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November 2002

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May 3, 2002

So some people may naturally be concerned about me after my entry of April 30. I don't blame you -- that was quite a tirade -- but I want to assure everyone that I'm okay. It was just a mood, something that strikes me at random every now and then. I get a little bitter when I'm in that mood since I'm pretty easygoing the rest of the time, so the feeling that I'm not allowed to be upset, that I have to hold my emotions in to care for others' problems, builds hidden, unconscious resentment, I think. But I'm fine now, especially because all my lovely friends expressed their concern and tried to cheer me up. Thank you.

I'm going to try to continue from where I left off on April 28, though I don't really remember what I was going to write beyond the story of my illness before I got distracted and abandoned the entry. At any rate, I had believed I was dehydrated early last week, and I was trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to increase my fluid intake. I wasn't really concerned enough by the symptoms, and that turned out to be a very bad thing when I nearly fainted in the shower that Tuesday. The water temperature was probably too high, especially when I was feeling so weak, but I was also feeling very cold all the time and my goal was to warm myself up a little. But it was too much for me, and as I was rinsing myself off, I started to feel dizzy and black out. I grabbed the wall, which seemed to move in and out before my eyes, and I turned down the water temperature and tried to drink. This helped only for a second, so I soon decided I needed to get out of their so I would at least not pass out in the shower. I ran, with only my towel held on as best I could with not really being able to see, to my room. I leaned heavily on my chair and IMed Scott, saying I felt faint and asking for help. By now, my head had started to clear, so I was able to pull on my pajamas before collapsing on my bed. Scott arrived soon afterward and pronounced it necessary that I go to the infirmary. One of my suitemates turned off the shower and grabbed all my stuff, and then, with Scott supporting me so I wouldn't fall on the way, I made my way down to the infirmary, where they basically said they didn't know what was wrong with me, but I did at least get three free bottles of juice out of the deal.

My near-fainting experience was pretty terrifying. I did have an away message up saying I was in the shower, but odds are, had I passed out and had the message thus stayed up for hours, no one would have likely made the connection. Most people would figure I had been distracted. Plus, no one who actually went into the bathroom would have thought it necessary to pull back the shower curtains to see if anyone was in there since most people wouldn't be in there long enough to notice my shower was unusually long. And there are other dangers besides no one finding me (although had someone found me like that, it would have been rather embarrassing). I could have gotten a concussion from falling onto the hard tile. Or I could have landed with my head under the stream of water and drowned. All scary thoughts.

But I made it out alive, thankfully. And today, I'm just fine.

May 5, 2002

So maybe I lied when I said I was completely okay. While I have effectively shaken off the worst of my bad feelings, I seem to be having a growing existential crisis. I'm fortunately not to the point where I'm abandoning studying and picking up Sartre to try to answer the questions in my life, but who knows when I might turn that corner. I'm not sure how long it will take me to handle this.

However, I would like to point out that I have two midterms this week, one of which I cannot foresee myself ever getting prepared for in time. Naturally, this worries me, and I think it may be aggravating the usual questions I have about my future when the end of the year rolls around. Although these questions aren't really about my future but instead about life in general. If you're not interested in my musings on the meaning of life, you should turn back now. I recommend rereading the saga of the squirrels on my AIM Profiles page; it's a much lighter version of what I want to address.

Lately I've been wondering if there is anything of meaning in my life. I look at my relationships, and I realize how little I really know people. I only met my best friends here about eight months ago, some even more recently than that, and although we've developed a great rapport with each other, I worry about these relationships becoming transitory. I know my own history. I make friends, I socialize, but I don't ask the hard questions and I keep people at a distance. I build up a shell around myself so know one can touch me too deeply, so that I won't miss anyone too much if they leave me. I realize this shows a lack of trust, but trust equates with vulnerability in my mind, and after years of being oversensitive, I'm very hesitant to make myself vulnerable to any sort of personal criticism. Hence, I have trouble maintaining or even forming intimate bonds. I know I shouldn't be afraid of people not liking or abandoning me, that I should make all that I can out of every relationship, but right now, I just don't know how.

Thus I can't find any meaning for my life in the relationships I have with others, although this might not be such a bad thing, since at least it gives me some sort of independence. However, I can't make much of that independence. I have no great passion for something in my life. There's no subject or cause that draws me in completely or that I find important enough to completely occupy my mind. Basically, I have nothing now to work for. I have no long-term, meaningful goals for my life. I tend to think for today and leave tomorrow's worries for tomorrow. That's why every day can seem like a clean slate for me but also like I have to rebulid everything from the ground up each day.

