Perpetually Unfinished
Sunday, May 23, 2004
Just another strange week in this strange quarter. Pick a bit of it, try to write about it, lather, rinse, repeat...

There's a lot that could be written about Peace Project stuff, but maybe I'll do that tomorrow. Somehow it's always more tempting to write about me me me.

Life has been up and down, like always. The good and the bad, emotionally. I wish it wasn't almost summer; I am starting to feel the clock ticking, an external pressure and worry just when I am beginning to hold my own against the internal ones. It ratchets up the desire for more, when emotionally I ought to be focusing on feeling content.

In general, I don't come off much like who I really am, I think. So many times recently, people who are getting to know me better have been surprised about something or other that I'd never have thought they'd see as unlike me. I really wish that wasn't the case, because despite how insecure I am, I actually do feel like I'm a pretty good person and friend. My self-esteem isn't too bad-- it's just that I have very little confidence in my ability to convince anyone else that I'm a person worth knowing and caring about, because I feel like I come across as dull and awkward and annoying. So I worry that people don't like me, but it's not because I think they shouldn't like me, but because they have no reason to know that they ought to like me. I'm not insecure about who I am, but who I seem to be. Does that make sense? I end up feeling all this pressure, thinking, "I know so-and-so and I could be great friends. I'd like it for us to be close, and I feel pretty confident that he would too, if he knew what I was really like. But he doesn't know! Because it takes me fucking forever to warm up enough to people to really be myself! So I'm the only one who knows how nice it would be if we were good friends, and if I don't find a way to convince him of that, we never will be." Which is, of course, a recipe for awkward disaster. Or, at the very least, an extra obstacle to interacting comfortably and naturally.

I don't know. I've got to get better at this eventually, right? Recently I've been pushing myself more than I have in a while. It's hard to feel sure it's helping, since it's all so two-steps-forward-one-step-back, but I'm pretty sure it is. But my comfort level with people comes and goes in waves, I think, and I can't for the life of me figure out how or why. Sometimes I am uptight and nervous and analyze every moment of every little interaction; another day, or even in the same evening, I can be relaxed and comfortable and at ease, interacting with people and really feeling like friends even though the last time I talked to them I walked away convinced that they'd rather never have anything to do with me if it could be conveniently arranged. I wish I understood it better.

I went through many different moods at the co-op party last night. But during one of them, I remember feeling very strongly that I should just let go and love people without worrying if they'll love me back. (Is love the right word? I don't know; sometimes I feel like it is. I did at the time.) Maybe that's the way to go. I mean, outside of odd 20-minute moods, it's really hard to love someone and genuinely not care what they think of you; possibly it's impossible. But it's more about the focus, I guess. Less on me, and more on the people I care about. That's what I need.
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Monday, May 17, 2004
I have been so moody, recently. My emotions are all over the place, dragging me behind them like a fallen rider tangled in the reins of a runaway horse. I feel that battered sometimes, too. But only when I'm being overdramatic. (Unfortunately, that's far more often than it should be.)

I wrote a whole moody entry on Wednesday night, a few hours after bursting into tears in the girls' bathroom at Norris, before thinking better of posting it. It made me feel better to write it, but it wasn't necessarily the best thing to put online. It was all about how I always end up comparing myself with Naureen and feeling lousy and incompetent, but it came off sounding a lot more like I had a problem with her-- which I don't-- instead of talking about how my issues obviously have a lot more to do with myself. Perhaps I'll edit it at some point and put it in my journal, but I was far too swept up in the feelings that night to write anything other than an un-nuanced outpouring of emotion.

Then, tonight, I belatedly brought Kyle his birthday cupcakes and chatted for a little while, and then I was going to do some SCFC petitioning at PARC. But as I walked up to the front door, I found myself feeling utterly miserable and couldn't imagine going door to door talking to people for hours. So I fled to the benches by Fisk overlooking South Beach for a little while, staring out at the lake, trying to get a handle on my emotions. I want so strongly, sometimes. I want to love and be loved. I want connections with people, deep powerful friendships. And for god's sake, I just want wanting to stop messing with my heart and mind so that I can function like a normal human being.

