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Freedom & Other Drugs

March 25th, 2024


The changes in my life have been so fundamental and frequent that it’s difficult to track it all -- or, rather, to link things together chronologically.  A commonality in a lot of immigrant lifestyles is the idea of reinvention -- where you let your past, geographically distant self die as a way to start in your new world with no baggage.  But in doing that, you find multiple versions of yourself -- a disconnection with the past.  Of course, I’m not an immigrant.  I only have one nationality, but I’m not quite American in culture.  Not quite a Navy brat or a State Department kid.  But there are similar affectations.  There are different versions of me spread lost to the void of adaptation -- versions that I’ve tried to keep track of in recent years.

Music helps with that sort of thing.  I take my playlists very seriously -- I’ve made one for every month of the year since 2021.  I started that March, so playlist “years” start then and end in February.  It’s a bit weird listening to the inevitable yearly playlist when September is halfway through, but I think the changes in my life really show themselves when March hits.  In other words, by the time things settle halfway through the second semester, the jarring differences in my life and personhood become apparent.  

Two years ago, I was avoiding Chinese quarantine restrictions in my adventuring with Juan, trying to find what teenage spirit we could still muster before graduation.  Last year, I had just broken off what was probably my most unhealthy relationship -- going through the healing trials of moving furniture from Virginia to New York with a friend I no longer talk to.  Both of these had outside forces involved -- obligations and restrictions that steered me in a direction toward “what to do.”  This week, my hands were at the wheel.  All I had was a bank account with savings I would’ve been better off keeping, and an abundance of freedom.

I spent a few days in Shenandoah camping with Matt.  I read somewhere that it was the obligation of every man to either go camping or fly a kite once a year.  Although I’m unsure about the essence of masculinity (i.e. modern society’s stupid capitalist definitions of what men ought to be), there’s something comforting about the male club.  Because it is, for the most part, good-intentioned.  People who encourage you to be successful, to live.  And, to be honest, any excuse to take a break from my real life was worth it to me.  Even if reliant on stupid manospheric dogma.  

Also involved was my recent growing desire toward relapse -- particularly just before break.  I don’t know why I’ve had the urge to go back to the horrible habits that almost always nearly kill me.  It’s not as if my life’s gotten particularly more difficult or stressful than it has in previous years.  But what drugs and random hookups give me is a sense of genuine escape.  In sex, there’s episodic romance -- a familiar arc with a slight push to rush through it and continue on without further communication.  When I’m high, I know I’m unable to be productive or helpful -- so I can just sit there and be.  It’s a sort of freedom that's difficult to describe.  Because sober, you can always be productive -- time spent in other avenues feels a bit wasteful.  But if you’re high, you might as well wait it out.  Especially if you get so high that you forget you’re a person.

After the camping, I took Matt back to his apartment (our Spring Breaks never align).  From then, I had the whole week free to blow off on bullshit and marijuana.  But there was this feeling I had.  I can and will blame it on external factors -- avoiding people or a run-in with the police -- but the truth is that I was desperately looking for an excuse to just go nowhere.  To drive and drive and drive.  To escape.

The aimlessness -- lack of direction or destination -- made it just plain euphoric.  I knew no one, had no obligation toward anyone, and really any sense of profilic identity was disintegrated.  I could just do whatever I wanted.  Sleeping in the car, engaging in random futile romantic escapades, seeing the whole new world that was Texas; I was free in a way I hadn’t been for a while.  

It’s weird.  Because every time I’ve left New York, there’s been a certain sadness about it.  Every return has been exciting.  Because I love New York.  As Chris says, “it’s always great to get out of town -- travel.  But when you get back to the city, it’s the best feeling in the world.”  Yet, for the first time, I dread coming back.  I don’t want to return to my life. 

Maybe it’s the juxtaposition that makes it seem this way -- between my boundless interstates and my 5-borough obligatory lifestyle.  I’m fully integrated now -- I have several circles of friends I dedicate myself to, I work my jobs, and I’m falling into a steady romantic arc.  But these are things I’ve sort of stumbled into.  Toward the beginning of the semester, I was approaching my attitude of “letting my body take the lead” and the results weren’t too shabby.  But my lack of careful decision-making has led me to question if I actually want any of this.  Do I want to be in a fraternity?  Do I want to graduate?  Do I want to be in a relationship?

It’s difficult because these integrations allow for more positive freedoms than negative (that is, free to instead of free from).  I’m free to live the fraternity lifestyle -- to become part of a larger cult that I keep saying is worthwhile.  I’m free to become a scriptwriter and follow the inherently trapping idea of a “career.”  Free to love just one person; to forgo episodic romance for more of a feature narrative.  I know none of these aspirations are bad -- I’d be doing what I love with cool people and cool parties, loving and being loved by a person that I care about.  But they don’t sit right with me.  I guess in a sort of bad faith way.  In other words, I don’t like being told what to do.  I don’t like feeling obligated.  Maybe that’s selfish.  Probably.

