Age is Only a Number (But Numbers are Everything)

Exhaustion is the theme this semester. Actually, “exhaustion” is not a theme. “Exhaustion” is a topic. It would be much more appropriate to say that “Intense schedules lead to overwhelming exhaustion” is a theme since themes must be complete sentences that communicate a message to the consumer. By “consumer,” I here mean any readers, watchers, observers, et cetera, that observe a piece wherein some creator intended some deeper meaning. That’s theme.

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve felt exhausted a lot lately. I had hoped this weekend–my second foray into the world of the National Association of Campus Activities, where I got to meet Zach Wahls (!!!), attend live group sex therapy, and had “Bazinga” airbrushed onto a hat–would rejuvenate me, but…well, at least the comedian was uplifting. Laughter does inspire. And live music is like imbibing poetry to regurgitate later. But the overall effect was not as I had hoped for.

What was worse came the morning after.

No, I was not hung-over. I respect myself far too much to ever get that drunk, and after attending a lecture lead by someone who’s been there, done that, and gave up the t-shirt, I appreciate sobriety even more. What happened wasn’t even my doing–but I suppose ultimately I am at fault. I got involved on campus. I vowed to be a good person. I tried hard to be approachable and sociable–two things I most definitely am not.

In other words, I was asking for it.

I had it coming.

Exact events withstanding, people exhaust me more than anything else. I’m an introvert. I have said this before, and I shall say it many times more: I am an introvert. I am not shy. Look them up. There is a distinction. I love people–I love my friends, I love talking with people (in general), I really like going to club events and being a part of a group, making a difference, and doing something, something tangible and respectable. But anything that involves people comes at a cost. A very dire cost.

Reiterating: People exhaust me. For as much as I love someone, too much time with anyone wears at my walls until my ceilings cave in. Then I need time for recovery. And I can’t just recover while I do something, while I talk with someone else, while I remain in the presence of someone else. Even if we’re not interacting–even if we don’t even know each other–if someone is there, I remain shut down. My power flipped off. Low battery. Charge immediately.

I jot things down. I jot down fleeting thoughts and fabulous one-liners I hope might someday be as praiseworthy as Confucius, but most likely will on large measure never be read. So last night I wrote down this: “By the time I get home my mind is so consumed by chaos I need to shut down and clear my RAM and reboot, reboot, reboot until my code is clean and I’ve returned to maximum processing capacity.”

That sums me up pretty well. There comes a point in interacting with others that all my available mental capacity is consumed by contact. I become irritable. I don’t respond well. I get slow and lethargic, or too fast to function properly. I really am a temperamental computer when it comes down it. Humans are machines. We’re animals with intelligence. Beasts of our own breed. We’re machines. Love it or loathe it, it’s true.

Why is interaction such a double-edged sword? On the one hand it takes away time in the moment–that hour I spent devoted to your problems was an hour I spent ignoring mine. I don’t mind that. I’m happy to help–genuinely, sincerely happy to help. When I offer myself to you, it’s not an empty promise–it’s an intent, no matter the personal price I pay in making it. I’m a self-sacrificing perfectionist. Just ask anyone who knows me: They’ll vouch for this.

The real kicker is that after I give you that hour, I need to take an hour of my own to recollect myself. That’s another hour I can’t spend addressing my own issues, my own responsibilities. It’s challenging, needing to make time to undo all this added strain–and then finally get back to what’s causing my stress in the first place. I often resort to music. Audio therapy. I relate to the music and like hydrogen bonds awakening inside me, pulling like forces together, all those unneeded emotions are plied away and I’m free, free, free, myself again.

Of course, sometimes it takes a while to find the right song.

Yesterday I got home and searched for a song I fell in love with a few weeks ago while I was babysitting my niece and catching up on some Fringe via Hulu: The song in the Chevy Sonic stunt commercial. When I discovered that it’s called “We Are Young” by a group called Fun. (that is, “fun period”–my sentence isn’t over so soon) and that it was up for free download, I got it. And instantly played it for an hour straight.

