The Beginning of the Beginning

So!

To anyone who might be interested (even though this post is mainly an attempt to respond to my brain’s recent chaos), I’m now officially a freshman, freshly enrolled into the Belgrade University’s Faculty of Mathematics database as an astrophysics student. Yes, I passed my exam and I’m only just becoming aware of the longest summer of my life slowly passing by while my holiday task lists and future plans remain a pile of unanswered questions drowning in disorder. Far too poetic and even further too impractical.

First of all, I have made lists. Tones of them, categorized, coming in piles, written, typed, illustrated or merely sketched. Books to read, things to learn, music to listen to, DIY experiments to fail in attempting (and perhaps one or two to pull off). If I don’t do those now, I won’t come back to them ever again, and it’ll be too big a disappointment for me to handle when questioning inner self (which I tend to do a lot) and making further plans (which I tend to do maniacally).

Secondly, more down-to-earth practical and less inner-motivation philosophical, I need to stand on my own two feet. i.e. I need to leave my parents’ house, i.e. I need money, i.e. I need a summer job. Yes, I am that naive – excuse me, but I’ve got to start somewhere, and I have no better idea at the moment. The free time I have now, that same free time I won’t have when I start actively attending lectures and studying, is necessary, so I need to earn as much money as I can as fast as I can, and think of a way to earn money relatively permanently while studying. And that’s a priority.

Apart from that, I also need to live, have fun, and take some time just to do nothing or fuck about with my friends. I need people to share my happiness and chaos with – otherwise there’s no point to anything.

So it’ll be busy and fast and relaxing and calm all at the same time. Chaos in order.

Just the way I like it.

Exam

I suppose I’ll just run my fingers through my hair again and start over.

The math notebook is mainly a collection of physically abused pages violently scratched by a blunt pencil. I stopped thinking. I got sick of sitting with my head under my shoulders, reading one problem after another, so I stopped thinking about it and started doing it mechanically. And that’s when it all went fuckup. Of course I’ll be making numerous mistakes – I’m not thinking, am I? So, tell me, while you’re at it, what exactly are you doing?

“That’s how you prepare for an exam”, they told me. “Yes, you must be chained to the desk until it’s all over. That’s just how you do it.” But I can’t quite swallow the fact that I’m expected to do nothing except math for as long as the deadline allows me to, and, at that, be grateful for the opportunity. I don’t understand how suffocating myself in formulas will help. Alright, it’s an exam – arguably the most important exam of my life. I’ll give you that. Still doesn’t mean I can stop breathing for two weeks.

So, excuse me, but no, that’s not how I prepare for an exam, may it very well be the creator of my so-called fate.

To answer the earlier posed question, what I am doing is called nervous panicking. I am aware of the importance of the exam, but I can’t force myself to do anything that constantly. I’m at a mental crossroads, and no choice feels right. So I’m debating, and while I’m at it, I try to do another task, simply not to waste time while thinking. And that unconscious action already tells me which road I took…

So I sigh painfully over the wrong result, scratch it, turn the page, have a sip of coffee, run my fingers through my hair, and try again. Once more, with feeling.

In the Morning

WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!

They should put that line on coffees to go and morning sandwiches in the bakery and breakfast portions in McDonald’s and every digital announcement in the city. It’s 8.03 AM. WAKE UP! Speed limit 30. WAKE UP! Spread happiness. WAKE UP! Susan, will you marry me? WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! Then I might just think: “Oi, perhaps I should wake up.”

Or I could be too busy thinking about my warm, beautiful, soft, comforting bed that I was forced to abandon for the sake of a cold room, a cold house, a cold toilet and cold water out of the tap, and cold clothes and cold shoes and cold outside with cold wet rain and cold wet road and warm, wet, moisty bus where all the cold will turn into smell on people’s faces. I hate standing in the cold waiting for the bus to arrive and I hate standing in the bus waiting for the bus to arrive.