I’m reminded of this bit from The Unbearable Lightness Of Being in reference to compassion -- specifically its relationship with love.  The Latin roots -- “co-” (with someone) and “-passio” (suffering). According to the text, to love out of compassion is to love out of pity.  Obligation toward love bears an element of egoism -- as if the lovee would be absolutely worse off without the lover.  Kundera goes into a bit more detail:

“That is why the word “compassion” generally inspires suspicion; it designates what is considered an inferior, second-rate sentiment that has little to do with love. To love someone out of compassion means not really to love.”

But to live out of compassion has a bit of a different connotation.  To live for the sake of others (obligation) implies that these others or the world would be worse off without you.  Maybe I’m more of a narcissist than I give myself credit for.  Either way, it means I’m not really living.  Plus, these things I’m involved in -- these people -- are independent from me.  So I guess it’s delusion, too (bad faith again).  If I drift off, sure there may be some sad feelings, but everyone forgets eventually.  Does it even matter if I wasn’t even living in the first place?

I was having a conversation with a woman -- I can’t remember when.  A majority of it was spent on drunken psychoanalysis (the best kind) -- specifically in terms of relationships.  Or, rather, my relations with women.  We concluded that hookups inherently use people (duh).  Even when it’s mutual, it’s objectifying and non-substantial (double duh).  Beats jerking off, though, because it’s the real deal.  You’re not fantasizing and fictionalizing women (or, at least, not to the same extent).  Something specific she said to me that stuck out: “I think you’re looking for someone to save you.”

Maybe I am and just don’t know it -- hell, with what I’ve been through, no doubt I’m fooling myself about something.  But this idea in attempting to find respite or a cure in love is futile.  I’ve been made aware of that through trial and error.  

I think Vonnegut described it best.  Kilgore Trout, from Breakfast of Champions, wrote a character who, after realizing his planet was dealing with severe overpopulation, made it his mission to try to force his country into making laws against large families.  He concocted a method to reproduce himself via chicken soup.  His idea worked; it caused economic collapse and the government really did have to intervene.  So they banned chicken soup.  

That’s how that sort of thing works.  You want someone to get you -- to understand and be patient with your problems -- to help you with them.  To hold you until you stop crying.  To tell you they’re there for you.  But it doesn’t work like that.  Humans take the easy way out -- do just enough to shut you up.  Hand you a roll of toilet tissue.  “Give you some space.”  Maybe that’s cynical.  But it’s what I’ve learned.  

I guess salvation can only really be found in myself.  I do call it freedom, but maybe I’m just kidding myself.  There are nicer words for it, but if I wanna be harsh the operative term is control.  I think I like drugs so much because they strip my brain down to the basics -- desire and will.  I want cheeseburger, I will have cheeseburger.  No one can stop me.  Etc.  Plus the high is exclusively mine -- I’m in my own world.

But that’s hardly mature, is it?  The reality, however unfortunate, is co-existence.  As much as people disappoint me, I know they probably see me the same way.  I do fail my friends.  Too often.  But I try to get it, I think.  And they do too.  We may try to fool ourselves to the contrary, but we’re all in this together.  Together and alone.  This is easier to say than to accept.

I guess I just don’t want to die --  but strictly in a metaphysical sense.  Like, if I actually died right now, I wouldn’t know or care because I’d be dead.  But dying in the sense of losing myself -- that’s scary.  Of course, I’m okay with change -- with maturing into an unrecognizable version of myself.  But I want to do it on my own terms.  I want to be in complete control of everything I am and everything I do.

But that’s basically impossible -- especially at twenty.  Sure, in the Aurelian sense, I always retain agency over my life in some capacity.  But shutting down again -- closing the doors and giving the power back to myself -- also means being alone.  I don’t want to do that again.  I don’t think I can

I’m in a community.  I’m with people.  Yes, it’s nice to not have to rely on anyone.  But I don’t have to.  I don’t have to be alone anymore.  To go through the trials of unnecessary anguish with no one to talk to.  Things don’t have to change so fundamentally and extremely all the time -- for most people, they don’t.  I can just be one person.  

I’m in New York for at least the next three years.  That amount of time seems so fictional to me that I basically don’t believe it.  I guess this is made particularly apparent in my hesitancy towards living the life I've built. Even if it is nice. I don't want to admit that I'm happy.

Because admittance of that fact means admitting my capacity to suffer. When I don't care, I can't lose anything. But I'm still scared to. Because I don’t believe I won’t suffer through things I can’t imagine.  I don’t believe I’m safe.  I’m scared to let my guard down and become part of this larger world.  To “be saved.”

I want to believe it.  Proust: “hope is an act of faith.”  So is love, I think.  I guess I’m like a Schopenhauer porcupine -- I don’t want to get stabbed again (haha) but I don’t want to freeze.  But maybe I won’t get stabbed.  Maybe I won’t get beaten to a spiritual pulp and be left alone to set my lungs ablaze with escapism.  Maybe I can be happy.

That’s a thought. 

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3 Comments


Guest
Mar 29

More of a narcissist than you think you are? do you mean clinically

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Guest
Mar 28

I don't need to know about that you keep that to yourself

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Guest
Mar 28

you are not a real person what the fuck is this corny ass shit LOL

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