Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On a wing and a prayer...

So, I just sent off my last application to grad school, and I'm completely terrified at the idea of possible failure. I guess I've always taken for granted the reassurance provided by an underlying faith in my abilities. I was calm because I didn't see failure as an actual possibility. But now, I'm on the wrong side of mediocrity, and I can't figure out how to cope with the fact that I'm just like everyone else.

PhD programs are no joke. That's a given. Still, I'm wondering whether I've started bugging out unnecessarily. I've always made things out to be harder than what they actually are. It's been my way of achieving what I have over the years. I get myself worked up over the (internally fictitious) prospect of failure and then over-perform. I know afterward that the idea of failure was never real; it was something that I fabricated in order to push myself over the edge of complacency and into the waters of productivity. Now though, I'm in those waters and am, for the first time, floundering.

I've always been a good swimmer. Backstrokes, breaststrokes, doggy paddles and treading were always easy for me, and I dominated the kid and teen swim with natural alacrity. I didn't need any flotation aids and could survive in the deep end, but it’s adult swim now, and the facility that separated me from my previous company is shared by all. Many have practiced their swimming technique so much that I seem to be the opposite of what I once was. I'm nowhere near as comfortable on the deep end as they are, and I've begun to realize my relative limits.

I'm applying to 11 schools with 11 different pools of applicants and I'm worried. The pools there are all adult swims, requiring everything I have and some things that I've yet to develop. No more swimming circles around other kids in the pool, no more treading lazily in the middle, and no more doing elementary tricks. Everyone else will have passed this stage and already developed unique techniques.

I wish so much sometimes that I'd used the time I had to hone my craft instead of remaining complacent in my abilities. Now I have to hope and pray that I, by some grace of God, am accepted into the fold, that I'm skilled enough for the adult world, that I perform well enough in the deep end to warrant inclusion into the "big boy" crowd. Oh God. I long for the days when I was confident. I wish for some sense of security. There are approximately 3 months until I know for sure if I'm good enough. I'm anxious and deathly afraid.

I applied to eleven schools and I don't feel especially confident about any one of them....Failure scares the crap out of me, but mediocrity enrages me, especially when its my own...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


It's been a while... The time flies by so quickly; hours, days, weeks, months enter and exit at the blink of an eye, and I am still standing in the same place, grabbing at air as I just miss every thing I attempt to reach for. I wish that life would slow down enough for me to at least see what's going on. It's like sitting in a car on the highway and watching the railings go by in one extended blur. Each individual spoke is discernible up until a certain point. Your eye can compensate for the speed until the pace of your surroundings begins to eclipse your physical ability to follow. They become an indefinite mass of things you once knew to be, individually, familiar.
* * *
This semester sucks...hard. I can't focus on anything completely, my prospective future looks, at best, bleak and I'm an adult in a world that only seems to care about those on either extremes of life. The young are to be protected and the old are to be pitied but those in between…well… I'm "studying" for the GRE's, taking classes, working two jobs, constructing a senior thesis, beginning my "statement of purpose", looking for letters of recommendation, researching grad schools and having a life. Is this some "rite of passage"? Am I really going to have to deal with this sort of ridiculousness for the rest of my life? If not, will there be new types of ridiculousness? If so, will I be able to justify the extent of these trials in the title that will eventually appear before my name? Are the (highly) possible 10+ years of a brutal, hyper-Darwinian, subsistence living, "apprenticeship" even worth it?
* * *
I wish I didn't have to ask myself questions to which I already know the answers, but it seems to be the only way I can be sure that I’m not crazy. I know that life isn't fair. Things that require the most work often receive the least (perceivable) payment. Still, seeing the punch coming doesn't make it hurt any less. If anything, it only serves to frustrate, because just as sure as I know it's coming, I also know that I can't move out of its way. In this decision to grow and learn, I’ve chosen my fate: to be a proverbial punching bag until I’ve grown strong enough to wield gloves of my own. This I understand. I'm just frustrated at those individuals and systems that constantly deal thinly veiled "low blows"/ unnecessary hits/ obstacles that only serve to further assuage their fear of internal inadequacy. My cross is heavy enough to bear without the guilt, anger and pain of theirs.
* * *
If the spokes are going to remain indistinguishable, if this is, like a rite of passage, unavoidable, if I must continue to take the punches, if this cup will not pass from me and I must bear this cross, if I am forced to be the scapegoat for other's insecurities, I will, through clenched teeth, frustrated gesticulations and ironic smiles, endure it all, because, in the end, I will be the better for it. I just pray that I have the strength to forgive after it's all said and done.

