.journal 2001.07.12
College life.

Now listening to: Delerium, Reflections II
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Lost Souls
Now playing: Sonic Shuffle (Dreamcast)

So seven days of class, four and a half lectures, a quiz and a couple of hundred miles in my new car later, how am I adjusting to college life?

I think I'm doing okay.

What I'm having difficulty in is trying to fit these new aspects of my life in with everything else I have going on. Some have told me in the past that I needed to make as clean a slate as possible with my life, try to erase everything that had happened before, all of my problems, all of my gifts, everything good and bad from my life, just flush it all down the drain and start anew. But that's really not my style. Even with the fire destroying my sense of security, and everything else that's been difficult for me to deal with recently, I feel very strongly tied to my roots. I like the essence of who I am, it's just that now I have to adjust to new methods of cultivating it.

Time is one area I'm trying to deal with. Waking up to a set schedule really isn't something I'm accustomed to; in fact, I'm just not that good about keeping a twenty-four hour a day schedule. My body wants to work on a twenty-six or twenty-seven hour day, and rotate things around so that I'm awake as much as possible during the night. (Probably because I have an easier time being creative at night.) And particularly as my morning routine tends to be fairly long (I eat breakfast and lunch as early as possible so I have the fuel to burn during the day, plus I have to shower, write in my paper journal and a whole bunch of other stuff), I have to give myself more than a couple of hours in the morning to get around. Then after that it's off to class, then from there to my father's business to work for him, then back here to the hotel, and after doing homework I barely have time to myself anymore.

Keep in mind, although I am only taking one course right now, it's a course that's being taught in roughly half the time it normally would be. So that means double-long class periods, and double-long homework. When autumn rolls around, though, I'll be taking two and two-thirds as much time as I am now, so I will really have to learn to budget my time here. As usual, I'm taking a puzzle-solving approach to this problem, just because I become so fascinated by puzzles, and I'm learning little efficiency strategies to cut down on the time I spend on "other stuff" so I can have more time to myself. It's taking time, but then again that's why I'm starting with this one course: it gives me time to prepare for the blitz in the fall.

Another problem I'm having is just trying to keep a level head. I've got an awful lot on my mind right now, and normally when I get overburdened like that I like to just set everything aside for a bit, close up and just think, try to sort things out. I used to have the luxury of doing that whenever I wanted, but owing to all these new responsibilities I have, it's not that easy for me to do that anymore. Particularly as some of my usual methods of venting just aren't here for me right now in my present situation, I'm internalizing my feelings more and more, not to the point of it being dangerous to me but to the point where I need time.

Thankfully I'm doing some fairly mundane tasks at work right now that are allowing my brain to get some exercise and not worry about an abundance of focus on the task at hand. My father's actually apologized to me for the work being so "boring," but as I told him that's kind of what I need right now. This current project will keep me occupied for another few days, then after that there are some more involved things I can move onto. Hopefully by then I can achieve some kind of clarity that will allow me to give more to both work and school. Right now, though, I need the time for myself.

My mind is at least doing a good enough job of readjusting to the activity of academic life. While I'd certainly been learning various things in my six years away from institutes of learning, there is a big difference between learning a subject on your own and learning it in an academic environment. This course I'm taking is a lot less intensive than I figured it would be, but engaging my mind, taking adequate notes from readings and in class, preparing for discussions and quizzes are all still a bit tricky for me. And as always, my little perfectionist streak is always wanting to take hold of every word written or spoken, however insignificant, and memorize it forwards and backwards. I'm not quite that good, but I'm doing well at getting the gist of things and knowing what I need to know.

Emotionally, I guess things are still a bit topsy-turvy, but then again I had too much stuff going on before I started college anyway. The University of Toledo is a nice enough place, but it's not Antioch and it never will be for me. I came to terms with that a long time ago, but there still remains one question: what will UT be for me? I mean, I like the place enough, but where does it fit in with my life and my goals? I don't really think those are questions I can definitively answer until I become acclimated to a full-time schedule there, but even at this nascent stage of my time at UT I need something tangible to hold onto, some greater purpose for my being there, and that's one of those things I just haven't really had time to think about. I know UT is the right place for me right now, but I'm still not entirely sure why, and given the time and money commitments involved I think I should know why before I start committing too much of either of those resources.

But I guess perhaps the biggest element of all of this is my social growth. It was only really at Antioch that I was able to experience anything like social growth, and while I've always felt happy being by myself and doing my own thing, I felt a real need to try to expand my horizons in that area, and admittedly that was probably behind more of my reasoning for going to UT than it should have been. And after these first couple of weeks, I guess this is the area where I'm progressing the slowest.

