People.

A not insignificant part of my time is spent avoiding people. Avoiding people in conversation, I mean. It’s active avoidance. I’m sure the rift in language at the moment only encourages this tendency of mine. For some people, the offhand remark, few words, or even enough words for a full conversation comes flowing without thought for making the words themselves. For others, it’s another extreme. It’s safe to say that I’m on the latter end of the spectrum. The far end. It’s been a lifetime endeavor to minimize its impact, which is mostly detrimental from where I’m sitting.

I actively avoid engaging with people.

Waiting at the Apple Store, sitting at those large tables with nothing to do but wait because they’ve taken your phone / laptop / whatever electronic device you have otherwise semi-attached to your person, it seems natural to exchange a few words with the person sitting not ten centimeters from you. But no. I will kindly respond to your leading question and then kindly ignore you in a sufficiently frustrating way as to make it truly an awkward effort to continue speaking.

Walking out from the metro, you hold the door from afar, waiting politely. I see your craving for words. I slow my pace. I allow the man formerly behind me to be subject to it. As I see the conversation continue to the ground above, I breathe a sigh of relief. A narrow escape.

My days continue. Was I born this way? I suppose so.

As a child, I would rehearse the words over and over in my head before they came out, whether to order something at a restaurant or ask for the restrooms. It couldn’t be the wrong thing – grammatically or socially. It couldn’t make you or me uncomfortable. It couldn’t reveal any of myself, but perhaps none of you either. And so my boxed life could continue, wildly uninteresting, peppered only by the stories that I built within it.

When you listen more than you speak, it’s easier to learn things. You realize that people like talking about themselves. A lot. You learn from this. You feed it. You also learn what degree of yourself you’re required to share to meet people, actually make friends. Meeting people, after all, is one of the things that makes life interesting. People do amazing and frightening things. At least, some do. But talking to people is how you learn about them. Not simply what they say, but how they exist. Some of time’s most influential ideas have come from people talking to each other. Not to mention, it fights some part of our mortality. Don’t you want some part of that?

In recent years, I thought I’d conquered a lot of these people-avoidance anxieties. They seem to have returned with a vengeance. A new language. Before, I was young enough to have excuses. Now, it’s a weird paralysis. I continue practicing over and over in my head so much that I annoy and tire myself. It still doesn’t really ever come out the right way. I can’t plan for everything. People are still unpredictable. But the best way to learn a new language is – surprise – to talk to people. Any person. It seems impossible.

It has me a bit nervous now. They say that by about my age, as women, our personalities and habits become more set and stable. (That’s why it’s best to marry after this age, so I’ve heard. Though debated.) Whichever is true, am I to suffer this crippling anxiety forever? Forever?? Likely.

Still, I like to think that I manage to float comfortably atop the well of self-pity. If the last 27 years is any evidence, I’m perfectly capable of overcoming it, in this language or the next.

Great.

Ah December. The red of world AIDS day marks the start of decked halls and Christmas lights. (RED) cups and gift cards. Expensive flights and long lines. Recipe books and carol hooks. And so on. You’ll notice we neglected October and November. That’s because nothing of significance was happening in the world. The American electorate did not outdo itself. A hatred-spewing, pussy-grabbing, language-perverting bigot was not elected into office. The very fabric of liberal ideology was not ripped apart. There were no violent ripples across the world. The uprising of the far right was not given a stamp of approval, both in America and otherwise. France and Austria remain unthreatened. Monetary systems were unperturbed in every way. People fleeing from profit-driven war and devastation were not used as pawns to trigger fear-based propaganda and inward-looking protectionism. The environment that sustains us was prioritized, its value as upstanding as ever. Knowledge and thinking were celebrated, informing decisions with long lasting positive impact for all. Love won.

Right… Alt-right.

Hundreds of articles are trying to make sense of the next four years and what they’ll mean not only for America, but for the world. The contrast filters on the colours of our skin are approaching maximum levels. Right wing parties are gaining even further momentum in Europe, the repercussions of which will be deplorable given that Syria’s conflict (rather, the global conflict that Syria happens to have the abominable pleasure of hosting) shows no sign of tapering. Lives continue to be destroyed as the world locks its doors and throws away the key into the convoluted maze of referendums and parliamentary process. Trade instability is pushing foreign investment in ironic directions. The environment continues slipping down the give-a-fuck ladder (even in lala Canadaland governed by Prince Charming). And don’t worry, they’re doing their best to equally dismantle progress on other social sectors. The incoming education secretary is pegged as “Public school enemy No.1,” rolling in with her charter schools and privatized education. Health and human services will be run by a man who sees Price(s) instead of patients, hates healthy populations and belongs to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a right wing group of physicians who disavow evidence-based medicine and believe that doctors are God. No matter what.

But I don’t want to talk about any of this. What I want to talk about is more personal. The world has gone through these right/left ebbs and flows forever. It’s not that this four year presidency will dismantle everything (8 years however may). It’s that it happened in the first place – in this moment in time – that makes it hard to hold my world view up to the mirror to take a proper look. It’s not pretty. It hurts. It makes me feel insecure, disconnected, and at a loss for what to do next. You may argue that it was time for the built-in-America house of cards to come tumbling down, making a joker out of supposed racial harmony while crowning overt bigotry and chauvinism King. “The great experiment that failed. An American dream turned nightmare.” But I find that sad too. I liked having some shred of hope that humanity is capable of celebrating differences. I wanted to believe in a humanity whose main ignorance was behind Rawls’ veil. Instead I’m forced to look at the picture of Dorian Gray – the portrait we’ve all collaboratively painted using acrylic selfishness and strokes of ignorance.

It’s just Great. Again.

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