It’s 4 AM, and I have to be up in three hours. So the smart thing to do? Write a blog post, of course.
This one is about moving on. We do so for a lot of things, although some take longer than others. The true test of our worth arrives not in bullish fashion, however, but as a creeping whisper of nostalgia that slowly snowballs into absolute misgiving.
There are so many instances in our lives that we are forced to remember something. I’ve long marveled at our brain’s inability to forget things. Simply consider, for instance, our ability to remember moments, people, places, and events simply based off a smell.
My ex-girlfriend wore a very specific perfume/body spray. I never knew what it was called, had no idea if it was a perfume or body spray (or deodorant…I have a surprisingly small knowledge of the ways women can make themselves appealing to my olfactory senses), I just knew exactly what it smelled like. It’s the smell I associated with her as she stepped out of the shower, it was the smell on all of my clothes after spending a night at her place. Completely unknowingly, that smell permeated the rest of my senses and established itself upon memories I later chose to lock away and forget. What vagrant key came to unlock those dreaded dredges of despair? Why, any other unfortunate female (or male, I suppose) who was unfortunate enough to purchase the same perfume/body spray/deodorant as my ex. And one little sniff of it would overpower whatever thought process I had going on at that time and fight it into gentle submission, raping it with memories I had long since forgotten.
Then there is grass. I used to get bullied a lot as a kid. And I’ll never forget getting tackled at recess under the guise of “football” by the bigger kids. They would hold my head down in the grass and rub my face in it as they got up, using me as leverage. Now, whenever I smell grass, I think back to those days and it actually makes me happy. I know where those bullies are nowadays (serving me at Applebee’s) and the grass reminds me that the pain and suffering I went through previously was not for naught.
It is a defining instance, when you are transported virtually physically (not a typo) into the hot mess that you had once been. It’s like a hook has grabbed you by the waist and shattered the time-space continuum to remind you once again that life may be continuous, but it is definitely overlapping.
And that makes it hard to move on. It becomes difficult to trudge through the emotional quicksand that pulls at your heart and mind. The more you try not to think about something, the more you think about it. And the only reason you’ve restarted the cycle in the first place is because you decided today was a good day to take a fresh breath.
Or maybe you felt something?
Have you ever had a bad day where everything just went wrong? Bad breakup, food poisoning, fired from work, or even finding hair in your sandwich at lunch? Do you ever console yourself by reminding yourself of all that you’ve been through?
People often say “This too shall pass”, and I disagree. Nothing passes. And we so often tend to run away from things because we want them to, well, pass. Why are we so afraid of feelings, emotions? It is understandable to not want to feel pain again, because self-infliction of previous wounds is a literal attempt at stupidity, but often we are faced with new dangers created outside of our own making.
To move on, you must accept your anger, hurt, love, and every other emotion that you’ve suppressed for some time. To truly allow something to pass you must walk behind it, knowing all the while that it is ahead of you now and cannot sneak up from your back. The treachery of a memory is a fateful thing; the acknowledgement of one, however, is a courageous one.
I take great care to preserve certain memories as they occur because at the time I think nothing I do in the future will feel exactly as this moment does right now, and often that is the case. I associate in my mind this memory with a person, a place, a scent, anything that will plug into the usb drive in my central hub and allow me to extract the contents which I currently hold so dear. But plans go awry. And suddenly these same sweet nothings have become burning cauldrons filled with empty rage.
Don’t forget. Whatever power or force created us gave us the singular capacity to remember all that we cared to. And I think that’s a fucking beautiful thing.
This too shall pass. Yes, this time will. This instance is but a fleeting one, a small step in a longer march. Everything is temporary except for it’s shadow in your imagination. There all remains with poignant rectification in a solitary attempt to keep us conscious of ourselves. The only thing that keeps us from our self-revelations?
'Cheating' is a term of art. Its use is derived in many situations, and often they are not overlapping in nature. But the very utterance of such a simple fact often leads to calamitous discussions of wrong and right, with each party swearing by their PhD's of sociology and conscience without a thought to the syntax of the situation.
