TTL Confucius and Lao Tzu: How to live your life

“Swarthmore is very yang – it needs more yin. People are not busy getting dumb.” – Steven Hopkins

This is the second of my series of Through the Lens (TTL), I posted my first one a while ago talking about how one could essentially create creativity called Through the Lens of Music: Engineering Creativity. In this post, I will try to understand what it means to be authentically human and how to live in harmony with the Tao through the lens of Confucius (Confucianism) and Lao Tzu (Taosim).

The idea of yin 阴 and yang 阳 is deeply rooted in many Chinese religions, especially focusing on the balance between the two. The yang is associated with the sun, a masculine / outgoing power, external displays, visible appearances. The yin, on the other hand, is associated with the moon, a feminine / inward power, weakness, flexibility, invisible, and the interior. While reading the Confucian Analects, section 26 in Book 11 confused me and started this questioning of what it meant to be authentically human.

In 11.26, Confucius is asking his disciples why somebody would be appreciative of them in order to appoint of them to lead a state:

After asking, Zilu speaks up immediately, saying that if he “were given charge of a state of a thousand chariots – even one hemmed in between powerful states, suffering from armed invasions and afflicted by famine – before three years were up [he] could infuse its people with courage and a sense of what is right.”

Zilu is dismissed disapprovingly by Confucius and is not chosen to be the leader probably because of his abrupt manner in answering him as well as the inauthentic, willful nature of his answer.

As opposed to Zengxi, who stated that he would choose to do something quite different from any of the other three disciples. Zengxi answered that “in the third month of Spring, once the Spring garments have been completed, [he] should like to assemble a company of five or six young men and six or seven boys to go bathe in the Yi River and enjoy the breeze upon the Rain Dance Altar, and then return singing to the Master’s house.”

When Confucius ultimately picked Zengxi, I was confused. Wouldn’t a ruler or leader want to have a strong sense of authority? Why would he pick somebody that would just go to the river and sing songs? I discussed this with my professor (Steven Hopkins) and started to understand why Confucius picked Zengxi.

Confucius ultimately picks Zengxi because as opposed to Zilu, Zengxi was not trying to impose a sense of authority onto other people. Zengxi exemplified a wu wei 無爲  (non-action) harmony, as opposed to Zilu’s willfulness of his ego. Confucius could tell this by Zengix’s musical bent, timeliness of not answering abruptly, having reluctance to speak about his aspirations, and his sense of spontaneous joy in the cultivated life conveyed by his answer. The idea of wu wei, doing things effortlessly and with flow, appealed a lot to me because it resonates strongly with the music improvisation and also ultimately seemed like the way I want to live my life.

Confucius could see that Zengxi understood himself and was not putting on a face, while the answers of the other three disciples seemed vulgar (very yang, prevalent in competitive colleges like Swarthmore). Li Chong described Zengxi as the only one having transcendent aspirations, with words that were pure and remote, meaning lofty and fitting. For Confucius, true government is effected through the superior virtue gained by ritual practice, and the task of the gentleman is to focus on self-cultivation and attaining a state of joyful harmony with the Way, Tao. In the Tao Te Ching (4), a similar shedding of ego is shared.

Tao is empty…

It blunts sharp edges,

Unties knots, Softens glare,

Becomes one with the dusty world.

Lao Tzu characterizes the sharp edges as the faces we put on to build up and defend our identities. The Tao breaks down this ego-fortress, which offers a false sense of security, because when one is too focused on his ego, life becomes a “me vs. everybody else experience” which isolates him from the natural whole. The awareness of the natural whole and wu-wei harmony exemplify both the ideal Confucian values of being “authentically human” and the Taoist sense of enlightenment when living in harmony with the Tao.

With regards to education and learning, Taoism and Confucianism seem to be at odds with each other. For instance, Lao Tzu claims in the Tao Te Ching that not knowing is supreme while knowing is faulty. In the Analects, Confucius claimed that one who thinks without learning will fall into danger. However, a deeper look into their philosophies of education reveal that they share the same beliefs on self-education as a means to deepen the awareness of the self. The Taoist seeks to understand the naturalness of everything as it exists at the present.

