I am taking the luxury of Special Topics Day tomorrow (the most important thing you have to know about it is the absence of regular classes) to squander away the dusky hours after dinner, where no obligations ever feel as important as they really are. I ate even though I told myself I wasn't supposed to; the week of respite I gave myself after the Great Lake Walk is now woefully over, and today should have marked the beginning of my exercise regimen.
I don't feel like the things I talk about on this LJ have changed in essence. I am still plagued by the same unconscious neuroses that preoccupy my mind without my realization, like reflexes, instincts, and yet there are little things I discover about myself. These days I find myself wishing I could strip my inner self of its papery skin, moult my old convictions away and perhaps grow a pair. I am not letting go – I have left countries and a half a decade's worth of people and – it's like my little eccentricities and absentminded habits are hooking into me even more strongly to compensate for the great unknown I've released myself into, and there is this deep, nagging feeling in me that I am Doing It Wrong.
A feeling of unsettlement, if you will, and I cannot for the life of me figure it out. Perhaps as a result of studying for SAT French, I find myself oddly compelled to finish my sentences in French sometimes, when the right phrase just pops in my head.
I find myself unable to make a choice these days, to express preferences. I mean with universities. So many things from different universities and colleges appeal to me, a program here, an academic structure there, the work of a faculty member, the architecture of the dorms, the course curriculum. Both US liberal arts and UK specialization appeal to me !! Maybe university academic work is just so different that there's no way to choose between them because either way, it'll blow your minds away (a second year at Dartmouth told me about how homework and readings are actually compulsory because there are class discussions and pop quizzes on them, and that excites me. I'm not even kidding). But maybe I'm wrong. These days I can't predict what would make me happy, what excites me, which mornings I'll wake up sore and parched like I was dragged through a screaming desert, until it actually happens.
And then a quote by Jeanette Winterson:
"When we make a change, it's so easy to interpret our unsettledness as unhappiness, and our unhappiness as a rseult of having made the wrong decision. Our mental and emotional states fluctuate madly when we make big changes in our lives, and somedays we could tightrope across Manhattan, and other days we are too weary to clean our teeth. This is normal. This is natural. This is change."
But if you can't trust yourself to know when you're unhappy, in what can you trust? Where can you spend your carefully hoarded scraps of faith? I have lost the distinction between fighting to make the most out of each day and just fighting, weary, dogged fighting, gritted teeth fighting, each jolt you feel down to the bone. These days the question I ask myself the most, I find, is, what is wrong, Karen? What is wrong, indeed? It is a genuine question. What is wrong, Karen? And the answer is nothing, nothing.
And I think, maybe it is the absence of a concrete purpose, one so drilled into me I don't even consider it an external purpose, but an innnate characteristic. Maybe it is how deep the questioning is going. I compare myself now to myself 13 months ago; these are the hypotheses, my flawed methodology notwithstanding. Maybe it is just garden variety anxiety. Before I had a clear path from RG to RJ to university, maybe PSC (or an attempt, at least) or another government scholarship – or at least I just hadn't reach the part where the road forked. But more than that, now there is the option of a gap year, the option of studying in a region that does not begin with U, the option of 'failing', at least the expectations surrounding me. Maybe I feel like going to university is the wrong choice, that there are other things I want – or should – want to do, but I'm not up to the confrontation this would cause with my parents. But I don't know what else I want to do in its place. Nothing I would deem relevant or useful or productive, in any case.
Reading Steinbeck's East to Eden, and it is a bleak, brilliant book. Books are becoming more brilliant than I remember, or I have just managed to hit a streak of three. Anna Karenina, Death and the Maiden (technically a play) and then this. In it, a Chinese character says I don't think I've ever known what you people call happiness. We think of contentment as the desirable thing, and maybe that's negative. That – what am I supposed to think? Is happiness an emotion or an attitude? I'm not unhappy – there could be worse, worse things. I'm content here – I. I'm working, I'm involving myself. But things aren't easy for me, I am not by default happy. I used to be, I think, unless I was simply too young to recognize its lack. But this preoccupation with my own happiness (or lack thereof) seems so selfish, so first-world. But isn't happiness the ultimate purpose? But there are different types of happiness. But I have lost that once-permanent skip in my step, the lightness, the spring. But life doesn't have to be easy. But isn't it indication that something is wrong? But if it's too easy, you aren't trying. Maybe I'm just not trying hard enough.
Sometimes I suspect it's the change in cultural perspective, that – back at home, happiness was never really a goal. I never felt it was, at least. Or happiness wasn't something you worked towards; it arrived, in spite of yourself, when you turn your eyes away. You had duties, you had responsibilities, you had purpose, and in doing and fulfilling, you find pockets of happiness and companionship; work is good for the soul. Here – it seems like you should be happy, and there is something wrong if you aren't. Or if the traditional ways of finding happiness aren't what makes you happy.
(It isn't just me, though. Multiple people I've talked to have confessed to similar moods of unprovoked sadness of an unknown origin. Maybe we're all still jetlagged and homesick.)
Opening the book to find the quote has tempted me. I think I will read a little, and go to sleep, and wake up in hopefully either three or seven hours to begin work.