Monday, March 31, 2008


I always thought of myself as a reasonably decisive person, capable of making a decision and sticking to it--specifically, capable of making a rational decision, the right decision. I thought I had willpower, discipline, determination.

Well. I do have some discipline. For instance, I'm writing this entry now when I don't really feel like it (kidding! sorta.), because I promised myself to update this regularly and because I think it's good for me to write / share. It forces me to sort out my thoughts in a way that writing in a journal no one will ever read (I hope) does not.

A better example would probably be making a phone call to a person I really do not feel like facing, or getting homework done ahead of time, or fasting.

But in any case, the point of this slightly rambling post is that I have recently had to face the fact that I am not the conclusive and decisive person I'd like to be. I have been making resolution after resolution, judgment after judgment, that I have ended up reversing. Sometimes a valid reason (new perspective, good advice) motivates the change, and while backing down then takes courage and humility, because the stubborn proud thing to do is to obsessively stick with my old decision, I am glad I did change afterward, because I know it was right. Other times, though, I flip-flop because of the emotion of the moment, or out of fear of hurting someone else, or some other reason that is anything but robust. I hate to admit to this, because it makes me feel weak, indecisive, wishy-washy. It doesn't fit with who I think I want to be.

But I think what it goes to show is that we don't really know ourselves. It's important to continually adjust your own self-concept, to be aware of the fact that you have blind spots so that you can correct them if possible, to keep learning and growing. I don't really like this discovery of mine, but it's something to keep in mind and examine so I can figure out how to deal with it (as the flaw of indecisiveness, or as the positive trait of flexibility and open-mindedness?). Hooray for learning. :P

Saturday, March 29, 2008


A friend sent me this poem in response to the one I posted a while back. Sassoon's concept of the relationship between identity and solitude is in direct opposition to mine, oddly enough--or at least, to what I was thinking as I had breakfast this morning (alone, but happily, I might mention). I was thinking, in fact, that I am most myself when I am alone. Along these lines:

"I know who I am when I am all alone
I'm still that same man when everyone comes home
Could I bleed a little, hurt a little, cry a little more?
I know that's not what you came here for. . ."
--Matt Nightingale

I was also trying to remember an exchange in one of Madeleine L'Engle's books, in which (if I remember correctly) young Vicky's wise grandfather asks her when she is "most herself." I can't quite place the context, but I think they're discussing this poem (which L'Engle apparently misattributes?!): in particular, "If thou couldst empty thyself of self" and "But thou art all replete with very thou." What do these lines mean? is what L'Engle's characters discuss. Vicky says she is most herself, but also most emptied of self, when she is concentrating on a poem (I think), and most filled with self but least herself when she is caught up in anger/ jealousy/ bitterness/ self-indulgence. I think that is true for me, too. I feel myself when I am alone reading, or praying, or walking in the woods, or eating an orange; I feel alienated from myself when I am anxious about a paper or a person, when outside expectations confuse me and I don't know what I want.

...I think the effect of solitude on a person's closeness to being him-/her- self ends up being largely a function of what sort of self that person has, i.e., his/her personality. Sassoon feels far from himself when alone, it seems; but I (and Nightingale) feel most sure of who I am when I am alone, with no one else to push me this way or that and tell me what I am supposed to do or who I am supposed to be.

"I don't wanna be anything other than what I've been
tryna be lately. All I have to do is think of me
and I have peace of mind. I'm tired of lookin' round
wonderin' about what I gotta do, or who I'm supposed to be:
I don't wanna be anything other than me."
--Gavin DeGraw, "I Don't Wanna Be"

The trick is to find the person who makes you more yourself, and not less.

Disclaimer: I did not specifically look up those lyrics. They may not be quite right.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Legacy of High School that fire alarms, while inconvenient, never strike me as surprising. We have had them three days in a row in my building here, and the effect is not to make me think, "How odd!" but rather "Wow, this is just like high school." Grrrreat.

