Connecting is a workout: both exhausting and worthwhile

 

It’s a bit alarming how quickly I have adjusted to the callousness associated with cities. I drive aggressively– at least compared to how I used to– and I am really good at avoiding or shutting down people I don’t want to talk to. My unfortunate habit of dealing with people in a disconnected, goal-driven way comes in handy when I need to get past a chatty housemate or an aggressive person on the street, but it’s something I want to be conscious of and challenge so that I can nurture another ability that I know I possess, even if it’s less often used: the ability to appreciate the uniqueness of people and situations.

When I’m in stop-and-go traffic, I love when I suddenly become aware of all the bodies and brains around me, each with their own complex stories and personal goals. It makes the situation instantly less stressful when I look upon the strangers around me not with aggravation and impatience, but with care and curiosity. (I probably drive more safely, too.)

I’ve been making small personal gains, too. I sometimes force myself to linger in the kitchen with my housemates instead of scuttling up to my room to eat my meals in solitude. Other times I invite them out with me or accept their invitations, even though I’d rather be alone. And it’s been exhausting, but good: Some people feel like friends when they probably would have felt like acquaintances, had I not put in this effort.

Callousness is a good personal defense mechanism. It helps me not to constantly despair over homelessness or get chummy with questionable wanderers in the street. And as an introvert, I don’t flush my energy into this vast whirlpool of people around me; my reticence allows me to save that energy for people who mean more to me.

Still, I think it’s less important to make myself comfortable than it is to make myself strong and more connected to the humans around me. Sometimes I feel love for people I see in the city that I’ll never speak to or see again — but I don’t feel that love often enough. It’d be naive to expect that love from other people, and perhaps even to expect it from myself more often than it already comes… but it’s worth trying to foster anyway.

Listening to the news every morning in my car before work, I came close to tears a few times this week. People are scary; the world is scary. I don’t know how to bring more love into it, and even if I did, I don’t quite believe I’d be strong enough to follow through with it. But, I’m still young. Maybe practicing these everyday challenges will get me a little closer to making that kind of difference. Writing helps.

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I know it’s a holiday but I want to be alone >:)

I took a vacation last weekend that lasted through Wednesday. I saw a city I really enjoy with someone I love by my side, and it was wonderful and exciting and stimulating.

And now, all I want is to be by myself. My boyfriend is away and I have no obligations to anyone or anything. And so far, this weekend has been restful and breathable. I needed it more than I thought I did. So why am I getting flack for it?

Don’t I want to go home? Shouldn’t I be at the block party at Independence Mall? What the hell was I doing at the gym the last two mornings? How am I going to make friends like that?

Unfortunately, I can’t be with my family, with my friends, with new friends, and recharging my batteries all at the same time. So I made a choice.

Faced with everyone who has questioned my choice this weekend, what I want to say is that being alone is as much of a holiday as those on the calendar, and about as rare. I’m not avoiding anything or being lazy; in fact, this weekend has been purposeful, even productive, and much healthier than the last few weeks. I’m happy and satisfied. And yes, I did see a fireworks show and hear Dostoevsky’s 1812 Overture — twice.

I didn’t say that to anyone because I didn’t take the time to articulate it until just now… :) Luckily, there’s still one day left in this long weekend — the number-four day we’ve all been waiting for — so if someone new makes the mistake of passing judgment on my introverted self, I’ll be sure to dump my loner wisdom all over them.

Thanks for reading, and I hope your holiday is at least half as insane and explosive as our election season has been. <3

Я скучаю, I miss

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning and haven’t really gone back to sleep since. I don’t have sleep problems, so who knows what caused the strange wide-awakeness I felt at 2AM. I’m not worried about it, though. In fact, I enjoyed the nighttime peace: I permitted myself to forget the everyday and reflect on whatever came to mind.

Sadly I can’t say that any creative or spiritual lightbulbs exploded in my head. Of all the themes in the world I could have explored while whiling away the witching hours, I got stuck on something admittedly mundane and self-centered: my relationships. More specifically, my Russian friendships.

There are two Volgograd men I miss more than the others. One is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed punk who introduced me to the music of a similarly colored and insanely talented Russian rapper, my new favorite object of language study. (I’m talking about the rapper Oxxxymiron, if that’s relevant to you!) The other guy is a “black Russian” who persuaded me to accept black humor and to generally take things less seriously. From the time we spent together and all the catching up we do on VK, I think he’s one of the most intelligent and thoughtful people I’ve ever met.

I remember the new feeling these guys instilled in me when it was time to go back to the States. It was the first time in my life when I faced a situation where I parted from someone I knew I’d probably never see again. I’ve known people who have moved to other states, but even the distance from coast-to-coast in the US doesn’t compare to the difficulties of reaching Russia or, even more challenging, for Russians to secure a visa to the States. I was sad to leave them but, of course, I was hopeful too – sadness and hope often feed into each other, right? Still, I had only a vague plan to win a Fulbright grant, and without that I didn’t know how else I’d get back to Russia.

But now I’m going back! Even though my destination is far from Volgograd, I know I’ll visit there no matter what. In spite of Volgograd’s greyness and all the struggles I had there, it will always be my first Russian home. Nothing can replace the streets I walked, nor the cafes, the friends’ apartments, and all the routes I took to reach them. I have vivid memories of transformative experiences in that city and I love it, forever, always, period.

