February 14th, Valentine’s Day. It’s almost midnight. I come home after an evening out with friends. Our own little ‘Galentine’s, so that we do Valentine’s the right way by celebrating our friendship. So we ate, then got ice cream, then did some karaoke. A good time, all in all.
I check my phone as I sit down in my room. I have several unread messages from my friend from back home. She seems kinda annoyed that I haven’t responded.
“Hey sorry, I was out haha. What’s up?”
“Ohhh with friends? Busy celebrating Valentine’s Day?”
“With friends lol”
“Does Valentine’s Day not ring a bell?”
I frown at my screen, confused. Was I supposed to wish her a happy Valentine’s? Had we scheduled a video call for the 14th that I completely forgot about?
It suddenly clicks, and I smack my forehead. Then, I smack it again, and a couple more times for good measure. In the panic of my epiphany, I had dropped my phone. I pick it back up and start typing frantically.
“Oh my god.
I’m an idiot.
IM SO SORRY
I LOVE U A LOT OKAY
MY BRAIN IS JUST DUMB
I feel like the biggest, most heartless, most unforgivably callous fool in the world. She, thankfully, is graceful about it and responds with an “IKR 😂”. I promise to get her cake from Australia. She says it’ll do as an apology.
We talk on the phone for a while. She sends me pictures of her chill, at home, (kind of) quarantine-friendly celebration with a handful of friends. As I browse through them, I feel a small sadness creeping in. It isn’t big, nothing too overwhelming. Just a breeze’s worth of melancholy. One that lingers instead of just blowing over. Cold enough to make me long for a sweater. It is a familiar feeling.
As we keep talking, other friends come up. She tells me some of the things she knows about how their lives are going. I make mental notes of my negligence: several other birthdays forgotten, a wedding I couldn’t attend but should have sent my best wishes for, college acceptances and job placements that I definitely should have known more about. A long list that I must attach to an older, even longer one. At this point, it is probably long enough to stretch between India and Australia. Perhaps, I could lay it down and walk across the ocean on it. But I do not know if that would solve everything. It is easy to blame things on the kilometres between us but maybe the real distance is the one between thought and action.
When our call ends, I pull out my post-it’s and mark some important dates on my calendar. I set reminders on my phone and send out a few messages. Tiny steps. Nowhere near enough to cross an ocean. But, if I take a few more, I will be a little further out, a little more under the sun. Perhaps it will be warmer there.
Valentine’s Day has never meant anything to me. In my mind, if two people truly love each other, every day could be Valentine’s Day. If they don’t, there’s no point celebrating it.
But this year, everything’s different for me since I’ve had you. On this day, all I can say to you is thank you.
Thank you for everything.
Thank you for being you and thank you for being with me.
I have always been isolated. Deep inside, I don’t trust human beings. My family is a mess. People never try to understand and love each other; instead, they hate and fight, caring only about how to gain more and pay less. But they never succeed, either emotionally or materially. That’s why there’s not a place called ‘family’ in my heart. As for friendship, several betrayals and uncomfortable attempts at ingratiation have given me a phobia of it. Now I’ve learnt to be myself, distrustful and selective though I am, and paid the price of friendlessness as a result.
But everything’s changed since I met you.
I never believed in fate, but now I wonder if there is actually a magic in the world that binds us, two totally different strangers, together. We are so different in nationalities, languages, cultures and backgrounds, but it’s amazing that we understand each other even better than our compatriots. It’s weird that only when I’m with you do I feel safe, warm and peaceful.
I love our small talks beside Lake Burley Griffin, about our past and our future, our struggles and our hopes. Our eyes look in the same direction in the distance, with our hands held together. I love hugging you and falling asleep soundly as if all my troubles and worries have been driven away. I love us playing slapsticks and curling up on the sofa watching movies together, creating a homely warmth that I thought I had lost in childhood.
Thank you for being a friend, a family, a lover, and a comrade.
Do you remember how much I love Jo from Little Women? Just like her, freedom has been the most valuable thing in my life. But I’ve been so damn lonely. I enjoy solitude, but I’ve been fed up with loneliness. I want to love and to be loved.
