People Watching

I sit at my table in the library, the same spot everyday (give or take). I think I have OCD. No, wait. I know I have at least a mild case of OCD.

I tried studying in a study room, once. The library’s always so loud, which is ironic because libraries scream quiet, and sometimes silence is the loudest scream of all.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. The room in which I studied once. Just once. Because, apparently, my mind needs distractions in order to be productive, which seems contrary to function. I’ve never been normal; it’s boring, anway.

So I sit at my table in the library, and I’m not so maladjusted that I can’t be flexible. Just as long as it’s a table, and I can sit facing the door. I people watch to think. Sometimes too much I think. But people are fascinating creatures, and sometimes I wonder if people notice the same things I do.

For instance,

1. Everyone has their own unique walk.

2. The way the computers get filled up is an interesting study on human behavior. No one likes making eye contact with someone they don’t know, which is why of the 4 computers in the campus library that you can stand at to use, people use the two where their backs are to the door first. And at the computers where you sit down, four to a table, people never sit directly next to or across from someone. They always sit diagonal. Unless the other user is a friend, in which case, all rules go out the window.

3. You can tell a lot about a person from their eyes. Eyes are the windows to the soul, which is why nobody sits directly across from someone they don’t know. Nobody wants to admit the truth: we’re all hurting.

4. The way the same person acts around different people is fascinating. And terrifying. Which is real? Can the person be trusted?

5. Every person has their own unique walk.

My friend has a purposeful gait, not like a horse’s. She walks deliberately: long strides, with confidence, as if she owns the place. Head up. Shoulders tall.

I do not. My posture is meager at best, as if the weight of the world is on my shoulders, and sometimes I don’t know if I can do it all.

But then I see the people working around me: I realize we’re all the same.

There’s the girl over there who is clearly hungry trying to convince herself she is not.

There’s the guy over there trying to put on a macho face when he’s clearly falling apart inside.

I wonder if she knows she’s beautiful, if she’s heard it today?

I wonder if he knows he’ll be ok, if he believes that today?

The hardest thing about being a poet is that I see all these things about people. And I haven’t figured out how to say, “Hey. I don’t know if you know this, but there’s something about the way your eyes light up and meet your dimples when you solve a tough problem that reminds me there’s hope” without sounding like a creeper.

So, I people watch, and I wonder what people would say about me if it were socially acceptable to say such things.

So, I people watch.

Because sometimes I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, and in order to distract myself from this feeling in my chest of impending doom, I make up stories about the people around me.

I’m not crazy. I have problems to solve and things to figure out, and I find the best of me in other people, and also the worst. And sometimes I need a little perspective.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times, which is the best way to sum up life.

I’m really bad with small talk. The “How are you?”s and the “How about the weather?”s make me really uncomfortable. Is this a rhetorical question?

I’m better with intellectually stimulating conversations about what you think death is like, what is the meaning of all this? I think our answers to questions like these say more about us then “I’m good” ever could.

The mind is a funny place.

I think about death a lot and life. I’ve faced my own mortality by my own hand. The future terrifies me. I don’t even know what I’m doing this summer, let alone forever.

I need to take it one day at a time right now. That’s all I can handle. The world’s a big place, and I’m a small part of it.

And so I people watch. Because people fascinate me, but also terrify me, which is one of life’s great ironies.

Just like the Hulk’s secret is that he’s angry all the time, I’m afraid all the time. That’s how I survive.

I want to do big things, write a book, change the world, but I feel insignificant. The world’s a dangerous place: there’s war, violence, murder, hate, and sometimes we’re our own worst enemy.

But there’s always hope. Sunrises, sunsets, summer and winter. Life goes on.

And so will I.

And so I people watch, because everybody has a story. Stories fascinate me, and they should fascinate you, too.

Empathy goes a long way.

I write to figure things out, and I don’t know what this poem is trying to say, but I think it has to do with the confusion that’s inside me, because how do you know if you’re in love, because I think he’s kind of great.

He makes me want to eat pancakes with him, but I don’t even like pancakes. I don’t even know who ‘him’ is.

This is what goes on in my mind 24/7, and I promise I’m not crazy. I’ve just been hurt a lot, and I’m trying to heal and deal.

Because life is confusion and chaos and order and beauty and a paradox wrapped in a conundrum shrouded in mystery.

And I love every minute of it.

Matter of Factual Finiteness

Yesterday, I turned 19. (My Birthday was fan-super-tastic. Thank you for asking.) A common question people ask after one has a birthday is “How does it feel to be a year older?” And I don’t know. Because the thing is, I’m only a day older than I was yesterday, and yesterday I was a day older than I was two days ago. But yesterday was special because the number associated with my age changed. Ergo, yay for me!

(Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful. Really, I am. There was a time when I didn’t think I’d live to see 16, but somehow, I’m still here.)

I’m grateful, but I don’t know what else I feel. Am I supposed to feel different? How quickly do people think it takes change to occur? A day?

Nah, bro. No good.

I believe change happens the way ketchup falls out of the bottle: slowly and then all at once. I am who I am because of who I was. And when you get older, who you were doesn’t just disappear; it becomes a part of you. Inside of you are all these pieces of former yous that help shape who you are today, which is why some people never grow up. When I turned six, I was still five and four and three and two and one, which is why I’m so curious and I learn something new everyday, and why I sometimes forget how to use my legs and trip when I walk.

The same is true today: I’m 19, but I’m also 18 and 17 and 16 and 15, etc.

And life is trying to throw all this responsibility my way, but I can’t hear it screaming my name over the sound of my crayons scribbling furiously. But, I still wonder what these next 365 days have in store for me. I wonder what adventures I’ll have. I wonder what kind of people I’ll meet. I wonder what stories I’ll write. I wonder what kind of person 19 year old me will turn out to be. I wonder if I’ll be able to impact the world at least half as much as it has impacted me. And I wonder if I’ll finally learn what it means to matter, and if I’ll finally matter.

Because popularity and coolness are fluid: they change depending on the container they are placed in. And you spend your whole life trying to achieve a certain level of coolness and popularity, until one day, you won’t remember why you were trying to achieve them in the first place, because they don’t matter.

I believe you matter because of what matters to you. Your level of mattering is directly equivalent to how much what you care about matters to you. I matter because I care about family and friends. I matter because I’m passionate about sharing my stories and about hearing yours. I’m passionate about life and about making beautiful things. And I want to leave this earth a little bit more beautiful than it was when I arrived.

Even though I think I have a lot of time, time is relative, and life is finite. My finite life takes up space on the infinite line of the universe, and even though the space of my line seems rather insignificant, I have enough time and space left to make it significant.

In these periods of 365 days, there’s enough room for me to reinvent myself. I can turn myself into who I want to be. Because if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that you can’t stop the future from coming. And why would you want to? Because life is beautiful and also terrifying. And if you try hard enough, so much is possible. I want to be possible.

So, life, I see your finiteness, and I raise you my hopes and dreams.