E(pisodic)R(ole)

As soon as I got through the door of the apartment, I felt the burning acid coming up my esophagus. I dropped my bag on the floor and rushed to the bathroom, barely making it all the way without soiling the rest of the apartment. Two hours later, stomach cramping, dehydrated and with liquids still sprouting from various orifices, I call for an ambulance and get taken to the hospital to get an IV for liquids, medication and blood tests.

‘All seems fine’, the doctor says looking at the results, ‘just a bit dehydrated, but all the bad stuff seems to have come out’ he goes on while reading the abdominal ultrasound. ‘Can you think of anything that might have caused this?’

‘Do you see any cauliflower around there?’ I ask peeking at the alien looking picture in his hand. ‘Where did the cauliflower come from? Did you cook it yourself?’ he asks looking ready to call in sanitary inspectors on any restaurant I might have bought the food from. Sucker. ‘My mum made it on Saturday. I kept it in the fridge so I thought it would still be okay. It did taste a bit funny, but I thought that’s just because it’s cauliflower.’

I can swear that medical personnel gets don’t- punch- the stupid- patients- in- the- face superpowers with their diplomas.

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Grow up

It took me two days to read Manson’s autobiography. That is Marilyn Manson the singer, not the cult leader. He talks a lot about the machine we call society that brings up generation after generation of children to be impressionable, but when somebody exposes them to ideas different from the ones they were supposed to imprint on, it becomes a problem. The bigger issue is that brainwashed kids turn into spineless adults unable to assume responsibility for their own lives and actions.

I often think back on my childhood and this book took me there again. I focus on this incident during a school trip in 6th or 7th grade which is to this day one of the most humiliating things that happened to me. One of the more popular girls in my class was asking me to go buy her a soda. For some reason she could’t do that herself- the reason being that she needed to validate herself and assert her social standing above others by using me as a stepping stone.

After I refused her a few times, she kept insisting and I walked my defeated ass to the fridge to buy her that damned bottle of soda. As I pulled once, twice and the fridge door won’t open, the third time I was left with the plastic handle in my hand. As I turned around everybody in the rest stop was laughing at me. I remember that moment like it’s a scene from a movie, the whole rest stop slowly rolling in my field of vision, like the camera rolls over a scene, to reveal two grade’s worth of kids laughing at me, standing there with the broken piece of plastic in my had. Now, I kind-of wish I still had it. One of the nicer girls decided to help me out and show me that the fridge had a sliding door. Idiot.

Curiously though, when I think of that moment, more often than not I think of the bitchy girl forcing me to serve her, rather than all the people laughing at me. Maybe I was so traumatized by it that I blocked the memory until it was far away enough to not make me blush anymore. I remember the conversation and her insistence on me doing this thing for her, I remember and hating myself how much of a pushover I was. This wasn’t something that came naturally to me- I’m not much of a leader, but I am definitely not the subservient type. This was something I was taught by the world around me and by the fact that it represented a safe way out of difficult situations- the coward’s way out. I’ve since learned that the hard path is much more interesting, if not always rewarding.

At some point while I was in middle school, one of my sister’s friends was trying to teach me how to fit in and become one of the popular girls- she was one of the popular girls in her school and was about two years older than me so I had information straight from the source. Her advice- lie about who you are, which try as I might, I never really got the hang of. Under her influence I tried quite hard to get into the popular elite of my class, but failed miserably for a while and didn’t really care about it much during the last two years of middle school. My sister and her friend lost touch after a few months. She got married a while ago because she got pregnant (my sister also got pregnant, but on purpose and she’s not married).

These are the things that gave me stomach aches and sweaty palms while I was forcing myself to do them, while I was trying to find a way to pour myself into the mold that so many people around me seemed to fit into so easily. To be honest, their pattern was never going to be enough for me.  At some point in his book, Manson wonders what made him different from the people he grew up around, who were still stuck in the same hellish standard his art was trying to tear down. I don’t really remember asking myself that, I just concluded that I was different from most people and counted myself lucky for it. During high- school I started to accept and embrace my weirdness and found a few people who accepted me the way I was.

