Perpetually Unfinished
Monday, June 28, 2004
 
Moving: still crazy. I've still got a few more days before I can catch my breath and feel settled in and really get a chance to sit and think and write.

Still, I've of course got to give my obligatory two cents on Fahrenheit 9/11:

And so for all its many, many, many flaws, I'm glad Fahrenheit 9/11 came out and is reaching the people it has and will. I think it'll help us as activists in doing the work that we believe in. Only a little, maybe, but I'll take what I can get. Like I argued back during the Moore-or-Chomsky debates (ah, how naive we were to think we'd actually get ASG funding!), we may not like the way he does it, but Moore's way is a way that reaches people and starts them on the path towards where we want them to be. So I call it a good thing.

Also of note-- we have a disturbing, freakishly large moth in the apartment I'm moving out of. I wish I hadn't already moved my camera, so I could take a picture and show you. It's creepy.

Okay. More eventually. But I'll have no internet after tomorrow until Saturday, so don't expect much too soon.
 
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Friday, June 25, 2004
 
Found a way to host pictures! Since I know you're all dying to see graduation pictures:














Okay, more later...
 
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Wednesday, June 23, 2004
 
I've been pretty busy over the last week or so, and probably will be for the next week until the move's done. It really shouldn't take up that much time, but I seem to have an amazing ability to make tasks fill up as much time as they can possibly take, and since I don't have to be completely moved until next Thursday, I imagine I won't be done until Wednesday.

More thoughts on graduation: I saw so many familiar faces in those black gowns and caps, more than I'd expected at a school this size. Sure, there were plenty of strangers, but everywhere I turned, I saw someone I'd shared a dorm with, took a class with, interacted with through our extracurricular activities. That doesn't mean I found friends, though. No, on Friday I bumped into someone whose face I recognized from various interactions, but who I thought of as that-WoCo-guy for most of the evening before I heard his name; I sat a couple seats down from him, and ended up sharing most of my conversation with a girl he knew casually, Amy, who I met that evening. On Saturday, I lined up next to a guy who I'd taken an 8-person history seminar with, and chatted with him during the proceedings, but still needed to look down at his handy-dandy name card to remember his name. I just don't know many people well in my year, I guess, and of those I know a little, so few are in CAS and even fewer in history. This is why Eileen should never have been allowed to graduate a year early.

Oh, but speaking of history, my family got into town on Thursday just in time for the history department reception. Some of the profs I'd hoped to introduce my family to weren't there, but I did end up getting to observe my dad and Professor McCauley having an in-depth conversation of literally almost 5 minutes about suicide in China. It just goes to show you that anyone can find common ground. (Note: Prof McCauley=Chinese history professor; my dad=suicide prevention policy guy at SAMHSA.)

Lessee... what else? Went to the Chicago Board of Ed meeting today. It pissed me off. There are few things more frustrating than having some people in an office building making decisions, and those decisions being made without consulting a) the people on the ground who understand the situation better, and b) everyone else who's going to be affected, so that there can at least be discussion and community input. Except for the announcing-it-two-weeks-ahead-of-time part. Gah. Reminds me of the Lagoon debacle, for sure. It's starting to frighten me how much some things in the Real World echo things I've experienced at NU, and not in a good way.

I'm still very much in my "my privilege disgusts me" stage at the moment, which has not really motivated me to actually do anything but just to grumble and imagine throwing my shiny new computer and camera out the window and running off to live in a cardboard box. It's not a productive way of thinking, I know. I need to sit down and try to find ways to process these feelings better, so I don't keep getting angry and pissy and/or teary-eyed at random, not-usually-opportune moments.

Speaking of my camera, I need to find a way to put my photos and videos up online for your viewing pleasure, or it's all rather pointless. I don't know if anyone knows a good place to host them where I can link to them from my blog, or maybe I've just got to look into moving my blog(s) to a new site. Eh. I'll figure it out.

Okay, there are plenty of other things I could write about, but all of them would take more time than I want to spend right now, so I should just finish up and then come back to this another time...
 
