Confusion

It’s 3:30 in the morning and I’m on my fifth draft of this post. Just what exactly am I doing… So once more, you all can see the lack of a beginning that seems to start off my posts. I’ve been sitting here since 1:00, surveying the darkness around me and wondering just what it was I wanted to say. I suppose I sealed this blog’s end with my last post, the one prior to Chapter Zero. I talked about Cowardice, and in specific, my own cowardice. I said things I probably shouldn’t have, I mentioned parts of me that are better kept hidden. I don’t know why this is here anymore. Why am I writing? Am I writing for myself anymore? Was I ever writing for myself?

Just what am I doing. I’m not sure if I’m even telling the truth. As I read back on what I’ve said and wrote, what I’ve told people, I feel like a fool. I don’t just change my mind, I lie. Without even realizing, I deceive, trick, and cheat people. I’m not even sure if 10% of what comes out of my mouth is plain, simple, honest. I feel as though 90% of what I say is complete bullshit, a lie, or provocation. I don’t know if what I’m feeling now is what I should be feeling or what I’m actually feeling. Everything seems out of place. I sealed everything when I wrote ‘Cowardice’, speaking in a tainted view. What foolishness.

At a certain point, this blog turned from observation of the world about me, personal opinions and more far-reaching topics, to something more introspective, and eventually it devolved into foolish whining. As if writing about it would do anything. As if writing about anything will have a benefit. Not in a closed off, hidden blog. Not one that very few people can see. Just what was I thinking. I suppose I’m writing today to dispel some of the darkness that’s creeping up on me.

I start college next month. Classes start in 20 days, I’m gone in another ten days. Where did the time go? Where did my summer go? I wasted it away, and I was happy at the time, sometimes bored, but content. Looking back on it now, I feel this sense of regret. I know I wouldn’t have done anything anyway, even if I was warned, but that’s just part of learning, part of growing up. I think what I regret more is sitting on my bed a few weeks ago, calling every single person in my contacts list… and knowing not one of them would pick up. I made calls for as long as I could, I got through the entire contact list, but everyone either didn’t pick up or was busy doing something else with someone else. I asked for people to call back, one after another, an entire contact list full of people… and no one returned my calls. I send out emails and I get no replies.

Was I that meaningless? Did I never really matter? What was the point of my attitude if no one wanted to deal with me, to even call back. Of course, that was never the point. I always tried not to be the nice guy, but the guy who was reliable, who was around for you if you asked for him. Very few people asked. And of course, I never reached out for help. I always felt like if there was a problem, I could fix it myself. I would simply continue the way I had done things, never asking for help, trying to offer it, and isolating myself. When I tried again a few weeks later, it was harder. Even calling a single person suddenly turned into a monumental task for me. I was scared. Scared to be alone. Scared that being who I was had pushed away everyone I thought I could call friends. I couldn’t go through and call everyone on the next pass, afraid of being overbearing, afraid of being a bore, afraid that my attitude, my remarks, my caustic aura would eat right through whatever loose strands of friendship held us together.

Holding conversation was impossible. Summer orientation at college taught me that. I didn’t last longer than a few minutes with anyone, I kept overly silent or pretended to be that brash, loud boy that I was in high school. That sort of facade is and was tiring. I was reminded of just how incapable a person I am, how unsociable. When I got home, it was impossible for me to try and call anyone. I had sent out e-vites in the weeks before for a graduation party that my parents were throwing for me, whether I liked it or not. That was bad enough, as a mass message was not something I usually did, and now I was certain my detached attitude was going to frustrate people. When my parents decided to change the date, I had little choice but to accept, and once more I had to send out a mass message, informing everyone of a date change. That, in and of itself, was a horror. There was a protocol to this, one I had no idea about. I was  most certainly messing things up, rending  all the relationships I had tried to build over the years in two. So when time rolled around and I reached for my cellphone, I found that my fingers trembled every time I got close to the call button, my heart sinking deeper and deeper with each new answering machine. They don’t want to talk with me. They’re having fun without me. I’m not a necessary, or even wanted existence. I’m just in the way.

Now that date is coming around. My graduation party. My send-off party. What if no one shows up? What if my friends bail… I called around twenty to forty of them, can I really handle it if only two of them show up? Can I handle the jeers from my parent’s friends, the pitying looks, the insufferable silence? I’m hoping beyond hope that those people who haven’t replied show up. I don’t mind. I won’t mind. If I invited you and you show up without saying anything before, I won’t be mad. I won’t be disappointed. I swear I’ll be happy, so please, not just for my sake, for my parents too, please let enough people show up. Let things go by without a hitch. I don’t want to screw everything up again. I don’t want to lose my friends. I don’t want to look around and realize I’m alone.

Every time I pick up my phone, I am reminded. It’s become impossible to call. It’s become too hard to try. I don’t have that strength. I don’t have that power. And I know, this is a problem I could fix by myself. If I lie to myself even more, if I put myself out even more, if I pretend to be outspoken, questioning, a charismatic spokesman, I can keep going, I can survive. But will the scared, sentimental introvert ever get a chance to exist? Will I have to give up who I am in private in order to exist in the world? In society? Is that the price? Burying who I am, pretending to be someone else, living someone else’s dream, someone else’s life. I can’t even dream. I can’t even cry.

And so I welcome back the smiling fool, who smiles even as he’s cut to pieces. Hello World. It’s me again, I don’t know what I’m saying, but I hope you understand.

Who am I?

Who am I going to pretend to be this time?

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Cowardice

You know I have been searching for this one song/video on youtube for ages and I can not find the original version. Then I found it on my computer and now WordPress won’t let me upload it. Why do you do this to me, WordPress? Clearly, the solution is to go use the first video uploading site that comes up via google search. TinyPic, apparently.

Now then, onto the subject of cowardice. This is probably one of my more depressing entries, so if you’re not into that, are gonna freak out, or just don’t want to see this, skip it. I warned you.

Oh look Tiny Pic failed. Fantastic. Anyway, it is a good song I was going to link, but all the versions I found were either of sucky quality or did not have subs to them. Alas, woe is you.