Monday, July 02, 2007


I know that everyone has to come to terms with it at some point in their lives. I just can't help but think I've done something wrong. Are other people better actors , or have I just been markedly naive? I knew that it was dualistic in nature. Yet, I still neglected to brace myself against the abominable backhand it often gives after it sooths and comforts.

It's funny how things work. The fact that hell's fury and God's grace is all wrapped up in one, seemingly neutral, concept speaks silent volumes to the instability of life. At once grotesque and beautiful, simultaneously unfair and generous, concurrently simple and complex, it challenges forth, in each of us, the ability and will to tread on ground that is not only shaky, but (often times) barely existent.

Sometimes I am at a loss for words. I sit at the bottom of the barrel of my explanatory capacities and just cry, hoping and wishing that tears will communicate what words can not. But only fragments are received by those who aren't wholly receptive, and tears, in their purity, cannot reveal the truth to those who are not ready for it. So, my eyes dry and I get up.
Unless I've resigned myself to quitting, all I can do is continue to get up after I've (inevitably) been knocked down.

Shakespeare was right. All of life is a stage on which we are merely actors. As I said to a friend yesterday, I've decided to play my part until it is my turn to exit. Maybe others are better actors. Maybe I haven't been around long enough or lack the inherent skill to effectively and convincingly deliver my lines. But I will continue to hone this craft until I am comfortable in this reality/foreign skin.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I really do wish that people could see how they treat others. I wonder what our lives would be like if we were all given a constant mirror of ourselves. Would knowing how our actions affect others cause us to change (even only superficially) how we interact with each other?

I guess the point of this vague inquiry is to see whether or not I’m alone in this world. Am I the only one who thinks this way? I’d like to believe that not all people quickly jump to internally postulated conclusions without looking at the picture in its entirety. Maybe people are just socialized into different mentalities, and in this socializing, gravitate toward a method of addressing individuals that assumes an identical view of the world. I don’t know if I’m rambling or if I’ve stumbled upon a legitimate connection here. Let’s just see where this ride takes me…

I think that there is a direct correlation between the field of study in which a person chooses to specialize and the way in which they communicate with others. This may be inaccurate in some specific circumstances (as all generalizations eventually are), but I feel that people in the sciences (read: “hard” sciences/math/engineering) and people in the humanities tend to look/address/deal with things much differently. I guess I’ll try to break this down as I attempt to synthesize a written representation of what I’m thinking for both types of people.

For the Sciences: Numbers, formulae and graphical information seem to translate into clear cut pictures of many things in the real world. The universality of concepts and the provable nature of the problems with which these individuals have to deal seem to tint the lens through which they view things in ways that only allow minimal shades of grey. The “if a then b” mentality that they, through their work, are accustomed to translates into a constant state of bewilderment when they are faced with issues that don’t necessarily fall directly into the set of experiences that are not definitively answerable. These people may include (but are not limited to) those who are highly frustrated with (and are usually intensely condescending/critical to) deviant problems (or people), those who assume that individuals are cognizant of a universal (also known as their) approach to specific occurrences, and those who, generally, look at one facet of something and assume all of the other facets based on the section of that something that they observed (which is transferred from their ability to do so in other (field related) problems). These individuals have a heightened sense of the possibility for complete "right" and "wrong" and may exhibit this in conversation and social interaction.

This is something that (almost) connects the science focused individuals with those who specialize in the humanities.

