An Encounter with Inspiration, Probably

I have been sitting in silence looking out the window for an hour. Though, technically, it’s been exactly one hour and 44 minutes since I left my meeting. And I have done nothing. The plan was to take the notes from my meeting and put them into my paper and then enjoy my friend’s birthday party but instead it seems like I will only be enjoying the party, because those two things once felt so mutually exclusive and now feel more sort of capable of existing simultaneously but in a way that like, even if I don’t write my paper, I will go to the party. I’m getting texts. In the time that I sat here looking out the window, my friend ran 12 miles. Normal thing to do on a Friday afternoon. I wish I had run 12 miles. I could have and would be no further from completing my essay, apart from the fact that forcing my body in its current state to run 12 miles would most likely land me in the hospital if not from collapsing, but for some sort of horrible bone-fracturing injury that I would sustain due to exhaustion and also a tendency to trip over things that are not there. 

I read about ecological feminism today. Remarkably, it gave me little insight into my existence as a woman. It’s funny. I do all of these readings now, and like, I’m learning so much faster than I used to in math classes? And I’m learning about myself and about human interaction, and about character types and about philosophical theories, and it just takes so much time. And my professor told me that if he says a reading should take two hours, I could probably get the gist in one hour by just reading the topic sentences. What? 

I’m back. Today I decided to go to a coffee shop to get some work done before class. I also just absolutely had to get out of my apartment. I feel that sometimes. It’s just, this need to be free and outside, as if by remaining inside and doing exactly the same thing as I would have been doing outside, I am wasting time. I am sort of concerned that I have nothing to say anymore. That maybe I am too busy, or not busy enough, or have changed all my hobbies artificially, and now am not totally sure what I am left with. I have a lot of thoughts surrounding the future. I feel like I should dive into those. 

Maybe later, I want to process some things that I have been learning, and some things that I have been telling people. I learned about amphibrachic tetrameters the other day in my literature class. At first, I thought, this must have something to do with an amphibian, and then I realized that if there was an entire class of tetrameters that had to do only with amphibians, there would really be a ton of limericks that had to do with amphibians. That feels just sort of fundamentally wrong, right? So, instead, I have learned that a poem written in amphibrachic tetrameter actually does not have to have anything to do with amphibians. What a relief. 

Some of the benefits of leaving the house include spying in a very neutral and harmless way. Now, I know some people consider eavesdropping morally dubious. Does reading about ethics while eavesdropping cancel out my moral inconsistency? There are a few lines I will not cross. For instance, yesterday, my mom left me a voicemail that was three minutes and five seconds long. I saw the notification and began to panic before opening up the voicemail and realizing that she had left me a butt dialed recording of a conversation between her and her friend–not something I want to know about! I’m definitely not saying that my main concern was whether or not I myself was a subject of conversation in this voicemail, but listening to it was not a risk I was willing to take to find out. 

A few weeks ago, my advisor told me that my math research doesn’t count for my major. This was sort of a shrug your shoulders kind of moment. Well, it should have been, given my past experience with advising, and picking courses incorrectly, and practically living at drop-in advising hours. Instead, I freaked out, thinking I wouldn’t graduate, and sent him an email detailing that “this is a bit stressful,” looking for some words of advice maybe. He never responded. I don’t have any hard feelings though. Not really. 

I opened up my course audit website and scrolled down to where the courses for my major had been stacked up, tallied, counted towards making sure that I do get to graduate. I stared at the screen. Seventy-five percent done. No. Can’t be. I did that thing… I’m scrolling down. Where is it? It’s not there. It’s not there. It’s got to be there. I click away. And then I find it, of course, in the section where there is no green highlight to indicate progression, and just words written unimportantly in some rounded font, with the .5 credit marked to the right-hand side, right there, the course in question. Not, as I expected, in the “count for major” category. No. It can’t be. I’m not going to graduate. Naturally, I know I can’t tell anyone. If I do, they will know the truth. They will know I never sent that email three years ago asking for a full credit for another course. They will laugh at me. Probably. 

I finally went ahead and ran. The Misconduct Mile, a charity event for CHOP, that involved three beers, a burger, and 1.8 miles, not, as I thought, one mile. And also, I didn’t drink three beers. That would be ridiculous. I arrived at my friend’s house at 10:16 on Saturday morning, irritated to say the very least. In reality, I was fuming. I couldn’t remember who had convinced me to sign up for this race, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had run anything, like any amount of distance. I’m a swimmer. Different muscles. Running is quite difficult for me. I had dressed in blue leggings and a very old t-shirt, like old enough to indicate that I had maybe run in this shirt before, and showed up to their front door. Furious and feeling not at all prepared. They opened the door. First, I saw the cookie costume. Then I saw the milk. Then the astronaut. Then one dressed like batman. What is going on? Wearing a life-sized, well, human-life-sized cookie is no easy task. The cookie hung on a black band around his neck over the front of his torso, and another cookie hung in the opposite direction over his back–indicating maybe a two-sided cookie? I stood on the porch in shock. I missed the message. I did not have a costume. Also, wait, why was anyone wearing a costume? I thought we were running the mile? Do you need a costume to run the mile? I was confused. When I asked, all I was met with was Sophie, finally! Let’s go. I couldn’t help thinking that I missed a chapter! What was going on? 

