I used to ride the bus a lot, to football games, marching competitions, academic competitions, band trips… I never grew bored of them, how could I? It was an infinitely varying combination of four things: attempting to be productive, getting drawn into ridiculous conversations with the people around you, watching the around you blur, and sleeping, who could complain?
Most of these posts on here probably have roots in these bus rides, many of them first came to me while contemplating life, staring out the window, with inspirational music playing in the background in true movie-esque form. The rest of them were probably half-formed thoughts floating around in my head at the time that were able to grow and become full ideas after during a sessions of absolute peace.
I made the decision to go to Duke while on a bus. These bus rides were such an integral part of my lifestyle, it’s weird to realize that they haven’t been around for a while. They taught me how to think over things like I had all the time in the world, they gave me a chance to reevaluate my life regularly, they gave my mind permission to jump to and explore any random train of thought it could, because why not? They gave me long stretches of time to let loose emotions about whatever was plaguing my mind at the time and then, the most important part, the time to crawl my way back to the real, wonderful world and leave the bus with significantly lower cortisol levels.
I remember that one of the first times I traversed the C1’s route from East to West, I stared out the window and considered some blog-post worthy idea about the windows and everyday life, probably associated with the real world outside the bus through the windows and through a narrow opening in the window opening. And then I considered the fact that I was thinking these thoughts while on the bus at Duke and that this all occurred to me without me consciously trying to do so. Maybe I was on a C2.
Recently I’ve found myself missing a certain type of moment when I sit in peace and think, a moment that apparently is not a part of my life at Duke. I feel as if lately I’ve been subconsciously seeking a way to bring those moments back into my life. I mentally note spots on campus that have great contemplation potential and many thoughts of late have centered around trying to figure out this strange time optimization problem of life that seemingly uses all the time available no matter how much my workload varies.
Five months is the longest this thought-log has been without a post since its inception, it’s not that I lack the thoughts, the desire or even the time, (because… I really never had time for any of the previous posts either), it just hasn’t happened.
I want my peace back.
I was sitting in the Physics building the other day and there were two people occupying the couch across from me. One of whom was curled up in a ball and napping. Presently, the napping individual’s phone sounded a rather interesting sort of alarm, causing me and the other individual sitting on the couch across from me to look up, glance at the napping girl/phone combo and then share a brief grin of understanding with each other. It was great.
I don’t remember exactly what sound the phone made (I think it was something like… coughing? maybe?) or really anything else about the people involved in that little scenario (er, including their facial features), but I do remember the feeling of understanding. Something little bit of life shared completely with someone I knew nothing else of.
Looking back, I realized that my favorite memories are all born of that same deep understanding. A quick grin of comprehension at a teacher’s unintentionally ironic comment, a moment of absolute peace and understanding between two people. A glance of affirmation that no - you didn’t manage to complete ruin the piece of music with your part.
But in a way that’s just me. In understanding the types of moments I live for, I realize that everybody has different types of memories they’re fond of making, moments of pure freedom, moments of accomplishment, moments of brightening someone’s day, moments of mattering… things that most people feel an affinity for, but for some mean the world. There are infinitely many ways of experiencing “life”, and it’s this difference that I believe fuels the variety in people’s preferred activities, methods of communication, people that they “connect” with, and their general approach to life.
Maybe that’s why I’m so adept at delivering the “I know what you’re doing” Leevi-look”, it actually is my main form of communication with people. Innate understanding is how I form my connections to the world, so much so that I’m actually pretty terrible at interacting with the world in any other way. It’s a bit frustrating sometimes, many times, all the time, but, you know… I think I’m okay with where it’s taken me.
Maybe it’s okay to just continue being myself.
Often times, I’ll find myself sitting at my desk for hours and find that nothing has gotten done. No lab reports have been started, no required readings have been absorbed, no homework has been completed. For hours I have sat here, wandering, thinking, exploring, dreaming. It’s frustrating at times, yet this is how so many things that are amazing and important to me have begun.
When I was younger, I used to hang around my dad while my mom and brother were napping in the afternoon. Sometimes he would take me to his workplace, sometimes he would take me to the movies, and sometimes he would tell me to occupy myself, that I couldn’t always depend on other people to keep me stimulated. And so I learned early on that if my own thoughts weren’t interesting enough to entertain myself then I was a lot more boring than I’d like to believe.
