Architect’s Entanglement

Don’t need, you will push the world away.

You are allowed to love others, in whatever form that manifests from your robotic heart.

They are allowed to love you back, if it suits them.

As long as it’s convenient.

But do not truly need, or you will push them away.

You can stand beside others in this life, but you must be capable of making it alone.

You must accept that you approve of this existence, this life sentence.

If you do not accept, you must choose something else, somehow.

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If you are human, then you are allowed to love and be loved.

If you are human, you are allowed to need.

Humans are soft and hard-edged. You have these edges too. A soft body, a sharp mind.

You have set many layers of padlocks and security protocols on your untouchable heart.

You have researched, so you know love is not to be earned. Yet you still feel you must earn it.

Quietly, in your own heart, just for good measure.

As if one day, the people you have allowed to love you will ask for written proof of why their efforts were not wasted, and you will be ready.

You will be ready.

Yet the harder you work to accrue and to document this proof, you find you are surrounded by reams of blank paper. Tangible yet meaningless, and still the fear remains.

You know the ones you have allowed to love you will not ask for this. And even if they do, these mountains of blank sheets will not be enough.

Enough for them, perhaps, but never for you.

Whose love, then, are you trying to earn?

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A/N: Felt like ruminating. Logical and creative performance-based personality types like mine constantly run afoul with this labyrinthine question of loving and being loved. Have to take it in baby steps one day at a time.

Character Analysis ft. The Insecurity that Probably Insults My Friends Sometimes

Eight-year-old me was surprised.

I had just found out that my two friends called each other’s moms “Mom,” and that they referred to each other as sisters. They were already super close by the time I entered the picture, painfully shy and fresh out of homeschooling. I remember just standing there, looking up at my friend’s mom, who worked in the cafeteria at the small private Christian school I had entered probably two months before. She was smiling. My friends hugged each other, and I stood by, trying to smile or something—to take part in the moment, pretend I was amused or that my heart was warmed as I sought to ignore the implications of what was taking place here. They didn’t call my mom “Mom.” No one but my sisters had ever called me “sister”, and I got the feeling this nickname was reserved for just the two of them. Something I might never earn because I had been tacked on after the bond between them had already crystallized.

Later that school year, it was twin day. My friends and I decided to be triplets, and we had coordinated what we were going to wear over phone conversations and everything. I don’t remember the whole outfit, but we were going to wear a pink long-sleeved shirt and black pants, and I was so excited because I knew just what I was going to wear. My shirt was a deep magenta, with a few pink jewels around the collar. I was convinced it would be perfect.

But when I showed up to school, my heart sank. My two friends had the same exact shirt. They were perfectly coordinated, and I guess one could tell I was supposed to be a part of the group, but I still didn’t quite fit. I tried to brush this off too. I had simply missed the fact that they had the same shirt (which I didn’t have anyway so it didn’t matter). It was an innocent coincidence and my friends never meant me any harm. But the memory stuck. I still have bits of visual information from that day, but I remember most clearly what I felt enduring the rest of it, playing with them—more like following them around because I was really shy and didn’t talk or engage much—in a non-matching shirt, feeling like the third-wheel—again. And the response deep inside of me was a strange, sort of smothered sensation, like I simultaneously tried to ignore or rationalize my exasperation, and also that I didn’t quite understand that I was feeling hurt.

I didn’t have a large friend group at school (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Most people played “bump” in the gym, or jumped rope. I was more interested in playing exciting pretend games and climbing things. But when my few friends were absent, I was alone. This trend continued throughout grade school.

In junior high, I was highly insecure about being the third wheel, and it caused problems in my friend group. By high school, I had friends, but I was relatively closed off. As far as everything related to the school sphere, academics were all that mattered to me. I was on a different level—or something. Perhaps it was a coping mechanism, perhaps I was just perfectionistic and arrogant. Probably a combination of the two. I was very driven, and I considered friends a luxury, not vital to survival.

I didn’t realize much of this until my senior year in high school, when I began to look back and analyze what specific wounds I carried and possibly why. And it seemed all these random little instances of me standing by, feeling left out, looked over, forgotten, had built up and found their mark. Growing up, I never had any huge, catastrophic event that tore my heart open—it was these little thorns. Like constant, dripping water wearing away a hole in my sense of identity and how I related to other people.

