It’s currently 1:15 am. I just finished packing my suitcase. Tomorrow I leave Texas and fly back to Boston to begin the second half of college.
Where do I begin? I haven’t blogged in months. I believe my last post was sometime in March. I’m overwhelmed thinking about all the things that have happened in the last half year.
My sophomore year of college was a huge “growing experience” for me. Thats what people call it when everything falls to shit. The summer after my sophomore year was even worse. I broke up with a boy I was completely in love with for reasons that are beyond me, I missed getting an A in a class I worked my ass off for by less than one percent, I felt really sad and alone.
Even as I write this I find myself not being completely transparent. Erasing certain words, not wanting to portray exactly how I feel, being ashamed of occasionally feeling sad and lonely. Wanting to justify that my life is awesome. (It is, but that’s beside the point.) Wanting to diminish my issues. (In the grand scheme what’s a B+?)
You, E, are the one who encouraged me to read Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. I read it my freshman year of college I think, but there is one quote I keep coming back to.
“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”
That last line has been my mantra the past few weeks.
When I think about my GPA I start getting really overwhelmed and doing all this calculation of all the grades I have to get for the next few years to get where I want to be and do what I want to do (do other people do this? Please say yes) and I have to stop and think that I can try my hardest and perhaps never get where I want to be. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
As you know I’m taking the MCAT in two weeks and don’t even get me started about the stress and anguish it causes me. Sometimes I lose all hope. And I think I’m not gonna be able to save the world I’m not even going to be able to become a doctor, what the fuck am I doing, maybe I should just get a job where I make lots of money and just cry while I wear beautiful red-bottomed shoes. And then I think: Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
The boy….I can’t really even begin to talk about this one. I’m out of words, I’m out of explanations, I’m so tired of crying….it’s never going to be okay…Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
I have beautiful wonderful friends, each unique and special in their own way. I think the people is what have made everything so bearable-my friends and family—they are the ones who have reminded me it’s okay to not be okay. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
Most of the time these days I am fine. Sometimes I feel really sad E. Sometimes I feel really happy. I look at the stars and I wonder why we are all here. What are we doing? Maybe we will never know. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
At this moment in time, 1:56 am, I don’t want to go back to Boston. I know once I’m there I’ll be thrown back into the storm. I’m going to miss being here. I’m going to miss football games, and my mom’s cooking and my brothers yelling and the sweltering heat and the slowness that is West Texas. I’m going to miss music in my car and going dancing with my best friend and eating sandwiches with my toes in the pool. But I need to go back. I need to go back and push myself and fail even more than I did my sophomore year. Because at least if I’m failing I’m doing something. I need to go fight for what I want and get what I’m worth. And then realize that maybe I won’t get what I’m worth. And maybe sometimes I’ll try my hardest and collapse. I’ll put up a good fight and lose. I’ll jump for my dreams and crash into reality. Some things will never be okay. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
Love you and miss you very much,
I’m sorry you’re stuck finishing finals. I have landed solidly in our hometown for the summer; you’re not missing much. It rained today for the first time since January. The smell was amazing. My granddad put a rain gauge in his front yard to measure the addition to the 9/10ths of an inch of rain we have gotten so far this year.
Before it started raining I went to yoga class with B at the new yoga studio on 34th Street. My brothers use my yoga mat to put under their sleeping bags during Boy Scout campouts, so it smells like campfire. The smell was distracting as I tried to focus my breath as I lay prone on the mat. My fourth grade reading teacher was doing the same thing next to me. Things are kind of awkward between us. I talked to her the first lesson I saw her. Since, we haven’t really chatted; we just smile and nod. What do you say? “Look, I have come far from the weird kid I once was, but I still can’t really do the third warrior pose?”
My chickens are doing well. I expected them to be picked off immediately by the foxes that live in our neighborhood after my dog died last month, but they are still hanging in there. They are so dumb it takes them a long time to realize when they are being fed. When they do realize, they attack their corn like little Velociraptors. It’s not hard to imagine how birds evolved from dinosaurs around them, but it still blows my mind. My mom made a new coop for them. You can just pull out a little drawer to get their mini-dinosaur eggs. They’re so dumb, they can’t count how many eggs they have, so as long as you leave a fake one they won’t get upset and start hiding their eggs somewhere else.
