What’s the point in getting attached to people if all they do is leave and not come back?
Thing’s I’ve learned on this trip so far:
-From the sky, Chicago looks like a red, brown, and gold forest.
-Chicago’s O’Hare airport has a dinosaur.
-It also has the most sanitary public bathrooms I have ever seen.
-The earth is pretty when you look at it from cruising altitude.
-Chewing gum on a five or six hour flight hurts my jaw.
-Denver is about one thousand feet higher in altitude than back home.
-That persistent headache and lightheaded feeling I had from the time we landed to the time I went to bed yesterday was altitude sickness.
-The smell of marijuana gives me a headache.
-MOUNTAINS ARE AWESOME.
-Standing at 11,000 feet on the Continental Divide is PRETTY AWESOME.
-Not getting to hike after being promised hiking is not awesome at all. It is in fact the complete opposite of awesome.
-Not having free internet in my hotel room is extremely annoying.
I’ll probably elaborate certain points separately in upcoming posts. In short, Denver, and Colorado in general, is amazing. I definitely have to come back at some point to do more hiking. And now I really want to climb a mountain. I’m finally getting over my altitude sickness, which is nice because I don’t particularly feel like being sick for the conference. I’m just too excited right now to make a really good post. This week is going to be AMAZING.
Things I realized yesterday:
-I’m depressed. I probably have been for the last two or three weeks.
-I have a friend at school who I see on a regular basis. Maybe two. But most definitely one.
-This human emotion called friendship* is the best thing in the world.
-I really like World of Warcraft.
The feeling of being depressed is horrible. But today I’m feeling like pulling myself out of it. So I’m making a list of things for which I am proud. I don’t know if this will help, but right now I think it might so I have to do it.
-I got out of bed this morning.
-Even though I completely forgot about course registration, I managed to get into all the classes I wanted to take (Gravity and Abstract Algebra FTW!).
-I went to Classical this morning.
-I identified an ODE as non-separable.
-I identified that same ODE as inhomogeneous.
-I realized that having a friend means I have someone on this campus who actually believes in me and cares about me.
-I realized that even though I kind of hate myself for not catching on to the fact that I’m depressed sooner than I did, the fact is that I DID catch it, and now that I know I’m depressed I can do something about it.
-I resolved to turn this semester around. It might have started out pretty crappy, and it might feel crappy right now, but it can get better.
What are you proud of today?
*Points for guessing the reference.
Last weekend I went home so I could go to a corn maze with a friend. We appeared to find the exit in less than an hour (it was really the entrance), realized we hadn’t yet walked through about half the maze, and continued exploring for the next two-ish hours. Then, exhausted, we managed to stumble out the exit less than a minute before the actors came to haunt the maze. There were lots of wooly bears and conversations and giant standing puddles of water. It had stormed the night before. Petrichor is one of the best things in the world. Right there next to the smell of cooking squash. It was definitely a bright day, whatever color it was.
It was the best weekend I’ve had in a long time.
My glasses fell off my face in the middle of my Quantum exam.
Maybe I should get that checked out.
I started writing a long story about the importance of Doctor Who to my story of the past nine months, but it started making me too upset and a bit uncomfortable, so I stopped. Since it’s late and I have homework and a Quantum exam to study for, I’ll settle for saying something about my day today.
My lab partner and I were supposed to calculate the speed of light. Instead of choosing the method already laid out for us, we decided to do a cavity resonance experiment. Since this wasn’t a method for which we had a setup, we found a paper and tried to replicate their setup.
It was difficult, to say the least. There were some things we couldn’t replicate because we just didn’t have the same kind of equipment. This meant that we couldn’t take the same kind of data or perform the same kind of analysis. We managed to salvage a calculation using a theoretical model and my analysis, but half of the experiment just sort of collapsed.
My lab partner was hit pretty hard by the fact that his half of the experiment hadn’t panned out. I knew how he felt–something similar had happened during my research assistantship the summer before last. It’s depressing, thinking that you spent all that time and energy getting absolutely nowhere.
