This is another post about connection. My microwave’s clock is about 50 minutes off, a fact I only learned after the daylight savings shift. For some reason I had always thought it was just arbitrarily off, set to some random time, even if it would still just be some X minutes off as a clock can only really go backwards and forwards. When distance closes, everything feels a bit more intentional and connected. The boundary of arbitrariness to my act of witnessing blurs and everything simultaneously feels unimportant and grand.
On a Saturday night I took the last Metro-North back to New Haven from Grand Central and watched an hour skip. Around this time I was telling my friends, dead exhausted, about how I thought I was an evil person. I couldn’t answer any prods and generally sounded kind of inane, which lines up about right with my recent interest in understanding what Catholicism has done to me in making me believe that over two decades, suffering is the correct, default state. By implication, I understood that all the masochistic tendencies inside of me came from this desire for understanding. A man was once source of all goodness, and by a will larger than his own, wished / was fated to extend it to all of us.
Then I live a life seeking forgiveness from anyone who offers it to me.
A creation myth is spilled, written mystically enough to give me enough wonder for the universe without need to question it. Decades later, it’s re-read so that I personify sacrifice and power in some form of figure and idol; it becomes strenuous, near-impossible to imagine a loving that is truly unconditional. I’m fixated on every object around me, each one requiring a futile attempt at rationalization for its being: all at once, I can stretch and conjure a grand backstory and reason for everything—and then step back and in sincerity, revel at how pointless everything is. Coming to terms with how the sacred is mundane, how every fleeting object has relied on another fleeting thing and how it’s only upon these cycles that a semblance of permanence is drawn, I take deep breaths——almost, I afford myself the same kindness.
Over the past year, I’ve been giving myself the space to think and more consciously trying to understand why I desire the things I want. The more time I spend dwelling on these questions and adjacent ambiguities, the more I feel I will never find it. For every irrational, unhealthy behavior I pinpoint to some line of broken manifestation and wishing, I continue on. Case one: I still believe that everything I experience is drawn from some sort of brutality. If not extractable from the very surface, I read of histories until I can declare myself culpable. Even the act of over-questioning, of burdening myself and drawing on the pain is insufferable—it becomes the very reason why, in a way, I turned from religion because I abhorred some of the saints and the sense of sanctity they felt—declaring themselves free and liberated in the face of pain, the credence in their martyrdom and all its spiritual brashness that I’m sure only compounded the violence that they were facing. They test faith. The story of Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod, still burning in my mind as the ones who first told it to me seem so small yet kingly in their more pleasant deaths. I’m almost certain that the seething stems from jealousy; how could anyone be so certain of what they’re willing to die for? Case two: I can’t go on a walk without coming home having wondered why I just let the world outside continue burning. I go out again in the dead of night, searching.
These feelings were generally affirmed to me over years of unhealthy behavior that was praised, and how I caught myself doing things that would hurt myself because I believed that something better would happen to me if I did this later on. When I talk to people who were the most prominent in my lives 5 or so years ago and they tell me how much I’ve changed with some look of sorrow, just the same as they ever were only with a bit more wear on their face. I forget that this is supposed to feel like a sign of healing rather than a denouncement of my new self, even if they may resent the new me for it.
A lifestyle of solitude sometimes seems incompatible with this desire to feel sacredly connected to everything. Many things can be true at once, and sometimes I wish I only lived in simple binaries.
As of writing, I’m 21 and have seen over 100 live performances. In the front and center of a stage, sitting in the pews of a church, or at the corner of a balcony, sometimes I get so scared that the sounds stop feeling like a euphoric, gentle cradle—I’m suddenly three or twenty-five hours away from home and don’t know why I’m doing this. My sister and I have spent the past years spending more hours listening to music than not (thank you Spotify Wrapped). Most of the time, I close my eyes or focus my vision until everything is blurry and all the words, never mine to begin with, roll over, and I am a million places at once. The world becomes profoundly interesting again as I fall into a recitation of a moment I can now take for myself.
This is another paragraph about fear. I’m too good at articulating truths about the world I want to live in until it’s real. I wanted to go to college and meet wonderful people. I wanted to get a good job and to earn money and be able to explore all the things I never had the opportunity to do so. I want to go to a bed at night and have someone care if I don’t wake.