Last night I went to see Godzilla with B, H, J, and H’s boyfriend. We went to Sheridan’s afterwards. We watched a black pickup truck drive over a curve across a grass median into the Rosas parking lot. There were a lot of strange, green, square-ish bugs that kept getting in our hair and teenagers that dropped their frozen custard on the ground because apparently they’re dumber than my chickens. I knew the girl that made our ice cream. J and I tried to remember her last name as we approached her in line. Our hometown is just so small. It’s hot, dry, and claustrophobic in a nice way. Like a sauna with all your friends from middle school and their grandparents in it.
Come home soon, yeah?
“Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder. To search for the truth.”
“Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to. Stay home on New Year’s Eve if that’s what makes you happy. Skip the committee meeting. Cross the street to avoid making aimless chitchat with random acquaintances. Read. Cook. Run. Write a story.”
Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
“The core of all my writing was probably the five free years I had there on the farm. […] The only thing we had was time and seclusion. I couldn’t have figured on it in advance. I hadn’t that kind of foresight. But it turned out right as a doctor’s prescription.”
“Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong and the final decisions are made in silent rooms. Tell him to be different from other people if it comes natural and easy being different.”
Happy Easter! I’ve been enjoying your snaps today.
You may not think this post applies to you, an extrovert, but I think the core of it is important for everyone. Here it is: your energy is your own. It is the most valuable resource you have. Guard it carefully.
Okay, you don’t have to read the rest of the post now.
My energy is easily depleted by communication. I am one of the more introverted people I know. This does not mean I am shy. If I have had a relaxing, solitary weekend like this one, only talking to people I love dearly, eaten properly, and slept well, then I can charm a whole group of people at a cocktail party. If my conditions are not optimal, however, my communication skills are the first to suffer until I can recharge myself.
Learning the research about introversion has helped me to accept it in myself. In “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, psychologist Susan Cain discusses how it is possible to predict whether babies will be introverts or extroverts. If you give an introverted baby a drop of lemon juice, they will produce more saliva. If you expose an introverted baby to a loud noise, they will cry more. Introverts simply require less sensory activity to keep them happy.
Outgoingness is highly valued in this country. I feel lucky that I have been forced to improve in this area, while areas that I am more naturally inclined to are not as stressed (but equally important). I am a very good listener. When I meet good talkers I am a little jealous of them at first, but I quickly become aware of how little they practice listening. I will usually pick up on important information, like group dynamics, more quickly than they do. Because I have grown up in a place where we went to go to school every day and engaged in group activities (probably the most exhausting thing an introvert can do), I find it easy to force myself to do tiring things now, like exercise and studying. I have been pushed by our culture and now I push myself through exercises like “Seen on UT Campus”.
At UT, I have learned the importance of balancing pushing myself and caring for myself. This is a big school with lots of people. Sometimes, I can’t find a place to study alone. Sometimes, I can’t even find an empty bathroom. A couple of months ago I started hyperventilating and crying in the crowd on campus because I couldn’t find a place to be by myself. Everyone stared at me, which made it worse. Now, I have carefully mapped out empty classrooms where I can study in between classes. I have not made it a priority to join groups for the sake of joining them. I am part of a neuroscience group called “Synapse”; I invest energy in my EMT class and UWC job, and besides that I keep my time for myself. I don’t go out unless I want to, which is about once every two or three weeks. Saying no to my friends when they want to party has been difficult for me, but I have to do it to stay sane. I have found that they usually understand and still have fun without me. I find it easier to socialize in planned daytime activities, like getting lunch or exercising with friends. I don’t talk to people in my classes if I don’t feel like it. The idea of joining a sorority or spirit group boggles my mind.
Running has helped me find time for myself. No one tries to talk to you while you are running. You can ignore pretty much everything that’s going on in your life except step, step, step. People don’t like to hear that you can’t hang out with them because you lack the energy to communicate with them, but saying you’re running, swimming, or studying for something urgent usually does the trick.
I still feel shame when I think about this aspect of my personality. I am embarrassed that I can’t just be normal and talk to people like everyone else. However, I am grateful that I am familiar with my weaknesses so that I can work to improve and adjust my life to compensate. And, of course, my introversion is a source of my biggest strengths: my ability to listen, read, learn, and write about it afterwards.
If you’re interested in this stuff, Susan Cain’s book and TED talk are both great.
I miss you so much! I am so looking forward to our road trip and summer quests.
In the words of the great Willie Nelson, I can’t wait to get on the road again.
My free time this semester has been divided into two extra learning experiences, as you know. One is an EMT-basic certification class and the other is the UT Undergraduate Writing Center internship. These are two very different skills, but I have been surprised by how much they have in common.