So, onwards. Cowardice. I’m a coward. There, I said it. I’m pretty sure I am one, at the very least. I always can’t say what I actually think and my mouth says things I don’t mean. I’d like to say ‘I mean what I say’, but that’s not true. The truth is, ‘I occasionally mean what I say, but also compulsively lie’. But that’s a different subject. Much like how my writing style changed drastically in the month I haven’t updated. Strange. At any rate, back we go.

Cowardice. I can’t say what I think. I can’t say what I feel. I’m sitting here at 1:40 AM, hoping that someone will read this and hoping that no one will. I don’t know which is worse. I don’t know how to phrase what I feel, I don’t know how to say what I think. More and more, it’s easier to just let the ‘me’ that is me fade and simply slip right into the stream of people moving about their business. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about it, wouldn’t have to worry about my differences, wouldn’t have to worry about being unique. But that is cowardice.

I was in class today… My 3rd class of the day is a little rowdy. In that class, there are three people in the audition only top-level of choir. Coincidentally,we all sit in a row, one on either side of me. It’s an AP class and we already took our test, so now we’re basically messing around for the last month. So it came to pass that we somehow got to the suggestion that the people on my right and left [the two other kids in choir] should sing, and that the class wanted to hear them sing. Only those two. I was invisible somehow, no one looked at me, no one mentioned my name, no one bothered with me. Sitting between two people like that makes you feel like you’re inferior. Like you’re the worst. I know I’m not great, but to not be recognized, to not be noticed, to be so completely ignored is a horrible feeling. I’ve felt it before, but today I felt it clearly. Was I so low as to not even be in the same league as those two? Perhaps that is the case. I said nothing, I only smiled and listened to the people around me egg on my two seat neighbors to sing. I do not mind so much, as they are both quite skilled, but I mind a little bit, I must admit. I am a little jealous. Just a touch. Perhaps if the reason was not, “But you’re in the top level of choir, right? So you can and should sing for us!”, I would not be so troubled right now. Am I not worthy? Am I not noticeable? Or have I built up a reputation that you would rather not deal with me at all? Perhaps that’s it. Perhaps I’ve gotten to a point where no one wants to ask me for anything, to talk to me about anything. I said nothing and smiled. To explain my distress to anyone isn’t something I can do. Cowardice. I’m too afraid to say what I think, I’m too afraid to even make a joke about it. What if they say, “Well yeah, but those two are way better than you are.” or “But those two are amazing singers” or in fact, much of anything. At this point, nothing I can think of as a response can’t be turned into an implied insult directed at me. It seems like I’m just no good. Cowardice.

It’s the same elsewhere too. Physics. I want to be good at it. I want to understand it. But now, I’m not sure if I’m asking questions to try and understand the material more, or out of fear that if I stop asking questions, people will forget about me. Is that all I am? That one person who asks questions in class and tries to answer all the prompts? Cowardice. I’ve felt like keeping my hand down and not asking questions, but that too is Cowardice. There’s no escaping for me. I guess that’s my problem. In my life, I just wanted to exist and go with what I believed in, but now that I’m older, it’s getting harder and harder to keep at it. Society is pushing me down, or perhaps I’m just letting it, because I’m too afraid to fight back. Cowardice. Perhaps I feel like enough is enough already. That I’m done with that “one more time”, I’m done with the “No problem”, I’m done with all of that… Or perhaps that’s just more cowardice.

The rest of this story should generally be kept secret, but I guess I feel a need to write it out. I have edited it out and password protected it in a new post, which can be found here.

And so the Coward’s story ends, at least for now.

Right, right, I almost forgot. I think I forgot while I was writing this, and perhaps you might have as well, but that Coward is me. All I can show for myself is a little bit more Cowardice.

Group Responsibility

Oh look it is freaking part two.

This is also known as ‘When they realize that this is their final grade and start caring’.

 

It’s true. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.

Also known as 'You know it to be true'

Don’t even try to deny it. This is how it works, unfortunately.

 

Ain’t that just fantastic. It’s right about now that I wish WordPress had a spoiler thing. That image is too freaking big for my tastes and I can not stand it all up in my screen space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So look I hit enter a bunch of times. Problem solved. Now then, onto group projects.

So, I assume that most people have been put into a group decided by the teacher, either with people they didn’t like or didn’t choose. Most everyone has. Oh well suck it up.

Seriously? I’ve been in groups that I haven’t liked before. In fact, I have been in groups I’m not fond of very, very often. Sometimes they don’t like me either. Perhaps it’s that elitist attitude and snobbish demeanor I give off that makes me not get along well with other people. Whatever the case may be, my stance on group projects is fairly simple. Do your share of the work. I do not care if you have a problem with me. Your social issues with me have little to no relevance to our project and our grades. And by the way, it is not only my grade on the line, it is also yours. So do the work.

I’m sure you’ve been in that situation. You’re in a group and people keep flaking out on you, not doing their share of the work, so you and maybe one other person pick up all the slack because neither of you want a zero on the assignment, right? So you do the work, and the teacher gives everyone in the group that darn B+. Oh man B+!That’s freaking horrible! Yeah no it’s not. Not when 2 people did the work of 5. So I guess I should just start listing off things at this point that annoy me about group projects. The first should be obvious. Not picking up your share of the work.

 

Now don’t get me wrong. If you don’t care about the class, fine. You don’t really care if you get an A or a B or a C, alright. That’s your prerogative, not really my concern. If that’s what you want to do, then that’s your choice. Maybe you’ve got a home situation going on. Maybe you’ve got something else. Maybe you just don’t care and don’t think it’s worth it. Your call. Fine. Don’t do the work for your assignments. See, when you do that, it doesn’t affect me. You get a zero, I get a grade that is not a zero, we’re both still separate. When you put us in a group, however, there’s one thing you have to understand. You now have a responsibility to the rest of the group to do what you say you are going to do. You can not flake out. So that’s further subdivided into two parts. Not doing your work and not doing what you say you will do.

