Imperfect Strangers

People are weird. Some are weirder than most and I am most certainly in the latter camp. I have some strange habits: I’ve been told repeatedly that I seem unapproachable or even angry at times. I walk everywhere with ear buds because I can’t imagine a life without music or podcasts and when I walk, I have a tendency to scowl–not because I’m angry, but that’s just my resting grump face. I like people a lot and I genuinely think humans are wonderful creatures, but I also can only stomach being around people for so long before I get irritable. My family and my significant other know this about me. It seems most everyone else in my life is aware of my weird habits and I’m the last invited to the “obvious ricky” party.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because so much has happened: I moved to Wisconsin, defended a dissertation, graduated and am about to embark on this next chapter in my life. Yet I’m still learning a lot about myself. I’m so used to deferring and focusing on singular things that I haven’t really stepped back to see my life as a whole. I’m used to thinking, “ok you’ve got this bill and this bill to pay, money’s tight right now, how are you gonna do it”. I’m used to not telling anyone about my worries because…it’s just what I’ve done. I’ve grown accustomed to being the “stoic” one in the family and not because of anything they’ve done, it’s more how I’ve operated my whole life. But it takes your friends and loved ones to push you towards recognizing these things that may seem like coping mechanisms, but are really emotional and spiritual crutches.

I think about my weirdness in the context of my family. I think about how often people say I remind them of my dad, about his habits and his way of thinking and moving in the world. I think about the things that frustrate me about him and think about things I want to do differently. There’s a difficult balance between being comfortable with where you come from and where you want to be and sometimes you [read: me] can get angry when you default to instincts that feel like genetic traits.

I remember talking with my s/o about my father and these “frustrations” and us coming to the realization that those particular things he does that straight up piss me off sometimes are things he does because he cares about me. That’s a huge revelation: this guy that I’ve known all my life is human, just like me. And I realize I do many similar things that can frustrate others, particularly my insistence on working things out on “my own” (i.e. not talking about my worries).

Choosing not to feel

Those of you that know me know that I’m a huge Star Wars fan, but what you may not know is that I also really like Star Trek. I have a particular fondness for Spock: there’s something about that level of logic that speaks to me. In the first JJ Abrams reboot, you see that moment when Spock beats the everloving piss out of Kirk and you see it again when he goes after Khan in the second movie. Half-vulcan, half-human you know deep down he WANTS to be pure Vulcan but his emotion always trips him. My s/o joked that I was totally Spock when I first showed her this movie, but there’s a lot of truth to that. I tend towards habits that disconnect me from the present: I focus on day-to-day things because that’s what you do to survive. You think about one step then the next because you don’t want to freak out about all of the unpredictability that comes with being human.

And I identify with the ideologically polar opposite of Spock when it comes to Star Wars: the Sith use emotion, anger, to fuel themselves. Philosophically, I think the Jedi, with their child kidnapping and staunch anti-interventionism, are delusional while the Sith actually work within a framework that accounts for human irrationality. I wanna be Spock while I wanna be Sith.

But I’m neither of those things. I’m just some dork who is coming to terms with the fact that often times, your loved ones know better than you know yourself. I’ve been in school my whole life and am starting a career as a college professor, but I’m still learning what it means to be human. Always learning.