Knowledge is dangerous in the sense that it clogs the mind and makes it prejudiced.

From the first chapter of the Tao Te Ching:

Names can name no lasting name.

Nameless: the origin of heaven and earth.

Naming: the mother of ten thousand things.

Empty of desire, perceive mystery.

Filled with desire, perceive manifestations.

Naming the things we observe creates a schism and rips our awareness away from the original whole. Instead of trying to know each separate piece, the Taoist tries to understand the whole, for the whole is the Tao. In Taoism, the key is not to know something, but to understand it. One goes about this through self-education. Furthermore, this kind of education is also natural; it just needs to be recognized as such and be developed to its fullest throughout one’s lifetime.

On the surface, the Analects seem different from this idea, Confucius stated:

“I once engaged in thought for an entire day without eating and an entire night without sleeping, but it did no good. It would have been better for me to have spent that time in learning.”

Confucius stresses the dangers of thinking in isolation. Rather than attempting to pointlessly reflect on one’s own, Confucius argues that  accumulated wisdom of the classics should form the very basis of one’s thinking. Thinking without the context of learning is comparable to randomly banging on a piano in ignorance to the conventions of music. A million monkeys given a million years might produce something, but it is better to start with the classics. The Xunzi gives an analogy, that climbing a hill and waving your arms does not make your arms any longer, but they can be seen from farther away. Shouting downwind does not make your voice any louder, but it can be heard more clearly. Someone who borrows a carriage and horses does not improve the power of his feet, but he can travel a thousand li. It may seem that Confucius is encouraging the pursuit of knowledge in the classics as the ultimate goal, yet it is that mastery and understanding of the classics that will allow one to fully practice the Tao and have an awareness of the self in relation to the world. Idle thinking without any guidance is a waste of time, and the Tao that arises from this type of mastery Confucius discusses parallels the Cook Ting and the Ox story from the Chuang Tzu (which s you should take your time to read, it is an amazing story).

In the story, Cook Ting seamlessly cuts an ox and states that he follows the Tao, here is a short excerpt from the whole, starting with Prince Wen Hui praising Cook Ting.

“Your method is faultless!”

“Method?” said the cook

Laying aside his cleaver,

“What I follow is Tao

Beyond all methods!”

“When I first began

To cut up an oxen

I would see before me

The whole ox

All in one mass.

“After three years

I no longer saw this mass.

I saw the distinctions.

“But now, I see nothing with the eye.  My whole being

Apprehends.

My senses are idle.  The spirit

Free to work without plan

Follows its own instinct

In order to act with wu wei (non-action) and follow the Tao, Cook Ting needed the mastery of having cut oxen for many years before. One cannot achieve this level of flow from aimlessly hacking at an ox without any training – that resembles banging on a piano without knowing the conventions of music. It is only after Ting attains mastery through years of training that he is able to step back and let the cutting happen naturally, he is then able to cut without cutting. The mastery of the classics (in the defense of a liberal arts education) is, in a deeper sense, used to understand wu wei and the nature of the present. For the Confucian, the understanding of the classics is a necessary vehicle to attaining true understanding of the Tao.

So this was my attempt at trying to make sense of and relate to a portion of what I’ve been studying in my Asian religion class. This is most intriguing class I have taken so far, and I have learned so much about myself. But the best part is that it will only get better as I read more about Eastern religions.


* I was working with Stephen Addiss’ and Stanley Lombardo’s translation of the Tao Te Ching and Edward Slingerland’s translation of the Confucian Analects.

Dammit I’m Happy

I would characterize my life in phases, chunks of time when certain things be preoccupied on my mind. In the past they were about trying new things, video games, girls, career success, friends. But for the past few weeks it has been about my character.

