Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ways of Water

His grandfather was giving thanks to the water when suddenly my father said to him, "Grandfather, I know that these ways are good and this is well... but if I went around giving thanks to everything that there is all the time, I would never get anything done." The wise old man smiled as he continued and said, "That's right" (Michael T. Garrett in Walking on the Wind: Cherokee Teachings for Harmony and Balance).
How many times have you been asked by someone you just met, "So what do you do?" Perhaps, it doesn't mean anything--it's just a way of making conversation to avoid an awkward silence and to find in another something to relate to. But on a deeper level, what does the question say about us? About our culture? About our priorities?

Mainstream North American or Western culture measures a person's worth according to his/ her accomplishments, potential, and ambition in life. The more a person does, the more worthy he/she is of respect and admiration. Life is all about doing. Since we are born, we are taught that we must reach certain milestones in life--first walking, then talking, riding a bike, reading, graduating from various schools, getting a license, getting a job, getting married, having kids, etc. We live our lives, it seems, from one milestone to another. We wait for things to happen. We are taught that "good things come to those who wait." But while we are waiting to achieve that next rung on the ladder to success--which incidentally has no end because as soon as we reach one goal, we immediately set another--we are not living. By looking too far into the future we forget about the present.

And so time in Western tradition has become a commodity. The forth dimension has taken over our lives: we live according to the clock. Since Newton, time and space are absolute, highly deterministic measures of all motion in the material world. Time moves evenly on a past > present > future continuum that's linear and sequential. We cannot escape time. We consider it a condition or a form, a structure, that allows us to do things but also that limits us, binds us. We always have no time to do things. We wish we had more time. We constantly run out of time. We budget our time. We save time. Sometimes we even kill time. It contributes to our identity because we know who we are through memories: our personalities are shaped by our past experiences. Time gives us a scientific, precise measurement of "success." And when we get old, since we have little time remaining for all the doing, we become worthless to society.

The Native American view of time is quite different. Time is merely a point of reference. It is energy, and the present is where all life happens. The past is important only as far as it helps us be in the present. The future receives no special privilege. If there is no future, there is no waiting. And if we do not wait, we live in the moment. So if the white man's understanding of time is like a river--it flows from the past to the present and into the future--, then the Native American way is to think of time as a lake. The geometric relation is that of a line to a circle. To a Native, past, present, and the future are all part of the same reality; they happen at the same time in the current moment. Linearity and determinism disappear in this view, and life consists of being rather than doing or becoming. The symbol of the circle, the Circle of Life, reflects not only the relationship between all living things but also the progression of life.

Circles are not only revered and honored in Native American tradition, ceremony, and ritual but also in other traditions. They are recognized as the primary, life-giving figure in the natural world. The Native American circle, "the Sacred Hoop" is not much different from the Chinese Yin-Yang. Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, "The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end." It is a symbol of interconnectedness of everything in the universe, harmony, balance, and eternity. It is the concept of the Nietzschean "eternal recurrence" and the embracement of amor fati: complete acceptance and love of who you are at this time: "that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity." Because if we accept things as they are and love everything in every moment of our lives, we will be happy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Designer's Block

Like a good athlete, I like to exercise both sides of my brain. Having been an English major for so long, writing has become a second nature to me. I'm not saying I'm any good at it; I'm just saying that I can do it relatively quickly and efficiently. I hardly ever have a writer's block for two reasons: one, in graduate school, it's not a luxury you can afford to have, and two, most of my writing is interpretative or analytical, not creative. Where writing is the food for the right side of my brain, graphic design indulges the left side. The reason I abandoned the design field--well-paying job, financial security, unlimited coffee breaks, and free corporate lunches--and became a pauper to grunt and sweat in dusty academic halls was because I felt I couldn't do any magnificent thinking at work. My coworkers were not interested in hearing my philosophical theories over a tuna sandwich, and my boss did not much care about color theory. The client wanted it blue, so blue it must be!

Now that I'm all grown up and ready to pick up where I left off, I get frustrated when I can't come up with a nice design on the fly. I sit in front of the screen and stare at a monstrosity I created and wonder what I'm doing there. I have the good sense to recognize that my design is awful, but I can't come up with anything better (it's probably why I make a better art director than a designer, but that's besides the point). I blame my lack of creativity. I blame my client's unreasonable demands. But really it has nothing do with any of that. And after days of tearing my hair out, it finally hits me: I have designer's block. Identification of the disease is the first step to recovery!

What is designer's block, why do we suffer from it, and--most importantly--how do we get rid of it?

