(Been trying to post for the past few days, but Bloggerglitches kept getting in the way)
Last Wednesday and Sunday were meetings with people connected in one way or another with the hall I stayed in this year – dinner for Martin on Wednesday, barbecue in honour of Father John on Sunday, mildly enjoyable but forgettable occasions I went through feeling somewhat detached, as if I were floating above conversations, consciousness in one place watching body go through the motions of socializing.
Why is it so hard to connect with some people and so magically easy with others? The question is so trite it’s almost not worth answering. I lived with wonderful people this year, yet for most of them we were connected by little more than our common religion and a year’s worth of pleasantries. Some of this is admittedly my own fault – I spent the first half of the year too caught up in my life outside the hall to enjoy life inside it. When exams loomed and I had to stay home and study, I discovered a few with whom conversation managed to blossom, but then the year was almost over, and till now they know only the tiniest fraction of me, which is something I regret.
The problem was that there was the me who lived outside the hall and the me who lived in the hall, and the people who inhabited each sphere only ever saw scattered pieces of the picture. Trying to unite the spheres was never particularly successful either – I didn’t think most of my Catholic hallmates would be particularly interested in the details of my clubbing, or the latest gig I’d been to, or why I’d kicked ass in a debate, and I certainly kept a lot of the bitchiness which I indulged in out of the hall to myself when I was within it. Conversely, my outside friends, composed almost exclusively of steadfast atheists, weren’t particularly interested in how it was the most spiritual Easter of my life, although they would probably have applauded Alec, Chris and Enoch’s drinking shenanigans on Maundy Thursday night. And I talked to almost no one in or out of my hall about what I loved when I was alone, the books I read, the music I listened to, the strange workings of my head, because there simply is no one I know in the UK who I thought capable of understanding it all.
It’s not that I’m terribly dissatisfied with my social circles – a lot of the time they can be immensely fulfilling, but once in a while they seem overly compartmentalized.
I can only talk about poetry and literature with Creative Arts Programme friends. I can only talk about debating within my respective debating circles in Singapore and the UK. Scattered friends share my passion for music, but only in generality; once we get down to specifics the compartmentalization begins again – only Marten will go with me to indie rock concerts, only Russ will go with me to hip-hop clubs, Jeremy loves both but is in the US, the people who like popular music can’t talk about classical, the classical musicians know little of popular music.
It’s also not that I feel totally alone in the world. I’ve been blessed with a few friends who share a number of my interests, or perhaps they share none but ultimately they understand me nonetheless. They know who they are. I guess I just wish there were more.
At its core, stripped of the nuances and accoutrements my psyche tries to sneak in, there’s a longing, sometimes unnerving in its intensity, to scream: I am so much more than this that you see and presume, than the limited dimensionality which is all most people ever manage to grasp of me. Or all they’re ever interested in grasping, anyway.
And I guess, on the rare occasions that being alone ceases to be a source of succour and bliss, it is the age-old longing for just one person who thinks this odyssey is worth the effort.