Sunday, February 18, 2018

Addicted to Sticky Notes

The notion is extremely conceited. I recognize that. And I hope that my recognition serves to diminish some of the arrogance that I will inevitably pin to myself when I say that I have more thoughts than other people. There. It's out. I've done the damage, now please let me scramble to explain myself and attempt to cling on to whatever shreds of respect you might have for me.

It is all too supercilious of me to believe that other people are less complicated than me. When I fail to understand that every single person on this planet has just as many, if not more, complexities and nuances as myself, I fail to truly recognize the people around me as actual people, as humans with hearts that beat and palms that sweat. I don't want to be that person. But let me describe my alternative.

Have you ever been to the dollar section at Target? I spent a significant chunk of time and money there as a kid, and the result was an impressive collection of notepads. Let me tell you that those notepads did not go to waste. Around the age of ten, I started writing to-do lists and hour-by-hour schedules defining how I would spend my weekends and school vacations. My concern was that if I didn't have my plans in writing, then I would throw away all of my time watching television. I didn't trust myself to remember to do everything that I wanted to do.

Years ago, I mentioned that I have kept some form of journal since around the second grade. Records of conversations I had with friends, summaries of how I'd spent recent weeks, confessions of my endless insecurities, thoughts that keep passing through my brain--I have them all somewhere in some form of writing. Somehow, I had developed this fear that if I didn't write something down, I would forget it. I would lose it forever. So I felt this urgent need too write down everything happening to me, with me, or around me. Because I was desperately afraid of forgetting myself, of losing myself.

And it always feels like I'm on the brink of doing just that. I overthink who I am and why I act the way I do. What motivates me? Am I being myself or am I trying too hard to be this ideal person? But isn't trying to be the person that I want to be the same thing as being myself? Nothing I do feels natural. It all feels forced, like I'm constantly trying to execute some plan rather than just living my life.

The simple act of having thoughts like these makes my brain feel like it's running with no sign of stopping. It hurts. It gives me constant headaches and makes my heart beat faster. My fingers are always itching to do something because of it. Just to clarify, I mean all of this literally. This isn't a poetic description. My hands actually go kind of nuts. That's why I draw and write and play piano--to put my hands at ease.

The best thing I can do is write down as much as I can, because when I write down my thoughts it feels like I'm dumping them out of my head. Then for a little while, my head is empty enough to think about things like turbulent flow through a rough tube or high-pass circuit impulse responses to pulse inputs. I mean, these things also give me headaches, but at least they're more productive.

But I digress. Let's get back to discussing that thing I said that makes me sound like an asshole. I kind of know that I don't think more than most people. But maybe I'd rather sound like an asshole than address the fact that other people have the brain capacity to deal with an endless stream of thoughts, and I just don't. I don't possess the mental strength to not be overwhelmed by my own thoughts.

Alternatively, everyone struggles the way I do, but we all just hide it from each other. Perhaps I am neither special nor stupid. But I don't like that. I've always aspired to be this great protagonist, which means I can't be normal. I have to stand out in some way, you know? I've either got to face this great disadvantage that I will eventually overcome in order to prove myself a hero, or I've got to possess this incredible trait that gives me a mark of superiority. I can't just be normal. I can't be satisfied with normal. Why else would I put so much effort into each of my outfits?


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Something that Doesn't Exist

A glowing laptop rests on a small table in front of me. My legs are propped up onto the chair next to me as I sift through the expanse of notes that surround me. White pages, blue lines, black scribbles--everything blurs together. I notice an ache in my upper back, a dull soreness in the back of my head, a slight burning sensation in my eyes. Sometimes there's music. Soothing classical. Energetic rock. Motivational pop. Sometimes there's silence--interrupted occasionally by the squeak of a chair, the whir of an overhead plane, an excited shout from outside.

This is how I spend most of my time. I spend it alone. I spend it staring at a screen. I spend it working. Does it sound boring? Because it is. That's why whenever I get the chance, I open a book and run to Pemberley or Gilead or Wonderland. Sometimes I watch Rory jump off of a three story ledge in a baby blue ball gown as she starts to fall in love with Logan. Or I'll put on a Ghibli film and follow Chihiro through the bathhouse or tag along with Sophie as she navigates the Wastes. Any time I get a chance, I attempt to make an escape, to abandon the neutral tones of my reality for a technicolor fantasy.

