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Ego and Other Things
"Look of Love" by Hop Along
Jane Austen in the hospital
Your handwriting on the legal pad was barely legible
Waiting I wonder if I could go all the way back
Would any of it still scare me
For example the labrador down the street
Mom carried me down from off the car
Neighbor scolded I'd upset him
Every time he took off, my thoughts got dark and menacing
Go on Romeo, bark your head off
My last terror of ignorance is still to come
Couldn't quit it, you dumb dog
Chasing speeding cars
I heard the engine and then you lay like a good boy
On the hot summer tar
That night, the awful relief
Now what are ya gonna do to me?
First symptom of guilt then became a permanent shame
And now I can't get close enough, close enough to see you overgrown with a look of love.
(You're overgrown with a look of love.)
I still dream of spiders crawling across my bed
The present, I have no place in it
I still dream of being watched, but not by ---
Well, I know your thoughts on the matter
And we don't need to discuss it
'Round three AM you will come to
Your roommate's pissed his sheets right through
Years from now you will build beautiful black flowers
I came home and you directed with your hardened hand
All of your birds who have come back to dine and rest in your garden again
(They've come to rest in your garden.)
Now I can't get close enough
Close enough to see you overgrown with a look of love
You're overgrown with a look of love
March 11, 2019 Monday 9:20 PM
This song is about taking the thing from the past and chewing on it for your whole life following, and living it so much every day that you alienate yourself out of the present. All you have to do is traumatize yourself (and it is really *you* who is responsible for the traumatizing—you cannot blame an event for how you reacted). And then one day you blink and wake up and realized you're so displaced from an original space that you can't observe the normal rituals. You can pretend but you can't experience what is now; you're still stuck experiencing that one thing over and over and over again and you're never going to get out. And everything you see is translated through a super-imposed image of what happened to you (or what you say happened to you—maybe phrase it differently next time, maybe describe it has a happening that you intruded upon). And none of it is real.
When you appreciate the sky it is because of someone else: a life and personality you want to splice yourself into. And when they love you they love the slapped on coverings, not the part where you actually are. They can't see that. How can they know? You never let them know. You want to try but you've got this reflexive disgust and it's not even a hurdle—it's a wall. Or not a wall, but a formation. It doesn't separate two spaces, it IS that space. Just solid next to a single empty.
What does it matter? Even if what you think is pretty is a fake thought, something kind of created in post, then what does it matter? You still find it beautiful. Whatever, you can accept that the skin grafts are working. These new nerves are working; they are essentially yours, if you can call any part of you "yours."
You know, I'm hinged on this idea of the chorus being the words, "Now I can't get close enough to see you overgrown with the look of love," and that negative was very important to me. Because it indicated a consequence. But if the lyric is, "Now I *can*" then everything changes and I don't understand it anymore.
I was under the impression that it was painting a picture of someone locked in themselves; and how if you spend a life hating yourself it's impossible to look love in the face, you know?
But apparently it's not that and I'm disappointed. Because I thought there was something out there that reflected me with a little less callousness than I am used to seeing in a mirror, you know? I am so unnecessarily mean. And I'd like something more objective. In the form of a winding song. The closest thing I've ever heard to growing vines.
Anyway, kids, today we're going to discuss ego! Yes, ego. And the ways in which it (I) is (am) stupid.
I hate/love when I read my classmates' writing, 'cause it is so damn good. And I could not have written it. And I wouldn't be surprised to find it in a magazine somewhere. I could've read this two page story in the fucking New Yorker. It was so good. I want to tell them it was good. I want to unhinge my jaw, put my mouth around their heads and swallow them whole like a python. I want to throw up until I get myself out.
This is the thing: I just wish I could appreciate it. Because it's just damn good writing. And I need it to exist. It wouldn't matter if I didn't know these people, but because I've seen their face and I know they're my age and they're already more accomplished, I feel threatened. I don't want to feel threatened. Their writing reveals a perceptiveness in them—that's the kind of thing that makes the world beautiful. I want that to keep existing.
I want me to stop existing *like this.* I want to not care if my writing is bad (which it is, but not as bad as it used to be). I want to not call my writing bad—I want to call it, like. Mediocre. I want to not need validation.
