Archive for the 'Introspective' Category

2 years 3 months 20 days ago

(Time courtesy of Wolfram|Alpha)

Taken on Feb. 8th, 2007

Taken on Feb. 8th, 2007

Since I started this blog. I was a sophomore in college. So much has changed since then.

I last blogged 4 months 3 days ago. Since I last blogged I graduated from college; I worked on Beauty and the Beast and had the biggest house (sold out!) in 10 years; I went on a cruise for the first time. I had a lot of average days, some great, some terrible. I’ve stressed out a lot less.

The summer has started for me, which means I spend most of my days at work for 8 hours a day in front of a computer. Strangely enough, this gives me a lot more free time than I had during school between classes, friends, theater, work, and relaxation. This is the time when I start to seek people out online, I start to blog again, I start following twitter and friendfeed like a fiend. I start other random projects that may or not pan out. I watch more TV. I read.

Taken on Jan. 15th, 2009

Taken on Jan. 15th, 2009

My goal for the end of the summer is to learn how to memorize a shuffled deck of cards. Useful? No. Cool? Hell yes. I’d also like to catch up on my reading, my TV, and say goodbye to NYC.

I can’t believe I never mentioned it on here but I’m going to be moving to Seattle to work for Microsoft. I’m excited and scared at the same time. I don’t know anyone over there.

Now that I’m sitting here I find that I have so many things that I could write about, but I don’t really feel like doing it. I think I’ll go back to reading The Host.

Taken today May 28th, 2009

Taken today May 28th, 2009

Chat Logs

One of the great features of Gaim (now Pidgin) back in the day was logging. You could log all your chats in txt form or in HTML and go back and read over them later. You could quote from them, search through them, read them at your leisure. You could ponder about what that one little line your crush sent to you could mean, long after closing the conversation window. It was a great feature that I probably used all of 10 times since it’s been available.

One of the really nice features that came out of it was the little bit of history that gets injected into your window the next time you talk to them. It reminds you about what you were talking about and gives some continutity to each conversation and I don’t know that I could live without it. But that’s about as much as I need, the last 5 things we said to each other. I have never once, since I started logging conversations, gone back and read through them all. So why do I have a folder in My Documents called Chat Logs that holds all my old chat logs from circa 2006? Why do I habitually carry them around with me from computer to computer as if they are some sacred data?

Sure, going through them might give me some insight into who I was. A little time capsule of sorts, just like old blog posts. Should I keep them as a reminder or delete them and focus on looking forward? When would I ever spend time looking at them unless I was trying to look back and recover something that is long gone? I should just get rid of them.

I have a better idea, I’ll post them up online and place a link here. If I ever go back and read over this I can download them all and re-read my old conversations.

The Paradox of Hedonism

I find that I am always falling victim to the paradox of hedonism. I see a group of people enjoying something so I go out and try that thing, thinking it will make me happy. I don’t end up getting any pleasure from it because I’m not doing the activity for love of it, I’m doing it so it will make me happy.

It’s clearly reflected in the way I look for a relationship. I’ve been looking for a relationship under the assumption that a relationship will make me happy. I’m not sure what it is about the relationship that is supposed to make me happy, but I keep looking for one anyway. I think that’s one of the primary reasons that once I’m in the relationship I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing. Do I even need to be in the relationship?

I’ve never been able to determine what makes a relationship different from other interactions people share. You hook up in a relationship, but you certainly don’t need a relationship to hook up. You go out and spend time together in a relationship, but you don’t need one to do that either. You’re monogamous in a relationship (unless it’s an open relationship, and then I don’t know what the heck that means) but that seems to apply on the physical level much more than on the emotional. Is a relationship a really good friend that you are monogamous with? I don’t really want an answer, I’m just thinking out loud.

So I sat here for 15 minutes thinking about my past relationships, close friendships with the opposite sex, and one night stands. I’m having a hard time figuring out what I was looking for in each instance. I suppose I could think about it forever and never reach a consensus.

It’s time to take a pledge: no trying to meet girls online this summer. No craigslist, no MySpace, no Facebook, no Yahoo Personals, no Stickam. If I’m meeting people it’s going to be in person.

Morning revelations

As I stated in my last post, I’ve apparently been “…looking for a girl who is a locked box. [I] want to be the one to open it up and be privy to everything inside.” Every relationship I’ve been in I’ve pushed the person I’ve been with to open up. Not that they’ve been particularly closed off, but I’ve wanted to be in their head so badly that I push them to say things they don’t want to say, things that don’t really help anything, and in the end I just make things harder for them. I don’t know if they’ve ever realized it, I only just realized it myself, but looking back it’s clear that it has been the major cause of problems in a number of my past relationships.