Both have routines meant to ward off critical mistakes. Both focus on making sure you, the helper, are “safe” first. In an emergency situation, an EMT is not supposed to enter the scene if anything looks unsafe, even if she can see an ailing patient. We learned what meth labs look like this week so that we will be able to avoid them. If a writer makes a consultant feel uncomfortable, the consultant is expected to ask for a replacement at the front desk.
Most of all, I appreciate how both EMT school and the writing center curriculum teach you to approach what’s really wrong first, and then focus on the details. Grammar doesn’t matter if the ideas in your essay don’t make any sense. Splinting a broken wrist won’t help if a patient’s lungs are collapsing. It is easier to notice minor injuries as the sufferer. If your finger has been sliced open, you will be able to see and feel it. However, a lacerated finger isn’t going to kill you. More serious injuries (heart attacks, strokes, diabetic emergencies) may hurt, but not always in a way that is easily recognizable. That is why patients/writers need EMTs/writing consultants to help them reflect over what is a big issue and which is a small issue. None of us have unlimited time. We have to pick which problems to focus on.
When I have a problem in my life, I often find myself obsessively cleaning my room. This has yet to help me solve any real problems in my life, but I feel that if I could just get this floor clean things would be all right. This is like fixing grammar in an essay that lacks a thesis: an utter waste of time. I am beginning to recognize that when I act like this I need help to realize what is actually wrong. I turn to my own personal consultants, my mom (mainly), you, my dear IM (who hopefully will come back to Texas eventually), and other trusted loved ones to help me prioritize my problems. Only then can I stop being a myopic idiot and actually improve my life.
Who are your main consultants, P? Do you compulsively clean when you know you know something big is going wrong? Just kidding, I know you hate cleaning.
Much love and no clorox,
A couple of weeks ago, you posted a video of complete strangers kissing. It inspired me to go up to random strangers and ask them if I could kiss them. This has led to loads of fun make-out sessions and a bad cold.
Just kidding. I haven’t been kissing strangers, just asking if I can take their pictures and ask a few questions, mainly about UT. I started a HONY-knockoff blog called “Seen on UT Campus”. For the last month, I have tried to post at least every day. I started this blog so that I could get better at speaking to strangers and to make people feel like individuals at this giant university.
I have to gather my courage for every one of these interviews. I get so nervous, I might as well be asking if I could put my mouth on their mouth. I’m not afraid of the possibility that the person I am interviewing will not want their photo taken. Every person I have asked so far has been flattered. What irks me about these interviews is that they are always awkward, at least for a couple seconds.
The price of human interaction is effort and awkwardness. It takes a certain amount of effort for me to make a space in my day to walk around campus with my camera. More than that, I very much dread the uncomfortable first few seconds of the interview, when the person asks, “Why do you want my picture?” and I have to respond, “I run a blog called ‘Seen On UT Campus.’” This response always makes me feel stupid. It makes me feel stupid to admit that I care enough about something to go out and take pictures of strangers every day. I feel vulnerable, and I start interviewing my subject as soon as possible.
Brené Brown taught us that vulnerability is the key to having meaningful connection in our lives. I am going to go a step forward, and say that awkwardness is a key to having meaningful connections in our lives. You are supposed to feel uncomfortable sometimes. Yesterday, I read this article in Rookie. It is a roundtable discussion about money. The participants in the discussion came from all different backgrounds and they talked about how money and class affects their lives. The reader can tell that there are parts that made each of the writers uncomfortable, but they forged through this taboo topic because it helps them to understand each other more honestly. Another taboo in our society is tragedy. Last month, a member of our hometown community went through a grievous series of events. M and I were talking yesterday about how we keep trying to make letters, cards, and gifts for her, but they all seem trite. Our inability to give back to a person who has helped us so much makes us feel guilty, which feeds back into our lack of action. M and I made a pact yesterday that we would send in the things we had written, even if they seem lame to us. We decided it was more important to show our support than say the perfect thing.