Occasionally, I'll contemplate how most of my "worldly knowledge" was obtained from fiction. Everything I know about falling in love is fiction-based. As is everything I know about great tragedies and overcoming adversity and soul searching. My perception of the world has been carefully written and edited--manufactured, if you will. It leads me to wonder if the things that I'm looking for actually exist. Because for my entire life, I've been searching for something. Something that makes an uptight person like me lose control. Something that forces me to stop thinking and just feel. What if this thing that I seek is fictional as well? Maybe I'll be trapped in my own head and under my own control for the rest of my life. Maybe there's no way out.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Terminal 17

There's a relentless buzz pulsing through the air, as if the sound waves are oceanic rather than conical. I turn my head towards the sound, and my eyes fall up on shelves of rainbow colored plastic. Bottles, bags, and cans bursting with salt and sugar and chemicals whose names threaten to tie my tongue. I imagine that me pronouncing those names would sound something like the clashing of Terminal 16 and Terminal 18's overlapping announcements: a myriad of syllables that sound like a language I know but that don't really mean anything at all. Especially when blended with the rhythmic click of rolling wheels over tile, the slap of a flip flop against a woman's heel, the fascinated "wow"-ing of a toddler in a stroller, the announcements are hard to follow.

It's hard to focus on any voice or person for that matter. An endless stream of people walk past. I'm surprised the airport isn't filling up like a glass under a running faucet. Though I suppose it's true that people are leaving. People tend to do that at airports. I wonder where they're all going. Are they going on a trip? Perhaps it's baby's first vacation. Or maybe it's a big job interview. It could be a trip that's been done a thousand times before, like visiting Grandma for a few days or checking in with the clients up north. What if they're headed home? I'll bet they're tired, looking forward to sleeping in their own bed again. I hope they've got clean sheets and something edible in the fridge. Do they have family waiting at home? A roommate? A fish? Maybe they just have a piano that their fingers are itching to play. I should hope that something good awaits everyone when those planes land.

I just think it's nice to be surrounded by people who are all going somewhere. Stagnancy is kind of terrifying, isn't it?


Sunday, January 28, 2018

I'm Yours, When It Rains It Pours

"Oh my god, you are soaked!" She says with a laugh. "Why aren't you carrying an umbrella?"

"You ask as if I own an umbrella."

"What? Why--"

"Who needs an umbrella in California?"

She glances around pointedly at the rain falling heavily from the sky, the floor shiny with fresh raindrops, and the throngs of people around them equipped with colorful umbrellas. "You're right. I don't know why I would ask such a ridiculous question."

"Besides, I enjoy the rain. Why would you hide away? It's just water."

"Oh is it?"

"Yes, yes it is."

With a mischievous smile, she tilts her umbrella towards him and gives it a quick shake--showering him with his own personal downpour. He looks at her, vengeance in his eyes and laughter on his lips, before screaming, "You're gonna pay for that!" and making a lunge for her umbrella. Mere seconds in the rain and she's absolutely drenched.

"Ah, no!" she exclaims with a laugh as she begins running towards the nearest building.

"Oh no you don't!" He quickly catches up to her, grabbing her waist and pulling her into a tight hug.

"No, no! You're soaking wet!" she yells as she tries to free herself from his hold. After a second of squirming, she tosses him a defeated smile. "Okay, okay, okay, you win!"

He tilts his head down so that their noses touch. "Say it."

Glancing down with mock shame and a small pout she mutters, "I'm sorry."

Bringing the umbrella over both of their damp heads, he replies with a smile, "Good."

*     *     *

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Waiting Wondering

Somehow she seems to perch rather than sit. I didn't even know humans could perch, but there she is: at the edge of the bench with her knees tucked into her chest. Eyes wide, lips parted; she's the embodiment of poise, but she seems to remain alert. For a moment, her lips curve into a smile. Glancing around, I try to see what she's looking at, but I can't make anything out in the dark. It appears that she and I are the only two people outside--not surprising at this hour, I guess. She must've thought of something pleasant. Or funny. That's why she smiled.

Maybe she smiled because she noticed me walk up. Does she want me to go talk to her? Unlikely. Things like this generally don't work in my favor. She's probably wondering why a creepy stranger stepped out of the math building and decided to start staring at her. Oh my god, I've been staring at her. It's midnight, she's probably waiting for an Uber or something, and I just showed up and started staring at her. If I was her I'd be freaked the fuck out by now. I'm surprised she hasn't pulled out her phone and dialed 911 by now. I would've! Gah, I'm still staring. "Crap."

"Huh?" She's looking at me. Why is she looking at me? Wait.