Obviously that is not the only impact high school had on me. I learned lots. Honestly! But when everything I learned in AP Bio about the muscle groups in a cat has completely deserted me, I am confident that I will still remember the constant fire alarms. How true it was that if there ever had been a fire we all would have burned in our classrooms.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Respect II

An important gauge of someone's respect for your beliefs, which I neglected to mention earlier, is how seriously they take you when you discuss them, and how hard they try to convince you of some other idea. In particular, if a person tells you that holding your particular set of beliefs means you are not thinking for yourself, and calls them "cute", you should be really, really dubious of the "respect" he has for you.


Disclaimer: The following may not be coherent, due to the extreme excess of phlegm in the author at the time of writing. Said phlegm is concentrated in her throat and (it feels like) lungs, despite the large quantities of it that have been expelled and now reside in trashcans scattered across campus, entombed in the thinnest of white paper.

Americans talk about "freedom" and "liberty" a great deal. Some of them think that America is the only free nation, or some such semi-delusion. Others complain about how oppressed Americans are because of the evil government, which view, while it has its basis (*coughphlegmBushPatriotActcough*), is also singularly lacking in perspective, considering how much worse things could be. I'm sure you can all think of the most obvious reference; there are also good ones from the nation's own history. Think various racist policies, and the Communist scare post-WWII. (My APUSH knowledge has largely deserted me--can't remember the name of the guy and the trials... not motivated enough to look it up right now...) I'd say that by and large modern inhabitants of the United States have it really, really good on the freedom front.

That freedom is, of course, of the legislatable kind. Significant though that subset of freedom is, it leaves out a more personal variety. I'm not sure just how to qualify it, but I guess what I'm getting at is social freedom, or perhaps interpersonal freedom. Freedom to do what you want or think is right, or whatever means by which you decide--freedom to choose, rather, for that is the essence of freedom--without the constraints of worrying what others will think or feel. Being a real individual! That's the "American" ideal, right?

I think people don't normally realize that having that degree of freedom entails being completely unconnected with other humans. It's not just the clingy or manipulative relationships that affect our perspective/ideas/choices/priorities: it's every relationship. Whenever we care about someone, whenever we feel duty or love or responsibility (which are awfully intertangled), we make choices based on that. . .

Talk about "bonding" isn't purely metaphorical. Caring about someone is a bond, is binding, is putting bounds on your life.

You cannot be completely free without being completely friendless. Freedom comes at a high, high price: I couldn't pay it, even if I wanted to; I'm not sure any human is capable of purchasing such a degree of freedom. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to be free / carefree, instead of caring so much. But really, I think the dichotomy is less slave--free than happy--free. Well, those are false dichotomies, because some degree of freedom is vital. But still. I would rather be bound.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Clothes Make the Man

The sun is out and the air is warm, or getting there, anyway. I am relieved not to have to wear my wool coat, lovely as it is. Instead I throw on a sweatshirt or my old, old fleece. That sea-green fleece: I remember wearing it in seventh grade and finding a tootsie roll in its pocket. Now the elbows are thinning, and little pills have sprouted all over the jacket. It's not very dignified, particularly when dark strands of hair cling to it like ivy that no amount of tending can detach from a wall. . . Perhaps I should stop wearing it. Move on, grow up.

I don't think I will, though. I am the sort of person who just keeps things. As long as something works, why abandon it for the risk of having to find something new? The familiar has perhaps too strong a hold on me, for caution and conservatism are not so clearly distinguishable from cowardice and small-mindedness. I do not wish to be a victim of pusillanimity. I do not want fear to fence me in.

Then again, I also don't want recklessness to cause me undue pain.

Clearly, the matter of an old jacket is not this significant. But I like my clothes like I like my people: comfortable, colorful, inexpensive (which translates to a low cost in emotional turmoil). I hate to lose what I know and love. Life is an infinity of investments. The trick is learning which ones are going to pay off, and which should be abandoned before things get worse.

Clothing doesn't say much about a person directly, just like the About Me doesn't directly tell you much about me. The message from clothing is not inherent, but contextual: the choices the wearer has made, the impression he/she seems to want to cultivate, the amount of awareness of the impression he/she makes, . . .

