Beyond The Sort

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A tall building on a warm evening. A slight breeze blowing in the northwestern direction picking up the heat emanating off the hot concrete from the earlier that sun-scarred day. It’s warm enough for sweat beads to form on the body but cool enough not to be bothersome.  The last lights of the sun have already dissipated leaving only the artificial lamps of the living to illuminate the blackened streets below. There on top of that building we stand alone on the precipice, waiting for the answer, will we float or sink. It is as if we are to walk along the edge and be judged. Judged by a force that does not know context or form will decide. Where then does our destiny lie, and will we ever know unless we open ourselves to falling. Will it decide right or left, one will lead to death and the other release.  There we walk, teetering on that edge, hoping it’s not already too late.

Almost every student looking to attend graduate school have to take a test. Its named  Graduate Record Examination or called more commonly as the GRE. This test is daunting to most because of its deceptively simple questions require students to brush up on skills and abilities that ultimately have nothing to do with the subject matter they are attempting to study. Of course, there are exceptions to this but ultimately this exam that is the great standardizer among students and although it may not get you into a program, it can certainly keep you out.  I bring up this exam, not for the exam,  I could devote pages to how much this test has cheated young scholars that I know out of opportunities, no today I want to highlight of because of the way this exam is scored.

You can refer to this test as a living test, it’s really amazing. You see, as you take the test, the difficulty of the test will adjust to you, you get one wrong, questions get easier, you get one right, the test gets harder.  What it’s doing is gauging your score by homing in on exactly where your proficiency level is.  The only problem with this is that the first couple questions ultimately become the most important ones.  These are the great sorting questions, get the first couple wrong and it is impossible to get a high score on the GRE.  First sort, top half or bottom, then exactly where in those halves you lie. The rest of the questions are there to accurately gauge your specific score and percentile.  This is done so that Math majors and English majors can take the same test and still get an accurate measurement of their ability when compared to everyone else in between.

Now while you take the test, you can bring your score up if those first couple questions just happened to be your weakness, but for some, the test is decided after a much shorter time. You might answer all the questions, but your score was determined only after the first few, your ability to fly cut short by the first few mistakes.  Of course exactly how your test is scored and exactly how long it took to score it is a company secret, you’ll never know how long it took for people to make those judgments. If you do bad, you have to start all over, pay out some more money and hope that next time will go better.

It’s really unfortunate not just because the test is terrible but a lot of the time this system mirrors the reality.  We are sorted in such a way where the first few mistakes ultimately set us back, mistakes that may have nothing to do with the path you are trying to follow control you. If you get the first couple answers wrong you get sorted, and sorted, and sorted until having to start over becomes the only option but at that point, you’ve put all your time and money to get there.  What does it take to bridge that gap, how do you become the one that rises to the top, the cream instead of the water? Do these barriers matter because at some point when we get mixed together you can’t really break cream from coffee.

I don’t argue that it’s a way to give those who show more potential more opportunity and the system works for some but it is also seeded in the belief that people don’t change and with that belief, great barriers arise to separate those cans from cannots.  This is not everywhere, there are great institutions whose message to the world is let us help you make a good life for yourself.  It is then I who has this problem, this desire of prestige reserved for the few who are sorted.  This inequality in my heart that calls to say that I am not worth the dirt on the ground if I can’t fly in the sky.  What are we then to this, the world tells us where the “important” people are and live. To the hill that rises live those who stand above us all who live below telling us only the few deserve the right to live there.

We stand on the precipice readying ourselves to be sorted by the force that knows not who were are or what we can do by a system built by those of who have just like us been sorted. We crawl upon each other hoping that we get high enough to reach and yet we crush all those below holding all the weight. We destroy and rid ourselves of anything weighing us down in hope fly but remove everything about ourselves that makes flying worthwhile. We are not then defined by this, we are defined by the actions and relations to our fellow man and I’d be damned if I will let this system built by the collective action of those who sort us to keep me changing the world.

The Promise

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I bought a ring recently, seemingly out the blue but it had been something I was thinking about doing for a while now. In slipping it on my finger, it felt it right, felt like exactly what I needed. Now the ring is nothing fancy, just a black and red silicone band that fits my finger well enough. A simple ring that called to be worn, a finger bear and empty.  There is something I needed from this ring that I couldn’t get from a tattoo or some other symbols. With every morning, be it habit or choice, I could put on the ring and carry it around as a reminder to myself. A reminder I spend my life pursuing the things that matter to me, a life I choose above all other alternatives. Each time I put on the ring, I will choose to walk this path, a promise to myself that this path is a choice, and the path that I have chosen.