I’ve since had experiences in doing things I wasn’t comfortable with in relationships where the line between assertive and bitch is blurry as f**k. It’s a lot easier to stand your ground when a classmate you already resent is trying to force you into doing something you are not comfortable with, but having someone you love and respect do it seriously messes with you. The logic (if you can even call it that) here is that if their opinions seem valid most of the time, why not now as well, after all it’s a lot easier for me to assume that I am wrong, rather than someone who’s neurotic internal monologue is not available to me. I am just assuming that everybody has a neurotic internal argument. This always turns out leaving deep scars that are a lot more to handle than any confrontation with a suck- up classmate or coworker.

Slowly, but surely, I’ve been reaching the same conclusion as Manson- f**k if I’ll let anyone make decisions for me anymore. It’s my life to live and to ruin, even if I do end up a crazy cat lady living under the bridge and scaring teenagers by the time I’m thirty.

Its not relevant(?)

Think of that perfect moment on your vacation, looking out as the waves break on the beach. All you can hear is the water following its cycle and the seagulls crying their hunting songs in the sky. That moment goes by and you’ll be soon on the plane back home, back to the work- home- weekend routine.

Think of those summer nights when the weather was warm and the air had that dusty- cold smell from the soft breeze that traveled through the trees around town. You close your eyes to take in the quiet song of crickets and the cars driving by in the distance. Think, that you still have a few days left of summer vacation, of doing nothing much, but feel the changes of the season.

I was looking at the cable of my new headset sticking out of my phone on the way home from work. It had a stock photo aspect as the sun was peaking through the window while setting in the west, piercing the glass and giving everything a crisp aspect.  For no reason, the question popped into my mind- what are we made of? My memory retains these glimpses into my past that I can never reach again. They pile up in the back of my mind and slowly create parts of me. Little memories, like stretching on the carpet of my bedroom after being away for two weeks and feeling like everything was right with the world, then the first train ride to Cluj- Napoca to sign up for university and escaping the place that turned form home to prison. I can still put myself inside both of those experiences to process what led from one to the other.

I keep wondering about this, because we experience something, or even the same thing every day, and if these experiences repeated or unique, can shape who we are, how can we really say that we are the same person two days in a row? How do you keep a sense of self, how do you even know who you are when the person you were yesterday had never tasted sushi before, but who you are today absolutely loves it?

This brings me to two other questions, that I’m not sure if anybody has the answer to- if you can’t be sure of yourself, how can you get to know someone else or do you just have to accept them and figure out if you can deal with them or not?- and the second question, which for me creates more of an issue is, if you can’t really get to know someone else, can you trust them?

Identity is so much part of our culture today, but the more I focus on it, the more it eludes me to the point where I’m starting to wonder if identity isn’t society’s own version of the Emperor’s new clothes and everybody is just pretending to know who they are because everybody else is doing the same and nobody has the guts to say that they are just lost. Then I start thinking of the things that have been constant for such a long time- I love Harry Potter and The Beatles, I don’t like sweets with lemon or cheese, but I also used to hate tea and now I love tea. I look in the mirror sometimes and wonder if I talked to myself from 2 or 3 years ago, what would she think of present me? What will I think of myself in 2, 5, 30 years form now?

Reflex bickering

On a morning of what would become a scorching summer  day, I was walking around the city center, making my way to work. As I had left home early after having drank my morning coffee, I was starting to feel peckish and even a bit dizzy. I decided to buy a hot dog specialty which is a boiled hot dog wrapped in bread dough and baked. It is something you can find all over Cluj-Napoca and most of them are absolutely yummy.

The place I stopped at is a small kiosk chain that you can find all over the city. I had been walking for a while and really wanted that carbs load for the way to work as I had decided I had enough time to walk there and needed the exercise. As I approached the counter I could feel a wave of heat coming from inside the small establishment (keep in mind, it was already over 23 °C outside). There was nobody ahead of me so I looked in expecting to be served immediately, but the lady inside was a little busy with something, though she did ask me what I wanted. She asked the second time for my order and I was already getting crabby, but I answered nicely. The third time she asked if I wanted only one piece, but I thought she wanted my order again because of the noise from the street, the machine that was baking behind her and the earphone in my left ear. I snapped a bit at her trying to relay again what I wanted and she snapped back at me that there’s no need for me to get angry so of course that pissed me off more than the whole situation.

