Saturday, November 23, 2013

Meditations on Knowing; or, I Have All The Feels

To get this out of the way first: my reading last night at Neon Lit went well. I was far more nervous than I thought I'd be, but I think I read clearly and at a good pace, and everyone assures me it was great. Everyone here is so nice, however, that I'm fairly certain they'd lie to me and tell me it was great even if it was horrible. I don't think they're lying, though. People laughed. I had a good time. I looked like a total babe. Here's a picture:

See? The babeliest. The other readers were awesome, too. Afterwards we went to Velveteen Rabbit, the most hipster of bars, and then we went to a zombie-themed bar's fetish night because Friday. (In regards to my syntax, you should read this article from The Atlantic about how "because" has become a new preposition. I've been doing it for a while now. Only in informal writing, of course.)

So you're probably wondering about the title of this entry. I've been trying to write a post about this for a while, but I haven't had the time, and I hadn't thought it through enough until today. Not that I actually have time to write it now--I should be finishing up my gothic piece--but I'm going to do it anyway.

Fair warning: this is going to be a long one.

Those of you who know me from my pre-MFA life know that I'm a relatively even-keel person, erring on the cheerful side. Cynical and snarky, perhaps, but always with an undercurrent of happiness and overall faith in humanity. That's why I like to start political arguments at the dinner table and other similar things frowned upon by society; my emotions are typically so stable that a heated debate gets my blood pumping. I feel elated afterwards, and for the most part I'm a live-and-let-live type of person, so it usually doesn't matter to me whether I've ultimately changed your mind.

In terms of outward appearances, I would say that my personality has not changed much since moving to Las Vegas. However, on the inside, to quote one of the finest movies of our time, "I'M IN A GLASS CASE OF EMOTION."

When I'm happy I feel practically manic. When I get hurt it feels like someone socked me in the gut. Of course, I do realize that while I think I have, in internet terms, all the feels, I'm probably just dealing with what normal people call feelings. Lowercase f.

I've been trying to analyze why this is happening, why my control over my emotions has become so poor. After much consideration, I believe it has something to do with the fact that nobody here knows me yet. Sure, they kind of know me. I'm sure they all understand that I'm cheerful, that I like music, that I write flash fiction, that I love Chicago, etc. (On an unrelated note, I'm worried I'm driving everyone nuts because all I talk about is Chicago. But it's not my fault! I have no other point of reference for anything in life.) Yet I feel like, at this point, we all only know each other and are friends with each other on an archetypal level--Becky the cheerful gogo dancer and Michael the San Francisco hippie and Shaun the goofy Irish poet and Kayla the wild child and Austin the nicest human ever, and so on.

I don't mean to diminish my friendships here. I would say that there are, at the very least, glimmers of truth and honesty in all my relationships with my fellow MFA-ers, and I've grown considerably closer with some of them--Olivia especially.

When I came here to visit in March, I noticed that everyone in the program only hung out with each other, and dated each other, and I thought it was a little weird, honestly. And I understood that, if I were to join this program, I would have to get used to a much lower level of privacy than I had previously enjoyed. I used to be a very private person. Since coming here, however, I've made a strong effort to be brutally honest with everyone, because I know that no matter what I do, it's going to get around to everyone else sooner or later, so I might as well share it on my terms. I guess I just thought that being so honest and trusting people who I had no real reason to trust would lead to deeper friendships faster.

I'm not an idiot. I know that it usually takes an incredibly long time to get to know someone on the level that I'm talking about. I've known my friends in Chicago for years. Some of my Chicago friendships, were I to personify them, would be in high school. The odd exception is, of course, the lovely miss Gena, who swing-danced into my life and in less than a year we were practically inseparable. Naturally, I'm going to feel like those people know me better than the people in my program.

It's just hard being in a completely new place without someone who truly knows me. I don't know who I can talk to about things. I'm certain that, in the future, many of my friendships here will reach that level, but in the meantime it feels sort of like I'm climbing across a net with holes strewn here and there.

I am irritated with how many times I've used the word "know" in this post. The French have two words for the verb "to know": savoir, to know facts, and connaƮtre, to be familiar with a person. This is a distinction we desperately need in English, n'est-ce pas?

Back to the point: the other side of this is that being brutally honest and open is hard. And the weirdest part is, it's difficult to do it without it feeling a little fake, since it's not natural to be so open and honest with near-strangers.

It's like flirting. I always feel like I'm lying when I'm flirting, not because I'm not interested in the person--obviously, I wouldn't be flirting otherwise--but because I'm not naturally a touchy-feely, eyelash-batting, floozy-esque person. I suppose it can be fun sometimes, but it normally takes a great deal of conscious effort on my part. It's exhausting.

It is equally exhausting being as honest about oneself as one possibly can with everyone all the time, especially when I feel that I'm not getting as much out of it as I should. You could argue that I could just not be myself--moving to a new place is the perfect opportunity to reinvent a personality, after all. But that seems wrong. I could never do that.

