Niels Bohr once said that the opposite of a profound truth is also a profound truth. He was talking about quantum mechanics or some similarly impenetrable topic, but I, like many laymen, have decided to appropriate his comment to talk about something decidedly less scholarly. Here's a set of four profound-ish truths and their opposites; I'm going to use them to anchor the following discussion.
1. I needed to write this post.
Opposite: I've been dreading writing this post.
2. I've moved recently.
Opposite: I've stayed in the same place.
3. Location doesn't matter to me.
Opposite: Location is central to me.
4. I'm a solitary person.
Opposite: I'm a social person.
All right; the first two are fairly easy, or at least comparatively easy. Whenever something big happens me, I feel a need to blog about it, but at the same time, I often avoid blogging about it, because so much has happened that sorting through everything I've felt and experienced leaves me kind of drained. That's what usually happens in the "trip" related posts--I see so much during the trip that sorting through it all and processing it becomes a task in itself, almost apart from actually living through it the first time. Actually, the trip comparison is pretty apt; remember that when we get to discussing point 3. The other factor is that I've grown a lot more self-conscious about doing personal stuff on the blog since I realized just how many people I know and interact with regularly read it. At the same time, I've always felt that it's an important part of what this blog means to me. I don't want to wade into what's authentic in autobiography and what's not, but this has never been just an academic blog to me; I've chosen not to compartmentalize my life, and I try to reflect that here. (Okay, yes, there are some boundaries, but they're flexible, okay?)
So that brings us to point 2: I've moved recently. I may have mentioned here that my former roommates, the ones I have lived with for two years, and I have gone our separate ways. In fact, we did so last Tuesday, and I've been living in a new place ever since, with two entirely new, yet unknown roommates. In a way, I feel like I haven't moved--I'm still in the same city, in the same program (I'll finish someday, Mr. Supervisor, honest I will), still with the same group of friends. I hung out with them tonight, in fact, and it felt like a very familiar thing; there were the people that I get along with great and admire; the people who I hang out with who, um, aren't very fond of me, but we can still hang out in a crowd, and I still admire them (really--there are very few people I actively dislike; most of them I haven't seen in a decade. Have I been out of high school for a decade? My, what a shocking coincidence. Also, I should probably add that when I was out with said friends, I was drinking. But you've probably figured that out by now.); and there are people I have hung out with for years, but still don't really know that well. (And that's unfortunate. Something should be done to change that.) Anyway, digressions aside, I'm in a new situation, while simultaneously being immersed in my old situation. There's a comfort in that, but it's the kind of comfort that can hold you in place, if you let it.
Speaking of place, that's a segue of sorts into point 3. When I say location doesn't matter to me, I mean that. I'll willing spend hours in my narrow, tiny office. Two or three years ago, when I went to visit Toronto, I spent most of my time deliberately cooped in a variety of libraries, and enjoying myself immensely. And the aesthetics of a space don't really matter to me; I could live very happily out of my boxes for the next year, or I could put everything away. I have whole reams of posters my parents have got me that are still in the original bag they came in. I take them out every now and then and look at them, because they're pretty, but I've never bothered to put them on my walls. I mean, what's the point? I'd just have to take them down again eventually. The aesthetics of my location aren't really a big issue to me. And of course, that's true, while also being an utter lie. If on no other level, changing location means changing routine, it means changing mental space. It's situations such as this in which I resort to Stiegler and his technics. Change a person's tool set, and you change the person, and tool set includes the space and place you're familiar with. It's pretty common for people on a trip to allow themselves indulgences they wouldn't do otherwise, and act in a manner contrary to their common behavior--it's why we say "When in Rome" and "It stays in Vegas." And when you go on a trip, it's all temporary, so you have the comfort (however false it may be) that whatever you do, you can return to the tool set you left behind when it's over. Moving means a whole new set of tools. Maybe you're trading in a hammer for a wrench. Maybe you're adding a spanner to the belt. Maybe this metaphor has been stretched to its limit. The point is, I've noticed a big difference in my mental space. It's in the little things--I have to remind myself which corridors to turn down to get to my room. I need to recalculate my jogging routes so that the 5k and 10k reach just the right sweet spots. I need to mentally think exactly where I live, since I spent three years knowing that exact location, but forgetting it every time since someone always drove me there. (Long story.) Space is important. You have to center yourself literally before you can do it figuratively.
Point 4. I've lived on my own, and I've lived with other people. When I'm alone, it's always something of a relief. To be able to do what you want without worrying overmuch about the context of others--it's freeing. But it's also restrictive. Here's a TMI case in point: when I came to the bar tonight, there was one person I recognized, and three or four friends of hers just joining the program that I didn't. And I could have joined them. But... it was a very loud, very noisy bar, and the thought of trying to do the whole "getting to know you" smalltalk while bellowing at full volume was exceptionally unappealing to me. So I waited for some other people to show up. Am I proud of this? No. But I'm not ashamed either, and that's an important point that took me a long time to get to. Under other circumstances, I would have been happy to do smalltalk with any one of them, or even in a group, but my solitary inclinations made the bar scene intro uncomfortable. But at the same time, I felt some urge to socialize, so I stuck around. The ideal conclusion to this story would be that I did get around to talking to the "strangers" and we're all well acquainted. That didn't happen. But at least I got some time with the friends I have known for years, and still open to making new friends somewhere along the road. Anyway, the point of that probably ill-advised anecdote is that as much as I think I shun company, I also want it, and need it. And for a long time, my two former roommates have contributed significantly to that. I could resort to technics to explain it, that the people you are surrounded with are a part of the mental tools as well, but why do that when I can make an emotionally uncomfortable statement instead: I'll miss them. I miss them. It's nice to have people around who accept you for who you are. Not to say that my current roommates don't, or won't; I'm just trying to introduce them to the "who I am" part slowly. It's like the early stages of dating; on the first date, you mention that you have a goldfish, and then after a few months, you reveal that when you say "you'll be sleeping with fishes," what you actually mean is--it's a Troy McClure reference. Don't worry about it. Yesterday, I left my first season of Battlestar Galactica out on the bookshelf; tomorrow, I'll add a few comic books. And then, when it seems like they've grasped what they're in for, I'll leave a few videogame theory books lying around.
The gamebooks will stay in my room, I think. Some things are just better left private.