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The Debilitation of Loneliness

12 Nov

I’ve been in a very strange place as of late.

I’m currently more than half way done with the fall semester of my sophomore year at college and I’d been thinking that things have been decent overall, all matters of privilege and opportunities considered. I’m on route to discovering what I want to do with my life, I have a good amount of extracurriculars, and my classes are going reasonably well. But this whole semester, the same question has sprouted up, time and time again: who am I?

I’ve always held the belief that in life, you don’t find yourself; you create yourself. But I’ve felt such a disconnect lately from the things I’ve always told myself that I wanted, and what I am currently passionate about. I’m left feeling unsure of who I am, who I want to become, and how I can go about becoming that person.

Earlier today, I had a moment of stunning clarity: I am very lonely. I’ve only been slightly cognizant of this fact the entire semester, but shook it off because the feeling came and went and I told myself to focus on the moments when it was gone. But now I realize that when I step back and examine what my life has been these past few months, I haven’t been living; I’ve merely been surviving day by day. I became so complacent in my routine that I hadn’t even realized how meaningless it sometimes was. It was the mundane tasks that I occupied myself with; go to this class. Then go grab a to-go box for lunch. Then go here. Then you have some free time to spend in your room on the computer. Stepping back, it all seems so tedious and unfulfilling. I barely see the friends I made last year. Things have been rocky with the friends I had from before. My brain feels like such a jumble sometimes and I can barely figure out where to even begin in order to sort it out.

I don’t think I have depression. But I think because I have been subconsciously refusing to acknowledge how lonely I’ve been, the negative emotion has been leaking out in more general ways. I’ve constantly felt unmotivated, unenergized, and dulled down. I’ve been focusing so much on the exterior package of how others perceive me, and I analyze every aspect of myself constantly to make sure there are no cracks in the image. I’m so controlled that sometimes I feel like my body is a puppet, and I am observing myself interact with others within my mind and approving the things I say as I say them. When people ask me questions, such as how I am doing, sometimes I feel that instead of being genuine, I say what I want to be true, or what I think others will want to hear. I think I may occasionally answer that way because I don’t even know how I’m doing; everything feels distant and dulled. It all blends together as the same. I’ve been lacking passion and excitement, and I am now considering that this all ties into how I have been having less human contact lately, or at least meaningful human contact. I feel tired very often; if I were asked to take a nap at any time of the day, I would probably be willing.

Usually I try to write my blog posts in a way that allows me to vent and then wrap it up by considering some options to solve the problem. I’m not sure I know how to do that, though. The obvious answer is to make more efforts to spend time with friends, and seek out meaningful interactions as opposed to unfulfilling, fleeting moments. But I’m worried that I don’t really know how to meaningfully interact with others, at least not right now; how can I share with others the core of who I am, if I am not even sure of that myself? How can I describe my passions, my aspirations, and my day-to-day affairs if they just feel like words that spill from my mouth by habit, rather than interest?

I might write a follow-up soon, now that I’ve become cognizant of all this and can start sorting through it internally. I guess for now, I’m going to seek out more outlets to make my life meaningful as opposed to following routines that have become comfortable but aren’t fulfilling.

Floating

25 Oct

To be honest, the first thought that came in my mind when I decided to write this was “Ugh. Like clock-work, here comes my biyearly angst ridden blog post.” And still here I sit, at 1:30 a.m. in my dorm room, typing. And since I have yet to write a proper college post, I owe it to my (..3?) faithful readers to update as well as share (cough, complain about) aspects of my life now.

I’m doing well at college. Sure, my grades are a bit rocky right now, but at least I can connect it to my study ethic that still hasn’t quite developed. I want to read more and I’ve watched way more How I Met Your Mother than I’d care to admit in the past few weeks, but I haven’t hit rock bottom or anything. My classes aren’t awful, the food is decent, my dorm room has never felt more homey, and my social groups are diverse and interesting. Even the showers aren’t so horrifying anymore.

