re-developing an interest in math

re-developing an interest in math. the interesting, exotic ideas it has produced, as they are accessible by the laymen. not the difficult, nigh impossible and confusing problems. i also happened to catch a documentary that uw put on about teachers in detroit who offer a math boot camp to middle school kids–mostly african american and very much the ones often stereotyped as being only good for careers as hip hop artists and athletes, if they are going to make it out of the gang-infested hood at all.

it got me thinking about how mr. f, probably the best teacher i ever had, left me interested in math and physics at the end of high school, and more importantly, actually able to understand it–even calculus. and how, mw, was always trying to trick us with gotcha problems, and the ta m (who knew two words of english), combined their efforts to make me hate all things relating to math, engineering and the sciences, until tb offered a stunning glimpse at how chaos and game theory, and cellular automata, and calculus, could be used to rigorously model political and economic systems.

i looked up mw online, and was surprised to learn that:
1. he’d double majored in both math AND english as an undergrad.
2. won a prestigious teaching award the year he baffled me to heck and gave me a d, thereby ending my dreams of becoming a theoretical physicist.
3. and went on to not follow up his master’s degree in math with a professorly life of publishing arcane papers about remote mathematical subjects, but instead went to stanford law school, and is now a patent attorney in san francisco.

the reality is, of course, that by the middle of my first semester in college i was much more interested in learning how to convince the grocery and liquor store clerks i was 21 to buy booze and act stupid drunk. and while mw was a pretty trickey teacher, i never once set foot inside a tutorial lab, even though these were always available, and the other kids in my class lab were finding it helpful and getting b’s and a’s in the class.

the reality is that i changed my major from anthropology (was also considering physics until i got the d in math) to political science to english, based on how easy i thought each major would be to get in the shortest amount of time. i then proceeded to get the hell out of school, not to return to take an accredited course for over ten years.

the reality is that mw spent six years as an undergrad to get a double major in math and english, then two-three years to get a master’s in math, then his cv skips a few years and you see him graduating from stanford with a law degree and honors.

after my undergrad years, i graduated from the school of excessive drinking and shiftless mce socializing with a bunch of knowledge about ms office and adobe apps with a lot of html and a little php and javascript to boot.

and we all know that women who are hot like a aren’t looking to date shiftless web guys who are drifting at non-profits–they go for lawyers because lawyers are men they can brag about to their friends and family, and lawyers provide them the social access and security they need.

i have to say that i’m a little disappointed that my college pre-calc teacher ended up a patent attorney. i’ve formatted and corrected a thousand patents that were being translated into english or other languages, and i have to say that a dedicated and bright mind like his should be inventing stuff and proving famous theorems. you’d think i might be jealous, but i’m really not. i really am kind of disappointed. the guy was brilliant, and flawless with his delivery of explaining math problems and laying the foundation for an understanding of calculus–which is why he liked to pose tricky problems so we couldn’t simply regurgitate onto a test by rote what we’d learned.

i thought about asking him to join my linkedin network, since linkedin was where i found him, but he only has 51 connections, which means he’s either just getting started or has no interest in networking with everyone (which is the type of person he’d have to be to want to bother accepting a networking request from some douchebag he gave d to some fifteen years ago).

i’ve never really learned how to approach accountability realistically–which is more clear to me know than ever. i’ve often vacillated between deep regret over everything and anything bad that remotely touched me or was touched by me, and exulted egotistic thinking that i am practically a saint.

but maybe some of my insights into my endless need to wage war on anything and everyone around me will help me start to see the way i approach myself in the world in a different sort of light. it’s not enough to say “you beat up on yourself too much” or “you have no accountability whatsoever.” because these are paradoxical in nature, and one can’t be truthfully accused of both by the same person without wondering what the heck is going on.

I quit therapy after four or five sessions

I quit therapy after four or five sessions. It was getting painful. The therapist was helpful at first, but I came to realize that she could really do no more for me once she provided me with a few tools I could use in social situations. I hit a nice plateau, and this is where I’ll have to stay for awhile.

This morning, I had a clear and true understanding of a thing I hadn’t been able to face or completely grab.

Let’s call it the war. The war is maybe me at war with myself, or God, or inner demons. Or perhaps it’s just an innate biological need to be in opposition and doing battle with _something_. It could very well be the exact same human drive that compels us to provide young people with football rivalries so they don’t kill each other–only, in a social misfit and loner like myself, it become perverted to the point where I go to war with anything and everything around me–if you slight me in the least, or if I perceive you to be the slightest bit like a former bully and tyrant of my childhood, I’m ready to do battle with you, and you are now the Enemy.

