Monthly Archives: October 2017

The human limit

The one thing that college has caused (or, perhaps, forced) me to discover is the human limit. I am not referring to how fast I can run, or other purely physical characteristics. Rather, I am referring to the fact that there are 24 hours in a day, and we must sleep for one third of that time to remain sane, leaving us with a great multitude of things we can do in one day.

But not really, because for the past half-semester, I have found myself mostly slaving away at the same things over and over, things that do not really stimulate me, things that don’t seem to move me forward. And then I don’t have time to pursue the things I really do want to pursue and have desired to pursue since the summer.

I read somewhere, probably some Academia.SE question about authorship and credit of some PhD thesis, that ideas a really worth a dime a dozen and only gain exorbitant value when they are worked, realized, and made into physical form. You know and have read far too closely about the insane ideas I have; and by this argument, they are utterly worthless, and I thus deserve no credit for them, because while I may show all of the intention in the world to make these things, I do not actually do them, nor do I find time or people or resources or money to do them.

It sucks to know that I’m stuck taking theatre class for an hour and thirty, getting a 6/10 on a quiz because the wording of the questions they ask just sucks, and they ignore almost all questions asked. The professors are untouchable and most content questions from students are answered by the TAs, or fall outside the scope of the class so they are given the most ambiguous answer possible and then forgotten about. For instance, regarding contemporary examples of romanticism, is dystopia the ultimate evolution of romanticism? Again, another question spurned. Basically, why don’t you write a 300-page dissertation on it and we’ll be the judge of how well the idea holds.

Is this what I’m here for? I spend money just to pretend I’m learning “useful things” so I can get a degree and pretend I “learned” something useful or fun or convenient. Am I just not there yet? And at any rate, my mother just gives me the old “c’est la vide” spiel while she gives me a haircut and points out all of my dandruff. I don’t want to wash my hair because of all of the hair I lose during the process.

Oh yeah, and I also borked the Raspberry Pi. I think it kernel panicked when I restarted it after it lost connection momentarily and got “stuck” on installing a new version of libc. So now I can’t do anything with it for two weeks until I go home and figure out what the heck the problem is.

And all that information I do learn, all that concrete poured into the so-called “liberal arts foundation” of the student, the American populace absolutely does not give a crap about. They don’t care if A Tempest ended with the island being overtaken with rats or possums. They don’t care if romanticism is the root of most melodrama we see so commonly today. Heck, when was the last time I was presented with an everyday problem and had to use calculus to solve it? When did I ever have to do anything except rot my sorry little brain during a plane trip watching a Hollywood film, the epitome of anti-culture that is now coming crashing down in the face of indie film and intellectualism? An intellectualism that seems to be buried beneath the social interactions of every day, perhaps?

Maybe I’m just arrogant and incompetent and can’t see through myself. Trolls and political pundits love to tell people, “Oh, but you don’t have to go to college!” But I do because it is tradition, and probably the safest shot to actually doing what I want to do in the future. Don’t look at Zuckerberg, look at Page whose thesis came to be the basis of Google.

And I don’t want to converse with intelligent people because like me, they love to debate and tell people they’re wrong and tell people something new so they feel dumber. And I don’t want to converse with unintelligent people, either, because they’re a burden to explain things to. I guess I just want to converse with sympathetic, supportive people. That is, the kind of people I don’t have in my life because I haven’t found them.

I just mope around college, not really sure what to do. And the things I committed to doing on the first week or two, I don’t know if I want to keep doing them. My brain feels like it is about to shut down again. I want to eat something, but my hunger is so minuscule, my brain simply does not feel inclined to go and get something.

Gah! I’m just so frustrated with myself! How long do I have to wait before I start enjoying college? I feel like I’m just burning time writing this crap, and burning time looking at what junk people say on Discord, and burning time trying to meet deadlines, and then at the end there is no time to hunker down and actually have fun doing something lasting.

I’m back where I was the second week of class. It’s October now. Little has changed, I just know a little bit more of how to interact with people, but the core of the problem is still not resolved: how do I actually find people and approach them? Maybe it is my sex hormones screwing with me, and this is just yet another contorted version of “I want a girlfriend,” but I can’t have one because I can’t find one.

When will this madness stop?