Ultimately, it ended up with an intense self-reliance and persistent feelings of unimportance and loneliness, the scars of which I still feel from time to time—not out of any sort of grudge-holding, but just that they’re very deep and perhaps rooted in more than simple circumstance.

My first couple of years at college, I had to tackle these voices head on and force myself to fight them, to shake their hold, and to expose them for what they were. I had to look around me and have the audacity to admit that I have not been left to fade into the background. It was a key turning point in my sense of identity.

I thought this victory was final.

But every now and then, the pain shows up again. The hurt, the self-reliance, the ungrounded feelings of loneliness and of being forgotten. Thirteen years later, I feel like, deep down, I’m still that soft-hearted little girl with a mop of brown hair, a thumb-shaped overbite, and a pink graphic t-shirt, just standing and watching from a distance, being too shy to step forward or say anything. Persistently unpopular and more than a little self-righteous, who never felt she truly fit even when she knew she had people who cared about her.

I think even if I had led a perfect life, I would still carry these insecurities. Because fallenness does not obliterate our capacity to excel in our strengths, but enables the very aspects that drive those strengths to unearth weaknesses on the opposite side. My drive for creativity, connection and communication, for example, is plagued by an underlying terror of mediocrity and unimportance in the lives of those I care about most. My aversion to unnecessary conflict or forcing my own desires on someone else easily results in passivity in group decision making. And the list goes on.

Speculating about factors of my own personal character development fascinates me. I find it therapeutic to pick apart a flaw, insecurity, or disinclination, trace it to its origins, figure out what it’s associated with, and try to extrapolate if or how it might sabotage things if I let it go unchecked.

I do this all the time with fictional characters. I guess it’s only natural to do it with my own personality. With myself, it’s sort of like a systems check, blowing out dust, eradicating bugs, making sure I continue moving forward. It’s ultimately part of my ever ongoing pursuit to understand and accept myself and learn to be a safe place for people to embrace who they are as well.

Exposed

What will you think of me?

I know I can’t please everyone. I know I shouldn’t even think this question.

But still, this has been one of the most crippling questions in my life.

What will you think of me?

If I tell you the synopsis of my book? If I change in a way you don’t expect? If I stand for something, or if I don’t? What will you think of me?

Growing up, I never felt I fully fit in, but in those formative years, I suspect a persisting sense of naivety served as a buffer for how I viewed the rest of the world. A lack of thought of what might ensue should I express myself a certain way, or an ignorance to the polarization going on around me.

I tend to be an idealist, a romanticist. I lean further toward the idea that humanity is beautiful in its fallenness, and I often forget how incredibly awful this fallenness can be.

But as I have grown up, I am seeing more of the dark side of human nature, and it is increasingly difficult to keep my faith in humanity.

If not for my friends and family, I may have completely lost it by now.

As I’ve been stepping into social justice issues this semester, the selfish question of peer opinion has risen up stronger than before, and I feel its cold hands around my throat, squeezing my mind and trying to drag me back out of the light I find myself in.

What will you think of me? If I open my mind to the point of risking being wrong? If I align myself simultaneously with two polarized groups? If I push for something better, something more audacious, something far over our heads? If, despite all the insecurities buffeting me, I choose to stand? If I become hated for fighting for what I believe in, something you may not agree with? If I deviate? If I do something drastic? As I grapple with unanswerable questions and take action to try to seek reconciliation and connection, what will you think of me?

Will you hate me?

Will you be embarrassed for me?

Will you support me?

I can’t expect applause. I can’t depend on approbation.

But I don’t want to hurt anyone. I’ve always been a people-pleaser, but a passive one. I avoid stepping on toes as best as possible by instead hanging in the background, far away from where the dances are taking place. The causes, the arguments, the opposition. If people want to argue, let them argue. But I won’t get involved.

But will anything get resolved that way? Aren’t we all called to be peacemakers in some respect?

And as I move into matters I’m definitely not prepared for, I am increasingly aware of the option of my dark corner, a band-aid refuge of ignorance and apathy. In light of recent happenings overwhelming and distressing me, I feel exposed, and I have been glancing that direction quite a bit.

Is it too late to turn back, I wonder. Is it too late to pull away and pretend none of this turmoil ever happened? Most of the time, I just want to run.