After a few minutes of sitting on the bench, feeling lonely, I sort of impulsively decided that if I wasn't going to get petitions signed that night, I wasn't going to go home and spend hours moping and overthinking, either. So I stopped by Sheppard and called up to Lexi's room, but she wasn't there. Then I gave Peter a call, and ended up spending several hours up in his room, reading a little but also talking quite a lot. It was a completely random thing to do, and it was really, really good for me. It was just very easy to feel perfectly comfortable hanging around and talking about all sorts of silly things with Peter. I left with a smile on my face and my thoughts and feelings settled down where they belong. Now if they'd only stay there...
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Tuesday, May 11, 2004
I should be working on my Protest article right now. I actually have a couple free hours before bed, which seems so rare these days, and so I ought to be putting them to some productive use: the Protest article, or maybe even, god forbid, finishing cleaning my room. (Hey, I got it like 65% clean this past weekend-- who could ask for anything more?)

But instead, I feel like writing. Somehow I've started thinking in journal entries again, in sentences and paragraphs, like I used to. And now I've got all these thoughts and feelings connected in strings waiting to pour out of me, and I can't help but write.

Yet I'm too wedded to coherence. I have a thousand things I want to write, yet I'm mentally arranging and re-arranging them, trying to come up with a logical flow, a theme, an entry. It's the voice inside me that's always trying to order and make sense of how I'm feeling so that I can understand who I am. I resist throwing my thoughts onto the page like spaghetti up against the wall, because then I would end up staring at the wall for hours, trying to figure the significance of why each piece landed where it did. My neverending stream of thoughts pushes me to be conscious of who I am, but sometimes it intereferes with that process, too.

See? I'm overthinking my overthinking.

But I'm too tired now to find coherence, the strands of meaning that tie together how I'm feeling tonight. So I'll grit my teeth and just be random. It always ends up that way, anyway.

Our bill passed ASG's student services committee tonight-- step number one, and probably the worst is over now until a week from Wednesday, when the whole Senate votes and everything's on the line. I'm calming down a little, and the knots in my stomach are loose, lazy ones, instead of the tight tenseness of the last 24 hours or so. I still can't help but be nervous and on edge until it successfully passes, but now there's only 9 days to go.

I am moody, these days. I waver between feeling isolated and connected, and it can change from hour to hour. I feel like I'm floating around in limbo, and it's merely a question of whether I mind it or not at any given moment. I am often happy and grateful; yet usually, I'm yearning for more.

I have so many IM exchanges, and so few good conversations in person. Eileen thinks that it has to do with her, but she's not the only one. I love IMs, and they do help you to connect, to some extent. They can make people into an integral part of your life even though it's completely inconvenient to see them face-to-face very often, and let you share so much of the minutiae that being friends is really all about. They can pull you closer to someone when it might not otherwise happen.

But they can only go so far. They cannot communicate the tone of someone's voice, or the look in their eyes, or their body language. You can share a lot sometimes, but there is always something missing. And I feel that lack.
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Sunday, May 09, 2004
How is it 10:30 already? I was going to get so much done tonight... but then I was in one of my indecisive moods, so my grocery shopping trip took forever, and I didn't finish dinner until 9:30. (It was a very good dinner, though. A stirfry-- it occured to me for the first time while making it that perhaps they call it a stirfry because you stir the vegetables as they fry. I'm a bright one.)

It's been a good day, though, despite its early start. I had to get up at 7am to go attend an event for work. I wouldn't complain about that on its own-- the organizers' schedules are so insane, and I'm constantly conscious that I've got the cushy job in the office-- but I was kind of disappointed that it meant I couldn't/shouldn't go to the co-op party last night. It's rare enough for me to actually want to go to those, but I'm finally starting to get the sense that I'd have people to talk to and enjoy myself with there if I did go. But I knew that it would be very unwise because of having to get up so early this morning. (In fairness, I was pretty tired as well, tired enough that when I did go to bed at midnight I was asleep in five minutes.)

