July 14, 2014

  • It Doesn't Bother Me Per Se...

    ...but, there are implications that are unfortunate.

    So, my entire life I've never really had friends. I come from a relatively large, relatively close family. There were always people around, and we were always around other people for soccer games, piano recitals, school events, etc. So, I was never alone for long periods of time. More importantly, I never felt lonely for any indeterminable period of time. Still, though, I never really had friends. I never talked to anyone about having a bad day or randomly texted something I thought was funny. I think that was mostly because I find that kind of stuff pointless. I know it's perfectly normal and it doesn't bother me that people do it; but, I don't understand what it accomplishes. And, I have, at the risk of wading into the paradoxical, a very solid theory of practicality. And if I can't articulate why something is necessary, usually it doesn't seem worth the effort or practical, and so I don't do it.

    For a LONG time I thought there was something crazy defective about me as a human--you know more than the usual human flaws that are characteristic of our kind and that make us awesome. That insecurity prevented me from seeking out friendships or any relationships really. Part of it was feeling like a victim of my own, inarticulable defect. Another part was the more reasonable thought that I should really know myself before I try to know anyone else.

    When I started law school I decided that I had a new chance to be outgoing and meet new people. So, I tried. It was a disaster. I thought that at some point it would get better, and everyone seemed nice enough so I didn't feel like I was a complete pariah. But, everything about being around others still felt forced. What I realize now is that I was trying to pattern behavior on what I saw others doing, rather than reacting to situations organically. I was trying to fit my conduct in the frame of how I observed others rather than letting the contours of my own thoughts and reactions come out. This period was hard for me. And there was a LOT of drinking because that seemed socially acceptable. This led to a number of terribly awkward situations--like more than the cringe-worthy scenes in comedy movies. These were simultaneously sad and offensive.

    Not wanting to remember all the terrible things that happened around the unfortunate people who were the unwitting Guinea pigs in my experiments to participate in society, I took summer classes. Then I added a six-month internship several thousand miles away. Away from the faces that brought back weird memories, I thought I would be safe and could try again. Then, by the time I returned to finish classes, everyone I knew would have graduated and things would be fine. I could figure out how to be a part of things and note hate it. While I was in the bubble of Geneva, I met new people, went out on occasion, and generally enjoyed myself. But, I still didn't have any real friends--not like I had seen other people meet.

    The lessons you learn are often not the ones you try to teach yourself. Basically, what I discovered was not the secrets for being sociable rather what I need from human interaction. And what I need is not a lot. It turns out that I was not defective. I'm just more independent than most. I don't need to vent about most things. I don't need an audience. Having people around doesn't change things fundamentally, it helps you deal with and process what is happening. If I already have a way to achieve those goals, then I don't need the usual means. Realizing this was a huge relief.

    With all that said, it's important for me to note that I'm not an agoraphobic hermit. I carry on polite conversation when it comes up. I can play the small talk game. But that's it. There's every reason to be pleasant when you're around others. But, there's no reason to seek others out other relationships if they're not practical.

    So, I can very confidently say that I don't have friends and that I'm fine with it. Because it's true. Well, mostly. What bothers me is that so much of what happens is an incident of relationships. Finding the perfect job, meeting "the one" (whoever the hell that is), enjoying a hobby, and innumerable other opportunities are all very important, but are (considered) a relatively small incident or side effect of relationships. That is, many opportunities have fringe benefits that become integral parts of our life. It's the access to opportunity that I'm missing out on. And that's what bothers me.

    On one hand, I do not have the time, will, or resources to build/develop/manage (I don't even know the right word!) a relationship. On the other, I am missing out on potential employment opportunities (maybe other stuff too, but I've painfully aware that after graduation in a few weeks I will simply number among the unemployed). What I've been struggling with is how/whether to have relationships for the "fringe benefits" and not the core relationship activity. For me, the "core relationship activities" are things like hanging out, doing things together (movies, sports, mani/pedis, etc.), talking out problems, and generally sharing one's life with another in varying degrees depending on the relationship. Of course you don't do the same things or to the same degree with an SO, sister, friend, or co-worker. But, there is a commonality in all these interactions. This is the core that I don't like and want to avoid...just because I find it tedious. That may change at some point in my life, but right now, trying to live in the world of relationships is more trouble than it's worth for me.