We all cheat. Some admit it freely while others refrain from tearing down their barricade of elitism. In some circles it’s the ‘cool’ thing to do; equal groups find issue with this and believe in exactly the opposite of such a notion.
And yet we do all cheat. We all have our inner workings, the beating mantra that reverberates only in our minds, a bustling prison bursting at the cell to comprehend each moment singular and plural. We steal glances at paper, we stop short in our workouts, we satisfy our sexuality, we do what fancies us at that very precise moment.
I talk about moments a lot, because I am convinced that our life is defined by solitary flashes that occur in our minds. At any juncture you have exactly no time to make a choice, and often your body seems to lead as your mind races to follow.
Yet you made the conscious choice. You cheated because, quite simply, you wanted to.
Cheating is a game. How long before you get caught. By your teacher. Your girlfriend. Your husband. Yourself. It’s the thrill of the chase all over again, and we seem to be drawn to it innately—suddenly we can surmise that Conrad was right about us all along.
Let’s focus on relationships for now. Why do so many people cheat, and what really is “cheating”? The complexity of that question begs no definite answer; indeed, I believe the answer is different in every relationship. The principle, however, may remain the same. What constitutes a breach of someone’s trust? Is it a glance in the wrong direction, or a giggle with suggestive tones? Is it the answering of a flirtatious text, the touch of a gentle nature, or the all-out declaration of emotional war with the holy practice of sex?
It starts far before any of these manifestations come to light. It starts with a basic concept: because we all cheat, no one does.
Each of us is so satisfied with society’s definitions that we resolve to never innovate and conjure up our own. Cheating is not an act, but a state of mind; you know very well what you are capable of days, weeks, maybe even years before you do it. If you have a significant other but you meet someone you like better, are you cheating? By all standards it would seem so; you even feel guilty over the fact. But should you?
I’m not condoning sleeping with other people while in a committed relationship. I’m simply trying to explain why so many people ‘cheat’ and are forgiven thereafter. I’m rationalizing two interests, and noting that a balance seems to be struck. No one judges impartially in an instance where someone has broken the sacred bond of trust…no, we all try to put ourselves in that person’s shoes. And we are able to do so because cheating, like any other emotion (anger, love, fear) is something we are all as humans able to feel.
To summarize for those who I have lost, cheating is not an act. It is a thought, an emotion, a browed and beaten revelation itching to be released. It is an idea, springing forth with an awesome disregard for the things that it abolishes in its path. And most of all it is a fault, one shared by every type and sort of person imaginable. We’re all cheaters in one way or another, and it’s only ironic because we all know it.
Everyone reading this can remember at least one instance where they cheated. EVERYONE.
It’s a tricky, fickle thing, this jealousy. It stems from insecurity, the most feeble of all excuses. And yet it forces our hand and will in ways that so many other motivations fall short of. Respect the cheaters; it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be calling such practice “Self-Respect”.
It’s a feeling that you get, if you’re unlucky.
Let me get two things out of the way before I write this post.
1.) If you haven’t read The Great Gatsby, or seen the movie, don’t read this post. If you think you’re never going to read it, think again. I would rather lose you as a reader than know that you never read a book as fantastic as The Great Gatsby.
2.) Gatsby is one of the best books ever written in America, and as such, it is about more than just one thing. It is complex almost to a fault, and revealing past comfort. It tells the tale of American economy in the 1920’s and it portrays the merging of classes in one of the most renowned and polished portions of New York. I cannot hope to talk about all that Gatsby tries to capture; I am going to focus on the more abstract of his themes.
You hate everyone almost instantly in the novel. They slowly grow on you as you become comfortable with them, but the novel concludes in such a clash that you realize, much as Nick does, that there was no hope for any of these characters from the outset. That the American dream was a driving force that led to the destruction and corruption of each of these souls, and their obsessions with each other and themselves would make as well as break them.
The character studies are violently effective. You fall in love with Gatsby but not because you actually love him; it’s pity and awe. He’s irrevocably, unconditionally in love with Daisy. And this love remains the most vocal driving force in the novel. Jay will do anything to have Daisy. His love consumes him, pushes him, breaks him, and eventually kills him.