But once an idea is formed, it cannot be unmade. There are too many things we can’t unsee once our attentions have been brought to them. While I could retreat, I would forever squirm under the restless frustration of having been able to do something, but of staying silent in favor of self-preservation.

So I stand up.

And the insecurities assail me:

They will hate you.

You will drive people away.

You will destroy the pretty illusion of your sheltered life.

You will lose hope in humanity.

There is no point to your involvement.

You are alone.

Expendable.

Ineffectual.

Embarrassing.

Unimportant.

Ill-fitting.

Weak.

Selfish.

Invisible.

           

But still I stand here.

Exposed.

Tentative and terrified, but I’m not running.

The Question

“What’s your book about?”

I appreciate this question. It shows me an individual is interested in my work, and I have the chance to share a bit of my heart with them.

Except, most times, I can’t bring myself to do it.

I come up with an excuse, or, after a long, uncomfortable hesitation, I say, “Well…essentially, it’s about mad science and stuff.”

And I’m hyper aware that that says absolutely nothing.

If I’m pressed for details, I’ll eventually open up. A few have drawn the full description out of me, but the majority have been polite enough not to pry further. They’ll find out when I publish it, I suppose.

I still haven’t quite figured out how to verbally give a synopsis of the book in everyday conversation. And it tends to come up a lot—as people ask me what I’ve been up to and I often answer truthfully: “Editing.” But when they ask for details, I shy away from taking up their time talking purely about my work and the world and characters I quite frankly think about all the time.

And for some reason, I don’t feel like I’m important enough to be claiming that time? When they themselves asked the question. It’s weird and backwards and insecure, but perhaps that’s why I’m writing about it.

Maybe I hesitate because it’s so incredibly personal. Yes, I’m going to be publishing the book and I want people to read it. My name’s going to be on it. Currently, if people ask to read it, I will gladly send a tidbit or the entirety of the latest draft, depending on how close I am to the individual.

But being asked to describe my book is like being asked to explain in depth what I think are my greatest qualities. Not that I think my book is my greatest quality, but like anything about me, I’d rather they experience it and see for themselves—pick out the meaning and let it resonate with them as it will. I’m terrified that whatever paltry synopsis I offer will turn them away from it, or make it sound odd and indulgent. Because anyone can write a book. And perhaps too many people are very self important about the pursuit.

For me, strangely enough, writing a book doesn’t feel like too onerous a task. Sure, it takes a great deal of effort and time, but I’ve been obsessed with the activity since I was a kid. No matter how busy I am, I’m always writing, always creating. If I don’t, my heart begins to suffocate. To stay healthy and sane, I must create characters and tell their stories.

So I’m at a point in my life where I’ve finished a book and I’m working on getting it perfected for publication. It’s a source of frustration at times, but it’s what I do to unwind and recover from everything else. It feels very much normal for me. Writing lengthy fiction is what I’ve always done. And sometimes I realize it isn’t a common reality for most people. So then I feel like I’m bragging, and I shy away from being in the spotlight.

Normally, I’ll enjoy occasional moments of attention, taking part in a conversation, letting my presence have bearing. But finding someone suddenly preparing to give me their full attention as I explain the workings of my heart and mind…It’s terrifying.

I freeze up.

I deliberate.

I war between wanting to be honest and brave, but being so excruciatingly uncertain of how my exposition will be received.

So I end up lamely brushing off their request. And that bothers me a bit. I feel like I’ve denied them the answer to a very innocent, well-meaning question—like I don’t trust them enough to be even slightly open with them.

But it’s my heart. Even if I know they’ll be gentle with it, I am afraid to show it. I’m afraid to be completely forthright about what it entails. What it has created, what connections it has sought to foster, what efforts it has made to benefit the world.

I easily open up with people about pretty much everything else—my struggles, desires, fears and insecurities. I’ll often end up steering one-on-one conversations toward deeper matters if given enough time and attention, because I feel like knowing what other people struggle with helps us find support in each other. It helps us humanize each other.

So ask me about what I’m insecure about, and I’ll tell you with little reservation.

But ask me what my book is about—and you may be handed something disappointingly vague.

A Mind Full of Questions

The last couple weeks have been pretty chill. And intimidating, discouraging, and terrifying.

whatamidoing

But nothing has really even happened.