"Crap." Ah shit. "Sorry, I didn't mean to say that out loud. Twice. I was just thinking."

She smiles again. "Same. What a coincidence."

*     *     *


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Now What?

To long for something that doesn't exist is to allow oneself to pursue an insatiable desire, to yearn for an image or a glimpse--a mere fragment of the mind. It is to throw oneself into a suffering for which no foreseeable end exists. It is to dissociate from the tangibility and satisfaction of reality. Acquiring a mortgage for a daydream can be nothing but detrimental to a person's mental health, not to mention her wallet. It drives her into the depths of isolation where the thoughts are the clearest and the imagination does its best impression of reality. She leaves herself to dwell in solitude, attempting to muster up a realistic simulation of what she could not conjure in real life.

The issue is fear. She's afraid, for whatever reason, to produce a tangible version of her fantasies. Instead she chooses to to hide away. Cowering in the corner, she defaults to existing in an environment that can't hurt or disappoint or anger her. And even when she's perfected this environment, even when she's surrounded herself with art that tells every story she wishes were real or literature so lifelike that it makes her heart ache, she still feels this weight. The kind of weight that results from gravity pulling as hard as it can, pawing around for something that just isn't there.

Part of her, the part that's responsible for the tingling in the stomach and the fluttering of the heart, suspects that these ideas, fantasies, and thoughts would be more fulfilling of they were real. Part of her has come to terms with the fact that there's something unsatisfying about living vicariously through her imagination, something exhausting about imagining the feeling of arms wrapping around her as opposed to simply being held.

*     *     *


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Why I'm Still An Engineer

Hi, I'm a third year university student majoring in Mechanical Engineering. I want to talk about that.

I'll preface this by declaring my extreme distaste for the subject of engineering. It's difficult and, in my opinion, uninteresting. That being said, I refuse to change majors. From the very beginning of college, way before it was "too late" to switch, I knew that I couldn't quit. For one thing, I had my parents to consider. You should see the pride in their eyes when they tell people that their little girl is an engineering student. But it's more than that. The reason they wanted me to study engineering in the first place is job security. Regardless of my complete and utter disinterest in the subject, engineering practically guarantees me some sort of well-paying job. My parents have provided me endless comforts since I was born, and a time will come when I will need to return the favor. At some point in the future, I'm going to need the kind of financial security that provides me with enough time and money to take care of them. In a more immediate sense, I want them to have fewer worries about me. If me studying engineering takes some weight off their shoulders, then I will study engineering. I'll complain, but I'll do it.

There's also a part of this that acts as a sort of feminist statement. I want to contribute to the increasing number of women who graduate with STEM degrees, even though I'm only increasing that number by one. I want to defy gender stereotypes and stick it to any asshole who thinks that girls aren't smart enough to be engineers. One of the main reasons that I stubbornly refused whenever my friends suggested that I quit engineering has to do with pride. If I quit, people would think I was just some dumb girl who couldn't keep up with those guys who blab all day about car engines and Elon Musk. I may not give a shit about turbines or robots, but rest assured, it's not because I'm not smart enough to understand them.

Besides, I don't really have a good reason to quit. Yeah, it's hard, but it's not so hard that I'm failing or anything. People always say I should quit because I don't like it. Personally, I think people my age focus too much on passion and happiness when it comes to careers. They think that because they only have one shot at life that they need to spend it pursuing something that brings them joy. While it's very nice to imagine a life where you don't work a day because you love your job, it's unrealistic. More than that, it's kind of childish. Maybe even selfish--depending on your situation. Quitting engineering because "I don't like it" is immature and irresponsible, especially when considering the plethora of benefits that come with obtaining an engineering degree. Sometimes in life, you need to make sacrifices. And those sacrifices don't mean that I can't be happy. I spend my free time doing all the things I love! But it's impractical to expect complete happiness all the time. If everyone constantly pursued their hedonistic desires, we wouldn't have a functioning society. A huge part of life involves doing things you don't want to do. I may be wrong (I am a mere twenty year-old child, after all), but I think a huge part of growing up is accepting that fact.

This final reason may not seem like the most important motive for my persistence, but it is to me: I want to prove to myself that I can graduate with a degree in engineering. I want to prove that I have the brains, the willpower, and the discipline to see this thing through to the end--despite my hatred for the subject. Long story short, I do not intend on leaving college until whoever is in charge of torturing us engineers looks me in the eye, shakes my hand, and gives me my damn degree.