For the last few years, I have been toying with this idea of impermanence. The idea of death and loss, and then, the acceptance of this impermanence of life. I’ve always had a strange affinity for danger. As with all stories of death and its derivatives. It started small: dipping my fingers into candle wax, taking my seatbelt off a few minutes early to feel the last three bumps as the car comes to a full stop. The danger was in the small things, the things I could get away with. Balancing on a crack along an endless sidewalk like a hovering, with two arms stretched wide, on the thin pavements carved in between roads, island gardens, as if it were a tightrope, and I, a performer. Otherwise, the danger was in walking on, sometimes in the bike lane, and feeling the cars rush by, death ruffling its clothes against my skin. In keeping my eyes open during roller coaster rides. Or in making eye contact with someone, and allowing myself to be seen. Because sometimes, the simple act of looking back, unflinching, insecurities and all bumbling in the background— that’s danger.
That danger was empowering, and I embraced it. It was a way for me to take control of my life: of where I walked, who I spent my time with, and what I did with my time and my body. It seemed dangerous, then, for an immigrant girl, an indian-american, to walk smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk, in the middle of things. Girls, especially girls from the east, were known to be shy and quiet, supposed to be submissive. And so, it was a power statement—a loudness— to walk on, unafraid. One that I had learned from a young african american gentleman or a book he must have written, an autobiography, to walk fiercely on, in one straight path. Don’t react to where others are, he said. Don’t step to the side for somebody else to pass. These words mattered to me somehow. I was a quiet girl except for these moments. And so, I held on to these dangers.
I did not then have the luxury of opinions. I did not think I had the right to voice my opinions, political or otherwise. I was not African American. I was not Muslim. I was not Jewish. All of whose people shared in a collective struggle against racism. Indians, on the other hand, had a fairly brief history and were only talked about offhandedly, in discussion of curry or poor hygiene or funny accents. I always had to distinguish myself from this stereotype, felt compelled to tell people but I don’t eat curry. I’m different. I was in a state of constant self-doubt of how I smelled and looked and acted in front of others, always conscious of how I was being perceived. Why is he at such distance? Does my breath stink? Or is it just something in the brown of my skin that seems to push away everyone? I wanted to tell them that brown isn’t contagious. It isn’t something you can catch, like a cold. I imagine that’s how people with Aids felt, too, back when our understanding of the disease was minimal and people were afraid to touch and homosexuality was not yet established as anything other than taboo. I, too, was oppressed. Like the Jews. Like the Blacks. Like the Muslims. Like the homosexuals. Like anyone, like everyone, I just wanted to feel human, complete. But back then, I was still other, less than. A woman.
I do not know why I was so ashamed of being Indian— an Indian woman. Of course, then, I hadn’t thought of my rejection of Indian culture as shame— just a push against those first impressions. I didn’t want people to look at me with the smug satisfaction in their eyes like they know me because they had an indian girl in their first grade class and she was a bitch. In fact, the first thing I told everyone I met was that I was born in Russia, a small lie, but that was enough to bring people to take a second look, enough to push people to think about me one step further than that indian girl with extremely long hair. Another indian girl with really, really long hair. How long did it take you grow your hair out? Can I touch it? Why do you always oil and braid your hair? Is this part of your religion? I especially hated that question. It was as though all of my decisions, my intentional carefully-thought-out decisions— to be vegetarian, to grow my hair out, to hold onto culture and tradition and eastern values— were not decisions at all, but something I did just because I was raised that way and knew no other way of life. I don’t think people realized that my parents were not oppressive and old-fashioned and sure, they set rules for me to keep me focused on my studies and to keep me safe, but I had choices— for my career and for my life. And perhaps that is how I finally grew outspoken. Telling these small lies to passer-by’s that could never be fact checked, never bringing someone close into my life, close enough to see past my lies. These dangers mattered so much to me, these tiny pushes towards something more. Not just another Indian girl.