We never said ‘love’ to each other. Maybe it’s too sacred a word for us to touch. Or maybe it’s a word carrying a responsibility too heavy for us to bear.
Remember the time when you asked me if I was in love or not? I hesitantly answered ‘maybe’ and that was the only lie I have ever told you.
The truth is, I loved you. I still love you.
We never know how to define ‘love,’ and I’ve always thought that it’s pointless to call all these sentimental emotions ‘love’ despite the subtle differences among them. But if you asked me again, I would call it ‘love,’ for the rapid heartbeats when you’re walking with me and the physical warmth in my heart when I’m close to you, for all the hopes in life you’ve brought me and for all the reliance I’ve placed on you.
But there’s no need to be afraid if you don’t feel the same. We shouldn’t feel obligated to love someone back simply because they love you. Love happens when it happens. You can’t force it by trying to speak it into existence. I won’t be a partner that continuously asks, “Do you love me?” to confirm your love. In fact, I’ll never ask it. For me, when love is there, it’s best felt as a wordless experience rather something to be repeated out loud so often it loses all meaning.
We agree that our primary concern, for now, is the pursuit of our future, but sometimes the ‘future’ seems like an illusion. For me, life doesn’t have a destination; it is simply going through. All I can do is to live in the present and to cherish every moment that I share with you.
So, again, thank you. Thank you for your mere existence in my life.
If I were to make a wish, I would wish to love you today, and for one day more.
Woroni TV wants to hear the best zingers you’ve been subjected to when on the dating scene for an upcoming video ‘Weird Sh*t People Say on Dates’! If you’ve heard anything great, hella cute, random or one-liners which you think would make students gag enter it below ??????????????????????
I sipped my coffee as you walked beside me.
It was 5am and the dawn was behind me
But the only vision I could see was you
As you glided along, admiring the view
Of the park as if you were new to this town.
At that moment, my life turned upside down
Because everything had changed. Finally, my heart
Was full of love. This was my new start.
You held my hand and I just couldn’t stop
The smile that lit up my face as I dropped
My coffee all over the pavement, then you
Laughed until your sides split in two
And now, at the end, as I sit by the side
Of the bed where you, my first love, had died,
I remember that coffee. I remember that dawn.
I remember that nothing is ever really gone.
After weeks of circling between sober and hungover, trying to figure out what went wrong between Trevor and him, Jared finally threw the idea of “Karma” into the dustbin. He cleared away all the mess of the apartment, as well as the mess of himself, and spent nearly half of the credits he had earned in this town. He used them to buy a ticket to the Temple of Sacrifice, to put an end mark on his 23 years of virginity and isolation.
‘It’s about time,’ he said and confirmed the payment on his smartwatch.
Just like those two singing sisters in “Frozen”, the gates of fate were opened by guardians. For him. “For the first time in forever.” And contrary to what he had originally thought, this place looked more like the castle from Beauty and the Beast, run-down on the outside, but still spectacular and elegant on the inside, rather than like a random underground kinky SM Hotel. He walked through a place called the Gallery of Sex, where dozens of oil paintings bloomed in their own unique form. They showed cavemen having intercourse with cavewomen beneath a multitude of shining stars, a muscular teenage boy “shooting off the plane”(meaning “boy masturbation” in Chinese slang) in front of the MacBook 2077, male turtles enjoying the eternal bachelor days at the seashore, and TV industry workers shooting their orgy in Sense 8 for the eighth time. Every piece suggested the grand harmony of life itself.
‘Please select your preference, Sir,’ said the Al Butler.
He had waited for him at the terminal of the gallery for a long time. Jared looked around and saw four exquisite doors. They were sapphire, gold, crystal, and white jade to mean straight, gay, bisexual and lesbian.
‘What if I were asexual, Mr Carson?’
He had asked a smart question, or so he thought.
‘Then I guess you wouldn’t have to be here, Sir,’ the butler replied gently. ‘Besides, everybody has a desire for something – truth, love, fame, anything you can imagine.’