For the Humanities: Objectivity, interpretation and intellectual conjecture/hypothesization seem to make everything fluid and (if especially undefined) ultimately transitory. This often translates into a world view that is so highly intellectualized that it ceases to be practical. Whereas the science focused are hindered by categorization and formulaic approach in social situations, the humanities focused (can) lack the grounding in a shared reality that allows the social communication to be fruitful. They see the aforementioned shades of grey in such vivid detail that the definitive black and white becomes lost. These people may be those who throw around idealistic ideas without taking into account the practical impossibility of them, those who shun individuals who attempt to nail down concepts into universal understanding (even if only to make them at least generally perceptible) to more than one individual (or a select group of individuals) at a time, and those who have (mentioned earlier as the, almost, shared attribute) a hard time accepting things as "relevant" intellectual knowledge without an equally "relevant" intellectual backing (essentially a "world" of ideas contingent upon the separate/internal world in which these ideas originate/operate) .

All this to say, I can't get down with the extremes. Even if it makes me an, ultimately, contradictory person (as if we all aren't, in some ways, contradictory), I wish that people would try to play both ends of the field or at least visit the center a little more often. These mindsets are complimentary in their contradictions. "Why can't we all just get along" without constructing mutually exclusive barriers of socialization? Though the universe may be bigger than our minds could ever imagine, it still (in some way, shape, or form) resides within it. Why can't perceptions of other people's realities do so as well?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Keepin' it movin'...

I'm inspired by people who are themselves. Individuals who either don't care or can't help being exactly who they are, ignite a desire in me to be.

I love those who acknowledge the existence of imperfections within themselves and admire individuals who aren't afraid to admit that new answers are found everyday and no one person can keep track of them all.

I admit that I, at times, loose the will to continue this fight. Lying complacent in a self created sea of complaints, I sometimes let life's unfairness and the myriad of difficulties that constitute my individual burden weigh me down until I am submerged in this pool, unable (or unwilling) to reach the surface...

But seeing those who refuse to succumb to the tumultuous seas causes me to get up out of this submergence and trudge through the murky waters toward the future; toward progress; toward me.

I've learned to love life, even when I abhor it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

It Hurts Like Hell....

I'm sitting here thinking over the last few years astonished at how far I've come and how much I've grown. How I've exited my box of darkened solitude into the marvelous light of social interaction and deep rooted friendship. I've experienced things that I never would have if I were not indeed goaded into exiting those familiar confines and stepping out into "the world". For that, I am immensely grateful. I would not be as open to and cognizant of my surroundings as I am today if not for this. That said, I think it's time that I try to fix something that, in hasty extrication from my box of comfort, was left unattended to.

...... **** .....

After much deliberation over the constant messages my parents have instilled in my head over the years and the comments, occurrences, and eventually painful experiences that I have lived through, I've come to realized that I am a living breathing manifestation of what happens when idealism and realism collide.

I give to the point that it hurts. Unsatisfied until every one is happy, I take from myself until I am left in tears at the foot of the stairs, bed, or person who feels that I have not given enough, tears that will never cease to fall because the giving that they require only ends when they no longer take. They want, attention, consent, comfort, love,
and give complaints, frustration, indifference, and anger when these things are not supplied in the ways that they desire. Used as ammunition in arguments and as threats overhead, their giving is something that, though genuine (and sometimes often), can quickly turn into the very thing that takes the most.

...... **** .....

I was talking to a friend yesterday and was asked, (in apparent frustration) why I don't own up to my mistakes. I didn't say anything then because I couldn't form an intellectually coherent response. But if posed the question again, I would answer: I can't own up to my own mistakes until I learn to stop owning up to everyone else's. It amazes me how people scold you for behaving in ways that they through their actions make it perfectly clear they don't mind you acting in. It amazes me how they can't see the blaring inconsistencies in what they request. How can person A on one hand reprimand person B for being giving to a fault, and on the other complain that person B doesn't give enough? Therein lies the crux of the problem.

People want an idealistic world when they are (with active contentment) living in reality. They say that one should give and proceed to take from those who heed that advice. They maintain that one should not allow themselves to be taken advantage of and proceed to do just that to those who expend themselves in pleasing others. They ask for a messiah and crucify him for doing and being exactly what/who they desire.

All this to say, I'm tired of being the (even unintentional) scapegoat, and sick of being injured from following advise from the same sword that eventually cuts me for heeding its suggestions, because, as Aretha sang, it hurts like hell. I'll never cease to give, because I can't do otherwise ( despite multiple attempts on my behalf). I'll just make a concerted effort to leave some of me left when I'm done. Despite (and partially because of) what it means for/to others.