Short

I have recently come across the notion that some people are constantly aware of one aspect of themselves. Be it ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or what have you, it is always a characteristic that separates one from the norm. For me, it’s my height.

I am short.. very short for the average male. I am 5’1.5-ish, 155 cm. It has always been something that defined me, not because I want to, but because that is the first thing people notice about me. I’ve been laughed at for it many times. It’s ok if the joke is tasteful or if it is a friend who makes the joke. I joke about it too sometimes.

I don’t know why, but people definitely treat you differently when you are short –mostly in an appallingly condescending way. They call you cute, adorable, and other names used to describe children or small animals (Edit: cute and adorable are ok if the person gets to know me). They walk past you, and push you when you go clubbing as if you’re not even there. They lower themselves to your level (this about that for a second), to talk to you. Sometimes they talk to you as if you are younger then them, immature, or less intelligent. And many many times, they ask you stupid questions about your height. No, I am not “legally short.”

I used to be more sensitive about it, and in some cases, I still am. An off-hand, dumb comment about it, and you’re on your way to my bad side.

I am uncertain how precisely these height-related experiences affected me, but I think they pushed me even further to grow: to become more vocal and outgoing (God knows that took years!), invest in knowledge and education because this ugly duckling had that going for him in middle school and high school, and to outwardly emphasize other qualities about myself. Yet with that also came this mannerism of trying to prove myself to others. It is something that I am conflicted about because one shouldn’t have to prove him/herself to others.. and it is sometimes a setback because I pre-occupy myself with what other people think about me and how they perceive me. I worry about that too much.

On the other hand, I gained something a bit more important. I accept things about me that I cannot change (it’s a mantra because it’s constant process; I find that common in my posts). I shouldn’t worry about things that are set in stone because it would yield nothing positive. It will take energy away from me, make me brood –which I have come to learn is a terrible thing to do. You beat yourself up for no reason.

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Polyglot

polyglot |ˈpäliˌglät|, noun – a person who knows and is able to use several languages.

When I meet new people, they are fascinated by my language skills. The conversation usually follows the same course: they meet me, ask me where I am from, I tell them, they notice I sound completely American, and ask me how come I do not have an accent. They ask if I grew up speaking English –no. I just have a knack for languages. And because it gets to my head, I somehow manage to mention that I speak French, can read Arabic (that’s 3 different writing systems with Latin and Hebrew alphabets!), I understand a lot of Spanish, and I just recently started slowly learning Portuguese. I leave them rather impressed. I’m not going to lie, it’s an ego trip that I thoroughly enjoy.

But this is not a bragging post. Ok, maybe a little bit of a bragging post, but it’s not my intention.

Last night, I was hanging out in DuPont Circle in DC with a good high school friend and her boyfriend. After we got a drink at a packed, ridiculous bar, the boyfriend was craving Mediterranean food. We head out of the bar, and lo and behold, a Mediterranean place right next to the bar. We walk inside.. and it’s a hole in the wall sort of place. It’s about 120 degrees inside, and I’m already sweating. It seems deserted, and we are confused for a while until an older guy with salt and pepper hair, some missing teeth, walks in and asks us, in a thick Arab accent what we want to order. After about a minute of fumbling around, he confesses that he doesn’t know much English. The boyfriend asks him where he’s from. He replies that he’s from Algeria.. he speaks Arabic and French.

Surprisingly enough, my usual self-consciousness  about my rather basic French skills weren’t there, and I opened my mouth without thinking. “Je parle Français!” I said, I speak French. From then on, we carried a little conversation in French as he told me about Algeria, him coming to the US, and his travels in Europe.. it was not extensive, but I was able to comprehend and speak the language. Because of his origin, the conversation was spiced with random words in Arabic that I also understood. Granted, I had some issues with my grammar that always got me in French class. Regardless, he understood me.