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Sunday, June 20, 2004
 
Well. An awful lot has happened in the last few days:

Graduation was Friday and Saturday. It all seemed rather silly, but it's really more for relatives anyway, of course. I thought Tom Brokaw's speech was bizarre and pretty lousy, between the complete Other-ing of Muslims in his whole "we are at war" bit (as if it had never occured to him that any of the "we"s or "you"s he was imploring to find a way to deal with Them could actually be Muslims themselves-- not at Northwestern! not in America!), the strange rambles about how "single-issue groups" are destroying American politics, and the complete lack of anything inspiring or profound, or even mildly entertaining or interesting. At least Lane Fenrich spoke at the WCAS convocation on Saturday, and I liked his speech. Not knock-me-down amazing or anything, but he talked about envisioning change in the world and working to make it possible, was genuinely inspiring in some spots and made the speech enjoyable the whole way through. Anyway, I sat through hour after hour of graduates' names being read (starting at 8:30 Saturday for Tech's to see Alex, and then CAS at 11), wore and returned the cap and gown, got lots of pictures taken, got a diploma, the whole bit. And now it's over.

My family was around for the past few days, which was really nice. My grandparents came Friday morning and left Saturday night, and my parents and sister arrived Thursday afternoon and left today. It was nice to have them all here. We did a variety of fun things, including seeing fireworks down at Navy Pier last night and watching a Cubs game in the bleachers today (which was a lot of fun, although I got both of my forearms badly sunburnt). And we went to dinner on Friday night with Alex's family... 12 of us at one big table at Trattoria Demi. (That went pretty well, all things considering.)

They also helped me move. I'm not completely moved over to the new apartment on Emerson, but all the large furniture's over there now, at least. (Thank goodness... I don't know how I'd have managed if it wasn't for three family members and a rented moving van!) However, my clothing, food, and internet connection are here on Maple, so I'm thinking I'll stay here for the rest of the month anyway. I dunno, though. It depends on how uncomfortable it is to sleep on the green couch cushions on the floor...

Oh, and then there was shopping. On top of the practical stuff my grandparents got me, such as much-needed pots and pans, my parents got me a digital camera as a graduation present. (It's a digital video-camera, actually, since it didn't cost that much more and my mom was really excited about the idea.) Part of me feels very much spoiled by such a fancy gift, but they insisted on getting me something nice. I suppose I could have made them give me money instead, and put it into savings or donated it to somewhere-or-other... but instead, I've got a camera now. And it's really quite neat. And I'm already starting to send them money to help them pay off the loans they took out to put me through NU, so that helps me feel a little better about the whole thing.

And I bought myself a new computer, too, while we were shopping. An iBook, of course, since I am nothing if not a bandwagon-jumper. It is very cute and spiffy, and I like it so far. And, of course, it doesn't have a cracked screen with giant black blotches, and it's not virus-infested so that it freezes up 5 times a day. I sold my old one to my parents-- I reinstalled Windows first, which I certainly hope will get rid of all the problems I've been having, and they're going to hook it up to a monitor they've got lying around. They've been needing a better computer than the almost-non-functional one they've got, so it's a win-win situation.

So, there we go. And now it's time to get to bed pretty soon, and then get up in the morning and go back to work. The last 3 1/2 days have felt kind of like their own little world, and it's almost hard to believe that tomorrow's business as usual, but I suppose it has to be eventually...
 
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Thursday, June 17, 2004
 
It's significantly later than I'd planned to get to bed tonight. And I've gotten less packing done than I'd hoped, despite working on it (with varying degrees of focus) all night. So I guess I kind of lose on both points. Well, then, no reason not to take the time to write in here if I've lost already, right?

On the bright side, just a half-day more of work, and then my family gets in tomorrow afternoon and the graduation festivities begin. It's pretty odd, really. I picked up my cap and gown today, and the idea of wearing it and going through all the ceremonies seems faintly ridiculous, after working full-time for the last 2 1/2 months. And I'm also currently in a very "fuck your diploma, the symbol allowing us all to pretend that my future privilege and success in life is a deserved result of my hard work, merit, and competence, instead of my parents' income and the workings of the cruelly unjust system" mood. Bah, humbug.