I do have reservations for returning to Volgograd, though. Will I have to have uncomfortable conversations with my two dear friends about where I’m going to stay or how we’ll act around each other? I was single in Volgograd, yet I also had my own dorm room to sleep in. If I visit my friends, can I stay at their homes? Is it culturally acceptable? And what if they aren’t honest with me?

I’ve had a number of close friendships with young men in the past that ended like this: We made our intentions clear and I trusted them, but when I put myself in a vulnerable situation with them, they turned on me. Over and over, they said that my willingness to share a hotel room with them, to talk intimately with them, or even to hug them, was a signal that I wanted romance, regardless of what I’d already told them in plain language. That was with guys of my own culture – and we speak the same language! Or so it seems.

So what’s going to happen when I see these guys in Russia? And ultimately, why am I so concerned about it?

I’m a tiny, insignificant dot in the universe and so are they, but it feels different: I know these dots, I care about them, and apparently when my mind is clear of everyday tasks, one of my main priorities is maintaining the lines that connect us together. Here’s to hoping that their priorities are the same, and that they’re better men than others I’ve known, so I can keep our friendships alive.

Shia LaBeouf.

Just a quick word:

Shia LaBeouf says he was raped by a woman during his #IAMSORRY performance. He is receiving heavy criticism for being raped, since the point of his performance was to remain passive while his audience did whatever they wanted to him. It’s also unclear as to whether or not he is lying for attention.

I want to address the people who are saying he gave this woman consent to rape him. Do you all understand that the accused woman could have given Shia a back rub or told him stories about her childhood or painted his toenails? But instead of these things, she (allegedly) chose to rape him.

So if we believe what Shia says, we’ve got two things going on here:

1. Shia LaBeouf is probably horrified and disgusted by having been raped, and

2. Shia LaBeouf is probably horrified and disgusted that he gave his audience the chance to do anything to him, including something nice (in the style of Amanda Palmer, for example), and instead he was raped.

Raped. If you don’t understand the horror of that word, you really shouldn’t bother anyone with your opinion about it.

You can criticize his performance art all you like, but I’m gonna have to say you can’t blame him for being raped. Maybe he was prepared for cruel words or a playful slap, but rape is on another level, and regardless of whether or not he’s a crazy asshole (no one seems to know for sure), I feel very sorry for what he (allegedly) experienced.

Whether or not he’s telling the whole truth, I absolutely believe that he is shaken by offering strangers the opportunity to hurt him, and accepting their abuse as they accepted the offer with zeal.

Weather.com is ridiculous.

I can’t believe it has taken me this long to stop using weather.com.

Have you seen that site lately? I don’t know how long it’s been this way, but it’s practically The National Inquirer with a little bit of weather. The page is filled with sensational headlines, most of which are tragic: 8th-grader impaled and killed during recess, photo taken just as newlyweds met their demise, puppy found after eight months of horrific–

Bleh. I shudder. I think you get the point.

I’m using accuweather.com from now on.

I’ve Been Welcomed to Night Vale

I’m going to just go ahead and assume you are familiar with the bizarre podcast that is Welcome to Night Vale.

Night Vale was new when I started college, and now it’s more than 50 episodes into its bimonthly series. I’ve been wanting to dive into a series for a while now– probably since I started college!– but I haven’t had the time. I was really jonesing for the time when I had a story to follow… House MD and the anime Fullmetal Alchemist are my all-time favorites, as well as some of the only series I’ve ever actually gotten into. ^_~

Well, now I have the time to invest in such a story. I’m locked in my apartment at sundown to avoid the dangers of a foreign city, and I need to have something to do throughout the 6-8 hours from when I come home to when I actually go to sleep.

Mostly, reading and writing fills that space. (And oh am I pleased with that.) But I need something fun to do, too. And so I listen to Welcome to Night Vale.

The best way to listen to this podcast is to pretend you are a citizen of Night Vale, nodding your head at references to characters you pretend to actually know, visualizing scenes as if they’re as familiar as your hometown… Night Vale is weird. It’s a stretch of the imagination. And I love it.

Fanmail! (From Russia with Love)

I was restless last night, so to burn some energy, I poured my heart into fanmail for the frontman of one of my favorite bands. Put more accurately, I poured my heart into a draft, then reworked the draft into something more tongue-in-cheek, hoping my wit and cynical charm will impress him. Or something.

Fanmail is embarrassing and awkward. It’s different from writing adoring comments for my favorite Web-poets, just as an example. They probably read the comments and at least smile at them, if not glow inwardly at the connection they’ve made to another person (as is my typical reaction to comments.) But this guy is a celebrity with fans who are much more devoted than me, and who probably has to deal with silly people romanticizing his life and begging for him to sign their undies. Or something.

I do have high hopes for this letter, though! You see, I have an edge. I’m going to send him this letter from Russia, and hopefully he (or whoever sorts his mail) will ask, in a tone of pleasant surprise, “what the f**k?” and then my mail will receive priority! At least, it might specifically not be ignored, which is just as good.

That’s my plan. I’m excited. I’ll check out the cost of postage and send it out as soon as possible! And, if the process isn’t too expensive or annoying, maybe I’ll take advantage of my somewhat-interesting location and send out some more letters to more celebrities I admire. Kimya Dawson, Regina Spektor! Oh, the possibilities! Next time you see me, I’ll have famous pen-pals. ;)