And then one day, I found myself preparing to jump off a fifty foot cliff and thinking, this is it. Goodbye. And I really thought I was not going to make it out alive even as I saw the kids climb out one by one with an injured arm or a sore back from the shallow water underneath. I really believed it, that I was going to die right then. And I was okay with it. You can never feel as alive as in the moments you risk losing everything. What was I thinking?
One day speaking in front of a classroom, teaching. Then, sometime later, and more recently, writing to a man in prison through a nondescript and poorly funded website, writeaprisoner.com. It was a fascinating place for me. There were pages upon pages of prisoners listed, of profiles to scroll through, men and women of all ages and races, all looking to find a soulmate, an intimate partner. I had no intention of going through with any such intimate interactions as I knew how many such interactions could result. Still, I wanted to challenge my comfort zones, to amp up the danger. For me, it was simply an attempt to complicate my perception of criminals. To allow someone outside of my normal means of communication an intimacy that I grant persons I meet or come across out on the streets or in my setting, and to acknowledge their existence and their humanity. Why I chose a murderer to connect with and reach out to, I still don’t exactly comprehend. Was it to amp up the danger? Or because I felt murder was an indisputable moral offense whereas shoplifting and petty thefts as more morally ambiguous and therefore easier to empathize. I wanted to feel an empathy for the worst of the worst. I was testing out what it meant to love and what love meant to me. I was thinking about the ambiguity of love, of loving through circumstance, above circumstance. Unconditional love.
I understood, as I continue to do so, that I lived a privileged life, free of many human struggles and I wanted to understand a person’s motives for committing such a crime, something so easily viewed as bad or wrong. But especially, I wanted to see them as more than just a criminal. Just as I wanted people to see me as more than just an indian girl, a stereotype. It was my attempt to humanize someone, a man, who others might look down upon or not want to sympathize/empathize with. That was my goal. It was why I wrote. It was the why to many things: the need to create complexity, a push against preliminary judgements. And after that, it was an attempt to justify my intense love for the world, to explain why was it so easy for me to take this risky step of reaching out, of why I was so generous with my love.
But even while setting in stone all these tiny rebellions, I was afraid. I was afraid of nearly everything I ventured out to do— even afraid of being so alive because I wasn’t ready for it all to one day come to an end. To receive the short end of a great adventure. I thought what would happen fifty years from now? How would I feel anything if I felt everything now? I thought of feeling as something that diminished over time. And to an extent, I was correct. Nothing quite compared to my first feeling of love or waiting by the sidelines for my first martial arts fight or my first experience swimming (drowning, really). And I reluctantly grew apathetic to certain conditions: sights of homeless people with tents set up for the rainy days, ambulances and wrecked cars huddled along the sides of freeways. I was afraid to feel and I was afraid of losing feeling. At some point, I, in my naivety had thought, that if I planned it all right, I would just hit a giant wall one day and lose all these emotions. It was mostly just love which pained me the greatest. I did not ever dislike a person so greatly or feel a relationship so strained or burdened as to resort to a hate. If I ever did hate, it was always underlined by a souring love.
As for love, I was never cautious with it. I thought the more love I gave out early on in my life, the faster I would be able to run out of it. Just stop feeling it entirely. If only that were true. How after crying at my grandfather’s funeral, afterwards I would have found great peace in not being able to feel any more, in the loss of emotions. But instead I felt shame for the briefness of my pain, of his absence, which I felt little of because of our brief exchanges. The grief was short-lived that day, but later on, I found that even when I thought I could not possibly feel more deeply or when I could not be more passionate, my body would surprise me. We continued to feel his loss days after, years after his burial. I found these feelings to be a privilege as well as a great burden. Still, had I been given the chance, I would continue to seek feeling, this aching pain that continues to remind me that I am alive and of those who are no longer.
There’s this one awesome (super popular) guy in my dorm hall that everyone admires. I’m always in awe of how he is able to make such a strong positive impression on everyone, so I thought I’d write a list of all the things that make him so like-able. Due to time and length restrictions, these are the top ten qualities to become like-able. Hope all you guys enjoy!