He loves such a deplorable woman. A self-obsessed, arrogant, entitled assortment of a woman.
I love the emotion that runs through Fitzgerald’s characters. I think this is what speaks the most about the human condition and the reason you could read Gatsby at any time and understand what the characters are going through. The emotional paralysis faced by each character slowly gives way to complete irreverence for rational thought.
"There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired."
Somewhere in the novel you understand the hopelessness of it all. You feel the pain, the waiting that Gatsby has endured. And perhaps that is the real beauty of the book. That you can feel so much empathy for a character that shows up sparingly, and whose mind we can only understand through the eyes of a third observer. And when we finally hit our emotional catharsis as he lies face down in a pool, the life drained from him, we cannot help but feel that we, too, lost something in that moment.
The Great Gatsby is about a lot of things, but the most enduring of these is love. What makes the novel so inspiring is exactly what made it unsuccessful when it first came out. No one wanted to be told that they could love someone so much that it consumed their entire life, whisking them away from rhyme and reason and thrusting them into passionate, unforgiving servitude. Never did it occur to people that when they fell in love with someone, the only thing separating them from being Jay Gatsby was a few pages sprawling with ink.
The Great Gatsby is about a lot of things, but the most misunderstood of these is love. Love is taunted, exploited, and used as an excuse by each of the characters. Does Daisy love anyone but her self? Does Tom love anyone at all? Does Myrtle love Tom or adore the fact that he is not George?
But what of Gatsby. It always comes back to him. He was the glimmer of hope, the one who understood the materialism of everything else, if only in the wrong way. His wealth was a simple means to an end. His friendships were a step towards his goal. His life was one long project to have Daisy come over just once and be with him in this home, this home that he had built for her, a home he had thrown money in if only he could grab the attention of one unassuming candy-eyed, soft spoken girl from Louisville that he had dreamed about since the day he met her, since the day her whispers had crept into his all-consumed mind and trapped him like a pearl.
Love is blindness.
And what makes Gatsby so brilliant is that it uses love as a metaphor for so many other things in life. It represents every emotion and motivation that controls us, forces our hand, and eventually betrays us because, in reality, all is fleeting, and only a few things permanent.
Jealousy. Ambition. Anger. Pride. Money. The American Dream.
I will always feel an overwhelming sadness when I read about Jay Gatsby’s funeral. A man who wrought his own demise from nothing more than his will to be complete. The irony of his life and death should be lost on no one, but perhaps Nick Carraway tells us best about Gatsby’s unfortunate fate:
"Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.”
The dead speak too, only their lessons are wrought as cautionary tales rather than perfunctory lessons on morality. If only they would take us by the hand and tell us “If you want anything just ask for it, Old Sport.”
Then maybe we’d understand the audacity it takes to want something in this life and know that you will never be complete until you have it. The true american dream.
Really, everything has an opportunity cost. It’s as if the abstract concepts that drive us at times often hinder us simultaneously because we cannot (or will not) fathom the longevity of our actions. And the rearview mirror simply serves as a telescope aimed at self-doubt and regret.
But I like the spontaneity of it all. I think that’s what really drives us. To do bad things, things that we know we will either regret or we are already regretting. I know I’ve written about depravity before, but I think it sometimes lends itself to deaf ears. And I always wonder what people are really thinking. It’s a constant game for me; it keeps me interested when the conversation often does not. My mind is constantly elsewhere, analyzing, contributing, and more often than not, wondering.
But the mind is (also) a lonely hunter, and it too needs exercise in its arts to remain calm, confused, and paradoxically (in)sane.
But back to decisions. And our ability to fuck them up. Put ourselves in illogical, impractical situations that we know are bound to fail, but the short-term thrill far outweighs the long-term coping. We say fuck it a lot more than we say not this time.
And I fucking love it.
