1. The Start of Something New
March 10th 2020, Tuesday
Long time no see! So many things have happened since I last came here, and I have decided to change my relationship with you. I have decided that starting now I shall write every single day. Yes, you heard me, EVERY single day. There is something about typing into a WordPress editor that just changes how you write, as compared to writing in a word processing software. I did have some doubts about this. The world is full of noise and sadness at this very moment. Do I really need to add noise to all of that? The point is not to be perfect, because I am not. And I need to find out what kind of a writer I could become if I take emotions out of everything because blogging has always been an extension of my feelings. I always write when some dramatic emotions hit me, thus creating an inconsistency in my work, always waiting for the next big emotion to hit the fan. As much as I would like to believe that I am the master of my emotions:
Emotion and cognition, undefined and unexplored, drive every decision you make. You either develop self awareness or these things control you.Brené Brown
And yes, even though I found Brené Brown a bit repetitive and annoying at times, but something really hit me when I heard this sentence during Tim Ferris’s podcast. Freedom is an illusion if we are not aware of what is underneath. We need to know what is behind an intention. Better yet, we need to define our intentions.
At least that is what I thought I did when I talked to Vance.
I had a crush on Vance almost immediately when I first met him during the first day of the new master program last year. And I immediately know it was not healthy, because number one, he is clearly straight, and number two, he is white. I think I am ashamed of the fact that I like blonde boys because it seems terribly unpatriotic. But I also started to understand that we don’t really control who we are attracted to. He is tall, handsome, with amazing skin. I think I am more of a skin guy. When I see a large area of smooth skin from an attractive guy I think my head just goes blank. It was still summer, we were doing some team building activities involving boats. Afterward, he took off his shirt and swam in the lake. I lost my soul at that moment, seeing how his skin glistened under the sun.
I actually thought about this, what my attraction is based on. In my view, there are two types of attraction. The first type, upon seeing him, your heart rate would increase. The second type, upon seeing him, your heart would slow down. And if you happened to have the second type, I am afraid you are pretty fucked. That is the thing. Every time when I see him I feel my breathing slowing down and becoming deeper, as if I have learned how to breath for the first time, or breathed in the very first fresh air in the morning when the entire world is still asleep. It is as if I am completely at peace.
I have found that if it is the first type of attraction, I almost never dreamed about that boy. Never. Because my unconscious mind probably knows that behind such attraction there is nothing of substance. But I would always dream about the second type, not frequently, but once they came in my dream, they reveal something truthful about my needs, my desires, and what type of intimacy I crave. Just the other night I woke up from dreaming that Vance had put his face on mine with a smile, nothing sexual, just a gentle press between his face and mine. And I woke up feeling so refreshed it was as if I have traveled to a new country and came back, rejuvenated from the journey and learned something new about the world and myself.
But I know this is very unhealthy because I have allowed myself to project my deepest desire onto him. Look at the fact. He is nice but aloof, not sure if it is a German thing or a straight guy thing or it is just him. Every time when we have a conversation it is almost always me asking him questions and he never asked me back. I know these dynamics way too well, so I know I need to end it.
At least that’s what I thought when I talked to him yesterday. You see, Vance is also super fucking smart. He is the type of guy who would study the night before the exam and still get amazing scores. Motherfucker. I am so fucking jealous. For as long as I could remember I have always been told that one should work hard. So when studying I naturally focus on working hard, or better yet, focus on the appearance of working hard, at least hard enough so my parents won’t beat me or emotionally punish me when I was a child. I put the minimal amount of effort required to please them, and the moment I feel that crisis had been averted, that I was no longer in danger, I won’t study any further. Such is the story of my whole life. I study as a way to protect myself, never truly out of curiosity, though it is starting to change ever since I came to Berlin.
There is something about Vance that just pisses me off on a fundamental level. He challenges the story I have been telling myself about how the world is supposed to work. He went to an American high school and a really good college in California in the UC system, with eight AP courses all in perfect scores. In fact, I don’t think there was ever a moment in his life when he did not have a scholarship.
So during the weekend, after the terrible, heartbreaking, heart-wrenching, and soul-crushing Valuation exam last Friday, after overhearing his conversation with someone else in the school café that he literally started studying the night before and he fucked himself pretty badly, I laughed. Another victory for Hanson, who had been studying hard. Another defeat for people like Vance, who always crush it at the last minute out of desperation. Lo and behold my conversation with another fellow Chinese friend in the class when I mentioned his conversation in the café.
“That fucker(*sha bi* in Chinese). He always does this. And he always gets 1.3.” She said so in a message.
(1.3 is a really good score in the European system with 1 as the highest score, unlike the American GPA system. Bear in mind I had a 2.2 last semester as a contrast. It was shit.)
And of course, he came to this school with a scholarship, which I didn’t even dare to apply because I am so terribly spoiled and lack any form of self-respect of any kind when in reality I do have something to offer. I didn’t even attempt to apply for a scholarship, which is a pity, because with every action like this in which I retreat rather than being brave, I am using my actions to tell a story about myself, a self-defeating prophecy in which I am always lacking behind, never truly reaching my potential.
So I decided to ask Vance when I saw him yesterday about how he studied. Most importantly I reminded myself of the intention behind such a line of questioning. You see, I was scared to talk to him before for obvious reasons. During the rare moments when I gathered enough courage to ask him something, I always ask in a way that was not necessarily flirtatious but was definitely full of unconscious desire to make him like me, an intention that I later discovered is at the root of my suffering. So I reminded myself before yesterday, that unless you choose to ask with the right intention, do not speak to him at all, for it would only reinforce the same mistakes and sufferings that had been so consistent in your life due to a lack of awareness. I reminded myself, that I am only asking him because I am curious about his learning method. I want to learn from him on the subject if how to study efficiently.