When you have a group project, you are part of a group. It is your responsibility to not take some of the workload. You do not get a free ride because you ‘got lucky’ and ‘got into a group with that nerd’. I have heard both of those phrases said in several occasions, both with people in groups with me and not. That is in no way fair. Do your share of the work. And do not half-ass it or basically make it useless. If you are in the same grade and taking the same class as me, what I expect is a basic level of competence in that class. Do your work and do it properly. So when it comes time to divide tasks, you have to take something. I don’t mind if you say “I’ll take whatever’s left.” I’ve done that on occasion, as it’s simple. It lets everyone get what they want, and if you have no preference, you still end up doing some part of the workload and fill up the empty space. Perfect. A good example of this not happening follows. It doesn’t even have to be in class. Here we go:

So I’ve gone backpacking before with a group. If you’ve ever gone backpacking with a group before, you know it’s a lot easier than going alone sometimes because the ‘crew’ divides the gear between each member so that all the necessary equipment gets transported, but at the same time, no one is overburdened. I was along with about 10 other individuals. So when it came time to pack up camp and head out, we had to distribute the gear for the day’s hike to the next spot. We had a bunch of crew gear stacked up, and it should have been split up. Everyone should have taken some part of it, even a smaller portion. Unfortunately, that was not the case. What we got were excuses. My backpack is too heavy, my backpack is too full, I carried it yesterday, etc.  Sound familiar? If not, let me show you. Watch: My backpack course load is too heavy, my backpack schedule is too full, and so on.

So who takes the gear or the work? That one guy or girl who knows it needs to get done. You don’t go anywhere unless someone picks up the extra load, whether it is actual gear or work for a project, and takes care of it. Now before you object and say “Yeah, but some people just take it before anyone else has a chance to respond or takes the whole project on their shoulders and don’t give us a chance to comment”, I know. I understand. There are some very domineering personalities in the world, but if you have a part you want to do, then take it. Do not complain because you were too chicken to raise your voice and say, “I can take care of it.” What, are you scared of responsibility? Commitment? See, that’s the exact same thing that those guys who don’t take anything at all probably feel, except they don’t try to cover it up by blaming others. At least the excuses they make are about themselves. Well, anyway. I do get there are some personalities like that and it’s hard to say anything. Fine. But not everyone is like that. Sometimes no one takes it and someone has to. So one or two members of the team carry the entire burden and support the entire group for that leg of the journey, or for the project. I don’t think that’s fair, but it happens. It bugs me, but it happens. Fine.

The second thing that really bugs me about this thing is the idea of doing what you say you will do. It’s bad to not take anything, but it’s just as bad to say that you’ll “take care of it”, and then you fall through. You don’t take care of your part, and at that point, everyone is scrambling to make up for your portion. This is a bit more of an overarching concept, the idea of keeping to your word. I think I may have mentioned this previously, but I’m a big believer in not making promises I can’t keep. It’s for the exact reason that I do not want to be the guy who falls through, who lets other people down. And that’s really the bottom line to this whole group thing.

 

When you are in a group, other people rely on you and are trusting you to be in the group with them. They are believing in you to take care of the assignment with them, to do your fair share, and to cooperate such that everyone does an appropriate amount of work and gets a great result. When you don’t do your fair share, but expect a return, you are breaking that trust. When you commit to completing one portion, but fall through, you are breaking that trust. When you skip meetings, when you fall through, when you act irresponsibly, you are breaking that trust.

And for your group members, they can’t do anything but sigh and try to clean up your mess. They try to get the result, because they want the result. They need the result. In fact, you might need the result too, but no one wants to call you out on it. No one wants to be rude. No one wants to scream, yell, shout, kick and scream, to throw a fit and raise a ruckus when they know wrong has been done. No one wants to, because they should be understanding. They should be accommodating. They shouldn’t throw a fit over every little thing. They should be reasonable and not be upset that their group member let them down.

That sounds perfectly reasonable. Except it doesn’t. So why do we let it? I guess that’s what society expects of us, but I know I can’t be the only one who feels their blood boil a little when a group member fails. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve done it to other people just to get back at them. It’s a little scary. I actually said, “I usually do all the work, so since I’m not going to be here on Thursday, I’m going to make you guys do all the work.” I did the work during that work day, but I didn’t really do much of anything else. And I’m realizing now that this is exactly the kind of thing that sparks drama and nonsense, whether it is at work, at school, or even recreational. It doesn’t make any sense.

 

So now you know. That’s what usually bugs me about group projects. But we have yet to get onto part two, the part known as ‘but these things really, really bug me’. I’ll talk about two things in particular now. First, complaining about a result you put no work into. Second, trying to jump into a project at the end.

So the first thing that gets under my skin. Complaining about a project you didn’t take part in. Remember those things I was complaining about above? Not doing any work on the project or saying you’d do work and then not doing it? That bothers me, but what really gets at me is when those people, those same freaking people have the audacity to complain about the grade we received. I don’t care -who- you’re complaining to, whether it’s the teacher or it’s to your group members, but if you didn’t do anything in the project and made everyone else pick up the slack for you, you have zero right to say -anything- about the grade we received. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not even your project. It just happens to have your name on it, because we’re nice or because the teacher has a list of groups, but that doesn’t mean it’s your group. This reminds me of one of those children’s book stories. I think it was Clucky Duck or Hen or something bakes a cake? Or maybe it was bread. Anyway, this anthropomorphized hen is making some tasty bread and every time she asks for help with one of the steps [getting the grain, grinding it, making the flour, making the mix, baking it, etc], the other animals say they are too busy for some reason or another. Yet, when the confection, whatever it was, is done, they all come crawling out of the woodwork looking for a slice of the pie, both figuratively and literally. That’s what this reminds me of. You can’t claim ownership on something once it is finished. That’s ridiculous. Either you claim ownership of it from the point you get involved [usually the start] right to the end of your capability, or you sit back and don’t claim ownership. Heck, even partial help is fine. If you do something while the product is being created and don’t come crawling out at the end when everything is finished just so you can claim credit for something you had -no hand- in, then fine. I’ll be slightly annoyed, but I’ll be more understanding and less likely to want to box you into a corner, smack you upside the head, and scratch your name off the project.

