11 November 2015

Being center but not central

So I've been wondering how I can feel so introverted sometimes and seem so extroverted at other times. I like being around people even if they make me uncomfortable and drain me. I doubt I'm a social masochist, so here is my other explanation.

Being the center of attention can be great. When I tell a story I am at the center of attention. Rules are established. I am doing my job as storyteller to be quick and entertaining. Others are doing their job to listen and chime in when appropriate. I am the center, but I am not central. The story is central, the audience is central, but I just happen to be in the midst. This is a comfortable and satisfying place. One can receive praise and love without fear of making any damaging mistakes.

But, say someone gives me a gift and they wait to watch me open it. Or someone wants to celebrate something I've done by throwing me a party. Suddenly I have to not only be proud of whatever it is I've done (graduated, destroyed all evil, survived another year, whatever) but I have to appear excited and grateful for their efforts on my behalf as well. Suddenly I am awash in pressure. My reaction matters to the person and a poor one might mean a poor relationship in the future. I am being made not only the center of attention, but central. With little context I have to figure out the appropriate things to do to maintain social status quos. It is uncomfortable and scary.

Now, this happens to everyone, but we should probably stop doing it to each other. At least I think so. (I recognize I'm being selfish here). Questions out of the blue, unexplained or half-forgotten or empty or unloved traditions, and most expectations make people the center of attention and central to the situation. Unless no one cares about the outcome, these things rarely go very well.


I'm dried-out Alton Brown ground beef.
A congealed mass of chuck this and loin that,
kosher salt and pork fat.

Why? How?
What blended me up?
What's the goal?
Am I the sacrificial foal?
The ungodly hole?
The warning shoal?
The ungodly whole?
The hearth's coal?
The potter's unmade bowl?
Cause I sure do feel young, empty, shallow, legion, brittle, and lumpy.

Was it the depressed child, too young to have a sense of self to lose? Or the middle-class public education that tried so hard to convince me that I was special, just like everyone else? Or the church rooms and classrooms that taught me to treat everyone equally and well because they were just as valuable as me, and if I could do that then I'd be better? Or the society that emblazoned successful people into my eyes, people who by themselves would make an average person but together form the person, just enough that when I look in the mirror or memory bank I can see their mutant superimposed over myself making all the right decisions and comebacks while looking good?

I walk home in flip-flops and a hoodie. Sleet soaked my socks through the hole in my sneakers, guaranteed to make a kid run faster and jump higher. I prefer cold feet to wet ones, so I'm stuck with the annoying sound of one hand clapping beneath me.
I want to hang my head down to avoid accidentally catching the eye of someone I know and become further embarrassed. I want to raise my head up of to make sure I don't walk into anything and become further embarrassed. My indecision embarrasses me.

But I make it home. I always do. Sometimes I wish I didn't, so I'd have to change.

13 November 2013

Hungry Humility

Fasting is one of the most gratifying experiences for me. At least once a month I go without food and drink for 24 hours. I've tried other forms of fasting too. Ramadan was one of my favorites. As long as you can see sunlight then it's work hard, meditate, and don't eat or drink. A day of silence is another favorite. Try to not to speak from when you wake up to when you fall asleep. I have also heard of mirror fasts. People refuse to study their physical appearance for days, weeks, or months. They avoid mirrors, reflective surfaces, and photos of themselves. They just exist and take away the temptation to judge their body.

Humility, to me, is being grateful for your dependency on God. And if you don't believe in God, can you substitute a higher power, nature, or the goodwill of others for God? I think they'd work for the sake of this. It has three parts. It means being grateful that someone, something, or some others help you. And it also means recognizing your dependency on it or them. I can do both of those easily. Part three is being grateful for your dependency. That is a Herculean feat for me. I do not want to be dependent forever and being grateful for it seems like giving in to the idea that I cannot become great on my own (and while I think I am not great on my own I do not believe it yet. Cursed disagreements between my heart and mind).