    I guess that's the idea behind a "network": you can mitigate the involvement costs by recognizing that everyone involved is best served by having a close enough relationship to lubricate communication but it's so not close that you're undertaking the unending and unforeseeable obligations and responsibilities that come with "core relationship activity." So, maybe that's what I need. A network. How do I go about getting one of those? Is there a socially appropriate way to say, "Hey, it seems like knowing you will be good for my career and maybe vice-versa. What's the minimum amount of effort we have to put into knowing each other so that our future interactions aren't burdened by the inhibitions of strangers?" Yeah, I think that's basically what I need. Friendships/relationships have too many unknowns and are too indefinite. A network has clear purposes and its effectiveness can be ascertained, even if the standard is still a bit squishy. I like that. I like it a lot.

    So, how do you build a network? How do you mitigate against the risk of accepting the risk of core relationship activity? Am I even allowed to ask that?

May 22, 2014

  • Silver Lining

    The clouds today were quite impressive. They were the soft, lofty, puffy kind that seemed one whisper away from a thunderstorm conspiracy. But, despite some ominous signs this morning, it was sunny all day. And it seems unusually cool for May. Maybe it's my imagination, but it feels like we're having a proper spring this year!

    I held my eyes up toward the sky for most of the walk home from school. Eventually, though, my neck started feel stiff and I dropped my gaze. I'm back in the classes routine. I've started the bar review process. It seems like there's always something new to do. There are a million things to do or manage with classes, capstones, bar review, planning for a graduation, etc. And, the prize for getting through the next few months is being...unemployed. With huge student debt. And bills. These are the thoughts that linger in my mind.

    Jut like clouds overhead.

    It was nice to see how pleasant the clouds looked today. They're unfathomably massive, bursting and growing in dazzling fractal complexity at below-freezing temperatures. But, from an earthbound perspective, they still seem soft. And warm. And ephemeral. I guess that's the beauty in perspective. It changes the understanding of a thing by reassessing its context.

    Hopefully this summer, the clouds will stay up (well) overhead. And instead of them crashing down on me, I'll perhaps rise up to meet them? At least, that's what I can pray!

    What's on your agenda for this summer?

May 4, 2014

  • Goodbye?

    Friday was my  last day working at the UN. During the past seven months I met some incredible people. And, it's harder leaving some than others. Also in the past week another intern, who in a lot of ways was a kind of "rock" and kind of a point of reference, left. So, basically, last week was filled with goodbyes--not only as the one leaving, but also as the one being left.

    And goodbyes are hard. I think they're the worst.

    Almost everyone I've met here lives and will continue to live in Europe. The rest are from East Asia. Being from the US, that's not an easy distance to traverse. I had resigned myself to recognizing that this would be the last time that I would see any of them. Even those from the US lived at the northern reaches of the East or West coast. In sum, I was sure that I would never see any of these people again.

    BUT! Then I thought, in a world where technology connects people like never before, do we actually have to say "Goodbye" as was once required?

    For everyone that I've met, I've made friends on Facebook. We're (so far) on good terms. Everyone will be able to see everything that I post for like ever. So, keeping in touch is a an entirely different game. It's like people don't need to actually say goodbye anymore.

    Even when Xanga as we used to know it died, there were no real goodbyes between humans. Many of the goodbyes were to a platform that wouldn't continue and to the potentiality of meeting someone on that platform that we might not otherwise. But, did anyone actually LOSE anyone? Maybe some did, but I think that was rather exceptional. The point is, I'm not sure that

    Now I feel silly that I bothered to make thank-you/farewell cards...

    When was the last time you ACTUALLY had to say a (permanent) goodbye?

April 8, 2014

  • My Old Life

    I've been working at this internship now for over six months. A few weeks ago they offered me an extension--paid, by the way--which I accepted. All told, I will have spent about seven months in Geneva, which is great and I'm glad about the choice I made.

    Over the past two weeks or so, I keep having flashbacks to my "old life," or at least to the way it was before I started the internship. And, even though, in my old life,

    ...I didn't really have any friends...

    ...I never really did anything...

    ...I didn't really liked where I lived...

    ...I was constantly consumed with anxiety...

    ...I still miss it. I don't know if there is a Stockholm syndrome that applies to non-human "impressions," but that may be it.