I’ve been returning from  my figure drawing classes exhausted and pensive, having spent the last three hours keeping waves of inferiority at bay. My classmates have much more experience in not only drawing, but in technique, design, color, an so on–having taken many more classes still unknown to me.

My artistic education has mainly consisted of derping around with a computer art tablet for a year, finding what references or tools I can and practicing when I have the motivation. Granted, I’ve been drawing and writing obsessively through the duration of this time, and my work has seen drastic improvement since then–but I’m still so far behind.

Thursday afternoon, I attended an artist talk as part of an assignment for my drawing classes, in which an artist whose work was being featured at the university gave an informal presentation about his art and methods. As he talked, I wondered yet again what I was getting myself into. 

And then we went to see the gallery of his work. I silently threaded through the crowd, taking in the artwork, devoid of companions to discuss it with, trying to figure out how one properly appreciates art. The pieces in the gallery were fascinating, but I had to force myself to really look at them. I felt so out of place.

I tried to mask my growing surliness until I had made my rounds through the gallery, and then marched straight back to my dorm. I shut the door behind me and paced. Angry. Asking God “Why?” over and over again. Why did I feel this way? Who was I to think I ever had any place in the world of the visual arts? Why was I embarrassing myself like this? Why did I want this? Why was this so important to me?

I’ve always wanted to tell stories, and I still do–very much so. Create characters, engage, inspire, encourage.

But who am I to have such audacity?

The last couple weeks, I’ve been uttering, “What am I doing?” as a stress relief–laughing off my discomfort and insecurity. But that night, it was an honest, furious question. What have I done? What in the world do I think I’m doing?

Where will this path end up? Will my decisions this year burn me in the end?

This is just the next stage, I suppose. Life can’t always be optimistic ambition and inspiring happenstances. Sometimes, we’re sent reeling, asking “Why?” But challenge is part of the package.

Good things are worth fighting for, after all.

Greetings, I’m a Science Major. How do art?

I didn’t expect to feel so strange as soon as I walked through the door: so naive and babyish–like my presence was confusing and unexpected. I guess it would have been, since, until a couple semesters ago, I had spent the majority of my time around the science department.

This semester, I had decided to take the suggestion of a friend and enroll in Figure Drawing, an upper-division drawing class. I had finished the prerequisite, after all.

Monday evening of syllabus week, I hurried to class in the dark, looking forward to actually having an art class with friends. As it turns out, having friends in the room made it even more intimidating when the realization hit me that I had inserted myself into a class of upper-division art majors. Perhaps a little too audacious for comfort.

I wanted to be there. I want to learn to be able to tell stories well through both the written and visual arts. But still–what business did I have being there, griped a sinister voice in the back of my mind. Who was I to get involved in classes for people as talented and skilled as art majors? Was it even my place to have so naively decided to take this path?

Yet here I stand, announcing to the world little by little that I have determined to pursue writing and illustration when I could have played it safe and become a physical therapist. Even as competitive as the physical therapy programs are nowadays, that option was my comfort zone. 

As the professor explained the course and its requirements, the class drew a still life. I had gone through this earlier that afternoon in Drawing II, and I was determined to apply the advice I had received then to make round two better. After an hour or so, we took a break, getting up and roving around the drawing horses to look at each others’ work–an exercise I’m still uncomfortable with. I hoped no one looked at mine for too long. My sketch had improved, and I was mildly happy with it, but also very disappointed. The pieces of the other artists burst with life and expression and style. Mine felt quite a bit simpler and more rigid. A “good try.”

Mediocrity breathed uncomfortably down my neck. I have so much catching up to do…but I guess this also means I have a great deal of room to improve. “If your dreams don’t scare you…” right?

I have no doubts as to whether this was a mistake or not. I ask myself over and over again, “What am I doing?” but more as an effort of stress relief. Not that I’m actually having concrete second thoughts.

I already know I’m most insecure in art and writing classes, as those are the subjects I care most about. They are areas in which I most want the skills to evoke meaning and purpose from my work, and not to be overshadowed by crippling inadequacies.

I think about how much I will learn and improve this semester, and I am determined to plow through any amount of intimidation to get there. In theory, at least. I’ll take the waves as they come, and buckling down to receive them should grow at least a little easier with time.

I may be naive. I may be insane. But this is what I want.

And even in the midst of my insecurity, I feel good about this decision.