Self-medication

The honest truth is that we are self-medicating with drugs and booze. At social events, the beer and wine flow down the food chain, passing from professors with generous bottles in reusable totes to students with too-soon-empty plastic solo cups. At our desks, we slouch from the weight of articles and essays and theses and everything else in paperwork format hung around our necks and strapped to our chests. Even the best of us the ones who manage to shy away from the distractions, snort adderall in the bathroom and smoke reefer rolls when no one can see us. I told myself I wouldn’t become one of them. Yet, as I swallow my white pill for the day, I can’t feel the disappointment.

I started with citalopram, an antidepressant. The doctor asked me if I was depressed. But doc, I replied, My chest hurts. My heart is straining through a sieve and I sleep restless. That’s what I want you to treat, not these momentary moments of weakness. They come and go. I’m distracted, unable to work. I read and read and read and read until I’ve read nothing at all. I am mumbling excuses and conditions. I can’t tell how I feel. Is this me? I’m so worked up, my stomach is in knots. I can’t come back here. I’ve said too much.

As I am overthinking, I realized that I can’t stop. If I want to stay competitive in the sea of graduates, I need to be focused and quick. There are conferences and publications, theses and classes, teaching and volunteering. Everything needs to get done. No wonder why anxiety is inherent to millenials. It’s built into the bricks that cage us.

But as the pill digests in my stomach, I don’t feel it. At least, not like before. Anxiety still eats at me but spits out my worries. I’m a half-chewed wad of gum but still stuck together in baby blue goop. And that’s okay, right? We all go through it, right? It’s not just me? I’m not just an imposter, running away from the inevitable discovery. I deserve to be here, even if I have watched every other piece of me wither and wilt in the harsh academic sun. That small seed of determination is still there. So I’ll roll a joint, do a shot of gin, take my pill, and get to work, because that’s what a dead-beat parent would do.

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Living in a Dream

I dream a lot.

I often can’t stop myself from the persistenceness of thoughts. They come like waves upon the beach. I have dreamt of alternative pasts, prospective futures, the moments that fleet my fingers, and those seconds with weighted chains. I lose myself to the simulation of reality that renders me a flickering fire in a world of spectres, shadows on the wall.

Some may theorize that dreams serve as a way to process information at our most restful period. We stitch together data like scrapbook pages, taking a face from years ago, a song we heard before bed, lines from our favourite movies. Dreams can also be tales of agency or lack thereof. How often we hear of lucid dreaming and the ability to control our thoughts? What of the predicative images that harken to prophecies and visions of the future? We struggle for direction, whether we have freedom and will, even when we are inside our own heads. And we are often not alone either. We communicate with others. The voice of the dead can speak beyond spirit realms and they continue to resound even when we wake. But we also communicate with ourselves: the layered selves, translucent and pearlescent like the skin of an onion, blooming.

Today, I dreamt of my instructor, the one I am TAing for this semester. I have been thinking of him a lot. On the chance he (or anyone else I know) appears in my dream, I try to purge them. I cut their silhouettes from the screen and leave a hole in my wake; to know they were there but to expunge my emotion with them. But today was different. The dream became a vivid performance of cruel optimism (to borrow from Laura Berlant). I felt myself living a fantasy romance. I felt myself falling in love.

To fall in love with a virtual stranger is to fill an empty shell with yourself. He became what I wanted him to be. He invited me to his apartment and apologized for the mess–everything was meticulously placed but his winter boots, kicked off by the front door. He looked at me over the top of his glasses. Appraisingly. I’ve got a bottle of wine in my arms–no, it’s a six-pack of beer–and I put it on the table. He’s got a small bed, one pillow. Perhaps even in my dream, I am an anthropologist, combing through his imaginary things, trying to piece together who he is to me. He is his itchy sweaters and his unfretted brows. He is his booming lecturer voice and his deep, backhanded compliments. He is his restless hands, his tactile, reaching hands, and his invasive proddings. He is his dismissiveness and his pretentiousness. He is all of these things, the bad and the good, and I am propelled to him as I glide on the air.

And as we kiss, I feel nothing. No relief, no warmth, or ache. I act out the motions of making love with limbs like concrete and cable, suspended over the water, and when we are done, I crumble into myself and hug my legs to my chest. I am disgusted by my weakness. The temptation of fantasy was too great. I couldn’t stop myself. I had to have him. These are excuses. They try to cut the pain, the hollow chest that knows nothing like this could ever be outside of this room, his room, in the far reaches of my mind.

Sometimes, I confess these things to other students. I know it’s wrong, I say, but I can’t stop fetishizing him. And so they laugh, and they say, I know, I do the same thing with my supervisor. It’s the power structure–it makes it hot. We end up chiding each other for our choices, mocking and over analyzing our interactions over cups of coffee in tiny cafes, tucked just outside of any prying ears. And we bring up Plato and Socrates, who encourage these kinds of relationships between students and their teachers. We debate the sleaziness seen in Call Me By Your Name, and hope to god we don’t end up falling so hard that we end up like them. But in the end of the day, they say, It’s just a dream. The moment will pass.

But in my bed, I think it over, again and again. I visit his home and kiss his head. It is the last time. I wake at my alarm and meet him to discuss midterms.

One Grad Student

This is not the best place to tell you about myself–wherever I am wedged in the deep web’s crevices, half here and in between. But I can’t help it. Isn’t that what blogs are all about? Blogging about cultivated moments, captivating audiences, eeking out of comfort and into glamourous anonymonity? In theory, maybe. The ghoul of Foucault calls out, “pride and power, the discourse surrounds us!” He’s more poetic than usual and waxing lyricisms assuages me to agree. I do this for you, dear reader, though you do not know it yet. I write here because I cannot do anything else. I am a graduate student, an anthropology student, and best yet, an anthropologii student–illiterate, uneducated, and unoriginal. Forget the faculties with their circlejerk Deleuzes and Latours. Here, we dive our hands into the air, skin surfboards on the wind. Our Icarus wings, our stretching fingers, will carry us afar if only we reach. We’ll break these chains of ivory so that our kin will know freedom from its spires. If you can trust a stranger, an anthropologii both familiar and strange, then take a proverbial leap of faith and fall down the rabbit hole. Falling is still flying.