William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

on realizing...

The big thing that's dawned on me over the past two days is that all this time since coming back to SMU, I've been trying to get something for nothing.

I don't know what it was. I don't think I behaved this way when I was at Dal in the summer.* I think what may have happened is that coming back here returned me to my old mental patterns. It's kind of like what going home does to me. But I don't really have to let it, do I?

I think although I made some friends last semester I continued to stir up a lot of animosity because it was obvious to some that I was only interested in getting the whole world to dance to my tune.

This raises some questions:

- Why did I want to do that? (at least somewhat for self-preservation, see below)
- What made me think I would succeed where most have failed, save the Hitlers, Stalins, Maos and Jong-ils of the world?

That I feel is an important point. These are all people who were to some degree successful in transforming the world to suit themselves, as opposed to transforming the world with the broad goal of making it a better place. This required the suppression of individuality and freedom - they forced their corners of the world to sing their praises and dance to their tune, and their tune only. I won't call it "unnatural", whatever that really means, but it is certainly antithetical to progress.

Of course I had no delusions of setting myself up as a dictator. But I did feel that if only I were perfect, I would be popular - if I did everything just so, I'd be on top of the world and everybody would be throwing themselves at my feet.

This is pretty twisted, when you think about it. In my defence, I can only say that at least I never thought it through completely! I'm not the tip of a scanning tunnelling microscope, but I'm sharp enough to at least be in the tool shed, if you gather what I'm saying.

I will continue to have bad days, piss some people off, and say ignorant things for the sake of preening my feathers. I think that's only natural to do on occasion. But it's a cheap feeling of importance, one that can't compare in value with the peace of mind of not trying to appear perfect and not continually railing against one's surroundings.

I am reluctant to begin to express how much mental anguish trying to appear perfect has caused me through the years. It was awful, because even if I did do something well or was congratulated for something, I couldn't sincerely accept the compliment! I would always think to myself, "Well, that was good, but it wasn't perfect. I must be perfect. Therefore I cannot be happy with this compliment." Our capacity for self-delusion is incredible - if only we were as innately skilled in any field of productive human endeavour!

Anyway, from this point forward, I will make a point to not be trying to get something for nothing. I will look people in the face and not skulk around like a wounded child. Some of you have indeed managed to see through my charades to what talent I do have, and for that I thank you - while it did not cure me of narcissism, it does make the transition afterwards a bit more hopeful. If indeed this is a transition. I could just be deluding myself again. ;-)

In any case, I presently enjoy peace of mind because I've gone from worrying about being outed as someone who can't handle math (and science by extension) to thinking about how I can overcome the challenges before me and sometimes even doing things to overcome said challenges. ;-) It's far, far healthier to concern yourself with the latter than the former, though I know that's an easy, almost glib thing for me to say. I know it's "not that simple." I mean, I'm 28 for crying out loud! I've lived out a quarter of my years and then some. If I had read this in September, would it have convinced me? I don't know. I'd like to think so, but I wonder if my retreat into narcissism was a product of how overwhelmed I was at first (failing the calculus entrance test, struggling in chemistry, etc..). My self-preservation instincts ("I must preserve the appearance that I belong at all costs.") could have trumped any burst of insight from anyone who'd been there.

* - My evidence for this assertion is that at Dal, people laughed at my jokes. Here I've been getting no laughs - and I believe the reason is that the motivation behind the jokes has changed from entertaining my peers at Dal to trying to appear perfectly witty here. The former causes some people to laugh, the latter causes most people to grumble. (It's also fair to state that the audience has changed, though in this case I hypothesize that to be a second-order effect.)
Tags: attitudes, saint mary's, school, science
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