Finding balance

Due to the hurricane, the welcoming event for my college was postponed until today. Everything seemed to be “reset” after all of the exams: no discussion sessions today, little homework to do, and so on. And heck, I got a 94 on one midterm, a 95 on the other one, and the last one was so easy that I couldn’t even predict anything less than an 85. So, stress is taken care of, since I’m doing well in grades, and the homework load seems plausible as of current.

But as I walked around during the welcome event, I felt almost the same way I did in my first days of class; maybe my days of orientation, even. I felt restrained once again from society and meeting new people. I talked to an old friend a few minutes after I arrived, but that was pretty much it in terms of interactions. When everyone clamored for T-shirt giveaways, I stood fairly still, munching away at the pizza I was somewhat grateful to receive, since I anticipated that they would have run out by the time I navigated the line of 700 people or so. I knew there was something wrong with me, so after the formalities were said and done and the sky was beginning to darken, I decided to just walk away.

I realized, then, that my problems had not been resolved. I can certainly strive to keep homework at bay, yes; I can learn how to sympathize and empathize, indeed; but this social phobia strikes at the heart of who I really am. I can’t meet and talk to people because I am too polite to actually introduce myself to a random stranger. I’m afraid that I will forget who they are the next day, and then when I find them again and they say hello, I will be forced to ask, “Who are you again?”

I walked away, thinking to myself a good excuse for my antisocial behavior today. It could be, “It’s fine, I just didn’t take my antidepressant today,” except I don’t take antidepressants.

This shows my fundamental flaw: I could have absolutely no stress for classes or grades and still feel lonely and try to punish myself for not interacting with other people.

When I walk around, I wish people could actually see that there is something wrong with me. Sometimes, my eyes appear bloodshot and tired, but many times this is not the case, and all they see instead is just a blank expression emanating from my face.

These days, I dream of being with someone. A face of someone familiar often appears in my daydreams, but it is not the same personality. It is some invented personality, and almost always a girl. And I imagine telling them that I have no interest in sex: in some outcomes they turn away in disgust, while in other outcomes they get close to me talk to me more. In some scenarios, they somehow end up finding my room and we talk to each other for a long while about honest things, and we cry and hug each other and maybe lie down for a while.

But it never happens. The dream stays a dream, and I cannot seem to find a way to bring it to fruition in any way. The girls I meet always have a boyfriend or some other person or thing already to tend to. And the counselor lacks the resources to help people like me, who want to know people but can’t seem to find a way to tap into society who also have the same troubles. I’m in a certain group session, but the rule is that we cannot make relationships outside of the session until it has ended for good – and besides, everyone else is many years older than me.

In a way, I’m desperate to find someone whom I can find comfort talking to. I don’t even care if I have something in common with them. Girls are so much easier to sympathize with than men. Sometimes, I wished I had that kind of ability to emotionally express myself, without being so preoccupied and influenced by my dumb sex hormones that only serve to make my oh-so-intelligent species grow and multiply until they hate each other, break into war and shoot and stab each other with swords and guns until they realize what horrible mistake they have done.

My parents and my brother know too much about me, and, as a result, are prejudiced against me.

And at this point everyone is probably like “Jesus!!” but He can only do so much without literally materializing and putting His hand on my shoulder.

I need an actual, living, touchable, and huggable, human being.

Migration event soon

I tried to connect to my own website on Friday, but the connection kept timing out. My mind raced with all of these awful thoughts: maybe some script kiddie finally breached the PHP process and decided to bring everything down. Or perhaps a disk failed on the old SCSI RAID array, and now the server is just waiting for me to connect a keyboard and press Enter all the way back at home to start the server in degraded mode.

But alas, the reality was none of it. Upon returning home on Saturday, I entered the attic and saw that the server was off, fans spinning at idle. I impatiently turn it on, the machine roaring to life once again. I supervise the whole process: everything good. Maybe there was a power outage?

Yet more wrong guesses. The culprit was my father, who decided to turn the server off (God knows in what way – did he really push the power button until it turned off?) without any express notice. Later he made an off-hand remark about how he had turned the server off, not knowing that I turned it back on again.