The second thing that gets under my skin. About three or four sentences ago, I said something about having some hand in the project. I lied about being less annoyed. I’ll probably be even more annoyed or just as annoyed under certain conditions. See, here’s the magic of projects. Sometimes, you have this project that comes at the end of the year. Or maybe it’s in the middle of the term. Anyway, it’s important because it’s worth a large part of your grade [or it’s important for your promotion, or whatever the case may be, but my major experience in this is with school work]. So you get on it and give it attention and care, knowing that this is going to be your final for the class, worth a large percentage of your grade, or it’s your ‘semester project’, which is basically the same deal, a large percentage of your grade. So you and your group members get working [At this point, I’m going to take a moment to thank the individual who was with me for my semester project in Government, 5th Period 2nd Semester Senior Year. You are the best for falling in zero pitfalls and being an amazing partner, one of the best I have ever had. We ended up with a perfect score, and that doesn’t happen unless you, my partner, care and put in effort. I was and am honored to have been your project partner for our semester project in that class] – Yeah, nevermind to that last sentence. See, I felt so strongly about this one partner who did right by me, and I truly hope that she feels I did right by her, that it sticks in my mind above all other projects and project partners. It may have been the fact that it was a more recent project, or perhaps because it was a pair assignment and I don’t remember the situations where I had a good partner, but it was 2 of us in a group of 5, but she did right by me. I won’t ever forget that. She is the standard to which I hold myself now, because I was stunned and impressed. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not a super-genius. She’s not daft either, but she’s intelligent and clever, like I know most people can be but for some reason refuse to be. The best part, however, is that she really does try. I can tell she tries. This is probably a weird place to say it, but wow. It was beautiful.

Anyway, back to the old topic and moving away from that aside about my awesome project partner that restored my faith in project partners, imagine you and your group members get working. That is to say, you and one other group member, plus a third group member who does an average amount of work [while you and the first group member are picking up the slack of the remaining two group members]. It’s been a month since the project started and the two group members who weren’t working well continue to not work well. It’s either one of them or the other, or if you’re really unlucky, both at the same time. So it’s been a month, there’s two weeks left in the project, and you get an email that basically says, “Hey dude I need to take part in the final so I can get my grade and raise my GPA/be eligible for sports/be able to attend State College/etc”. You hope you’re being bullshitted, but no. 2 weeks before the project is completed [or before the final is there or whatever the case may be], your classmate “sees the light” and decides that he must get in on the action and get a good grade. But for the month before, who cares. It’s just now that he’s feeling threatened, he’s getting involved. Selfish interest, 100%. But this selfish interest isn’t one that started from the beginning. I’ll admit I’m fueled by selfish interest for most of my projects. I want a good grade, so I put in the effort for a reward that goes to me. Selfish enough, fine. The difference is that this group member’s selfish interest spawns later on in the ball game, and you have no idea if he has any idea what’s going on. He wants to take part, but at this point, now that you’ve started to figure things out, he jumps in and makes waves. Of course, there’s no saying no to this kid. I don’t think most people can go, “I don’t care if you fail this class and can’t go to San Jose State. You didn’t take part in the project from the start, your problem.” It’s a bit of a dirty trick if used intentionally, but it works. That really boils my blood sometimes.

But oh well, what can you do.

 

Bottom line of all of this is fairly simple. When you’re in a group, be part of the group please. You’ve got more to worry about than just yourself and your actions affect more than just yourself. Remember that image I posted aaaaaaaaaaaaalll the way at the top? Strive not to be the reason your group members believe the bottom pie chart is true.

Please and thank you~

Commitment and Personality

Let’s get something out of the way first. I’m not one for commitment. I don’t like it very much. I prefer not to promise things. Commitment and I are old enemies. We haven’t gotten along since I was young. And here’s why.

When I commit to something, it usually means I’m agreeing to follow through. I’m not someone who’s great with words and a fairly firm believer that actions speak louder than words. In my case, it may seem as though my actions are speaking and writing, but I think that it is what you do and -how- you say things that tells more than what you say. For example, if someone asks me what I did in school today, my answer will be one that shrugs the question off. Most kids do this. They reply, “Nothing.” Does that mean every kid has the same personality? Of course not. What’s more important to pay attention to is not that they are meaning to say “Nothing”, but rather that they speak tersely, curtly, or perhaps cheerfully. Maybe instead of saying “Nothing”, you hear “Nothing much”, “Not much really”, “I don’t really remember”, “Nothing important”, and so on. They all mean “Nothing” and are intended to more or less dismiss the question. There is a difference though.

When I hear someone say, “Nothing important”, I get the distinct impression they are deciding for me what is important. That makes me take a step back and tells me something about the speaker. Maybe they’re a little arrogant or assume things easily? Maybe they’re just trying to be considerate and not bore me, but are just bad at communication? It can mean a lot. “I don’t remember”, for example, sends a somewhat different message. That can be someone not wanting to talk about it or not wanting to remember, or it can mean someone honestly not remembering. Rather than deciding for me what’s important, they decided that they didn’t think it was important and forgot about it. It’s a little rude and dismissive, but it’s also a bit more honest. That’s the kind of feeling I get from the words people say.

I judge pretty easily based on what and how people say things. I probably shouldn’t, but at the same time, everyone judges. This is just my way of getting an impression. I tend to focus a lot less on what people do and what they say and focus more on how they say things or how they stand and act. People like to pretend. They like to be contrary. They can be self-serving, justifying, and selfish. That’s a human. I can accept that about people. Everyone’s different, you’re going to get different people with different personalities. There’s no real harm in that. I can try and get along with anyone.

Here’s what this whole thing is leading to.