Then the butler opened the golden door for him without knowing his so-called “choice.” Four doors and four colours. The gold one was decorated with the sword of Gryffindor from Harry Potter, the skyscrapers from The Great Gatsby, the battle scenes of the Greek god Apollo and the roses of Highgarden from Game of Thrones. He wondered what kind of surprise was behind these cheesy symbols of male reproductive organs. Seconds later, a mixed feeling of satisfaction and loneliness arose within him. The Hall behind it was neither a boring pub nor a hideous wedding banquet. Instead, it was a library without the archmaester. Billions of books were quietly stored on shelves that reached the top of the sky. Young footmen were quietly sweeping the dust, stone plus the kindle, fire dancing with blood. This image had gone beyond all of the trashy VR games Jared had ever played.
‘This is brilliant,’ he said.
There’s a golden rule from Asian Yaoi Culture:
Since the dawn of time, a blonde boy and a black-haired boy have always been the perfect match.
Through thousands of readers, he finally found that perfect guy: short blonde hair, green eyes, barely taller than him, fit and cute. The lad was reading Jared’s favourite book at the corner of the tables: A Song of Ice and Fire: A Clash with Kings.
‘Valar Morghulis.’ Jared greeted him in the old-fashioned way that the characters in the book did.
‘Valar Dohaeris,’ the boy replied with a gorgeous grin. He continued to read the chapter of his one true king: Renly Baratheon with his Knights of the Rainbow.
‘Why do you like Renly?’ Jared said.
‘For his equality, my lord. Nothing comes without a cost.’
That was absolutely true. A straight friend had once asked Jared a similar question. He had replied to Jared, ‘equality and freedom had never been given by the majority who already owned them. They require courage, struggles or even blood. Sometimes, it’s not a bad thing to be too progressive.’
He followed the green light. The boy grabbed his hand and went into an inner room with a lonely sofa. Guided by the green eyes, at last, he was able to kiss this Mr. Right.
While there was only a short distance between their lips, the image was now suddenly frozen, all the lights up. The boy vanished into steam. The room it turned out not to be a bedroom at all. There were dozens of real humans sitting individually, reading something. One guy looked at Jared with a little sympathy.
‘Quite shocking, right? They’re all robots. And we are all the servants now, from this day, until our last day. Do I like you? No. Do I wanna sleep with you? That’s beside the point. Even if you’re as extremely fabulous as Milo Yiannopoulos, super-Republican, freaking intelligent, no one will lift a finger. We are all trapped in this lounge permanently unless someone who truly likes us saves us from this goddamn chaos. After all, “these violent delights have violent ends.”’ And then, this jock returned to read his alt-right newspapers.
Jared thought he was about to spend the rest of his life and die alone in this temple. However, he had always believed that there was a silver lining behind the oncoming storm. He walked to the windows and closed his eyes. He imagined what it felt like to be free, to dance with a better guy; not with the perfect fabricated guy, but with the ones who could dream.
Wait a second, he thought, who is that dowdy man out there standing across the street staring at me beneath the rain?
And there he was. That guy who was taller than him by 30 centimetres, the sole love of his bright, short life. Trevor.
Both boys smiled.
The recently-released Netflix series “Hot Girls Wanted” makes for some fascinating viewing. Originally a standalone documentary film directed by Rashida Jones (of Parks and Recreation fame), it has now been extended into a full series. The original documentary focused on the pornography industry from the perspective of women involved in it. Perhaps “ensnared” is a better word than “involved” for the specific situations it spotlights – it was some dark stuff at times. This series, by contrast, is exploring a much broader range of themes related to sexuality, gender and how these topics play out in modern society.
Technological progress, in the form of Tinder and other apps, appears to have changed the dating game dramatically. The episode “Love me Tinder” focused on a 40-year-old guy who is pretty much addicted to Tinder (and its ilk) and casual relationships with girls much younger than him. From one perspective, he is perhaps the quintessential fuckboi – a guy who seems incapable of seeing women as anything more than objects of pleasure, and importantly, objects to be discarded when they stop being “fun”. Whether justified or not, this guy seems to believe he now has an effectively endless supply of new partners, and this makes it easy for him to move on to the next one at the first signs of “trouble” (that is, having to actually work on a relationship).