I want – well, now need – to migrate the server. It’s old, it’s heavy, it’s loud, and it’s expensive in power costs (costs about as much as the pool filter in kilowatt-hours per month). It’s pointless to keep it around, and probably embarrassing to explain why I still use it.

My main choices are to throw the site into my Digital Ocean droplet. I could use a Docker container but then I would have to learn how to deal with volatility and general maintenance.

There is also the option to convert everything into Jekyll; the main problem with this is that I am very unfamiliar with Ruby, and I would lose the markup characteristics of HTML (at least that’s the impression they give me). On top of that, I don’t know how to transplant my blog template into a Jekyll template (it’s not my template!) and I don’t want to give into the overused templates they offer. And then after that, where will I host the site? GitHub? There’s no reason for me to push my rants into GitHub, so the world can see what kinds of “contributions” I make every couple of weeks.

Finally, there is the option to move into a Raspberry Pi, which would grant me the benefit of continuing access to my home network, zero maintenance costs (my parents pay for power), and minimal changes to the web stack I currently use.

So immediately before leaving off for college again, at the cost of probably arriving late, I fumbled around for my Raspberry Pi and connected it to the Ethernet port in my room. I guessed the password a couple of times via SSH and then just decided to pull out the keyboard and break into it locally, so that I could remember what the password was. Oh, right, it’s those credentials. I shove the keyboard and dongle back into my duffel bag, gather my other things, and finally set out.

Now, it is my responsibility to get the RPi up to speed, as the new successor of the PowerEdge 2600.

Stabilization

When I woke up this morning, I realized that my hair has thinned to a point that it is difficult to hide it. It has been happening for a few years now, from one too many stressful days of school, homework, and the “lack” of free time.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to get a leg back up on social interactions and learning how to empathize with people through weekly group and individual sessions. On the receiving end, I listen to how others relate to my constant regrets over lost opportunities in making friendships and meeting people. On the giving end, I talk with the most emotional, yet most recent, event I could possibly recall: my trip to Japan. Needless to say, the strong emotions I expressed at the conclusion of the trip and during surreal moments (such as the first morning in Kyoto, during that shocking, first-hand realization that that the sun rises at 4:45 am; or perhaps the dramatic entry into Tokyo through Rainbow Bridge) seemed to have been expressed genuinely, and were thus understood by the counselor.

I have also realized that most of my emotional state pivots around grades and homework: good grades means less self-regret and self-deprecation, while less homework means less anxiety and burden imposed on my self. It doesn’t help, though, that scholarships seem to be paramount if I don’t want to myself to a middle-class life of work – yet only the top-notch, stellar students get the scholarships, regardless of national origin. Just because I lived for an important part of my life in a Spanish-speaking island that is now physically and politically devastated doesn’t entitle me to anything, nor does it seem to give me a leg up on any admission. I want to find a way to decouple my emotions from my grades, because the notion of a class rank still haunts me from high school, and I will break myself if this continues.

I have already taken two midterms, and I have two more tomorrow. I have little concern for midterms. Studying for a midterm implies that one is trying to compensate for a failure to learn something in the past, and thus partly defeats the purpose of a midterm. The mastery part should occur during the homework and after the homework is reviewed in class (or answers are revealed). The midterm is simply an assertion to the professor or teacher that you really know the material you claim to have learned. Yet I seem to be erring on the side of Bs when I take these midterms: my first one was an 88%, and that was a 50-question multiple-choice test. My second one was somewhere around an 83%, and that’s only because I missed one multiple-choice question out of seven, and then failed to compute the correct answer on the free response even though I followed and communicated all of the steps correctly. My target is “please, just anything above a B.” If I get Bs on all my exams and 100% on all of my homework, I would still end up with an A- in my classes, which is not great if I want a scholarship.

The bottom line is that I don’t want to bind myself to endless work because I owe money to someone.

The suck-it-up culture

I’m stressed about what my grades will be, stressed about the assignments I have to do, burned out from the assignments I have done, and now I can’t see the end anymore.

The physical pattern recurs weekly, and the emotional pattern cycles perhaps once every two weeks.