I'm not sure what my clothes say about me; or rather, what conclusions people draw about me from my clothes. When it comes down to expenditure of time and money, I find that I mostly don't care. To me, the significance of clothing is as Mark Twain put it: "The clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Lots of things I'd like to write about, but very little time to do so, if I'm honest with myself. I should be writing an essay in Japanese... Hmph. Anyway, I just got myself distracted by Wikipedia, especially the article on Klein bottles, which are so cool. I need to try to make one sometime. If Mobius strips can be as entertaining as they are, surely a Klein bottle would be even better. Also, I should try to reunite myself with a hexaflexagon. Ah, the perks of having a father even nerdier than me... =)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Place Roots

When people hear that I lived in Japan for six years when I was a kid, they almost always tell me how lucky I was to have had that adventure and seen that foreign land. For the most part, I agree. It was a privilege to learn that language the same way I learned English, just absorbing it; to see how they live on the other side of the ocean, to eat their fruits and taste their cooking; to be a child in a place where schools take it upon themselves to teach children taste and a sense of duty by making them eat everything and clean the floors of their class room.

But I think the envious ones don't appreciate the privilege they've had in being rooted to one place. There is strength and joy in knowing the seasons of a place, its trees and blossoms, its streets, neighborhoods, shops. It's the comfort of home: the veneer of memories and associations coating everything. Reminiscence and nostalgia in the place where present and past overlap--these are powerful.

I think about these things a lot when I go home, now that I live across the country for college, and the trees and wind are foreign. At school, I keep thinking I'm seeing some creature scurrying among the trees, out of the corner of my eye. When I look directly, only the wind is there: the wind in the fallen oak leaves. Broader than the ones at home, they move like small birds fluttering, or as they fall from the sky, like huge brown butterflies. . .

Monday, March 17, 2008


I had an optometrist appointment today, and also a dentist check-up. As I was sitting in a darkened room full of mysterious machines, it occurred to me to wonder just how it came to seem normal and comfortable to blindly obey the minute commands of a woman I had never met before: Look this way, look that way; keep your eyes open, blink if you need to; lean back; put your chin here. . . The optometrist tells you where to look, what to see. Then she changes what you see, changes even your ability to see. You don't know what that little bottle whose contents she wants to drip into your eye may hold. Numbing drops, she says--but it could be anything, acid, something to blind you, something to disease you.

I sit there in the leather armchair, lean forward when she tells me to. I stay put and try to keep my eyes from fluttering closed as a long blue tube approaches my eyeball ("to check your eye pressure"). It comes closer, closer, closer--will it touch my eye? puncture its orb? That trust: to be there, utterly relaxed and unworried, as she stares into your eye, face close to yours--far closer than you would ever let a random stranger in another environment come to your face: that total trust with your very eyes, your window onto the world, does not come naturally.

Same situation for the dentist. Lie back in the chair, open your mouth, let the oral hygienist scratch and prod your gums and teeth. You don't know what she's putting in her mouth, what's in that mint-flavored tooth polish junk.

Of course, the optometrist didn't put my eye out or blind me, and the dentist didn't poison me. But honestly, you have no real way of knowing that she won't, when you sit down in her chair and she closes the door. You simply trust her not to harm you. You trust her to do her job well and bear you no ill will: this complete stranger. You entrust your body to her--temporarily, but blindly nonetheless. You do this when you go into surgery, when you take a train, when you buy medicine or food, when you rent a house, when you venture onto the road. . . You have to trust complete strangers to be sane. Where does that trust come from?

It comes from the lessons of parents, first, and later from the assurance of licensing and from the power that you hold, as a citizen with the right to sue for malpractice. It's a social thing, this trust. The social contract, perhaps: the fabric of society.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


My mother is on a new health food kick. She makes smoothies all the time, now that she has an extremely capable blender. Today she put beets in with the strawberries, grapes, apple, etc. I was surprised that the distinctive beet flavor shone through all the others. Most fruit tastes are some combination of sweet and tart, but beets taste of earth, minerals. Their flavor recalls to me the darkness of damp clay-infused dirt--its solidity, the heft of it on the shovel, the way it grows slippery between your fingers when you clench a fistful of it. That strength suffuses beets. You can see it in the intensity of their color, that blood-bright magenta that people dye yogurt and fruit-juice with.