A profound moment in the episode is set against the backdrop of one of his developing relationships with a girl who – unlike many others – challenges him and asserts herself in ways he’s not used to. At one point, he invites her to a party that she can’t attend because she has work. When she asks if he’s drunk, the texts quickly escalate into an argument:
Are you drunk?
It’s not weird to get drunk at a BBQ with friends.
It’s weird when I’m 25, and I’m getting texts from a 40-year-old I’m dating while he’s partying on a Monday. Not trying to sound like a bitch, but does that make sense?
I’m sorry that you feel 40 is too old to have a great time with friends. Hopefully when you reach that age you will still enjoy life like I do.
Whoah, I wasn’t going that route. I’m sorry if I upset you. I like you.
Great to meet you. Wish you the best.
And just like that, the relationship is over. It’s eye-popping how quickly and casually he decides to end it, but in the context of how this guy operates, and in the context of what technology makes possible for him, it makes sense. He can find a new girl to date with ease, so why bother with the ones that talk back? What’s profound about it to me is that he doesn’t seem either willing, or capable (perhaps both) to work through a fight with someone, even just a little one.
But that’s what lasting relationships demand. Whether it’s a three-month thing, a long-term relationship or a lifelong commitment like marriage, relationships inevitably bring conflict. Even the happiest of couples will fight somewhere along the way. How people resolve that tension – how they communicate, how they see their partners, how committed they are to making it past that moment and learning/growing together from it – is a huge determinant of the long term success of that relationship.
What this episode makes me wonder is the following: If a guy never engages in that process, how the hell does he ever learn the difficult work of building a stable, healthy relationship? As the episode suggests, he doesn’t. He remains locked in hollow, permanent adolescence. In this way, the episode serves as a powerful insight into modern masculinity and how it can be shaped by larger structural forces.
In this case, one obvious force is that of technology, which has evidently impacted this individual’s approach to relationships. Yet also, part of how he behaves is arguably driven by structural forces far older than Tinder. For the longest time, men have been socialized, especially by the media, to believe that success as a man can be determined by how many different beautiful women you sleep with, or how many “babes” you have draped on your shoulder. Part of what makes James Bond an icon of masculinity and success is that he has a different, new, and beautiful woman to bed each film.
Such ideas are seemingly on their way out, groaning under the weight of their age and a broad social movement pushing for better representations of both men and women in the media. Yet also, we can see that this old idea has had new life breathed into it, perhaps, by technology that makes it far easier to turn that broken fantasy into a reality.
The episode is a rollercoaster of a story: you pretty much loathe the guy to begin with, and later (perhaps) come to pity him a little. At some point I stopped seeing just a fuckboi, and started seeing a broken man instead. An individual shaped by larger, structural forces that socialized him to believe and value the things he did, and in doing so, offered him the means to create his own gilded prison. That side of the story unsettles me and makes me concerned for this generation’s men. They not only face the same pressures of socialization I did a generation ago, but also the emergence of technology that normalizes it in ways the media never could. They face challenges we should all be mindful of.
Equally, it makes me concerned for this generation’s women. Often posited as the asymmetrically dominant power in the domain of online dating, the episode suggests that they remain vulnerable to mistreatment and that, despite its newness, apps like Tinder can still act as vehicle that lets antiquated, misogynistic ideas about women reappear once again into the modern world.
Comments Off on My Recent Interest In Men’s Rights Has Absolutely Nothing To Do With My Chronic Case Of Foot Fungus, I Assure You
Firstly, I’d like to request that you stop pointing it out as I am very much aware of the social isolation due to this wicked odour. There is no correlation between my newfound interest in MRA forums and this ongoing fungal exile. I have been the unknowing subject of many investigations into the ‘mystery smell’ pervading certain Arndt tutorial rooms and whilst I am legally obligated to apologise to those who had to seek medical treatment, it does not come easy to me.
The mere fact that I may not be a successful romantic due to a microbial infection has no bearing on my astute analysis of the rights of men and women. I have dedicated many hours to pondering over the great thinkers of the Youtube Philosopher generation. They have led me to a conclusion which is in no way influenced by the cloud of rage which hovers over me, choking me in my own noxious gases as my feet re-odorise the tutorial room.
