Emotional extremes make art. Look at the artists who have left the most lasting legacies. Picasso, Wilde, Woolf, Cobain, Monroe. What brings us to the emotional extremes that they all experienced? What parts of life catapult us into these altered states of mind that, when we’re lucky, drive us to creativity? Love? Drugs? Sleep deprivation? Heartbreak? Betrayal? Sure. But for me, sometimes all it takes to throw me into a fit of brewing, internal rage is the ridiculous behavior of the people around me.
As far back as I can remember, my parents always told me I need to have a “thicker skin” and a “bigger heart.” You know, not let little things get to me. Despite this elephantiasis of mind they tried to force upon me, though, sometimes I still find it difficult to just “shrug it off” when something or someone wrongs me. I tend to stew in it. Replay it in my head. Let it get under my skin. Not always. But on days like today, when I’m somewhat sleep-deprived, cold, and Vitamin-D deficient, I let it get to me. But today is special. Today, I’m going to take advantage of the unique vantage point this emotional extreme affords me. I’m going to take this anger towards others and instead of internalize it, I’m going to direct it back to its source in the form of some constructive, bitchy criticism. I’m going to call out the every day shit that people do that bother me. Today, I’m going to make art.
Today, I’m going to focus on some recent behavior I’ve observed that, on the spectrum of human behavior, leans to the more deviant end of the spectrum. I’ve heard that in therapy, they tell you to confront the sources of your anger by writing letters to them, even if the person will never read it. Well, random people on campus who I think could benefit from a change in behavior, these go out to you.
1) This one is for the girl who just walked into the otherwise quiet kitchen I was just studying in and started yelling. Girl, you are yelling. You may think you’re just talking at a normal volume to your friend in your COS class, y’know, having a chat about your coding assignment, but no. You’re yelling. You are indoors. Your friend is three feet away from you. There is no other noise to compete with. Why are you yelling? I understand that this is a kitchen and not a study space, so there’s no expectation for you not to talk, but you’re not talking. You’re yelling. You’re jarringly loud, even over the sound of myself chewing and over my music. You ever heard of an inside voice? Stop yelling and use it.
2) Number two is a quick comment card to the girl who put down three boxes of berries on the table on I was working on, opened one, and splashed me in the face with the residual water on it. Partially my fault, I’ll admit, for not clearing out fast enough when there was a study break coming in, but c’mon! What the hell, man? What am I, a ghost?
3) Here’s a general one for the peeps who use exclusively the word “interesting” to describe something in class discussion. Obviously you find it interesting if you’ve brought it up to talk about. Contrary to what you might expect, the word “interesting” adds nothing, well, interesting to what you’re saying. Throw some other adjectives in there! Why is it interesting? Why should we care? Make it worth our time to listen to you. You can’t just say something is “interesting” and leave it at that. Anyone could find anything “interesting.”
4) People who stop short in the dining hall and/or turn around abruptly while holding their full plate of food out in front of them: what in the world do you think you’re doing??? Are you some kind of anarchist trying to create mayhem? Your behavior is dangerous, and frankly, I’m shocked that I haven’t been a victim or witness of a collision in the servery as a result of your reckless behavior, given all the close calls I’ve had. Having to do a split step to dodge someone’s food-laden plate as they whip around, seemingly without a care in the world, has become commonplace in crowded serveries, and we just can’t continue to live like this. Would you drive a car like this, too? The dining hall is like a traffic circle at rush hour. You can’t just slam on the breaks or pull a U-turn just because you remembered that you wanted fries or a chicken breast.
5) Speaking of dining halls, there’s one more thing that really gets me sometimes. When you’re using tongs to get something like french fries, salad greens, or green beens–y’know, stuff that’s all a lot of pieces of the exact same thing–why the hell do you need to go back and forth with the damn tongs like ten times? I’ve witnessed people get a pile of french fries by using the tongs to pick out two fries at a time. Slowly, too. What is the freaking point, if your ultimate goal is a pile of fries that are exactly the same? Quit teasing me as I wait behind you every time you put the tongs down for another trip to the dish to get two more fries and just get it done with one fell swoop.
5a) Counterargument: Maybe they’re picking out the food so slowly because they can sense my annoyance. I’ve totally done that before when I can feel someone behind me getting impatient, just to be annoying. “I’ll show you!” Call me a hypocrite if you want, but this is my blog, and I do what I want.
6) Here’s a big one. Every Tuesday, as a member of the College Council Social Committee, I help set up and sometimes order the food for the college-wide study break. Every Tuesday, I bear witness to gluttony and greed in its purest form. Do you really need twelve pieces of sushi right now? Do you need all eight of those pieces of pizza? Will you starve if you aren’t the first one to grab a cookie? Every week, we have to literally guard the food until it’s 10 P.M. and time for the study break to start. You can see the blinders come on and everyone’s eyes are fixated are on whatever food is available for free that night. Many people are civil and are just trying to get a snack, which is the point of the study breaks but many others seem to just want whatever we’re offering, and a lot of it, just because it’s for free. Some kind of evolutionarily-favored survival instinct must switch on, because you would think some of these kids haven’t been fed for days, given the amount of food they take and the aggressiveness with which they take it. This is the kind of behavior that gets people trampled on Black Friday.
7) Joyce Carol Oates tweeted it best at 7:56 P.M. on February 3, 2013: “Do people with massive back packs really not know that they are crushing us?” Seriously! Do people whose backpacks, so full that they add another two square feet to a person’s girth, truly not realize how much space their appendages take up? Even just thinking about it, I’m shaking my head, furrowing my brow, and turning up my palm in incredulity. The other day, I said “excuse me” to a boy whose gargantuan backpack blocked the only path I could have taken out of the crowded Murray-Dodge basement, and he shuffled forward about four inches. You serious? So I said screw it and aggressively shouldered the protuberance out of my way. And I didn’t even get a cookie.
After writing all of this, I think I see why therapists have their patients write letters to the people who make them angry. I’m definitely feeling less angry than I was when I began this post, but there’s no guarantee that my misanthropic grievances won’t return in full force the next time someone doesn’t, say, move out of the way fast enough at the milk and sugar station at Witherspoon’s.
People are weird. It’s what makes being a human so much fun. Weird in the most surprising, wonderful, and inspiring ways sometimes, and other times in the most repellant, sick, and disgusting ways. Even other times, we’re just weird in the needling, irritating ways I’ve lamented above. But we can’t have the delightful-weird without the evil-weird or the annoying-weird. Even the evil-weird and the annoying-weird make us feel, think, and produce. It’s the price we have to pay to not be bored out of our minds during our time in existence. And what’s worse than being bored?