I felt considerably better after that.

Give me a second I
I need to get my story straight
My friends are in the bathroom
getting higher than the empire state
my lover she’s waiting for me
just across the bar
My seat’s been taken by some sunglasses
asking ’bout a scar
and I know I gave it to you months ago
I know you’re trying to forget
but between the drinks and subtle things
the holes in my apologies
you know I’m trying hard to take it back
so if by the time the bar closes
and you feel like falling down
I’ll carry you home

It’s all a matter of distance and delinquency: At first it’s in the moment, in the mind–I must get this right, must gather myself and get what’s going on. Then we see the world: Friends in the bathroom getting my lover across the bar. There we discover the conflict: Someone else is where I should be. Someone has stolen the spot that’s mine. Then it’s on us again: Remember how I loved you, remember I exist? I never meant to hurt you–never meant to scar you so deeply, so clearly atop you–and I’m trying, trying so hard to get back to you.

It’s exhaustive all of its own. The inverse of exhaustion is itself desperation: That clinging for anything, for something, to fill this place inside us. It’s an infernal craving, an insane longing, lusting.

And I know that I’m not
all that you got
I guess that I
I just thought maybe we could find a ways to fall apart
But our friends are back
So let’s raise a toast
Cause I found someone to carry me home

But I’m alright. I’m really okay. You don’t know it yet. I don’t know it yet. But you’re where you are, and I’m where I am, and I’m okay with that. I guess I just thought that there was something more than there was, more than there is, thinking a friend is a friend when he’s merely an acquaintance, or trusting the man holding the knife behind your back because you’re looking into his eyes and only feel his arm around your shoulders.

Then someone else comes along. We’re pushed along. We persevere.

The moon is on my side
I have no reason to run
So will someone come and carry me home tonight
The angels never arrived
but I can hear the choir
so will someone come and carry me home

And I wonder, as often wonder grows, what is this perseverance borne of desperation seeded by exhaustion, this emptiness? And I conclude, as assumptions are far too dangerous for a game as this, that living’s not worth the cost of death, but debt demands repayments, and life’s perpetually on loan. And I decide, since choices must be made, that in this stupor, in this fenced-in, caged-in crisis, whatever’s holding me down is only inside me–whatever is binding me I have given the ropes. Why run from what’s to be done when I can meet it head on and dismantle chaos until all that’s left is a sea of order all around me?

I think I lost sight of why I was writing this. I’m exhausted. It’s the want of any exhausted man to be revived. To be relieved. To feel their exhaustion expunged. Instead, subjected further to the tortures of today, we turn to desperation–mindless acts without consequences, consequence without mindful cause–and what’s the child of desperation but total and utter despair?

We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
we can burn brighter
than the sun

When I heard this song for the dozenth time, it occurred to me that if the good die young, if they’ve lived a good life and it ended then, then they never had a bad day in their entire life. It’s a bit poetic to see the world in such an inverse proportion as this: less life, less time to suffer.

It might sound that I am suicidal, but I am not. I merely see the beauty of life in the frame of death. What is this meaning other than to give life meaning? What is this purpose other than to give ourselves purpose in life? Should we accept the challenge, destiny is sealed–we shall find meaning, we shall find purpose. But should we lose sight of this, we easily lose sight of everything: for if all life is arbitrary, then I am arbitrary, and if I am arbitrary, then what’s the point of life, in living?

I told you: I’m not suicidal. I merely see the beauty of life in death.

For now, we are young. Let’s not wait for tomorrow to make the sun rise on our own lives. Let’s stand up today, let’s start the ovens in our bosoms, burn the candles at both ends, make a radial wick and shine with it, and when we’re brighter than the sun? Well, brighter stars are closer to death–but their light stretches further than all the rest. They enliven the universe and forever after leave a legacy in the night sky.

Live. Breathe. Exhale.


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