I gotta warn you, I was in a weird state of mind when I wrote this. Probably only I will be interested by it enough to write about it, and you’ll read it and just be, “huh?” Oh well.
My sophomore year of high school, I took Spanish 2 honors with Mr. Phelan. Mr. Phelan was Irish but grew up in Central America so he was fluent in Spanish. He was a really great guy. He taught many of the freshman Spanish courses, so he was really into the freshman class. He would go to all of the freshman sporting events (at Bell we had 3 levels – Varsity, J.V., and frosh for the big team sports like football, basketball and I think baseball) and support the Baby Bells. A really cool guy.
He also had these phrases he said in class all the time. Like when he would tell a story, he would often say, “And that went over like a pregnant pole vaulter – not very well.” And whenever the phrase “se fue” came up in class, he would say, “Not Lucky, not Alpha-Beta, but se fue.” Only long term norCallers will understand that reference.
I vividly remember the first day of Spanish 2 Honors. Spanish 1 was great. A bunch of wild-eyed freshmen and we just kind of go gently into Spanish. I loved it. I remember Spanish 2 Honors so clearly because I was so shocked. I was expecting more of the same but it was nothing like. My first experience of an Honors class. Anyway, the whole first class was totally in Spanish. I was shocked. I had no idea what was going on. Or what was being said. I understood like less than 30% of what was being said. I was like, whoa, did I get into the wrong class? Did I skip a class? It’s actually amazing how much I remember about this one class. We used Vallette Vallette and for Spanish 2 Honors we skipped right to the Spanish 3 book. I was so lost. There were all these random phrases in the first lesson, like “El mundo es un panuelo.” The world is a handkerchief. It’s like saying “it’s a small world.” Random.
But the most shocking thing to me was how everyone else seemed to be totally comfortable with everything, like they understood everything and what was going on was totally natural. I was so surprised, because I thought I was pretty smart and pretty good at Spanish, you know, better than most people. But I was so totally and completely lost. But everyone else seemed to not be. In particular Steve Morales. You may know him. He went to Stanford. Here he went by Esteban. I don’t know where that came from. He was Steve when he started high school. I guess he got into Chicano pride, which is cool. But he was in Spanish 1 with the rest of us freshman year. Anyway, he in particular really seemed to know what was going on during class. Like laughing at jokes, and participating, and all that. I was just kind of in shock at how lost I was and how everyone else wasn’t.
But even then, I thought that a lot of other people were lost, but just weren’t saying anything. So after class, I went to some people and I was like, “what the heck was that?” But everyone was just cool with it like it was no big deal. Like they understood everything and everything was hunky dory.
So at this point I was scared. For two reasons. One, I thought I was going to fail this class, because apparently I was way behind everyone and it was going to take a lot of work just to understand what was being said. Two, I was scared because I thought at this point that everyone else was smarter than me, and when I’m in a situation where I feel like everyone else is smarter than me, I get scared.
As it turned out, I didn’t do badly, in fact I did really well (as I continued to do in Spanish, claro) and I was in fact smarter than most of the people in the class. So what was up with that first class? What I figured out was that everyone was pretending. Every single person was pretending that they understood and that they were cool with everything. But come on, they weren’t. Not all of them at least. (Steve I think actually was cool with it, but given his background that’s not really fair.) But everyone pretended. I was the only person I think that lecture that admitted that I was totally and completely lost. Even my good friends would say like, when I asked them wasn’t that insane, “I mean, I guess it was a little difficult.”
Well either I am so smart that I was able to catch up and surpass everyone or everyone was pretending to understand better than they actually did. I guess both are true. Ha!
Anyway, I realize that everyone at Stanford does the same thing. Everyone at Stanford pretends that they are just totally fine and cool with everything, that they’ve got everything together, that they’re happy and all that. I’m serious, everyone at Stanford (well 95%) consistently present themselves as being totally together. And that’s a sham, man. I don’t know why this came up in my mind. Maybe it’s because I saw a bunch of pro-fros walking around. And I could see it in them. They also play this game where everyone pretends like they know what’s going on and are with it, when pretty much they’re all totally lost. Seriously the blind leading the blind.
Not that I don’t do this myself. This is another reason it came up in my mind – I’m disturbed I think by the impression people seem to have of me. I just think that the impression I give to people about who I am and what I am and what I do is pretty much totally different than my actual existence. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that I present myself as being together and with things and happy and all of that also.