My problem, which is the root of this blog post, has more to do with my social woes. Before coming to college, I never really considered myself as shy. I knew that I wasn’t the best at making conversation, but I spent so much time being talkative around familiar people that I convinced myself that I was only a bit quiet until one gets to know me. But now that I’m surrounded by so many new people, I’m realizing more than ever that yes, I am the epitome of shy. Shy doesn’t mean that someone doesn’t know how to speak in front of others, or that they are terrified of others; this was the social norm I had been using to define the word to avoid its application to myself. But the truth is, shy simply means someone who is quite quiet unless spoken directly to, intimidated by larger groups and one to hold their tongue often in front of new people.

I’ve met a lot of people here at school. I’ve made a lot of friends, too. But the problem is that I don’t feel as though I’ve really connected with them. I’m starting to fear that by lacking the ability to hold proper, one-on-one conversations with people has given me a shallow relationship with everyone I’ve befriended so far. This may seem backwards, but because of my social ineptness, I’m more comfortable with a group of 3-6 than with only one other person. With a larger group (of people I know, of course), the tone is always light and joking. It’s always fun and there are more people to fill silent gaps. This definitely means that it takes much longer for everyone in the group to become close to one another, but that’s how I made all of my high school best friends-over a very long amount of time. When I have to be alone with another person, it makes it so much more difficult.

Watching other people develop close relationships so quickly, to tell the truth, has been extremely hard. Social groups have already gotten very connected, and social media makes it so much worse when every facet of new, deeper connections are shown off every day. I’m not a very open, vulnerable person (the thought that a new friend could be reading this right now makes me want to crawl into a hole). I can’t ‘share life stories’ or discover inner secrets a couple weeks into knowing someone; I expose myself a piece at a time, potentially over years. It’s not like I have some huge secrets to reveal or anything, but the idea of seeming weak or needy or even whiny to someone I don’t know that well yet is horrifying. I don’t like to attract attention to myself in general, because I could be judged or embarrassed or ostracized forever (this contributes to the initial shyness thing).

I like having a few, close friends, as opposed to a large group of distant friends. But in a community where it feels like (at least on the surface) every one else is making large groups of close friends, I don’t quite know how to handle that. I hate going to things, even dinners, that I wasn’t invited to. I hate hearing stories about places I wasn’t at, seeing pictures of people I didn’t hang out with, and even conversations I wasn’t made a part of. Intrinsically I feel like I should be trying harder, changing something about how I interact with others, but I also don’t want to try too hard. I don’t want to change my personality in order to achieve something. I guess now I have to find the line between going out of my comfort zone, and not compromising my true self.

Well, this was quite a long and venting rant post. I’m pretty sure a lot of random things got thrown in and it’s chaotic, and a little (a lot) embarrassing if it were to get in the wrong hands. But now I’m curious if anyone else has been in this kind of social standstill. Let me know if you also have trouble connecting with others on a deeper level, and feel free to let me know how you’re doing in general!

…Who?

4 Jun

In my school’s yearbook, there’s a superlative for “Most Memorable”. If there were one for “Least Memorable”, I would take the cake for sure.

I knew it had been happening all 4 years of high school, and perhaps all my life, but I really do just drift by wherever I go. I never go out of my way to make an impression, or add an input, or start a conversation, and that has led to me not having deep connections with the majority of people in my life. This especially pertains to people who are not same-aged peers at my school.

At work, I’m quiet. The most someone could describe me as is nice. When I received a customized letter from my teacher, it was filled with generic greeting card statements about how I am a “hard worker” and “quiet but observant”. At my orchestra senior banquet, as I was called onto stage to hear my personalized superlative, I got the “etiquette” award. After 4 years of having an orchestra teacher, the most she could say about me was that I was nice.

I know that it’s okay to not be comfortable reaching out to people to make connections. Going out of my way to establish relationships is not an easy thing for me, and I know it’ll get better over time. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting to see others be praised and lauded by respected adults who couldn’t say one unique thing about me if they tried. It still hurts when I can never be the creative one, the shining star, the one who they know is destined for glory.

