It’s a normal day at school, I walk into Physics class at 11:20 and sit down waiting for my teacher. The thing about Physics though, is that two days a week (on Wednesday and Friday) it starts an hour earlier for two hours of class. Having a schedule that isn’t the same hour every day can be confusing and tends to throw people off (it even threw me off last quarter, and I never get mixed up with consistent things, especially in the middle of the quarter.)
I sit down in my chair and start chatting with my friends at my table - they look over the lab I brought to be turned in, we talk a little bit about our project, and then the two geeks at the table start going off about computer games and Game of Thrones stuff.
It’s 11:30. Class is supposed to start, but our professor isn’t there. Sara is a smart cookie, punctual, and funny. But never late to walk in the door. Never. Of the 60-some-odd classes I’ve had with her since the beginning of the year, she’s never been late.
11:35 rolls around, and we start getting worried - we start talking about it at our table. Her unexplained absence has us mystified. “Maybe she’s answering somebody’s question in her office.” Leyia suggests to me across the table, but I don’t think that’s so - she would still keep aware of the time and be here when she needs to be.
11:40, and I’m certain she forgot it’s Friday, that class is an hour earlier. I start getting a bad feeling inside my chest - somebody should go get her. Now her lateness is the only thing all the 28 people in the room are thinking and talking about. Most of us know her quite well, all of us know what’s happening. As the seconds tick by on the clock, I start feeling worse and worse. I want to go, but I haven’t been to her office before, I don’t go to my Professor’s offices unless it’s absolutely necessary, which it almost never is. I ask multiple times if somebody will go with me, but the answer is always “no, you go!”
11:45, and all the people at one of the tables leaves. Connor, a guy who sat at my table last quarter, gets up and starts writing times on the board: predictions of when she would arrive. There’s 11:50, 12:05, 12:20, 12:25, 12:15, 12:00…I shake my head. It’s not right, I need to go get her. “What’s your prediction?” He asks.
"I don’t have a prediction." I reply curtly.
"No, really! What do you think? When do you think she’s gonna show up?" Connor persists.
Now the attention of the room is on me. I know what I need to do - everybody in the room knows what somebody should do, but nobody else seems to be willing to do it. I’ve been fighting myself whether or not to for the last fifteen minutes, but at that moment I find resolve.
"I’m gonna go get her." I state. The reactions around me are varied: a few protest outright, a couple spur me on, most just sit and watch amused.
"No, don’t do that!" Alex, the guy at my table who knows way to much about computer games and Games of Thrones protests. I look at him. I look around the room. Everybody watching me, waiting to see if I would do what we all knew was the right thing to do.
I look around the room, mortified. My brain screams, Aren’t we all adults here? Aren’t you all paying alot of money to be here? Without hesitation, I would bet all the money I have that I am the youngest person in the class, by a couple of years. I’m a Running Start student so I don’t have to pay for classes, but nobody else is, they’re all paying $12.57 or $32.80 per class session (depending on their residency), some pretty solid money. Besides, I don’t want to waste an hour that could be spent learning - besides, if we throw it away we’ll have to catch up with it later, or skip some possibly very important things at a later point. I’m sure everybody knows it. They all have been through at least Calculus III and the prior two Physics classes to be sitting there. Everybody’s smart, everybody knows what to do. But they don’t.
"Will anyone come with me?" I plead on more time, my juvenile insecurities showing themselves one last time.
"No! Go get her!" Leyia scoffs. I look around the room for help, but there is none to be had.With final resolve, I get off my chair and start toward the door. "Fine. I’m going to get her." It’s about 11:47 by this point.
"No, don’t! You’ll invalidate all the predictions if you do that!" Alex cries after me, the gaze of the whole class following me.
I turn as I walk out the door, my hand stretching to point an accusing finger at him. “Screw you.” And all the rest of you too, I think.
I walk the couple of hundred yards up to the offices. I’d never been to Sara’s office, but I find the door open - she’s sitting in front of her computer chatting with people on Facebook or something.
I poke my head in the door. “It’s Friday.”
She hardly looks up.
"It’s Friday.” I repeat, with a little more emphasis.
"Yes, it’s Friday. Be happy!" She says.
I want to do a “*Facepalm*” at this point, but I’m too focused to do so. “It’s Friday.”
She looks at me, confused. She’s not getting it. I thought she would! Enough games, time to be straight-forward.
"It’s Friday. Come to class?"
I love seeing ‘lightbulb moments’ on people’s faces, and the transition from confusion to denial to realization spreading across her face was priceless. She quickly moved her head to look at the time on the corner of her computer screen as it sinks in. In her peculiar Iranian accent she says two phrases I’ve heard many times before, but not together. “Oh my God, thank you!” She stands up, grabs her bag and we start back to the classroom.