Let me set the scene. We were waiting in line in the school café. He just stopped talking to his German friend. He was there standing alone.
“Hey Vance. I have a question for you.”
He smiled and sit on the edge of the sofa-ish chair that we have in that silly little school café.
“I have heard from quite a few people that you tend to study during the night before the exam and always have perfect scores. How do you do it?”
He laughs a bit, I could see his teeth. He is so cute when he smiles with teeth. Fuck me.
“I wouldn’t say they are perfect. I mean, they are decent scores. But sometimes it backfires.”
“For example. It’s 9 PM the night before. You know you are going to have an exam at 9 AM the next day. You have all the lecture notes in front of you. What do you do?”
“Well, I usually study for a few hours, go to sleep, wake up at six, and study a bit more.”
“What do you look at when you wake up? How do you decide what to look and what not to look? “
“I usually make a plan about what to read after I wake up before I go to sleep. Like if some cases I think are important for the exam that I don’t quite understand I would read them again.”
“I think it’s really smart actually. Because let’s say if you give yourself three days to study, and you only do this one thing. You would probably end up spending most of the time procrastinating. Because time expands to fit available tasks. “
By this time he had ordered a coffee, and I had used my shitty German to order a hot chocolate. The barista didn’t understand me the first time, probably because I was speaking too softly. I hate it when I have to repeat what I said. It makes me feel stupid. More importantly, I don’t want to be seen as stupid or bad at German in front of him. I guess I was still trying to impress him after all.
“If you can only study for a few hours, it forces you to focus on what is essential.” I said.
“Exactly.” He replied with coffee in hand, waiting for my order to finish. I was glad that he didn’t just go off and chat with his German friend again. I am both glad and flustered.
“You know, I do think you are probably one of the smartest guys in our program.”
He smiled visibly but looked a bit uncomfortable, perhaps he interpreted that compliment as an attempt to flirt with him? Or maybe he is generally not good with compliments?
Before I could say anything his clearly straight German friend came back. Then the four of us, with another gay guy from our program sat together at a table. I just realized that Vance also had a Brötchen in his hand. I don’t even remember him ordering that.
We talked a bit, mostly me and the other gay guy. He asked me why I dressed so fancy. I was wearing a dark blue shirt with a light blue vest. Far from fancy. But I did buy the vest on Saturday as a birthday gift to myself. Happy 25! I didn’t know how to reply, because he implied that I don’t normally dress up at all. I could not say that I was wearing them because I feel like it, simply because the joy of it, because I want to treat myself with a bit more respect this year, honoring the divine gift that has been given to me, a gift that is called life. So I said it was for an event in the afternoon. (There were no events that afternoon)
“Was it the McKinsey thing? I saw it on the Queery club email.” Vance asked.
The Queery Club had an event with two (hot) guys from McKinsey to talk about “Out and Proud At Work”. Yes, it was one of those events. But more importantly, it implied that Vance knew I am gay this whole time, and I basically just spent all that unnecessary energy worrying. My biggest fear has always been straight guys thinking I am flirting with them. But he seemed cool about it.
We needed to go back to class. I was walking alongside him. I took the initiative to talk.
“I stalked you on LinkedIn. I don’t think there was ever a moment in your life when you don’t have a scholarship.”
“I think you are right.”
“That’s all I am sayin’.”
I probably said it in a very gay way or something, He laughs so hard after this, a genuine kind. He was shy and possibly a bit embarrassed. I felt relaxed because now he knew that the comment I made earlier about him being the smartest guy in our program was not flattery with empty words but based on facts.
I asked him how he got 8 perfect AP scores in high school. Because once again, the intention was to learn from him, not to flirt with him and foster the wrong perception of reality.
“You basically just need to be on top of it.”
“What do you mean ‘on top of it’?”
“They gave you a lot of assignments. It forces you to keep up.”
Even though during our conversation I reminded myself about my intention to only learn things from him and not to flirt or even entertain the idea of making him like me, but I think it is fair to say that real life is complicated. Human motivations are complex. We probably do things for reasons we don’t yet understand. And such complication is very likely to continue. But I think we can judge the intention based on how we feel afterward. Because at the moment, as I was speaking to Vance, I did not feel any attractions, because my heart rate was steady, I didn’t try to be funny, which is something I do when I want to impress or draw someone closer to me. I use humor because it was the most intuitive way I know to draw attention to me without really drawing attention to me. I was giggly almost the entire day after our interaction like a silly little schoolgirl in love (sorry, I should use gender-neutral language, let’s use “silly little schoolboy” instead). Now I have officially given up. Trying to deliberate take away what you don’t want to feel would only make things worse. Let’s just keep an open mind and try to observe things as they are. Because at the end of the day he is not interested in me at all. And the more you can gather that cues from real life, the easier it would be for you to see reality. Now your brain is bathed in happy chemicals. I don’t expect you to see things clearly at this moment, but with time you will see. Because we cannot see the truth without time. I think a Russian writer said it. Don’t remember who. He was not very famous.
So, here is to see things for what they are, and a brand new beginning! Thank you, dear reader, for being on this journey with me. Hanson will show up every day here at this blog to fulfill his duty to this beautiful and complicated life that we all share.