The whole interaction only took a minute or two, but it was enough for me to lose sight of all the experience I had myself with angry customers and being on the receiving end of a snarky reply. The reaction I had was a mere reflex as my instinct took over and my reflexes kicked in. All the work I have been doing on and with myself was displaced by the easier reaction in a moment of discomfort, proving it to still be in an incipient stage or if you will ~Shallow.

Fight-or-Flight

The question that rules our lives and our evolution as society is fight or flight? Which one do you choose? Each one of these will lead you to a different result. Each time you make the choice it piles up with the rest of experiences and decisions that make up who you are.

You pick one, you get a result and analyse it. If you got what you wanted or needed, you’ll probably use this structure again. Instant gratification comes and lets you know that the result was what you want, at least short term. And this is where things can go wrong. Sometimes, the immediate result is to our linking and solves the issue, but what if the issue is not resolved, but only delayed. Maybe you won’t have to deal with it yourself, but someone else might have to and their choices might be limited by yours.

What happens next is that your brain registers that decision as having had a successful result and the next time you find yourself in the same situation, you react the same way because your personal history says that that is the way to go. You might become aware, at some point that your are not choosing well, but the moment has passed and you find yourself facing another choice.

The cycle repeats itself over and over as your reflexes take root and overpower the other possible you who might have gone a different way. They fade out of your conscience and lie dormant for ever.

 

Daily prompt- Dormant

Community

I have been reading a book about Gurkha soldiers in Afghanistan. To be honest law enforcement and the army have always been jobs I could see myself doing. Unfortunately, I am short and quite bad at sports. Frankly, I am much more dangerous to others when speaking, rather than when welding a weapon.

These guys are the best of the best, Nepalese soldiers fighting in the British army. It’s been like this for two hundred years. The soldiers come from all over Nepal, including rural areas. The man who wrote the book used to be a hill boy. When he was young he used to live in his grandparent’s house. His grandfather had a lot of brothers who married and also lived there. They were about thirty people, living in six rooms.

When I was a young girl, my mother used to tell me cautionary tales about people who had to share their house with ten people or families of seven who only had one room to live in. This was to make me feel grateful for what we had, because she knew we had so much, though my childish eyes did not see it that way. It seemed horrible. Ten people sharing the same room. It was too much for me to share a room with my sister, let a lone eight more people. Most days I would agree, that would be my perfect description of hell. But the way he talks about it, with the non-complacent tone of an expert soldier, it made me realize that this is what a community of people is.

It might seem to me, to us, young people that living in closed quarters with others is suffocating, but we never think of the benefits. In today’s urban world we are each on our own. Young people leave the home built by their parents in hopes of a brighter future. We end up in big cities, with large populations of isolated individuals. We develop facades, masks we put on when we leave the house because other people don’t care about our growing feelings of uncertainty and fear. They are too busy nursing their own.

People evolved as parts of groups, each person finding their own role and being part of a whole. This is why corporations today have team building exercises and activities for their employees. We work better as a group if we each know where we stand and if we feel good about that position. It makes us productive. The main dilemma of the twenty-first century youth, or millennial as we’ve been named, is that we’ve been taught to be individuals. So many of us want to shine in their own spotlight as the queen bee with a crew of anonymous worker bees around us. Being one part of a whole doesn’t allow that.

We sacrifice the support we are genetically programmed to receive in order to prove to ourselves that we are better than others, that we don’t need help in figuring out life. I am very much guilty of doing this. Only yesterday I refused my mum’s reassurance that if I need money, I can always ask her. I turned the offer down like she was offering me poisoned cookies. I want to be my own person and be independent. Financial independence is as important to me as emotional independence is and there are a lot of times when I struggle with both. I am capable enough to keep down a job that covers my expenses, but I can’t save up much, at least not as much as I would like. Emotionally I am distressed much more often than I let on. I have doubts about my future, I am haunted by the most annoying of questions- what am I doing with my life?

