There's a map in my head of everything I've ever learned, and everything on it leads right back to a common human nature.
We don't always realize, though, that we've gotten close with a situation and not a person, or that we have only context in common.
But that's a broader ideal, one that we keep pushing to the side for more instant gratification.
The difficulty in calling out an eating disorder is that it is defined by a way of thinking, and the actions that follow are only potential indicators.
Ultimately, many of us are looking for very different things in the people around us, and these are just three I've noticed.
So, in this alleged age of self-discovery, have we been fooled into thinking that we are the constants?
Our culture equates personal validity with good communication, making anything inexplicable look highly suspicious.
No, seriously. Searching after this question's answer has dominated much of my time here in college. Once upon a time, I thought I knew the answer: love was a thing to be discovered, waiting within special people I encountered.
But today, the beginning of my last quarter here begins, commencement beckons and much of what I used to want from college and beyond seems like someone else's dream. Somehow, my existence at this school and my picture of the future seems...different. For a while, though, I couldn't figure out why.
With that, ladies and gentlemen, I now transform this little newspaper section into a strategic soapbox about the following three movies, among those I keep watching over and over again. (And in so doing, possibly subject myself to the familiar criticism: “You like that movie?”) My unabashed objective here, of course, is to persuade you to see them all. Here goes...
The rules under which I lived during most of sophomore year are called, in social and clinical terms, an “eating disorder.” It's a jarring convergence of terms. Even stranger is the fact that the girl writing those rules was me.
Very early in life, we started learning phrases like “Be positive” or “Look on the bright side.” But these isolated statements, in their Copperplate Gothic font underneath classroom pictures of foggy mountains, fast became trite. They are short and sweet, and they come out of emotional context, which makes them unpersuasive.
All I could think was how while I sometimes convince myself that life is excruciatingly dramatic, I forget how it can be so timelessly simple.
Fumbling over words is, generally, not enjoyable. At a place like Stanford, where rhetoric skills are acknowledged as necessary and thus require two quarters of training, most of us take for granted that smooth speech equates with intelligence. We are aware that being able to explain something well often means knowing it well, too.
Last Wednesday, I attended the first week’s meeting of my history class discussion section. We started our 50 minutes with an innocent icebreaker, in which every student went up to the chalkboard, said their name and then wrote it down where their birthplace might be if the board were actually a map, albeit blank and borderless. We were supposed to reference where the students before us had placed their names and estimate where our own belonged.
Sometimes, all we want in the world from another person is a nod -- reassurance that we aren’t alone. Sometimes, we just want our thoughts received, acknowledged and echoed back to us like they make sense and, yes, it’s okay. Normal. You’re fine. I understand. For as much as communication is about conveying information, it’s about confirming what we already think. This might explain our impulse to latch onto, in first encounters, “ME too!!!” or “I know, right?!” like conversational lifeboats. It’s that initial connection we constantly seek, even if we’re only at shallow shores of acquaintance.
This is going to be a simple column. That is what I have to tell myself as I sit down in front of the keyboard and write this column every week. I know I could spiral effortlessly into the black hole of unintelligible hyper-intellectuality, something only possible when we remove ourselves from real life. I’m tempted to be over-comprehensive and cover all theoretical corners to prevent potential criticisms against my ideas. But, more than that, I want to write something clear. I want to be understandable, in the hopes that you, my reader, happen to relate to me
I have had epic crushes. These crushes of mine, as many girls might know, were characterized by a disproportionate amount of time spent thinking about a particular boy. All of these epochal crushes resulted, sooner or later, in the boy discovering the dramatic secret. But they were never informed through the grapevine, oh no. Rather, the messenger was me, face-to-face and heart all aflutter every time.
Surprises happen when assumptions are made, and these days, all I can think about is how much people surprise me. What does that mean? It means I’m making assumptions all over the place.
I think people are afraid of people. It sounds weird only because we don’t typically diagnose it as fear. But if we take some of our greatest ones -- bad first impressions, feeling out of place, being judged -- it all comes down to this strange, unacknowledged fear of other people. Perhaps with all the unknowns in this universe and beyond, the ones inside ourselves are the scariest.
The outside expectations by which we judge ourselves are thus often self-imposed. No doubt they stress us out. Yet we tend to place values on ourselves through our success or failure in fulfilling them. We have to become a household name after graduating because that’s what our family thinks is success. We have to be environmentally sustainable because that’s what a good global citizen is. We have to be constantly conversational because otherwise we’re being “antisocial” (which has apparently become a minor crime). Or we have to be the funny/intellectual/organized/nonchalant/insightful one among our friends, even if we’ve outgrown the title and it’s starting to get tiresome.
Whether or not we like the numbers, time is exact. It coordinates global markets, unravels histories and guides social schedules. It predicts what people halfway around the globe are doing at any given moment and might be one of the smallest binders of the most people at once. Time keeps us on track with the world, so most of us get on track early on.
People are social chameleons. We respond to people and follow suit; we tone down this and crank up that, depending. And this social camouflage is a specialty of Stanford students in particular. Most of us step through numerous worlds of responsibility -- discussion section, community service, political campaign, startup entrepreneurship, sib stuff, club sports, roommate, best friend, party girl -- and our presented identities flow between them like water. We can handle the pre-professional mixer after discussion section and the frat party after that. We can lead hours-long sections on sustainability and walk out of class whispering gossip to our girlfriends. We don’t simply wear multiple hats, oh no -- we have wardrobes to match. Naturally, after years of role-playing, we know who to be, and when.
Unfortunately, the sudden and unilateral way that relationships shift gears is generally a more pessimistic story. Sometimes we’re the culprits: qualities we once found attractive can turn repulsive, and first-date high notes can be hijacked by hokiness. So we attempt to slyly exit scene. It’s like the book that loses its magic: the words never changed, but you find yourself wondering what you found so interesting in the first place.