038. Paranoia

tldr: flip a coin

There was a game my high school friends and I played once or twice called Paranoia. You sit in a circle, and someone in the circle whispers a question to the person to their left regarding the people playing. “Who is most likely to go to prison?”, “Who needs therapy the most?”, etc.. Then, you flip a coin. Heads: the question gets revealed. Tails: the question remains a secret. There is a reason we don’t play this game anymore.

Whispers. “Paige.” Coin flip. Heads. “Who is most likely to die alone?”

I very rarely cry. It certainly isn’t some form of weird toxic masculinity– I was never really held to those sort of standards. My parents had other things to worry about than enforcing the “men don’t cry” mentality.

I just don’t feel things deeply enough. Sure, I tear up watching In the Heights or Luca (while my friends cry over this perfect allegory for being gay). I just don’t get to the point of crying, at least not in a timely manner.

I used to cry all the time– many late nights in deep existential crisis. What does it mean for a stream of consciousness to stop? What happens before thoughts begin? After months of this, I’m worried I just became, numb. Numb to these feelings, or perhaps simply numb to caring. I can spend my life hoping and praying and trying to have faith that there is some form of reincarnation so that the thoughts never stop flowing, or I can leave that stone unturned.

I never reached any answers to these sort of questions of course, but I was able to accept for myself that I didn’t care what the answers are. No matter what answers I could possibly get, what I want to do in life shouldn’t be affected. Even if life ends with a void of unimaginable nothingness, I don’t want to dissolve into a blob of existential apathy.

I know I am not numb to everything. My mind just keeps going back to last fall when I was sobbing after watching the conclusion of The Good Place. Not because it’s sad (which it objectively is), but because I was watching it alone, while my roommates were out at the winter market. An entire show about finding comfort in other people can make you feel so much more alone.

If I had to generalize what I have been feeling lately, I would say it’s loneliness. I am so, so, so glad I feel semi-comfortable in online settings. This was perfect for two online semesters, and results in frequent “how do I know you?” conversations (the results of which usually being Mitter, Discord, Facebook, Instagram, or something of this nature). I always wanted to be extroverted, it just so happened that an online environment was a way for me to develop this trait (whether or not, I am actually all that social in person). I am also good at keeping tabs on people– checking in on people I haven’t talked to in a while. Hardly ever a day goes by where I don’t catch up with somebody. But this has only made me feel lonelier.

Like, I can walk down Mass Ave and run into 5 different people I know and say hi and feel like I am a part of the community. But I won’t be a part of someone’s spring break plans. I can set up PSET groups and study breaks and coffee runs. But at the end of the day it’s just me, alone in one of the smallest dorm rooms in McCormick.

This past spring, I probably talked to the ‘Free-Listening Man’ (Kip) the most. For those who don’t know, this is someone who sits in front of the Little Dome with a sign that says free listening. I told him that I wish I felt less lonely, or rather, more included. He responded by asking if I could ever tell people that I wanted to be included. And if I could, who would I want to tell.

Many names come to mind– but every time I reach out to them, my mind flips a coin. Tails. Kip’s question remains a secret. I just can’t bring myself to tell them.

Published by Paige Bright

Hi- my name is Paige Alexandria Bright. I am a rising junior at MIT interested in mathematics and philosophy. I have been writing this blog since the beginning of COVID. Lets see where this goes.

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