This is the true triumph of Satan–even among the so-called Godly, there is a need to go to battle with those who would be evil.

The true triumph of our social construct is our creation of channels where the need to go to war has been funneled into quasi-constructive endeavors. The battles in the boardroom, trading floor, gambling dens, etc.

For a man removed from all of that, he’s faced with the nigh impossible task of getting to the heart of just exactly who or what he’s trying to make war with. And, accompanying this is the heartbreaking realization that this is why he’s hurt so many of the people and pets he truly loved.

And this may be ultimately why he’s so alone. Every face that locks eyes with his sees a hunger to do battle. He’s all too willing to find a way to turn any potential friend into an Other, and Enemy in Opposition to his naive notion of who or what is deemed authentic and human.

The war is over. That war, anyway. There’s a coming war, a real war, that he’s got to prepare for. But the Enemy isn’t hiding behind the faces of random average people.

even back in 2008

even back in 2008, when i couldn’t get another soul from u to run the 3m 1/2 with me, and nobody was there waiting for me at the finish line, i at least knew that d was around to call upon in case i needed her.

you can’t imagine how i felt to be standing there, knowing that of the ten or so u people who’d all jumped on board to run this race back in august, only one remained–not even the old rich guy that instigated it and inspired us to participate.

standing there in waterloo park not knowing another human among the thousands that were crossing the finish line.

running the race to impress nobody, knowing it’s not enough to do something like this to impress the likes of a or es.

feeling the seductively sweet slide into the boozy bliss of having bought the six pack at 12 pm right when they began selling the stuff again, knowing no obligations or responsibilities were mine until tomorrow.

hearing and feeling the neighbor’s bass as i tried to enjoy my greedily anticipated booze coma. dismissing thoughts of smashing through the wall until his room appeared before my eyes, then smashing his stereo, and smashing him as well.

it’s like i got on the bus to the last stop on the line, past all the stops i was supposed to get off to make dreams of friends, family, career and community come true. i’m standing here and while i can recognize all the familiar landmarks, i know i was supposed to get off the bus seven miles or more ago.

what is abundantly clear

what is abundantly clear is that this year a new story of e needs to be told. for his survival. reading journal notes from thirteen years ago, and reading ones from two years ago–the same story keeps being told over and over again.

whether i was going through a period of heavy writing, or not writing for months, the same story was being told. me vs. world, me vs. me, me vs. women, me vs. men, me vs. God. moments of failure to illustrate how special and worthy of immortal recognition i am, moments of success to illustrate the same. clearly, i’m a terrible person because i’m terribly unique. there’s something wrong with me because i am a nigh deity moving among mere mortals.

another kind of story has slowly started to emerge. beginning with my first sad attempts to volunteer in 2006, and emerging with teaching esl twice a week and mentoring–a new e struggles to free himself from the same old story e, who is begrudgingly letting go of his cherished notions of self.

a new e who doesn’t wait for the world to smile upon him before he smiles.

a new e who doesn’t want to be perfect, doesn’t think human recognition is the ultimate pinnacle of what he’s been striving for.

this new e has a new story to tell, about how he reached inside himself for all the gifts God gave him, and strove to find someone in need each day. how these gifts are not his to keep or the result of anything special he did, but gifts of grace and mercy directly from God, always intended to be shared.

this new e has none of the answers, because he’s only just begun to face the true face of himself.

in spite of my insistence not to create more plans

in spite of my insistence not to create more plans, goals, workout regimens, schedules, tracking documents, etc–and just work on getting my core self much improved–i have those urges to embark on extreme fitness and diet journeys. it comes out of years of habit. here in austin, there is guaranteed to be at least two weeks each winter month of springlike weather. these false springs excite the old memories of false hopes. its sort of like getting elliot’s cruelest month every other week until the end of april when it becomes mercifully scorching hot and dry.

memories of the two years in high school i ran track and lifted weights while the snow melted and green invaded the standard gray and brown missouri landscape. memories of walking the quad at college thinking that this would be the spring i finally fell in love and lost my virginity. always a week or two of being able to speak up in class and have the ladies smile at me before i sunk back into my perpetual funk.

memories of quitting smoking after one last attempt to get it to kill me by chainsmoking for weeks straight.

memories of d returning, full of love and smiles.

memories of being proud to be a part of my family, getting along with them all when they visited mu for one of h’s state competitions.

memories of taking up swimming every morning in barton springs pool, and leaving off all vices and bad habits for two weeks.

always so much new hope and renewal, because the days get lighter again. you survived another dark season, and the world did, too.