Furthermore, I find people that point it out rather superficial. I am not concerned with the physical plane of interaction, but rather devote my time to higher intellectual pleasures – philosophy, debate, et cetera. I have no time for superficial people. It’s known in the science of biology that only animals of crude nature select their sexual partners based upon physical traits, and that the true aphrodisiacal characteristic of man is his intellect.
Please note that my designation of such people as superficial emerges not from a default position of excessive defensiveness, and if it did, it certainly wouldn’t be because I’m terribly insecure over my extremely stinky feet. I would be happy to engage you in a civil discussion at the digital podium. You can find me online at the ‘ANU Schmidtposting’ (note that I use an anime image as my display picture in order to keep my identity secret). Please give me ample time to respond to your comment, as in between brine-baths for my feet and cross-referencing your points to a home made chart of logical fallacies, I don’t have much time on my hands.
Comments Off on Local Youth Recovers After Risky Tag
Casual observers and invested stakeholders alike have been left astounded by social media behaviour that has been labelled ‘unprecedented’, after Sam Brown, 21, of Daley Road, tagged Amelia Thistlethwaite, 21, of Ainslie, in a video of a baby deer learning how to jump.
Sources close to the pair report that Thistlethwaite was left rattled by the shockingly public act of deeply intimate Facebook tagging. The pair have only been on two half-hearted dates, buffered by slightly-less-than-infrequent, 3 am post-Civic bouts of ‘deeply average’ heterosexual intercourse.
‘I mean, it was completely out of the blue,’ Thistlethwaite reportedly stated. ‘He goes to Johns. He has a stunted man bun. He wears Hawaiian shirts to Mooseheads in winter. I just didn’t think this was his style.’
Thistlethwaite’s concern was compounded by the fact that the tag in question occurred at 7.30 pm on a Friday night, a time roundly described by her mates as ‘unsettlingly family-friendly’.
The wounded Brown received no acknowledgement from Thistlethwaite in the comment section, but plenty of flak from his friends at college dinner. He is preparing to return to his proven method of attracting and securing the interest of women: sending increasingly sporadic flirty bants at uncomfortable hours over ever-more ephemeral means of communication, and generally displaying the emotional range of a sprouting potato.
Ah, Episode 11. Here we go. We open with shots of the Bachelor Mansion, with lots of drone shots to make sure we all know that Channel Ten will Never Really Die and that they still have money.
We cut to the girls having a team huddle in the courtyard. Simone opens her mouth, complains about something and follows it by having a bit of a whinge. Blah blah blah, she never spends time with Matty, blah blah blah, surely today will be Her Chance to talk about Her Connection with Matty.
Osher appears. And uhh HE LOOKS SO GOOD?! That hair, that beard. Honestly, I was very upset at the start of the season when he rocked up with his new fuckboi hairstyle (OshKosh baby you are TOO GOOD FOR THAT) but DAYUM Osh you have grown that bad boy OUT. A little bit of salt n pepper in that beard mmmm yes Osh. Anyway – OshOsh takes some time to explain the concept of a single date because let’s be real, everyone is still confused. Georgia Love 2.0 gets the single date, Simone opens her mouth and whines for a bit. Georgia Love 2.0 pretends to feel guilty.
TO THE SINGLE DATE! Georgia Love 2.0 (I’m going to go with GL2.0 for short) calls the observatory the conservatorium. Matty doesn’t pick up on it, probably because he doesn’t know the difference either. Matty mentions how thinking about GL2.0 gets him ‘excited’. Wink wink wink. He then makes a very astute comment: ‘being in a mansion with all the other ladies, it can start to feel like a competition.’ OoOh, a ComPetiTioN?? YoU dON’T sAY. Honestly.
Anyway, we’re at the observatory. Something about connections, opening up, being guarded etc. etc. etc. Matty has the brilliant idea of going to a psychic to get GL2.0 to open up and reveal her Deeper Feelings. The psychic is Very Accurate in her observations, and I am impressed. This is explained by a shot of Matty slipping the psychic a cheeky 10er under the table.