When I pulled the half-gallon of soy-milk out of the refrigerator during breakfast, my fingers slid a little on the carton's sides. I assumed there was a greasy patch from someone's buttery fingers, but looking at my fingers after I set the carton down, I saw a flash of red-purple. Beet juice. Sure enough, like the marks of bleeding fingers, patches of beet juice glowed on the soy-milk carton. It spreads everywhere. In fact, the previous evening, I had looked down to see a spattering of bright red on the kitchen floor. I knew it was beet juice (my mother having just removed some beets from the oven). Still, the impression of a puddle of blood was inescapable. There's just something about that color...

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Is it possible to truly respect a belief that you completely disagree with? How about a belief that you mostly disagree with?
Subtly different question: Is it possible to respect someone whose beliefs you disagree with? or whose beliefs you do not respect?

I am beginning to think that you cannot fully respect a belief without yourself holding it. If you disagree with a belief, that means you feel that, on some level, it is wrong. Doesn't believing something is wrong entail a loss of respect for it?
Flip side of the same idea: The strongest respect for a belief is actually believing it: thinking that it is true, right, accurate, valid. A lesser form of respect would be understanding the train of thought and frame of mind leading to that belief, and disagreeing with part of it, but seeing how someone could legitimately believe it. Yet another form would be seeing that belief, at the very least, as useful or beautiful. But what it comes down to, is: If you really, truly respect a belief, you almost certainly believe it yourself.

So: What does it mean to respect a belief? and what does it mean to respect a person?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Just what does "home" mean? What is that feeling of being home?

It's simple if you've lived in the same place all your life, especially if it's the same house. But I've lived in 4 houses, an apartment, and various dorm rooms, and those domiciles are scattered across the globe. Which building is home? which nation is home? Is home just a state of mind, or does it have to have a physical location/component?

Home is safety, familiarity, comfort. It's the place where you know how things are going to turn out and you know where everything is. Home is rooms you can navigate without flipping the light switch (though your hand knows just where it is). Home is a place where everything is glossy with memories. You don't just see what something is, but everything it was. The desk where you did your French Lit. homework, now just a repository for books and mail (let's not even go into the association-soaked corsage sitting there). The drawer where you kept tender (if terse) notes, dusty with disuse... Home is the house where someone runs to embrace you at the door, where the dog can't wait to see you. (Home is the house whose dog's hairs are already all over your clothing.)

I've been thinking about this not just because of being away from and going back to my geographical home, but because I just encountered the notion of a person being the source of the home-feeling. "Well, if home is where the heart is, then my home is where you are. But it's getting oh-so-hard to spend these days without my heart..."--Reliant K. I suppose much of my sense of home is centered in my family, the only constant throughout a rather itinerant childhood. But when I come home to this house where I spent my teen years and where all my "stuff" is, it doesn't quite feel like home anymore. My parents are still here, my things are still here, but it has changed. My room is not the ordered space it was, and the array of objects on my desk was not arranged by me. I can't find bowls in the kitchen anymore, and there's no orange juice in the refrigerator. Next time I come back, the kitchen will have been remodeled.

So where is my home?

It's where I live. It's my room at school, the place I made my own. Home is the space I create around me. My heart is in many places with many people, but my safe space is where I choose it to be. "My shelter, strong tower, my very present help in time of need" is omnipresent, after all, whether I feel that or not.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I have long been aware that not eating breakfast tends to make me grumpy and tired, not to mention severely distracted (since all I end up thinking about is food! when is lunch coming?). But today I realized that breakfast's effect on me isn't a binary thing: there's a whole scale. Deal is, the longer I spend eating breakfast, the more I feel that the world is a wonderful place. There is also probably a correlation between the amount of sunlight falling on me during breakfast and my level of cheeriness.

I think I'm going to eat breakfast outside more often. That may well be the secret to happiness.


(I feel like that should be spelled "scategories" or "scattegories"...)
Subtitle: In which I demonstrate my capacity to obsessively hang on to details.