but, the negative thoughts always won, no matter how you tried to make it otherwise. the negative thoughts spiraled out of control, increased their volume, until they became Truth itself, and you were dead certain that life couldn’t be any other way but horrible for you.

odd glances and misplaced laughter, the occasional remark, the missed opportunity, blown chance. all of them became absolutes, driving you back into your prison of booze, masturbation, self loathing and endless anger.

you failed to see how each year you were given endless second chances, how so little of what people said or did around you had anything to do with you at all. how none of your quick fix exercise schedules would ever stick because you were pumping yourself up with the illusion of self improvement–an illusion so easily popped by the pin prick of a passing woman’s scowl or a friend inviting you to get wasted with him.

no, you shouldn’t make the same kind of plans like you tend to do every year–to journal, lift weights and run every day. to eat only healthy food, and not m, or drink coffee or booze. but, you should make plans to pay closer attention to your heart, to be nicer to yourself when things don’t go perfectly, to find some friends at a church, to ease up on the muscles around your eyes so you don’t scowl as much, to ease up on the indignant road anger, to ease up on the bad memories, and let the good ones (so oftentimes suppressed) come flooding in.

i’m entering deeper and deeper into one of the most, if not the most, uncertain times of my life

i’m entering deeper and deeper into one of the most, if not the most, uncertain times of my life. all of the things i thought i knew and took for granted have gone away or been proven to be illusions. especially the image of myself and the direction of my future.

i felt an unusually strong urge this morning to read more of Mom’s journals, then read my own journals written at the same time, and compare the voices to my memories of me and my mom at that time–then perhaps view a few photographs of myself as well.

it’s really no surprise that i’ve ended up where i am today, looking back on where i was almost twenty years ago. so many entries of pure anger and hatred toward everyone around me, coupled with a desire to please everyone and myself at the same time, while attempting to write profound and wise poetry.

i was a bit taken aback this morning when it hit me that this july will mark the twenty year anniversary of the scout trip to philmont, nm. two entire decades have passed since one of the highlights of my life took place–one of the best memories of childhood and young adulthood.

i came across an entry in Mom’s journals that said H and i watched the inauguration of bill clinton. i have no recollection of watching it–even with it being an historic event and all. it probably says something about where most of my attention was focused at the time.

looking at old photos of myself, i wonder why i was so hard on myself, so hateful of my appearance for so long. i look no more or less handsome than anyone else. how was it possible to obsess to the nth degree over a single zit, or be devastated if someone made fun of my glasses or clothes?

reading Mom’s journals gives me real perspective on what was what back then. i wasn’t, surprise, the center of her universe. reading my own journals is always a bit of a masochistic undertaking, because i have this view of my fundamental self not really having changed that much–yet, i’m often disgusted by the purely spoiled brat that comes forth when i bothered to write about my day. it was like i had this secret audience of courtesans, sycophants and admirers who hung on my every word and commiserated with me over every slight someone might have committed. as if i was always right, always good, but damn this world and everyone in it.

it’s almost as if any growing up that took place at all took place in spite of me, not because of me. and, so much of what i thought was “growing up” was clearly nothing more than attempts to cover up all the problems that really needed fixing, out of an urge to impress whomever might have my attention that day.

with my mom gone, then d gone, and my dad no longer being so much a dad as a friend–with all the mce people gone, and all the college and high school friends now simply connections on facebook, and most of the tendency to drink too much to avoid my issues–i’ve had to get to know e has he really is, naked and unadorned–all for the first time ever.

some parts are surprisingly delightful, but so much of what has held me back through all these years is still there, accompanying me each and every day.

2010 began with no resolutions, no goals, no great plans. really, it has to be simply about e fixing e at the core before e can even begin to know what he’s talking about and what he should be doing on this earth.

1X1 meeting with L(supervisor)

Repeated “this is my job for now, I’ve got to do it, so I’m going to hold steady, and maybe she is a genuinely likable human…maybe” to replace “I absolutely hate the fact that she is my boss now, and hate all of the circumstances that led up to this, and can’t really stand her, either.”

Meeting I was late to
Repeated “I had no control over being late, and my input isn’t so important that my being late is the end of the world, but it’s important enough that they will welcome me being here” to replace “oh God, here come the angry, intense stares and accusatory words for my tardiness which I will have to deflect with humor in spite of the fact that my intensely scowling face betrays I’m feeling otherwise.”

Both of these events, along with a Monday morning conversation with M, went well. Not great or life changing, but certainly better than the often terrible ones. I did encounter one new face I’ve seen once before, and was caught unprepared with anything to say, afraid to even introduce myself for fear that I’d seem like a weirdo, ass or both. Better prep work next time, I guess.