We transition to night time, and our lovebirds are up in the Telescope Dome. Matty has a ‘special surprise’ for GL2.0. OH I’M SURE YOU DO MATTY, I’M SURE YOU DO. Instead of taking off his pants, it turns out Matty got them a star to name, and oh boy are they struggling. Look, call it Starry McStarface and call it a night. They name the star after their couple name. They have condemned the star to 10 billion years of being bullied by all the other stars.
We have a quick interlude to show what’s going on back at the house. Simone is still whining. We go back to the single date.
The observatory is transformed into a romantic getaway with the simple addition of a couch, 30 pillows, 60 candles and a lot of alcohol. Who knew that a Romantic Atmosphere was so achievable. Blah blah blah GL2.0 talks about being guarded and how amazing ‘this’ is and how amazing Matty is and how she Really Likes him blah blah blah. Somehow this turns Matty on, and they pash for a bit. They keep pashing. They must’ve been really short of content this episode. Finally, they break apart, and Matty pulls a rose out of his butt and gives it to GL2.0. They pash some more.
Ok, quick transition into the Group Date. I’m captivated yet again by Cute Boy Osher looking adorable. I just really hope they pay him well, I really do. Suddenly everyone’s eating donuts, Simone’s eating grass and then she’s talking about her hole being blocked. Everything happened so fast, and I don’t know how we got here. But then – out of the darkness comes the purest thing I have ever heard. OshKoshMyGosh laughs. It is so genuine, so real, and so beautiful. His joy brings me joy. I forget everything at that moment. I am in awe of his happiness. I am bamboozled.
I snap out of it when I hear the words ‘in a game of shameless exploitation’. Ah yes, back to it. I got distracted there. And Oh My Lord they are pinning the heart on the most attractive of Matty’s features. Someone has to chuck a heart on his spicy area. Go the dick, go the dick, go the dick. In an act of brilliance, Simone goes for it. Cobie almost dies on the spot. What’s-her-name Olena the Second calls it his ‘little manhood’. Simone talks explicitly about tight jeans. I am enjoying myself. Osher is NOT impressed by this behaviour. I feel like I’ve let Osher down by finding this funny. Osher reaches for ‘Matty Johnson’s Johnson’, I am breathless. I ship it. Did Osher’s hand just linger on Matty’s groin? I swear it did and you can’t tell me otherwise #Mosher.
Alright, so we keep going and they talk about special things from childhoods. We find out Olena the Second used to cut limbs off her stuffed toy. Simone’s mum pulls the best prank ever by sending her something completely insignificant. Hockeyroo once again proves she is amazing at playing the game by being Matty’s ideal woman. We find out Elora was the horse girl at school. We see shots of Lisa, and I remember that she exists. Poor Lisa, this girl is just too smart to get amongst this goddamn awful show. Hockeyroo wins extra time with Matty. They talk about how great family is, they have a pash.
COCKtail TIME! The girls try to be diplomatic about spending alone time with Matty. They don’t achieve anything. Tara, aka Sausage Queen, continues to prove herself as my favourite by calling the Secret Garden the SEEEKKYYY G. God I love her. More shots of Simone complaining. Shots of Lisa looking confused and uncomfortable. Lisa is all of us if we ever went on this show.
ROSE CEREMONY! What the fuck is happening, I am so confused? Why is everyone standing around? Why does GL2.0 have a rose? Oh, thank god, here’s OshiePie. He’ll explain everything! Osh explains that we’re at a Rose Ceremony and that a ROSE=SAFE and NO ROSE=NOT SAFE. We only have SIX ROSES, Osher gets out a blackboard and starts writing equations. Osher tells us that ONE LADY will GO HOME and everyone’s relieved that he did the math for them. Matty enters, he calls Cobie??? first???? Everyone gets a rose except Simone, and Osh reiterates that NO ROSE=NOT SAFE, so that means Simone is GONE. Matty tells her that she’ll find someone, but for the love of god, it will not be him. Osher is given cash in hand for his hard work. He goes home and bathes his hair in coconut oil for 12 hours. The girls go back to the mansion where Cobie adds a lock of Matty’s hair to her shrine. Lisa rocks herself to sleep, Elora arranges her horse figurines, and GL2.0 practices smiling in the mirror.