One time, I was playing Scattergories with my family, and for the category "Things you find in a dorm room" I put down "jigsaw puzzle." My dear mother scoffed at this. My father looked skeptical. My sister laughed outrageously. I, however, protested that I would sometime have a jigsaw puzzle in my dorm, and that surely there are college students who have puzzles. My family did not believe me, but they allowed me the point anyway.

Today, I found a jigsaw puzzle in a dorm.

It made me happy because I love puzzles and because it was fun to discover that the girl I'm going to room with next year does, too. But it made me extra happy because I vividly remember being doubted in Scattergories. And now, I have been vindicated. It's not as though it matters at all. But still. This means I win.

I love puzzles.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

To Which I Feel Inclined to Apply the Presumptuous Title: Religion, the Media, and Society

I saw "Tartuffe" performed yesterday, and it was hilarious. Moliere was brilliant, and whoever managed to translate the play into English and retain the rhyming couplets also deserves a great deal of admiration. Dorinne, the saucy servant girl, is quite a character.
Wikipedia's article on Tartuffe here.

I do see why the play caused an uproar and was banned when it came out, since hypocrisy and blindness in the context of religion are key themes. But the thing is, "Tartuffe" doesn't attack the contents of the religion. It deals only with the adherents of religion, and the abuse of religion. Despite the huge role that religion plays in my life and my sincere devotion to it, the play did not offend me; in fact, I agree with its cautions and condemnations. It irks me to no end that so many religious people and institutions cannot see the validity--nay, the necessity--of criticizing and questioning religious people/institutions/doctrines. Jesus had a thing or two to say about blind acceptance of authorities' interpretations. For instance: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. ... But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach" (Luke 23:2-3, NIV). In fact, all of Luke 21-23 is a scathing condemnation of the religious leaders of the day, focusing on the failure to seek and to keep the spirit of the law, and the legalism, hypocrisy and arrogance that took that place. That Jesus's supposed followers fall into that same trap so frequently is disgraceful. Understandable, but nevertheless disgraceful. Also, it gives us all a bad name, which I, as a Christian living somewhere that is not the Midwest, do not appreciate.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


I was participating in a dance party with my suitemates &c. when a boy arrived at our door and announced that the basement and part of the first floor had flooded. So 10-ish pajama-clad girls all poured out of the third-floor suite, swept along the hallway, spilled down four flights of stairs...

and stopped abruptly on the bottom step, like people piling up at the edge of a cliff in movies. We stood on the forest-green linoleum and stared down at murky water: at least 5 cm deep, silt underneath it.

A few minutes later, we were all barefoot in the flooded rec room, swishing around and commenting on the probable fate of the hapless TV (which was chained to the floor). When our feet froze, we perched on the billiard table for a brief respite before splashing back in.

Who says college students are more sensible? Perhaps our mothers would be disappointed.

We left footprints on the dusty linoleum (rainwater patterns of toes and heels), and echoes of laughter in the cold stairwell.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Beautiful Day

Last night was rather more emotionally tumultuous than I would have liked, but this morning was absolutely gorgeous. Blue sky, sunshine. On my way to class, the Canada geese were grazing in the woods, grey-lined bodies in the rusty leaves. They stare at me. Black button eyes, neatly aligned feathers, huge bodies. And scattered among them, shining purple-blue, the glossy blackbirds fluttering up and down. Iridescent, they flash out of the brown leaf-piles, like jewels.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

About Me

I think the best information that comes from someone's About Me isn't the actual content that they put there, but the meta-content. The truly informative aspect is their choice of what sort of content to put, and their choice of how much information to put. It's not about the information they actually provided, but the information that they gave away by their choice of what information to provide.

Type of information chosen:
Whatever information is there, they feel is important, or even essential, in the sense that it is meant to portray their essence. Alternately, or more likely simultaneously, it is information intended to create an impression, an image: the type of image that a person tries to convey says a lot about who that person is beneath the projected image. Ultimately, every piece of information delivered is trying to create an image. What varies is the closeness with which that image corresponds to the reality of character/personality, which depends upon the writer's openness and degree of self-knowledge.
Yet another component is the writer's perception of what readers will consider important information about him/her, or perhaps about what readers will consider interesting. Obviously this aspect is related both to the image being created and to the writer's self-concept, as well as to the writer's expected audience, the writer's attitude toward that audience, and the writer's attunement with said audience.