    By and large, I think the "flashbacks" are mostly the product of me currently living in a way that is most-similar to my life beforehand. Before leaving, I used to sleep in until late morning. I spent a lot of time at home in front of the computer, usually with the goal of "studying" or organizing my notes, etc. However, what usually happened was a lot of time-wasting on the Internets. Now, since my new contract isn't sorted, I'm not really allowed in the office. Consequently, I sleep in until late morning. I spend a lot of time in the apartment in front of the computer, with the purported goal of "working," etc. But, this has devolved into more-than-significant time-wasting on the Internets. Sounds familiar, right?

    So...why do I miss my old life?

    Then, today, someone from where I lived and will shortly be returning to posted a story about how they found a pipe bomb in this random guy's house. This is very clearly a safety hazard--and not totally unique. FYI: the town is Waco, and the whole David Koresh thing went down there. Waco has a long history of explosives.

    I don't understand why I feel drawn back.

    I am VERY confident that I do not want to stay in that town--mostly because I have much better job prospects in one of the larger metropolitan areas around. Maybe I'm just looking forward to being done with law school...and the bar exam...and this whole not-working-for-money phase of my life. I understand that this part of my life has been very formative and taught me as much about myself as it taught me any practical work-related skills. Still, it will be nice when it's over.

    Still...the flashbacks...the desire to wake up in my own bed...the random compulsion that I feel to vacuum the stairs when there aren't any stairs here for me to vacuum...what is going on?

    I hope that many of you more-experienced Xangans mayhap illuminate what I'm feeling.

January 24, 2014

  • I've Been Derelict

    ...in tending to my Xanga duties.

    Basically,  I think I stopped updating when I moved to Geneva, which is totes not cool because it's been the most interesting part of my life so far.

    The internship is going well. I wish I could say that I have a higher opinion of the UN than I do...but, I better understand it's structural challenges.

    Also--I'm convinced that there needs to be a radical shift away from the tradition notion of state sovereignty in the social contract of nations. The more I think about it, the less I'm a fan of democracy--not that I have a better alternative, I'm just increasingly less impressed with the status quo.

    Oh, here's something: everyone here thinks I'm German. I'm very not--but apparently tall quasi-blond people who speak French are automatically German. I guess that's just life? IDK.

    I still worry about finding a job. The thing is: in about 9 months, I will be a lawyer, licensed to practice in Texas, with a degree in economics and who speaks three languages. Still--I will have to work my ass off to FIND a job. Something about the American belief in education being the "hope basket" of the future is incredibly skewed. When education is an increasingly risky venture, it will only further ENTRENCH income disparity, not alleviate it.

    Sixteen other thoughts that I want to say but won't.

    I'm typing this in a bar right now and there is a 10-year old across the room. It's the first time that's ever happened.

    I'm seriously entertaining the idea of taking a road trip in France next weekend to see the castles along the Loire River. If you have any suggestions/feedback/etc., I'm very opened to them.

    In summary: life is great and sucks. I like where I am right now, but am all too aware that it will end in two months and then I have to go back to real life and I'll hate it.

    Between now and my next poste (hopefully soon), you cats keep it real.

October 17, 2013

  • Sometimes I think It's Cool that I Speak Three Languages

    Then I remember that I'm fitfully awkward in ALL of them.

    So, tonight there was supposed to be a city-wide interns drinks social. I arrived "fashionably" late (mostly just logistically late). There had also been drinks at the end of the work day for another intern who was in her last week. Interestingly, she was also from the States--and Texas no less! Anyway, there was a little (and really only a little) wine and some terrible drink called "pastis." The accent falls on the second syllable and the "a" is pronounced /ah/, so no stripper jokes!

    By the time I started for the bus, I was already feeling a little tired. But, I had resolved to go to the event in an effort to meet people. It didn't work.

    After a whirlwind trip back at my sister's (upset babies, mid-diaper-change leaks, eating too much, etc.), I changed my clothes and set off again. I arrived at the bar relatively easily. I ordered a drink...and then thinks slid down hill. NOT because of the drink, mind you. But, because I have zero conversation skills.

    I tried to pick a non-threatening group of people to interject myself into. You can't easily maneuver yourself into any group of 2. So, I looked for groups of three or more. I picked one...they were a group of interns from CERN--way too smart for me. We would have nothing in common. I made the mistake of saying that aloud.