I left the porch in a panic as music began to blare from their speaker. My friends have lost their minds, I thought. And we ran down the streets of Philadelphia singing “Stacy’s Mom.” 

There’s this Penn student, Drew, on Survivor, so I’ve become some sort of a superfan in the past 24 hours. I have watched the first three episodes of the season with my entire family. My mom says she doesn’t like it, but was laughing the whole time–a slightly ridiculous notion given there’s really not a lot that’s actually that funny on Survivor, except maybe the whole concept itself. My dad watched the whole time with a scowl on his face, and the occasional grunt from that side of the couch indicated that he was not exactly enjoying himself. My brother was on his phone, but present and gleeful, like gleeful in an I’m trapped at home and wish I was somewhere else isn’t-this-funny-kind-of-college-age sort of way. My sister was, like me, enraptured, though she did take an entire phone call in the middle of episode 2, during Drew’s part of the challenge for the “Safety without Power” advantage, and didn’t ask to pause or try to leave the room or anything. Thirty minutes in we paused so my brother could go to the bathroom, and that was when we noticed the dog was missing. Chaos. We ran around the house calling her name. Rosie is a three-year-old Havanese who is conveniently only nine pounds and well-behaved to the point of being almost completely silent, but in a very content sort of way. And she was missing. We’re calling her, looking for her–mostly under things–and then we find her lying on the bath mat upstairs, all alone. I get it, I mean, Survivor is probably not super entertaining for a dog. But this is a show I am going to see to the end of the season. I do not think I will actually watch other seasons of Survivor. But as for this season, I can’t even point to anything else in my life as of late that I have felt such effortless loyalty toward. I have never before watched Survivor all the way through, though I have seen a few episodes here and there. I really don’t have time for this. But if I am to be a bona fide superfan, I guess it’s a legitimate priority. I will be watching Survivor every week. I live for Wednesdays. It has changed me. This is all really funny because I woke up this morning, and I was like today is the day I change. I just didn’t know that Survivor would play such a significant role in my transformation. I even look completely different now since I started by cutting my hair. I’m not entirely sure what this says about me, succumbing so easily to this time-consuming superfandom, but I think I’m going to keep it a secret from my closest friends. It just seems embarrassing. Who am I kidding, though, I can’t keep a secret for my life. I’m like Drew, whose face could be seen as guilty when he tried to lie. But also I have to read basically all of Crime and Punishment tonight so I really shouldn’t be watching Survivor. Maybe I will just resort to SparkNotes. 

I just had a one-on-one conversation with my friend. He came up to me when I was waiting for someone outside of Huntsman, and he was like I knew it was you! Well, it is me, so I’m not totally sure where the confusion came from. He wanted to talk about a lot of things while being very vague and altogether avoiding every topic and making the conversation itself quite awkward overall. I sort of felt like he was trying to get information out of me without getting any information out of me, like as if he didn’t want to know? As if he was scared of what I might say. I’ll be honest, I was pretty scared of what he might say, and I felt like I was giving him some vocabulary words, some sound bites to jump off from, and he just sort of said nothing? Like a whole lot of nothing, while discussing a lot of everything. 

Sometimes I feel guilty for not being involved enough. In, like, anything. And sometimes I feel too involved, like I should stop and just focus on me. It’s a back and forth, back and forth.  

Oh no. I’m having a moment. I think I always knew that this was going to happen. At least eventually. What if that itself is incriminating? I am not really sure. I just like always sort of had a feeling that there was going to be a moment when AI really did get the best of me. There’s definitely something off today. In the coming years, I might look back upon this moment as the most pivotal point in my entire life. But if AI is monitoring everything and has access to everything, then it can read anything. I can actually feel myself censoring my writing as I am typing this out. I really feel like it’s reading this, or listening, or watching. I need to cover my camera for sure. I never really believed in that sort of thing, like cover your camera or whatever, because I was always like, well if it’s bad, it’s very bad. Now it’s officially bad. I opened up a new Google doc and typed one word and then an email popped up on the screen. Here’s the craziest part. The email then disappeared. I literally don’t even know what to say about it. It must have been there for only a matter of seconds. But what if this has always been happening, like when I step away from my computer, or look away, or switch tabs? Earlier today I got a message from the university saying that there is no longer unlimited storage. Maybe that’s it. Maybe we ran out of storage. I am shaking a little bit. On edge for sure. It’s awfully quiet in here. I think I’m in an alternate reality. What if I am the star in the next big movie about AI, but it’s a documentary, and it’s already happening and I’m only finding out now? 

Let’s go over it again. Several things happened at once. Someone reached out with an invite. Another friend had a question about tickets. And my mom texted to say my sister got into college. Then, I typed the word “The” into a new Google doc. Only for it to be replaced by an email I didn’t write. I’m in my apartment and shaking so much that I put on an extra sweatshirt. I have given them too much information. I don’t know if this is safe anymore. 

