I have a terrible habit of picking at my cuticles. I often do it without thinking, when I’m meant to be writing or listening in class. I get lost in my thoughts and suddenly I’m bleeding out my fingertips.

I think I’ve always had this habit, or one like it. I’ve had times when I’ve bitten my nails instead or cracked my knuckles incessantly, but it’s always something to do with my hands. I think part of it is instinct—perhaps removing the imperfections in my fingers is brought on by some deep drive to pick out bugs. Since there’s no bugs, I transferred that drive to my cuticles.

However, I’m willing to bet that it’s closer to my strive for perfection. I always try to make things perfect, especially when I’m writing (which is when a large percentage of this picking occurs). If my hands aren’t perfectly smooth, maybe that subconsciously tells me that my writing isn’t perfect either. Of course, the ultimate poetic irony is that I strive so hard for perfection I end up hurting myself instead. I bite my nails to the beds, I nip at the cuticles until they’re raw, I crack and recrack my knuckles until I can’t even feel what’s making the sound. I also do this in my writing. I rewrite and rewrite until I lose all confidence.

Then again, maybe it’s just a habit. A way to procrastinate. Writing this, I’ve been hyper-aware of the amount of times I break writing in the middle of a sentence (or word) to scratch my face or examine my nail beds. I do it without thinking or even making the conscious action to do so, but before I realize it there I am, staring at my hands.

Maybe it’s a way I deal with stress. Maybe it’s a way I cause myself stress.

Mostly, it’s making me wonder what else I do without realizing it. Do I miss important things? Do I put myself on autopilot too much? When I trust myself to work without 100% mental capacity, my body ends up slouching, I end up biting my fingers, I end up daydreaming and bouncing my knee and browsing YouTube when I should be being productive.

Is this me knowing when I need a break to be healthy, or is it me just taking a break to be lazy? What is this autopilot, anyway?

Well, it doesn’t matter much. This whole post was a bigger procrastination than any nail-biting could be! Maybe some things are best left undissected.

Lying to myself

When I’m sick I often can’t tell how sick I am. I tell myself it’s not that bad, that I’m faking it, that I’m being a wimp. If I eventually cave and go home sick, however, it washes over me like a tidal wave and I realize how I was on my last leg all morning.

I lie to myself. Usually it’s in the form of “It’s not that bad” to help myself get through things. It’s surprising that it’s even possible to lie to yourself, since in lying one must by definition know the truth and purposefully evade it. Perhaps a better term would be pep talk. I give myself little pep talks. It’s not that bad. You can get through it. It’s only X more hours.

I’m also constantly telling myself that the worst is over. X is half over; just repeat what you’ve already done. You’re closer to the end than the beginning. The rain is letting up.

Or I bargain with myself. At least it isn’t a sore throat. At least it isn’t still morning. Double whammy: At least it’s almost over.

A common theme is thinking about myself in terms of “You.” I think it’s because hearing “You can do it” from a voice, even if it’s my own, gives me more confidence than an “I can do it.” It gives the impression that someone else thinks I can do it, not just me.

I wonder why I can’t give myself pep talks in my own voice, as myself. I have to use this “You” to take myself seriously.

Then again, I wonder why I need these pep talks at all. I suppose the reason for both is a lack of self confidence. Something like, I don’t trust my own judgement so I have to hear it from someone else, even if that someone else is just me pretending to me someone else.

Maybe I’m overthinking something everyone does, I don’t know. All I know is, I’m not a good liar, especially not to myself.

The Magic of Music

How strange is music? I love music, but it is strange. We fill the air in our rooms and cars with sound we find pleasing, punctuated with words we memorize and smile to. Movies are boring without music, as are parties. It makes everything better. There are very few things that are made worse with music.

I go through phases of how much I listen to music. Moving to the city hinders my music amount, since I don’t have a car radio to listen to. Without a car, I don’t listen to the radio, and without a radio music becomes somewhat of an effort to enjoy. I have to own the song or find it online, choose it, play it, and when it’s over choose another. The surprise is gone, the joy, the ease. So I end up not listening to it as much–not to mention the voice in my head telling me I could be doing something more important than chilling out, listening to music.

But someday, like today, I wake up and feel a hole in my heart and realize I might just need some music to fill it. Music, I feel, is one of the most human things we have. It’s a healing ritual, a celebration, a necessary part of human life. It’s a part of my soul, and my body.

So I put on some music, and then buy some music, and then play some music, and then write some music, and I feel much happier. I feel connected, even though I’m alone in my room. I feel happy, even though nothing about my situation has changed. It’s something I can do privately while feeding my introversion but can also share with friends. It’s something that gives me chills and makes me warm all at once.

My cousin is four years old. I see him dancing, singing, memorizing lyrics, and I know he’s going to be a fantastic little musician one day.

The Egg, by Andy Weir, and My Theories on the Mind

This is a revelation I imagine many people have had. I have it multiple times a year, and it is this: everyone has a mind.

It’s a very Matrix-y, Sci-Fi sort of thing to think about. On one hand, you could say everyone has a mind, everyone thinks, everyone talks to themselves and wonders about things. The problem is there’s no proof of that, and this is where the conspiracies come in, the ones saying the whole world is a computer program, or we’re all just brains in jars, basically every possible way of thinking that means the world is fake except for your mind.

I think that’s a very selfish way of viewing things. Why on earth would I be the chosen mind to be the real mind? And if I were making up the world I live in, wouldn’t I make it better? Eliminate the suffering? If I made up the universe and all that is in it, that must mean I’m a very cruel person.

There is a short story called The Egg by Andy Weir. It’s found free online, if you want to read it. The basic concept, spoiler alert, is that when you die you reincarnate as another person. You have done this many times, and will continue to do this until you have learned enough to become a god. You have to learn so much that you have had to reincarnate billions of times. Overall, every single person on earth, both alive today and throughout history, is a reincarnation of you.

I like this concept best, because it says a lot about nature versus nurture, the human spirit, and adaptability. It speaks of how we’re all the same deep down. I hate when people blame the badness in the world on monsters, curses, or the will of god, or search for something inhuman in our Hitlers. The scariest thing about Hitler was that he was human. We should not try to separate people like him from humanity. We have to realize they are part of us, and if we were in the same circumstances we very well may have grown up to be just like them.

So, while I like what The Egg teaches us, I don’t particularly think it’s true. I think each person has a mind and thinks complex thoughts. I think they’re all separate people, and I don’t think they’re all one reincarnated soul. But I also think if you look deeply enough you can find bits of yourself in everyone else.

Whenever I have the revelation that everyone thinks, that everyone is alive, I feel myself grow kinder, more patient, more forgiving. The fact that other people are alive is a fact we forget far too often. It’s such a simple fact, but hard to remember that others feel pain, and think, and feel, and love, just like we do.

The Egg, by Andy Weir