Friday, September 25, 2015

Fighting Complacency

It's been a good first week back. Quiet...too quiet. I love my dorm, my classes are going well thus far, I've gotten to meet a lot of cool people, and I am not used to having this little Sturm und Drang. Of course, it is early days yet, and I'll probably look back nostalgically at this time when the psets start getting difficult and the midterms and projects pile on.

I don't know. I feel a lot more secure than I did last year, a lot more confident in myself and my ability to get things done. Somehow I've landed myself multiple positions of authority, which I love because my unfolded self is an authority who embodies noblesse oblige. That creates some pressure to get it together and keep it together, because I'm not a freshman anymore, there are people who should be able to come to me for advice, and I don't have any excuses for letting things get out of hand.

What I want is to be strong and reliable and there for people, which means I have to be there for myself, which means I have to get more comfortable leaning on other people too. Secrecy and bottling things up has lost the allure. I want to be able to be honest and open with my friends, and indeed they know things about me that I used to hold close to the chest.

But strong and reliable and authoritative says nothing about growth and change and progress. I'm comfortable, and that's partly a good thing and partly a bad thing. It's a sign of character development that I am capable of relaxing and that I trust my friends with sensitive information, yet too much comfort leads to complacency. Last year as a freshman I had the searching anxious restlessness built in. Yet now, major declared, four-year plan neatly laid out with contingencies for if I do/don't get into the study abroad program, I am not really in search mode anymore.

That's a problem. I don't really have space on my plate to start up something entirely new, but I need to keep off-balance somehow. I'm going dancing this weekend for the first time since June, and dancing was a way of shaking things up last year, but now I know that I want to lead and that feels more like consolidation than discovery. Maybe working out more at the gym could function as a "something new"?

Confront your weaknesses. That's what I have to do. My physical weakness, my emotional weakness, my mental weakness. I suppose that if I go all out on my classes and projects, that will count as confronting my weaknesses because honestly I haven't gotten slammed academically yet and the class load I'm taking, even though it's only seventeen units, should pose a challenge. The need to stay one step ahead of and one level deeper than the students in the class I'm TAing is also a challenge. My apathy is the enemy inside, and I need to keep on pushing myself to care more, to learn more. I have brilliant friends who are amazingly knowledgeable about their fields because they have a genuine and wondrous curiosity that I am afraid I lack.

What do I avoid? Confrontation. Conversations about topics about which I have decided my opinion (e.g. abortion). Conversations about sex. Things at which I could fail. Topics where the depth of information is immense. Difficult things. Time pressure. Physical exertion. Parties. Which of these do I avoid because of legitimate reasons, and which do I avoid because I'm afraid that I won't be enough? The answer is basically all of them, which means I should stop avoiding all of them (though not all at once--I don't want to scare myself off my plan of self-growth).

Well, I will keep avoiding conversations about sex because they legitimately do not interest me and occasionally disgust me. But I might go to some parties in order to be wingman for a friend who avoids parties not because they aren't interested (my case) but because they are nervous.

As a civil engineer, I find my imagination caught by the eternal. I'm a low energy, set-it-and-forget-it sort of person. But change is important, especially the kind of change that is progress, and I am too young to be complacent.

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