Unlike writing, designing is not a linear process. It's not methodical. It requires meandering and day dreaming. But day dreaming is a luxury, and when I'm under pressure I feel I have no time for it. The client expects brilliance right now, in fact, yesterday. I have no time to indulge in meaningless activities. I should do nothing but stare at my Photoshop mockup and work. That's right! Keep that cursor away from Facebook, mister! But this kind of "devotion" to your project is counter-productive. In the end, you have just worked yourself into a corner, into a box, constricted, stressed, where suddenly you cannot see beyond its boundaries. Worst of all, you blame your ineptitude and lack of creativity (You are not only a bad artist. You are no artist at all and should be banned from touching Photoshop ever again!), which once again stifles your imagination because suddenly you don't even have the confidence to come up with anything good. You suck!

So after drowning your sorrows in cheap wine, binging on corn chips and chocolate, wasting an hour and a half of your life watching a bad movie, taking it out on your partner, and spending a sleepless night tossing and turning, you finally realize that your destructive streak must end. The first thing to do is to reassess the situation: it's not you; it's designer's block. It happens to the best of us. So what do you do?

The first thing, step away from the computer screen! Do something else! Read a book. Pick up a magazine. Take a walk. Play Angry Birds. Bake a cake. Anything to remind yourself who you are and that you're awesome. You need to get your endorphins flowing: get into your "happy place." By leaving the project for a moment and focusing on something you enjoy, you are doing a couple of things: regaining confidence, relaxing, and emptying your head.

Once you have relaxed your creative muscles, it's time to surf the web. Look at other people are designer's work. I usually start with Communication Arts to see some excellent work, and then search for design ideas relevant to my project. Eventually you will come upon a design that will inspire you. Speak to you. And you will think that you can do better, cooler. You will challenge yourself. You have new energy. And suddenly you are not staring at a blank canvas; you have a starting point.

Now that you are inspired, give yourself time. You cannot rush a genius! Or, more realistically, you need to give yourself permission to fail a few times before you get it right. Perfection does not exist, but don't settle for bad work because you feel are running out of time and your client is waiting. This kind of thinking will get you right back to where you started: nowhere with a designer's block. Before you show your work to the client, ask yourself, "Do I love it? Would I want to add this design to my portfolio?" Sometimes I forget about this rule, have one great design I love and three mediocre ones. Inevitably, my client picks one of the other options, and I end up hating myself and the entire project.

Well... now I'm going to take the dog for a walk to get those endorphins flowing and burn off those excess calories I consumed last night in anguish, and design something brilliant!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Football and Social Disorder

Euro 2012 games, hosted by Poland and Ukraine, have come to their inevitable end with Spain's overwhelming victory over Italy in the final, continuing its domination in World and European championships since 2008. As a Polish national and a fan of the sport, I was excited to hear UEFA's announcement that Poland will co-host the games--not only for sociopolitical and economic reasons but also as a chance for the country to show its pride, progress, and position as a world-class nation under the spotlight of World soccer and to dispel its reputation for xenophobia and provincialism. To my astonishment and utter disappointment, Poland once again managed to embarrass itself on the world stage as incidents of racism, hooliganism, intolerance, and violence came streaming through the media.

The first incidents were reported in Kraków two days prior to the opening match during a public practice session and only escalated to reach a climax after the Russia-Poland match on June 12. On June 6, when the Dutch team entered Stadion Miejski, the home of Wisła Kraków, for a training session attended by 25,000 spectators, it was greeted with monkey chants targeted at the black players, Nigel de Jong and Gregory van der Wiel. Ironically, the Dutch team had just returned from a tour of the national memorial and museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau, a former concentration camp located about 65 kilometers from Kraków--the largest Nazi extermination facility, where over one million men, women, and children lost their lives during World War II in Hitler's effort to "cleanse" mankind of "undesirables." "It is a real disgrace especially after getting back from Auschwitz that you are confronted with this," remarked Mark Van Bommel, the captain of the team (1). Only a week later, Italian striker, Mario Balotelli and Czech defender, Theodor Gebre Selassie--of Ghanaian and Ethiopian descent, respectively--were subjected to racial abuse from Polish and Russian fans in Gdańsk and Wrocław (2). Hooliganism, drunkenness, and vandalism reached its peak on June 12 contributing to riots following a match in Warsaw between Russia and Poland that resulted in a tie. Violence began before the game, when over 5,000 Russian fans marched to the National Stadium, in a patriotic gesture to commemorate their national holiday, Russia Day. The riots left 15 people injured, while over 140 were arrested (3). Although the use of the game on the incidental occasion of Russia's national holiday for a patriotic march by the Russian fans was a rather unsavory provocation and an indelicate reminder of historical wounds still fresh from the years of Russian domination during the Cold War, violence towards the visiting team's fans was not an appropriate, acceptable, or justifiable (albeit derivative) response. This list is not exhaustive--sadly only a representative sample of reported cases indicating a much larger problem. It is patently evident that discrimination, racism (that quite often extends to antisemitism), intolerance, and violent behavior exhibited during Euro 2012 by football fans cannot be tolerated and should be abolished, not only in Poland but also at every other sport event in the world.