I hate how the fundamental of all wants are constant (usually in the form of love: feeling like you receive it, which is easy once you realize how the world touches you; and then feeling like you sufficiently provide the love back). I hate how fundamentally it feels like I will never be content. I hate how it feels like there is something objectively broken about the way I exist. I hate how I have been steered so much about what I must desire, what standard I must measure myself against, and have been so constrained from beauty in the world that I have to apologize whenever I pause on the street. I hate brokenness, as a concept, as an adjective applied to anything that hasn’t fit a definition of desirability. I hate promising that everything, at one point, or at some state, was once longed for or necessary. I want to say that I want stillness, but then I start thinking about how I am at the center of nothing and at the very center of everything I have the potential to touch.
For a while I’ve been confident in my approach to understanding the world this way: it exists in a default of chaos, neither gentle or harsh, oscillating without regard. Outcomes are only ever stochastic; though there are of course, ‘smaller’ things that can be placed with more certainty than others. Every act becomes an attempt to defy entropy. Our day, arbitrarily defined, an attempt at increasing and decreasing probability to emulate something constant.
But this is how I perceive the world today: every good thing a result of luck rather than something I’ve touched, nearly every bad thing a deserved consequence of my actions.
That’s a simplification that suggests a bit too much kindness at myself; I do often take the path that’s harder for no reason. Perhaps I do act and exist in a way that attracts every kind of darkness, and maybe it’s been a kind means for me to feel real and to become a better person. Are you broken if you internally know that this way of thinking is fucked up but still let it be because it’s what fuels you? Are you tired of reading paragraphs from twenty-one year olds playing victim as they try to defend their existence and lack of presence?
For over two decades, I thought that the best way to signal that I was real was by making. If there was no documentation or artifact of myself, I would fade. Putting things out into the world was a necessity for me, and then later in life became a form of self-expression I’m still less than comfortable with.
First it was making spaces for my friends and self, finding the areas where I could simply go to exist and be somewhere. Where there was no volume for myself, I breathed and toiled somewhere around until the space presented itself after my hands. When constantly preparing to take the next breath, you don’t even know what you could become. Somewhere, mostly around college, I realized that everything I would shape with my hands was my only way of telling stories and wandered into expression. Still, I’m making and consuming things for the same audience (even if half the days I can’t see how real they are) and mostly see the work in my acquaintances’ hands. There’s something magical about knowing someone’s deepest secrets and traumas but not knowing what their voice sounds like. I often wonder if this is real knowing or not. What ugly, distorted parts of themselves (of who they want to be, of who they longed to be, of who they would like to erase) lived only the internet—what part of their longing will now die with me.
On the subway, I tell a new friend that I don’t think I’ll ever be capable of connecting to another individual or group deeply enough, so I choose to archive and document myself as best as I can. Every activation and item, however temporary, becomes my way of presenting myself to the world. In many ways, what I fashion with my hands is truer than what I can speak to others. Objects, bits of code, and images hold a spirit of mine that would have never existed otherwise. Most days, it makes me feel more delirious and detached; I’m attempting to fashion a new world while the old one is dying. I’m trying to live a million lives because I couldn’t live mine.
I deplore the debate of authenticity and sincerity when it comes to documentation. I want to pick up leaves and pause on the sidewalks to take a photo of an empty sky and uninteresting road. I think of all the spaces I’ve ‘made’, I think of all the stories of my life I’ve told through moving pictures and songs that weren’t my own because I could never tell it directly. To be an ‘extension’ of myself suggests that these materials were never me in the first place; something that is a mere augmentation, or a selective mirror piece. My longing was the present truth, then became an embarrassing history until others saw it earnest enough despite its form.
Sometime in the past month, I woke up in my apartment and realized I don’t memorize the contours of its ceiling. I knew I wouldn’t have to commit to it. My New Haven lease ends in September and then I will move to San Francisco where the weather is warmer and the winters are kinder and I will know no one. I close my eyes and then remember that I have a childhood bedroom but no longer a home and that I don’t know where I’ll be living five months from now. In another country I had a certain roof (even if bloodied), I had a certain life. Now I am so far from everything that matters and have nothing to return to. (I’m spending the summer in New Haven and the northeast and I don’t know what to do in that time but create, which at least means that I must live.) Everything I have is ending and all I want is for myself to reach some conclusion as well, even an undesirable one.