I just nearly jumped straight out of my skin. Pounding at the door. It was maintenance. My roommate requested something. I don’t know. I am on edge. Am I supposed to report this? To Google? That’s not such a bad idea. Maybe I shouldn’t have written any of this down. It is occurring to me how much my communication depends on the internet. And how easily everything could go badly. I’ve also decided I don’t like being home alone, so I am leaving now.

I had coffee with my friend this morning. At 9am. I was late. I got there at 9:12. I will be fully open and truthful about being late even though this is really the one very real thing that I will almost never be so open and truthful about. I like to delude myself into thinking that I am always on time. It’s a useless delusion, really–it just makes me more late. Anyway, at coffee she stipulated that I’m not really a creature of habit, am I. I am not. This is true. Is that true? That’s crazy. I wonder what would happen to me if I became a creature of habit. I think that the risk is I will become so ensnared in the habitual ways I create for myself that I will be unable to break free. And then when I have to it will be chaos or I will always use the schedule and routine as a reason not to have to, which will also be chaos and no one will understand me, or people will understand me even less than they already do. I am not lamenting Ahh no one understands me, I just think that no one understands anyone and I am one of the lucky ones who is very clearly un-understandable which makes that whole deal about “it is hard to understand other people” a little less unsettling. In Russian literature we discussed the meaning of love, in terms of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and her infidelity. I pictured writing infidelity as if whispering it dramatically, to make light of it, to make light of the fact that she was unfaithful, because at this point in the novel the whole unfaithfulness thing is seeming oddly not at all evil, and I think I have a lot to say about that, but I’m not sure what, and I think that this just might have been the year I discovered that I am a woman, and now cannot stop seeing evidence of it everywhere, and the interpretation of womanhood, and ecofeminism, whatever that means, because it did not make any sense to me, so can it even be true? Yes. That was bold. 

My degree is starting to look like: major in pure mathematics, minor in creative writing. I’m not kidding. I mean, who am I? What on Earth could that possibly mean. I really do hope that they read that out in full at graduation and the crowd bursts out laughing. Or that at least one member of my immediate family in attendance lets out a small chuckle and a who is she do we know her yeah we don’t know that one, the one who decided to major in theoretical, the girl who decided to walk the plank. Well. It’s just sort of what it feels like. Say there’s a lot of people here who are telling me what to do and then they tell me to leave, and thus I land flailing in the big open sea with so much opportunity! Infinite directions in which to go. That’s probably a gross mathematical exaggeration, but I’ll allow it. I am not claiming to have my PhD.

I’m feeling kind of old I guess. I went to yoga today. I walked into the big room with the big windows and the big mirrors to give the appearance of more windows, more light. I caught up with a friend who said he had gone to class today even though class was canceled, and then he showed me a photo of an empty classroom. I don’t know what I would’ve done. Probably cried. But crying would have been so weak and sad and small and disgusting. I grabbed my mat, and went to the back left corner where I usually sit adjacent sort of to some friends, and someone brought me a wipe to clean my mat and I thought, oh that’s so nice, it will be so nice to have a clean mat today, and I wiped it down, and I realized how little I actually care if it’s clean, what does the wipe do anyway. In ethics we talked about how it’s unethical to kill bacteria because they are alive. My professor said specifically that this was not something we could write about in our papers because it doesn’t really make sense even though it was the example. But the idea really stuck with me. Like the bacteria. From the mat. Anyway. 

I am in bed now and I still haven’t showered post yoga. There was just no time. Now it is occurring to me that all that bacteria and what little sweat I generated is still on my body, but really not that much, probably because I wasn’t trying hard enough. What if I never put my full effort into anything. I feel like I must put my full effort into some things. I’ve always been slow. Physically slow. Like a sloth maybe. I love sloths. And all animals. And I am concerned when people tell me they don’t like animals. That freaks me out probably more than animals freak them out. Just saying. Also, just to say, they tuned a piano in the silent area of the library today. Why was there a piano in the silent area of the library? I had to leave. I got up. I put my laptop in my backpack, I put my water bottle in my backpack, I put on my sweatshirt, and then put on my jacket, and I got in the elevator and walked right out of the library. That was my last straw. I didn’t do any more work after that. I tried to read Anna Karenina. I tried to read to learn about love, as my professor recommended. I’m not sure Anna Karenina is the place to learn. More like about unlove. Dislove. Lack thereof, and how to ensure that one remains completely and totally lacking. I don’t know. I’m on page 220. I hope it gets less sad. I doubt it. I’ve been thinking about my writing. If I have a thought and I write it down does that make it real? And if I have a thought and don’t write it down will I ever have any clue that it even existed? If I remember a thought, how can I be sure that I am not just now constructing a new memory of a thought or actually thinking the thought and then remembering it?

What am I trying to say? AI is taking over the world. Everyone should do yoga. No one should think about anything ever, most definitely not me, and also I am so behind on Survivor. I am annoyed. I’ll work on that. Goodnight.