the people we’ve met in the last five years

Wednesday, October 23, 2002
@ Halcyon | 7:46 PM

     I believe I’ve written this somewhere before but I can’t remember whether it was in this journal or my paper one. Whichever, here goes again:

Stemming from my time in basic training, when I was struggling with depression (but didn’t know it); a complete lifestyle change; and being apart from the only thing that had ever remained constant in my life, my family, I’ve taken on the habit of every once in a while watching the numbers on my Timex digital watch (which I bought in basic training to keep track of the time it took me to run the two miles and still wear) tick by. When I catch the seconds somewhere up in the fifties I’ll usually stop — in the middle of walking, in taking notes in class, in conversation — and watch them reach zero and cause the minute number to their left click to the next higher number. By doing this, some part of me believes I’m watching and even effecting a change on my own life.
It isn’t an obsessive-compulsive preoccupation with passing time (I don’t sit there trying to catch moments as they pass me by). It’s almost superstition, which I’m not much of one for believing in. By watching this tangible, measured reflection of time change before my eyes I am recognizing a personal willingness for my life to make the transition to that higher digit and, hopefully, improve. What improvement am I looking for? I hesitate to even attempt answering that question, but the practice remains. It’s more an off-handed acknowledgement and extension of hope.

Now, answer me this: Is that too much information? The above passage demonstrates, sort of, the real reason I started this entry: People are not really interested in the facts and details of others’ lives. At least, this is what I’ve gathered from my own personal experiences. And if I continued the above paragraphs and sorted out the improvements I’d like make or have happen, most people would be even more likely to lose interest.

I put on Death Cab for Cutie’s The Photo Album in my car stereo this afternoon for my drive down to Halcyon for a mocha. It was gray and overcast with a slight chill in the air — an Austin October. As I drove up Congress Avenue, the music matched the weather almost perfectly. First I skipped forward to “Blacking Out the Friction” (one of the two songs I’ve dubbed the “cold weather twins” due to their reference to Northwest winters) and then to track ten. I was reminded, and indeed noticed that once again I’m in the same state, of the way I felt last year when this album was first released and I listened to it non-stop. A partially breathless feeling, really. Not breathless in that “Oh my God! The world is so beautiful!” sort of way, but a sort of dreamy, half-numb, half-expectant breathlessness.

Somewhere between the light at 2nd and Congress, during my travels of the pot-holed, construction-filled streets of Austin, and the parking garage at Fourth and San Antonio, my mind wandered over to the qualities I like in myself. Possibly it was Annie’s statement last night that she enjoys hanging out with herself and thinks she’s “so cool,” spoken while we sat out drinking pints of Shiner Bock on the rock wall fronting her new house overlooking the I-35 and Riverside Drive traffic that was probably a mere thirty feet below and ten feet from the bottom of the hill. [Truly an updated-to-the-21st Century Wonder Years-esque span of time.] I agree with her to some extent regarding myself.

I enjoy getting lost in my own thoughts, my own ability to be silent and within myself for the majority of most days. And while the constant dialogue (or monologue) in my head is considering others’ opinions of me (people in other cars, walking down the street, friends, acquaintances), I’m also applauding myself for being so “hyper-aware” that I actually see them and can make the conscious choice to acknowledge them or not. Or dissecting issues in my head, replaying conversations, making connections. This holds true in so many other areas of my life, too.

Also, I was quite likely thinking of Claire’s analysis (left to me in IM late last night while I slept) of my journal entries wherein she praised my efforts at trying to get to the bottom of things. (Though I like to consider myself acting out of a similar desire, I make no case for my being anywhere near the ground-level truth of anything.)

Finally, my thoughts must have included various people I know who seem to bounce from friend to friend desiring little more than others’ acquaintance in their lives. Indeed, to me, they seem almost to turn heel and run when a level of intimacy equalling true friendship is in danger of being established. Weeks later they may return desiring to once again continue the relationship on said superficial basis.

With all these topics (and probably many more that I can’t definitely name or begin to explain), I came to entertain the idea that people are satisfied with their nominal understanding, as my philosophy professor might put it, of others. It’s easy, it’s without responsibility, it lacks the motivation or requirement for reciprocity, and, if one lives this way (consciously or not), it’s harmless to them. They’re invincible thanks to their elusive, temporary, flippant, detached existence. Maybe they’re Camus’ ideal in the relationship arena without even knowing it.

I then began considering those things I find cool about myself. Things I would think to be attractive, magnetic about me. Lacking the physical, I’ve tried to cultivate the intellectual and emotional as much as possible. What I think I’ve learned is that people don’t want you to explain; they could not, for the most part, care less about anything deeper than the wry comments you make. And maybe I even thought some of my more superficial qualities might be strong enough to pull their dowsing rods in my direction: older friends, artists, writing, indie music, reading, et cetera. I ended up one wondering if all those things I value weren’t easily acquired (not the friends, but everything else). Moreso, are they easily acquired by anyone and, therefore, uninteresting, unoriginal, and lacking in any real quality of attractiveness?

I don’t mean to sound overly cynical here, though I may be.

Realizing that we can never really know another person, I still revel in learning others’ deeper motivations and, as cliche as it sounds, fears and dreams and on and on. I, too, love the superficial knowledge of new acquaintances and new streets in new cities, but that joy is, I think, really only the anticipation of knowing them on a deeper level someday in the future. (Or maybe I’m a complete hypocrite and don’t really know what I like.) Knowing them on a level above quaint mystery and knowing-without-really-understanding-at-all glances and smiles.

If Claire’s estimation is correct (and my own opinion of myself not too far off the mark), then I think this desire to understand more completely shines through and tempers my appearance to outsiders in my approach to things I’m interested in . . . people being my primary interest.

Maybe I’ve misjudged what I’ve seen around me, or maybe it’s only in reference to me (which, if that’s the case, I think is justified as “I am my only frame of reference,” as Mike would say). I guess as I walked to Halcyon I actually believed it was only in reference to me and wondered how to change that. As always, I come back to the idea that friends I have now must appreciate my current attributes (and my current real friends are the best there are) and others will or won’t come around to value them (depending on their own frameworks) one day or another. No need to change the fundamentals.

But a second thought says, “Maybe you should start keeping things in.”

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