The key issue for me is that I seem to spend more time simply keeping busy rather than doing anything. I have my friends, my hobbies, my webmaster duties, my habits of procrastination, and my studies, all of which seem to me to just kill time. But I don't know what I'm killing time in waiting for.

May 11, 2002

"Don't worry, be happy!"

Way back in the 80s, when happy days were here in the form of Ninja Turtles and Arkanoid, this was one of my favorite songs. My little brothers and I would get up and dance every time we heard it, and my whole family would sing it at random moments throughout the day. It inspired me to learn to snap my fingers, a trick I still have sufficiently mastered. As a child, this song fell into perfect step with my happy-go-lucky lifestyle, and its simple message was a creed I could live by.

I still live by it to some extent despite the many years separating me from the heyday of that one-hit wonder. But what troubles me about that philosophy is that it defines happiness simply as a lack of cares and concerns. If I keep myself amused, don't let the little things bother me, and just try to take life as it comes without really questioning it, then I ought to be "happy." That's just how my mind has tended to work. Unfortunately, the world isn't really like that, which leads me to have these contemplative times when I ask what can make me truly happy in life.

Usually what I need more than anything at these times is to accomplish something I feel is meaningful and worthwhile, that I will value, which for me translates into needing to write something original. My diary is just a temporary fix for this feeling. I need overcome my laziness and lack of discipline to write something creative and expressive of what I feel. And until I do this, I will likely feel somewhat out of sorts and angry with myself.

But I'm not depressed. I've had that feeling before, and I know it's not like this. I've actually had this feeling many times before. You'd think I'd be able to treat myself better after all this time.

But life just goes by so quickly. I feel sometimes like there's a large hand pressed against my back, pushing me forward at an unholy speed, so fast I am incapable of absorbing my surroundings.

Absorbing. That's really not something people can do. It's what a sponge or a towel does. It's a metaphor, something false that's been completely incorporated into our everyday language, so much so that we don't even think anymore about how it's not literally true. For some reason, I've been remembering that little bit of Nietzche's philosophy lately. To my mind, it makes everything we say or write seem basically meaningless, and if our words have no meaning, then life seems fundamentally empty.

Perhaps I've been a bit more cynical lately. I've seen two musicals in the past week. The second one was of the more traditional, happy sort. At the end, there were several gooey, sentimental numbers, which I usually don't enjoy anyway, but they seemed particularly nauseating that night. The senior class was becoming teary as they contemplated leaving college behind, and all I could think was that their lives probably wouldn't be all that much different on a fundamental level and that no matter how much they sang, they would still leave school and still move on with their lives.

I wonder sometimes what exactly the true motivations are behind my decisions. More specifically, I wonder about the influence of others on my motivations. Right now, several of my friends here have declared history majors or are very soon going to do so. I came to college, as I learned recently when I looked over an old scholarship essay, with the intention of majoring in journalism and minoring in history. As time has passed, and it became clear how easy it is to double major at this school, I decided a major might be better than just a minor, especially since then I could also tack on a minor in anthropology. I've always had the desire to be an archaeologist, but it's not really a career you can prepare for without going to graduate school, where my focus would be entirely upon the subject. I thought history (with a concentration in Africa and the Middle East, the areas I would want to study as an archaeologist) might be a good lead-in to later study of archaeology, and the anthro minor (with a concentration in archaeology) would be enough to prepare myself without much overlap with later studies. But now I've decided to abandon the idea of majoring in history in favor of just doing a double major with anthropology. While at least one friend has told me this is probably a smart idea and while I agree that it would probably be a worthwhile course of study, I can't help but wonder if I gave up my old idea simply because I didn't want to conform with everyone else.

Oh well. I just hope everything ends up working out for the best. Again, it's hard to worry too much.

Maybe I am having some sort of "existential crisis." But if I am, it's definitely then a personal thing. I don't want any of my friends to think all these musings have anything to do with them. I don't want anyone to believe I'm angry or upset with them because it's not true. I care about everyone very much; I like everyone very much. And I don't walk around feeling miserable all the time. I just want to sort through some stuff, and I'd prefer to do it here because it's not so much fun when I'm at home and without much distraction.

