🎵 The song for this post is Waltz for Zizi, by the Seatbelts. 🎵
In lieu of the other drafts I have that are more technical/company-based, I'll write something personal again. Folks seem to like that!
Healing, introspection, want
I made a new connection this year that I'm very grateful for; this person and I have been sharing poetry. I recently shared Sisyphus And The Sudden Lightness by Stephen Dunn:
It was as if he had wings, and the wind behind him. Even uphill the rock seemed to move of its own accord.
Every road felt like a shortcut.
Sisyphus, of course, was worried; he'd come to depend on his burden, wasn't sure who he was without it.
His hands free, he peeled an orange. He stopped to pet a dog. Yet he kept going forward, afraid of the consequences of standing still.
He no longer felt inclined to smile.
It was then that Sisyphus realized the gods must be gone, that his wings were nothing more than a perception of their absence.
He dared to raise his fist to the sky. Nothing, gloriously, happened.
Then a different terror overtook him.
Everyone has them-flavored bullshit that they're frequently on and trying to get off of: mine is getting caught in my head. Living in the realm of cleverness, where I'm comfortable, instead of one of action, or embodiment in the present. I have a friend who says "it's dangerous to hire clever people because they can rationalize anything," and I frequently observe (for me and many friends) an ability to create obstacles, place those obstacles in front of big dreams, then create ornate rationalizations why those obstacles are necessary, inherent, and unchangeable.
Imagine a roadblock on the way to your goal. You can feel like you're making real progress by spotting it, and pointing it out to yourself and others. You win social points and validation for self-awareness by talking about your roadblock (like I'm doing now 😉). You build a detour to a place that's… sufficient. And by definition of "sufficient," you manage. In the meantime, you turn your brain on the roadblock some more.
Over time you find comfort in the rituals involved in taking the detour. If you've relied on cleverness or achievement for most of your life, you look at that stack of photographs and notebooks from your study of the roadblock and feel pride, which implies sadness if you had to throw them away. You've made friends and formed bonds over study and comparisons with their roadblocks. You impress them and yourself with progressively better descriptions and reasons why this roadblock is so hard and impassable and enjoy that approval. While you should feel positively about your progress, you never cleared it and got what you wanted, raising the question of what "want" is, and if you wanted the destination at all.
I feel that it's ultimately this (for me and people like me, anyway): it can be terrifying to own and accept what things you actually want, because they may complicate a set of values you hold dear, that you'd rather not revisit or augment (e.g. "am I a bad person if I want wealth?" or "am I unfair if <X>, which my partner didn't choose, is a romantic dealbreaker?"). It can be terrifying to confront the possibility of not succeeding if you try, because then you will see a limit, especially if someone else (someone you might not like) doesn't have that limit. It can be terrifying to accept the possibility that succeeding may not make you a happy person; if you don't try, you always have something to blame your unhappiness on. So if you have a great rationalization engine, you can do plan B: build a cathedral to your roadblock. To quote Saurya: you'd rather be right than happy.
Here are a few examples from my own life, at various points:
"I should love my body exactly as it is!" instead of "I want to be more conventionally hot." Like, yes, absolutely affirm yourself, everyone deserves dignity and love, society is shallow and sick, self-hate does not serve you, and conventions are often exclusionary and limiting. But I'm a hell of a lot happier with exercise and applying agency to the meat vessel I live in, and a lot of the changes I like are on conventional lines. This won't be what everyone wants, but it turns out I did, and for years I convinced myself it wasn't fruitful, and brain-ed a million reasons why it wasn't worth pursuing.
My brain can identify hundreds of data points based on history, social science, personal experience, and testimony of affected populations for how society is fucked, how history haunts the structures that govern our lives, companies don't care about you (or happy human life for all, generally) and capitalism is a rigged game. And that mental fortress (which is composed entirely of true facts!) was really great to retreat to instead of listening to that inner child of mine that also feels "yeah, it'd be pretty sweet to win at professional goals, to have a shit ton of money, and use it to remove the obligation to work." So I didn't invest incredibly hard professionally, after all, playing the game is to validate it, and I believe in justice, right?! But really, I suspect I was afraid of failure.
Keeping some jobs, friendships, relationships, for years, because I could think of a reason I needed to keep them, even if they didn't feel right.
Okay Pablo, but why are you writing about this? Because it's impossible to overstate how important my last NY trip was for getting back on my feet, mostly on this topic. A lot about that trip, planned and unplanned, help me look hard at where I was getting in my own way with rationalizations. Where I identified that I was in denial about some very basic things I wanted out of life. That I was not only tolerating but enabling a set of roadblocks that distracted me from the fact that I wasn't building towards a full life I wanted, and that many of the forces working against me were ones I was deciding were necessary, when they probably weren't.
