some paragraphs on transition

I have been having the most horrific transition back to school that I’ve experienced, and it’s all made worse by the starkly problematic reemergence of one of my worst character flaws: searing misanthropy. I tend to forget it when I am at home and living as a complete recluse, but my default setting is intellectual snobbery and a serious case of misanthropy. I don’t want to wander around campus marinating in hatred for every familiar stranger I see, but it takes constant conscious vigilance to avoid it. I’m either disdainful and snobbish or terrified and intimidated, though the root emotion doesn’t really matter much because they all lead to the same result — a diffuse fear and antagonism towards the greater percentage of my school’s population. I end up sitting in public corners feeling simultaneously isolated, lonely, and hateful towards every person I see. Hopefully being aware of this problem is the first step to changing it, but that seems like a long-term cognitive rewiring and not something that will immediately solve my status as self-damned social outcast.

I think a lot of my current trauma and difficulty comes from living off campus — which, by the way, in case I am too negative about it, is actually pretty great in a lot of ways (‘specially since I start to feel claustrophobic and physically ill after more than four hours on campus [SO GLAD I AM NOT LIVING ON CAMPUS!!!!]), but is also difficult and unfamiliar and full of newness and change. All of this sudden adulthood is pretty terrifying — the rent, the food, the driving and parking, and the problem of finding things to do so I don’t spend all of my time lurking and weeping in my room and making my roommate think I am insane and dysfunctional.

(Why is feeding myself so difficult?? No wonder so many of the people I know are basically functioning anorexics. I’m subsisting on cornflakes, coffee, and cigarettes, myself.)

I keep saying to myself that today will be the day when I get a bed! and bookshelves! and make all of these important phonecalls and appointments that I’ve been putting off for a month! But even though I start out with the best intentions I get caught in loops of dithering and tizzying. Even when I attempt to factor in the three or four hours of obligatory dithering I still don’t manage to get anything done. Yesterday I went grocery shopping and felt like such a functioning adultlike person for twenty-two solid minutes that I decided I had accomplished a great feat and therefore didn’t need to even attempt anything else.

I feel like a ten-year-old pretending to be an adult. I so wish that I were ten and at home and living carefree and happy and loved — it’s so easy to idealize childhood and forget that I was a miserable worried sleepless ten-year-old, terrified of everyone and everything. Does that ever go away, the feeling that you are still secretly ten and just pretending to be twenty-one or thirty or forty? I always had the mistaken idea that when I turned twenty-one and earned the right to every available legal debauchery I would also start to feel grown up and capable…

I am not thrilled with a single one of my classes or teachers. I adore my advisor (slash mentor slash friend slash secret fake mother) and am wordlessly delighted at the potential opportunity to have her as my independent study supervisor, but that aside everything is disappointing. This is disorienting: I’ve been lucky so far, I guess, in that every semester here I have been blessed with at least one class and teacher that I adore passionately. Without that to justify my education, school just seems pointless and tedious. My single most repeated phrase is, “I FUCKING HATE [schoolname] AND EVERYONE HERE!! PLEASE HELP ME JUSTIFY DROPPING OUT! I WANT TO BE GONE. NOW. [insert angry smoking and sulking here].”

All of this aside, I love my friends. I have amazing friends, both here and across the country. I try every day to be grateful for the people in my life: they are a gift. I am a better person for my proximity to them. How easy it is to take good friends for granted! How quickly I forget how rare such intelligent and giving and kind people actually are! I must not forget.

I am also extraordinarily lucky in my living arrangements. My roommate is not insane! The neighbourhood is not a ghetto! There is street parking, and wooden floors, and not one but TWO porches! My roommate loves animals and has four: two dogs, two cats. It’s not as ideal as having my own beloved cat (the best cat in the world) with me, but it’s pretty close. I’ve made great friends with one of the cats. She’s rumored to be shy, but I have the talent of drawing shy animals to me, perhaps because I am, contrary to appearances, so excruciatingly shy and nervous myself. She greets me at the door and sleeps on my chest while I sprawl on my borrowed mattress reading Aristotle. Bliss.

It’s slightly more difficult to be consumed by agony when you’ve got a lovely front porch and a feline friend. I still manage it — I am a misery monger; it’s serious character flaw #Iforgetwhich — but my highstrung fits and my constant worries are well tempered by a good cat and a nice place to read.

Life isn’t good or easy yet, but I’m hopeful that it will get better soon.

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~ by Not Alice on September 8, 2007.

4 Responses to “some paragraphs on transition”

  1. For me, that feeling of impostor never really does go away. Well, let me be more specific – it goes away, but comes back on occasion for brief visits. Usually, I get the feeling of “who the hell do I think I am” when I’m put in a situation where I’m in charge of others – my children, a new classroom, a new group of yoga students, that sort of thing. Most of the time, though, I manage just fine…. and you will, too.

  2. re: eating — yeah, me too. when i get stressed out food’s the first thing to go, and since i’m mildly hypoglycemic that’s, um, problematic. my boyfriend is on a permanent crusade to feed me, gods bless him.

    the thing is, for the longest time i thought losing my appetite was a stress reaction, and to a certain extent it is. but some months ago i began to realize that i was also using hunger to punish myself for, you know, feeling like a 10-year-old in 22-year-old skin, or for procrastinating absurdly, etc. i’d sort of decide i couldn’t eat until i finished some project, but then of course i never finished the project, so i never ate anything. i am currently working on being better at this…

  3. Mrs C: that seems to be the consensus from all of my adult friends to whom I’ve moaned about this problem. It never goes away completely, it’s always latent in some small way, waiting to rear its head at moments of newness.

    All my life I’ve felt simultaneously very young and very old. I was never entirely a child — “old soul” is the one description I’ve heard most often given to myself. It hasn’t really changed, the feeling of always being older and younger than my actual age, and I’m afraid it never will — but as I do get older that disjunction will lessen while that feeling of myself as somehow younger than my peers will just get worse. It’s sort of scary: out of the two, feeling like an 80-year-old woman in a 20-year-old body is the much more manageable. Feeling ten whenever any situation is remotely difficult? Not so much.

    Mmlle Dorkas: I never thought of it like this, but your comment makes me realize that I do the exact same thing — punish myself with food deprivation. It makes my brain feel twisty to think of it that way, but it feels right — it perfectly describes what I do: withholding meals until I get through Aristotle or whatever, and never getting to them because I rarely do accomplish what I set out to do. And when I do incorporate rewards for successfully (or rather, not unsuccessfully, there’s a difference) getting through an excruciating interaction or finishing a portion of schoolwork, my rewards invariably come in the form of cigarettes and caffeine, and not the MUCH more important food! It’s a problem! But O, so good to have a clearer realization of what exactly the problem actually is. Knowledge is the key to all change, truly.

  4. yea verily, knowledge is the key. i try to trick myself into consuming things when i get into this mode. for instance, i’ll fill an opaque water bottle with odwalla protein drink and put a straw in it and leave it on my desk while i work. there’s something about a) the liquid and b) the straw that makes it much easier to consume. you don’t even have to use your hands. i definitely made it through my last year of college this way.

    and of course, there’s the time-honored solution of eating many tiny meals instead of three big ones. you just have to make sure the fridge is full of stuff like edamame and hardboiled eggs instead of cheetos and snickers, and that’s a task unto itself.

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