I don’t like commitment because of the following:

Most of the time, when I commit, I am making a promise. If you hear the words, “I promise” coming out of my mouth, I more or less do my darnedest to keep that promise. I don’t like saying, “I promise”, because my word is my bond. If I can not be trusted to follow through on what I promise to do, if I can not be believed… I want to be someone who can be considered reliable. Maybe I don’t always follow through. Maybe I shirk off my duties or flake. Fine. All that might be true, but when I give my word, I consider it one of my highest priorities. Even if I don’t want to anymore, even if I’m tired, even if I feel like I want to sit down and vomit until I pass out, once I’ve promised, I will keep to it as long as my body lets me. This is also why I despise making promises with indeterminate time limits or end conditions. I’ll be keeping my promise until the end of time. At some point, I internally set about a year for some promises, but if I’ve promised, then I’ve promised. I’ve committed and said, “Yes, I will do this. I give my word.” Assuming I gave my word or trying to pull me in with implied consent means nothing to me. It is only when I explicitly create an agreement with someone else do I get so serious about this.

That’s probably the part of me that gets so annoyed with people who flake out or quit halfway. I learned to give my 110% to something at all times. I don’t always do so, but I’m not able to easily quit. The thing about making promises is that I usually make them with other people in the interests of those people. I don’t flake on promises I make to other people that benefit them. That’s not something I want to do or can do. In a roundabout way, I am frustrated on people who commit too easily.

I’ll give two examples. I’ve taken Japanese in my high school for quite a few years now. During lunch time, there are often other students who need help with their classwork. Sensei [the Japanese teacher, who I shall refer to as ‘Sensei’ from now on because that is the way I address her] usually ropes me into helping, which I don’t mind too much. We have a club called “Japanese National Honor Society”, which has a list of tutors from the higher level Japanese classes who are supposed to help students in the lower Japanese classes who request help [tutors and tutees/students, respectively. Yes, I know tutees is not a word.]. Sensei will occasionally have students come in if they are struggling in their classes. Students are usually paired with a tutor. The pair will usually arrange a schedule between the two of them to properly meet and get work done. Usually, however, it is simply a matter of the tutors coming into the classroom on their assigned days, with or without their student. Even if they do not have a student they are tutoring, they should come in. There are often walk-in students or students who just need help. When you sign up for this club, you are expected to help. That is a large majority of the purpose of the club. You need 10 hours of tutoring every 4-5 months [every semester], plus an activity sometimes. There are other activities every few weeks, such as watching an anime/drama, eating some mochi and red bean soup, and so on.

There are no less than 20 tutors, minimum. The list was very large when I first saw it. Twenty is a nice estimate, rounding down. That includes, of course, all the officers of the club. Each tutor should only have one student, maybe two in special cases. Most students don’t show up because they don’t need help [as Sensei assigns all of Japanese Level 1 to this list], so most tutors only have one student. [Remember that even if they do not have a student, they should still come on the assigned days, or at least once a week, in order to get activity hours. Talking in Japanese in the classroom counts. It’s really that simple.] Within a week, there are a grand total of zero other tutors. I am alone. When I should normally be coming twice a week, I am showing up every day and have four students. All because those people who signed up committed and then backed out, leaving me with the short end of the stick. It was an agreement between all of us, but when one side can’t hold up their end of the bargain, everyone else suffers.

To be fair, that was only the first week. The officers usually showed up during their assigned days thereafter [one officer to one day], and there was usually one or two other tutors in the room with me. Usually. But this only happened after quite a while and it sometimes ended up being a problem because more people needed help than help was available. I hold the two people I know who come every week on their assigned days in the highest regard. Thank you for always showing up. If not for you two, my sense of commitment and responsibility would have me spending every day in that room, whether I want to or not. I’d never get any of my work done or get help where I needed it. So thank you. You took your commitment seriously. You followed through with what you signed up for. Another special case, so no one who knows me gets the wrong idea [not that anyone reads this]. I know someone who did not intend to become an officer, but ended up as one anyway. Rather than willingly getting into it, this person was more coerced into it and did not disagree because said person did not want the club to be in trouble. That person did not sign up for this, but for working hard thus far, even if you were unable to complete all the tasks that might normally be expected of you, thank you as well. I hold you in the highest regard.

So there’s the first instance of people not following through when they commit. They didn’t explicitly promise, but they signed up and entered into a clearly defined pact. The second instance is one instance of a kid I was tutoring in Japanese. It’s a simple enough story, but you might enjoy this one. Hyperbole and exaggeration abounds, but keep in mind this is all based on real events.

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I walk into the Japanese classroom that day, fully expecting the regulars to be there. The same old people who need help, are practicing, or simply hang out there. I notice one of the regulars getting help from Sensei. That was good, I figured. What I notice then is this freshman whom I shall affectionately refer to as ‘Baka’. Baka, who is Japanese, is in the first level of Japanese. In the first semester, I was tutoring him and another boy, but he slowly stopped coming. One thing I learned from trying to tutor Baka is that he constantly tries to brush things off as having ‘temporarily forgotten’, but actually knowing. I feel like I hear more excuses out of Baka’s mouth than anything else. That’s the first thing that bothers me. A refusal to accept responsibility, or an attempt to push it aside. Sensei called on me to ‘tutor’ Baka. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to tutoring him, but I bit my tongue and pushed my more negative feelings down. Before we started, Sensei wanted to have a few words with me.

“Setsuhyou,” she said, “Baka is missing a lot of homework. Can you please work with him to get it done? He hasn’t been turning it in or doing it.” Of course he hasn’t.

I responded in the affirmative, shuffling back over to Baka to get to work. “So, what work do you have to get done?”

“I, uh… well, let me think…” This continued for two minutes before I glanced over at Sensei. She was working with one of the regulars, so I tried to prompt Baka a bit. Maybe we could just work on whatever he knew wasn’t done first? Anything was fine. Finally, after about 3 minutes of hearing ‘uh’ and ‘um’, I learned that he had some workbook pages to do. Okay, that was something. Awesome. “Alright Baka, can you get out your workbook?”

“Alright.” Three minutes searching for the workbook. “I don’t have it.”

“…Why not?”

“I didn’t know I was going to need it today, since I don’t have Japanese class today.” [A quick explanation, our school works on somewhat of a block system, where we have different periods throughout the day, 1-7, which we fill with our classes. On Tues./Wed., we take only the odd or even numbered classes and have longer periods (~90 minutes instead of ~50)]

“…But didn’t you know Sensei called you here to finish your missing work?”

