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Issue of Self Concern

Eamonn Whelan

Kseniia Borovkova

I never really participated. In school I wouldn’t do any extra curriculars really. I liked to be alone and watch SpongeBob for the most part. This continued for a while, but I think the “Oh shit, I’ve wasted my entire life” moment came when Covid lockdowns were implemented. I noticed that my daily life was unchanged, except that there was now more people in my house than usual.

So, when college came back, I was eager to go out and meet new people. I don’t like forced socialisation though. You know where it’s almost reduced to a form of “Work” and there’s a set system of how you interact within these spaces. At least that’s how I perceive it, so I would shy away from the formal ways of meeting new people. This, as I’ve now realised, is dumb. I’m not any different from the rest of these people. I used to think I was different for not liking the question “So what do you do in college?” because you hear it a million times but somehow answer this question two million times because every time its asked someone interjects with “Sorry What?”. But now I realise that’s just how it has got to be. You have to pony up and say the same shit you spew to everybody because that’s how they get a sense for who you are and what you like. Its hard though, well not really but it’s easy to make trivial interactions torturous for yourself. Like the more you talk the more air is leaving your body, deflating you even further, and the mundane manner in which you’re speaking to the person seems to signify a lack of interest, so they reciprocate this demeanour and you both leave feeling bad about yourself never to talk to or about that person again, but just to stick it on the bill of the litany of memories that keep you awake at night. The idea of “belonging” seems a bit too melodramatic to me maybe. That it just seems a bit grandiose and like I belong at a place where I’m half asleep the whole time, and half the time I’m resenting that I have to even be there. That’s not to say I don’t like the college and the people and the classes and the facilities, I tend to be half asleep generally and for the most part wanting to be somewhere else regardless of where I am. When I’m out I want to be home, when I’m home I want to be out. And I’m assuming this is the opposite of “belonging”. 

That’s not to say there haven’t been moments. There are times when I’m sitting on the steps, looking across at my friend from class, and we’re talking about films or art or general emotional fluctuations, and it feels right. Even when its freezing and we’re both shivering, it’s a dull colourless sky reflecting onto the grey concrete and that one godless seagull will not stop squawking for food or attention or both. But we’re both sitting, about a hands distance from each other, and were talking and when I look in her eyes it feels right, like we’re both here, like my mind isn’t at home, or thinking about the beer I’m going to have, or how nice my shower will feel or how cosy my bed definitely is or how hungry I am. That’s when I feel present, attentive, like the proper version of me, not the empty headed zombie I’m accustomed to. Like we’re bringing the best out of each other. Like we’re able to speak with vigour and energy and not end up catching ourselves getting too into it and derailing our own sentence to a demure “so....yeah”. 

How many times have you been talking to someone, and they’re perfectly nice and all that, and they’re doing their social duty and adhering to social guidelines of eye contact, smiling, saying stuff like “Thank you” and “Sorry to hear about that” and “how are you?” but you just don’t feel like this person is going to be important to you and you can tell they feel the same way but you keep wasting each other’s time out of a kind of....Shared fear? I’ve had many of these interactions since we came back. I kind of love them in a certain way. I feel a kinship with these people, even though I know its an interaction marooned within a sea of many more one time talks, there’s a certain connection garnered from how we act in these little blips, you can get to know someone’s character through these interactions. I’ve often foundt hat people from the country are BY FAR my favourites for these interactions. They always have something cool or unique to share with you and they’ll often say it with a lot of gusto and gumption which allows me a platform to reflect my personality off of. These little interactions can be so beautifully redundant in the big picture of your life, but the small boost I get from it can buffet me through a mediocre day and make me have a good one.Not all of these interactions are as warm or enjoyable. You can catch someone on a bad day, and you ask them a question and about five seconds later they respond with the ever eloquent “What?”. Even then its worthwhile, because everybody’s had the shoe on the other foot. Days where you can’t even think about talking to someone new, or think outside of your, admittedly trivial, personal problems. 

These brief interactions provide a snapshot of life in a particular moment, in a particular vessel, responding to you. I like the game of chance in life. I often fantasise about the myriad of different results you can get from talking to different people on different days. Maybe this is the day someone just gives me ten grand. Maybe this is the day I go on a buck wild adventure with some dude wearing a cowboy hat. Maybe some lady I talk to happens to have an alien chained up back at the gaff. All of these possibilities make me excited to live, though they’re obviously not going to happen (they totally are). It’s just an issue of being up for it on a particular day. My brain likes to trick me into believing that I’m not up for it on a given day, with old excuses like, I’m too tired or I’m too hungover or I’m too sad. But I find that people can often pull you from that rut exponentially faster than I could on my own, and through conversing with them I feel more at peace with myself and life. It can be something very simple, down to just a smile that can haul you out of that rut. It’s like oh, I didn’t realise that people would actually be excited to talk to me about whatever.It’s a nice feeling to have that though. Like we all just want the basics from life, a nice smile, a chuckle and a conversation. 

That’s when I belong, within those isolated interactions.