Oh! But in other good news, it turns out that among the vast quantity of things my roommates left here with the assurance "I've taken everything I want, you can do what you want with everything else" are some excellent books, including a few really intriguing ones on Central America. I can't wait to read them! I think they are probably Kathy's, and I'll offer them back to her in the fall, but in the meantime I see no reason not to enjoy them all summer...
 
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Wednesday, June 16, 2004
 
Funny how it works. I spent almost 4 hours tonight putting off packing (because, y'know, even at 11 I'd still "just gotten home"), and then suddenly at 11:15, I was possessed by a spurt of productivity. Despite being tired, I didn't stop until just now, an hour and a half later, seizing the moment. And I was planning to get to bed early tonight...

I was going to write about the rally at the Congress Hotel today in solidarity with the workers who've been on strike for a whole year now, but I really ought to sleep instead. And then tomorrow, I've got a ridiculous amount of cleaning and packing to get done. Fun.
 
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Monday, June 14, 2004
 
$0-$25K US: 29% NU: 5%
$25K-$50K US: 30% NU: 10%
$50K-$100K US: 29% NU: 28%
$100K+: US: 13% NU: 58%

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop." (Closer to Fine post)


In other news, I have mosquito bites all over, including one right inbetween two of my toes. It gets rubbed a lot, and has been irritated and painful all day, as it will likely be for days to come. Fun.

Oh! But I got business cards today! I swear, it's kind of ridiculous how much more professional I feel because I have spiffy business cards with my name on them now...
 
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Sunday, June 13, 2004
 
So now it's "Senior Week," I suppose. Kind of odd since everyone's all "We're finally done with classes!" and I've been working for two months.

Alex and I went up to the beach party for a little bit, but it wasn't very exciting, although it was nice to wade in the lake for awhile and it whetted my appetite for swimming later this summer. Then there was a barbecue at the Alumni House, which had a pretty big turnout. Besides the free food and the "senior gift" padfolios, the main focus of the event seemed to be on wandering around and talking to folks you hadn't talked to since freshman year. Or something like that.

So, I did. I talked to Lindsay, who lived across the hall from me freshman year. I talked to Jenny, who I did FUP and an ASB trip with my freshman year, and then was at the Century Institute with this past summer. I talked to Naureen. I talked to Brian Crotty, for quite a while actually. He and I met back in the spring of our sophomore year when we went on the LAB retreat weekend (SAF money sending student group leaders to another college campus for an overnight-- yay!), and our paths have crossed suprisingly rarely since, despite our involvement in Peace Project, so it was interesting to catch up and chat.

I got to tell a lot of people about my job, and they thought it was cool and that I'm lucky. (Which I am.) And I heard that a lot of people are kind of hanging out this summer and taking it easy. And though I love my job, and I wouldn't trade it for anything else, and I'd probably be stressed and panicked instead of relaxed if I took my time all summer to find a job, I'm still a little jealous. I think it's just now starting to sink in that this is not a temporary state of affairs, this is not an internship, this is my permanent job which continues on day after day, month after month, year after year. I shouldn't whine, though. There are so many amazing things about what I do that it's silly to complain that, boo-hoo, I have a real grown-up job, isn't it terrible?

Yeah. I suppose there'll probably be more cause to muse about graduation and the passage of time and all that fun stuff as the week goes on. Perhaps it'll be slightly more articulate and coherent. For now, I should shower and get to bed.
 
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Friday, June 11, 2004
 
Okay, I've given in and decided to change my blogging patterns a little. I think I'm going to try to post here, at Perpetually Unfinished, a lot more frequently-- maybe I'll give every day a whirl, maybe not; I haven't decided yet. Then, I've created a new blog-- Closer to Fine-- for longer, more in-depth and thoughtful writing. You (my many adoring readers-- hey, stop laughing!) can keep checking in here, and I'll indicate every time I write something over there.

Yes, this is more complicated than it needs to be. Deal with it.