“Yeah, she told me yesterday to come here.”

“But you didn’t bring your workbook so you could do the work.”

“Well, no, but still…”, and suddenly, a lot more ‘umm’ing and ‘uuh’ing. Congratulations Baka, you lack a workbook to do the work that you are missing. Fine. Keep cool, Setsu, it’s fine.

“Alright, we can borrow one of the workbooks in the classroom. You’ll just have to write the work on a piece of binder paper.”

“Alright!” Don’t be mistaken, readers. This isn’t excitement or eagerness to do the work. This sounded a lot more like, At last, I am not being cornered! An escape!

After getting the workbook, I ask him to pull out a piece of binder paper. 3 minutes of him looking through his backpack. At this point, I peer into his backpack while he is searching to figure out why he can’t get his stuff. I see one laptop, and a bunch of crumpled papers. By a bunch, I don’t mean the usual amount for students who go to our school. I mean 10-15 pieces of ripped up paper that act more like liner for his backpack than actual work. At the end of three minutes, I stop bothering and get some of my binder paper.

“Alright, here’s some binder paper. Can you get out a pencil or a pen so we can do the work?” Surprise of the century here, he -does not even have a pencil-. What. The. Hell. The Japanese workbook, I could accept. Fine, maybe he just forgot it. Okay. Maybe even binder paper. But he doesn’t even have a pencil. I’m more than a little frustrated at this point, and it shows, but I lend him a pencil anyway. And then he doesn’t remember what the homework is and can’t seem to find it. At this point, Sensei has noticed our predicament and asks if we need a print-out of Baka’s missing homework list, or at least to know. I’m tired of taking chances. Baka tries to say no, but I cut in with ‘Yes, please!’. Perhaps a little rude. Perhaps a little tired. Perhaps both.  At any rate, I soon find out Baka’s next magic assignment he needs to finish is a picture book. He got an empty picture book from Sensei, which he was supposed to do some sort of adjective activity with. I wasn’t sure exactly what at that point, but I just wanted to start something. “Alright Baka, can you get out the empty picture book?”

I figured he’d at least have this. It was a handout. He didn’t even need to remove it. Not. There. Three more minutes of searching later, I stifled a snarl and went up to Sensei, attempting to explain the situation. While she dug up a new copy, if she had one, we had a rather quick discussion. “Setsu, you see, Baka is a little… disorganized. Both in his head and how he organized, as well as his backpack and tools… Everything is just scattered. He doesn’t focus or concentrate.” Nooooooo. I hadn’t noticed, Sensei. My. Freaking. Bad. “If you could please help him a little? Well, whatever, just try and get a bit of work done.”

I returned to Baka with the new copy, glad Sensei was one of the most patient people I knew. As I got back, all I heard coming out of his mouth was more excuses. I don’t know where it was, I had it on me, I should have it, it was there five seconds ago, blah blah blah. Maybe I was just tired, but I was tired of seeing him try and not take responsibility. So I gritted my teeth a little, dropped the new copy of the picture book on his desk, and more or less told him he was going to flunk out of everything if he kept this up. He was going to screw up 9th grade, and if he somehow managed to make it past 10th by some miracle, he wouldn’t even get close to passing through 11th. He had to shape up and figure something out, or he was done for. I was nicer about it than I probably should have been, but my point was pretty clear. Things couldn’t continue like this. It let out a little steam so I could get a bit more patience to deal with Baka for the rest of the lunch period.

As we figured out the adjective picture book, I came upon several problems. First, what was the assignment? He didn’t know. After a bit of prompting to make him remember an assignment I did 3 years ago [I’m in 12th, he’s in 9th], I figured out he had to basically make a story out of adjectives. Then, he did not know whether or not he had to use specific adjectives. It was an assignment based on a handout of adjectives, and he did not know whether or not he had to use those adjectives. I was dying inside. Nevertheless, I explained to him that he did. Next “surprise”? He didn’t have the list of adjectives. I had to try and remember 16 adjectives from a specific list I had dealt with 3 years prior. The number of words I contributed? 15. He contributed 1. As I wrote the Japanese/English translations to the adjectives, I suggested he think up what sort of story he wanted to write about. I really should have known better.

Half way through writing out the translations, I noticed he wasn’t even thinking, he was pulling my paper away so he could read what I had written. After re-explaining, I finished up, but still, no dice. No freaking dice. After 10 minutes, using adjectives like hot, cold, tall, short, expensive, cheap, long, short [length], hot, and cold… He could not think up anything. This continued until the end of the lunch bell, at which point I wanted to flip a table because absolutely nothing had gotten done. It had been 50 minutes completely wasted that I could have spent studying or eating lunch. But no. I quickly explained to him what I would do and gave him a quick example before sending him out of the classroom. Any slower and I probably would have throttled him.

All because he took a class and refused to accept responsibility for it. No preparation, no work, just excuses, excuses, excuses. He committed and then backed out.

That is probably one of my worst encounters with people who refuse to stick with what they say they are going to do or back out… I don’t know. I’m not exactly the most studious either, but I’d think the least you could do is bring a pencil and binder paper? Or is that too much to ask?

Next time, I’ll probably discuss some more on commitment or add on to the end of this stuff about another encounter, one I wanted to quit. [No I won’t, see below.] But really, it’s better to at least try and keep going and give it your best shot than to just throw your arms up in the air and try to get out of working at all.

Maybe it’s because I put so much stock behind meaning what I say and being someone who follows through when he promises, but this sort of thing really bothers me.

Next time, I will probably talk about people who don’t put in effort, but expect to get success or good grades out of it. Zero input, maximum output/return. Worse yet, the ego and the belief that they are geniuses and deserve ‘A’s. Yeah, that’s probably what I’ll talk about next time.

This post has been a lot more casual in style than my other posts probably because I was telling a ‘story’, as well as talking about something I’m not really sure of. I apologize for the switching between writing styles I tend to do. Take care, all. And forget not that I am hypocritical.

Why, Why, Why?

Why Not?

