After organizing an event that, to everyone who witnessed it, probably went fine, I had a series of panic attacks. When the majority of my dread-causing responsibilities concluded, I expected to feel relieved, which only made me feel worse when I didn’t, and instead found myself crumpled in a heap next to the entrance of a parking garage, unable to put off dishevelling until arrived at a more suitable location. Frightened by the extent of my inconsolability, I journeyed homeward through a cycle of crying, then fast walking toward transport, then crying again, then sulking on the sidewalk before boarding MUNI.
By the time I made it home, my most prominent desire was to dial 911 and be carted away, but that kinda seemed like a lot, so I instead ate a bowl of microwaved noodles and willed myself in the direction of friends, inspired by all the self-help articles that promise companionship makes you feel better. Aware that I had more “best self”-demanding activity around the corner, the grittier parts of me opted to rally.
Surrounded by revelry, I made it through exactly one hour of friendly banter before deciding that the articles were wrong – I did not feel better – and fleeing toward the nearest shade-providing foliage to begin hyperventilating under. I replicated the earlier cry/walk/cry/transit combo back home, then completed variants of sobbing and pacing in my room, then contemplated losing my mind in the company of an understanding friend. In the absence of one of those, I called the Alameda County crisis hotline, occupied with problems more pressing than taking a moment to locate the SF County counterpart, and talked to a nice man who said smart, gentle things in a soothing and validating way that only hundreds of hours of professional training can teach. I thanked him and meant it truly, then fell into a sticky sleep.
I am on a trip to Washington DC, which means I am spending more time alone than I typically do: dining out as a party of one, gazing mock-pensively at nineteenth-century daguerreotypes to impress no one, going on solo quests for late-night gelato while mosquitos nip at my ankles.
Solitude makes me hyperaware, and hyperawareness invites wonder.
As I wander the well-foliaged, Victorian-lined streets of DC awed and inspired by the great big world and my great big fortune to exist in it, I reflect on how far I have come in my ability to function as a fully-formed human. In addition to having the fortitude to make phone calls without rehearsing beforehand and being able to describe what a “nest egg” is, I am learning how to excel at navigating leisure as an individual, which is to say that I’m getting better at structuring my elective experience of the world in ways that are pleasant and satisfying rather than merely assigned or advised.
Six days after I met Octo for the first time, I invited him to move in with me.
On paper, inviting a stranger to live with you is a dubious and potentially dangerous idea. In practice, it’s tremendously exciting, lots of fun, and a rare chance to learn about yourself in an accelerated, yet low-stakes environment. It also makes for a good story, particularly if you’re both fresh off somewhat hackjobbed international moves, receptive to indulging in mood enhancers, and navigating the first few weeks of fancy new jobs.
Speaking for myself, moving in with Octo was weird and silly and special. Acting on our whims facilitated a slurry of lovely experiences: late-night cannolis and conversation, easy jogs along the Embarcadero, collaborative domesticity, reflections on power and how to wield more of it, one or two mutual confessions, a revival of my affinity toward clout goggles and mint it-it’s, and spirited conversation centered around acceptable uses cases for whole wheat tortillas (bad for burritos, good for wraps), the only two types of people in this world (cult leaders and cult followers), and how we plan to make the most of our limited, precious time on this earth.
My first job was a part-time gig at an acai bowl chain called Vitality Bowls. I was a junior in high school and incommensurately excited about making $10 an hour, the California minimum wage at the time. It was honest, hard work, and I came home after every shift covered in flecks of blended fruit and smelling of mopping solution. It was here that I developed the worldview that every person should work in the service industry at least once to learn what it means to be a good customer, and by extension, a good person.
At my peak, I could make an acai bowl from scratch in two minutes flat -- a mostly useless skill, but one I’m very proud of nonetheless.
Thirty minutes before my flight to Fukuoka was scheduled to depart, it was canceled due to a snowstorm. The announcement was delivered swiftly and casually, as if the speaker was announcing a 20% off sale at the duty-free store, not dooming me to ten hours of miserable ground travel.
Aggrieved, self-pitying, and on the cusp of what eventually blossomed into a full-blown cold, I took a lap around the seating area and contemplated the transportation nightmare that had befallen me: a two-hour drive for naught, $100 in airport parking fees I could have avoided, an hour-long bus ride, an overpriced bullet train that cost more than my original flight, a newly mandatory subway ride to my now far-away accommodation. I braced myself for the unique psychological torture of wasting hours on various expensive, comparatively slow methods of transport when I had been expecting a zippy plane ride, a before-sunset arrival, and a quiet evening sipping artisanal green tea somewhere swank and dimly lit.
Amidst my frustrated pacing, I spotted a girl around my age still sitting down. She appeared mildly confused by the general bustle, but not quite at the adequate level of alarm the situation called for. I could tell that she was a foreigner, like myself, and figured that she must not have registered the cancellation announcement. For a second, caught up in the seeming totality of my own drama, I considered letting her figure it out on her own. Then I decided against it, remembering all the times that others had taken pity on my cluelessness.
For a variety of reasons, physical attractiveness is a hard thing to evaluate. For one, it’s subjective. For two, there are all sorts of competing value systems: conventional Euro-centric beauty standards, conventional Asian beauty standards, the counterculture backlash to both of those structures, the counter-counterculture return to traditional femininity, favor-currying approaches intended to differentiate adherents from the mainstream crowd, new waves of “progressive” thinkers proclaiming affection for “mid girls” or “girls with big foreheads” or “flat noses” or whatever feature the TikTok algorithm has decided to appreciate this month. Et cetera.
You would think that the internet would provide good data for assessing attractiveness -- for example, 100 likes signals more desirability than 10, right? -- but really, numbers indicate little more than how much exposure a picture received. Because simply being perceived as attractive is a big part of being attractive, attention on the internet tends to accumulate gradually, then exponentially. A picture of a woman that has 10,000 likes is a clear signal that she is Coveted and thus, Covetable, whereas a selfie with three likes is likely to fly under the radar and go unnoticed, regardless of how attractive/unattractive the person actually is, making the whole metric more or less useless (except at scale). Additionally, particular corners of the internet are far more accepting of certain archetypes of beauty -- body modifications, e-girls, women who dress as clowns, etc. -- that may be less favored offline, making it difficult to rely on online feedback to derive a true sense of how attractive you may or may not be to, say, the normie person giving you a job interview. In short, the kind of beauty that is rewarded by attention is not always the kind of beauty that is rewarded by likability, so you should be careful what you’re optimizing for. Have you ever met a girl at a party who you found unremarkable only to later learn, to your great confusion, that several thousands of men froth over her online? Exactly.