Our professor wanted to see our results and analysis today. So we showed him–how we had managed to get something based on a model, how half of the experiment just hadn’t worked. He wasn’t surprised or angry. Rather, he told us how he wanted us to structure our report. He wanted all of our documentation, all the papers and other publications we used as reference. He said that while there was still some work to do before it could ever be on the list of possible labs, we had nailed down half of it, and that was a good start. In the future, maybe another pair of students would pick up our work and figure out a way to finish what we started.
Even null results are important. An experiment that didn’t pan out can be used to improve upon future experiments. Reporting a null result, especially one like this, can help people in their work just as much as reporting an actual result.
Science is about moving forward. We wander around blindly, guided by the past. Sometimes that means hitting dead ends. It can be devastating at the time. But not all doors are easy to find. A dead end can open the door to other questions, other answers. Sometimes what seems like a wall is actually a door for which we haven’t found the key, and sometimes we build doors out of walls.
I think that’s beautiful.
It occurs to me that sensation is an odd thing to crave.
I don’t feel it all the time. When I’m happy, I rarely feel it at all. Physical human contact usually makes me uncomfortable–the only exception is when I’m with certain friends and family members.
But when I’m not happy, that tends to change. When I’m sad, I want to be hugged. When I’m angry, I want to feel some sort of physical pain. It’s not even the pain itself, though. It’s the sensation. Pain just happens to be an easy sensation to make. I hit something–the floor, the wall, the bed–and it stings. It’s as if, suddenly, it’s real. I’m real. I’m here.
Someone once told me that people cut themselves because the pain helps ground them. For just a moment, the physical pain is greater than the emotional pain. I guess, in a way, the pain I need to feel when I’m upset serves the same sort of purpose. But I respond the same way to pain as I do to holding hands or hugging. So, I guess, it’s not the pain itself that grounds me. It’s the sensation caused by the pain. The feeling that this is real, that I am real.
This showed up on my Tumblr dashboard recently. At first I just ignored it, because it’d been a long day and I don’t self-harm. But then I saw the second comment. I went back up through the post.
And I realized, when I saw that, that I wasn’t the only one. I thought of all the times in my life when I was so upset I had to feel something, anything, and the pain was the easiest thing to feel. All those times where I told myself that it’s loud and it stings and it makes me feel better. The arguments with people, the conversations where people explained that it bothers them, that it’s too loud, that I needed to stop. But I couldn’t stop, because it made me feel better. The sensation of pain and the sound that came with it grounded me to the point where maybe I could begin to process everything.
“Craving sensation, feeling unreal.”
That’s it. That’s me. That’s me hitting the door, banging the walls, slamming my hands on the table. That’s me on the long days, the days when I’m tired and frustrated and lonely. The days when the only thing I wanted was a hand to hold, someone to hug. That’s me when I wish for a sunny afternoon at my friend’s kitchen table, eating ramen, lying on the couch watching One Piece and Black Butler and Inuyasha and Ghost Hunters, cuddling platonically.
A craving is more than a want. It’s a need. It’s an impulse. It’s something that absolutely must happen or the world will collapse. Or keep collapsing, as the case may be.
My world has been collapsing around me for the past nine months.
It’s really no wonder, then, that when I’m lonely I crave touch; that when I’m hurting, I appear to crave pain. It’s not the pain itself, it never was. I’d react just as well to a hug as I would to slamming doors, to hitting the walls.
These are the things that tell me I exist. That something, anything, is real. The ground beneath my feet, the table, the walls, the door to my room. I feel like the only person in the universe, so I go throw myself into things just to make sure the rest of the world exists, too.
It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who experiences that. It’s nice to be able to put a name to it, to have someone acknowledge that this is something that happens sometimes. It doesn’t happen to everyone, and it definitely doesn’t manifest in the same way for the people who do experience it. It’s not something I’m proud of, or would ever wish on other people. It’s just something I live with, something I have to deal with when it happens.
It’s just nice to think that in one respect, at least, I am not alone.