There is one other problem that has been bothering me lately, again something to do with how I seem to be set up mentally and emotionally. Do your worst with this one, my psychology-major friends -- every day seems to me like a clean slate. And not in a good way, more in a way that makes me groan and ask, "Why?" Because when I say each day is a clean slate, I don't just mean that the bad things that happened the day before seem to have slipped away -- all the good things seem to disappear, too. It seems so hard for me to build trust and confidence in people, and I think it's because every time my trust seems to grow, the next day I feel like I need to build it up all over again. It's frustrating for me, and I'm sure it's frustrating for others.

I've just about run out of things to say for now. I hope I haven't depressed any readers. Sorry not to have put any sort of disclaimer on the top of this one -- unless bad 80s song lyrics count as such.

May 12, 2002

I am whatever you want me to be.

I am a sponge. I do absorb. I see you and I become you.

I subordinate what I want to what you want. Not what you want to do, but what you want to see in me. I become the person who suits you best. I become the person who likes what you like, who acts like you act, who says what you say. I can take on everything from your accent to your slightest mannerisms. I have no personality but yours.

I resist, but I cannot resist. I am conscious of the insidious creeping of your persona into mine, but I cannot stop it. Maybe I don't want to stop it.

You don't know me, but you do. I am you. Your reflection taken flesh.

I am what you see or maybe what you don't want to see. But I hide nothing.

May 15, 2002

The past few days have been good to me.

I got back my three midterms, and I did well on each one. I'm working my way back toward the good grades I got in the fall. I discovered the new search tools on the registration web site and managed to pull together a much better schedule for next fall than I originally anticipated. I got to see one of the best episodes of Trading Spaces ever (Hildi painted a bedroom entirely black, made a floor out of subflooring, and included a bust of herself as decoration; Gen, trumping all of that, covered a bedroom wall entirely in moss). The weather's even been nice; today, I actually put on shorts for the first time since the big heat wave. And these are only a few of the many good things, big or small, that seem to be coming my way lately. Maybe I'm having some sort of karmic shift.

Perhaps it's a perspective change on my part, then, that all these things don't make me incredibly happy and carefree the way they would used to. I guess the emphasis would have to be on the "carefree" part of that sentence. It's not as if I was unhappy. I'm just not ecstatic. I'm not going around declaring that all is right with the world. Maybe I've become a bit more level-headed in my old age. Or maybe all my personal introspection of late has just taught me to take things in stride and not hang my feelings on anything in particular. I guess I can't just lose myself in happy or pleasurable feelings now because I know that all is not right with the world. The world isn't perfect, my life isn't perfect, and what I need to come to terms with is that they can't be perfect.

May 18, 2002

I don't really feel like writing anything intensely self-analytical or emotional tonight, but I feel strangely bad about breaking the long string of introspective entries. I almost feel like I must scold myself for writing something seemingly more trivial.

Of course, I really don't know what to write this evening. I haven't really put much thought into what I'd like to say. I just decided that it was about time I made an update, so I fired up Dreamweaver and now, here I sit, waiting for inspiration.

Well, I've spent the past several days working on web sites. I designed some graphics for Scott's Campus Alliance to End Gun Violence site. I've discovered how to use scads of features in my photo editing program. For my next big project, my summer redesign of PARC's web site (the current one really was always meant to be temporary), I ought to be able to create some truly snazzy graphics. Perhaps by then they will look even somewhat professional. Or at least close. I'm still not quite an artist. Anyway, I also reformatted the PARC mailing list as an HTML document. No one cares about this fact except me, but at least few people have told me it looks nice. You can judge for yourself.

I've been toying with a little daydream lately. I'm starting to feel inspired to write stories again. I'm thinking I could write a nice little collection of short stories. If I can discipline myself a bit, I could finish it over the summer. I saw a guy standing out on a street corner the other day. Not panhandling, not waiting for a bus or for the light to change -- just standing there, staring forward. It struck me as odd, of course, and I wondered what his motivation was. Then I came to a realization -- I have the creative power as a writer to give him (as a character) a motivation. I could write a story explaining how he got there. I don't know, maybe that sounds absurdly simple, but it's nice to be reminded every now and then that everyday life provides the inspiration for the best stories, not impossible constructs of the imagination.

May 24, 2002

Do you ever write the title of a story before you've actually written it? Do you ever get a great idea, bound up in one little line, something you feel has great potential, but you never really find yourself able to articulate it beyond that point? When you sound the depths of the idea, does it often seem shallower than it first appeared? Or do you feel like you simply don't have the skill to flesh out your brilliant concepts?