Monday is already a stressful day. From 7am to 6pm, I’m doing something every other hour:

  1. Calculus at 9 am. The class is fine, but sometimes the professor talks about something particularly irrelevant, such as when he was talking about computing a Fourier series (never appeared on any test or homework), or when he goes over an example that takes half the class time and an entire page of my notes. It’s often burdening to think about what the next homework might be, since he always pulls the material from the week’s lectures.
  2. Wait an hour. I usually go to the computer science building.
  3. A discussion session with the discrete math TA. It’s a little difficult to understand his relatively thick accent, and he can often be very direct, saying “this is wrong” and putting an “X” on whatever we commanded for him to write on the board as an answer to a problem.
  4. Wait an hour. Run for lunch if the situation does not seem too grim.
  5. Computer science/data structures. This is probably my favorite class; the lecturer is very energetic. Time goes very fast.
  6. Wait an hour.
  7. A discussion session with the computer science TA. We take a short quiz, and then he goes over it and I must watch myself painfully get humiliated if his answer didn’t look like mine. When this happens, I often get stressed for the rest of the day and think about how I’m paying money to humiliate myself.
  8. Wait an hour.
  9. Bible study with three other people. The only reason I signed up for this is because they happened to ask me upfront if I wanted to do a bible study, as I was passing through a specific area of the campus at a specific time on the first week of class. Had I not passed through this area on the first week, I’d probably never have signed up.
  10. Wait an hour.
  11. Eat dinner.
  12. Do homework for an hour.
  13. Shower.
  14. Do more homework for an hour or two.
  15. Rush to complete my pre-sleep schedule, and sleep.

Tuesday and Thursday are not supposed to be very stressful, but there are certain caveats:

  1. Calculus discussion session at 8:30 am, in an administrative building on the far end of campus. On Thursday, there is a quiz, but it’s only graded every other week. The quiz is also easy if the homework was done correctly, and only sometimes does the TA go over the quiz (sparing me from any immediate regret).
  2. Immediately once the session is done, go to the bench outside the room, open my laptop, hope it has battery, and load the online theater class’s video stream. There is a quiz every single day, but it is only five questions. However, I dislike the class for other reasons: first, people keep asking dumb questions whose answers they could so easily find on the syllabus; and second, there is absolutely no time to go anywhere else to listen to the class. There is some kind of TA-led lab that wheels in, and around ten minutes before the end of my online class, they first make a hydrogen explosion, and then they try to do some kind of hydrogen bonding experiment that makes water.
  3. Eat lunch. I only have an hour.
  4. Go to the discrete math class. There is always a danger present of the professor not coming in, and instead the TAs taking over and giving us a pop quiz projected on-screen. They always go over this quiz; they have not even graded the previous one, but I’m sure I did terribly.
  5. If it’s a Tuesday:
    1. Do homework for two and a half hours.
    2. Go to the supplemental instruction session for the data structures class. Only four or five people go, and of them, usually only I am the one who speaks up.
  6. If it’s a Thursday:
    1. Do homework for an hour or so.
    2. Go to a certain required meeting. It’s basically a small group of CS freshmen led by an upperclassman who is not only in honors, but also seems to excel in many different ways, such as the sheer number of internships and prominent places he’s worked at, the fact that he belongs to not one, but two honors organizations, and the fact that he has been double-majoring.
  7. Do homework for an hour.
  8. Eat dinner.
  9. If it’s a Tuesday:
    1. Do homework for an hour.
    2. Shower.
    3. Do more homework for an hour or two.
  10. If it’s a Thursday:
    1. Go to a meeting for a working group.
  11. Rush to complete my pre-sleep schedule, and sleep.

Wednesday is a royal pain in the butt:

  1. Calculus at 9 AM.
  2. Run over to a certain kind of group about improving social interactions. It’s annoying because I don’t want to monopolize the conversation, but no one seems to speak up so easily.
  3. Eat lunch. Wait an hour.
  4. Data structures class.
  5. Counseling session to address my horrid life.
  6. Homework for a few hours.
  7. Dinner.
  8. Retreat group meeting. Technically I can’t volunteer in the retreats themselves because I’m not eighteen yet, but the let me in the meetings anyway because they are nice people.
  9. Do last-minute homework.
  10. Rush to complete my pre-sleep schedule, and sleep.

Counseling doesn’t really help with my social and academic anxiety. Many times, it’s just many “mmm”s in agreement with my sentiments, but little advice is given.

