Sunday, January 8, 2012

So Much Has Happened in My First Semester, Part 5

In Part 4, I talked about how I was alienating people...

On the bright side, since I've started school, I've felt -- maybe not closer to -- but different about God. In a good way.

I started to feel like He was helping me out. I always KNEW He was, but I hadn't FELT like it in years. I felt like I, and only I, was helping me out. But then when school started, I'd get "lucky" on a day my teacher's assistants did a surprise check on our notebooks and I'd filled out my lab notebook an hour before class. I'd feel like God made that happen. Or I'd feel a tickle in my throat and sincerely pray I wouldn't get sick, and I wouldn't. I'd feel like God made that happen.

Actually, I can't remember the first time in the school year I sincerely -- SINCERELY -- prayed for something and got it, but it was that that convinced me that praying helps. So I started doing that a lot, and it seemed like every time I did, everthing turned out right. I'd pray before exams and I'd do well on them. I know it's because I was studying hard, but the important thing is that I felt like God was helping me. He was helping me to study, to avoid making stupid mistakes on exams, and to adjust to college life at all.

I have to admit I was pretty amazed at myself for slipping into a college routine as easily as I did. The dorm rooms, the showers, the cafeteria food, all the stuff I always thought would be a nightmare. It was nothing. I truly believe God made it possible for me to adjust to it. It feels really good to truly believe.

I prayed that God would help me pass every class with a B or better in order to keep my scholarship, and He's done just that. When I wrote my first draft of this post, I was still waiting on some grades, but I knew I'd still believe in God if I got less than a B in anything. It would be because He decided it was for the best. But I'm REALLY glad He decided it wasn't. Thank you, God.

That's the long and short of it, folks. If you're reading this, I think you're great, especially since posts have been so scarce lately. I know that my latest posts have almost exclusively focused on ordinary life goings-on. I usually prefer heftier topics, but when I got on break and wrote a rough draft of this 5 part post, the last few months were burning on my mind. I almost want to apologize that, looking back, I myself am not terribly excited about these last posts. Not that I don't want you to be excited about them. If you liked any of these posts, please tell me I'm wrong and they're the most fascinating thing on the face of the planet. Planets. ALL OF THEM! =)

In a few days, I'll have school again for four months, and then,summer, at which glorious time I should be able to post again. So don't give up on me.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

So Much Has Happened in My First Semester, Part 4

In Part 3, I talked about my college friends and how much I enjoyed them until they started alienating me and I started alienating them back.

I know from experience it's stupid to immediately and fully reconcile with friends who keep hurting you. It hurts more every time. It's far better to distance yourself from them until, when you do reconcile, you don't reconcile as friends but as people.

Still, I felt really mean one day when I passed by my friend (the one who found other friends; let's call her J), who was coming back from yet another dinner she went to without me. She obviously wanted to talk to me. She turned to me a little, and appeared to expect me to come to her, but I kept walking. She looked hurt. Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do, and it does help you feel better eventually, but in the midst of doing it, you might feel guilty. Maybe I am guilty, but I feel reasonably justified right now. I mean, she's not a bad person, but she's not a terribly good person, either. She did one thing in particular that really bugged me, but it's another post entirely.

Speaking of people I alienated -- there was also (yes, also; is there no end to the list?) my old cafeteria friend. Let's call him, what? M?

M finally said something to really irritate me. I'd been going to lunch and dinner almost every day (and gaining weight) because I liked seeing him. I always went with my friend J, too, because I liked the way she and he snarked at each other. I really liked him as a person, mostly because of how accepting he was.

I never like-liked him though, and I think it wore on me how he seemed to like-like me. Furthermore, by the time he really annoyed me, I'd come to realize that he wasn't the original I thought he was. His dad's an addiction counselor or something. M's just being the person his dad raised him to be. So after he irritated me, I stopped going to see him. I still saw him now and then, but I didn't go to see HIM, just to eat. And you know what? My guilty truth is that life felt quite a bit easier. Except when I felt like scum for hurting his feelings.

See, for weeks and weeks, I'd been going to see him even though I knew he felt differently about me than I felt about him. I didn't even want him to stop feeling that way because I didn't want to lose the extra attention he gave me. I was selfish and horrible, and then I just stopped, which was also selfish and horrible. I knew that he had feelings, that he noticed I didn't go see him anymore, and that he'd feel abandoned, like I feel when people ditch me. (Then again, I've been wrong about him before. Can I hope that he didn't feel that way?) I felt at one point that I had to go to him and explain, and I think that might have been a good idea if I had figured out a good way to do it. But on the day I went, he was downright chipper and said he was having a good day. I needed no other excuse to back out. He was doing fine without me. What would I have said anyway?

Maybe I'll write more about what he actually said at a later date, but for now that's the silly, guilty story.

