I’ve been really on top of it lately. I know how that sounds, but I can’t help it, I’m really proud! I’m finishing up an internship application, I recently came up with a cool idea for my first fantasy short story, and I’m about to start getting paid for my hours at Sweetland (an awesome campus resource where consultants like myself help people out with their papers). Today alone, I passed my calc gateway exam, took two quizzes I felt good about, and got my car’s oil changed. Success!!! Adulthood!!!
I should probably clarify that things are not always like this for me, which is part of why this recent, week-ish-long string of successes has surprised me so much and gotten me so excited. I’ve actually been in a really good mood. I feel comfortable talking to other people, and I’m motivated to come up with new ideas and projects. I’ve even woken up earlier than necessary the last couple of days (which normally is impossible for me), and I’ve been excited to wake up in the first place — there’s this moment of apprehension when I first realize I have to get up, but it doesn’t really cut deeper than mere annoyance. Once I’m out of bed and brushing my teeth in the bathroom, the annoyance is gone and I’m just happy.
I’m writing this because pretty recently today, a lot of this happiness sort of came to a head. A little background: For the past two weeks, my computer has been getting repairs done, due to this weird crashing problem where it randomly freezes, goes all squiggly and scary with black and blue lines, and then goes black. I brought the repair place (which I won’t name here for the sake of confidentiality, I guess?) a new RAM and hard drive, and they said that installing them would take three to five business days. Today I finally got the computer back, and when I started it up in the hallway outside the repair place, it went black instantly and gave me the three little beeps that indicated that the problem was still there. I brought it back, stood around for twenty minutes or so while they looked at it again “downstairs,” then re-accepted it with the assurance that the problem was now taken care of. Apparently a thick layer of dust had been built up somewhere inside the computer, but the technician had just now cleared the dust away, and it should be fine now.
“Why didn’t they see the dust when they were replacing the hard drive?” I asked.
“They were probably just in a big hurry and didn’t notice it,” the technician said.
I nodded politely as if this made sense, thinking privately that if they had been in a big hurry, I might’ve had my computer back about a week and a half ago.
So I brought it home, more or less satisfied, then sat down, plugged it in, and turned it on. Everything was working much faster than it was two weeks ago, and, when prompted, I even decided to treat myself to a tour of my new Sierra Operating System — until? Midway through the tour, the thick black lines appeared again on my screen, and my computer crashed.
And I kid you not, I started crying. Suddenly, out of nowhere, everything seemed so unnecessarily difficult. I think my thought process went something like: It took them so long to fix my computer, and now it’s not even working! And this is such a dumb thing to be frustrated about anyway! And those guys at Wendy’s took so long today, and while I’m at it, everyone at Sweetland is so much better than me at consulting! And my room is so messy! So-and-so would know what to say right now, but they’re not even here! I miss so many people! And at the auto shop the guy said I had mouse debris in my cabin air filter, and I’m basically breathing mouse air, but a new filter would be so expensive so there’s no way for me to avoid breathing mouse air, and I think I deserve to breathe mouse air, anyway! I bet it’s from that possum I hit on 46 when I got Dad from the airport at two in the morning that one time! That possum could be alive right now! And why do living things have to die?
Needless to say, all of it was pretty dumb, especially considering that my life is generally so unnecessarily un-difficult. I’m white, I’m middle-class, I go to a great university, I’m lucky enough to have a lot of great friends and family members I care about. Most of the problems I have to complain about have less to do with deficits in the world around me and more to do with my own deficits of patience and perspective. I try to approach my problems this way because it gives me a better idea of how much control I have over changing them — if I listen to myself complain for long enough, eventually I reach the point where I realize it’s just time to stop. “Oh, God,” I moan over and over again, “I have ten assignments due tomorrow and I haven’t done research for any of them, and I spent way too much money today, and I’m pretty sure so-and-so is mad at me.” I say these things to myself on repeat for some length of time, ranging from ten minutes to multiple weeks, and then eventually I start to hear myself and I grumble, “Okay, shut up already, you should hear how stupid you sound.” I do the assignments, I make a plan to start saving more money, I move on past my social anxiety, and the process never starts with any excitement or enthusiasm, but ultimately I do accomplish it, and I do feel better.
But the important thing to note here, I think, is that you can’t just switch a flip (edit: flip a switch) and make yourself be productive, or make yourself feel better. I’ve tried. You can’t force it. It always starts with the complaining or the crying, with some way to release your problems audibly, to wring them of a little of their tension before you turn back at last to deal with them. I think this step is important. In fact, I love this step. Today when my computer crashed, I felt a wave of brimming frustration, followed quickly by my natural instinct to gently press it back down and move on. But instead, I told myself, No, you should cry — to cry would feel good right now — so I crawled into bed and started crying, and I didn’t stop my thoughts as they wandered toward subjects that I knew would only make me cry more. It was a huge release.
Now, about two hours later, I feel decent and awake. I don’t feel fresh and vibrant and ready to take on whatever I come across with a goal of productiveness and efficiency, but then again, I don’t normally let myself get too close to that sort of feeling anyway. (I do slip into it sometimes, and it’s fun, but I’ve found it’s an easy feeling to get carried away with, and I can give myself a bit of a headache with all of the organization and goal-setting and proactive Life-Changing). Right now I’m not thinking of spring break or summer internships or even any of the tests or assignments I’ll have to worry about next week. Right now, after a frustrating afternoon, these anxieties are my enemies. I can submerge them for a night and let them resurface again as friends when the time is right. When they do, I can rein them in and work them into a shape that will help me accomplish something. For now, I am going to publish this blog post. I’m going to finish my shift at work and go home and eat dinner, and then I’m going to sing and play guitar at my house’s open mic. It’s going to be fun, or maybe it isn’t, I don’t necessarily care because I’ll be there either way. Maybe, after the events of the night are over, I’ll read something until I fall asleep.