ruminations

I began writing this post a week ago, and it was essentially done when I wrote it on Thursday. A week has gone by, and now I have more to think about and reflect upon. Unfortunately, this week has not been as blithe as last week was. Updates written today (July 6) are in red. 7/9: This must have been really confusing the first two days this was up, because I actually didn’t remember to highlight these sections in red in WordPress, although they’re in red in Word. Lol, my mistake. 

~

Every night before I go to bed, a compulsion to check the door comes over me, typically before I brush my teeth. I go to my front door and check the locks, make sure it’s closed, and then go to the back door and do the same. I must do this, although I automatically lock the door behind me when I come inside or leave. Sometimes I do it twice, or three times.

~

I wake up around 7:15 every morning. This isn’t because I’m a morning person, but my apartment is going to make me into a morning person, at least for the duration of this summer. It is because New Haven is close to the water, apparently, and when the sun comes over the horizon, there isn’t much to block its path, and it shines directly into my bedroom, which, as you guessed, faces due east. The first morning I slept in my apartment, I woke up, thinking “shit, I’m late” because it was already so bright in my room. I groggily turned over in bed, looking at the travel alarm clock my mother brought me from Kmart before I studied abroad and saw it was only 5:15. I promptly went back to sleep, only to wake up at 6:45, the sun even brighter in my room.

I get out of bed around 7:45 with five major tasks: get dressed, eat breakfast (woah, I never used to eat breakfast!), moisturize my hair, brush my teeth, and make lunch. I am rarely successful in doing all five things. Clearly I get dressed and eat breakfast, but I haven’t been able to do all three of the other tasks at all. The past two days, I forgot to moisturize my hair. Today, I didn’t have enough time to brush my teeth… 7/6: I have gotten better at my morning routine. Part of the issue was that I had another task on this list (taking penicillin for the mild case of strep throat I had about two weeks ago) and this threw everything off because I had to wait a bit before I eat less I “diminish” its effects. And breakfast is invariably the first thing I do in the morning, although I realize it doesn’t make much sense. Now that I don’t have to take penicillin anymore, I can manage to get everything done and still have time to stroll to work while reading a book.

~

I’ve been living in New Haven for over a month now. I haven’t explored much of the town outside of what little is on the direct path between home, work and class. I suppose this is bad, but I haven’t really had much of a need to do so. Everything I need is within walking distance, and I imagine that living in an actual city sort of feels like this: all is immediately within reach, and therefore the desire to explore that which is beyond grasp is somewhat diminished. I will explore one day, perhaps soon, but as of right now the urge is somewhat quiet in the tumult of my mind.

My mental state has been remarkably good. I suppose it’s the typical “I’m not in school mode” thing, but I also think being removed from Swarthmore has done wonders to my own perception of reality. Things don’t seem quite so fatalistic and pressing. I have this persistent thought in my mind that I should be working, should be writing, should be eating better, should be sleeping more, but it’s significantly quieter and more manageable now than it has been in the past four years. The more I realize and digest the fact that I no longer attend Swarthmore, the more I realize how much I didn’t really enjoy college, and how toxic an environment Swarthmore at times was. I suppose I was so focused on securing plans for the future all the time that I didn’t realize that I was doing that because I had internalized my perpetual discomfort without really understanding my subconscious acts. It’s funny, because several of my closest friends recall conversations with me our freshman year when they were considering transferring. I said to them “Are you sure you don’t like Swarthmore? Maybe you don’t like college.” Two of my friends reconsidered their plans to transfer, although I in no way feel responsible for keeping them there, mostly because them leaving would have meant a more intensified feeling of isolation and surveillance which in this current continuity marked my time at Swat. Another friend, to whom I rarely speak anymore, unfortunately, realized she didn’t like college or Swarthmore, and I haven’t seen her since, outside of social media, which is not really seeing at all. At another point in my life, when I have had some time for my bitterness to subside, I will look back at my time at Swarthmore and better digest it all, rip open some scabs and see what it is underneath that’s causing such a festering. Or I may find out that that sickness I am feeling is imagined, and that a reexamination is actually the opposite of what I want.

7/6 : My mind has unraveled a tiny bit since I wrote this, but not in any way in an unmanageable amount. I have been somewhat distant and unfocused lately, and I’m not sure why. I have a hard time figuring out what to do, and how to do it, even if the task is banal. I’m not really sure what it means.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the same things happen to me every summer. The voyeurism, the lurking on social media. The FOMO. That doesn’t help, but really I find that my emotions become somewhat unmanageable during the summer months. I am more prone to sharp peaks and valleys, have a weakened grasp on my sensibilities. Little things irritate the shit out of me. I go through phases of using social media to close the gap produced by physical space, but everything on social media is closely curated, and therefore it is but an image. A kind of performance art in which we all partake. Illusory existences.