    Then, thoroughly embarrassed, I found a table where I finished my beer alone...and played 4 Pics 1 Word because you don't need a WiFi connection. All told, I was in the bar about 20 minutes. It felt like a freakin' eternity.

    On the way home I passed through the red-light district. There were literally red lights there, which made me smile. Then I thought of the terrible life sex workers must have. Then I stopped smiling.

    What's your most awkward introduction or bar experience?

October 16, 2013

  • I Have no Idea What I'm Doing

    At least it feels that way. And the austere looks from the people around me speaking over each other in German don't help the situation.

    I "started" my internship Monday. But, I didn't do much that day. Today, however, I got my identity/security badge and had real assignments--despite a late start because I arrived at the gate without my passport and had to ride the two buses back home to get it...and then ride them fro again. I think I used "fro" correctly there. If not, please advise.

    Then, I got lost in the buildings...again. The thing is a freaking maze.

    It appears that I shall have an office--but it's WAY far away from everyone else in this section. I think a very real part of my job is to occupy real estate in the never ending quest for office space within the Palais...I guess that's the way it goes. I don't mind though. It's on the ground floor, but it does have a window. And I have an office mate--he seems to be British. The worst part, as you can imagine, is trying not to get lost between "my" office and the rest of the offices. For the rest of this week, though, I'll be occupying the desk of someone who is out sick for the week. So, here's hoping she didn't leave any germs lingering at her desk!

    I'm relieved to learn that there is a more-significant legal aspect to what I'll be doing than I thought. Basically, the people in this section are working within contracts that have to comply ...there is a Legal Affairs Office, but they are in New York and not always available or are otherwise busy. They're hoping to be able to draw on my legal background--BUT! I have no experience in employment or really anything in commercial law, which I think are the areas most directly implicated. It makes me more than a little anxious.

    So, I was happy to return home today.

    I'm still having to adjust to people talking around me in a language that I can't even identify (all the Scandinavian and Germanic languages sound the same to me--and I have no idea what it is). Plus, it's not uncommon to hear someone speaking an Asian language...and I just don't understand. For me, that's a big, interesting deal. But, for now, it is bed time. Maybe I'll dream that someone is telling me what to do in German. Hashtag--nightmare.

October 2, 2013

  • Passport in Transit!

    Today I checked the UPS site and tracked my package. My passport (with the visa I need) is on its way! I should get it by Friday. Then, all I need to is to pack and get a flight out.

    Theoretically I can start as soon as the 8th...but that seems a little too soon. But, depending on the travel issue, it's feasible. There has been some creative itinerary planning (planes, friends' flight benefits, a train, etc.), but I am finally confident that this internship is a reality. Whoop-whoop! Yeah...that was a double whoop. Deal with it. (Not in an offensive way, but in that way that Lem and Phil said it in that episode of Better Off Ted--if you don't know this show, do yourself a favor and put in your Net Flix cue.)

    Since the internship is a real deal, I've stopped going to classes. I will resume probably in May to finish up my last quarter. Then I'll be graduated, up to my eyeballs in debt, and unemployed. Hopefully someone will want to hire me? Hopefully? IDK...we'll have to see. But, really, please hire me.

    In other news, I've been really into Gloria Trevi's and 80s music lately. I've discovered that "Rock Lobster" by the B-52s is ABSOLUELY absurd...I think "rock lobster" may be innuendo (per Urban Dictionary), but I'm not sure. So, if anyone alive when that song came out, lmk if you think there's any innuendo there. (Note: Rock Lobster actually came out in 78 or 79...not really the 80s, but close enough). Interestingly, a part of the instrumental in "Rock Lobster" sounds a lot like the instrumental part of Shakira's "Escondite Ingles." It's an interesting comparison.

    If you have any other recommendations for songs that are of the same general nature of the B-52s music, I'd love to hear'em (possibly without the dolphin calls, though). In the mean time, keep it real! I'm sorry, I don't know a more appropriate way to end that. Again, deal with it. (Again, in the Lem and Phil Way)

September 29, 2013

  • Under Glass

    Maybe y'all have had a similar problem. I've been trying to figure out what's been going on, but I am baffled. There are several of you who have green thumbs, so I hope you can either tell me what the issue is or how to think about it.