The discomfort I feel every day for my “Seen on UT Campus” project helps me through conversations like this. I always admire how comfortable you feel talking about religion. Yesterday, Nick Offerman came to speak at UT. He started talking about his views on religion and you could feel the tension building. A lot of people left the event. Offerman talked about the need to have calm, open discussions about religion. I agree with this sentiment, even though I think these conversations can only happen if we have nothing to prove, if we accept that we disagree with other sentiments and they are still valid. Not long ago, Bill Nye the science guy had a debate with Ken Ham about evolution vs. creationism. Everyone I have talked to, including some of my professors, agree that this debate was a colossal waste of time. Creationists are aware the evidence for evolution, for the most part. They just choose not to believe it, which makes me uncomfortable, but it is their own business what they believe. To continue a positive discussion with a creationist, I would have to embrace my discomfort and listen carefully to what they have to say. You are very good at doing this, P.
I may not be kissing strangers, but as a human, I deal with uncomfortable situations every day. I try to put myself in as many uncomfortable situations as possible so that I can expand my comfort zone. You do the same, taking hard classes and putting on magnificent events that could go wrong. Yesterday I listened to James Altucher’s podcast with Dan Harris. Harris talked about a phrase his father used a lot: “Insecurity is the price of security.” The price of having solid, open relationships is effort and discomfort. Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations is the cost of striving to be better.
For a writer, this age of the Internet is the best of times and the worst of times. Getting your stuff out there is easy, but it is also easy for everyone else who aim only to distract you. Thankfully, quality curators exist to help us laypeople sort through the chaos. I just received Ryan Holiday’s monthly email full of great books to read this month. Gala Darling’s Carousel is another compilation of all the great Internet articles of the month. Rookie has a similar collection of weekly articles. Science Daily collects the scientific discoveries of the day, while NextDraft delivers the rest of the news. I also like getting the Writer’s Almanac and the Brainpickings newsletter in my inbox. If you’re into apps, look up the Wired news app.
With all these sources, it should be easy to find great journalism. In January, I had tea with my ex-TA Joe Hanson after tweeting him asking how I can write for Wired magazine like he did. He advised that I should probably start working on reading and writing longer nonfiction (especially science) articles. Writers have a special way of organizing these articles that’s hard to master. I struck out into the discovery of great journalism with a new purpose.
Medium is free and it has excellent nonfiction on it. They also send out a weekly newsletter. I tend to remember creepy articles that make me feel like I want to shower with bleach, like this one about a mysterious itching disease. Or this one that’s not about a serial killer. Wired has some of the best nonfiction writing on the Internet. Here’s a piece that I’ve seen referenced several times today. You should subscribe to Wired magazine. It’s only $5 for six months. You can help keep them going long enough for me to get my act together so they’ll let me write for them.
Junk goes in, junk goes out. I try to read good stuff so I can become a better writer and speaker. Engaging writing inspires me and keeps me focused on the stuff that matters.
Who are your favorite curators, P? Who influences what goes in that presidential mind of yours?
Good luck on the election,
Hello my dearest E,
I love this video (and kissing!) 20 strangers sharing kisses? Idk why it made me so happy. Maybe because all the couples were so different or because they didn’t know each other at all 10 minutes before…..it’s crazy how easily someone can walk in and out of your life. Anyway I felt like this video captured first kisses fairly well…..they can be awkward, fun, magical, “really good”, meaningful, meaningless, passionate, dull, sweet, painful, scary, intimate…..or you know….all of the above.
Happy kissing! Miss you and love you ❤
I came home today, exhausted after the day’s work, and decided to listen to RadioLab while I snacked on a grapefruit. This turned out to be the best decision I’ve made this long day, as I stumbled across an 80th-birthday-celebration interview with Oliver Sacks. P, as you know, Oliver Sacks is my favorite writer. Whenever I listen to interviews with him I always end up getting emotional. This interview was no exception.
To get into why I started tearing up today we have to go back to this time last night. I was sitting in the same spot I am now frantically googling ways I could get into Austin Kleon’s SXSW speech that was today at 2:00. Spoiler alert: I didn’t get in. My irrational optimism led me to believe his speaking presentation would be open to the public, and especially the bright young minds at UT Austin. Turns out badges are $1000+ and I did not plan enough to volunteer. At about 8:00 AM this morning I emailed Austin Kleon asking him if I could come to his speaking presentation (again with the irrational optimism).
The reason I wanted to go to Austin Kleon’s event so very badly is because he has a lot of interesting ideas. He has a new book out called Show Your Work. I recommend it. But the idea most central to my Oliver Sacks story is under a subtitle in his first book: “Climb your own family tree”. I consider Oliver Sacks to be my creative father. That statement sounds egotistical and ridiculous on many levels, but I don’t care. When I first started reading Oliver Sacks’ books at age thirteen my mind was opened. He is the reason for both my college majors, Neurobiology and Rhetoric and Writing, and is the first person I was aware of who successfully combined the two.
