Awareness

I read Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke when I was eighteen and it hit me really hard. In the way that only certain books at certain times can. The protagonist is a sex addict whose best friend, a chronic masturbator, says that he would like to be a good person but is having enough trouble just not being a total asshole. I know exactly how he feels. Part of growing up is learning to push back against a world that keeps trying to force you to fit into a neat little box. I’m more complicated than that, but then again, isn’t everyone?

I used to be so insecure that I showed up to every social event that I got invited to because I was scared of what would happen if I didn’t. My first summer home from college, weeks would go by in which I would not talk to anyone besides my father and my coworkers. One day, I was walking down the street in such a transparently awful mood that a pair of cops pulled over to ask if I was alright. Something tells me the NYPD wouldn’t do that. But it’s nice to be able to say “No, thanks” for a change. If you’ve struggled with loneliness (and who hasn’t?), you know how it feels to spend an entire week looking forward to lunch with an old friend just so that you can experience relevant interaction with another human being for an hour or less. I’ve gotten better at living on my own. While Hurricane Sandy was in town, I went for two and a half days without leaving my apartment or seeing another person up close. (My roommate was staying with his partner.) It wasn’t that bad, actually.

My brain constantly feels like it’s being stretched, pulled, or compressed. That’s the other rough part of living alone: when you have an entire day to yourself, you find yourself overloaded with options. Should I read that book I’ve been meaning to get around to, catch up on that TV show, or do something more “productive”, like homework, exercising, or whatever? Strictly speaking, you don’t have to do any of those things, so hopefully, you can find a balance between fulfilling your academic and professional obligations and leaving time to watch Conan. It helps to be aware of the problem. That won’t solve it all by itself, but it can certainly take the edge off. Once you realize that the problem isn’t you, just your lack of experience at balancing all of your commitments, you hate yourself a bit less, and you can hopefully sleep a little better.

Something weird happened not too long ago that gave me a rare boost of confidence. A member of my workshop group gave a dry run of our final presentation to the faculty, and out of all the feedback we received, the overriding criticism was that we were failing to tell a story. Hey, I know about that! Part of the reason I’ve struggled so much over the past two semesters is that I can’t quite find the intersection between the things that I’m comfortable doing and the things that this program requires me to do. I’d like to believe that I’m not here by accident, but I still spend a lot of time blankly staring at my computer or banging my head against the wall trying to figure out what everybody wants from me. This time, however, I felt comfortable saying that I understood what needed fixing better than anybody else in my group. They kept trying to figure out what the overarching narrative was. I insisted that we should focus on the little things that don’t work first, and the story would emerge. Some thought that was ridiculous, but I think they took more of what I said to heart than they realize. I’m going to talk about Star Wars now.

I am not as worried about George Lucas’ selling his most beloved property to Disney as some are, but that’s not to say that I think it’s a good idea. One of the things that I always liked about the Star Wars universe is its commitment to continuity. Some have speculated that Lucas might have Asperger’s, and if so, that could explain his hardline stance against allowing alternate universes, retcons, or any internal contradictions to slip into the extended universe. The books, video games, and, of course, movies are, as far as I can tell, perfectly consistent with one another. Compare that with something like, say, Marvel Comics, which employs people whose sole job is to maintain continuity between the various storylines. Hell, I even knew a guy who was hoping to go into that once he graduated. Doctor Who has a similar problem, not with retcons but with the writers using time travel/parallel universes/whatever to explain why the character we bid farewell to in the last season is back for one last hurrah. That gets annoying. I understand that every writer has their own take on the character and is convinced that people will forgive them for resurrecting Davros for the umpteenth time if the new story is good enough, but there must be some way to kill a character and announce for good that they’re not coming back. Actually, there isn’t. The only way to ensure that is to own the exclusive legal rights to the universe. Which George Lucas just gave up. Oh, well.

I’m going to leave you with this. I love Eddie Izzard.

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