We walk around, able-bodied Yes Men waiting for the next indulgent opportunity to arise so we can tell ourselves how stupid a decision we are about to make, repeatedly talking ourselves in and out of it, only to give in to the inevitable. Because you feel something there, a hot emotion that finally pierces your smooth, buttery (boring) soul and melts it into orgasmic submission. And we wouldn’t do anything if not for the feelings.
I hate the word baggage. Mostly because of how it applies to our memories and experiences. They’re not carelessly strewn away in the back of your overly-exerted think tank; they’re meticulously laid out booby traps waiting to spring on you if you accidentally waiver too close. What people associate with “baggage” is more closely related to those storage bins that you leave your old furniture in and dread having to take it out because you know as soon as you open the rickety door there is probably a spider the size of your face ready to eat you alive on the other side.
But then you’re relieved to see that there is actually no spider. Besides the gentle padding of dust and a few lazy cobwebs, your furniture (or feelings, simply put) is just like you left it. It’s still old, it still sucks, it’s probably unusable, and yet you feel nostalgia.
Nostalgia. What a joke.
Storing things is the equivalent of running away from them. In this life there are only those things that you need, and the things that you don’t. The hard part is sorting through the mess and finding out which is which. The easy part is taking what you need and keeping it for the ride.
But back to decisions. Because I know people still have fear. Of repetition, or failure, or both. The silent whispers that echo through that palace of a head of yours are useless. They’re a startling wind that knocks your thought-chimes out of place for a while but leave you alone where you began soon after. Your displacement remains zero.
And I think that’s why we veer so hard and go with the risky move. Get the ball rolling, in any direction, as long as it’s rolling hard. It’s out of control, you don’t know why you just did what you did, and all you can think about is man did I just fuck up.
But damn does it feel good.
I’m just saying. We’re all going to end up with “baggage”. But I think if everyone was less worried about what was in everyone else’s bags and started caring more about how it got there, we’d all understand one another just a little bit better. So here’s to unpacking as soon as you can, rather than waiting until later so others can air out your dirty laundry.
There’s something about the nighttime that makes me introspective. The feeling of being alone and fully coping with the voice inside your head.
Isn’t that crazy? You are constantly talking to yourself at all times of the day. Motivating, justifying, deliberating, or even just thinking. There’s a mini-you inside that is always awake, dreaming up elaborate schemes for you to mull over and committing inception simply to see you squirm. And at night that voice grows from a whisper to a persistent monologue, and you reluctantly begin to talk back to it.
I know that paragraph just made me sound crazy…and yet you know exactly what I’m talking about it.
That’s why I like the nighttime. You’re so conscious of everything and in all honesty it’s surreal. And everything becomes organized. If you stay up late enough in introspection, you go through all aspects of your life in categorical order and give yourself input on each. It’s quite refreshing, if it just didn’t keep me awake until such aggravating hours of the night.
Tonight’s topic: loss. How much of it there is in this world, as we lose friends, family, relationships, material things, immaterial things, everything. And just how we deal with it. Some things you lose and they make you very sad. Others go away and you are indifferent, immune to any real feeling because the thing that you’ve lost was of no real importance. And there are other losses in your life with which you must cope, truly cope, in order to move on.
I prefer the last of these. Because it’s a learning process. It’s not always about death; in fact it almost never is. But situations, circumstances, and people change regularly. Not necessarily for better or for worse, they just change. And that often leads them away from our lives. That is the loss we must deal with it. I like that it makes you stronger and weaker at the same time. You become hardened and expectant, wiser because of your experience. Yet you become equally vulnerable and scared, scarred through the process of acceptance and frightfully aware that it could happen again, and very soon.
Loss is another part of life that we shy away from so easily because it is difficult. It is uncomfortable, and no matter how hard we try to act it is something that each of us is not accustomed to and dreads. But I think understanding loss and why it is so essential to our lives is a lesson lost upon so many of us. We deny, become angered, bargain with our feelings looking for a reprieve, become depressed, and finally at long last accept our loss. But because the first four stages of this process are so incredibly painful, we refuse to acknowledge them in the future, citing a shock of emotions and an interlude of grief as their cause. Yet in those stages is where we can truly find ourselves.