Walking out of the place, I felt like something surreal had just happened. I was nervous, excited and proud. I loved every minute of it. And now I can’t help but think: was that experience some sort of a sign? The direction I’ve been asking for? If so, have I wasted four years of undergrad studying something that I will not put into good use?

Whatever it means, if it means anything at all, it just gave me an extra push to continue learning and investing myself in a passion of mine.

Predictable

One of my biggest fears is becoming a cliché or an archetype of sorts. I noticed that when I write and hit clichés I make a point to notify the rest of the world how much I hate them.. and I see archetype as clichés taking human form. And therefore I cannot become one.

I can tell this is becoming an externalization of a internal, existential conflict. Lord, am I becoming wordy…

Clichés, by their very definition, are unoriginal. They are words, saying, expressions, and fragments that have been thrown around for centuries that their true meaning has solidified, dried up, shriveled, and then slowly crumbled. By now, they are meaningless.. and perhaps only hold an ounce or so of truth in them –an ounce of genuine identity and meaning. But we still use them and accept them as a part of our spoken and written lexicon.. We’ve seen it all before. It’s boring, unexciting.. and I don’t want to be that.

Then come the archetypes. In my mind, they are clones of people taken from the same mould. The sorority girl, the fratstar, the science nerd, the punk, the over-grown skater boy, tortured artist, the forced flamboyant gay. I have seen them all before. Maybe at first there is some interest, but slowly, you realize that it’s a façade one subscribes to because of the convenience. It’s easier to stick to a set of characteristics than to find your true identity. But I cannot stand them. I find them boring, forced, untrue, mundane, predictable.

They are like clichés: you can tell me the beginning of one, and I can finish the phrase. I know it already because I’ve heard it before. I do not want to become that. I think so far, I’ve been doing a good job at getting to know myself (it’s constant work, the way I see it), and being true to myself. Yet I’m scared of losing my way. I’m scared of subscribing to the archetypes.. especially the ones that are expected from me: from family, friends, people around me telling me who I need to be and what I need to do.

And I think this is why it is so difficult for me to figure out what I want to do and what I want my life to be.. who I want to be. Luckily I have myself and some close people around me to keep me in check and remind me when I’m becoming someone else.

And with that, I sign off.

Truly yours.

The Plan

I found a file on my computer titled “2-Year Plan.” It’s probably not atypical of me to have such a thing. The ‘Plan’ detailed my two years at Carolina: the course sequence that I had in my head. I initially wrote it before I even got into Carolina and then changed it during my first semester there. The funny and ironic thing about it is that none of it materialized. In the plan, God knows how, I had a linguistics and biology minors in addition to my chemistry major.. I was also determined on completing all of my pre-med requirements, which I surprisingly did.

Perhaps I was more ambitious and less realistic at that point?

I dropped both minors when my first semester came to a close. in the middle of my second semester, I decided to take time off, and the whole course sequence was thrown out the window.

The point of this is that I plan.. a lot. I don’t like the feeling of uncertainty. I don’t like the fact that I don’t know what’s the next year is going to hold for me, what I’ll do after graduating in this coming December, where I’ll be, the people who will be around me.. These are the things that keep me up at night. It’s been a thing I’ve been trying to work on: living in the present (such a cliché, I know), and embracing uncertainty, because if you look at it differently, it can be a good thing.

A close friend of mine at the summer program I did said something during a discussion, and now it is constantly in my head. There is this notion in psychology about human traits regarding how well we deal with ambiguity (that word, KD!). I try to be more comfortable with ambiguity. I think it teaches you flexibility and adaptability — both of which I see as positive, helpful traits in life, especially in your 20s. Going back to The Plan: it is impossible to keep the plans that you have.. I think.. because life throws things at you, and in turn, you have to deal with them. Nothing follows a direct path with no interference or disturbance –Newtonian physics assumes perfect conditions that don’t exist in real life and in nature. Maybe I did learn something in physics after all?!

To wrap up this ramble: I need to think about the now. Planning is good to an extent. But, I also need to trust that things will work out: they have so far.