Instead of that, the 2016/2017 change-over centered around making sure I got my Every Single Day challenge(s) posted and set up. It was about doing the thing -- the good, helpful, activist thing + the beneficial, sharing my writing thing -- than about what I normally do. It was about being the right kind of person.
During the last several years, I've struggled with trying to comprehend what is NORMAL. Tonight these questions revolve around questions of maturity and my realization that it's very easy for me to envision suffering-w/o-a-point.
To address maturity first:
I'm wondering what is the definition of maturity. More specifically what are the checkmarks of an active mature participant in society. I've always thought that it was an experiencial checklist: getting a job, etc. doing or experiencing certain acts that were common among maturing individuals. Some of this maturity question was instigated by Pullman's The Amber Spyglass and how much Lyra's development (from what I remember) never felt like my experience. It was the problem I had with The Babysitter's Club -- the way they experienced growing up and interest (in dating and boys) -- felt like a 17 to 19 year old interest, not a 11 to 13 year old interest. But when it comes to my biological development as a cis person, menstruation and such didn't leave much of an impact in my growing up. The earliest interest I had in anything in a vaguely sexual/attraction way was a fictional character (admittedly, a fictional character played by a real person), and even then it was more about societal interactions, rather than sexual ones. I was about 15.
I don't know. I just don't GET what's normal sometimes, especially when it comes to attraction, sexual attraction, gender identity, and growing up. The way some books portray young girls growing up (and reaching a stage of sexual maturity) and the way people say it encompasses that doesn't fit with my experiences. And is this because I haven't grown up in the right? And is it less about sexuality maturity than it is about growing up to be responsible? Like the theme of growing up = growing out of innocence.
I struggle with that concept because I really feel like people should be able to retain certain qualities of childhood after they grow up: openness, sense of wonder... But are those things really childhood-based, and maybe more...something else? It's like acting truly out of a sense of excitement or wonder at the world. Finding joy and adventure in the simplest thing, like a walk. It's enjoying and seeing goodness in the world, in people, in animals. Might those traits have less to do with a pov that is not afraid of being judged (because I am severely terrified of being SEEN and ACKNOWLEDGED by others) -- which is what I associate with "Eden transition" if I had to associate it with anything -- and more to do with a way of being? Like it's not children who are unconcerned with how others see them...
which when I think about it seems an absurd argument; children are perfectly aware of being judged. The trouble was that, for awhile, other kids' judgements only had so much meaning in my life because there was me-at-school and me-at-home. At home was when I did what I wanted; school was when I did what I was supposed to and then I didn't have to think about it much once I was at home. That's not to say I was completely disconnected, but it's pretty easy for me to spend all my time in my own head. (I mean, my mind is a constant flux of conversation: with what I'd say, what I'd write, how I'd say or write something, endless explanations and bullet points.)
Now to address the suffering-w/o-a-point:
Because the transition to 2017 was more about doing what I should rather than what I do, I've been in one of my more bad funks for awhile. It boils down to: why bother attempting anything? Before I came here I wrote up a short NoH vignette about my feelings:
My feelings of the New Year
Why keep trying if nothing would amount to anything? If every action he took, every impulse and plan he concocted, when bursting forth with potential and brimming with confidence and certainty, always seemed to wither as soon as he shared it with others… Then why try?
Or was it something wrong with him? Did he lack maturity? Had he never learned to stick things out? Was he simply lazy? Once things got difficult or his friend suggested he wouldn’t do such and such a thing, the impulse that had inspired him crumbled to dust. Therefore, did he lack conviction? After all, whatever someone else said or whatever else happened, just because it naysayed what he wanted, didn’t mean he should let his goals sift through his fingers like burned sand.
But even if it was his fault -- which was most likely -- time sped away from him, quicker than he could catch, so that by the time he bounced back, ready to maybe try again, it was too late. All he could do was give up. And if that was the rhythm of his life, why bother trying to commit to any desire or goal or ambition? He was obviously no good at it. It was better if he took life as it came. Or even better, if he had no desires that couldn’t be easily met. No great plans, no goals that took planning. Simple living. One day after another. Doing good. Being helpful. But never to any end. Never to any goal. Never with any hope for a better life. Because really, could there be a better life for him?
This stems from me thinking back on 2016 and realizing that at lot of times when I had an impulse or idea, it easily crumbled to dust. And why should I make more plans or strive for anything if it's all just going to go nowhere? And then I thought: well, the year can get better. And then I thought: well, actually, no, it could get incredibly worst.
I won't list all the horrible things that could happen, but basically imagine a mix between every misfortune that could happen to someone (illness, poverty, theft, etc.) and every cruelty that could be enacted on someone (abuse, rejection, domination, lies, etc.)* and that was kind of where my mind was. Additionally, when I applied this to character arcs, I realized that if I threw my characters into these terrible situations, there would be no point to them. There wouldn't even be the point of showing how suffering affects them; it would just be pointless misery for the sake of it. Furthermore, I realized I wouldn't know how to get my characters out of terrible misery. I personally would want a positive ending, but I have a hard time with imagining that if the suffering's been bad enough. This idea [suffering to hope/potential good] baffled me as a teenager, most explicitly in Anthy and Frodo.
This also explains (to me) why I'm more interested in shows and books that have a happier edge to them.
I see these in a few different categories:
- quirky, whimsy terror (Dahl, OTGW)
- upbeat weirdness + grim and dark situations (One Piece, Hercules, Gravity Falls, RGU)
- sub category: dark situations but also silly and/or sweet (Steven Universe, Tamora Pierce, LotR)
- positive, lessons and growth achieved, cool action (Aladdin, Moana, MLP: FiM)
Basically, I like my media to have a strong positive component, though I don't mind rather grim situations, but I need that fun or weird or sweet angle, too. And if it is just on the end of terror, I want it to be like a fairy tale - there but not explicit.
This also made me realize why I might like fairy tales (among other reasons) and the 1001 Nights: a story aspect of them is how random bad luck or good luck influences events. That seems to fit with how my mind thinks.
I feel better.
*I really would rather not be explicit; some of it is really brutal and gory.