Amount of information:
Some people put their whole lives into their About Me. Others put cryptic statements like "Ask me." This can depend on a number of different factors: how much someone actually wants you to know about them, how much that person thinks you would be interested in knowing about them, how paranoid that person is about unexpected readers...
The really cryptic About Me's are ones that don't actually contain any of the person's own words, but rather lyrics or a poem or a quote. I usually have some idea of how to interpret About Me's in people's own words, but when they quote someone else, I have no idea what to think. Do they just really like that song? Do they feel it describes them? How specifically / literally might it describe them? etc. Perhaps most cryptically, what reaction do they expect me to have to that song?

I suppose you can tell by this post that I think you can get a lot of good information about a person indirectly. My analysis here, in particular, is awfully revelatory of my character...

That said, I would also like to mention that I am the sort of person who, almost without fail, takes the stairs two at a time. When I'm going down stairs, I also have a strong tendency to skip & leap. People look at me rather oddly for it, but the physical pleasure of flying briefly is definitely worth it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


"What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet..."

We just finished with Colson Whitehead's Apex Hides the Hurt in English class, and now I keep thinking about names and image and reality. Apex claims that "A rose by any other name would wilt fast, smell like bitter almonds, God help you if the thorns broke the skin" (5ish): in short, that an entity's name determines its nature. At the same time, it also presents the idea of "true names" that "hide" behind the appealing or useful or traditional but false names that we use. The product names he created were the "right names," the protagonist (a nomenclature consultant) decides, but they were not the true names. Reality, painful and ugly, lurks beneath the surface...

These ideas about the power of names, however, are contradictory. If changing something's name changes its identity, then how can there be a constant, unwavering true name that exists in spite of the surface-y names that get slapped onto it?

Alluring as the idea of a secret true name is (an appeal witnessed to by its prevalence in sci-fi and fantasy novels like Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea sequence), I think it is a myth. For a name to embody the essence of a person or product or town or whatever, it would have to be pages and pages long. People are too complex to distill their personalities into a single word. A character barely fits into a novel or an essay, much less a name. I love language, and I know it's powerful, but words don't have that kind of magical power.

The point of the book, though, has more to do with the nature of honesty/reality/society. We try so hard to present a polished image, to hide our flaws and failings, to live up to expectations (whose? There are so many.) Once you've established an identity--good or bad, in your own mind or in others' eyes--, it's hard to deviate from it. It's a social bargain. People are too unpredictable and complex to deal with effectively, so we don't deal with real people most of the time. We shut off the most volatile and inconsistent and tangled parts of ourselves, and show the aspects that make sense. Whether the motive is our shame or fear or distrust, the result is to greatly ease social interactions. We agree to become some 'type'--the good student, the patient friend, the badass--so that others can wrap their minds around us, and reciprocally so that we can fit representations of them into our minds. Instead of dealing with a person in his unfathomable complexity, we deal with some symbol of him.

That's why true names don't belong out in the open. We don't "walk the streets with [our] true names blazing over [our] hearts" (135ish?). "Right" names, appropriate names, serve an important purpose; if we tried to discard them for the authenticity/reality of true names, interacting with each other would rapidly become overwhelming.

This is, perhaps, part of why I don't mind (and in fact, rather enjoy) the fact that various people call me different names. J--, J-----, J--------: each of them is my name. Not some mystical and deeply significant true name, but the name that people choose to call me. If the name says anything, it's about the person calling me that name, more than about me. The name someone calls me represents, really, the vision that that person has of me. I myself remain the same, no matter what the name.

Let's see how many times I can use the word "Paradigm"

So, you know how in high school people decide after a while that so-and-so is a perfect student, always right, etc.? and then you get to college and start over, and whaddya know, they decide the same thing. They get the same paradigm of you. It's like they're in cahoots with the high school people. Or not, since obviously the constant in the situation is the person being judged (i.e., me).

