Underneath my yellow skin

The me I wish I could be

One thing that is amusing to me because I’m a weirdo is how people view themselves versus how they actually are. One truism I have learned over the years is that if someone insists they are, say, “Not really into drama”, then they are really into drama. Or rather, they cause a lot of drama. People are not really good at self-assessment in general, and I’m sure I can be included in that bunch. I can give you a rundown of my flaws–of which there are many–but I’m sure I’m overlooking/minimizing a few. And, to be fair to me, exaggerating others.

That said, there are many things I wished I were/liked, but I simply am not/don’t. I was thinking about this last night in terms of pop culture. I would like to be an erudite, literary person who was into highbrow culture. I am not. My preferred genre of reading: mysteries and thrillers. Preferably psychological thrillers. Music: pop/indie folk. Also hair metal bands of the ’80s, specifically power ballads. I like musicals. Movie-wise, I like smaller indie films such as Once.

I wish I could write elegant and beautiful prose, but I don’t. My writing is common, earthy, and is full of vernacular. I don’t spent ten hours on one phrase, and if I did, it would probably be worse than when I first wrote it. I don’t do descriptions, either, for the most part. When I’m reading, if a description goes for more than a few sentences, my eyes just glaze over. I’d rather picture it in my mind than read about it.

Veering wildly, I was listening to This American Life while I was in the car, and it was a repeat from the time Ira Glass toured Paris with David Sedaris (2000). I didn’t know it was a repeat at the time or that it was so long ago, but that’s neither here nor there.

Full disclosure: I do not like David Sedaris. I do not find him funny at all, and I find his writing to be arch, smug, and overly-precious. An ex-friend made me read his book once, I think it was Me Talk Pretty, and she promised she’d ‘refund’ the money for the book if I didn’t laugh. After I was done, I went back to her and demanded my refund. I didn’t get it, but my point is that I didn’t laugh once while reading the book. In fact, I cringed the whole time I was reading.

As I listened to him explain to Ira how he was motivated by fear and avoidance while living in Paris, I found myself getting irritated. The first story I heard was how his lighter had run out of fluid, and he dreaded having to ask for fire from random people on the streets. For that very reason, he carried spare lighters with him.

His whole mind was run by fear. He talked at length about how he hated to go places alone because he was afraid people wouldn’t see him. You might think that was hyperbole, but it wasn’t. He was afraid that if he went to a restaurant and sat at a table by himself, the wait person would not see him. He asked Ira Glass if he (Ira) would go to places by himself. Ira said he would and with a hint of censure in his voice, added, “I never thought they wouldn’t serve me. It’s their job.”

Ira asked him if he thought of his life in Paris as an adventure, and Sedaris said something like he didn’t because he wasn’t an adventurous person. He made the analogy of if he were to go to Switzerland from France, it would be adventurous to some people. For him, it was just a way to feel anxious and laughed at in two languages.

The more I listened to him, the more irritated and impatient I became. “Why are you like this, David Sedaris?” I huffed as I drove to my taiji class. “Why can’t you just chill the fuck out?”

Then it hit me. I wasn’t mad at him; I was mad at ME. Everything he was talking about was how I felt inside. The only difference was that I don’t talk about it, and I have learned to hide it fairly well. I have a constant stream of anxious/depressive thoughts running in my brain, and during an especially bad time, I can actually hear them.

The bit about having two lighters is exactly something I would do so I wouldn’t have to ‘ask for fire’. I don’t go to places alone because it makes me feel as if I have a big LOSER sign on my forehead. I feel as if everyone is looking at me and judging me for being friendless. The fear of being laughed at in two languages (and by implication, having a less enjoyable time traveling because of it) is something that would be very real to me.

This again is ideal me versus real me. I have a confession to make about traveling, which I know is the best thing in the world. It expands your horizons, opens you to new things, blah, blah, blah.

*Takes a deep breath*

I don’t like to travel.

I know, I know, I know. Caveat about knowing I’m lucky I have the opportunity to travel. My mom is going to Germany this summer (maybe), and she invited me to go. I thought about it, but declined in the end.

Here are the reasons I don’t like to travel.

One. Flying. I hate it. A lot. I get motion sickness for one thing. I hate crowds for another. There’s no way to get away from everybody else. Things are so cramped, and I get cranky. Layovers suck. Just, everything about actual flying sucks. Three hours of actual travel time expands into twelve hours of total time spent.

Two. Weather. I cannot handle anything over 70 degrees. Went to Malta last summer, and I knew it was going to be hot. I knew it was going to be humid. What I did not know was that there wasn’t going to be air conditioning where¬† we stayed. I don’t think we slept more than three hours a night, which was less than ideal. Tempers were short, and I was angry the whole time. It was oppressive, and it prevented me from truly enjoying myself. The last night we were there, we stayed in a hotel on the mainland, AND IT HAD AIR. Ian and I luxuriated in it in our huge (upgraded) hotel room, and it felt like paradise.

Three. I’m a creature of habit. I need to do things in very precise ways, and I’m not good at doing things on the fly. This is partly because of my anxiety, and it takes a very complex set of actions to keep that part of my brain at a dull roar. When I am someplace new, all of that is out of whack, and I can’t function to the best of my ability.

Four. I have…issues from traveling with my family. I still remember going to Taiwan and wanting to kill myself every day. I remember being ignored and belittled for what I wanted to do. The one thing I mentioned was that I wanted to go to the National Palace Museum and the National Taiwan Museum. We didn’t have time to do both, I was informed, even though my mom went to great lengths to do all the things my brother wanted to do. I had to pick one or the other, and I picked the National Palace Museum. My mom, brother, niece, and I went, and the whole time, they were complaining about it. I didn’t blame my niece because she was around twelve at the time, but it’s not the best way to see a museum.

In addition, when my parents and I went to NYC, the one thing I wanted to see was the Met. My mother decreed one hour of the Met time, and after I pleaded, I was allowed an extra half-hour. Believe me, nothing feels shittier than me being made to feel as if my interests were at best tolerated and at worst an imposition.

Five. I don’t like people. Or rather, I have a hard time dealing with people I don’t know. Having to do it on a regular basis is exhausting.

Six. Environment. I came back from the Malta being sick, and I was sick on and off for the next six months. When I lived in the Bay Area for a couple years, my allergies ran wild, and I stopped wearing contacts because it became too much trouble.

I hate admitting any of this, but it’s how I feel. It’s indicative of how I feel in general. There are so many things about myself that I don’t like, but I’m afraid I will not change. I’ve worked on a lot of it for my entire life, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to change it in this lifetime.

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