When I say I want to carry myself in solitude, I say that without precluding myself from wanting some form of support: I think other people have taken this in the form of a god, or lover, or an impact. This is why I still allow myself to cry at movies, where I’ve been thinking a lot about screenplays and the unspoken lines that let writers and actors fill in the gaps with the nuances of how they have been loved—so universal on-screen, never needed to be written down. This is why I still allow myself to cry and feel like I am the unlovable, broken thing—that anything that anyone could ever want about me is temporary, or an extension of myself (in their eyes) but not myself. This is why I do everything I do and then hurt myself in the process; it’s the only way I know how to carry myself, and worse, the only way I know how to fuel myself. This isn’t a paragraph about being alone. This is a paragraph about wanting certainty. No, I know I’m sacred and one with everything in the universe and I know that music or drugs or a good walk can amplify that feeling—the ridiculous thing about my self-inflicted sorrow is that I know all this and the taste of experiencing it feels… unnecessary, though I know much of life’s joy is derived from that. There won’t be writing about realizing that simplicity and domesticity is all I wanted in the end. That I woke up in a hospital bed next to someone, then lived most of my lifetime to date sharing a bed and airconditioner with a big family, and then started living alone and started being scared about dying in a bed next to no one. This is a section about how everything ahead of me in life is now wildly variable, which is scary to someone who is 21 and has lived a relatively cushy life that has been greatly generous in allowing themselves to disappear over and over again when every piece of media fed to me has been relentless in ingraining an unnecessary fear that the love and presence one feels and is surrounded with must always be constant, even when it’s suffocating and turns to hurt.
Is it bad that I’m answering myself with the expectation that all joy is temporary? That if I know that something can probabilistically be reached, I’d want it less?
I can mitigate all this largely self-implicated suffering, and with the same method of madness that I use to make myself feel guilty for the Metro-North striking a man on the New Haven Line on weekday rush hour then I can also numb myself from all the wanting. I can now make myself feel very distant and detached, and then more likable and personable so that I can find new forms of community while being self-aware I’m tired of shaping them. I think it’s kind of glorious that I
I think everyone is allowed to want something. I think everything I’m talking about is simple in the psyche and inane to anyone who has spent more than a month truly with themselves. I think everyone should be allowed to be afraid about their body only being found when it starts to rot. I think I’m tired of a lifelong search for something permanent when I now am so certain that it will never really come; that I don’t know what can sustain me but other people’s stories, but I don’t know where mine begins or will end any longer.
I’m trying to learn how to feel when people say they know me because they know my work. All of me is in it, really. Maybe my favorite way to live is through the artifacts, emotions, and stories that people derive from my own. In way, the manufacturing of culture or even momentary emotion is a way for me to live a million lives, the same joy I derive from music and all its affects untranslatable to any other form yet so palatable. Seeing how [what I make] slips into the tongue, into people’s daily conversation, where an influence to an influence is shared and laughed about, a passing memory that someone else later thinks is their own. Unbeknownst to me, I could be a part of a hundred lives and the lives that they then touch and live. Everything is connected and sacred.
Everything is boring. Most of the time I distance myself from people (take forever to reply, even if it’s an asshole move) because I know that I can’t really sustain any form of engagement with others. Most of the time I believe I’m too unworthy to talk to people, or uninteresting, even if the kind email is all about how I’m interesting. Most of the time, I think of myself as empty and shallow because all this time spent rocking myself back and forth and indulging in the sadness and anger through creation ends there—I still don’t really know how to talk to others about my work, influences, or self, and fear how vapid I really am. I’m busy pouring myself out into nothing at all. The body and craft I’m carving aren’t disingenuous because of their content or motives, but because that’s all there is to myself.
Everything is beautiful. I think the attempt at something lasting is more gorgeous than the fact of it lasting at all. What is most beautiful is when a person looks at the broken world and deems that something beautiful can come from it—or that it is already beautiful; or when two people come together to fasten a moment and vow to come together, again and again, even when they don’t know where they’ll be living five months from now. I think about the grandness of the world when its stochastic nature is rivaled by human determination and need: how probability becomes a game if enough people, in all the earth’s variables, with varying levels of control and understanding of how to manipulate such control take all this limited time (also determined by someone else) to steer it into a future that is lasting—first in the vision it took in their minds, then in the whole of its being that came after.
And I’m trying to learn how to feel when all people have of me is my work, because it’s the way I chose to live. Here is a blog I erased for a month and a half that has a detailed record of everything I believed and grew to believe in the past eight years. Here are the words that floated in my head, all I abided under and communed with and loved for a moment, and found beautiful enough to present.
This is another obvious one: the most beautiful thing about the making is all the unseen parts. I think this is why I like writing and documentation, even as it seemingly overshadows the output itself. How one had come to be influenced enough to find a vision that they believed in so strongly that they wanted to make it for the world: the material object may die or be corrupted (and is it not beautiful already, in all its decay and its attempt to hold onto life?), but the vision stays. I read about worlds that only exist in fantasy and speculation, magic realist-machines implementable or not, landmarks and glorious places that may or may not have existed—and new people shape newer worlds and visions out of it again.