What has this looked like, after about a month back from NY? It's most obvious in dating and relationships:
I ended a few entanglements, romantic and platonic, that had my brain stem yelling "stop! no workey!!" that I'd previously kept afloat by overriding that instinct with thousands of words from the cerebrum. I stopped framework-ing, owned that these situations weren't serving me or the other party, had some hard conversations, and am letting the brain stem drive for a bit.
I revamped my profiles on dating apps. Previously they'd been… a bit weird, and while the photos were cute and the words were articulate and charming, new perspective from my NY trip showed me a subtext that came across as disclaimer-ey and pleading, indicating a mess in my head. Which wasn't totally false either, I can be messy. But I don't think it's who I am. I'd rationalized strong signals as "better to filter out folks who couldn't handle me early," instead of, idk, believing that I was more than a collection of labels or strong positions, or believing in my own strength and ability to be a solid, grounded man, or in someone else's capacity to see me through those things if they came up organically.
Most importantly, I have a more clear-eyed assessment of where dating should fit into my life generally, and what I'm rebuilding from. I alluded to this on the "patience" subsection of this post, but I was more desperate for intimacy and connection than I was ready to admit to myself. After revamping my profiles, I proceeded to open the apps almost never, instead focusing on living comfortably in my own skin, in my own company, making my life about being my own partner instead of someone else's other half. I won't close doors, but I'm not feeling anywhere near the same amount of urgency.
That last one has been tricky. It's hard to undo decades of thinking and contextualizing yourself in a certain way. Luckily (and counterintuitively!), being better alone involves a lot on shoring up your life with healthy friendships.
Friends (🎵 roll it!! 🎵)
There's a tweet that's like "most people who glorify their college days really miss living in a walkable commmunity with a bunch of motivated peers." It's easy to build a lonely adulthood, to misclassify yourself as an introvert, or to take social anxiety you feel at recent events and say that's inherent to who you are.
This is ridiculous! We're social creatures! Seeing others and feeling seen is the stuff of life.
Every person I've shared this with has a reaction, let me tell you. I was never quite this bad, but it's in the same neighborhood.
So I hosted a few events, and plan to host a few more. The first: I wanted to see 2020's Sonic the Hedgehog because I stan Jim Carrey and I enjoyed the games as a kid. I was like "I could dim the lights and watch this myself tonight, but this feels like something that's much better with friends," so I made a calendar invite and added a game to it:
We invite distinguished members of the Academic & Intellectual Community: Pablovania will be hosting a screening of 2020's Sonic the Hedgehog, time with the theatrical release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Prior to the screening, presentation of deconstructions of the text (or any Sonic-related text) is encouraged. You are invited (but not required) to show up as your most academic persona and present your most (in)coherent deconstructions of this film, or all things Sonic.
If you're unfamiliar with deconstruction, or have never used the word "performativity" before, an example of this game is Kittler's Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (pdf, it's a whole-ass book tho), which I had to read for Electronic Poetry class in college. A much shorter, more direct explanation and introduction is this blog post. The shortest and most fun exit link would be this example, deconstructing Waluigi instead of Sonic.
I was delighted with folks who showed up! We had Sonic 3 on an emulator, I was playing Sonic LoFi tunes while folks milled about, and we had a few deconstructions. Here's the notes to mine, whipped up the night before:
I'm planning a next screening, for Paddington 2, after years of friends telling me I should, and seeing this Tumblr post. The game on that event will probably be the opposite of this: share something that makes you sincerely joyful. I also hosted another play reading.
Besides events, I've deepened a few connections with friends for spontaneous, low-stakes, relaxed hangouts. Getting a message a 11:30PM saying "wanna go to the beach?" because y'all want to hash something out. Looking at a free Saturday afternoon, seeing a message saying "free? Twin Peaks?" saying hell yeah, leashing the dog, and getting boba on the way. Taco Bell with the boys. Making an alt Twitter account for saucier takes to close friends. Opening up a few new chats. Events are good, but they're work. I'm happy to have more relaxed dynamics with a few new people.
It's a process
One of my favorite lines from a previous, similar post from 2 years ago is that sometimes you decide it's time to "make some changes" and stop at precisely "some" changes. I've written about a lot of these themes before, and am confident I'll backslide. You never fully get off of your bullshit. But I'm grateful as hell for the perspective and growth when it comes. "Two steps forward, one step back" is still moving forward, and arguably better, because if you know that's how the game goes, you can choose to dance it 😎
Thanks for the read! Disagreed? Violent agreement!? Feel free to drop me a line at , or leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you 😄