But this afternoon made up for that. I played frisbee for almost three hours, with Sohier and Elysha at first and then with Pat as well and then Kyle and his friend from home. And I had a really good time. Despite my instinctive perception that I'm horrible at anything athletic and/or involving hand-eye coordination, I managed pretty decently, especially once I got into a groove. That's not really important in any objective sense, but only because if I'm constantly self-conscious, I can't relax and enjoy myself.

Today I could, and I did. The sun burst out intermittently when it wasn't obscured by clouds, and every time it did, I got the same big smile on my face-- I love sunshine, I can't explain it! And it felt very comfortable and natural to be enjoying a Saturday afternoon with these people-- these friends? Maybe.

At some point, when we were out on Deering, the goal was no longer to throw the frisbee accurately to eachother, but to throw it long so that the boys could sprint after it and chase it down. As I watched them run and lunge and laugh with these big grins on their faces, a powerful feeling of warmth kept bubbling up inside me. It was wonderful to watch them having such a good time. Kyle, especially-- I do get concerned about him sometimes, with the stress he constantly takes upon himself, and while I know that I don't know him well enough yet to understand his moods or when there is actual cause for concern, that doesn't stop me from worrying that he'll fill his time with have-to-do's instead of taking the time to be happy in the ways he deserves. So I loved seeing him there today, playing and relaxing and smiling for hours, and I realize that I don't need to worry so much, because somehow he does usually find time to enjoy himself on top of the rest of it, too. I don't know how he manages to live life the way he does, but he's a pretty amazing, capable guy, and I really shouldn't be surprised.

But it wasn't just Kyle. Pat was having a blast, too, and it's hard to watch him at play without smiling. Kyle says Pat's like his friend Ricky from home, and I think I understand. There is someone like Pat in most groups of friends, I think-- the one where you mention something he's done (because they are always doing things that people talk about when they're not around) and everyone shakes their head and says, "That's Pat," but they get a big affectionate smile on their face thinking about him. You can't help liking Pat-- at least, I can't. He is certainly unique, but in an endearing way, and I got the same warm fuzzy feelings watching him be silly and happy as I did watching Kyle.

And Sohier, too. I have to admit that I didn't like him that much when I first met him... but he is definitely growing on me. I think he is a good guy at heart; he is just more guarded about it, maybe, instead of that unabashed openness about caring for causes and people that I appreciate in most guys I'm fond of. More of a traditionally-socialized male, perhaps? Anyway, I'm glad to get the chance to know him better post-trip.

Elysha was napping during this bit of the afternoon that I'm talking about. And somehow, those affectionate sorts of feelings always come much more naturally when it's guys I care about, compared to girls. I'm trying to work on that, though, because I know I need to. And I do like Elysha. And I think that maybe with girls it's just more important for me to really get to know them and get used to them.

Speaking of girls-- a whole bunch of folks met for dinner and discussion on Thursday, and Lexi gave me a big hug when she saw me and apologized for not responding to the e-mail I'd sent her on Sunday or Monday. And I realized that the same old stories as always had been playing quietly in my head for the past week; if I express interest in hanging out with someone, and they don't respond, it must mean that that don't really want anything to do with me, but they're trying to save both of us the awkwardness of talking about that fact directly. It's silly, I know, but it's incredibly persistent. It's been true before, and so I can't stop my instinct that it must be true always. But of course it wasn't true in this case, and probably it rarely is. Maybe eventually I will learn that.

I have so many people on my mind these days. I worry about Eileen, but I feel so powerless. It is hard to know that a friend is sad and struggling with things, and the natural reaction is to want to make them happier, because you care about them. But I'm not sure I can do that. As Alex has dealt with the terrible things that life's thrown at him, it's certainly been painful for me to know he's suffering. But although obviously I couldn't fix the root of the problem, there was still the comfort for both of us that I could help him feel a little better for the moment most of the time. With Eileen, I'm not sure I can. I don't think I'm important enough in the grand scheme of her life in the first place, and even if I was, I don't know if there'd be much I could do anyway. But knowing that doesn't stop me from fretting and wondering about how I might be able to help, even though I never seem to come up with anything.