This is most relevant in my most recent relationship. I have been bemoaning the way things went since it ended, and I wrote a number of private posts trying to figure things out for myself. She was going through a really rough time and asked that we go back to being just friends. It was the mature thing for her to do; it wouldn’t have been fair to me to keep me in a relationship that she couldn’t handle. I was too busy trying to understand what she was going through and trying to make her tell me everything she was feeling to look with my own eyes and see the way things were.

At first I tried really hard to honor her request to just be friends. I wanted her in my life, and so I didn’t have a choice but to soldier on and be just her friend. I immediately felt like a second-rate friend. She had other friends that she told more things to than me, I felt like I wasn’t getting all the details of her life. I didn’t know how to reconcile this, and I got angry. I became a really shitty friend. I felt that I deserved some of her time as her friend. When I didn’t get it, when I wasn’t privy to what was going on, when I wasn’t the person that she told stuff to I felt really hurt. That was what hurt the most, and I couldn’t find a way to come to terms with it.

She gave me a lot of chances to be her friend, but I wasn’t ready to be her friend. I couldn’t see what I was doing wrong, or how my naive view of the relationship had placed a wall between us. This went on for a couple months as I followed her on LiveJournal and tried to talk to her from time to time. The more things I saw her doing without me, the more hurt I was and the more angry I got until I couldn’t follow her anymore. I stopped following her a little over a month ago. I don’t think it has made me think about her any less, but I’ve been less angry.

Over the last week or so I started talking to people about how things went, how angry I felt at her, and how I couldn’t figure out went wrong. The more I talked to people, the better I felt about things and the more I felt that things would be okay in the end. This morning I woke up and it was as if someone had climbed into my head in the night and placed this little nugget of knowledge at the forefront of my thought. Since I’ve been thinking it through and talking to my friends, and in the process of writing this post, I’ve come to see how this misconception about all of my interpersonal relationships has adversely affected things.

I don’t need to go into details here, but I’m going to wait for things to settle in my mind before I contact her and say I’m sorry. I really want finals to be over before I start talking to her because I don’t want to be a distraction from school. I want to know that I’m ready to be her friend before I try to do it. I don’t know that things will ever go back to the way they were, but I don’t want things to end the way they did. More updates will follow.

Reading, Theater, Management

It’s been nearly a month since I posted anything, and over a month since I posted anything that wasn’t private. I went to London and had a great time. I saw a ton of stuff and took photos of some of it. I can’t wait for my friends to come back to the states. Most of them are going to be on campus for the summer (like me) and I am very excited.

I got my butt kicked by school work when I came back, and then show week was going on, and then there was the show itself. I basically took a month-long break from the internet. I’ve been easing my way back into it, but I’ve been having a great time reading books. I’ve read some personal novels as well as books for class and I should definitely write about them.

While in London I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintanence. When I got back I dove into book 11 of The Wheel of Time: Knife of Dreams. After, I started in on other books on my shelf that I hadn’t read before like Snow Crash and Mona Lisa Overdrive. Now that I’ve finished those I’m starting Stranger in a Strange Land.

For class I read Hamlet, Prince of Denmark for the third or fourth time. Now we’re in the middle of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. I’ve been reading some poetry as well, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens in particular. I don’t have any favorite poems, but a couple stanzas always stick out. From “Sunday Morning”:

VI

Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.

Or from “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”:

V

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” I especially like the epigraph:

S`io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocchè giammai di questo fondo
Non tornò vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

It comes from Dante’s Inferno (XXVII, 61-66). Allen Mandelbaum’s translation of the Inferno reads:

“If I thought my reply were meant for one
who ever could return into the world,
this flame would stir no more; and yet, since none—
if what I hear is true—ever returned
alive from this abyss, then without fear
of facing infamy, I answer you…”

Outside of all this reading, I’ve been doing the usual programming homework and keeping busy. I had this great conversation the other night about relationships, “jump offs”, racism, music, and art. He articulated what I seem to be looking for in a relationship so articulately that I have to write it here. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “You’re looking for a girl who is a locked box. You want to be the one to open it up and be privy to everything inside.” It’s very close to the truth. I don’t really want to spend any time analyzing what I think I’m looking for, since that will always be in flux, but I felt that I needed to record that for posterity.