The difference is that I know that it’s not true. More importantly, I realize that it’s true for no one else either. Here’s the truth. I’m lonely. I think sometimes, I get really lonely. And a lot of times, I don’t think I really have any friends. And the thing is, everyone feels this way. I think college is one of the loneliest times ever. The worst feeling I think is the feeling that everyone else has friends and no one else is lonely except you. That’s without question the worst. You know, being by yourself is no big deal. It was never a problem in high school or now for me. It’s just the feeling that you’re alone but everyone else around you is with people having a good time that kills you. And I think that happens to everyone. Anyway, everyone at some point feels like they have no friends, but all of the people they know do. And that’s maybe the loneliest feeling in the world.
OK, that’s not totally true, that everyone feels it. I believe though that the people that don’t feel it are pretty much in denial. That these people who don’t feel lonely are the ones who just kind of always surround themselves with people (or just a person) so they can ignore how lonely they really are. But you know, I guess I’m waxing the philosophical now and kind of being a weirdo but I really think the human existence is loneliness. And a big step in self-awareness is when you realize how lonely you are. Some people don’t experience it in college. A lot of people do after they leave college, and find a lot of their friendships were more relationships of convenience and proximity than anything else. Still more realize it after they’ve been married for a while and they realize that their spouse will never be able to fully understand them, nor will they be able to understand even their spouses. And then we realize that we are truly alone in this world.
I promise you, that if you don’t feel lonely now, the time will come, and maybe it will be even more severe, if you’ve managed to delude yourself for such a long time. Just wait until college is over.
But I think for a lot of us, we start to realize how lonely we are in college, mostly because no one else seems to be lonely. It’s all a sham, though. Everyone is lonely (nearly). It’s amazing to me how many times I’ve heard this from people. That they feel like they don’t really have any friends, but everyone else does. Not everyone, but a good number. It’s interesting.
Anyway, everyone at Stanford does this pretending. They pretend about other things too. Like they are in control of their life and destiny. Or that they really know what they want to do with their life. Well, this less than others. The biggest thing is that at Stanford, whenever there’s like a new situation, people pretend like they know what they’re doing as if they’ve been doing it forever. First week of freshman year especially, but it never ends. And everyone pretends like they’re not really lonely. Partly because everyone else is doing the same thing. I guess another part of it is pride. I mean, we’re at Stanford, we’re supposed to know what we’re doing I guess. For a lot of us, where we came from, we did know everything we were doing and were in control. I don’t know. I’m just rambling now.
Anyway, like I said, I realize that it’s all a sham. The reason I dislike it is this – it’s just like Spanish 2 Honors. It makes people feel like there is something wrong with them, that everyone else is more together than they are or that only they are lonely so there must be something wrong with them. I really hate that. Because chances are, these people are no worse off than other people – everyone is in the same boat. They might even be doing better.
I can’t believe how strange of an entry this is. Oh well. Anyway, yeah. I wish people would recognize how lonely other people aroung them are (or in denial for now) and that’s it’s OK to feel that way, because everyone does. I wish people would understand that it’s OK, even good to be lonely, because that’s normal. And stop thinking that no one else is lonely. It’s a lie.
You know, it’s especially strange when Christians come off as being all together and with it and not lonely. Because as I understand Christianity, that’s the antithesis of what’s it’s all about. Christianity is all about brokenness and need. Hey, if you’re really all that together, you don’t need God. If you’re really that happy with your friends and not at all lonely, you don’t need God. As I read scripture I see that coming to God means repentance, knowing we can’t, knowing we’re screwed up. It’s all about repentance. I once heard something really interesting. In the NT, a lot of times, they talk about how they spread the Good News, but if you look at what they’re talking about, they tell people to repent. Why is repenting such good news? Because it means you don’t have to be what you are. Which further means that what you are ain’t very good.
Anyway, Christians in particular should not be coming off as with it and together in life, and not lonely, just that the satisfaction that we do find is found in Christ. And that’s the truth. But besides Christ, I mean, we better be messed up and lonely and needing something. OK, I’m rambling.
Anyway, I’ll probably be misunderstood by this. It’s not like I think I don’t have friends, true friends at that. It’s just I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel lonely, I mean fundamentally lonely, at times. And that’s cool, because that’s the human existence, the hole that won’t be filled completely until Glory. And I am so lost personally it’s crazy. I don’t know what I’m doing at all. I don’t know anything about life. There’s this great quote – “I am prepared for every emergency situation but totally unprepared for everyday life.” I feel like that sometimes. Everyone does.
Sorry for being so whacko. It’s the lactose.