Like, it's not even that I'm used to feeling like the best. I think that's what a lot of professors' and students' think is the perpetual ego of the Ivy League student. But is that true? I mean, why did we even try to get here? Because we thought we were good enough? No. Maybe some of us. But the people I've spoke to—it's the exact opposite. Applying to an Ivy League was fucking pitching marbles into the sky. It wasn't gonna do anything except... like... I don't know, hit us in the eye? I didn't mean for that to rhyme, lmao.
It was an arbitrary challenge. It was a dare. Go ahead, tell me I'm not good enough. I know it. And when we're let in—we come here and the stakes are higher (not really, we just imagine that to be the case—if anything the stakes are lower). Suddenly we're surrounded by people who are way more capable than we are. And we all came from public schools (or private schools since, like, 1/5 of the people here are super rich) and we all got here by the skin of our teeth. And we all scramble to sustain the feeling of having deserved to get this very, very, very, very expensive education. It doesn't help that some of us (me) get degrees in useless subjects (literature).
In my experience, people did not tell me I was better than anyone else. I think I eventually developed the hope that I was, but as a kid I got quite average grades (I remember being disappointed when I found my old report cards a few years ago—there go my daydreams about being a neglected prodigy, sigh) and I was barely aware they mattered. I am not sure what caused them to place me in higher classes when middle school came around. As I said, I was a B student. In middle school, I was also a B student. I did not care about school.
The only subject I liked was english and that was because my teacher told me I was a good writer. She was the first person to ever say something like that to me. No one ever told me I was good at something. In fact, I was used to being told I needed to do better at something (or at least this is what I gathered implicitly when people told me to practice piano more, or to correct my posture in dance, or to practice goal kicks one on one with my coach while everyone else continued on to the next exercise). Writing and reading was something I always liked, but I did not connect it to school too much. And when I started to take it seriously I feel like school started to matter to me. But even that was a very slow process.
I worried about homework because I wanted to do well for the teacher and I wanted someone to tell me I was doing well. No one really told me I did well, but little things would happen that motivated me, like art teachers recommending I do competitions or take certain courses or summer programs in art. Or remaining in higher classes (those quickly became meaningless, though—they were easy for the most part, except math which was never my strong suit. But even in classes that I didn't fully understand, I ended up with A's that I didn't deserve—but then I also didn't care because it made me feel good).
Or, eventually, a teacher telling me I was good at writing. Teachers who occasionally took me to the side and told me I was smart. I hadn't heard those things outside of school. Sometimes my sister's friends said I was weirdly "mature" for my age and I preened, but I always wanted more, you know? I was used to beating myself up. To being criticized. And to having people (my mom, lol) apologize for my defects. And so of course I took more notice of those things than the rest.
Ugh. Sorry. I don't mean to be all... Ugh. It was me. I am talking like it wasn't me, and the rational bit of my brain is like, ".. Yeah. It wasn't you. You were prone to a certain attitude, you always have been. Doesn't mean you're responsible for every fucking habit you've developed, calm down."
The part of me that is extremely invested in emotional self-preservation would like to continue blaming myself. So that when someone says it wasn't me I can be lifted briefly out of my hole. And then descend back inside. And that way I will never be surprised when I fail. And when I am not the best. Because how could I ever believe that I was? Stupid stupid stupid.
Ivy League was a surprise. And here I am still surprised. And my writing is not that good. And that is not a surprise. I am threatened by these people who also don't believe they're good enough even when they're writing is THAT good. And many of them don't even want to be writers! They're just good at it. And this is what I want and I'm not up to that level. It drives me crazy with jealousy. No one can tell me I'm good because I can't get to that space. I can't tell myself I'm good—I have no idea how to do that except for to lie repeatedly for years and that is exhausting, lol. Although I suppose I've already done it in many other areas of my life.
I don't know. I feel like I reverse-grew my ego. You know how if you starve yourself, your metabolism slows down? And like, say I was starved of self-worth. So whenever it comes it's this intense spike in ego instead of a healthy emotional boost. And I keep on the weight of it and I consistently try to lose it by starving myself of the worth and then when it happens again—and it's so hard to shed, it's impossible. So I'm left with this huge and fragile ego from a weird cycle of self-doubt, haha.
And that's why I hate my peers' excellent writing. And I also love it. And I also wish I would just hurt less.