So why don’t I just stay in bed?

Ah, but my phone’s already ringing. The taste of freedom, so close but never reached, lingers on the tongue, resisting the toothpaste.

on the bus

heavy sound followed by smoke, slowly turning wheels and old machinery, a blue metal box, plasticized on the outside and crowded with people within, the air in it full of what we already know: tired people going to work, hands full of smartphones and heads full of uniformity. some trying to minimize the conversation with others, others trying to start one in a sharing situation. Looking through the smudged window; wiping it with your sleeve so you’d get a clear view when there’s actually nothing to see except empty land, broken road signs and a plain white line. sometimes you’re hungry; sometimes you’re sleepy. sometimes you read headlines over people’s shoulders. sometimes there’s an empty seat. most times your ankles get sore. but one is for sure: there’s no getting out until the driver opens the door.

ever

I walk through my folders and files and piles

growing each day

feels okay, I guess

I sit on the bed to untie my shoelaces

my favorite activity because

I know exactly what I’m doing

and it seems of utter importance

to untie them properly

and of none to clean up the mess

how will I ever impress

what do I expect of this

am I entitled to expectation

stupid question, of course I am

on the other hand, it depends

on how much I try to resolve the piles

and for now

I have no expectations

Now what? (Smudged future pt. 2)

Okay, so I’ve established that school taught me pretty much nothing, and the world is now expecting me to do something with the nothing I’ve learned.

Let’s ignore the absurdity for a moment and focus on me. At this point, I have a choice. I can either stay next-to-naught educated, belay all the wrong things (because there is no way you can make up for twelve years of missed lessons) and try to focus on making a living out of what I have – a little bit of talent, a little bit of pretending, a little bit of faking and you got yourself a life. Or I can reject a partial, insecure life in which anyone can crush me with my own ignorance, and choose knowledge instead.

What knowledge, you ask? Why, the knowledge that I want, of course.

Let me explain.

First, I need to sort out what I like and dislike, what I love and what I want. What is it I want to do all my life? Photography? Journalism? Theoretical math? Making airplane models out of chopsticks? Whatever it is, you must know. You need to know yourself very well and, therefore, stick to your decision once you decide – no matter how hard it may be.

Here comes the tricky part. You now need to see your options, possibilities, about doing what you want to do. What will it take? A diploma, a working experience, a business plan? In most cases, you will find that you need to learn more. You know some, but not much, of what you need to know in order to, say, go to university or open your own workshop or give tango lessons or whatever. Before you start working on getting what you want, you need to learn. On your own. The school might have something to help you with, but the chances are, you will have to do most of it by yourself. That’s why it’s important to bring the right decision: if it is right, you will be sure of it and you won’t have a reason to give up when it gets difficult. And it will get difficult – sooner or later you will run into something you can’t understand or can’t deal with, something that will confuse you, discourage you, make you feel unfit for your goal. That’s when the decision itself becomes the most important: be sure that it’s the right thing for you to do, that that’s what suits you and that’s what you should be doing. Only then will you be able to continue, stronger and more confident than ever. And as you move forwards, you will realize that you’re actually perfecting yourself and getting better at not only what you want to do, but also at doing other things, at understanding people’s ideas, situations, and generally, at handling what comes your way.

That is what you need. That is what no school has ever been able to teach you: working towards your goal is building you up. It’s significant, because you’re doing it on your own – you claim control and responsibility over it. It’s yours. Your life, your future, your reality, in your hands.

Make it something you’ll be proud of.

Smugded future

If I had been taught from the beginning, would my fears now be winning? – Pearl Jam, Education

I don’t know if you’ve ever wondered about Serbian education system. Probably not. Well, here’s an easy explanation of how it works: it doesn’t.

It’s supposed to work like this: give kids eight years of primary education, that should be enough for them to decide what they want to do with their lives. Based on that, they choose a high school, and based on that choice they can or cannot go to a certain faculty, a choice that results out of twelve previous years of education.