I want to make something of myself. I want to be the kind of person who others look at and think, she will do something great with her time on this planet. I don’t want to be the quiet nice girl in the corner who follows the rules and absorbs others like a sponge. I want to be recognized as an individual who has valuable thoughts in her mind, that wants to make a difference. And yes, I already do have a pretty great head on my shoulders. But what use is it if it never leaves my head, to be shared with the world?

I’m going to college this fall. If I continue to be passive to the world around me, and passive to my education, I will never achieve success. Yes, I’ll get a degree, and I’ll get a job eventually. But I don’t want to be just another worker in the world, making the cogs spin smoothly in the factory of our lives. Call me selfish, but for once I just want to be more than a mere piece of the game. I want to be one of the main characters; the action figure everyone fights over to have. (Have I used one too many metaphors yet? No?)

It may be a superficial dream of mine that I’ve had since I was a child, but I sincerely do want to be acknowledged by others. It’s a vain thing indeed, but my self-confidence is raised not only when I do something great, but when others recognize that it was great. I have yet to achieve self-actualization, but you know, that’s okay. At least I can admit to myself and to strangers on the internet that hey, being lauded does feel great, and just because I feel that way doesn’t make me a bad person. It would also help to learn to accept praise from friends, even though I know they say nice things just because they’re pretending to like me they want me to feel better.

So, here’s to trying harder to not be afraid to be heard. To speak confidently, even though I might be wrong at times. To not be embarrassed when I make a fool of myself, because at least I stood up.

Hi there. My name is Shilpa. And don’t you forget it.

Inadequacy

15 Apr

My eyes scan across the page. My eyebrows furrow as I desperately attempt to remember anything pertaining to what the question is asking. The book thumps as I toss it aside, uncompleted as I’m already reaching for the laptop. My eyes are blinking back tears.

My thought process? I can’t finish the homework-heck, I can barely begin it. Answering another question would be having to mark another question wrong later. How can I finish something when all that’s left to do after is find out how horribly I did?

For those of you who read my posts regularly, you know that I’ve made quite a few posts about procrastination. It’s been quite a problem in my life. But hopefully it hasn’t come across as whiny; I am making an attempt to discover the root of my problems and how to fix them. I believe that a large part of procrastination comes from not wanting to deal with failure.

I grew up believing that I was intelligent; in fact, I believed that I was very intelligent. I didn’t have that many friends, I wore glasses, I had braces, and most of my friends didn’t score or test as well as I did. All of those combined made me feel like quite a nerd, and as part of the package I considered myself smart. But as I got older, the classes became harder. In high school, I found people who not only did as well as myself, but better. I happened to become best friends with people who others regard as literally the smartest people in our grade. I was no longer on top.

The second horrible mix to the equation-I’m a very prideful person. I may write more about this later, but I absolutely loathe showing weakness to anyone. I  always try to hide sadness or immaturity, and for some reason I can’t stand letting others know if I’m suffering. Maybe I feel that it makes me pathetic. Maybe I feel that I lose some dignity or self-worth, or that I become something to pity if I’m weak in any way.

So when I’m faced with challenges in school that I don’t think I can overcome, my pride takes over and I simply stop trying. Some part of my brain is saying, isn’t it easier to never try than to look someone in the eye and be forced to tell them that I’ve failed? That I couldn’t do it? That I wasn’t smart enough, or adequate enough, to do what others can?

When other students can finish a homework assignment in 30 minutes that takes me an hour to do, I feel like an idiot. I beat myself up over having to struggle longer and harder on what others can do with ease. For some reason, a part of me equates time and effort to intelligence. If I’m staring work in the face that I’m having trouble understanding, I avoid it rather than attempt it. If I actually try at something, it’s giving others the ability to see my weak spots and potentially judge me for them. It’s like a clear road map of right and wrongs answers for others, saying “hey, this is what you’re better than me at”.