The Euro 2012 incidents followed a controversial BBC Panorama documentary, "Stadiums of Hate" that aired only 11 days before the opening ceremonies. The film shows not only blatant racism and antisemitism exhibited by the Polish football fans but also complacent attitude of the police and general population as the acts of violence and signs of hate are repeatedly tolerated and ignored. In the movie, Jacek Purski, an expert on racism in Poland, a social activist with Nigdy Wiecej/ Never Again, an organization promoting racial tolerance and equality, who also works with UEFA and FIFA leads a training session for the stewards in preparation for the games.  He cautions the trainees, "If you do not take any action to report a racist incident to your supervisor, action will be taken by a journalist, who will say that in Poland there is no one but racists. Be aware of that" (5). Despite acknowledging the country's efforts to prevent acts of discrimination, the documentary clearly discourages visitors from attending the games. John Godson, Poland's first black parliamentarian, criticized British media for presenting Poles in such a poor light and argued that Poland was a "hospitable and tolerant country." Donald Tusk, the prime minister, also took a defensive stance and maintained that a visiting fan would "definitely not encounter anything unpleasant here" (6). As controversial as this documentary has been in Poland generating critical responses from Tusk and Godson, it proved to be all too true only a few days later.

The Polish government, UEFA, FIFA, and other international organizations were rather muted: although everyone seemed to condemn the behavior as inappropriate and shameful, no one took a definite, strong stance against it publicly.

According to UEFA regulations, individual federations are responsible for the behavior of their fans. First offense often carries financial penalties, and subsequent indiscretions might result in a deduction of points and even expulsion of the team from the World Cup. After reports of the abuse of Dutch players, UEFA had considered taking disciplinary action. The organization had written to Poland's sports minister and mayors in cities hosting matches and training camps urging them to closely monitor training sessions and prosecute offenders. UEFA empowered referees to stop football matches in the event of inappropriate behavior of fans; however, players would receive a yellow card penalty for walking off without official permission. Many argued that the organization was too lenient and nonchalant on the issue (7).

UEFA's precautionary measures were quite a step up from denial, which seems the most common response to racism on Polish stadiums. Polish government was defensive and denied any potential risks before the games began. After the incidents were reported, it remained relatively silent on the issue. Even prior to Euro 2012, the issue so obviously evident was understated and ignored. In November 2011, CNN quoted Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, saying that "there is no racism" in football and that "incidents of racism between players during a match can simply be forgotten afterwards and resolved with a handshake" (8). Polish Former Football Players Association published a statement on its website as a response to BBC's claims about the dangers of attending Euro 2012 in Poland criticizing the documentary for skewed perspective and lack of journalistic professionalism. The association assures that racism on Polish stadiums is "not a widely spread social phenomenon" (9). Even the church does not want to admit any problems. Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, in interviews with Italian and Vatican media, denied any racism or antisemitism existed in Poland or the Ukraine at all; further, he denied any currently existent political or historical tensions between the two nations (10). This marginalization of the issue is counter-productive to the players, the fans, and the entire sporting community.

So far I've been treating racism and hooliganism of football fans as an interrelated phenomenon. It may be beneficial now to look at both separately.

Racism can be defined by a hatred or intolerance towards another race incited by a belief in the superiority of one's own race. Race is, of course, a loosely defined term; however, in the context of racism in Poland, it can be narrowed down to darker colored ethnic groups, especially from African and Middle Eastern descent. The Jewish community is also targeted for racial abuse.

Are the fans even conscious of the wrongness of the messages they are propagating at football games? Purski says that they are and that they consider this behavior trendy and a sign of acceptance among their peers (11). It happens more often at smaller stadiums, or at less monitored games, as fans feel more freedom in expressing their opinions without the fear of being reprimanded, penalized, or arrested. This statistic suggests that the root of the problem is not in the expression of these sentiments but that these sentiments exist at all.

