I remember reading this passage from a standardized CRCT/ITBS/IBS test in grade school. It was about a girl turning eleven, but still feeling ten, because of course a single change in date didn’t just make her eleven. She had to be eleven for a while to be eleven. And soon being eleven wouldn’t matter because she’d be twelve, but not really twelve. The fact that I remember that passage at all is a testament to No Child Left Behind’s nonsense memorization. But I’m glad I remember it because that feeling of being eleven, but not being eleven, carries far past eleven. A date, a place, doesn’t do well to define what you are. Just being here, on my own, doesn’t make me independent. Nor does it make me eleven. But those brain scan results do. I’m years behind!
I’m a nest egg. A tadpole. A dandelion just sprouted, losing itself to the wind. Two months into living here and I feel just as wayward and in need of care as ever. I still feel wildly dependent in every way. Moving here didn’t turn me into a totally realized, Miss-Independent, autonomous being, as I so imagined it might. If anything it’s made me realize how yet-to-be-realized I am. Like a tiny clump of cells floating beside the undersea vent of Los Angeles, I want so badly to multiply and be this other thing, this more monstrous clump. I’ve got big dreams of mutating into something absolutely awful and emerging from the warm sea to terrorize a petrified metropolis. I’m ambitious. But to do that I need this dumb vent. And to my multi-celled dismay, that geothermal hole has gone mostly cold, glowing just enough to keep me floating vent-side with strained eyes. But I have to trust this thing with my future even though I have so little control over its mechanics. All I can do is wait. And that sense of dependence, even for a tiny cell-clump like me, still feels dissonant.
I’ve always considered myself an independent person. I don’t lean on others. If ever assigned to work with me, I probably entrusted you with squat. I enjoy being alone. I would first feed my left arm to a slow-chewing sloth than accept help in any form. I’m an INTJ!
But a lot of that has seemed to change in the past months. I now spend so much time alone I can’t imagine ever enjoying it. I’ve begun talking out my actions just to hear a voice in the room. It’s like a scene from any movie about a mentally ill person when they inevitably stop taking their medication. Except instead of throwing a chair across the room, I tell my mirror to stop eating so much chocolate.
I’m not a natural extrovert. At a party you’ll find me with whatever pets are locked up in the other room. Or I’ll perform, beg for laughs, and exit when I feel full. But now the loneliness of this place makes me crave human attention like I never have. The (common) rejection of this job search has turned me into a recognition-seeking missile, ready to target anyone with a set of ears. I’ve never so desperately wanted to be heard. My friend Rachael was here visiting, I saw her for a few hours, and am sure she got in 3 of 1 million words (that’s 999,997 for me; I took calc). My mom was here to help me furnish my apartment and, though we talk a lot anyway, we didn’t stop speaking for three days. When she left, I continued our discussion about cheap staging on Million Dollar Listing with my wall, and then when the wall felt too faceless, a bagel.
I have to imagine that my roommate, tired from working all day, becomes even more exhausted when I present a list of things that warrant immediate discussion, including but not limited to: television, a NYT profile on warlords, answers to a crossword puzzle I can’t get, kebab shop yelp reviews, vocal stylizations in TLC covers, is this video of me lip syncing “Hello” too on the nose? etc.
I used to hate cleaning but now I clean a lot. I wash dishes three times. I can’t get the hard-water stains off the shower door and it’s killing me. We hosted a Halloween party and even tipsy like a pirate, I couldn’t stop attending to condensation rings on the table. I keep my bed unmade so I have something to do when there isn’t anything left to do. Ask my kitchen cabinets how many times they’ve been reorganized. I want so badly to see progress. To know moving across the country was a worthwhile move in my life’s chess game (to clarify, my chess track record is bad. I get sad when the pawns die). My chest hurts every time I think about how little I’m affecting the world. But it also hurts when I think about Kesha, so I don’t know.
What I do know is that on the most basic level, I need the existential recognition of conversation. That, “I’m here” and “you’re here too.” And that surprises me. Maybe this is part of my human condition, this shock at needing others. Is it even that shocking? I keep what amounts to a public diary. I share my deepest thoughts and concerns on the Internet. Maybe what’s more shocking isn’t my need for an audience, but my need for people. Not for ears, but for words and reaction and a brain that isn’t my own. More than a mirror, I need a window. I’m Boo Radley and I’m coming out of the house and I’m pale and thin-lipped and of course I want to tell you why I left all those weird presents in that tree (sacrificing to my plant-gods), but I’m also ready to listen.
I’m not sure what’s more disappointing–this realization that I need more than just me or that I’ll never be a recluse. Because, aesthetically, I’d make a great recluse. But ultimately, having made my little recluse-home perfect over years of work, I’d be upset not to be able to show it off to anyone. Not to talk about why I went with a boulder-door over a more traditional massive leaf. Not to hear about a friend’s experience in the guest-hovel I made specifically for them. Not to make pancakes together on my turtle-shell stove (R.I.P. Mudface).
So let’s talk. Because I need it. And maybe you need it too! I’m sure we have a lot to talk about. I have opinions about almost everything, and most aren’t P.C.! I’m full of contradictions, which I hear can prolong conversation and lead to debate (yum). I can be salacious and prude. I am both terrified and terribly interested in the moon. I don’t like going to the doctor, but love having a medical history. I think having a smart phone is more important than having a bed. Cilantro sucks. Pick a topic! Let me know when we can chat. In the meantime, I’ll try to stop yelling at my shower door. And I’ll clear my chest of pop star anxiety. I’ll write some more. But I won’t eat less chocolate. That’s absurd.