In the past year I have worked quite closely with people in my age group who are more or less in the same situation. The same issues arise in their minds as well. What are we doing with our lives? I was talking the other day with one of the girls about child birth and motherhood. It seems we both struggle with the same doubts- am I fit to be a mother; will I be capable of loving my child unconditionally; will I resent it because I will have to make sacrifices in my career and  life is so much more complicated with the responsibility of bringing up a person? A few weeks ago I was talking with another one of my colleagues about my anxiety at the thought that I feel like I am not doing anything relevant with my time. Turns out, he is thinking the same thing about his own choices.

Growing up I had a small circle of friends and we discussed concerns like these quite rarely. We were teenagers and thinking of these kinds of things did not seem as important then. We still had so much time. To find that other people my age are fighting these demons quiets mine. They are not entirely defeated, but easier to live with. I am gathering courage and making plans to defeat them and enjoy as much as possible out of life.

One more thing, though. I would still like to experience the complete trust that those soldiers have in each other.

Triumph

Life is full of ups and downs. At least for me it is, I don’t know about other people that much. I always struggle with myself, but I have come a great way. A lot of times I used to feel tense on the inside because I didn’t know how to behave. I literally did not know how to react to people and situations around me. My default reaction was anger or violence and it obviously put people off. So I didn’t know what reaction would bring people closer.

As I grew up, going to school made me anxious. I had a couple of friends at home who were neighbors, but they went to other schools. I had to make all new friends and failed miserably. For eight years I barely connected to the people I spent five-six hours a day with. I was most comfortable in my seat during breaks or on the edge of large groups if they made us go outside. I was struggling not to be seen because being seen meant being judged and rejected. I am, to this day horrified of rejection, but I have learned to deal with it a lot better as with pretty much everything else.

After eight years of being an outsider, you can imagine how happy I was when it was finally time to change school. In Romania the school system is made out of three cycles of four. We have four years of primary school and four years of middle school are usually attended at the same institution, unless you move town, school or in some villages they only have the first four years. The last four years are attended at a different institution where you apply and get in depending on your grades. I made it into the high school and class of choice (yay!).

I was 14 and after such a long time being ostracized, I didn’t really care about being included anymore. To my surprise this actually helped me integrate into the class. Turns out not caring if people like you makes people like you. Weird. By this time I had had one or two disappointing experiences with friends outside of school and didn’t really trust people, a trait I still share with my teenage self, but I didn’t feel anymore like the weird kid trying to look as much as possible like the paint on the walls so people can’t see me. I started reading a lot and got smarter, my English got better so the Internet opened up to me and I actually had a really good friend who I could talk to about my family life.

When I was eleven, my mum moved to Italy so she could work there because she could get paid a lot better. My sister and I were left with my father who I never really connected with. I was a mama’s girl and my dad was becoming more and more of a religious nut and an alcoholic. I tried to spend as much time as possible ignoring him. We used to see mum only for two- four weeks a year. In rest we talked on the phone. She moved back home a few weeks ago. I am twenty-four now.

(Don’t mind me, I’m just tearing up a bit)

Finishing high school and getting into university was my way to freedom. I didn’t get into medical school the way I wanted and my mum advised me to enroll in a cheap, private law school. I only went for one semester. The literature was killing me. It was a depressing period, but I decided I would move cities and start reading for bachelor degree in English, choosing a minor in Chinese. And so I did. It took me a while, I got to spend nine beautiful months in China, I failed exams, read a lot, crammed even more, but I am about to take my final exams for my bachelor degree.

I have come a long way in my interactions with people. At the moment I work in a call center, talking to people a lot of the day, and I even enjoy most of it. I still get blind-sighted sometimes by people being hypocrites and selfish, but I am learning to let go of the anger it causes. That will hurt only me. And each day I manage to be my natural self feels good. It does indeed feel like a triumph.

Triumph

via Daily Prompt: Triumph

Silvy

I’be been reading Sylvia Plath lately because I’m writing my graduation thesis about her. I like her prose a lot, but her poetry is a more difficult topic. In prose her language floats and it sometimes feels a lot like poetry but with less decoding needed.