~

7/6 : I’ve gotten around to being self-reflective lately. I’ve been thinking a lot about people I dislike, reanalyzing my reasons for disliking, weighing out the emotional energy that they weigh on my mind. For one, I have gotten over some of the people I began to dislike last year, especially after seeing one of them in passing in New Haven. It doesn’t make sense to dislike people who do not think much about you, regardless of how irrational our emotions are. And so I do not care about my disdain for them, for I am sure, even if it deeply wounds me, that they had some reason for ex-communicating me from their group. Whether or not I agree with that reason doesn’t matter. I can only take what is done to me with stride, note it, grow from it.

Yet, if last summer taught me anything, it was that my anxiety is not so much an affliction as it is another means of perception. The monkey on my back saying “This isn’t right…” isn’t just an illusion, some irrational fear in me, but it may speak to things that the other regions in my mind do not have the acumen to register. The malaise I experienced last summer, bouts of debilitating anxiety, were in response to individuals in my life not seeming interested or capable of understanding me, even though, in hindsight, I wasn’t very clear about my expectations, and perhaps not fair in my demand that I be understood. Having friends is hard, and thinking about and at times for others is a burden I sometimes which I could opt out of completely. But then I get those cravings for touch, for eye contact, for a conversation that isn’t as fleeting as “How was your weekend?” “It was uneventful.”

I would like to strive to be in some way far less aware of myself in the future. That may seem counterintuitive, especially for someone who suffers from chronic anxiety, but it is my worry about others’ opinions of me, of meeting their expectations, of establishing myself as a refutable source of knowledge, or a friend worthy of your confidence, or a level-headed and rational arbiter of logic, that can drive me to madness for I cannot predict how people will respond to my self-manipulation, to my protean tendencies.  I would like to strive towards not caring so much, and eventually, if impossibly, not at all, about others’ opinions of me, for these opinions say very little about me, in reality. When someone dislikes you, it is not that something about you bothers them, which is what most people will say when they say “hey, I don’t like that guy. Something about him…” This something, however, is not necessarily something that the person does actively, but a passive recognition of a property in that person by the hater that the hater often cannot articulate. It can be envy, it can be wrath, it can be lust. Nevertheless, it is because of something that that person sees in themselves, or a memory that the disliked stirs up in the hater’s mind, making a dim fog suddenly legible, the silhouette of something desirable, of something odious, that causes such a reaction. And I kind of can’t be bothered with managing someone else’s issues, especially if they can’t be bothered to take the time to think and say “Hm, why does this person cause me such revulsion?” I have a hard time managing my own problems, analyzing my own pathologies, to do that for you, too. Especially if you don’t like me.

Of course, this is such an ideal view of things. I doubt I will be able to ever commit to such a carefree life, to ever successfully unplug myself from the stream of imagined murmurs and whispers in my ears, thronging my mind.

~

I have been going to the gym often – daresay every day – and it has been a weird experience. I actually couldn’t focus today because I really wanted to purge my mind of all the thoughts that race through my mind while I’m at the gym. Here is a sampling:

 

How long have I been here? Shit, only 19 minutes. I need at least another 15 for this to be considered a valid session. Who is determining that? What’s that sound? Oh, someone grunting. Why do men do that? And why do they make these faces? I suppose it’s not only men, but, now that I notice it, there are only men over here in the weight training area. That’s weird. There’s that sound again. Why does that man feel the need to grunt so loudly, and throw his 60lb weights down on the ground like that? Woah, I wish I could pick up 60lbs and just lug it about. I need to focus. This song isn’t doing it for me; I don’t know why I always listen to this music at the gym, thinking it’ll somehow pump me up. Let’s play something safe; let’s put on some Björk. Oh yeah, that’s it. Let’s try to do another set. I wonder if anyone is watching me. It seems like everyone is in their own world, but I imagine that’s not possible. How can you go inside in the gym, with all this testosterone and tight clothing? I wonder how these people unplug themselves. Maybe they don’t, maybe everyone is just as focused on everyone else, on outdoing everyone else, on watching everyone else, on containing and filing away their thoughts, the yammering voices in their heads. This song isn’t doing it for me, either. Damnit Björk, you’ve failed me. Back to Young Thug, I guess.

 

I had a whole sequence in my head today, and it was kind of weird that I was thinking in terms of writing, as in, what I would write in this blog post. Most of these thoughts are unfortunately reanimated, and not really the sequence I had. I didn’t get around to writing them down in time. It’s a shame that my thoughts have an expiration date.