There’s a line that I walk that I still don’t know how to articulate when it’s crossed: when I take a memory, moment, or act of creation from someone else and suddenly it becomes mine. I think about my friends back home who have taught me how to punctuate my texts and are still the voice and tone in which I read every message on the internet, I think blisteringly about the sentiments of loneliness I feel after generations of love have brought me as a result—and the loneliness my parents must feel and how they didn’t sense it at all in the thousands of instances where we pulled apart, or the hundreds of shows I’ve seen in desperate attempt to find meaning and this want to no longer look up at a ceiling that I’m doomed to never remember. I understand a memory, likely never as was intended, and I fasten it into an experience of my own. I don’t know how many times I’ve crossed this line, but it must have happened a million times in the past month. This is the only thing I want to impart with what I make. I want my life’s work to be so tethered into the life of another that whatever material was ‘raw’ is indecipherable.
The connectedness is most potent, I think, when I’m able to remember who and what something came from. It’s not necessary, but being able to name what I’m devout to has helped me be able to deepen the interconnectedness. The numbing I default to lately is necessary, but also a problem. I’m working on getting better at recognizing when someone has made a part of my life what it is and thanking them for it; I say this over and over, but the expression of gratitude, the recognition and sealing of acknowledgement—tiny, life-changing moments that give us a sense of assuredness and certainty that we’d otherwise spend hundreds of hours writing about to try and convince ourselves is there. It’s kind of a cop-out.
Making is oftentimes done as an excuse for existing. I’m learning gratitude and I’m learning how to realize that I’m sufficient not necessary in my stillness, but in all that I have done and believed is satisfactory and is going somewhere (and especially learning how to see this when it’s unspoken); I’m learning to lean into my only certainty: that I can act again, against this ruthless entropy, where the act of defiance speaks more than any tangible result. This is why I value the attempt, why I seek to be prolific, why I like to be bad at everything—I don’t think I will ever certainly hit a certain pedestal or measure, but I can certainly act and try.
In the most grand and anti-climactic realization, everyone before me could have had the same line of thinking——without all the fucked bits about roistering in self-harm and hurt, of course. Every standard and thing I could become, with the right conditions, could have come with the smallest self-expectation fo sufficiency. Then I grant myself a light comfort in knowing that anger and hurt is an easy emotion to depict and is why I feel it with so much more frequency and intensity. This is not a paragraph about wanting to be loved and being okay with being hurt—this is one at attempted understanding.
Then there’s the understanding where I like to speak things prematurely and others still believe in me. The one where I attribute the good things in my life to randomness when a man was still fighting for me on an admissions table, and where underneath all the vitriol and physical hurt that love must have stemmed from it, the one where I talk earnestly about how I am so good and focused on finding something constant that someone still lets me try at it even when all of this and myself will end. I often hate it when people don’t give me enough reason or constraints for an act or task (and I’ve been failing a lot), I think it’s because they don’t take me seriously—when I’ve likely done enough to warrant this faith. It feels like the closest thing to godliness. That my loved ones and friends still come to what I have to say, or read, or speak, even when they don’t particularly care that I disappear—because they know this is my way of living and if the day is beautiful enough, I might come back again.
I looked at everything around me: All around me is blind devotion.
Before the invention of anything was faith. Before we put a name to a god was belief. Before a prayer was called a prayer, there still was a concentration of thought—perhaps verbalized, visualized, or just felt, an outpouring to an object of worship that could only have been the world or oneself—if there’s any difference between the two.
Eating breakfast under a sun with someone I love, next to a wall of graffiti that tells some form of story of art and craft and where one bought the dripping pen marker––whether it was passed down or something found in an advertisement. This is another paragraph exaggerating, in gross overconfidence of the human race, that there is deeper meaning and reason in the things we put out into this world. Much of the writing about creation is just reworded attempts to convince people that the process is the magic.
I think still that it’s vapid to repeat these empty aphorisms, but I need the repetition to realize that the truth is happening around me. The difference between reading about people’s experiences and living through something is that form of sacred connection. The thrill of understanding that there are these moments tied to specific identities, people, and moments that will never repeat themselves again become another form of grand connectedness––I feel momentarily unique, even if ‘uniqueness’ is another concept I need to learn to detach myself from as it’s another arbitrary thing. Configurations unique to time happen unstoppably, uncountable instances all at once––I can hold everything holy in my head.
And I listen to the birdsong in the morning, even if I can’t see where it’s coming from.