how i can continuously ‘make other people’s day’ when my own months are so filled with such a rarity of days ‘being made’?
it’s almost insulting at this point, that i can provide insights, or provide humor, or provide something that people want me to say or want me to provide. it’s almost insulting when someone says i’m intelligent, or inspiring, and it’s insulting that they truly believe it and that the side of me that isn’t is ignored. it’s almost insulting that i’m so good at it, because it’s become my own vice.
i don’t think people are able to see the me that isn’t insightful, the me that is lost, when i imply it. when i drop hints. and when it’s presented forthright, “i don’t even know what to say, anthony. god i’m so sorry.”
if you don’t know what to say, then think. wrack those liberal-arts-educated brains and try to rattle out something useful. quote your damn philosophy classes or use that syntax analysis from english. give me some behavioral biology or tell me i fit somewhere, because even those enzymes and introns that we thought were redundant actually are useful somewhere. provide me with some interesting distraction in chemistry, or if you’re really out of ideas give me some chemicals to lose my mind in, like cocaine or at least chocolate.
or if you care then maybe we could have some chemistry, that mysterious usage of the word that suggests two people listening and communicating and caring about each other.
but this isn’t just about me, i think.
This is about, with proper capitalization, the value of a liberal arts education. That value doesn’t lie within the hours toiled at extracurriculars and volunteering and proving that you are ready to take on the world, with a proof full of holes that you have to scrap and redevelop the MOMENT you graduate.
The value of a liberal arts education is that when someone gives you a problem you are able to think critically about solving it because you’ve decided to broaden your knowledge rather than deepening it at an engineering school or tech school. No one expects you to remember how to apply a surface integral for the rest of your life, but people expect you to see a three-dimensional geometry and recognize that it isn’t something to freak out over. No one expects continuous memorization of Plutarch’s Princeps or a lucid recall of Machiavelli’s Prince, but those themes of power and control and balance are APPLICABLE to distress as well as to government, to the toils of research as well as that last-minute essay.
When people look at others around them and tell them that they are so sorry that they don’t know what to say, and that life is hard, and that things cannot be known, and I hear the types of comfort that I provided to my companions back when I was more of a sycophant than a friend, I am frustrated personally, yes.
But on a more general scale, it indicates a failure of the liberal arts system. It indicates that despite how we’ve tried to branch out in education, to take a broad selection of topics and relate them to our lives, we still can’t relate to people around us.
I have an alternate hypothesis, of course, as you’re always supposed to have when presented with a problem.
Maybe society isn’t functioning poorly. Maybe I am. Maybe I am the sort of person you can’t talk to, and my problems are unique enough that no comfort can be found, no solution to be suggested, and the best way to end a conversation with a person such as me is “I’m sorry, but now I’ve got to go”. Maybe I am simultaneously someone you listen to and someone who you don’t speak to. Maybe my face simultaneously suggests my yearning for company but also demands too much respect, suggests too strongly the constant nagging meme of “shut up”.
And what do I do about this alternate hypothesis? I wallow in it, yes, but I also contact people. I attempt to socialize. I smile. I am helpful. I try to become more honest without being more grating, more myself without being less human.
I keep remembering a particular conversation I had with a friend, who told me that we didn’t really hang out that much. I objected.
"We worked out all those problems together, finished all that work as a team, and it wasn’t like we didn’t laugh about things and talk during all that, how can you-"
"But that wasn’t hanging out. It was just studying."
And I’m flummoxed.
I’m flummoxed that I’m supposed to find some other way of connecting with these busy busy people who have no time to connect, and who treat the few connections that exist as fakes. As categorically “not hanging out”. As not socializing, but disconnecting. I’m saddened. I’m shattered and scattered and confused.
The experiment, needless to say, is failing.
Either my strangeness is such that nothing I do will work, or my first hypothesis has a point to it.
And if you can’t teach people how to connect, then do I just wait?
But I’m escaping all this. I’m escaping all this and waiting a year out and finishing up the adjustments to myself that are needed in that year. And hopefully when I come back I’ll find someone who knows how to connect.
Who I can present a problem, in physics, or math, or life, and they will say to me those reassuring words,
"We can solve this, let’s start here, look…"