Part of this problem has morphed from the way the education system has been structured, and part of it is simply from my own insecurity problems. But finding a flaw is the first step to fixing it. I know deep down that intelligence isn’t the most important thing in the world. But in our society, it’s insanely difficult to avoid stimuli that do nothing but reaffirm that myth. I also know that getting jealous of others or upset that others are better at something I used to pride myself on is ridiculously pompous and, well, douchy. So here’s to hoping that bit by bit, I’ll truly accept that my self-worth is not defined by a letter or a number, but that I’ll be darned if I keep stopping myself from learning.

Confessions of a Scared, Guilt-Ridden Teenager

25 Jan

I got yelled at today.

By two teachers. I know, I know; it’s not an end-everything moment. But for a student who’s tried to maintain the best standard in school with my grades and teachers, it hurt. A lot. Especially since it mostly wasn’t even my fault. But let me start from the beginning. (Please note that this is purely venting and a way for me to relieve my emotions. I’m a teenager; does that mean I’m qualified to mindless gossip posts once a year? I hope so!)

I’m in an after-school orchestra (which is a class, not an extra-curricular), as well as the music honor society at my school. The orchestra meets every Thursday for about 2 hours while the honor society has 3 meetings this year. Two of those 3 meetings fall on a Thursday. Since it’s all within the music department, there’s usually an agreement between teachers for us to leave the orchestra early and go to the honor society meetings late.

This Thursday was a day when the two would coincide; this was the first meeting for the music honor society. When class began, our teacher explained that she would like us to miss the meeting for the honor society, because we’re allowed to miss one meeting a year and we had a concert coming up very quickly. I had already been planning on leaving with my friend, but I immediately checked my agenda to see if I would miss the other two meetings, to see if I could stay. I noticed that the last meeting fell on a Tuesday in April…book club meetings were on Tuesdays. I panicked. I had no idea if that was a book club day or not, but I didn’t want to take any chances since I was on the board for book club. I figured it wasn’t that big of a deal.

When the halfway mark came for people to go to the meeting, people began standing up. My teacher started going through them one by one, asking for their reason for leaving, and telling them to sit down if it wasn’t good enough. I was still sitting; I looked to the friend I was going to leave with, and she gave me a determined look. We stood up and put our violins away, and right before leaving our teacher asked us what our reason for going was. There was a class of about 60 students watching.

I said I couldn’t go to the next meeting, and was about to say it was because of book club when my friend began talking. This is when it all went downhill.

My friend has been mad at my teacher for a while now; she doesn’t like the way the teacher acts or runs her class. So in front of the entire class, she said she was leaving because she didn’t know if she could make the other two meetings, and basically said it in a very rude and sassy way.

The teacher paused. She didn’t exactly start yelling, but gave her a lecture on priorities and said very passionately that she should have planned ahead of time and been responsible. When she finished, she turned away. I was stunned. I had no idea what to do. My teacher hadn’t asked me why I was leaving, and I hadn’t said one word of disrespect. But she had turned away already…so I left. My friend and I walked out and went to the meeting, and I spent the next half hour in a panicked, mortified daze.

The moment the meeting ended, I rushed to my teacher’s room and waited for her to come out. The moment she did, I explained that I hadn’t gotten a chance to say so earlier, but that I had a book club meeting during the third honor society meeting. She explained that I’ve always been responsible about these things and that she knows it wasn’t my fault. I went home that day relieved that she wasn’t mad at me, guilty because I wasn’t even sure if there was a meeting, and still embarrassed because of my friend.

Today in my regular orchestra class, my friend and I were asked to step outside the classroom. Waiting in their office were the band and choir directors. They explained that other students had come and told them about an altercation between us and our teacher before we left for their meeting. They gave us a very stern lecture and said how our behavior was inexcusable and that they would not allow two honor society members to tarnish the name of their honor society or use it as an excuse to get out of class. I stayed completely silent the entire time, nodding with wide eyes.  My friend started arguing back again, and they explained that we are not allowed to be disrespectful towards any teacher no matter what. They said our behavior was deplorable and that we were strongly encouraged to apologize to our teacher.