A week or two ago, I attended a lecture given by the editor of The Onion. One of the points he made was that the staff always brainstorms headlines before actually coming up with substantive story ideas. The headline, he said, has to stand on its own as a joke. Joe Schmoe should be able to read it to John Doe and produce a laugh before even reaching the lead, let alone the fifth paragraph of the satire.

Back in third grade, my best friend at the time and I used to write our own "book series" based on the example set by our beloved Baby-sitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins, and other preteen series. The stories we produced, although divided into quite a few "chapters," never exceeded several notebook pages. We comforted ourselves by pointing out that the pages novels were printed on were much smaller than our notebook pages, so maybe once our stories were typeset, they'd exceed a hundred pages, too. But nonetheless, these series were truly grand projects. We mapped out the progression of the series many books into the future, we planned a few "super special" crossovers between our two sets of characters (who were pen pals, another favorite hobby of ours), and we even created "little sister" series to complement the original ones. I still have notebooks full of little synopses of the "books" I planned to write someday.

Of course, I never really got around to the great majority of them. I finished maybe three or four, and I think I started two or three more, at that point skipping around the series to find the ideas that excited me the most. But by the time I had started the last one, I had become quite a bit more evolved as a writer -- not to the point where I desired a more elevated subject matter but where I wrote a whole lot more than I used to. One chapter suddenly took up more notebook space than an entire book had in the past. While I was naturally excited about my growing skill (and now dreaming of writing a long, real book that I could publish), I became impatient with how long it took me to complete my stories. Everything happened so quickly in my head that it seemed like a terrible hassle to have to translate it all into words. And the words sometimes came so slowly that I'd forget how the story ended. Of course, I could remedy that by making notes for myself, but that seemed to take some of the romance out of writing stories. And besides, the greater problem was that I was not perceiving progress in my work as quickly as I would have liked. I was impatient; I wanted the results immediately. I wanted a full novel now, not a few months from now. Although I honestly did enjoy the process of creation, I figured I'd enjoy glorying in having completed something so monumental more. In the end, I found the task rather discouraging.

I find it hard to understand my abhorrence of the process of writing. It's a mental block I have set up -- I like to write, when I actually do it I enjoy it very much and I'm excited about it for all the days I'm inspired to write afterward, but I when I'm not in the process, the thought turns me off. I don't hate writing, I hate starting to write. It works the same way with this journal, as some may have noticed. For three or four nearly consecutive days, I write consistently, and then I neglect it for twice as long. I managed to avoid that problem in February, but before that month and afterward, I've had the same pattern of writing in spurts.

Not long ago, my great ambition in life was to be a novelist. I wanted to write for a living, to shut myself off from almost everyone and live in a world of characters of my creation. There's always been something of the hermit in my nature. Typically, I wanted to become a novelist right away, to have something important accomplished early in life and possibly to make some money for college (and thus aviod getting a real job -- but that's really an issue for another time). But putting that kind of pressure on myself often leads to feelings of helplessness since I can never live up to my own high standards, and therefore, I generally give up altogether on the grand ambitions. Such is my status as a novelist now. And that's the story of my life.

May 28, 2002

This will be an entry in two parts. Part One will consist of me killing time until my appointment with the doctor at 2. Part Two will consist of a recap of that appointment, concluding with my ultimate diagnosis.

For those of you not in the know, I recently came down with yet another bout of illness. This one was particularly nasty, however--a painful, infected throat. I haven't had a bad sore throat since I was in about third grade, but as this one has progressed I have been reminded of how very much I hated this particular disease. I've also regressed to a third grade frame of mind in dealing with my illness, constantly emailing and calling my mom and wishing very much to be home so that I could lie on the couch, watch cartoons, and complain of my misery to all my visiting relatives.

Instead, I've been forced to care for myself here without my mommy's help. My friends have done their best to provide me with ice cream and medications, and they constantly IM to ask how I'm feeling, but of course they've also been busy with their own work and other activities and I'm sure they don't want to be exposed to my germs (can't blame them -- good God, who'd want to have tonsillitis or strep?). Though, as usual, I did have to have a friend push me to go to Student Health Services (for the fourth time this year! soon to be the fifth!) though -- Scott and Kim, I'd probably be dead now without you guys, what with all my illnesses. Though Alex has promised to bring flowers to my funeral should I ever get around to kicking the bucket before Spring Quarter ends.