Let's see... last night I got very wet. Twice. First, I decided to go to Norris for dinner to use up the last of my Munch Money (not the greatest investment of $100 I ever made, but after I paid it in September, I'd've had to forfeit $25 to get my money back). I was done by 8:15, but it was raining, so I decided to wait for the 9:00 shuttle. And wait I did... until 9:15, when it still hadn't arrived. Then I waited a few more minutes in hope the rain would slow, to no avail. So I walked the 10 minutes back to my apartment in a downpour.

I got to spend about 2 hours dry, and then went back to campus to go on a walk with Kyle. It was still pouring, but as there weren't exactly a lot of other nights for walks left to choose from, we figured, what the hell? This time I got even more soaked, and I'm not sure my sneakers are ever going to recover. It was a good time, though, and luckily I wasn't in one of my weird over-thinking moods. We wandered all over, and Kyle showed me some cool tucked-away places on campus I'd never seen before. (There's something a little strange about the freshman showing the senior the neat campus secrets, but that's neither here nor there.)

Near the end, we started talking about Peace Project for a while. I have all sorts of thoughts about Peace Project that have been rolling around in my head for weeks and need to get written out, so I'm not going to explore it too much detail right now, but it was really interesting to me to hear how Kyle sees the groups and his place in them. And I knew this already, but it's-- rewarding? exciting? comforting? nice? I can't come up with the right word at all-- to have someone else here who seems so in tune with the way I think about things. In a lot of ways, I think we're very much cut out of the same mold as activists, except that in some aspects he's not as I am but how I should be-- with more confidence, more dedication, and without the stupid resentment of NOWAR that takes too long to fully let go of. But that's a train of thought that requires a lot more time to explore than I've got right now.

Yeah. I should start packing eventually, if I want my family to help me move stuff when they get here on Thursday...
 
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Wednesday, June 09, 2004
 
Really quick post, which I probably shouldn't be writing since I'm exhausted and have to get up for work far too soon, but whatever. I don't post nearly often enough in here, because I feel some strange need to post coherent entries (the feeling that led me to split my diary/journal at my last site, which is kind of complicated in a blog format)... but at 2am, one really doesn't care.

I just wanted to say that I had a really good night tonight. That doesn't happen all that often, and sometimes I convince myself it's not possible and get all glum and complain about feeling lonely and isolated. But today was good. I got off the el from work and went straight to dinner with Kyle and Peter and Lexi. We sat around and talked and laughed and teased and hung out for nearly 3 hours. It felt really natural and good, and I had a lot of fun. Like a real group of friends. It's been a while.

Then I went back to Peter's room for a while and helped edit his paper, and afterwards the two of us went over to Norris and hung out, and that was another three hours. And that was really good too. I can't explain why it's so easy for me to feel comfortable around Peter when it's often so hard with other people, but I just really have a lot of fun with him, and tonight I had an especially good time.

And so here I am, sitting here exhausted but with a warm happy glow, and I know intellectually that it is so very close to summer, but it still hasn't sunk in yet. I know that Peter will be gone tomorrow, and that Kyle and everyone else will be gone by Saturday, and that after that it's three long months until the next school year. But I don't want it to be true, not when I'm finally starting to get in the groove of things the way I've wanted to for so long. So I'm kind of pretending that it doesn't have to be. For now.
 
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Tuesday, June 01, 2004
 
And life goes on.

I've been thinking a lot yesterday and today. About me, and how I've been living my life lately. I don't know; I'm really not happy in general with how this quarter has been for me emotionally. In terms of the ways I've acted, there've been plusses and minuses. But I think I've fallen into the trap of saying, "Either feel/act this way emotionally, or pull back and stop trying to interact with people." That's bullshit. Yeah, taking risks and caring about friendships that may or may not develop the way I want them to is scary and is going to make me more unsteady than usual. But that doesn't mean I have to freak out about it, doesn't mean I have to let it fill in all the empty spaces in my time, let what other people think about me be more important than what I think about myself. I end up going in circles: decide connections are important, try to build friendships, analyze how that's going, decide it's not going so well, try to figure out how to make it work better, put pressure on every interaction, overanalyze it all... it's fucking ridiculous. I waver back and forth between quiet, passive insecurity and the 5th-grade girl's endless, "Do you like me? Do you still like me? Do you still like me?" and somehow manage to get the worst of both. I'm endlessly self-absorbed, so much so that genuine caring for others gets hopelessly tangled up in it.