This semester so many friends have been stressing out, figuring out how to best use their time. Adam Grant came to give a talk about Barry Schwartz leaving Swarthmore, and he quoted a line from Barry that really stuck with me:

“I’ve only had one job and one girlfriend, but dammit I’m happy”

The question of how can I become happy, how can I just be satisfied with “good enough” and not be constantly worried about achieving the best has converted from a moral, internal question into resource allocation question. How can I serve the greatest number of people? How can I make the biggest impact? These questions always lead to a lot of stress, and being genuinely satisfied with life requires lowering your expectations. Not in the sense that you just want to sit on your ass all day because you don’t have any goals for yourself. But in the sense that if you have all these expectations for yourself and other people in your life, you won’t be able to experience the pleasant surprises in life. Life is pretty damn random and trying to plan so far into the future is like throwing a fucking fortune cookie into a black hole, hoping that somehow the fortune cookie will magically come out unscathed and end back in your hands. Things change so much, and when you carve your epitaph, major, and career decision onto your tombstone when you are an 18 year old freshmen in college,  you will never be able to be present and experience the pleasant surprise of change. 

I think the people we should pay attention to are those who are passionate not just about some subject matter, some hobby, but about life. Maybe they do have hopes and expectations for the future, but if things don’t turn out the way they expected it to, they are fine with it. Or in other words, they are confident that they will be happy whatever the outcome is.

So how does this relate to character? I feel that a sustainable goal for college, and more importantly for the rest of my life, will be to develop a sense of depth in my character. I want to engage in an effort to magnify what is best in myself and also become strong in my weakest places. Overcome the bad parts of my character that have been repeating too many times in my life like selfishness and thoughtlessness. As David Brooks puts it, wise people who have lived their lives to ultimately improve their character possess the self-effacing virtues of people who are inclined to be useful but don’t need to prove anything to the world: humility, restraint, reticence, temperance, respect, and soft self-discipline. And I feel that this is a sustainable goal for happiness because I will not be phased by external pressures and expectations to succeed. The means to achieving this goal is simply to live. To experience failure, rejection, then be able to laugh about it not because you came out healed, but because you came out different. These scars will be a constant reminder to me that I was present to experience these events in my life, and they will ultimately be a part of my character. Furthermore, I think that things like career success (while important) are like good looks, they will eventually fade and what is left is the character.

I feel that these resource allocation questions, trying to decide a policy now for the rest of your life, will never lead to satisfaction because you will always be thinking about what you had to sacrifice in order to do that one thing. Feeling guilty for spending time with your friends because you prescribed that you had to attain some GPA seems like a sad way to spend your time in college.

Life is not an optimization problem. 

I think focusing on living my life as a means to deepen my sense of compassion, integrity, and character will be a way for me not only to do good, but be good. The journey along the way will be filled with bumps, but dammit I’ll be happy.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You

“What goals do you want to accomplish this summer?”

Huh. I was surprised that I didn’t have an answer to this. For the past few years of my life, I have set goals for myself for big blocks of time like this. I had an idea of what I wanted to do this summer, travel to another country – probably couch surf with locals and get to know them, spend some time at monasteries to meditate, and write a lot more. But goals-wise, I was blank. Sitting down outside thinking about this question, I started to realize that I was getting a little too comfortable. So I just finished the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, a book I borrowed from the same friend who asked me this question, and it has sort of been a wake up call, changing the way I view my goals and future.

Rule #1: Don’t follow your passion

So reading this made me reminiscent of this post I made over winter break: Don’t Pursue Your Dreams. The passion hypothesis – this hypothesis claims that they key to occupational happiness is to first figure out what you’re passionate about and then find a job that matches this passion. Cal Newport goes on to talk about how this passion hypothesis is not only false but also potentially dangerous. Passion comes from first actually being good at something. Half-assedly dabbing yourself in multiple activities trying to figure out what to put your time into, trying to figure out what you’re “passionate” about is an act of innocent optimism that will lead to life a confusion as you are constantly wondering where your passions lie while time passes. And at the end of the day you don’t have anything valuable to offer.