It’s so easy now, to let my thoughts wander, explore and consume me. Yesterday, it frustrated me, this unwillingness to focus, this, how do you call it? This “procrastination”. But today, today I realize that it’s in this time that I allow myself to dream, it’s in this time my mind contemplates opportunities that it wouldn’t have ever realized were opportunities, it’s in this time I discover what I care about, who I care about and why I care. It’s in this time, blog posts are created.
It’s in this time pit t-shirts came into being, it’s in this time I believed I could play Stubernic, it’s in this time I’ve made so many decisions to “go for it”, it’s in this time I’ve found the images, the motivation to push myself to accomplish things I never thought I could do. It’s the things I think about in this time that truly make me who I am.
With a perpetual 9:30pm bedtime, I was also a well-rested child as well as an introspective one, and so I would lay in bed for hours every day before falling asleep. I never got bored, and even now, the time before I drift off to sleep is where most of my dreams begin, even before REM state. It’s in this time, I believe I can do anything.
It’s in that time, a week ago, I dreamed about Carolina Crown.
I should have known better.
Or swallowed the doubt and ran,
Across the street, after you.
If only I realized that at that point
It wasn’t too late.
I would have asked for your name,
So it wouldn’t haunt my thoughts at night,
I’m afraid of forgetting,
Even I don’t know why.
We could have been great, that’s why
Or maybe not. We may never know.
Bathrooms and summer and solids,
All I wanted was to talk, to understand to know.
One more chance, one redo.
A name, a face, an opportunity,
Before I leave,
Before I forget.
It sounds so simple.
I’m tired of the voices,
That say I’m a genetically deficient piano player,
That believe I don’t belong with free body diagrams and torsion equations.
I’m drowning here.
I struggle to hear my own voice,
Because of the ones that tell me I should play flute,
That know I’m weak because I have two X’s.
Where did it go?
Two decades of hearing, and it’s hard not to believe,
The voices that later come back,
Why is it so hard to remember
What I sound like
Who I am.
Who am I?
When I leave my cell phone in the car, I can talk myself into not going back to retrieve it. When I’m on my computer, Facebook doesn’t exist as a constant tab anymore (to use Facebook chat, Pidgin works just fine). I do things without letting the world know all about it (sometimes). In other words, technology is awesome, but it’s important to me to exist in the world around it at times.
But there is one thing that technology has made ever more available that I’m not sure how to break away from - or if I really want to. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with trends, statistics and general data collection. In elementary school whenever I would get a yearbook at the end of the year I would keep track of who had been in the same class as me since kindergarten, eliminating more and more people every year until 3rd grade, when there were only 3 “survivors” left and all of them left that year, which kind of put a damper on things.
And so it’s always been, from middle school’s fascinating friend-gauging statistics in the form of “how many MB is my chat log with you?” to more recent (and random) queries of “how many band directors wished me happy birthday on my facebook wall this year?” (I suppose I wondered the slightly more normal, “how many Duke kids vs. pre-Duke kids”, “adults vs. kids” and “boys vs. girls” stuff too)
I can’t leave the house on a road trip without checking my odometer. On my trip up to Dallas I drove 576 miles in 69 hours (and on average I got 25 mpg which falls short of the expected 30-something miles per gallon). Ever since I started regularly driving, I’ve put on 6,000 miles in 2.5 years.
If you’re waiting on an e-mail from me your best bet is on Thursdays (at least in June), although if I’m going to e-mail you back it’ll probably be in less than a day. Since August 2008, I’ve spend $2094.03 on books and Amazon items (including music books). In the past 54 months, I’ve typed 11,589,950 keys, clicked 3,559,497 times and moved my cursor a distance of 258.38 miles. The average sentence on this page has 15.35 words. My name is Leeviana Gray and I have a problem.
I don’t collect random data just for the sake of doing so (well… I pretend like I don’t at least) but I take that data and then figure out WHY it is the way it is. For every piece of statistical data I just threw out about myself, I’ve worked out many factors that played into why the data is that way, implications for myself and possible predictions for how the future will play out.
…please tell me that everyone else does this too?
Every summer day that I spend time walking around UT, I conduct a little experiment of mine. It’s simple (and totally full of biases). I try to make eye contact with every person I pass and give them a smile. I note their reactions, my reactions and a few traits of theirs that might affect their innate ability to deal with strangers smiling at them. I’ve been totally trained to autopilot statistical studies.
So in part, it’s just how I deal with the world, how I continually observe and form my opinions, but on the other hand I get the feeling that it’s more than that, not necessarily in a good way. Sometimes I think that statistics give me relevance, I’ve driven 6 thousand miles, does that mean anything? Sometimes I think that statistics give me assurance that I’m doing things in the world, getting things done… 748 e-mails in my inbox, some of those had to set something in motion, right? Sometimes I think statistics are there to make me think I matter. This is my 91st blog post, do they affect people?
