Here's a piece of writing. I can't remember the last time I actually wrote something, finished it, and put it out into the world.
I struggle to come to terms with the fact that I am probably not interesting. Few things are worse than seeing a friend’s eyes glaze over in boredom as you tell them about your day or an art project or someone you met. This person, that’s supposed to care about you, is bored by you. Is rushing somewhere. Is thinking about something, or someone else.
I am graduating in less than a year. I’m supposed to start my adult life. I’m supposed to contribute to the world. I’m supposed to be happy. I’m supposed to vote, and go on vacations, and find love.
I remember weeping a few days after I finished my last internship. I used to commute from home in NJ to NYC, Monday to Friday, 40 hours a week. I did that for 6 months and I loved the place and the people. The first Monday after that, the first work day since I finished, I went to a movie in NYC. The whole time in the theater I sobbed. I was in shock over what I had lost. All those people, really interesting people, were gone from my life. They may have feigned interest in me at the time but that was probably in passing. That was because we worked together. I don’t know if anyone really cared about me.
All these people were suddenly ripped out of my life. There was no tomorrow, no starting over. I wouldn’t get trapped in an elevator with someone and have a heart to heart. I wouldn’t have another co-worker lunch. I wouldn’t bond over after work drinks.
Again, I’m alone. Uninteresting and alone.
While I was working there I actually, foolishly, started writing a story. I was excited about the Pacific Northwest, because my best friend in Seattle kept telling me about their art scene and general open-mindedness. This story that never came to fruition took place in Cascadia, a mythical country in the Pacific Northwest. I decided to write a story about self-realization, peppered with all sorts of fun details, like modern Cascadian history and a Cascadian Soccer League (I have tons of research, including market analyses to defend my stadium location choices. Personal favorite teams include the Eugene Foresters and the Mt. Rainier Climbers).
I was also intrigued by Kate, a co-worker of mine. I found her kind of electric, the enchanting combination of beauty, intelligence and open-mindedness that I came to love about the Pacific Northwest. Given this, I made Kate the main character of my story. At a certain point however, my energy for the story wavered. What was I doing? More importantly, is this place and this person really what I think?
I was mythologizing this region and this person. I think I was doing this because I didn’t want to find out that they aren’t what I dream them to be. At a deeper and more fundamental level, I didn’t want to find out that they’re everything I believe them to be, but they don’t like me.
I reflect on these six months as ones that could’ve went horribly awry. The alienation I sometimes felt should’ve consumed every semblance of excitement or happiness, but that didn’t happen. I think the reason is that Kate kept me balanced, let me know I wasn’t the only one who wanted to think about certain things, or explore certain emotions. The first time I met her, she told me about an immersive noir-esque theater experience. She went on passionately about this strange and captivating place, and the crevices of the mind that it reveals.
As I learned this, my alienation left me. This strange and fascinating 27-year old not only likes to explore weird and challenging ideas but volunteers this information to a relative stranger at work. I had found one, someone who understands life like I do. This person, simultaneously my peer and young elder, allowed me to exist as myself. Without doing, thinking or saying any of this overtly, her actions and attention conveyed the following to me:
It is okay to be you. You are interesting, you are intelligent, you have value as a human being.
You have value to me.
Many people find my quirks boring and silly, while others are intrigued. Not everyone wants to associate with someone who spent hours developing a faux-soccer league based on an alternate near future. I'm glad I've found the ones that do.