Rule #2: Be so good they can’t ignore you

Be so good they can’t ignore you is the phrase Cal uses to talk about building career capital, a term he coined to describe the skills you have that are rare and valuable to to the working world. Having a substantive career capital is the key for creating the work you love. This rule resonated the most with me because it was essentially a wake up call that while I want a bunch of shortcuts in my life, if I want to cultivate a substantive arsenal of value I can offer to the world, hard work is necessary. I know I have talked about this before in my posts, but I feel that this drive and grit has subsided a bit during break. And it’s time for that to change. Thinking about the skills that I have are rare and valuable, I don’t have much really haha. These are currently the skills most important to me which I consider are rare and valuable: writing, meditating, and learning. So one way I have changed after reading this book is the way I view my time at Swarthmore. I’m going to be that student that uses his time in college to cultivate an extremely strong foundation of career capital up to the point where I am confident that I can find opportunities to get paid for doing things anytime I want. I want to be the first person people think of when they’re thinking that they need a person to do ____.

Deliberate Practice: The style of difficult practice required to continue to improve at a task. Deliberate practice requires you to stretch past where you are comfortable and then receive ruthless feedback on your performance. In the context of career construction, most knowledge workers avoid this style of skill development because, quite frankly, it’s uncomfortable. To build up large stores of career capital, however, which is necessary for creating work you love, you must make this style of practice a regular part of your work routine. This is the type of practice that I have subjected myself to as a musician and an athlete, and reading Cal talk about it really substantiated this type of practice in the skills I want to develop like writing and programming.

Rule #3: Turn Down a Promotion (Control)

So this rule is mainly about the importance of control when creating the work you love. I don’t have much to say about this yet since I’m building the career capital in my life. But Cal warns readers of the dangers of trying to introduce more control into your working life when you have not acquired enough career capital. Which tl;dr means not to demand too much control in your life if you don’t have any actual skills to back yourself up.

Rule #4: Think Small, Act Big (Mission)

A mission is another important trait to acquire with your career capital when creating work you love. It provides a unifying goal for your career. It provides a unifying goal for your career. It’s more general than a specific job and can span multiple positions. It provides an answer to the question “What should I do with my life?” The unifying glue that connects everything I’m doing in my life. Blogging and journaling have definitely helped me become more in touch with myself, and my mission right now is to master all the difficult challenges in my life. I go more in depth into this as well in my post: Don’t Pursue Your Dreams.

I don’t want to be the person who graduates college searching for the ultimate job for myself. I don’t want to be the person who spends time thinking about a career that sounds appealing to me. I want to be the person who comes out of college, hell this semester with rare and valuable skills that will make me compelling. So what do I want to accomplish this summer? I want to write a lot more, especially in the vein of self-help posts that have a lot of popularity on this blog. I also want to write about my experiences living in another country, vigorously reaching out for feedback so that I can improve my writing to the point where other people want me to write for them. And you know me, I’ll always be playing music and programming on the side >:)

Thanks for the wake up call.

Let’s go.

Fisherman

“Where are you going, honey?”
“I’m going out to the lake again”
“You’ve been at this for months now, and you haven’t caught anything yet.”
“Today is going to be different, I just know it.”
“Well alright I hope you have fun, dear.”

He walked to his car with his hands in his back pockets. He sat down and rolled down the frosted windows. Eyes closed, forcing a smile on his face he took the deepest breath he had ever taken in his life.

“Today is going to be different.”

By now he knew the drive to the lake like the back of his hand. But today he was not on autopilot while driving. He had his eyes wide open while driving, fully alert. Waving at the drivers in the cars next door, wishing them well in their day. A driver had aggressively cut in his lane without signaling. Before, he would have gotten angry and flipped the driver off. But today he tried to understand – maybe that driver has to reach the hospital.

“Today is going to be different.”

He parked by the restaurant where the concrete road and grassy entrance to the lake met. Today was the first time he actually took the time to realize the beauty of this intersection. Above the roads was a hazy yellow and gray, there was a heavy fog blurring the street lights. But where the street lights didn’t reach, the lake was lit up with the lanterns other fisherman carried with them on their boats. He put his fishing rods, bait, and timer into his boat and transported it to the lake.