"I never do that, and I just got back from my last class about 10 minutes ago because they were asking me a bunch of questions and I totally forgot! Thank you for getting me!”
We chat for the two minutes it takes to get to the classroom. I open the door for her and walk in behind her - partially smug, partially relieved and happy. The smugness completely uncalled for, but it was a good feeling to stand up for the right thing.
It was funny and kind of cool, to have to go get her, one of my favorite and most admired professors, for a silly thing like forgetting, it’s something I shan’t forget.
But at the same time I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth, per se. That nobody else in the room did it before me. Maybe I’m still young and idealistic? An overachiever? Whatever the case, I don’t think it’s something to just be excused and blown off. Maybe I’m weird, but I want to learn, and spend time in class. If it was my Public Speaking or English 101 classes that I didn’t get anything out of I wouldn’t care or get the professor if they were late. But this is Physics. Important, real-life stuff that’s relevant to every single person taking it. Nobody is there that doesn’t want to be. So why and how could they just let an important hour slip idly by?
Oops…okay then. I didn’t see that coming, but it was wonderful. I expected – no – anticipated, more like hoped for it, but I didn’t think it would happen quite…so soon. It was the most natural thing, and I loved it. But at the same time there’s a question lurking in the back of my mind, an uncertainty, a little voice of doubt screaming at me in protest. Most of me is walking on clouds, laughing at the midget trying to pull everything back down to earth – or into the abyss? Before, I wasn’t sure if I really felt quite that way, until it happened. It was then that my heart physically, literally told me everything. It’s not often that I feel it throbbing in my chest, beating in my fingers – or was it yours I felt?
Like a time bomb the days tick by: 4 months till I go oh so far away. It’s crossed my mind to change that, to get out, but no, I can’t. I can’t. You think about the inevitable fact far too much, but I try not to think about it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always there, lurking in the depths of my mind, but I’m focused on the interim months, all the time we have, all the things we can do. …and the times between, when I’ll be back: Christmas break for sure, summer…what am I doing?
I’m sorry, dear – that it happened now, that I’m going away soon. Were it my choice, I wouldn’t have it quite this way. But it’s not completely my choice, and I’m sure whatever happens will be the best – that it will turn out perfectly, whatever that looks like, as it always does.
I don’t mind in the least, but…why did you choose me?
It is a serious thing to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
There are no ordinary people.
You have never talked to a mere mortal.
Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
Games are cool. They’re nice, and enjoyable, and usually delightful. Unless it’s real, unless the stakes are emotions, feelings, and hearts - well, parts of hearts (since I learned that you never quite give it all away). Inevitably, I find myself in the thick of a real one. I want to have a candid conversation about it, to know what’s really going on and what to expect. But of course, no - it’s too uncomfortable and improper to discuss such things so openly at such an early point. Indeed, if I think about it things have been slow, haven’t gone all that far, but at the same time have escalated quickly - of course paradoxically. Of course I think about it too much, my mind takes it and runs with it multiple times a day. It runs and runs until it’s all tired out. It may not be the right thing. It may be the right thing, but now not the right time. But what if…? I have such a hard time trusting myself, or the decisions I make. I always think something is so right and great for a little while, but after some time I change my mind and think it’s ridiculous and definitely not prudent or right - you inspired me to write a whole sequel to an earlier piece, I was totally gonna post it somewhere like today. And then on Tuesday night I realized it’s rather direct, that things are going slower and aren’t quite where I thought they were. That it’s still in the weird limbo stage, and I just can’t be that clear or direct or candid. Blast it. I never know what to do, or how to do it. I know what’s at stake here, and it’s not myself that I’m worried about. I don’t care about myself. I don’t care if I get hurt, I just don’t wanna hurt you.
I wanna do the right thing, at the right time. I want to be able to do everything that everybody wants. I want life and the world to somehow be perfect, and I want to help it be that way. But I can’t, and it eats at me like an acid, slowly corroding away something inside of me. I just want things to be okay and work out all right somehow…
Every day in life is different.
Many days are ordinary, normal, mundane, average - just whatever.
Some days are miserable, horrible, sad - you just want to crawl into a hole and not exist anymore.
But some days. Some days are glorious, beautiful, so happy it makes your heart want to explode and your body walk on air - those days are what really make life worth living.
Yesterday was some day. And I think the evening will make tomorrow some day.
Often, it’s for the sake of survival - animals adapt to the environment around them in able to continue living in the conditions. People adapt to what’s happening around them to continue living. Not me. I adapt, no question there - but not for the same reason. I adapt to excel: in school, relationships, situations. But only in certain areas (the ones I want), and with my conformation different groups of people see me as a different person in different places and situations.