The poetry is very personal to her. I’ve read 2 or 3 biographies about her life to be able to understand it. I’ve especially grown to like ‘Electra on Azalea Path’ and ‘The Jailer’. Electra is about her father and his death. She expresses her wish to take her mother’s place as his mourner because she never did it properly, Sylvia believed. Aurelia Plath, Sylvia’s mother did not want to cry in front of her young children so Sylvia believed she did not feel bad about her husband’s passing. You can’t hide from the things you fear, it seems. Aurelia’s remembered having anxiety whenever she saw her mother cry and in an attempt to shield her children from grief, she caused (at least in Sylvia’s case) severe internal damage.

‘The Jailer’ poses a more complicated issue, at least for me. In this poem the voice of the speaker accuses someone of being her captor and rapist. She accuses him of fooling her with ‘fakery’ and starving her, feeding her only lies. The poem is most probably addressed to Ted Hughes, her husband who had cheated on her. They had two young children together and Sylvia found out that he was cheating when she answered a phone call from his lover that she was not supposed to. The accusations of rape, I believe come from her feeling that she did not know who her husband really was. In her letters to her mother and in her journal, Sylvia always praised Ted. She seemed to be quite happy that she had found someone who she considered was her superior. The fact that he turned out to be someone else, someone who let her down meant that Sylvia didn’t give her consent to him, but to the man she thought he was. The betrayal she felt is obvious. It should be mentioned that the two married approximately 4 months after they met, so I suspect neither one of them knew the other too well.

During her life she struggled a lot. Her internal conflicts were strong and abundant. The good daughter who wanted to help her single mother trying to raise two children versus the hurt daughter who felt her father was taken away from her too soon and that was somehow her mother’s fault. The good student versus the adventurous youth. The writer versus the nurturing wife and mother. She wanted it all, no giving up, only hard work.

2016

It’s the last day of the year. I just got back from work and got into bed as fast as I could. I’ll be working tomorrow and I have a cold so it’s the perfect excuse for me to entirely skip New Year’s. I’ll be cuddling up in bed with a cup of tea and Animal Farm (first read) that just arrived yesterday through airmail. Best New Year’s EVER!

It’s probably the fist time when I get to do something I actually feel comfortable doing on this last night of the year- which is, act as if it’s any other night of the year. Because let’s face it, there’s nothing really special about it. For people who look for excuses to get drunk 3 days in a row, it is of course a goldmine of justification to do so and pressure others to behave in the same way. I don’t really care if people choose to get shit-faced whenever they want so it kind-of gets on my nerves when others care so much about the fact that I don’t get drunk (on New Year’s or many other nights of the year). I guess it’s understandable though, if you don’t feel comfortable getting drunk without an excuse, other people not having the same need might ring some alarms that are easier left ignored.

However this night turns out now, all I can say is that I had fun in 2016. I’ve been getting more comfortable with myself and I’ve stopped explaining myself as much- some people are not worth the effort, you know. I like the fact that I’m starting to get some experience in life as I’ve been making mistakes with confidence. I have been trying to live without making expectations and soon I’d like to try and make some predictions to see how that’s going to turn out.

My main resolution for the year is to continue in the same direction, learn and bang my head on a few more walls- you never know maybe one of them breaks down and I’ll find myself in Diagon Alley. Happy New Year!

Feminism vs Females

On the bus today, during rush hour traffic when children are going home from school and most people are in the middle of Christmas shopping. The buss is obviously crowded. After I successfully punch my ticket I move around to find enough standing space, like most of the people around me.

As I look around I notice a pretty young lady, all made up in the face with curly hair sitting down on one of the chairs and womenspreading her luggage on the seat next to her. I give her the stink-eye and 2 seconds later I hear the lady behind me asking: ‘Who’s bag might that be?’ to which the womanspreader has nothing left to do but reply but ‘Mine.’ I look behind me at the lady as she goes ‘Then ca I please take a seat?’ My Hero.

Please note how easily my little story passes the Bechdel Test showing that women base their interactions on things other than men- like calling each other on our bull shit. Of course the whole ting might be deemed worthless proof of this as the whole time I was thinking of how amused my boyfriend would be by the scene.