1. Show genuine interest.
Anyone generally interested and excited by what I have to say will be 100X more favorable in my mind than someone who shows a lack of interest. This guy is a great listener, and he shows his interest in the conversation by giving positive feedback, he sparks the conversation by adding to it with his own experiences, thoughts, and ideas, and then he instigates them to continue talking through more positive reinforcement. You start out smiling and nodding. You assertively add a comment, and then, you continue to engage the person in the conversation. It’s a great sandwiching method that many successful leaders and entrepreneurs use, and can also be used to provide constructive criticism or feedback to someone when you sandwich the negative comment in between the two positively reinforcing comments.
2. It’s okay to have terrifyingly embarrassing photos posted up on Facebook for the world to see.
No, it really isn’t. But the key is to keep the photos up. Never take the photos down because that is a sign of weakness. Unconsciously, he shows the world he is not ashamed of the photo. Real men are still embarrassed, but they simply do not show it.He doesn’t care if you see him in less-than-decent poses because he is confident you will still love him unconditionally after viewing such. In fact, it’s photos like these that make a person interesting and desirable as a companion. Everyone wants a friend who is not afraid to laugh at himself/herself.
3. Make the most of your talents.
This dude plays the piano well. I mean.. really well. There are a lot of great pianists around in college, but he knows how to woo girls through his piano songs. Yes, wooing is more than just playing a long, beautiful romantic song on the piano… although that is 90% of the wooing. 🙂 It means taking the time to know the interests of the person he is playing the song for. He always asks for requests, and this creates affinity since he is taking into account your suggestion and interests into his creation, so in some ways, it’s also our creation. It’s brilliant, and a great way to make yourself like-able.
4. Smart Guys 🙂
Girls have a general consensus that they look for some signs of intelligent life on guys. This guy is very, very smart. It’s just another brilliant way to get people to respect and admire you when you are a genius. Ashton Kutcher told it best. Smart is the new sexy.
5. Make people feel comfortable around you.
My hall mate is very amiable and agreeable. Girls feel comfortable sharing secrets with him, sharing a bed (and blanket), and other stuff too! What’s his secret? Perhaps lots of experience with lots of girls.. but really it’s because he is comfortable with the situation. He makes others comfortable because of his confidence and his own comfort level. You set the mood for others, and this is why “Being Yourself” is so important in gaining rapport with others.
6. Sharing things.
Yes, sharing good free food is the best, fastest way to get college kids to like you. It’s a proven fact. He shares food, secrets, and beds.
7. Kind, Generous, and Humble
He is extremely kind and generous, and this is usually reciprocated by appreciation and kindness. My favorite part is that he often plays off his kindness and generosity and makes it seem as though it’s just his OCD to fold blankets… hmm.. or maybe he really has OCD, but I’d like to think he’s just really kind hearted. He always makes time to help people out if they ask a question or need help.
8. Persistency works!
I promise repetition shows interest. If you make the effort to get to know someone whether it be to tag along with them all day (and gasp, go shopping) just to get them to acknowledge your presence or to get them involved in some fun creative way (like bake cookies), you are sure to be liked to some degree. There’s a psychology term for this… Reciprocation of liking. Ah yes, that’s it.
9. Create a network. Connect people.
This is a great way to increase likability! You introduce two different people to one another and you get closer to both of them! My hall mate was able to connect the guys in our hall with the girls on the floor above. By increasing the availability of the two halls to meet and intermingle, he has not at all decreased his chances due to increased competition. Rather, he has increased his likability in both halls. How? The guys in our hall now have a chance with the girls upstair. The girls think he’s not available or simply not interested, and therefore by nature are more attracted/curious to know more about him.
10. Get ladies = Automatic Male Respect.
The key is simple. I focused tremendously on his ability to get girls to like him, and this is because it’s easy to impress guys. You see girls swarming around him, and suddenly, every guy want to be like him and be with him to know what his secret is and how he is able to attract girls instantaneously.
So there we have it, 10 awesome qualities to be likable!
Of course it’s also easy to get other guys jealous of you and your success with the ladies, but if you can woo girls, you can woo guys too!