~

I am starting to enjoy my Latin class, which is weird, because I have been dreading it for the past four weeks. I don’t care for the exercises we do, which is sitting around and reading Latin sentences aloud and translating them. The instructor has an annoying tendency to interject into your translation if you make a mistake, which I find insufferable, although I realize now that it’s necessary, however rude it may seem. I enjoy Latin insofar that it informs the way I understand French not only as this abstract way of speaking that is, for some reason, in my mind still, just a cypher of English. Latin has enriched my understanding of French by showing me why French is the way it is, even if Latin and French have significantly diverged phonemically and grammatically. Yet, phrases like je me souviens DE lui make sense to me now, for in Latin, the word to remember (meminisse) takes a dative object, and that translates to de in French, even if Latin inflects the object.  You may have no idea what all this means, but I like to consider myself an amateur or hobbyist philologist, and I do find language fascinating, although I’m actually not sure, after taking this Latin class, if I have as much of a “natural” talent for languages as I previously believed. I also think I am starting to enjoy this Latin class because this is the last week, and the reality of it soon being over is making me somewhat giddy. I realized that time in class goes by much quicker, and I actually want to contribute to conversation in ways that aren’t purely “How does this relate to French?” a question I’m afraid is quite annoying to my peers, who seem to be studying Latin for itself, as opposed to for pedagogical or linguistic purposes.

7/6: Finished the Latin class. The instructor kept on asking me to attend the second session of Latin, which is less about grammar than it is about reading Latin literature, a skill I don’t think I’ll need right now. At the same time, this frees up time in my afternoons to work on my projects, albeit at a pace I will inevitably find too slow.

~

I bought my iPad a week ago. It’s fine. Not incredible, not terrible. It hasn’t changed my life, nor do I expect it to do so. I bought it, as you know, to substitute for my laptop when going to class. I would be typing this blog post on the iPad if my keyboard case arrived today. [I am typing this on the iPad, with the keyboard case. The keyboard is quite small, and is not as responsive as my laptop. I am hoping that I’ll just get used to it with time, although I have to say I am a bit disappointed.] It’s scheduled to get here on Saturday. [It arrived on Friday.] Anyways, I am excited to have it now that my Latin class is ending. I will have free afternoons, and I hope to spend that time working on my various and sundry projects. I have a research project (a scheme to spend next summer abroad) that I’d like to do some preliminary research on, and I also have these two novellas that I will finally have the time to edit and perhaps even send off to agents/presses/publishers. I also have a research paper that I had wanted to submit to the journal for Mellon fellows, but it’s too long. Nevertheless, hopefully Dr. Yervasi gives me ample comments and suggestions on new trajectories to take on what was in my opinion one of my most adventurous and introspective papers. (It’s a study of Facebook’s Timeline as a sort of “punitive space,” relying heavily on, you guessed it, Michel Foucault’s theory of the panopticon.) I will have time and energy to look for journals to submit my work, as well as generate ideas for future projects. The iPad hopefully should facilitate this process, but we shall see. I will start all of this next week.

~

I changed my layout again, hopefully for the last time for several months. I’m glad I didn’t get rapt in the process of completely redesigning; I really only worked on it for a few hours tonight, after eating dinner. I thought the old layout, while nice in its own way, was quite dated in terms of style, and a bit hard on load times because of the background. This layout is much cleaner, albeit a tad bland. I like the big X.

~

I am slowly but surely getting through the mountain of books I’ve acquired over the past three years. The first week in my apartment, I read two books — E.R. Braithwaite’s Reluctant Neighbors and Dany Leferrière’s Je suis fatigué. Both books were enjoyable for different reasons, and I quite like reading nonfiction, although I’m doubtful that the Braithwaite text is completely nonfictional. The next book I read was Paule Marshall’s Pridesong of the Widow, a text I read on the behest of Professor Schmidt at Swarthmore. I didn’t like it much. It took me a week in and a half to read it, not because it was long, but because it was boring. I am trying to read two books by men, two books by women this summer, alternating between French and English, although I imagine I will probably give up the language requirement since I have more English-language texts. I’m currently reading Ken Bugul’s Cendres et Braises. I also have a number of longer books that I need to read lest my legitimacy as an aspiring scholar of Africana literatures be put into question. I still haven’t read Invisible Man OR Native Son, but I also don’t like reading canonical stuff for a reason I can’t really explain. I haven’t read Go Tell It On the Mountain, either, although I have read several other Baldwin books. Also haven’t read Things Fall Apart, although I’ve read A Man of the People, Arrow of God and No Longer at Ease. Shit, I haven’t even read Le docker noir, Sembène’s most famous book.

I have to choose which one of these books I’ll read this summer. However, I am not going to give myself a list or a quota. I am trying to live a guilt-free existence, although I think guilt is the only way I manage to get anything done. That, too, needs to go.

Leave a Reply