Sometimes, he suggests me to exercise, but there’s something tangled in my brain when it comes to exercise:
I don’t want to go to a gym because there are people more masculine than me who go into the weight rooms and lift a hundred pounds. I would be humiliated if I was next to these people: “Oh, I just want to take two 15 lb weights.” “That’s it?! You go to this big gym just to lift 30 pounds? Man up, man! I’m giving you 50 on bench press!”
In terms of running, I don’t have actual running shoes, and my legs already hurt from walking around everywhere all day, every day.
In terms of cycling, I kind of want to do it, but I have no usable bicycle, and it wouldn’t be possible for me to get one without plunging further into debt. (There is an official bike auction on Wednesday evening, but I have an exam at that time!) And then after I buy the bike, how do I know I even like riding a bike, or that it was actually a good fit for me or not? Once I put money in, I can’t back out.
And there is something more about this masculine expectation. I’ve tried getting it off my head for years, but it is futile. I abhor gym shorts and wish I could wear those temptingly comfortable leggings. It is such an embarrassing topic that I don’t ever discuss it with anyone. If I could just go into a store, yes, the part they designate the “women’s section,” at the least popular time of the store, and buy a pair or two of size-11 leggings and wear them in my room, maybe I could feel better about my body. I also would be able to flex and cross my legs very easily. I have also considered buying online, but the order would be easily traceable by my parents if it happened to come from Amazon.

My parents also don’t give many suggestions either. My father thinks it is easy and says, “Just talk to people!” But I can’t! I’m scared of initiating a conversation with random strangers!

The Web doesn’t give many concrete answers either. If anything, I’m scared of failing my classes. My worst nightmare is doing everything in the world to complete an assignment to perfection, then a tiny yet fatal mistake after submission bringing it all crashing down. The people who bother answering the questions only say, “Oh, it’s okay to fail; in fact, failing is often the best route,” and talk about how they failed a number of classes, dropped out of college and came back, or took six years to complete college. No, it’s not okay to fail. What about the people who don’t complete college in 6 years and instead complete it in three? What did they do to accomplish that? Did they murder themselves in study to accomplish that, or were they just naturally smart and talented people? Of course GPA matters, don’t downplay its importance.

The entire attitude of everything in college boils down to “suck it up.”
You get a bad grade, don’t even bother asking it for it to be changed. Suck it up and do better next time.
You fail a class, suck it up and take it again.
You get a loud, disorganized roommate who sleeps for more than twelve hours and breaths obnoxiously through his mouth, suck it up and live through it the whole year.
You don’t have enough money on your meal plan to make it through the year, suck it up, get a job, buy groceries, or go to more club meetings.
Your laptop sucks, suck it up and get another one.
You’re sad, suck it up, keep on living, and do your homework.
You have no free time, suck it up and work harder.
You have no friends, suck it up and talk to people.
You fail, suck it up and keep failing harder.

In high school, I felt stable because it was fairly obvious when people consciously ignored me. In college, I feel unstable because the root cause for not having any social relations is none other than myself. It’s all my fault.

As for sex drive, it is almost completely gone. Sex and kissing look to be gross activities, even if I imagine doing them myself. Yes, I’d be very interested in a relationship with someone of the other gender, but not for sex. And just because I’m already in that rabbit hole, I have absolutely no interest in drugs, either, because I have read that they give a euphoria that cannot be matched by anything in life; essentially, they are not for mortal human beings. Besides, I want a happiness, satisfaction, and grace that I actually deserve. And alcohol seems like an absolutely pointless social ritual, designed to intoxicate the brain into trying to arouse “fun times” out of the person, despite the humdrum daily life of endless work.

At this point, I feel incarcerated by a cruel world, with the key to the cell held by none other than my clever self on the other side.

EDIT: This is not to say that I do not have happy moments in my life. Indeed, I do, and often I deceive myself through omission in order to try to bring a story of problems that makes more sense to people. On discussing paying for counseling visits, my father admitted to me that neglecting to nurture our social lives as we grew up was a parenting failure on his part. I also still play with my brother, and he still coerces me into doing things with him. However, the number of flashbacks that I get daily has been increasing. It is not so common during classes, but it is very common around meal times and during free time.