The complexity of racist tendencies in Poland cannot be underestimated, especially in relation to antisemitism. Poland is a country with a population of about 38 million people, of which 96.7% is Polish and 88% Roman Catholic. Xenophobia is easily born in a community of this homogeneity. Other factors contributing to the fear of "the stranger" or "the other" has historical, political, and geographic significance: Poland is a small, sovereign nation, geographically sandwiched between greater powers, yet it managed to retain its independence and identity despite various partitions and persecutions from Russia and Germany, among others. Poland is still recovering emotionally--despite what some would like to believe--from Russia's political control from the end of World War II until the fall of communism in late 1989. As much as these tendencies must still be ingrained in the collective memory of Polish nationals, it is difficult to justify the transference of hatred towards ethnic groups that never threatened the country's freedom or were ever guilty of any wrongdoing against its citizens.

The roots of antisemitic tendencies, however, although not less complex, can be more easily identified. Poland at some point in history was one of the most tolerant countries towards Jewish people in Europe offering shelter from persecution and a home to the largest Jewish community. Antisemitic sentiments gained prominence during the interwar years, where economic and religious factors contributed to increased persecution and hatred of Polish Jews. Polish Jews became the scapegoat for the growing poverty and hardship during the Great Depression, and myths and superstitions (such as blood libel) were spread by the Catholic church. Religion-based antisemitism propagated the idea that Polish Jews were disloyal to the Polish nation. Despite the negative reputation, statistics indicate that less than 0.1% of Poles collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. According to current studies, nearly half of Poles still holds antisemitic views (12). As with any other instance of racism, "the othering" and hatred are not founded in reason but in a false conception of causality engendered by superstition, misinformation, and blind intolerance.

It is difficult to concede that a country with a literacy rate of 99.8% and 17% of people with postsecondary education still holds such unreasonable prejudices. After all, racism and xenophobia in a large part is due to a lack of education. "It is not that people are racist," says Godson, "they simply have not been exposed to other cultures" (13). If education is key to changing a nation's attitude, then we should consider the level of education, especially of Polish football fans and also the pedagogical methods used to present this material to our youth and children: firstly, most of the so called "soccer hooligans" come from working class families, which means that their formal education is limited and their manners coarse; and secondly, it seems that racial attitudes are not learned only in a school classroom.

For generations, most Polish children's understanding of ethnic differences was shaped by a poem, "Murzynek Bambo" or "Bambo the Little Negro" they learned in elementary school. The poem by Julian Tuwim was written in 1924 or 1925. Although undoubtedly written in the best of intentions about a happy little boy from an exotic place, who seems to be equally mischievious as children of all ethnicities, the poem can be easily given a racist interpretation--especially almost a century later, when we have become much more sensitive to racial issues and slurs. Murzynek is a demunitive form of murzyn, a word etymologically related to the English term,  Moor and was used to denote someone from Africa, originally having no negative connotations. The black boy, Bambo, Tuwim writes, lives in Africa, and he is our friend. But in the current state of the world, where demographics have changed, where we have adopted different role models (such as actors and musicians), and where the global community has expanded largely as a result of the growth of the internet, suddenly we come more and more in contact with "Bambo." As long as "Bambo" stayed in Africa, he was our friend, as Stefan Szczepłek, a renowned sports journalist, aptly notes (14). But now that he has infiltrated our streets, stadiums, job market, universities, television, radio, and the internet, we suddenly do not know what attitude to adopt towards the foreigner. And "Bambo," unless categorized, unless located firmly in the social order, has become a threat. Elena Chou in her article, "Euro 2012: Ugly Racism Mars Showcase of the Beautiful Game" cites Benedict Arnold's book, Imagined Communities to explain identity construction of a nation (15). A nation is not a cohesive whole but is imagined as a whole by its individual members. Inclusion or exclusion of certain members in order to imagine this plethora of individuals as one community is necessary for its coherence. If, as Arnold argues, a nation is an "imagined community" and if an individual member of that society cannot be recognized as one of the community, "imagined" as belonging, as contributing to the same social order, he will be rejected by this nation. We do not necessarily need all the black people to be assimilated into the culture; but we need to teach our citizens to recognize that an individual with darker colored skin fits into our social order, not as a lesser citizen but equal.