Waiting on the lake surface for four hours now, nothing was biting yet. But he believed, believed that today would be the day he gets his first catch. He imagined, thought of how happy he would be to tell his wife the news that he had caught something today! He blushed at the thought of his wife congratulating him. Oh man how great he would feel. Just then it so happened that he felt a pull on one of his lines. Ecstatic. Excited. Surprised. He jumped off his seat and grabbed the fishing pole. Was it a small or big fish? The pull was quite strong. As he was reeling in and pulling the pole back again he thought of how he would have a dorky grin spread across his face, chuckling about how he had his first success. He pulled and reeled, the resistance was getting stronger. He was starting to sweat now. His hands started to get sore and then felt a sudden push forward. Pushed to the end of his boat, his stomach hit it’s wall. His pole had snapped and the fish had gotten away. Sweating, panting, he sat back down in his seat and kicked his feet up onto his backpack.

“Well”

He had been trying to catch something for seven months now. Looking out into the the rest of the lake wrapped by the heaviness of the fog, he sighed.

He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, then sighed again. He wouldn’t be going back home with fish to brag about to his wife. He wouldn’t have be smiling on the drive back home. Today was in fact just like the past 200 days where he would come back empty handed. Today was not different. He did know that he had to come back tomorrow, try something new. Maybe practice different reeling techniques. He knew that he would eventually catch something, but after the past 200 tries, today, he was tired.

With his feet still perched up on the backpack he folded his arms on top of his head and closed his eyes. Exhausted, he quietly dozed off into a deep sleep.

Spring Break: How I’ve Been and What’s Next

Too many people at Swarthmore fall into the monotonous routine of always studying, so I’m going to make these posts every break to check in with myself and make sure I’m always spicing things up and tackling something new.

Starting from the first semester, I have been able to diet pretty well and stick to a regular exercise routine. I was able to steadily lose 20 pounds, and now I want to play with my weight. I want to challenge myself and see how well I can gain twenty pounds  before the semester because I am pretty confident with my discipline to diet and exercise. The idea of playing with my body weight seems very appealing to me because I would be able to prove to myself that I have control over my physical body. But gaining weight is fairly easy for me, it just means eating more food and working out more – I can already see my belly rounding up 🙂 Also this requires a change in lifestyle, I need to budget my money differently as I might be spending more on food, I need to eat more both in volume and protein intake. The real challenge is after my bulk, when I have to slim back down while keeping my same strength. This will also entail a lifestyle change which will be a nice change of pace.

I recently made a deal with my friends that will last for the rest of our lives: Every time one of us eats candy, all of us have to miss our next meal. Many people have said that this is outrageous, and it is pretty outrageous. But this is one way for us to cut out candy from our lives forever, and to be honest it is quite fun to uphold!

So most of the new things that I have started this semester were lifestyle changes to improve and take control over my health. Academically, I am getting used to the workload of Swarthmore and have pretty much killed procrastination from my life. One thing that I started doing less though was going to professors office hours, there isn’t really much of an excuse for this so I will set the times in my calendar to make sure I attend them.

I have also gotten more into poetry and freestyle rapping! So hitting these goals from last semester’s fall break post. I have also been writing a lot more, especially in my journal, and I’m glad that this has become part of my lifestyle. Damn this feels pretty great, visibly seeing progress and making the goals I wanted to achieve last semester into habits!

What I want now:

“If I were to describe you in word, it would be mellow.”

Shit. That was my reaction when a friend visiting said this to me. Ever since coming to Swarthmore, I do feel that I have become more mellow. More accepting of things and as my friends have commented – I always have a half smile, half stoic face. I don’t really want to be mellow though, I want to have a more exciting personality. I have also been told that I have a poker face most of the time so I want to work on being more physically expressive.

I want to try writing fiction. I think that writing styles force you think and write in different ways. With poetry, you have the idea of rhyming and a sense of obscurity in the back of your head. With fiction, I would have the freedom of telling my story through multiple characters, setting, plot twists, etc.

College is…

Chasing romanticized ideas of some things, then realizing the reality of them.

Having my eyes wide open in my seminar. Soaking everything in, learning so much that I can’t imagine to be asleep. Pages flipping so quickly as everything in my brain is clicking together when looking at past readings.