It's also a problem--and this was a problem sometimes in Chicago, too--that people always seem to enjoy my general cheerfulness, so much so that I am completely out of my element when I try to talk to people about the less-than-cheerful feelings I have. I'm not allowed to have such feelings--I'm Becky. You know, the perpetually happy one. It takes a long time for me to trust someone enough to tell them when I'm feeling low. This post would lead me to believe that I've apparently known the internet long enough?

I guess I just wish that someone would walk up to me and say "Hey, Becky, I want to know you more thoroughly than any other person so let's just talk about everything." Actually, no, I don't wish that. That would be totally creepy.

I do wish that I could spend one day with each member of my program hanging out with them individually. We almost always spend time together in groups, and I suspect some one-on-one time would go a long way in terms of knowing my fellow MFA-ers, and them knowing me. That's probably one reason why Olivia and I are closer--we have girls' nights all the time. Also she's just awesome.

Okay: rant over. Thank you, internet, for being my silent Freudian psychoanalyst. No comments necessary, folks, unless you really want to. I'm not looking for a pity party--just some catharsis.


  1. Being away from everything familiar always leads to existential mulling-things-over. Who are you without all your context? Without Chicago and Gena and Meg and Felipe and gogo dancing and the places that have shaped you for over twenty years?

    When I went off to college and left all of you guys behind, I felt crazy, almost all the time. I was trying to be myself, but I was never able to really BE myself, because I was thinking all the time about making new friends and hoping they'd recognize ME in my actions and words. When I was happy, my body was like, "WOO HAPPINESS" and get totally high on it and then I'd worry I was being annoying. When I was blue, it was compounded by a fear of letting people know because they didn't understand that I wasn't a perpetually down person.

    For me, all these emotions and readjusting happened when I was eighteen, nineteen, twenty. It was a time when all that shifting was "supposed" to happen, so it didn't feel so out of place and jarring. But it's happening to you now for almost the first time (although you've had some practice in Rome and China), and for the first time without ANYONE you know, in your mid twenties, after you've already had several years of "grown up" stability. A job, a social circle, a routine.

    It's incredibly admirable, your decision to be open and honest. It's also a little like vivisecting yourself, especially when not everyone around you is offering up that same level of intimate honesty. While, yes, it's important to be honest and not to hide things, you are still allowed pieces of yourself. To keep some things on the inside of your ribs. That level of openness with another human being is something that's earned and built over time. You don't owe anyone any amount of yourself.

    I'm not saying you should be closed off all the time about everything. But I don't want you to feel like you HAVE to hand over everything about your thoughts and emotions to everyone. I'm not saying that doing so makes you vulnerable, and I'm also not saying that being vulnerable is bad. I actually think it's really good. But that kind of trust takes time, and that's totally okay.

    Basically, it's amazing how open you're willing to be, and also, don't feel bad about leaving some secret spaces in your head that are Special Access Only, closed until the invitation is earned.

    I've been living mostly apart from you for eight years now. I still feel like I Know you, and I still feel like you Know me. You're my best friend, even without the direct context of each other. You're still Becky, and I'm still Leta, and while I feel rounded out when I'm with you, I still feel like myself without you. I know you're still you without your contexts. That center of you is just still shifting around, figuring out your anchoring point. That center had thrown out filaments into Chicago and people, and now they're waving around, trying to figure out this new environment and these new people. They're slowly finding ways to link to yourself, to your voice, your interests, your emotions, the way you move and laugh and talk, the way you perceive the world. Pretty soon you won't feel so adrift and raw. Pretty soon you'll feel more self-contained, able to be open and honest without being flayed.

    I love you, and I love your posts, and I love all your thoughts and feels, whether or not you express them, whether or not they're cheerful or pleasant.

    I paraplegic you.

    1. Girl, you KNOW I paraplegic you.

      Seriously, you are the best. Also, why aren't you in an MFA program again? I feel like the writing in your comment just there is better than most things I've ever written in my life.

      I will be perpetually jealous of your style.

      Love love love love love you.

    2. I even QUADRIPLEGIC you.

      Also, psh. Your writing is seriously amazing. I'm so glad you're in the program, because now I get to read all the writing you're being paid to churn out :)

      I am perpetually jealous of YOUR FACE.


      [drops mic, backs away, exits stage]

  2. As a result of bouncing around the country for the past three years, I can relate a lot to what you're saying. Sometimes I really hate when people say something to the extent of, "it just takes time," but this might be a thing that really does take time. Your program is three years; I bet you will develop the closeness that you're talking about.

    Also, I totally get experiencing extremes of emotions. When I'm happy, it's like the clouds are dumping rainbows and unicorns on me, but when I'm sad, I'm at the absolute bottom.

    1. Yes, I know. Patience is a virtue. (But it's never been my strong suit.) :)

      When are you coming to visit me, by the way? The magic of Las Vegas awaits!

    2. Probably in the spring or summer!

  3. You are incredible. I love you.

    1. Thanks! You're a pretty incredible mom, too. I have to say. <3


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