In other news, I decided that I am going to finish my degree in English literature and write a thesis; I’m running for vice president of SDS and I’m working hard on my speech so I give myself an earnest shot; and I’m looking into taking on more managerial roles in projects and within SDS.

I think that last thing is important. I’ve been ASM (assistant stage manager) several times in the past, and each time has been a learning experience. Understanding your responsibilities and getting better at them is a rewarding experience. This last show I was props manager. This was my first time as a designer for a show and it presented its own set of challenges. I found that not only did I have to design, but I also had to communicate with an assistant and with other departments to make sure that everyone was on the same page.

This experience reminded me of attempting to manage my group project for databases. My job was to be organized and to have concrete goals in mind for where the project was heading. I was supposed to lay a framework and assign deadlines and mini-projects to members of the team. I failed to do that effectively and it reflected on the project as a whole.

One of the problems with being in power is the feeling that you need to exercise that power. This isn’t the case at all, but many people who are placed in this sort of position for the first time (or couple times) try to exercise their power and react poorly to others trying to usurp any of their power. This is detrimental to the entire process. The real job of a manager is to serve as a moderator between different parties and to give the project direction.

I’m just starting to see this now, and now that I’m starting to understand the purpose of a manager I feel that I can be a better manager in the future. Of course my focus is in technology, but having good managerial skills is a benefit no matter what environment you’re in.

This has been a long and far reaching post. I didn’t mean for it to be like this, but I think I said a lot of the things I needed to say. I know there’s probably another post rattling around in my head but I need to think about it some more before it ends up on here.

My body is a shell?

I was watching Ghost in the Shell while doing some programming. I decided I wanted to do work and watch something at the same time. Having something to glance at when I got bored with my work would help. I got the idea (although it wouldn’t be the first time I had done it) from Rands In Repose:

In Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, he describes how researchers for Sesame Street determined what parts and how much of the show were actually registering with five-year-old kids. What they discovered was that, when presented with toys and quality segments, these children were able to play with toys and remember content from the show just as well as kids who just watched the show.

I can’t really tell how it worked out for me because I didn’t have a deadline and the work was very casual. I’ll have to try it when I’m writing a paper and see if I get any more work done then.

As I was watching Ghost in the Shell (and apparently ignoring my work) I wondered why Motoko felt so comfortable naked. She didn’t seem to mind being seen by Batou after scuba diving nor did she seem particularly shy in general. And then I thought,”if I knew my body was just a shell, would I feel awkward about being naked? Would I really care about what happened to it or who saw it? Would I feel better about the way I looked? Or feel worse?” It was a deep moment for me.

I believe that I have a soul, so isn’t my body just a shell? Shouldn’t I already feel that way? I know that the body is sacred too (it’s in the Bible somewhere, someone else can find it) and therefore it has significance, but I was suddenly faced with w new set of moral questions about body augmentation. Having read Neuromancer I’ve wanted to be like Case. I wanted to be a console cowboy and have a ROM of my mentor that I could jack into and have conversations with. I wanted to float in cyberspace and be able to use my mind to control the computer. Now I wonder if I would really take the necessary steps to augment my body.

I don’t believe in tattoos or piercings on my body. I don’t mind if other people do it, in fact I think they’re pretty cool, they’re just not for me.  If I’m opposed to those simple body mods, would I let someone fiddle around in my brain and add some electronics? Would I abandon my body entirely for a cybernetic one? How much of me is really me? How much can I give up and still feel the same?

It turns out that those really are the themes in Ghost in the Shell. Underneath all the cyberpunk and hacking and destroying  of tanks, it’s a question about what makes us human. If nothing else, re-watching this movie has made it clear to me how insecure I am about my body. I should work on that.

I do not regret the things I’ve done…

So I need a place to compose my thoughts. The irony is that I need to compose my thoughts about writing, by writing, when in truth I don’t like writing very much. I don’t know where this dislike for writing originated from, but as far back as I can remember I had trouble putting my thoughts down on paper. I don’t seem to have a problem with speaking, which befuddles me because that is also personal expression in words. I have a strong grasp on English: my vocabulary is extensive and I have a good handle on grammar and style (I have The Elements of Style on my shelf).

I don’t have any trouble forming an argument or communicating complex ideas. I am able to think analytically and I make powerful connections between different ideas. I say this because it’s true, and I don’t often give myself credit for it. Many of my professors would say the same thing about me and thoroughly enjoy having me as a student. I contribute meaningfully in class and am an active learner. I seek out knowledge regardless of the grade. One professor in particular believes that I am more than capable of acing my papers and seems to have much more confidence in me than I do.