When relationships get nuanced.

Maturing my naive feelings, and the joy of chasing those matured feelings.

Sitting in the chair of the music library, completely entranced in my readings. I don’t feel my neck pain anymore, because the ideas in my head are flying everywhere and making connections with each other.

Walking frustratingly into office hours driven by questions rather than trying to impress.

Questioning… Questioning why the hell I’m here.

Questioning why I care about prestige.

Not knowing what I’m going to get myself into, then doing it anyway.

Feeling like you’ve met a spiritual sage talking to your professor.

You know that feeling when you have to write a paper that is 7 pages long, and have no idea how the hell you’re going to complete it? But there is the beautiful moment when you get so immersed in the content that you forget about small details like page length. Getting so dedicated to trying to tell the best story, forming the best arguments – then by the time you know it, you’ve exceeded the page length requirement.

Having the autonomy to do what I want, and focusing the things that I actually care about. Then riding on that positive wave of confidence where everything just seems to be getting better. Hitting new PRs (increasing my lifts) everyday in the gym, sleeping better and better, classes getting more engaging and challenging, becoming happier and happier in general.

Being unable to sleep, then playing pool, talking about life, and cooking with friends until 5 AM.

Reading about my culture and things from my childhood – but scribbled in the margins are the confusing inconsistencies stuck in my head, questioning how my values are conflicting with what I’m reading.

Being completely captivated by your math professor.

Doing random things just to spice things up.

Having people you care about that do those random things with you.

Maturing relationships with parents and friends.

Having a lot of things to do but ending up writing anyways because that’s what is more important.

Eating by myself.

Making mistakes, feeling terrible, and vowing never to do them again.

Going to New York during finals week.

Talking late into the night not just about academics but about living life.

Waking up in the morning, jumping out of the bed and skipping to the bathroom with a smile plastered on my face. What a time to be alive.

Having lots of homework to do, then dropping all of it to do something spontaneous with friends. Just to spice things up.

Having friends who are genuinely happy and passionate about life.

 

[This was extremely fun and nostalgic to write! I’m excited to write another every semester/year to see how my college experience matures]

That Kind of Man

Is this who I am?  Sometimes I catch myself acting differently around different types of people. This post is for me to look at when I’m too busy, caught up in life and need a reminder of why I’m here. This post is for me so I can hold myself to my degree of integrity. This post is for me to look at when I feel like I’m having conflicting identities.

This is for me…

I want to be the kind of man who is interesting, regardless of who I am with.

The kind of man who spends life finding value he can give to others.

The kind of man who is creative and confident in his imagination.

A man of kindness and affection.

The kind of man able to articulate his thoughts clearly through every medium: words, music, speech, art.

The kind of man who is not absent minded, intensely focused and aware of every moment.

The kind of man who builds an image of himself as someone motivated by learning difficult things.

The kind of man proud of having worked hard rather than being smart and talented.

The kind of man who not just experiences, but also puts into words and shares with other people.

The kind of man who looks for change.

The kind of man who sees the value in you before you need to say anything.

sam_shih

A best friend.

The kind of man with eyes that look into your soul and makes you want to tell stories about yourself.

The kind of man who won’t stroke your ego but will build you up.

A mentor.

The kind of man who sees the beauty of ideas before everybody else does.

The kind of man who is comfortable showing affection.

The kind of man who makes you think and feel…

The kind of man you notice when he’s in the room and the one you miss when he’s not.

Spontaneous.

The kind of man who acts out of love and passion.

The kind of man who is educated and talks about issues that matter to people.

The same person in work and play.

The person who makes you think about things you’ve never thought about before.

The kind of man who doesn’t need to tell people about starting, but shows up with progress.

The kind of man who never grows old because he is always changing things up in his life.

The kind of man who laughs at his mistakes.

The kind of man who wanders the path of questioning and failure, but never forgets to look at the beauty around him.