Austin Kleon encourages each reader to “Climb your own family tree” because “Seeing yourself as part of a creative lineage will help you feel less alone as you start making your own stuff.” Dr. Sacks has the amazing ability of making his work relatable. This is his great power. His patients have otherworldly neurological disabilities that make it hard for us to imagine what reality seems like to them. Oliver Sacks takes us into his patient’s brain, allowing us to empathize with them. However, Dr. Sacks was not always in a position where he could use this super-power. In the interview I just listened to he talked about how he was a researcher in the beginning of his career. He was a terrible researcher. He lost his notebook and then the myelin he had been collecting from earthworms for nearly a year. The faculty of his research office decided he should be moved to a nursing home with many patients that were victims of the 1920’s encephalitis lethargica disease. These patients were doomed to remain speechless and motionless for eternity; that is, until they were administered L-dopa under the watchful eye of Dr. Sacks. The rest is history, beautifully documented by Sacks himself.
This story made me tear up because I, too, tried research and I, too, lost my specimens. I felt very much less alone. I felt even less alone when Sacks went on to describe one of his heroes: Dr. A. R. Luria. Dr. Luria was the only modern physician Dr. Sacks was aware of that wrote his case histories with the style that Dr. Sacks wanted to write with. Not just the facts, but all the expressive details that portrayed how the patient was feeling: “..a case history that did not shy away from the human aspects and the pathos and drama”, as Sacks described one of Luria’s works.
You know what this means, P. If Oliver Sacks is my creative father, A. R. Luria is my creative grandfather. Sacks felt the same way about Luria as I feel about Sacks: a mixture of overpowering envy and awe.
My plan now is to research Luria and read his best work. Then I will find out who he looked up to, and go further and further up my family tree. After all, we are all related somehow*.
*This means no disrespect to my biological family that I was very lucky to be born into.
When I was in preschool, I used to play a game called “Trapstealers”. My friend J and I would roam around looking for the trapstealers, who were evil, terrifying beings that stole and trapped. Brave children that we were, we took it as our personal responsibility to track them down. The trapstealers were wily, but they left clues for us to follow. J led the expeditions, while my job was to find and interpret the evidence they left behind. Sometimes they would write on leaves or send messages in the patterns of pebbles in the sandbox.
A small part of me still wonders about the trapstealers. If I see notes on the ground, I will pick them up and look at them. Yesterday, I found this:
If the trapstealers were trying to prepare me for a zany interview, they succeeded. Here are my answers to these questions:
“Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?”
The trapstealer story proves that I’m more of a gatherer.
“If you were a pizza deliveryman, how would you benefit from scissors?”
I’ve never delivered pizza, so this one is hard for me. Maybe if I were a pizza deliveryman gridlocked on the Atlanta interstate on January 28, 2014, I could have helped that woman deliver her baby. I could have used my scissors to cut the umbilical cord.
“Give me a time you faced a difficult situation and how you responded.”
I hate this question. Usually I deal with difficult situations by calling my mom and eating a gross amount of chocolate. Next.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
In five years, I’ll be twenty-five. If I continue on my current goal trajectory, I will be reading 100+ books a year, travelling all over the world, and completing Ironman races. I will be doing activities I like with people I like. These are the things I can (kind of) control. I don’t know about any other specifics; the future is too uncertain.
“Tell me what you know about this company.”
I know that you leave mysterious interviews on the ground so that curious bystanders can learn your secrets.
“Why do you want to work for this company?”
The scissor question is interesting.
“What is your biggest strength?”
I keep trying.
“What is your biggest weakness?”
“Tell me about a suggestion you made that was implemented.”
My freshman year, I wanted to start a group for autistic college students at UT and students interested in being their friends. I was very excited about this group and wrote out a long proposal, which I gave to a professor. She never got back to me and I didn’t realize I should email her again or continue to pester her until she paid attention to me (see the weakness answer). Yesterday, I received an email inviting me to exactly the group I suggested. I am happy it was implemented after all, even if I didn’t get to do it.
“Explain why we should hire you.”
You shouldn’t. I’m a weirdie who picks paper off the sidewalk.
“Do you have any questions for me?”
Yes. Who are you? What company do you work for? What are you trying to do? Why did you leave this message for a stranger? What are you trapping? What are you stealing?
How would you answer these questions, P? I miss you loads. You look stunning in your fashion post.