It's hard, though. Because I know that making new friends is probably the part of my life I'm worst at. And most of that is because I put too much pressure on myself, overanalyze everything, think and dwell too much. But overthinking is precisely the strong reflex response I have when I'm trying to fix a problem. "Relax and don't think about it" may be something that other people can do naturally, but it's really, really hard for me in regard to anything, let alone something that's really important to my life and that I'm doing badly at. And I know that friendships should be things that flow naturally, that come into being easily and unartificially, that they're about people enjoying eachothers' company and deciding you want to do that more. But that just doesn't happen for me, not very often, anyway. And so-- unless things are going almost completely smoothly, and I'm getting all the affirmation signals I need-- trying to develop friends can really be a frustrating, painful experience for me.

One really refreshing respite to that lately has been making friends with Peter. For whatever reason, most of the typical rules don't seem to apply to him, and I somehow manage to feel comfortable around him despite not knowing him terribly well or for very long. I can spend a couple hours in his room, or all of Dillo Day talking to him (because honestly, despite the fact that we were in a group of 4-8 people most of the time, did I really talk to anyone else? no), or 2 1/2 hours straight on IM, and have fun, and not feel self-conscious or dumb or unwanted. I mean, yeah, it's mostly silly banter and random off-the-wall discussions, but whatever. It's really nice to be making a new friend and feeling happy more often than I feel lousy about it, and to remind myself that I'm not completely incompetent at interacting with people and making new friends, as long as the person is as friendly and easygoing as Peter.

I know that part of it's because when I'm talking to Peter, I get the impression that he is actually happy to be talking to me. I feel like he's probably like that with almost everybody, but it doesn't matter much. I don't need to prove myself, be constantly self-conscious. I feel at ease because it seems like he's glad we're talking and I know I'm glad we're talking and so what else do you really need? With most other people, some a lot more than others, I usually feel like the person I'm talking to would like nothing better than for me to leave them alone. Whether or not that's actually true, it's hard to feel comfortable in that situation.

There's more to it than that, though. Kyle said something the other day-- I forget the exact words-- about conversations not needing to be structured or to go perfectly unless you have an agenda for them. I guess I do really have agendas for my conversations when I'm trying to make friends, especially when I feel like my opportunities to have those conversations are limited. I go in and think, "Okay, by the end of this conversation, I need to convince this person to like me more than they did at the beginning, so that we can grow closer." That's a ridiculous mindset for anyone, let alone someone like me who panics under pressure. But it's really hard to help it. I don't have an agenda when I'm talking to Peter, though. I mean, it's not that I don't think it would be nice to get to know eachother better and talk about more substantive issues sometime. But I'm not spending my interactions with him worrying about that. And somehow that makes all the difference.

I don't know. Sometimes I feel utterly ridiculous and pathetic and like I'm about as screwed up as people get. And then, I stop and think about it, and really, everyone is pretty fucked up in one way or another. We all have big issues, and we can't seem to deal with something major in the way we know we should. We have our problems in our own totally unique ways... but honestly, if there's anyone I know who I can't think about for a minute and say, "Yeah, he/she's pretty messed up when it comes to X," I don't know them very well. It's easy to feel pathetic if everyone else seems to cope with our particular weakness far better than we do, but all of the "everyone else"s have their own problems with something else. That's just the way life works, I guess.

As we were listening to The Wailers on Saturday night, I'd been feeling out of sorts for a little while, and was starting to careen into "lonely and panicked and quite miserable." And then they broke into one of their last songs, and I started to sing too, because of course a concert's much more fun if you can sing along. And what I was singing was, "Don't worry 'bout a thing, 'cause every little thing's gonna be alright." And repeating those lines over and over again started to soothe me. Saying the words myself somehow made me believe them. I calmed down, and even though the drunk asshole behind me was seriously pissing me off, I was content with my life for a little while.

I've been singing that bit to myself intermittently over the last couple days. I really, really just need to relax. I worry far too much. And somehow, everything does seems to turn out alright, eventually. I need to find a way to let go and believe that.
 
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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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