This kind of education should be sponsored by the government on a large scale and start in schools with a change in curriculum and training of educators and continue with a rigorous social campaign. "In Poland the problem of racism is neither larger nor smaller in comparison to other European nations," Purski says in another interview, "The question is how do we deal with the problem." (16). Andrzej Seremet, attorney general, calls for a serious social campaign because it is evident that education on a local club level is not sufficient. We must teach our citizens to recognize racism and become more sensitive to pejorative remarks rather than providing them with derogatory terminology they will use unknowingly to describe "the other."

Once the public is educated, we need to also take the necessary steps to punish the behavior. First, the crime must be called by its proper name, and then perpetrators should be properly and consistently penalized. Football fans usually act in groups and often the guilty hide behind its numbers. If we individualize the mob, if the mob is not united and every member must answer for himself, he will not feel he can get away with anything.

Blatant expression of racism, especially by mobs of football fans, is not the only crime most often gone unpunished: vandalism and brutal physical violence tend to also accompany football matches. Historically, the game has been associated with violence since its beginning in 13th Century England, but it has reached its peak in 1960s and 1970s. According to statistics, everywhere in Europe fans cause more trouble when supporting their team at the opponent's stadium rather than when rooting for their team at home. "Disorder of some kind appears to be [ ] near-universal and inevitable," according to a 1996 study of football hooliganism (17). Excessive alcohol consumption that concurs with the violence may also contribute to it: alcohol can break down inhibitions, produce a feeling of relaxation, create false confidence, and impair judgment. Although drinking can aggravate violent behavior, most scientists agree that it is not the main cause (18). Many attribute soccer violence in Poland in particular to the country's relative poverty compared with its western neighbors. Despite consistent and reportedly fastest economic growth in the EU, Poland is still the fifth poorest with annual income per capita of less than 10,000 euros (19). Feelings of inferiority of the predominantly male fan groups may find an outlet for their anger and frustration in physical violence, which becomes a validation of strength and power.

Of course, racist behavior extends well beyond Polish borders and seems to accompany every avid football fan club. As much as xenophobia may certainly be linked with feelings of inferiority, soccer violence is not merely an Eastern European phenomenon. Another, perhaps more central contribution to civil misbehavior may be media coverage: many argue that media presence and amplification encourages disorder with many fans positively seeking the attention (20). False perception of importance that may follow a public, televised display of "heroics" can feed the pride of the mob.

Although historically and psychologically valid, xenophobia, racism, and violence do not necessarily  need to be part of the game. Since the 1980s, due to social campaigns and initiatives at football fan clubs incidents of antisocial behavior have decreased. Let's Kick Racism Out of Football established in 1997 promotes equality and inclusion and fights discrimination by raising awareness through educational and community programs. Danish "Roligans" and Scottish "Tartan Army" are peaceful football fan clubs that promote non-violent behaviour during football matches. Roligan is a pun on the Danish word rolig, which means "peace." Both clubs have won awards from various football associations and both enjoy great popularity. The Tartan Army boasts 35,000 members and has, therefore, reached full membership capacity. The popularity of the clubs suggests that football and its fans are not innately violent and that with proper initiative and support the phenomenon of violence and racism could disappear from stadiums.

Sources:
"Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate," BBC Panorama
"Bigots, Hooligans to Test Polish Image at Euro 2012," Reuters
"Euro 2012: Holland Players Subjected to Racist Abuse at Training Session," The Guardian
"Euro 2012: Ugly racism mars showcase of the beautiful game," rabble.ca
"Euro 2012 Violence: Russian, Polish Hooligans Clash In Warsaw," Huffington Post 
"Football Hooliganism," Social Issues Research Centre 
"O Rasizmie na Polskich Stadionach w Kontekście Euro 2012," Canal +
"UEFA Steps up Probes into Euro 2012 Racism Claims," Fox News

Monday, July 2, 2012

Squirming Gorgeously

"You squirm gorgeously, my dear, but squirm you do like everybody else," Uncle Cullen.

You know how you live everyday, feeling good, weathering through the storm of life, yet you have a certain awareness that something is not right? That something does not quite add up in your life? It is a subtle feeling, and you have difficulties honing in on it. Most of the time you don't even notice it. It mirrors the experience of hearing a constant noise all the time that after a while you mistake for silence. Like a battered wife whose routine beatings become her companion and anchor to physical existence, while she's living out her days inside her head. But in a single moment, in a sudden, unexpected change of perspective triggered by a rupture in the predictable flow of everyday events, it rises to the surface of your consciousness, and from then on you can never again ignore it. Like a pebble in your shoe, it bothers you, irritates you. It gnaws at your very nature. I wouldn't call it an "epiphany" per se: but suddenly you become acutely aware that something needs to change in order to alleviate the discomfort you feel.