Maybe I was alienating a couple people, but once I distance myself emotionally from people, I live more in harmony with them. The other girl (who's not J) on my floor really is nice, nice and grown up; she knows a good friend when she sees one, knows a snob when she sees one, and knows she herself is not perfect either. I find I like that kind of person, mature, humble, accepting, smart. The other electrical engineer possesses many of these traits too. But none of the people I've met could be my True Friend, and I think it's okay that I've distanced myself from them.

Friday, January 6, 2012

So Much Has Happened in My First Semester, Part 3

In Part 2, I talked about how I enjoyed living alone in college.

I also enjoyed the friends I made. I met another girl in electrical engineering and two girls on my floor of the dorm. For a while, I believed that I'd found kindred spirits. "All this time," I thought, "I just had to go somewhere new to find some people who behave the way I think human beings should." Of course, in the back of my mind, a voice told me it couldn't last forever, and that voice is always right. Everyone disappoints me until I develop more realistic expectations of them.

One girl said something kind of twisted about tying me down in the yard at night until I understood I'd be fine (this was her response to me saying how scared I was to walk around campus at night). That hurt, but I stopped hanging out with her for a while, and it was fairly easy to change my idea of her.

The other electrical engineer sometimes ignored me. Not in a mean way. But, say, I'd sit down next to her and wait for her to say hi, but she wouldn't. Maybe she was waiting for me to say hi too. Neither of us would then. Most of the time, we get along fine, but because of those now-and-then moments, we grew apart.

People in general stopped being their strangely friendly selves. I think they got tired and their grades worsened as the year went on. At first, I thought it was weird how nice they were, but after they stopped, I missed it.

In particular, I grew pretty close to one of the girls on my floor. We were in classes together, and we always walked to and from those classes together. We were both slow at our work, usually the last people to finish labs and tests. When I finished slightly before her, I'd wait for her. She did the same for me once. I'd help her with homework and studying, and she'd let me use her mini-fridge and printer. We were both usually the last ones to bed, as we were up all night doing schoolwork and helping each other with it.

But then, she found other friends, people I didn't like particularly in the first place and even less after I became jealous of the time she spent with them. I know it's petty, but it didn't feel fair. She seemed so much happier with them than with me, and what had they ever done for her? They didn't help her study or do homework. They didn't wait for her after class. In fact, they were jerks. Some of them would poke fun at her for being out-of-state and for any other reasons they could come up with. And they drew in permanent marker on her face and played pranks on her. See? Prank-pullers, the kind of people I don't like. . . Okay, fine, so she seemed to enjoy it and she returned the favor to those who drew on her face, but I could tell it bugged her slightly too because she appreciated it when I snatched the marker away from her friends.

One night, it was 4 am the weekend before a chemistry exam, and my friend should have been studying, especially since she was failing chem. I looked out the window and saw her friends restraining her in a bear hug and sticking snow down her socks. I suppose she may have started it, and she threw snow back at them. But then there's the problem of why on earth they were encouraging her to be out goofing off at that time of night, a day before a big test. But she absolutely loves them.

Her friends are mostly from an on-campus youth group type deal, such groups are often exclusive, and the same is true of this one. One of them is somewhat pleasant, though. He's the boy who awkwardly asked me to go rafting at the beginning of the year. My friend is besotted with him, and he with her. Problem is, to be completely honest, he's not a better friend to her than I am. I came to her rescue when they were drawing on her face, and he just sat there. I always told her the truth, and he sometimes didn't. But she loved him so much more than me. Is it because he's a boy? I mean, of course it's because he's a boy.

See, I know this sounds weird, terribly petty, and childish. I know. But I'm being honest.

She started spending more and more time with them -- going to dinner in the cafeteria, playing card games in the study rooms, having Bible studies downstairs, or just hanging out in the boy's room. And not inviting me. She did this more and more. I soon decided I needed to distance myself from her, so I tried to avoid or act cold to her when she WAS around. By the end of the semester, we spent a fraction of the time together that we'd spent before, and I'm barely over my bitterness after not seeing her for three weeks.

Even more than the other girls, this one chipped away at my okayness in the last few weeks of last semester. They all did, though, and it was amazing the feelings I could recognize as being more familiar than feeling okay. In a way, I didn't start feeling like myself again until the first girl disappoined me by threatening to tie me down in the yard. I recognized the feeling of disillusionment regarding her and everyone else on the planet, really, like what I'd felt with my family before college.

When my friend started spending her time with other people instead of me, it was one of those things, those previously so-familiar things I couldn't forget about just by avoiding. It took me back to the pre-college days, when hurt hung on the edge of my thoughts all the time. I had knowledge that bugged me, knowledge about the people around me, knowledge I couldn't -- wouldn't just forget about, because that wouldn't be truthful. It wasn't nearly as bad as pre-college, though. I was still okay most of the time.

I know lots of people go through this -- you find a friend, they find other friends. Heck. It's happened to me before. Maybe, though, I was under the impression that, once people grew up, they'll stick with you if you're a good friend to them. Even if I wasn't under that impression, I'm probably too stupid to avoid becoming friends with people. And even if it's true that grown ups know good friends, that girl is not grown up.

One Friday, she did invite me out with her friends, and we saw the school's band play. I fell asleep. (C'mon, if you were me, you'd know how impossible it is to sit still and stay awake after weeks of not sleeping. The band was good though.) My contacts got dry. One fell out. I was exhausted, irritated at losing a contact, and disoriented from having only one eye that could see clearly. I politely asked my friend to follow through on her promise to get Rafting Boy to drive me home. She suddenly decided she didn't want to bother him. I had to find a ride home myself. I didn't think too much about it then, about what that meant about her priorities and her word. I was too tired to think about it then. I was mad about it later though.

So, first the beginning of the semester, my college friends were part of why I felt okay, but by the end, people were aliens to me, which I'll talk more about in Part 4.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

So Much Has Happened in My First Semester, Part 2

First of all, Happy New Year!

Now, in Part 1, I talked about the academic parts of last semester.

Regarding other parts of life, they've been pretty darn good. Those first few weeks were hard in a way I didn't understand. They didn't feel hard. They just felt strange. I felt strange. Because I didn't feel much at all. And now, I think I know why. I had no "cues," no previously-understood reasons for feeling anything. I had no familiar sights, sounds, people, or objects to trigger feelings. I had to start from scratch making new cues.

So I did. I met new people, enjoyed new foods, appreciated different sights and experiences, etc. And around the time I realized how normal I was behaving, I also realized that I was okay, really okay. And that was better than I'd been in years. I'd have mistaken it for being "happy," except that I know what it's like to be happy. Still, being "okay" was pretty great, and it came about because all my cues were absent.

I was authentically unhappy before I went to college, mostly because of - and this is going to sound very heartless, but it's true - the people I had the most contact with, my family. I'm sorry, but they make me very unhappy. For the most part, they hurt me by saying cruel and mindless things -- not usually directed at me, but cruel and twisted nonetheless -- which used to hurt me all the more because I loved them, expected much, much more of them, and wanted them to see the truth.

It didn't bother me as much when complete strangers did and said the same things as my family did. I think going to college has helped me see my family a little more as strangers.

For instance, the other day, my dad caught a half-dead buzzing fly in a sack, and I asked him to just kill it, but he refused, saying he, "liked to watch them be tortured." He said it because he thought it was funny, not necessarily because he was serious. Because I care about all kinds of creatures, I'm a vegetarian, but even if I wasn't, torture is horrible, and I absolutely hate when people joke about horrible things. It's a topic I'll have to write a whole post about sometime because it's become really central to my thoughts. My dad did what he did to the fly even after all the times I've argued with him about problems like this and despite the fact that he knows I'm a vegetarian.

However, it hurt me relatively little when my dad caught that fly a few days ago, as compared to how it would have hurt me before college. Before college, I'd be unhappy just being around my family, especially my dad and brothers, as it hung in my mind how often they'd behaved that way, how hard I'd tried to get them to stop, and how badly I'd failed. I was unhappy around my mother too, but I also enjoyed being around her sometimes. When she was around my father and brothers, she'd act to some extent like them. Without their influence, she was kind. And I'll always remember the months we had together when all of the boys were gone and how close and peaceful our relationship became. She was my best friend back then.

I thought I'd be miserable without her, but I think she's a major part of why I used to be so bashful around strangers. See, I didn't want to interact with strangers in a way that was inconsistent with the way my Mom saw me. I wasn't even sure how it was she saw me, but that fact just added to my fear, which made me shy. Even without her right next to me, she was around, and I knew it and could almost feel her watching as I interacted with people. I want to be honest in who I am, how I act. I don't want there to be any discrepancies, so I used to overmonitor myself when I talked to people.

When I left my mom far behind, though, I didn't have to worry about acting consistently with how I'd act with her. It was very freeing, and because of that, I acted confident and normal, like other people there at the school.

Also, before college, I'd get myself hurt when I'd try to share things with my mom --songs, pictures, movies, or books I discovered -- and she would show little or no interest. I don't blame her for that. I know it only meant she doesn't have the same interests as I. I wouldn't want her to pretend she did. That's too much like lying. Somehow, though, I kept taking the slim chance that she'd really like it THIS time, THIS time, THIS time. It happened quite often, and I could never stop myself. When I started living alone, though, I never even thought to share the fun discoveries I made, because there was no one around. I just enjoyed them on my own. And I didn't hurt myself trying to get other people to enjoy them with me. To be honest, I still subconsciously store away discoveries I make to bring up with my mom when I visit home. Most of the time, though, I just enjoy them.

I felt pretty genuinely okay in college, thanks to the factors above and the people I met at college, which I'll talk about in Part 3.