The stages of grief are well-documented and researched, and somehow everyone who isn’t feeling the pain sees the hurt person go through them. Why can’t the hurt person reflect back on them? Instead of burying them deep inside and waiting for some random 5 AM morning to awaken them and have a soiree of sadness, we should confront the memories from such a time regularly. They make up who we are, along with every other feeling that we feel.
I think because we don’t do this, sometimes we lose just a little part of ourselves that could be so readily available to us. And the irony of that should be lost on no one at all.
Anonymous asked: When did you decide that you are an atheist?
My first couple of years in college.
Anonymous asked: Everything you write is wonderful. Please write a book.
Thank you! I think something like that is definitely on the horizon..just a matter of finding the time I suppose.
If you could pinpoint certain important moments in your childhood, I think you’d realize that every revelation has its own memory, a significantly specific feeling associated with it, and a brilliant recollection of the events preceding and proceeding therefrom.
I’d like to highlight mine.
1. When I first peed my pants. In kindergarten. The first and last time it’s ever happened. But I remember the staring faces, the shame, the reprimand, the horror, and best/worst of all, being able to remember it in such detail. It takes something shameful to understand that you really are just like everyone else, and even if you’re better than most, you’re also worse than at least one other person, if not multiples ones. Why does this resonate so freely in my mind? It was the first time I knew what it felt like to be vulnerable.
2. My first time trying Nihari. If you don’t know what Nihari is, go to your closest pakistani restaurant and give it a whirl. Oh, the sweet, savory meat that literally melts in your mouth. Nihari is important to me because it’s my favorite food, surviving all the tests of time and other delectables that have crossed my palate. My first time experiencing decadence.
3. When my grandmother died. I had never felt pain as real as that. And I still wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t close to her…she was just someone that I knew from family visits, an authority figure who I was programmed to respect and show affection for. But seeing my mother in brutal, real, pristine pain was something I had never witnessed before. And it strung special chords in my family; my sister felt so strongly for my mom that she cried too. Seeing someone you love in pain is as painful as losing someone you love.
4. Discipline. My dad taught me that shit. Pakistani parents are not afraid to kill their sons, and my dad is no exception. He was hard on me. But because of him, I did well in school. I’m sure I would have never turned out as I did without him being as strict as he was. Not that I’m some glossy, finished product or something. Just commenting that I like who I am, and he definitely has a hand in that. What hurts today, smarts tomorrow.
5. The first time I fell in love. And it’s something I’ve done twice. But the first time. Wow…an inexplicable feeling? I remember exactly what I said to her, exactly how she looked at me, and exactly how long it took for her face to become etched in my brain’s retinas. Exactly. It all happened in one awkward, restless moment. Yet that moment is burned into my mental fibers more permanently than any math equation. It happened yesterday, for all I know. And it changed…a lot of things. Love.
6. Realizing I had an actual best friend. Everyone should be so lucky. I mean, he’s seen it all. No one has any ideas some of the conversations we’ve had, the vulnerabilities we’ve shared, the tough times and the good times we’ve been through, and the incredible bond that we share. And I know exactly what I was doing when I realized how much that mattered to me and just how amazing it was. I was drunk, to be fair. But damn it was perfect. Friendship.
7. I don’t believe in religion. And I realized that only 5 short years ago. And since then I’ve slowly had to deal with what that means. It means I’m not accepted anymore by those who do. It means I don’t have a catch-all when things go awry. It means I have to create my own faith because that’s all I’ve got. I have to put my belief in those things that I can comprehensively understand. But that’s the keyword, and it feels good to be liberated. Faith.
There’s more of course. But it’s crazy to reflect on the most important moments of your life as mere…moments. To be alive for so long and yet it’s a tiny series of events and one honest look, one wholesome bite, or one shameful mistake that will live on forever in your mind as your personal legacy. And that’s whats so crazy; no matter how people define you (usually by your words and actions), you’ll always mold your persona using these fleeting moments that were important at the time they occurred, and will remain so for as long as you survive.
Let the people think what they may, you’re a star map of memoranda found in a clouded sky only by your own, un-adultered conscience.