My goodness, time is just flying by, isn't it? Tonight was going to be my writing night, but I have much more of it on my agenda. I wanted to work on an article for the Protest, and then I thought I might start a letter to Katie Sharkey. Through much ado over the last nine months or so, we've finally reached a place where we might be able to reconnect as friends again, after all these years and the events in them. But she's all the way in Virginia, and very busy. I get the feeling that a letter-- on paper, in the mail-- might be the sort of thing that's called for at this point. Now I just need to get around to writing it.

Anyway, I could ramble on forever, I think, but I really ought to stop. I know I should be writing shorter (and more coherent) entries, but more often. I'm feeling pretty positive about my connections with people right now, though, far more than I was a mere three weeks ago. It's all still somewhat tenuous, and I know that nearly everything could slip away. But the trajectory is up, and forward, and that feels good.
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Monday, May 03, 2004
I had an awesome fondue party at my apartment last night, with the folks who went on the DC trip the previous weekend.

Not long after we got back from DC it suddenly hit me that if I seized the moment, I could invite almost a dozen people over to my apartment to hang out, and it would make perfect sense in a way it probably never would again. Add that to my giddy desire to have a fondue party, dating back more than a year, and somehow, it just happened.

The fondue itself, in the logistical sense, went nearly flawlessly, which I am pleased about beyond words. The cheese fondue and the chocolate fondue tasted really good. There was enough for everyone. There were enough dippers for everyone. (There were also, amazingly, enough fondue forks for everyone who wanted one at any given time, despite the fact that of the eleven of us, ten were there for at least part of the evening.) There was a sufficient variety of dippers to impress and please people, and everyone had things they liked to eat. All of the dippers were close enough to the proper consistency to (mostly) stay on the forks. Other than those few minutes when I started to believe that the cheese stuck to the bottom of the pot would never come off so we could get the chocolate in, it was practically perfect. I felt like an amazingly competent party host, and I was very proud.

But as cool as that was for me... it wasn't really what the party was about. It was about a whole group of people sitting around, none of us knowing the others too well, and rambling and laughing until the early hours of the morning. It was about being loose enough to tease eachother and take some ridicule ourselves. It was about the awkward silences that keep resurfacing every once in a while when a group isn't too used to interacting together yet, and about riding them out and moving on. It was about kisses on the cheek when the dippers fell off in the fondue pot, and the boys playing with their spears, and staring contests, and trailing off into incoherence by 2am but still not leaving. It was about a feeling of comfort and peace sharing my living room with these people.

It wasn't anything profound. It wouldn't be weird if we end up getting together more often, but it also wouldn't be weird if we never coalesce as a group again. We were just a bunch of folks spending a Saturday night together because it happened to work out that way. But even though it wasn't much, it was plenty for me. I haven't enjoyed relaxing and being silly in a group of people like that in probably two years. I would be sad if it all ends here, if not because of the experiences so far, then because of the potential.

There are groups, and then there are individuals. Kyle and I had a good talk on IM last night after the party, and it makes me happy to know that some people are willing to bear with me despite my awkward bumbling through the process of trying to become friends. I think there is a lot we have in common, although he may not know it yet. Then there is Lexi, with whom I probably don't have much in common at all, but she is a very sweet girl and I'd like to get to know her better anyway. Seema is very nice as well, but she is graduating, and so my heart, naturally, holds back. I'm not sure how the others would fit with me on their own; but I know they fit very well in the group, in general. And you need some of both.

I'm rambling, now. It's okay. I'm just glad that every once in a while I get frustrated enough with the status quo that I wake up and start pushing myself, taking risks, doing the things that scare me. Because I am happy with where it takes me, even if I wobble and am unsteady along the way. It's easy to feel stable when you're not moving.
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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

Malavika (and the rest of The Quitters)

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