But I realized food is a great source to explore my humility. I love food. I am often hungry. I do not grow, harvest, or produce anything I eat. Sometimes I cook it, but it is with materials provided through tubes and rods to my apartment. So I recognize I am dependent on others for my food and ability to cook. I am grateful I live in a society that provides me with easy ways to trade money for food so that I can specialize my education and labors on self-gratifying dreams. And I am even grateful for my dependency.

I am grateful because the economic model of such a system makes sense. Specialization helps everyone (okay, just most people most of the time). It improves society as a whole, enabling us to reach new heights of art, technology, study, and thought.
I am also grateful because it is so rewarding. I love food. I love that I have to eat several times a day. The way it feels: chewing, swallowing, pooping, digesting. It's all so relaxing and relieving. I love how exciting it is to taste new dishes. It's even better to make new dishes. It is an easily learned skill with delightful, immediate rewards. Food is great.

So I wonder, why can't my hungry humility apply to other situations? Why can't humility be more consciously rewarding? Helping someone move makes me feel good because it is a workout, I get to know new people or say goodbye to old friends, and it makes me grateful for what I have. I feel humbled by the experience. Teaching a class feels good because it helps me relive the learning opportunities I've had. Whether they were good or not I am grateful they happened because they taught me something, whether intended or not. I am humbled by seeing people learn new things.
There really is a way to be more active about my humility.

28 October 2013

100 Percent

Having enough credits to have graduated if I'd applied them correctly, I am now taking my last 100-level college class. We turned in our one paper a couple weeks ago. I put some good work into it, infusing anecdotes, style, and classy metaphors into one short page.

When we got the papers back I saw 100 circled in red pen at the top. A perfect score. And my first thought was, "Great, I spent all that work and she just handed out perfect grades for completion." Then I looked around (my vanity often compares myself to others' grades). I saw 83 circled. Next to it was an 87. A 93 peeked over someone's shoulder in front of me.

I felt no pride. I was not better than any of these people. I have a lot of experience that has made me a fairly good writer. I worked hard on the paper. I produced something good.
But it wasn't my best and it wasn't life-changing. So I felt sorrow. It was depressing. I could not be satisfied with my grade. By the standards of a 100-level class I probably did deserve the grade I got, but I could not accept it. I cannot accept someone's praise for a really good job. And I hate it.

This is a sad result of college for me. There is a poison I incubate, injected by teacher after teacher who refuses to give out A's in some self-righteous false doctrine of secular education. It secretes just as I want to accept that I am not mediocre. That I might just be above average or, dare I say, excellent. I can no longer feel the joy of accomplishment or even acceptance, because I have spent three years surviving a godless competition of artificially valued curves, as if my value is as chaotic or arbitrary as the stock market.

And in a way it shut me down. I have trouble trying in my classes now. I am sick of trying to impress someone who does not care about me. I am sick of teachers. I want a mentor.

27 May 2013

Giving the Chance to be Forgiven

A couple of my friends are in a bit of a contention. One guy had a bad breakup a couple months ago with a gal he really liked. After the breakup he found out she had dated him for practice. Well, this last week, said guy found out his best friend has started dating this heart-breaker. Hard toke brah.

Unfortunately I disagree with the way both of them are dealing with the situation. Guy 1 feels deeply betrayed. Understandable. Guy 2 feels like he needs to take what life is giving him. Understandable. I've been in both positions. I can dig it. But 1 feels that 2 needs to decide between a bromance and a romance, so he gave 2 an ultimatum: 2 had 24 hours to decide to break up with the gal or find a new place to live for the upcoming months.
My trouble with their actions are the consequences. I can understand going with the flow, but you have to draw some lines for yourself. Most people are not going to do a kilo of cocaine if they happen upon it. And hopefully a person's line is far before that. I've heard all sorts of "rules" about when it is appropriate to date a friend's ex, but making a rule about emotions is like using a sieve to hold water; they're too fluid. So when you care about a person you should draw lines so that even the lemons and sugars of life cannot force you to hurt them. We might not mean to hurt others, but we should be careful to ensure we mean not to hurt them too.