    A few months ago (June), realizing that my home is rather sterile, I undertook to convert some old glass containers into terrariums (terraria?). I thought it would be nice to have some living things in the house. Plus, this was kind of a cool way to up-cycle some defunct glass containers I had.

    I laid a layer of rocks a couple inches deep and then another layer of soil (I left out the charcoal--I couldn't find any at the store and I had an afternoon to do the project, so I just thickened the layer of rocks since the charcoal is mostly about drainage). I had already picked out plants that had similar light and water requirements. I can't tell you what the plants I got were, but one had tiny leaves with pink spots/splatters and grew kind of bushy close to the ground. The other one was relatively taller and felt much waxier. It was variegated--yellowish and green in color. In each of the small pots I had, there were multiple plants, so I split them and put half in each of the two glass containers I had. After the "potting" process, I had two glass containers, each with two types of plants in them. I thought it was a rather handsome addition to my eating area.

    For a while things were going well. Being in the eating area, they never received direct sunlight, but got plenty of it in the afternoon. Both containers have removable lids, so when the sides got really foggy I just took the lids off to let things air out a bit. Since they are terrariums, I didn't really have to water them--there was usually at least some visible moisture around the rocks at the bottom. But, I did water when things looked dry or limp.

    Sadly, one day I noticed that the pinkish plant had turned dark and got very limp. Within a few days, it was almost completely indistinguishable from the soil. In the meant time, the same plant in the other jar was doing well, as were the other plants. A few weeks later, the same thing happened to the plant of the same species in the other jar.  Recently, the waxier, taller plant in one of the jars also turned really dark and limp. And again, the plant is indistinguishable from the soil.

    So, of the four "plantings" I had in the two jars to start with, I have one surviving plant--but it's survival chances don't look so great in the scheme of things. My impression is that it looks like their environment got too humid and something (bacteria, fungus, etc.) got to them. But, I'm certain.

    SO! If anyone knows what's happening to these plants, please let me know. I will field any suggestions. If I had a camera--or a smart phone that was actually smart enough to establish communication with my computer--I'd post pictures. But, that's not the case, so I don't.

    And really, it's not that big a deal--the plants were small and inexpensive. I think I paid $5 for the both of them. Long ago I made a decision not to worry about mistakes that cost less than $10. But, the curiosity is killing me. Plus, I am considering getting some new plans to put in there (with fresh soil), so I don't want to make the same mistakes if I can avoid it.

September 26, 2013

  • Two Weeks

    Today I realized that it has been two weeks since I shared a meal with another human.

    I think the majority of the other meals have been in front of the TV. A significant part have been in front of the YouTubes. I think the rest of the meal-time accompaniment was an even split between my phone (probably because I'm at a restaurant) and a word document/other homework assignment.

    I made this realization today when someone extended a lunch invitation via e-mail (I am much relieved that it wasn't on the spot). Ordinarily I don't decline, but I don't really know the other person all that well and I have zero confidence in my conversation skills. While trying to think of a nice way to say "No. Not now, not ever," I realized that I could legitimately say, "No thanks, I don't eat with other people." The last time I remembered sharing a meal it was my birthday--a special occasion. And I don't remember the time before that. But, it was probably at least two weeks.

    I don't think I'm opposed to eating with others--just with people the idea of sharing a meal with whom makes me uncomfortable. Restated a little more articulately: As a general rule, I'm not opposed to eating with others. However, the idea of sharing a meal with certain people makes me uncomfortable and I would almost certainly turn down those invitations. Then why not eat with anyone else? It's one of the most natural things that people do.

    For me, I think it's a product of my schedule. Usually I'll eat twice a day: once between 2 and 3 or so and then again later, usually between 8 and 9. For most people, these aren't normal fooding times, so there just aren't others around to eat. Also, I don't know anyone, which is probably a bigger factor than the first one. But, they two are somewhat interrelated.

    So, I'm curious now: how often do you eat with others? Also, how often should someone eat with others? In my quest to better understand my humanity, I don't know if this is something I should change.

    Also, do you have any good ideas for how to tell someone to nicely bug off? If you have a "it's not you, it's me"-type speech, I'd love to hear it.