After about 2 minutes, they let us go back to class. My mind was reeling. Had none of the students told them that I hadn’t said a word during the entire altercation they saw? Had my teacher not let them know that I had already apologized to her and explained myself?

I didn’t tell them that it wasn’t my fault, because I didn’t want to basically blame everything on my friend, despite the fact that she was the disrespectful one. But since it was her fault, I expected her to step up and tell them herself that I had nothing to do with it. But she didn’t. When we were walking out of their office, she gave me a short apology, and acknowledged that I had nothing to do with it, but said nothing else. She actually started crying at that point, and even though I was still mad at her I tried comforting her before we went back into class.

As soon as class ended though, as I was walking out, she came and told me that she still thought it wasn’t just our fault. She also started saying more rude and rather spiteful things about our teacher and other students, and said she refuses to apologize. I just kind of said okay and let her walk away, and didn’t really think about it again until I got home. But as many other things started adding up to a bad day (this, bad grades, family problems) I ended up breaking. I eventually cried myself to sleep and knew that I wouldn’t stop stressing about this until I wrote about it.

My feelings about everything are still mixed. I’m still worried about my reputation with other students because of everyone seeing me involved in this. I’m still angry at my friend for not having my back through this, being blinded by what I consider to be pettiness and immaturity (although I haven’t said anything to her about my feelings. If she continues to complain to me or try to bring me into anything else, I will make clear that I do not want to be involved).

She disrespected a teacher. I don’t condone this kind of behavior. In my opinion, she needs to understand that there are some things she must obey whether she likes it or not, and that she needs to hold her attitude in line to figures of authority. Also, I think her anger is mostly unjustified. What my teacher was asking of us originally was not unreasonable. My friend was simply looking for an excuse to show defiance, and I got pulled in as a side-effect.

However I do still feel guilty because in a way, even though I was in no way rude to anyone, I did do one bad thing: I left without a legitimate reason. I didn’t know if there would be a book club meeting (there isn’t one that day, by the way) but I still told them there was because I was scared. I lied, and I feel terrible about it. From this whole situation, that is the one thing I will unconditionally apologize for. I’m sorry.

I don’t know where this situation will lead; if I’ll be getting into any more trouble, or if any other aspects of my life will be affected by this. I spent all of today jumping at every phone call, thinking it was the school calling my parents to tell them about all of this. Situations like this make me really look forward to just leaving everything behind, and heading off to college for a completely fresh start. The future is always a place for redemption, and the past is a way to learn from mistakes, and I’m grateful for both to help shape me into a person who’ll know better and do better next time.

Late Night Ramblings of a Sleep Deprived High-Schooler

24 Jan

The time was 1:40 a.m.

I had just finished my homework and was heading downstairs to print everything when I decided to take a look outside. My mom told me it had snowed, and that we might have a school delay tomorrow, but I hadn’t put too much faith in it because no snow days had really come through for us this year. But as I padded down the stairs, I slowed and took a look through my window: everything was covered in a thin layer of white. It was beautiful, and so calm. Not a single print had been made in the snow-the entire street and neighborhood was untouched. There was a blanket of snow covering everything with pristine whiteness. I cracked the door open, just to see it without the window’s obstruction; the outside was as silent as the inside of my house of sleeping family members. I felt like the entire world was resting, and I relished in the feeling of it just being me alone in this unmarked world, for even just a moment. It made me feel poetic (although this post is anything but) and it felt like the one of those moments where you just stop what you’re doing, and appreciate. Appreciate anything and everything-the beautiful things around you, having a roof over your head, access to an education…it doesn’t matter. It’s just so important to slow down and take it all in, whenever life is trying to pull you into a whirlwind.