It’s easy to lose sight of the important things when the mounting stress and deadlines are sitting at my doorstep.  Over the past couple of weeks, it has been difficult starting a cycle of impending dread that would mount infinitely high until I felt like my head was ringing and a weight upon my chest.

These feeling pass though, as long as we let it and when everything clears it always comes with revelation.  Whether or not this is the, I want to be doing with my life.  It’s not the first time this has happened and these feelings never get any easier to feel, there is great humility in them.  When everything is stripped away things become clear and path before me adjusts to razor sharp focus.  I want this life, it’s a life I have been building up for years.  When everything is overwhelming, the motivation and feelings towards it feel bloated and stale.  It’s easy to lose sight of the goal or become jaded with the constant progress I need to make to achieve it. Sometimes we need that suffering to stay true to the path.

Above all things I have been thinking about life, and what life really is about.  Sure there are many aspects to it, roles to fill, things to do, and memories to have. But a lot of what it comes down to is the suffering we choose.  Take for instance parenting side effects include sleepless nights, undue stress, premature hair loss, loss of time, and loss of money and yet billions of people choose to do it.  If I went up to most parents I don’t think they would even think about it, the choose this life because suffering culminates to something more, something fulfilling.  We choose our sufferings because it brings us closer to the lives we want to live. I look at it and think about it, would it be better to be suffering from having lost my purpose, or grief of giving up on a dream? I would always much rather have sleepless nights and stressed filled hours pursuing something greater than myself than the problem of too much sleep and not enough to do.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that we choose from infinitely many possibilities, some being better than others and yet it’s us to suffer through.  I would much rather suffer for the things I love than suffer for the things I hate. I have a ring now, that fills my finger and reminds me of the choice I make every day to move towards my dream.

The Things Destroying Me.

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The point of this blog is to talk, have a conversation with myself and others about life. Sometimes I worry about this because I live on a line of wanting to show everything and feeling too bashful to explain the subtle nuances that permeate my being that may lie in the far reaches of social taboo.  Slowly I attempt to unravel this as experience give me inspiration to write and press forward.  I guess today is one of those days because my life feels like it’s wrapped like an ouroboros destroying itself while trying to live.

In recent weeks I have reported my progressive tribulations with my inability to work.  My hands have heavy, my eyes refuse to look at screens because they hurt, and from the sudden rise in heartbeat from attempting to open my email I am starting to think some of these symptoms are psychosomatic.  What is the cure to this, I don’t know, but from what I know about most trials in my life, the only way to really become serious about solving a problem is recognizing there is one in the first place.

I feel like I am falling apart, the order I crafted now feels like an inverted tower of Hanoi, building large bases on small foundations wondering when everything will simply topple over and chaos returns. I can’t keep all these balls that I am juggling in my hand, and I have a feeling at any given moment I start messing up and lose one after another. I am starting to forget when things are happening, losing track of tasks I have to do.  That aided with my systems of effort beginning to fail in the heat-drenched summer, I feel powerless to anything except persist.

My time is slipping away right in front of me, and I am letting it.  Under the excuse of needing time to myself, this unstructured period is ruinous for everything I am attempting to do. A push, drive to move forward dissipates in the lack of deadlines and feelings of need. My head is pounding attempting to push forward but the time I sitting in front of my task that sense and ability won’t come. Like calling for a hero but it never arriving I slink back into my chair in attempts to wait it out, maybe just a couple minutes longer and I can finally do it.

I am falling back into the bad habits of yesterday.  This idea that through it all I can find makeshift comfort in the virtual illusion of porn haunts me. This tugging I had no problem overcoming seems now a persistent voice attempting to seduce me into a false serenity built on a growing instability of self.  This force, like most know, is built on a promise of escape and the illusion of intimacy contends with my desire to keep focused and away from what I know harms me.

I feel now dread from the simple act of checking if there anything more to do, waiting for the call of failure in and the black and white textures of an email or text. I dread this failure, but it keeps me still. I try to face it but it overwhelms me, and I don’t know what to do.

I want to slink away, be away from everyone and everything. Just a quiet moment for my thoughts and yet when those times come I can help but surround myself in noise. I want to have control, and I feel like I’m losing it.  I want to just succeed, but all I feel is failure.  Why won’t my body move what I want it to – what I need it to. I feel at the mercy of these things I feel like no control over and powerless to stop.

In all of it I know is two things.

First, I surrender to it, I will fail, fall, and falter.  There are things in life that are bigger than us, stronger than us and to get through them we have to recognize that they have this power.

Second, I have to persist. Strength isn’t gained in a day, and courage isn’t fostered through a peaceful life. I am not strong sometimes, and that’s okay.  Little by little and piece by piece things will get done and time will pass. Things will change and as they do so will I.

I don’t know how this will turn out, but it scares me. Scares me a lot.