But my biggest trouble is with giving an ultimatum. It only makes things worse. If 2 picks the friendship then he may always feel regret and spite towards 1 for denying him a chance at happiness. If 2 picks the girl now and then later finds out she is not someone he can love then he lost a friend (it should also be mentioned that the girl is planning on leaving in a few months for a year and a half. So she isn't looking for a long-term relationship and one isn't really possible). Worst of all, 1 is preventing 2 almost any chance of someday being forgiven. If things turn sour with 2's relationship and he wants to renew his friendship with 1, 1 is telling 2 that there is no chance. So why would he try? And if no one tries to seek forgiveness then there is no chance for the relationship to continue.

I almost went there a few years ago. A girl really hurt my heart. She lied to me and broke countless promises. I wanted so badly to tell her that she had to choose between me and another and that I would never be there for her again if she didn't choose me. I have always been grateful that I decided not to tell her that (mostly because I realized it isn't true). It would have been unfair. It would have forever prevented us from reconciling. She and I are still not close and I would have trouble calling her even a friend after how she still treats me, but I feel like there is a chance for either of us to someday try to renew what was a very deep and satisfying friendship. I am glad I gave us a chance by denying myself the selfish pleasures of telling her off.

Things don't always work out the way we want them to, but life is good; things always turn out alright. Sometimes (most times) one needs to just leave them alone until they come home.

18 November 2012


"You know when a guy is...like...well...he is still like a Man, but just effeminate too?"
"How could he do that? I won't want to look anyone in my family in the eyes the day after my wedding night."

I happened to overhear both of these conversations while walking around campus today. The first one made me laugh. The second kinda bothered me.

BYU is the only place I have lived or visited where a lot of straight guys wear scarves. I do not know why. I sometimes think that homosexuality as a topic is so avoided and as a situation repressed that people do not think of it as a possibility. In a culture that is not very accepting of people who are homosexual this might be helpful, because it allows people with traditionally taboo traits or preferences to fly under the radar of just being different. Because being transgender or homosexual is not discussed it is not assumed and does not become part of people's causal logic when trying to explain something they see. So a guy who is still, like, a man can be effeminate and no one questions his sexuality. Though, if that effeminate man is gay and he wants to let people around him know then he has no gentle way to do it, because his neighbors might refuse to think of homosexuality as a reality so close to them. So, I laugh, because the situation is ridiculous.

The second quote came from a conversation I heard quite a bit of. The girl was discussing how someone she knew well had been married the previous Saturday and then had to go to the baby blessing for his niece the next day. They she expressed how she thought that would be uncomfortable. Why? Is sex really that scary? Is it embarrassing? I will sweat for lots of reasons on my wedding night I am sure, nerves definitely being one of them. But I would not (I hope) feel embarrassed to be around people. Especially my family.
This connects to another conversation I have had. Apparently some people feel that holding hands is more of a commitment than kissing. They will kiss a person long before holding hands. What!? Kissing is much more sexual (if you feel differently I would love to hear more about that) than holding hands. More sexual situations hopefully express more commitment. But their rationality was that holding hands is a public thing and lets other people know you are in a relationship, but kissing can be done quietly and privately. To them, it is the public announcement of a relationship that means more commitment.
People often have sex on their wedding night. That is nothing tot be ashamed of. You just married someone you love and adore. But are we so scared of being public about love and intimacy. Why?

01 November 2012

Political Dichotomy

Why do Republicans preach that the government should have no involvement in business? Why do Democrats declare that the government should have no say in individual's moral decisions? What is the purpose of government, what should it be involved in?

Why do Democrats say that the United States should not impose its ideals and culture on other countries (by opposing the Monroe Doctrine and dismissing the value of Westernization {that might a bit extreme, but I have heard it rather often of late}) but supports every state having the same morals, laws, and regulations? Why do Republicans try to push the American Dream and culture on the world but reject unification of state laws, projects, and programs under the national government (Romneycare vs. Obamacare for example)? If everyone is supposed to be the same why is it only at a certain level of humanity?

Seriously, I am really confused by these issues. On two big issues, freedom and unity, our major parties use the same rational to suggest opposite suggestions. Silly if you ask me.