Maybe this statistics thing isn’t such a good product of the technology revolution after all.
P.S. I know what links you clicked on this post, what pages you visited on this blog, and where your internet connection is coming from. But don’t worry. So does every other site you visit.
(I also just rediscovered the long lost Technology Temporality Pt. 2 blog post. I’m not sure why it never got posted, but I WILL post it)
Note: Read all of this or none of this, otherwise I’m going to seem like the biggest creeper in the world.
It’s been too long, hasn’t it? You’ve been by my side since childhood, as tolerance for your company evolved into loving your company. We’ve had ups and down, you’ve given me pain, I’ve given you grief, but somehow in the end you make everything better. You’ve been there through everything, comforted me in my darkest days, distracting me when I needed distraction, focusing my thoughts when I needed to think.
My parents tried to use you to make me quit band, I almost hated you then. But you more than made up for it, becoming my solace from those very same harsh biting words.
You’ve opened so many doors for me, some directly and others indirectly and you’ve done it just by being yourself, I’m forever in your debt. We’ve spent more than a thousand hours in each other’s company, and because of that you’ll forever be a part of me. I can’t imagine life without you.
Around you I can be open. With you, it’s okay to show emotion. I feel more “myself” with you than with anything else. Maybe that’s why in the back of my mind, for some reason, I always imagined that someone would fall in love with me someday while with you.
This year’s been hard, part of me knows I can’t lose what we have, part of me is still afraid that we’ll drift apart and I can’t stop it. I tell people about you but my actions don’t always follow my words. And when I do get to be around you, it’s always with other people, my moments with you alone this year have been scarce.
The scariest moments are when I forgot the feelings, the “runner’s high” from being in contact with you, the joy of creating music with you, the absolute peace on earth when just existing next to you.
Then I forget that I forgot anything.
Yesterday was my first extended contact with you in much too long, and suddenly I remembered. The feelings, the calm, the joy, suddenly I remembered why it was that I put so much faith in you, why it is that I speak of you so highly, why it is that I love you.
And so, I want to issue a statement to the world. If I’m ever lost and lonely some day and I don’t remember why, somebody kick me and tell me to go play piano. I’ll remember then.
It always starts with an idea, some strand of thought that gets stuck in my head, circling around, gaining momentum until… a blog post is born. At least in my mind. Not all of them make it on to my blog, it’s a sad reality that most of the blog post stimulating thoughts that occur to me don’t make it this far. Instead, they sit in my mind until, after a while, I find I can’t write about them anymore. My desktops and notebooks (both virtual and physical) are filled with the accumulation of unrealized thoughts over the years.
But a few of them do make it, there are 88 posts on this blog to prove it. Some I made myself write, some I wanted to make a point with, several more are here simply because the words sounded right, a few mark a turning points in my life, many were written while riding waves of emotion - anger, confusion, nostalgia, wistfulness, excitement.
Yet, no matter where I start, what triggers the thoughts, or what my hidden motivations may be for starting to string together pieces of English in a little box on a screen, by the time I’m done, I always have an answer of sorts. A calming of emotions, a semi-cohesive path of thought and, many times, a conclusion that I never intended to come to. It’s what makes those stale thoughts of mine impossible to write, because all those scribbled thoughts are only the beginning, only the questions, and to find the answers I have to utilize every part of my current state of mind to reason out a way to the end - a state of mind that’s constantly in motion.
I’m sure I could start with a thought that occurred to me years ago and tease out some string of reasoning from point A to point B, but it would be a completely different post, and probably take a different path… and my mind is my no means a conservative field, in fact it’s the exactly opposite - the path just might be the only thing that matters.
The act of writing appalls many people, much the same way that to others engineering problems as attractive as similar polarities, there’s just so much effort involved in getting from point A to point B. Who wants to fill pages and pages with laborious work only to arrive at a puny little answer that you draw a box around? It’s a feeling I can certainly relate to. But the thing is, in thinking that way I’ve completely missed the point. Maybe if someone had told me to box my path from point A to point B instead of point B itself (which in all likelihood is different from my neighbor’s point B), maybe I would have discovered that the journey is as rewarding as the process of writing bits of my mind onto this blog. Or maybe I’m just trying to convince myself to get back to doing physics instead of spending hours on this post.