Certain areas: look at my grades, how so many people see me - whether it be at Youth Symphony, Church, school, extended family, or my acquaintances - I pulled straight A’s for the second quarter in a row God knows how. I feel like I don’t completely deserve them. I didn’t work as hard or study as much as I know I should have, or as much as my parents thought I did. Sure, I might have done more than many of my classmates, but I don’t know exactly how it happened.
So many people think I’m genius, amazing, sweet…I smile and say thanks, but inside I twitch - I grimace. I see all my shortcomings and failures and all the bad things I’ve done and am likely to do, and though their words make me happy, I make myself sad in the next instant from my regrets and problems.
I adapt to excel, to be the best person for the situation, but the best person in one place is the worst person for another - somewhat fitting into one group’s culture and activities can be repulsive and horrifying for the person I am in another place. At times it makes me feel fake, a traitor to the person I should be. The person I am when I am around my best friends is appalled by the person I was the night I DD’d for my cousin’s 21-Run. Or the person who walked into that rave less than two weeks ago.
The question stares me in the face, one of the great moral dilemmas: do I continue what I’ve been doing and adapt to excel, changing who I am, changing who people see me to be, just to be my own judgement of what “the best person for them at the time” is? Or do I find who I really am and hold fast to that? Of course I have my rules and my limits - there are certain lines I won’t cross, certain things I won’t do. And most of the things I’ve done are just to see what things are really like. I DD’d and went to the party and the rave to see what it’s like, to see and feel what it’s truly like - without getting drunk or hooking up or getting stoned or anything like that, those are beyond my lines, and I am NOT crossing them, so help me God. I want to see what people are doing. I want to figure out why they’re doing them. Because it breaks my heart and I want to help them. I can’t be too different, too distant, too perfect, because then they will see me as that, as somebody else, perhaps even as a judge. As Macklemore says so well, “if you’re judging I don’t want it” - I don’t want to judge, I don’t want to accuse. I only want to help and walk alongside. I can’t do that from a pedestal or by being perfect. Funny analogy: Hudson Taylor, one of the most influential missionaries to China, dressed like the natives, spoke like them, and adopted their culture so he could reach and impact them more effectively.
Inevitably, as with most things, I come to the conclusion that neither extreme is best, or even possible. Just some kind of middle ground, a good balance point. Neither is completely helpful or effective - but to adapt to certain situations while maintaining concrete lines and rules…I think something like that. Why don’t I trust myself?
One of my Physics classmates a couple weeks ago.
Well Farouk, yeah. In many respects I am. Especially when it comes to school.
I sit still, close my eyes, and find my place. It’s just white - blank, as far as the eye can see. A place like the staging area in The Matrix - a white floor beneath my feet, unreflective, perfectly uniform and consistent. There are no walls or sides, only white in the distance, the floor stretching to the horizon in all directions.
The music in my ears brings flashes of imagery - mountainous landscapes, starry skies, city skylines at night flash and vanish in quick succession: pictures of perfect beauty.
And then my mind starts kicks in, spinning up like a disk intended to run at inordinately high speed. It begins so slowly at first, but as it gets faster and faster it hurts. Unlike a well-tuned disk with balance and symmetry, it is warped, heavy in some places but holes of empty space gouged into other spaces. It begins wobbling, vibrating violently, threatening to tear my head apart. Stronger and stronger it gets, so agonizing that I forget the existence of everything else. My whole life plays before my eyes in but a few seconds, apparitions rising and falling, each one tearing a little further. The best days, the worst days, the accomplishments and the regrets, all blur together. A conglomeration of faces, most nondescript, some not remembered, many only seen once, flash through it. But a few rise in front of me, remaining without fading, like ghosts come to haunt me. Faces I once imagined to be the most beautiful, the most sweet, but whose sight stabs needles into my heart and stronger vibrations to the unbalanced disk spinning at terrific speed. A final face rises, bringing me a smile of joy at the beauty that has not been subjectively tarnished, like the others. A smile, but no relief. The ghosts turn on the unbesmirched one, and it became clear. Every ghost before me brought a measure of pain, regret, and made the “spinning disk” increasingly more fragile. My past fighting my future; my pain fighting my happiness; my sorrow fighting my joy; my regret warring with my happiness.
The dichotomy rages - agonizing, unrelenting. Faces, scenes, my life, spinning around me endlessly.
With a seemingly superhuman surge of energy, it all gets blasted away in a pulse, knocking me to the ground. The insanely spinning, vibrating disk inside my head abates pace - almost discernibly at first, but it gradually slows to a halt. Only the whiteness remains. The blank emptiness remains. I stand, and reach out my hand, hoping the one face will return to me out of the void. But it doesn’t. Not without all the rest. I let out a deep sigh, and the landscapes return: starry skies, dancing aurora - fading in and out of the inconsolable wasteland of white.