In that moment your entire life seems to collapse, and at first you feel pain and despair: you have hit the bottom. The pit. The structure you have built upon faulty foundation topples to the ground. And it is in that instance when scary thoughts come racing through your mind, of ending it all, of severing forever the current bond you have with this particular reality... You are looking but cannot see beyond your own funnel vision. Egotistically, you cradle the despair in your arms, and embrace the catastrophe of your existence. But when wallowing in your own sorrow comes to an end, when you get up, raise your head, dry your tears, open your puffy eyes, and once again look around, you feel a certain joy that you have been awakened from that nightmare, that you have become aware of your own folly, and now that you can see clearly you have renewed strength to go on. Somewhere along the way you have taken a wrong trail, and you need to back track a bit, which usually takes some effort. It is a challenge. But it's not the end of the world. It has been tough because you have been swimming against the current, but once you change direction, once "you stop squirming against the catastrophe of being alive," you can readjust your entire life, your attitude and fix it. And with renewed confidence--and pride in the strength of your character--you play on and solve another puzzle in the labyrinth of life.

Once in a while, I experience these profound changes in perspective, these awakenings. Some I handle better than others. Usually, I have trouble not overreacting, doing something particularly stupid, and burning all the bridges while marching to the infamous anthem of Mike Curb Congregation. I become a wrecking ball. I run.

Yesterday, however, I managed not to take the house down, and instead of using my pride as a great shield in the fight with the windmills, I learned something about myself. Someone I love in anger said some things that hurt--things I took to heart. And despite the apologies, despite the number of times you hear, "I didn't mean it," you know that that person thought it was true, and that there is always some real basis for his slip.

So in not so many words, paraphrasing into my own language, the pith of the remark was that I suffer from an only-child syndrome, that I am negative, and that people have a hard time tolerating me because I say things too plainly, too bluntly. As much as I wanted to deny the accusations, I could not. So I sat there for a while brooding. The realization that it was all true completely unhinged me--not so much because I knew it was true but because it all is an innate part of my nature, the very essence of my being, things I realized I couldn't change. It is how I was conditioned by my upbringing, my nationality, and my profession: I am an only child, coming from the cold, brutal lands of Eastern Europe, who appreciates and analyzes subtleties of language in literature but doesn't bother to acknowledge them in mundane, everyday conversations with mere mortals. I can't change that. I am who I am. I could be more delicate, more subtle in the expression of my opinion, and shut my mouth about things I find bother me. Spare others. But I wouldn't be me. I would be a fake.

And then I looked at the recent events in retrospect. Suddenly I realized that lately I have been feeling a general dissatisfaction with people, with friends, with my enterprise, with my attitude. Especially, I have had such a hard time handling social situations. I wanted to do wonderful things with friends and have deep, meaningful conversations. I wanted to read good books, and to pursue the things I love. I expected the entire world to live according to my own rules and standards, and when it failed to do so, it frustrated me. What I forgot was that I cannot impose my views, my ideals, my way of life upon others. And that the only reason why I started doing it is because I was demanding the same of myself and falling short. So what I needed was an adjustment of attitude: I cannot expect things from others I cannot live up to myself.

The displacement of dissatisfaction--no matter how psychologically substantiated it may be--cannot continue or I will make myself miserable and everyone around me. It was time to work on me, to strive to recognize what makes me happy. And if I were lacking deep, meaningful conversations it was not because my friends didn't want to have them or were incapable of following my intricate, profound train of thought (yes, of course, I am being facetious),  but because I denied them the opportunity by not starting them. By denying myself the pleasure of talking about things of import to me, trying somehow to placate everyone by sticking to conversations I find no interest in whatsoever because I believe it's what people want to hear and, therefore, hold boring discussions with negligence and neglect, hurting everyone's feelings in the process, I behave against my better nature. By reading books I find boring, I forget why I read in the first place: for pleasure. "To thy own self be true." It sounds awfully hedonistic and egotistical, but denying pleasure to myself I turn into a monster, a conglomerate of cadavers that's anything but alive. I am my own Dr. Frankenstein. And to suppress the monster from doing any more damage to the people I love, I need to start being me again, doing things I love, talking about the things I want to talk about. And no matter how strange people think it is, it is me. I am comfortable with that.

And so from now on I vow to criticize myself and not others and strive to change things I don't like, things within myself I have complete control over. As to others, everyone has virtues, and I will focus on them, and perhaps others will recognize something good in me.