Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I have been thinking frequently about who I am, and about whether who I am has changed over the years, and if so, how.

One thing I keep returning to is this feeling that I am losing myself, or that my self is somehow diminishing over time. What I mean is, I feel more and more that I am what I do, and what I see and feel, and the people I interact with - mainly Jingping (not that I think I am Jingping, no) - and the random thoughts that run through my mind when I'm away from things to do or people to interact with.

This isn't necessarily a problem. I don't mind being my thoughts, or being an interaction with my wife, or being the work that I do, or the procrastination that I put between myself and my work. These things, or parallel things, are what I think we all are. But parceling your self into these discrete components makes them identifiable, and subject to direct analysis, which can reveal things in stark detail that you realize you just don't like. There are some specific features that bother me.

When I was younger, I spent a large portion of my free time writing. I wrote stories, essays on my thinking, letters, etc. I did this because I wanted to. Now, I write because I have to - I do research, and I have to write about it to sustain my personal profession. There is always work to do, and when I feel willing to write, I feel I have to apply this will to work, not fun. So, I almost never write for fun anymore. Even worse, I realize that I distract myself from this sort of unease by reading what others have written. It's as though I'm replacing parts of myself with parts of other people.

Also, over the years, I more and more began to think of my self expression as excessive, or pretentious, or useless, and so I suppressed it. I think that my entire character is suppressed. This has not had the result of simply bottling up my character, but instead I think that in some ways I am withering away - I feel that even if I tried to go back to my old ways, of writing out my thoughts regularly, there would be less to write. This is why I am writing this entry, which even as I write it feels excessive, pretentious, and useless. I feel like I have to get a ball rolling, though.

Another thing that bothers me is what I think about. We all have recurring thoughts that irritate us, things that we don't want to think about but that we do anyways. Some of these things are fine at a high level, because they are features of our lives. But other things - news, politics, etc., I find myself repeatedly going through these internal monologues, not daily but frequently, on topics like the American military, US history, religion, politics. Why? I tell myself that I don't care about these things, or I try not to care - I have no effect on them, and they seem to have no effect on me. I feel infected. I want to think about my life, my wife, my work, about things I enjoy. I'm not a politician or a columnist - why do I obsess over these sorts of things? I have not figured this out. I do get a strong feeling that these sorts of thoughts erode my self - they are not me, they are other people, other places. They make me forget who I am.

I am not bothered by thinking about sex or violence, or obsessing about the aesthetics of the Green Line tunnels, or wanting to see if someone sent me an email or a Facebook message, or my shabby piano playing. These are aspects of my life, they are fine in themselves - some of these things may specifically implicate odd aspects of my personality, but so what?

Conclusions: I still exist, but I have doubts about the vitality of my existence. I have suppressed myself too much, and the empty spaces in my mind are more and more taken up with irrelevant puzzles. I'm thinking that a solution may be to do something like this regularly, do more writing for fun, try to be more expressive with other people, stop always trying to hide myself from the outside.

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