This is probably the first real post on my blog. Come to think of it, I haven’t published anything since January 9th. Woah. That first post back on the 5th was my introduction and filler space, my tiny little intro and that thing on the 9th was something like a rant or a vent that went up because I felt it had to be said somewhere. Does that make that the first real post? Does that make this? I’m not sure if this is going to be a rant or something about life as a whole, but here goes. I hope you’ll bear with me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “why” behind everything. My mom always told me that when I was younger, I’d always want to know why something was. I guess I still do, but it’s not always easy. Think about it. Don’t you hate those people who are always asking why? “Why doesn’t he figure it out himself? It’s not important! I wish she’d stop asking so many questions, it’s so annoying!” And that’s just in class. Now how about when those whys come to you? “How come she’s questioning me? Does he not like me? Does she think I said something wrong? Stop bothering me!” And suddenly we’re on the defensive. We feel questioned, interrogated, when people ask us a lot of why questions. [I speak only for myself and what I’ve seen, talked about, and experienced, so please excuse any use of ‘we’ or ‘us’, as I sometimes end up speaking about what I see in people as a whole.] We feel like we’re being asked to justify our actions and choices. Not only that, but we’re being asked to defend them. “Why did you do this” turns into “why didn’t you do that instead?” turns into “your decision doesn’t make sense to me” turns into “your decision is wrong”. Sometimes, that’s how it is, I will admit. Sometimes, however, it’s innocent. Or someone just wants to know what your thinking process was behind your decision. Sometimes, it doesn’t even take a question. The way people look at you, the way their stares run right into you, the crossed arms, the closed posture, the narrowed eyes… and suddenly, you’re trying to justify yourself, to defend yourself.

I guess that’s why I stopped asking. I got sick of people automatically assuming I was attacking them or questioning their judgement. I just wanted to know why. I won’t say I didn’t judge. Everyone judges. Here’s the difference. I wanted to know why and judge the thought process or reasoning. Whoever I asked thought I wanted to know why and judge them. It’s not the same. People are irrational creatures. Everything has a reason behind it, but I know that those reasons don’t always make sense. They don’t have to. …Part of that is a lie. It’s hard to distinguish between the thoughts and reasons of a person and the person themselves. Here’s what I can say for sure though. When I was younger, I asked why because I wanted to know how. “How is it that that math proof came about?”, “Why did they decide to make some document xyz?”, and so on. Occasionally, I got an answer. Most of the time, I got not-answers or ‘stop asking so many questions’. You’re not a smart-alec or nerd for wanting to the know the reasoning behind something. Here’s an analogy. Most people get along just fine using their car without knowing how most of it works. Not many people know how many volts are required to make the spark plug send a jolt of electricity across and spark the fire. That stuff isn’t important or doesn’t matter to most people. And it’s not a bad thing not to know. But when your car breaks down… don’t you want to know what’s going on with it? Or do you not care? I wanted to know. I always thought the more I knew, the more I understood, the better. I wasn’t mad that other people didn’t want to know. That was their choice, and to each their own. Go ahead, you can call a mechanic or someone to fix it for you. I just figured the more you knew, the more you could talk about, the more people you could interact with…

Something like that. At any rate, my ‘why’s were often met with hostility. Ever hear this? I know better than you, so listen! I’m doing what’s best for you. I love you, son, so just listen to what I’m saying and don’t ask questions. I know what’s best for you, daughter, so just do what I say. Right? For a while, I didn’t understand that I shouldn’t ask ‘why’ in those situations. I wanted to know why. In my head, it made sense. “If I know why, doesn’t that mean that if something happens, I can respond to it better? That I can deal with it better? And I don’t want to do things for no reason, I don’t like it.” I guess that came in part from my parents always telling me to be my own person, to not listen to everyone else and do what I thought was right, but then turning around and trying to get me to just listen. A little hypocritical, right? So I asked why. As any of you who’ve ever asked why to someone who doesn’t feel like answering knows, that wasn’t exactly the smartest of plans.

So my whys began decreasing. What I began to say most often wasn’t ‘why’, but ‘okay’. I understand. Okay. I got it. I’ll do what you say. As you wish. Whatever you say. That last one sounds a little flippant, doesn’t it? That’s probably because it is. I guess part of me still wanted to ask why, but I became afraid. Afraid that if I started asking why, I wouldn’t like what happened. So my ‘whys’ started disappearing. Slowly, slowly, until I only asked why as often as was acceptable and ended up saying ‘okay’ a lot more often. I guess I never really could get rid of that drive, as I’d stop asking ‘why’ and started asking “what if?” Not much better for everyone else, but there was less chance for hostility and more to figure out how things worked. I started asking after school or looking things up online. And my “what if’s” were really “why can’t we do this?”… Everything started twisting around, I think. It became a game of politics and bureaucracy at a place where I was trying to learn about math and science. I think that’s why I can’t stand being taught things. I just can’t keep interested. Piano, Guitar, drawing, writing, art, singing, acting… It all became ‘do this’. I think I found that strange.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the ‘why’ shouldn’t disappear. I wish mine hadn’t. I feel like more often than not, I’m not saying what I think, I’m merely catering to the people around me and what they think I should be saying. “Class Spokesman” or what have you. I guess that’s okay… but why? Right?

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The second kind of why is a bit weirder. Why did I make this blog?

Well, why not?

That’s really my answer to it. I wanted one and I didn’t see any harm to having one. Some place to dump my thoughts, some place to let things just exist. I’m hoping that this doesn’t become a problem. I know that it’s possible for some people to be offended or not understand what I’m saying. Maybe they’ll get defensive. I don’t really know, but for right now, I think it’s fine to just let it be said. [To my one reader, thanks for not spreading this around].

“Sing like you think no one’s listening” 

Existentialism On Prom Night by Straylight Run

I want to write, so I’m going to write. I’ll always be writing. I’ll always be drawing. I’ll always be singing. And I hope that when someone asks me “why”, they’ll understand when I say “why not?” I guess I’m a little tired of writing right now, so this is a bit of a shorter answer, but there you go.