That

kind

of man.

work_for_a_cause

This post was inspired by a similar post Andrea made, thanks for making me think about myself in this manner.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. – Dr. Seuss

Pass Fail Never Ends

Back in high school, all I cared about was boosting my GPA. I never thought I could learn so much from failing.
I didn’t come to Swarthmore to continue doing the things I excelled at – then college would just be an expensive summer camp. Pass/Fail meant that I could spend time on myself, I could take that seminar on Philosophy, a topic I thought I’d never study. I could spend my time with new friends, maybe get into a relationship, exercise to maintain my health, all without these dreaded grades pressuring me, right? Most people I know failed at certain subjects in school (maybe not getting F’s, but by struggling) and now have simply decided “I’m not a ____ person” or “I just don’t get _____” e.g. “I’m not a Math person.” That absolves them from trying, which keeps them from failing, which keeps them from learning.
At a place like Swarthmore, too many people are killing themselves working to get that perfect GPA. Make sure you get a B, and do it early. Once you do you’ll stop worrying about having to get a perfect GPA because it’s no longer attainable. Only then will you be free to actually get an education. College is the time to take risky courses in topics you don’t understand, in topics you aren’t sure you like, and in topics that appear beyond your grasp.
Successful students have been taught to rely on talent, which makes them unable to fail gracefully.
But I challenge you to go out there – challenge yourself and fail.
 
Fail to make your time worth it. 

Bleeding

I’ve already become the person I’ve always wanted to be.

I’m driven by a cause, not for applause.

I’ve lived my life to express, not to impress.

I’ve put myself on a rocky path, and have become hypersensitive to action.

But along the way I think I lost my sensitivity to blood.

Every time you bleed I feel like I’m bleeding in a different color.

Sometimes I feel like I need to take a sip to bleed red.

I feel the need to listen to music to open my wounds.

But in the back of my mind I know

They might just be artificial wounds I’m cutting with this poison.

Because after these hours phase, I’m desperately trying to keep these wounds pulled open.

Before they stitch themselves back up and trap this blood inside my skin.

Sometimes it frightens me to think I need to cloak my self behind a Veil to be human.

I remember before, I wished to feel the happiness without the burn.

But this past week I wanted it to burn

So that I could bleed with you.

 

Warmth

Today’s the first day I’m back in college. I feel like throughout my life, as I’ve been growing older, most of the emotions I’ve been feeling have been difficult. Growing up is hard, as I have told many people. But being back here in my dorm, with my best friends in my room, I feel like I can take a break. Take a break not to enjoy the flowers, not to enjoy the snow falling outside, but to enjoy the warmness weighing down in my heart as I’m here with my friends. I’m present here. Four months ago, when I first met these people, we played awkward ice breaker games in a room trying to get to know each other.

After graduating high school and entering my first semester here at Swarthmore, I’ve been a pretty social person. I was extremely confident with large groups, but something that I struggled with was making close friends. I was scared at the beginning of college. I was scared that I would know many people superficially but not have any real friends. But right now, in my room, this warmness I’m feeling is extremely heavy. It’s so heavy that it is squeezing tears down my eyes because I know that I have found the people who I truly care about. I have found the people who, at any party, I am truly free and can tell them anything. I have found the people who I know also care about me.

Who would’ve thought that on the first day I’m back I would cry. Who would’ve thought that I would cry with the same person who brought me to tears at one of the first parties of the year. I remember at that party, I didn’t feel the need to go out to any fraternity house or go out to dance to loud music because being present with the people I care about was all that mattered to me.

This warmness is something that I’ve never felt before. I don’t know what it feels like to finally reconnect with a friend for over ten years, but I imagine that this is what it would feel like. I have only known these people for 4 months, but I feel like I can spend forever with them. For somebody else to call me a best friend. For somebody else to care about me is something that I could only try to repay.

This warmness that is so heavy, so heavy in my heart it is squeezing tears down my eyes because I know that I have found the people who I truly care about. This warmness that is so heavy, this warmness that I have found tonight is something that I can only try to express with words.

This warmness in my heart is so heavy, I can hold you all in my embrace forever. But right now I’m not thinking of the future. I’m just cherishing this moment we’re sharing together.