It is seemingly designed to give us as much choice as possible. However, in Serbian high schools, you only get to choose which one you go to. Most schools have two, three or several educational profiles, often not too different from each other, so you pick one of them, and based on that, you get a list of subjects you’ll be studying in the next four years. No choices. Nobody asks you about your interests. You don’t get to say “I would like to study this” or “I’m not at all interested in this” about anything.

Another problem about Serbian education is its poor quality. As for the teachers, they suck. I’ve been at school for almost twelve years now, and I’ve had maybe five good teachers out of, say, fifty. They have little knowledge of either what they’re supposed to be teaching, or how they’re supposed to be teaching it. Most of the time they don’t even bother – not even with talented students who attend competitions. On the other hand, the entire web of subjects and the division of their parts into our school years is done quite badly. We’re taught to separate and divide rather than to connect and make a whole of our knowledge; what we end up with is an insecure mind with little knowledge and less certainty of how, when and whether it’s even possible to use it. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? What have I been doing for the past twelve years of my life? And then your mind snaps as you realize: shit! I’m supposed to do something with what I’ve learned! But what? How can I, when I haven’t learned anything?

That’s when it turns out that actually, all this time, you were just wasting time. There’s a handy word for that in Serbian – džabalebarenje. It means sitting around, doing nothing, or doing something insignificant.

Why is nobody focusing on this? Why does no one think of this? Is everyone really so indifferent about their education? I want to learn – to actually learn! If school can’t teach me, than what’s it for?

I’m supposed to walk out with five things out of a burning house?!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Burning Down the House.”

You know, it’s not that easy to load your hands with five things at once while running for your life at the same time. This means that I would have to take two or three things, take them out, and then go back for the rest of them. And if I’m to re-enter a burning house to collect a couple of things, then they would be things of extreme value.

1. and 2. My phone and headphones. Communication with others is unimaginable without a cell phone nowadays; also, I can’t afford to lose my music. I wouldn’t bother carrying out the entire laptop, it’s getting old anyway, but the phone is an electronic storage of my most important music tracks, my photo album of memories and my dearest messages. And the headphones are something I cannot bear to live without – if I couldn’t turn the music up straight into my ears and shut down the rest of the universe, I wouldn’t hold up much longer.

3. My diary collection. Yes, the entire stack of notebooks, all the way from third grade up to now. I would never forgive myself if all of that got lost, no matter the reason it did.

4. The guitar my dad got me as a birthday present a couple of years ago. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play it, but have never had the time to. I bet this would make me do it. If anything, I’d be forced to play it in the streets to get me some money, right?

5. My mum’s golden necklace with a tiny Bambilike deer on it. When she graduated from high school, her mum, my grandmother, gave her that. If there’s anything she would come back for, that would be it.

Entry of a panicking individual

Alrighty then! When it all comes down, I’ve got three hours to clean up the room, do optics research, write an introduction to my astronomy paper, finish 150 pages of Game of Thrones, and prepare for my philosophy course. Sure. I can do that. Oh, by the way, what am I doing now? I am writing a blog post, naturally. You should always waste time when you don’t have any. Time is not the boss of you, rule 408. Long live the Doctor. How bloody ironic.

The point is that I know I won’t be able to do all those things on time. But right now, I’m pissed off. And when that happens, I must prove to the world and to myself and to time that’s so cheerfully toying with me that I can do all that, and more. So instead of calmly putting everything on paper and saying okay, this is the plan, I start doing everything, immediately. It’s excessively exhausting.

I’m never going to learn, am I?

So, the whole universe will be happening at once, and it will be me who’ll be held responsible. By me. Another in a sequence of paradoxes.

Truth be told, I do love paradoxes. And no matter how pathetically low my chances might be, I don’t give up as easily. Let’s risk it to get the biscuit!

Must go!