Katie has been watching The Bachelor ever since she was old enough to know that it’s complete bullshit. Her favourite Bachelor love story is Osher and himself, and her least favourite was Cool Bananas and everyone. One day, when she grows another foot in height and meets the show’s physical requirements, she’ll be a contestant and win Osher’s heart.
Comments Off on Taking on the Perspective of Others
Probably one of the greatest (yet most underrated) realisations that any of us will ever have is the simple, infantile understanding that others lead their own lives, boast their own stories, and experience their own feelings. These are completely separate to our own. This commonplace epiphany is called the ‘theory of mind’ and, to be perfectly honest, it’s a very ordinary cognitive development that humans go through as toddlers, and most probably don’t give it a second thought. However, it still seems wonderfully implausible that every single person we encounter has an entire life filled with experiences and emotions we know nothing about. This logic applies to nearly everyone – from the strangers we pass by in the supermarket, to our lecturers and tutors, even to our best friends.
The fact that we inherently know so little about each other’s lives means that communication is essential in any social interaction, no matter whom with. This need for communication, and for taking the perspective of others, is what makes the theory of mind so essential. It is the natural precursor to empathy. Only once we understand that others have their own experiences can we possibly share in their joys and burdens.
To be empathetic is to not only comprehend others’ emotions but to feel them too. Like most people, I do my very best to be empathetic. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I’m a very emotionally sensitive person; I’ve cried in nearly every movie I’ve ever seen and one of my favourite past-times is overthinking. I think that maybe, for this reason, I’m careful to notice emotional signals in other people. These signals are like an unspoken secret language, comprised of behavioural changes and shifts in tone. On the one hand, being attuned to this vernacular can be an incredibly uplifting thing. It’s empathy that makes people’s good moods so contagious, and empathy that leads us to build joyful friendships, based on mutual understanding.
Yet when I moved into a shared accommodation with hundreds of other students my age this year, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the cacophony of emotions that surrounded me constantly. One of my friends once said that at college, it’s impossible to walk for longer than a minute without bumping into someone you know, and I can definitely attest to that. The intimacy of college means that even a short trip to the bathroom is an opportunity to socialise. I’ve seen casual conversations carried out near the bathrooms by towel-sporting neighbours and lengthy discussions in the dining hall while tea cools on a quick ‘study break’ that should’ve ended ten minutes prior.
This social aspect is surprisingly one of my favourite things about where I live. I find the spontaneous, good-natured exchanges that accompany most tasks thoroughly elevating and for this reason, I’ve loved nearly every minute. However, constantly being surrounded by people can come at a cost. I remember during my first month at college, I was walking down my floor’s corridor and heard uncontrollable sobbing on the other side of a door. The name on the door wasn’t one I recognised, but regardless, the sound was, in the true sense of the word, shocking. That moment, albeit small, was a huge wake-up call to the fact that although I was having a wonderful time, others might not be. There have been other moments – times when I’ve realised that the people around me are fighting their own battles. Sometimes, that can be a lot to take on; our moods are incredibly malleable and it’s very easy to absorb somebody else’s stress or sadness and carry it as your own without even realising it.
This is why balance is essential. I believe that empathy is one of the most important parts of what makes us human. Simultaneously, however, in environments where emotions are running high, it’s often essential to pull the focus back onto yourself. Safety demonstrations on airplanes demand that ‘in the unlikely event of an emergency, attend to yourself first, before helping those around you.’ I think this applies to emotional hardships as well. Looking after others is crucial, especially in residential halls and shared accommodations, where the majority of your neighbours are living away from home and building new support networks from scratch. Although we sometimes forget to acknowledge that we’re in more or less the same position and being too open to others’ emotions can be damaging. Empathy, while innate, can be exhausting. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t care for the wellbeing of the people around us; on the contrary, I think that looking out for others should be prioritised, especially in communal living situations. Rather, we should monitor our own emotions, too. In the words of J. M. Barrie, ‘always be a little kinder than is necessary’ – especially to yourself.