In a supreme bit of irony, my sore throat, which had been bothering me slightly all week, only became of true concern on Saturday. And as those familiar with Northwestern lore know, on that Saturday fell Dillo Day, the big concert-and-party day when the whole campus goes out to indulge in hedonistic good times. Of course, I'm not one that most people associate with hedonistic good times, but still, it would have been nice to have felt a bit less like crap on the day when almost everyone else was out having fun.

But then I shouldn't rant. I wasn't really doing all that badly on Saturday (no, that was reserved for Sunday night), and I did have some fun (albeit quiet) times. I had a delicious steak dinner, courtesy of Scott and a couple other friends. Then we sat around for a good long while in the TV lounge, watching the end of a hockey game (Carolina lost) and the movie Enemy of the State. I seem to be developing a liking of certain action movies. I mean, the two movies I most look forward to seeing this summer are Star Wars and Spider-Man. Anyway, after you finish laughing at my taste in films, I will go on to say that I spent the rest of the evening "reading" with Britt, Alex, Scott, and Kathy out in one of the suites, with an interruption at one point by a still rather tipsy Kim, who had just returned from viewing the Dillo Day porn film with everybody else.

Sunday night was truly awful though. I was restless all night and awoke every couple of hours. Not only was my throat killing me, but my ears and even my teeth hurt. The teeth were the worst. That was a continuous throbbing pain. Unfortunately, not even taking more than the recommended dose of Tylenol helped at that point. It wouldn't be until the next day that I would discover the miracle drug that is ibuprofen. One might think that its anti-inflammatory qualities would have been the giveaway that it was the drug of choice for an inflamed throat, but since I find that most painkilling drugs usually have little effect on me, I don't generally distinguish. Plus I was sick. Pain seems to distract one from thinking clearly.

Well, I have been to visit the doctor, and there I learned that my throat culture was negative and thus I do not have strep throat. Naturally, the doctor then sent me to the lab to be tested for mono, the infirmary's favorite diagnosis (other than pregnancy). I finally got the results back after dinner (at a time, by the way, when my throat had finally stopped aching every time I swallowed for the first time in perhaps a week). If they are to be believed, it seems I have contracted infectious mononucleosis.

The "kissing disease," it seems, is pretty common among college students, what with the close living conditions in dorms. However, I would like to take the opportunity to point out that I did not get mono from kissing; you can stop snickering now. Of course, I'm not entirely sure how I got the disease. The only person I've come into contact with who had it was my friend Emily, and I haven't seen her since the beginning of January. Even with an incubation time of up to twelve weeks (about three months), that's way too long ago to have been the source. The only clue I have so far is that Kim has for the past week exhibited the same kind of symptoms as me, albeit without the throat becoming quite as severely painful. This fact hints that maybe there was a common source here at school, but honestly, who knows. At any rate, we should probably find out tomorrow if Kim has been infected as well ... and if she's got it, too, more are sure to follow. And just in time for finals and summer vacation.

May 30, 2002

This is an update for Kim. Since the world revolves around her.

Over the past summer (at least I'm pretty sure it was then), I started working on a real novel. I guess its genesis was really a lot earlier. The idea always comes first, in a dream or a daydream, a story I latch upon and develop in my head during quiet moments of the day when I should be paying attention to other things. When the story was firmly planted in my mind I started having moments of inspiration, when scenes would flash into my head and I'd immediately grab a notebook to write them down while they were still vivid and vital. Of course, the scenes are never contiguous -- I wrote the conclusion on scrap paper at the kitchen table long before I wrote the beginning (in fact, I'm not sure that I've even written that part yet). But some scenes were more powerful than others, and some scenes were inspired by my daily life, thus some came more easily than others. I decided this time that I would concentrate more on writing what I wanted instead of simply plugging my way through to get it done as I figured I would be far more likely to actually finish that way. I continued this trend over the summer when I started transferring the sketches in my notebooks to my new notebook computer, revising and refining as I typed. I think I have about twenty or thirty double-spaced pages completed now -- a far cry from a novel. Maybe this coming summer I'll be able to add twenty or thrity more pages to my work. And maybe by the time I'm thirty-five or forty, I'll be able to publish it.

Assuming, of course, neither the mono nor the anemia kills me now.

Copyright © 2002 Colleen Fischer | Last updated October 7, 2002