As I am now on the brink of being done with the worst part of the school year, I think this is a good time to start re-evaluating things that are important to me. I look forward to taking it a little bit easier for the rest of the school year, and really create who I want to be and what mind-set I want to have before I set off for college. I can’t wait for the adventures life has yet to take me on, but I’m content with where I am now-all aspects of life are important and I don’t want to rush anything without getting the full value of it. High school is almost done, but I can still learn some valuable lessons while I’m here!

It’s about 2 a.m. now…and admittedly, this is quite a strange post. Hopefully school will be delayed tomorrow though! Hope you all are well.

Life…Purpose and Direction

1 Dec

So life has been kind of rough lately.

College deadlines are fast approaching, grade pressures are at an all time high, and anxiety permeates every part of my and other senior’s lives. I’ve been feeling like crap for the past few days and have cried more than I have in the past few months combined…and yet I can’t pinpoint an exact reason.

The SAT Subjects tests aren’t that important. I know that.

Grades aren’t worth beating myself up about them. I know that.

Application essays aren’t the deciding factor of my admission or my life. I know that.

And apparently, the college I go to for undergrad doesn’t even really matter that much. So why do I always spiral into never-ending whirlpools of self-loathing, fear, and doubt? Because when everything is individualized, I acknowledge that each is not life-or-death important. But once everything is combined, it’s suddenly a collection of my inadequacy. It’s proof on paper of how I can never be good enough, right there alongside my pathetic compilation of barely completed essays.

I know no one wants to read a self-thrown pity party. I am however going to take a segway real quick and try to figure out who I am really doing all this for-does my need for success stem from needing to please others, or myself?

I don’t think I really strive for success to please my parents-I’m actually getting a little fed up with their method of parenting. Neither of my parents really put any effort into seeing how I’m doing in school. Besides continually asking how much homework I have each night, they never prompt more when I always answer “some”-which is perhaps why I never offer more myself. They don’t inquire about upcoming tests or quizzes or help me with homework and studying, but still reprimand me when my grades aren’t so great. Today my father interrogated me on how much of my SAT review book I had gone through-an hour after I had already taken the test. As their child, I’m not a machine where they can press a button and expect a prize to come out without any effort on their part. They care, yet they don’t try. And regretfully, that attitude has been passed on to me.

I also don’t really feel like I’m mature enough to be aware if I strive for greatness for myself. When I picture getting 100’s in all my classes, I imagine pure joy. Yet when I snap out of the daydream, I don’t feel any renewed motivation to try harder in school. I don’t use stress as a motivator to push myself harder; stress to me is instead like a bulldozer, crushing me into the ground while I remain helpless. I don’t know if I’m simply unable to turn anxiety into a good thing, or if I just don’t because everything seems too hard-but every time I question whether I’m trying enough, I assure myself that it’s just laziness, which makes me feel even worse.

When I imagine getting into a bad school, all that comes to mind is all of my peers getting into better schools. That’s all I’ve become consumed with-not the value of my own education, but whether it’s good enough compared to everyone else’s. I do things to prove to myself and others that yes, I am capable. If I do bad on a test, I don’t feel bad if I know I still did better than everyone else in my class. I don’t live by looking at my life-I live looking at everyone else’s.

Anyways, what I’ve come to realize is that this mindset needs to stop. I don’t know where my self-confidence went, if I ever even had any at all, but I cannot let negativity permeate into my future, especially in college.

Everyone has felt inadequacy before. But what one does with his or her past is what defines his or her future. Whatever I do from this point forward, it should be for me. And I need to set some goals-and start coming up with reasons for why I strive to achieve them.

I hope that if any of you can empathize with my emotions here, that even if I can’t admit it to myself yet, you come to realize that nothing is worth too much stress. You do have self-worth and if you’re in the same habits as I am, stop comparing yourself to other people around you. College application season makes everyone painfully aware of the competition around them, and simply looking at people supposedly better than you is just taking a lit match to your own self-esteem.

My best regards for anyone feeling pressured, and I invite you to drop me a comment so I can see how many of you share the same feelings! As always, thank you so much for reading (: