The best thing my dad ever did for me was fuck off to Iceland.
How often do alcohol and substance abuse-related problems stem from a fear of missing out? I’m writing this as I’m sitting in my room playing video games instead of drinking on a Friday night. No, that’s not a boast about how innocent and sub-free I am. In fact, as I check my friends’ and acquaintances’ Snapchat stories (whose contact information I’ve mostly acquired in the Harris bathroom), I feel a deep pit form in my stomach. That sensation is fear. Fear that I’m missing out on making friends and gaining social capital just because I’ve decided to have a relaxing night, that I know my introverted and mentally ill self really needs. Everyone on Snapchat is having fun, and they’re having fun without me. Those Snapchat stories probably don’t tell the whole story of a likely average night, but they are a cruel taunt to someone with a desperate need to be liked who couldn’t find the energy to leave her room. Seeing my peers live up their college weekend nights makes me feel guilty that instead of making connections with my classmates (whom I will “forget” to talk to on Monday), I am having a restful night in. That’s pretty messed up.
Many people describe Grinnell as a bubble, and that’s exactly what it is. A bubble filled with people. A self-contained group of individuals who have chosen to follow their passions. Therefore, it’s kind of impossible not to be surrounded by people in classes, in the dining hall, in the natatorium. We’re also plugged into society; our Facebook feeds pulsate with news, our Snapchats with photos, and our phones with text messages. Even if we aren’t in the center of the universe, it’s easy to find out exactly what’s going on with everyone else, and it’s even easier to get bogged down in the crowd.
I remember once going to Main second, which was kind of a party floor my first year—I don’t know if it still is, I haven’t really gone over there since. I remember walking into that cramped hallway where spectators were crammed up against the walls, mostly quiet, subdued, watching two guys play beer die with intense sweaty concentration. They were big guys—upperclassmen who were also literally kind of huge, and sort of bro-ish, and casually unfriendly—not outright mean, but there was a demarcated line between them and you, and to talk to them or make a joke or in any way try to cross into a conciliatory place meant you were about to be treated very coolly.
~ Gratitude says “thank you.” Gratitude appreciates what is already the case. Gratitude doesn’t try to “get somewhere.” Gratitude doesn’t judge or express self-pity. Gratitude doesn’t take things for granted. ~
One time, a friend and I were walking to lunch in downtown Chicago. We were both philosophers, thinking big in a big city. I still remember the moment when we turned a corner and emerged out from under the shade of towering edifices and massive skyscrapers, the sunlight finally reaching our faces as we headed towards Central Park, when she told me, in a tone of disapproval, that many of us in the West were “spoiled.” And I thought, “Spoiled like the kids with the golden tickets in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (everyone except Charlie)?” Well, yes and no, because the kids that gorge themselves on chocolate rivers and frolic in the candy gardens have an abundance of resources available to them, but that’s not why they are spoiled. What my friend meant by “spoiled” was that we take what we have for granted. We have, not just an abundance of material things, but life opportunities, relationships and well-educated minds that we often overlook as if everyone had them.
When I was growing up, I was introduced to a game called Perfect Cherry Blossom, downloaded onto my computer by a family member. I remember it being very hard at the time, and most certainly not something a young child would ever be able to beat.
Fast forward a few years, around high school, and I found myself stumbling into the same game. I found out it was part of a larger series called Touhou, which was a number of “bullet hell” games that were notoriously hard. Mainly, the games focused on conflicts between humans and supernatural creatures, more easily referred to as “youkai.” The music was amazing, the character design was great (the character art, not so much, considering it was drawn by a single drunk guy) and the stories were interesting. However, what really reined me in was that the entire cast was female.
I’m not a quiet guy. The countless number of people who have heard me sing in Burling and the grill will tell you that. I am not afraid to approach someone and start a casual conversation or state my opinion in an argument–dare I say the word?–“extrovert” immediately comes to my mind when describing myself. I am not shy. Yet why does the idea of getting romantically or sexually involved with someone seal my lips with permanent duct tape?
I think I came out to my parents in February of 2014. Because of this, I make quiet jokes to myself that I am essentially only two, so people should really give me a break, as a two year old college student is unheard of. As a high-functioning two-year-old, going about my life and expressing my gender mainly lies in pronoun use. I dress masculine, my voice is low, and I have a slowly growing beard, so the only way I can express myself and my gender are through little things, more often than not with they/them/their pronouns.