This semester I have been unable to put pen to paper. I don’t know where the source of my mental block comes from, but the inability to start ruins any shot I have of doing well. I love the material and I’ll actively seek out and read literature that it alludes to or that alludes to the work. I can have a conversation about the works, compare and contrast them, and, if we were having a conversation, I would find passages to support my arguments. If there was another person there that wanted to talk about it, I would do it.

Why can’t I do the same thing by myself. Do I need a sounding board? Do I lack the confidence to say anything with certainty, so I say nothing at all? Am I afraid of being wrong? With another person we share the conversation, I give my view and they give theirs. Hopefully my view changes as I learn and see more and I am able to develop a deeper understanding of the work being discussed. When writing a paper, however, I am supporting arguments on my own. Often times I feel that I can’t support the argument that I’m trying to prove, and I get frustrated. The obvious topics seem too simple, because to me they are obvious, and I often assume that proving them in a paper would be stupid. Maybe I try to hard to prove something that can’t be proven?

In any case I feel generally overwhelmed when I have a paper due, for no apparent reason. I know it is due, and I will actively avoid working on it or thinking about it. I spend more time avoiding the paper than it would take to write the paper, and writing the paper isn’t difficult. I don’t have trouble doing the writing, I suffer a strange innate aversion to it. I can’t really describe it, but it is completely debilitating.

This problem isn’t new. It struck me in high school and has raised its ugly head several times since I’ve been in college. So far this semester I have missed two papers, a presentation, have not started on a paper due this week, and have not started a history research paper that will also be due soon. After ruining two weekends in a row with stress (and not doing the papers anyway, and losing countless hours of sleep during the week) I decided that it wasn’t worth it.

“I never liked writing in the first place,” I told myself, “I just thought it would be good to be good at it.” And it’s true. I do desperately want to be able to write papers fluently and with ease. I want the B.A. in English literature because I want to be recognized for my hard work and interest in the field. It was almost within reach, but I can’t seem to do the papers. It reached a point where I had to wonder why I bothered taking the classes if I didn’t want to do the work and I was ruining my ability to enjoy life in the process.

I take the classes because I want to be guided through the works by someone who has read them before and can expose nuances within the text and other background information that I would not pick up on otherwise. It isn’t unreasonable. Honestly it also isn’t unreasonable for them to require that I do outside work to contribute to my understanding, such as writing a paper. The purpose is not only to assess my understanding of the work, but to help me learn more about the work by asking me to support an argument or idea through the text.

I know it isn’t unreasonable. I know why I should do it. I don’t have an issue with that, I simply am not able to complete the task. And often times I have no problem with the consequences. I will accept massive point reductions on papers and hand them in during the last week of class to avoid failing. I will take a C in the class because I didn’t hand in a paper worth 25% of my grade, even though I aced the rest of the course. I know many people would look at me and tell me that I’m insane for wasting an A like that. But the truth is I can’t seem to write the paper by the due date, or sometimes at all.

I don’t know what I’m going to tell my professor at our meeting tomorrow. I know that she doesn’t want me to withdraw or fail the course, and is willing to do everything she can to help me write the papers. The prospect is so promising, but it doesn’t address the larger issue: even with all the leeway in the world I am still going to have trouble with the paper.

Somehow this is going to come out to be about 1250+ words. That’s five pages, double spaced, size 12 font. That’s longer than any of the papers I have due. I put thought into this (although obviously not the same kind of thought that I would put into a paper). It seems like the paper should be so easy (and as I say that the fear creeps over my shoulder again and infects my chest) but I can’t seem to do it.

I’m scared that this extends further into my life than I realize and that it will become a serious issue at a job. I’m afraid that I will have to try to conquer this demon when there is much more on the line than just a grade. I’m afraid, because even with all this anxiety and fear, I have no desire to change. I don’t want to do extra work, I want to coast along and graduate with ease. I want my senior year to be simple and straightforward. I want to get a 4.0, like I know that I can. I don’t see any of that happening if I keep going for the lit degree. My chest tightens when I think about the work and I relax when I think about dropping the classes. If that isn’t a clear indication of how I feel, then I don’t know what is. My biggest fear is that my feelings are wrong and that I’m going to make the wrong choice and regret it for the rest of my life.

I do not regret the things I’ve done, but those I did not do.” – Rory Cochrane


Categories

RSS What I’m Reading

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.