People say they like math because there’s only one right answer, but there are so many ways to discover an answer, there are so many definitions of what an “answer” could be, and… what about all the things you discover while trying to find said “answer”? Math is presented so often as a collection of things you can do with numbers, all directed towards obtaining the correct squiggles to place inside a box but… what if that’s not the point? What was that about engineering not being about the stuff you learn but about the process of learning how to think? What is wrong with all these math teachers?
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy points out that the question is a lot more important than the answer, but perhaps the greatest computer of all space time would have given us the Ultimate Question and then explained that it’s not the Question OR the Answer but the path from the question to the answer that holds the real secrets to Life, the Universe and Everything.
(P.S. What do you think this post’s point A was?)
When I was younger I used to store emotions in the foundations of my house. I’d pick a corner of the room, or really any part of the area that I thought I probably hadn’t used yet and channeled strong feelings, mostly things like sadness, bitterness and frustration into that area. The idea was that those feelings would be stored there until another, happier day, when I could either balance the foundations out with happiness or take away some of that sorrow and deal with it. In some way I always felt bad for surrounding myself with an overflow of negativity and creating a room founded on loneliness, but it helped me cope. The whole thing is a concept that may take some effort to actually understand, but it made some sense to me as a child.
I never really got around to taking the sadness back out.
More than a decade after I utterly abused the walls of my household - especially my room - I’m sitting here, in my room, wondering what happened to all that emotion. Is it still around in the walls, is that why I never feel at ease in my room? Or did those sadness stones never exist on any level at all, did those stored emotions not exist either? Or, as I’d like to think, did those emotions in the walls get absorbed by time, like most things are prone to doing?
I owe so much to the walls of this house, they were the tools given to me as a child that I didn’t understand how to use but I used it anyways. They gave me places to store emotions and ever-varying patterns to trace and pretend to memorize while voices chase around the room, in addition to, you know, holding up the house.
But, now that I’m thinking about it, I get the suspicion that the payment for using the walls as I did was the creation of the walls within myself. I could live without emotion, I trained myself in the art of shutting myself away. The same walls that helped me throughout childhood nearly killed my future - they could still do so.
It’s a wonderful existential dilemma, trying to sort out your childhood. But the walls are coming down, bit by bit. I got incredibly lucky and met the one person who could shatter my impossible walls and continues to do so and that changes me, this room changes with me. Life is good. And walls are deceptively helpful. I’ll have to see what I can do about getting rid of them altogether.
I miss the AIM days, the days when you could set a status solely for the slightly self-centered purpose of letting people know why you were not sitting in front of the computer at the moment. Or maybe it was to amuse somebody, or to share something of interest, or to hold a strange type of conversation. Whatever the reason, the best part was that after a while, the status ceased to exist, there was no incessant need to preserve it for future observers. Sure, it existed in memory - your memory and possibly that one friend’s memory who thought that status was exceedingly witty, but as time passed on and that memory became less relevant to your life, it slowly faded away.
Half the meaning was contained in its timing anyways. If I revisit some of my chat logs (and nobody besides me actually felt the need to keep logs), I can catch a glimpse of an away message or status here or there. They’re still clever, interesting, and sometimes sweet, but they don’t mean nearly the same to me now as they did then. Faded emotions, outdated inside jokes, completely dead trends.
It was a nice world. The statuses served their purpose (uh, as a status), sometimes triggered conversations, and peacefully left everyone’s mind eventually. But now, in this day and age, sense has seemingly abandoned us. An ability to scroll through a person’s long dead history? Through past statuses that don’t make sense, conversations with people they even don’t remember, all the way to a few choice baby pictures… what purpose could that possibly serve? (hint: why would actually take the effort to do that?) Rest assured, if a historian was looking to write up a piece about somebody, they’d prefer to hear said person’s life story from their own lips. It’s much more interesting that way anyways, I can personally attest to that.
Sometimes I even wish this blog didn’t have nine whole pages of history to confuse curious people. Reading through pages of thought history just doesn’t have nearly the same impact as being there for the posts in their proper time period. And yet, those pages still exist.
This idea of communication through our past keystrokes, yet declaring for the world to hear how much only our present self defines us is strange. Why is there a need for everything to be recorded? I can’t remember the last time I used a completely temporary status message, AIM or other, to report on my life (but that’s the point, isn’t it?).
It’s okay if you’ve done something enjoyable and there’s no pictures of the event, it’s okay if you had an amazing experience and all your friends aren’t subjected to constant gushing. And next time Duke beats UNC, it’s okay if you run outside and just forget about Facebook. I’m working on it too, and I’ve realized: the more I live it, the more I believe it’s true.