How would I have turned out if I had never watched any television show, movie, or read a book that describes how people are supposed to be?
You let yourself sneeze (into your elbow!) in public. Isn’t that almost the stupidest thing you’ve heard today? Hear me out: This is something that most men take for granted- that they’re allowed to make noise and exhibit a slightly grotesque bodily function in the presence of strangers. I know that, for years, I made sure to stifle my sneezes in school out of a misguided respect for others. Now I know that that way of thinking is totally ridiculous. We already have to put up with physical manifestation of societally-expected restriction like bras, high heels, and Spanx– Free the sneeze!
It’s really scary to look at a mental floss magazine and feel no interest- a small repulsion, to be honest- in reading it. Years ago, in middle and high schools, I’d have snapped up that periodical and devoured it from cover to cover, delighting in all the exciting facts smeared throughout eighty pages. It was a gift to data-hungry nerds like me. Now, just like how depression renders you indifferent to things you used to enjoy, I move past the book with a heavy heart that remembers when the magazine was a friend. (This is not to say I’m depressed- I think I’m just growing up and my interests are changing.)
This happens frequently in the library now. Nearly the entire science section glares at me with its noble books urging me to memorize their insides so as to make myself into a more formidable scientist. Instead, I chalk it up to years of grueling studying for a biology degree and again move on. I rationalize that I’m allowed to want to indulge in the flowery language of cookbooks and feminist publications in my free time. However, this can’t be a good sign, to not want to savor more biology in my free time. That scares me.
The new and popular nonfiction has a little more intrigue, but mostly from the food books. Even these are decreasing in fun because food is so overrated. That seems to be a lesson in my slightly depressing postgrad life: multitudes of things once glittering with excitement are overrated. In many lights, the things I love are included in this sad idea: plants, evolution, cooking. However, in the right classes, articles, and parks, they shine with eons of mystery and relentless inspiration. I must cling to the moments that expose this fragile wonder.
How am I going to live a life that optimizes this inspiration while keeping a minimum to the BS, busy work, stress, competition, and other superficial systematics that uphold the science world?
In high school, I lost interest in reading. I think it was because I’d had to read intensely in order to finish the assignment without losing sleep (already going to bed at 10:30/11 was really hard on my sleep) and it made me bitter. Just like how deciding to pursue a past hobby and change it into a job can make one bitter, reading transformed from an enjoyable pastime into a chore. I also developed a habit of perpetually skimming everything I read. It’s a habit that frustrates me to no end when I try to soak up a Sunday NYT session and end up having read an article’s final sentence with half the emotion and knowledge I would’ve extracted before all this nonsense began. I totally blame school for these impediments. I know I can break them but, like any habit, it will be a challenge. Decreasing attention span thank to social media should also be mentioned here.
Audiobooks have helped put back literature into my life. I have hope that, after enjoying a few more, I’ll have developed the patience and courage necessary to take up a thick hardcover and savor it. Cross your fingers for me and every other milennial who deeply delights in photoshopped images of old books with vintage tea sets and a rainy setting but who can’t muster the patience to enter that world themselves.
I think that another reason why I feel so comfortable in my skin as of late is that I truly feel entitled to:
- Take up space
- Go after opportunities because I’m qualified (well, partially) and deserve to benefit from them
- Be happy
- Have free time/Delegate tasks to others (within reason)
- Believe that I can achieve my goals of obtaining a PhD and possibly filling the professorial roles of my mentors someday.