Anyway, I knew I had one essay to write today/tonight, about a paradigm that shapes my life, but I didn't realize until around 4pm that I actually had 2 essays to write (paradigm shift!), and in fact I realized a bit after that that I had a 3rd essay to rewrite (paradigm shift #2!). So I got this idea in my head that I'd spend the evening writing those essays (paradigm of my afternoon). But then I experienced another paradigm shift when I realized that I did not in fact have plane reservations for a flight home for spring break. Gah! My paradigm of my early evening then shifted rapidly. As a result, 7pm arrived and the essays remained untouched. So I got some dinner and thought I would buckle down for the rest of the night. At which point an intense online conversation erupted, spanning at least 90 minutes, in which I accomplished very little of my planned goals.

So, now it is past midnight and I still have a substantial amount of work to do. (Good thing classes don't start till past noon tomorrow.)

Perhaps this entry will shift your conception of me as the paradigm of a Good Student.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Trees in the Wind

Outside the window, the wind gasps and wails
I look but cannot see if the trees are stirred up.

I hear the wind twist
around a corner, swerve
around the building, panting.

When it pauses, ghostly laughter and drunken voices,
drift inside, in spite of the closed window—

Then the wind is back
howling               moaning
              gasping               heaving
(I feel so                    alone
so small, lost,
hearing the ravenous wind
prowl the huge darkness.)

His sweeping claims chase my stillborn words
chasing his words. The conversation fugues in my mind.

Only in the twilight of retrospect do I see
the glow of ideas that really mattered to him—
the ideas I should have dealt with

(Words spoken are only leaves
      hanging from branches of emotion.
            Everything grows from the trunk
which is, character)—

Winter with a howling wind. The stripped trees
(not even snow-spotted) stand bare and proud in the cold

No matter how I stare,
I cannot see them

[poem by me, written around 5am]

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Female, Seeking Advice

Question: What is the best response when someone says to you, "If it weren't for ______, you would be the perfect person for me?" Let's say you already know that the person asking the question would not be the perfect person for you.

Please give me comments, guys! Or emails, whatever. Feedback of some variety.

Minor World-Quake

I just got whistled at again.

It had been a while--months, in fact, since it hadn't happened at S---- (look, Les Miserables-style vaguerie!) before. I had forgotten it made me this uncomfortable. There I was, having a perfectly ordinary afternoon. I push the cafe doors open and walk outside, turn right to go on my way. Whistles from behind me, and bam! my composure is shattered. Wanting to look back and see what was going on and who was there, wondering who? who? but, if in fact they were whistling at me, not wanting to give them the satisfaction of seeing my face. Not knowing at all what's about to happen. Not that anything ever does after I get whistled at, but still. An anonymous whistle coming out of nowhere immediately makes me feel powerless. I don't ask to be noticed, commented on, whistled at like a dog.

Not that I really think whistling at a girl is like whistling at a dog. But to me, it is dehumanizing. It could just be that I care too much about maintaining the illusion that my life is primarily my domain, under my control. My kingdom, where things go as I will them to. It isn't really. I'm just one fragile girl in a world of strong men, quickly moving objects, towering buildings, snowstorms, machines I couldn't operate, motives I can't fathom.

Fortunately, it all falls under G-d's domain. Acknowledging that I control very little doesn't mean despairing about the course of my life.

Still, every reminder that utterly unexpected and, worse, unexpectable things happen makes me deeply uncomfortable. Proof: my automatic attempt to recover power by blaming the whistles on my clothes. Which makes no sense. I am wearing a t-shirt and jeans like always. (Never mind that it's winter in New York.) But that is what runs through my mind when a guy whistles at me--what can I wear so this doesn't happen again?

What runs through the guy's mind when he whistles at me? I'm not sure I want to know.

I don't know why getting whistled at always feels like such a major event. But it shakes me up, every time. Perhaps I should install some better braces to keep my shelves of emotions from falling over in the event of a more major world-quake.