn't I ever do that before? I knew that getting it as a soup was an option. If I had ever really thought about it, I know I would have concluded that it was worth a try. But I never did really think about it. I got up every time and made myself a bowl of what I always make, because I knew that I liked how it tasted, because that's what I always got at Flattop. I had all these options to create an infinite variety of new meals for myself, which is what some people like best about Flattop, and I always chose the same thing. Until yesterday. Somehow that strikes me as deeply symbolic of something. Why did I never even consider doing something a little different before?

I've made a little progress on what I so boldly asserted in my last entry. I'm kind of ridiculous, really, though. As much as I talked about boldly stepping forward and seizing control, I was still also kind of hoping to use the internet as a buffer, a crutch, a shortcut. To read the words of others and try to understand them without having to ask directly; to throw my own words out into space without having to commit to sharing them with anyone in particular, hoping they will be read and acted upon without me having to be accountable for telling someone "I'm shy and awkward and paranoid, just in case you were wondering how to interpret me." It's kind of pathetic, but I think it might be working a little. And that helps.

Oh, and do I have a link to my old site on this page anywhere?
 
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Tuesday, April 13, 2004
 
You know what? I'm so tired of not writing about how I really feel in here.

I leave so much out. I've been reading some journals lately that are about real feelings, and I look back at what I've written over the last year, and it's so... limited. I mean, there's a reason for that. A lot of the patterns that I got into in writing this happened in the fall, when I couldn't write about what almost completely dominated my feelings, because it wasn't mine to write about.

But now, I really sort of just want to say fuck it. That's not the situation anymore; I'm not doing wrong by anybody if I say what I want to say. The only reason not to write how I want to is because I'm worried about what other people will think. And why should I? I can't imagine anyone who particularly gives a damn about me reads this. If they did care, they'd be talking to me and hanging out with me instead of just reading my blog every once in a while. That's not the population I particularly care to consider.

You know, I'm done with classes. I'm months away from my graduation ceremonies. They say that college is the best time of your life, that the friendships you find there will last a lifetime. What will I have to carry with me? I have Alex-- my friendship with Alex is one of the very best things I've gotten from college, hands down. That's one. Maybe I'll keep in touch with Eileen over the years; maybe occasionally we'll actually talk about serious emotional issues. Or maybe not. Eileen is awesome, but that's one-and-a-half, at best.

I want more than that. I want the dorm friends from different years who slipped in and out of my life. I want the Peace Project friends who somehow everyone other than me can make.

I don't want it to be over. I don't want it to be too late. Sure, I'm done with classes, but I'll be in Evanston the rest of this year, and all of next year, and maybe in the Chicago area longer than that. Most of the people I know, the people I might be friends with again or for the first time, will be here next year-- or, hell, even three more years. We could make it work, I know we could.

I want to start anew, to seize the moment, to somehow transform my connections to people. I want to believe that where I stand with friendships says little about the kind of friend I am-- there were times when I had many friends, even times when I had several close friends; I just haven't been able to make them stick.

Last week, Naureen mentioned to me, as if noticing it for the first time, that it was odd that somehow I never made it into the Peace Project clique. I told her, "I have a bad habit of assuming that everyone hates me." It's a bit of an overstatement-- really, I have a bad habit of assuming that everyone feels mild dislike and annoyance towards me-- but more or less true. I try to avoid co-op parties, for example, unless someone specifically invites me, or else I'll arrive and there's not a soul who particularly wants me to be there. I feel terribly awkward forcing myself on people-- and so when I occasionally, in recognition of the debilitating effects of this, try to take the initiative in building friendships, I end up acting, unsurprisingly, terribly awkward.

I think that what it comes down to is that one of the most humiliating, painful things I can imagine is to want to be friends with someone who doesn't want to be friends with me, and to interact with them when we both know that. The spectre of that situation is constantly floating in the back of my head, limiting my actions, spinning my thoughts and plans in circles. If the other person takes the initiative, if I know they like me at least a little bit, then I can relax and let the friendship develop. But if they're not, if they're neutral towards me or just shy, all I can do is drop hints or leave tiny openings, and then if those aren't reciprocrated, to give up. And there just haven't been enough new people I've met in recent years who've made me feel like they actively want me as a friend.

I need more self-esteem. And I need to decide that sometimes I have to take the risk of the awkwardness of trying for friendship and being rejected if I want to reap the benefits of friendship. I've generally avoided risks for more than a year now, sticking to the comfort of my relationship with Alex and pretending I don't need anyone else... but that's just not emotionally sustainable.

I'm not ready to give up yet. Yes, I'm going to try to make friends at work, naturally. But I'm going to make one last charge at it here at Northwestern this spring, and damn the consequences. The possibility of a couple months of awkwardness weighed against the possibilities of years of friendship... I know what the right choice is. I'm twenty-two years old. It's about time I stop being afraid of shadows.
 
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Sunday, April 11, 2004
 
Well, here I am, finishing up the three-day weekend I got after my very first week of work. And damn, did I need it. That first week of work was exciting, it was amazing, it was fascinating-- but more than anything, it was overwhelming, and I'm not sure I could have managed a fifth day of it without my head exploding. Now, however, I'm all relaxed and decompressed, and ready to take Monday head-on.

It already feels-- well, not normal yet exactly, but like it will be normal sooner or later. I think I can do this. I think I can enjoy doing this. I'm way over my head at the moment, and if I still feel this way in a month I'm in big trouble-- but I have this quiet feeling that it will be okay. It's really frightening that this is the real world now, that how well I do the tasks set out before me will affect other people's lives in serious, fundamental ways. I'm nervous as hell about that. But I think I can do alright. It's far too early to know if I'll excel at this, but I've just got to trust that I'm smart enough and capable enough to get by without letting down the people who are counting on me.

And in the meantime... I have to figure out how I fit into the world of Northwestern now. On the one hand, in my head student activism here at Northwestern seems out of place in my new life. Yet in some ways, it feels more right now than ever before, and looking at what I've given three years of my life to, I don't want to stop working and fighting until I'm dragged away kicking and screaming. I don't know. I'll definitely be at least finishing out this year; then I guess I'll have to do some serious thinking...
 
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Sunday, April 04, 2004
 
Here I am in DC. They flew me here for 3 days of training (but I came in early to spend the weekend with my parents), so that starts tomorrow. Eek.

Then I start for real in Chicago on Thursday. Double eek.

I can tell already that there are going to be a ton of challenges ahead for me in this job, of all different kinds. I hope I can rise to meet them, stretch and grow.
 
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Nature attains perfection, but man never does. There is a perfect ant, a perfect bee, but man is perpetually unfinished. He is both an unfinished animal and an unfinished man. It is this incurable unfinishedness which sets man apart from other living things. For, in the attempt to finish himself, man becomes a creator. Moreover, the incurable unfinishedness keeps man perpetually immature, perpetually capable of learning and growing.
--Eric Hoffer





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