Part of this, I realized, was ‘why do I have these categories’. I don’t really know. I feel like whatever I post might as well go in all three categories, considering the type of things I’m putting on this blog. I think it might have been a mistake on my part to try and create categories beforehand and try and fit my writing to those or even presume that my writing would fall neatly like I wanted it to. I made a ‘big picture’ thing ‘SnowFlakes’ and something more about introspection and something more about me specifically ‘Eye of the Storm’, but those are overlapping in my posts. There’s a lot of ‘whys’ running through my head right now. Why did I make things like this, why am I explaining this, why am I up late writing… Why? Eh. Why not. And so back we go, forwards to the rest of this entry: I think I may have to revise all my categories later and things will just fall into place. And if not, you get a giant cluster of things. Is that really so bad? We’ll have to see.

Also, why is the font different on the display as compared to the actual writing page. That makes me unhappy. It should be noted that I am pretty hypocritical, so keep that in mind.

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There was a third kind of why I was thinking about as I was writing this post. Earlier today, I was watching this youtube video about a Thai life insurance ad called “Silence of Life” [you can find it here]. When I showed it to my mom, she was asking me “Why do you watch this sort of stuff? Why do people even post these kinds of videos?” I was a little stumped. There was a lot of answers to that one and I guess my mind immediately jumped to something I had posted somewhere else that day about comparisons. It used the logical proof of the Raven [I forget if it was Hermes’ or Archimedes’ or what, but according to this, it’s Hempel’s Ravens]. The version I remember is there is some uncatchable raven. It flies so fast it simply can not be caught. Ravens are black. Thus, if you gather up everything that is not black [everything that is white, in the example],  and put it in one area, whatever is left must have the raven in it. What I said was [“For example, you can only say something is ‘blue’ by either comparing it to other ‘blue’ things you’ve seen, or by comparing it to all the things you know that are not ‘blue’.” This was making an analogy to my understanding of the way drunk people post replies and my conversation with another person on how he acts when he’s drunk and conclusions he and I had both drawn.] That’s basically inclusive of the idea of Hempel’s ravens. The idea behind that is a paradox, but my reasoning invoked only the first two statements. “1. All Ravens are black.”  This implies, “2. Everything that is not black is not a raven.” [Source: Wikipedia, some copied word for word]

When talking to my mom, I somehow drew this comparison to the idea of happiness and sadness. In a way, I was citing the age old idea that there can not be light without darkness. You can not know happiness without knowing sadness, and so on. To my mom, I replied this [and I paraphrase]: I think that happiness can only be understood by comparing it to one of two things. You can either compare it to happiness you already know about [oh look, shades of blue], or you can compare it to everything else you know is not what you’re talking about [well, it’s not red, green, purple, yellow, violet, fuchsia, or any of the other colors I know, and that only leaves this ‘blue’ thing I’ve never seen, so I guess it has to be blue?]. I told my mom it was a reminder. To remind myself that not everything is fine in the world. That there is sadness just as there is happiness. That there are two sides to everything. Sometimes even more. There are grays and blacks and whites…

I didn’t know the answer to that question then. I don’t think I know now. I just know it’s important. In the end, the thing I told my mom most resolutely was this: “I think it’s important.” What I really meant was this:

“Why not?”

Facts are NOT Opinions

Facts are NOT Opinions.

These days, I’ve found that more and more people attempt to pass off facts as opinions. Usually, you’d see the statement ‘Opinions are not Facts’, but I think people forget the opposite is true as well. I try not to judge, but this is something that really gets me. When I see it, it usually comes in two forms. The first form is when someone acts like they didn’t know a fact and presents it as their opinion, or basically makes obvious statements and presents them as an opinion. If you’re in grade-school, you’ve seen this. You know that kid who asks a question that he knows the answer to, lets the teacher start a small discussion, and then answers his own question, extrapolating a bunch and looking really smart? He seems so smart and all that, right? Except for the fact he knew the answer before and he’s more or less saying exactly what the textbook says, only phrased as an opinion. Then when it’s confirmed as a fact, ‘oh look how smart he is’. That bothers me, I must admit.

Unfortunately, the second type is far more guilty and far more annoying. Type 2 passes off facts as opinions and refuses to acknowledge the reality of a situation. Or worse yet, they’ll pass off the opposite as a fact, and when there’s a conflict, attempt ‘compromise’ by turning both ‘facts’ into opinions. I’ll give a few examples. “Americans did not put Japanese into concentration camps during World War Two!”, “The Holocaust didn’t happen!”, “The earthquake didn’t even hurt that many people!”  — There’s 1 opinion in here. The last one. I can contend that that opinion isn’t something I believe to be true, but the first two are undeniable facts. These are things that actually happened. Talking someone down and deciding the question of whether or not those facts are true is up to debate seems reasonable when the facts really are up to debate. I don’t approve of shoving an opinion down someone’s throat and forcing them to accept it. At the same time, I don’t approve of pretending facts are opinions and devaluing their existence and truth. Ignorance doesn’t mean facts can be stated as opinions and you can get away with it. If you don’t know, say so, but don’t pretend to know and then cause problems.

I’ll be the first to admit I make mistakes and I don’t know everything. I do this sometimes, I’m not completely innocent. Judgmental and all that. I do know, however, when to back down and when to admit I’m wrong.

In the future, I really wish everyone would do their best to be a little more careful about how they’re speaking with others. Facts are not opinions, so please don’t use your own ignorance as a means to pretend something hasn’t happened or it’s not something worth knowing about.

We’re humans, right? Aren’t humans creatures that stand up on their own two feet and walk straight towards what they face? We’re not ostriches, right? So let’s not stick our heads into the sand and pretend not to see what’s going on around us. I don’t mind if you know about it and you choose not to do anything about it. Fine, that’s your choice. I won’t force you to make a move or do something. At the very least, however, recognize the world around you for what it is. If you don’t care or don’t want to get involved, don’t. Don’t use that apathy or dislike as a reason to make other people believe that facts are opinions.

Let’s not turn Facts into Opinions as a means to avoid what’s going on around us. Let’s not pretend so much…