When I was at Antioch L. told me that in social situations I come off as "intimidating." This always struck me as odd, because in my mind my approach to socializing has always been to be as meek as possible. My general attitude has always been, just hang loose and be yourself and let others come to you; let them see who you are first and then know that anyone who decides to befriend you is more likely to accept you for who you are than someone you seek out. That's probably an approach grounded in someone who was socially spurned for most of her life growing up, but hey, that's what feels right to me, and I've made some tremendous friends that way.

But I was talking about socializing on one of my mailing lists recently, and someone who I've only had a couple of written correspondences with said the exact same thing L. said all those years ago. And it made me wonder just what in the heck I'm supposed to do. If we can use the same puzzle analogy I used earlier, the puzzle of socializing seems to be broken into an infinite number of pieces, and I have no picture to help me guide how to put the pieces together. I guess maybe I do want to learn how to do these things, but not only do I not know what to do, I don't even know what questions to ask so I can learn what to do. And this places me in the most frustrating place in the world for me: being hip-deep in a situation where I have no idea what's going on.

I'm certainly on friendly terms with some of the people in my class, but I haven't really "talked about stuff" with them. I've listened in on a number of conversations, but I have no idea how to join in, what to say, or anything like that. As long-winded and open as I tend to be when I'm presenting something to a group, like on this site, when it comes to one-on-one dealings I'm lost. With L. and maybe C. there's a kind of wavelength that we share so that everything comes natural for me. But the thing is, I don't know what I'm doing with them. There just seems to be some kind of zone our brains enter where we always say just the right things.

I don't want to make it sound like I've been friendless throughout my life, because I've always had friends. Even if my circle of friends is tighter now than I remember it being, I still have people I can point to and say, "These are my friends," and have them return the favour in kind. But for all the friendships I remember having, they seemed to be foisted on me by circumstance or some other thing. I never went looking for a friend; friends have just happened upon me. But I don't know if that's the kind of approach I can count on happening throughout my life, and if I'm going to learn any other approaches then this is the time to do it. I don't know how, though, and it's getting to me.

It was awkward enough for me last night when I actually went to a social event. Me going to a social event is like a donkey going to an auto repair shop; there's just something inherently wrong about the concept. And, I mean, I had a genuinely good time, and maybe there are some friendship seeds germinating among the people I met. But the uneasiness about the whole situation is still getting to me; it's like I feel good about it, but I'm not for certain why I feel good, and that uncertainty makes me feel bad. Maybe I'm just overanalyzing things.

The big x-factor in all of this are the friends I have that I lost contact with. Honestly, as the situation with the house getting rebuilt is getting ever so slowly resolved, I've come to realize that my missing friends are the greatest strain on me right now. There's two aspects to this: I've spoken before about how they haven't been here for me to talk to as I've gone through all these other problems, but more importantly than that is the fact that they left to deal with problems of their own, and since we haven't been in contact with each other I don't know how well they're doing. And if they're not doing well then I want them to know I'm there for them, but I don't know if they even know that or if they're able to come to me for help.

And this really plays into the whole issue of socializing, because being in such small circles as I've been in throughout my life, when I make a good friend I feel a tremendous bond of loyalty. And for me to be trying to make new friends now almost seems wrong to the friends I do have. Especially given the extenuating circumstances, it almost feels like by going into situations where I could make new friends, I'm telling my old friends, "You weren't here when I needed you, so I'm going to find new people to be here for me and don't count on me being here for you."

Honestly, looking at it that way I'm paralyzed. No matter what I'm feeling about my friends' absence, those friends mean too much to me for me to leave them. It's been painfully difficult at times, but I think it's the fact that I'm fighting through this difficulty as fervently as I am which defines how strong my feelings of friendship towards them are. When you feel that kind of bond with someone, it's these hard times that test the bond, and so far that bond is not breaking. I still hope like crazy every time I pop online that I'm going to get that e-mail that would mean the world to me, and I still get down when it's not there in my inbox, but I'm still alive, and I'm still going out there every day for work and school.

Maybe I'm not feeling the best I've ever felt in my life right now. And maybe I'm not adjusting to college life all that well. Hey, it's only been two weeks. I think I'm entitled to more time before anyone can make any real big judgments about how things are going.

Everyone take care and be well. I'll see you all again soon.

- Sean