PJS: Stone Cold
There are two kinds of people. The first kind are those who will speak out about having to unnecessarily pay for a 3D movie when the 3D effects were lame and the only reason that show version was chosen was because the timings of the movie weren’t paid close attention to. The other kind will be silent. They’ll have shrugged it off, talked rather about all that they liked instead, making the most out of a situation.
There are two kinds of people. The ones who’ll take the lead in planning a group trip while all the other friends who say they’re interested don’t make the effort. The friend who says she’ll keep in touch and means it while others throw the phrase, “We’ll catch up soon!”
There are two kinds of people. Those who lie and feel guilty and others who don’t feel any qualms at all.
I’ve lied before. White lies, superficial lies, secrets and twisted truths. But this semester I truly became a liar.
The truth always catches up.
I’m waiting for my latest lie to catch up with me. I was emailed about doing a Dear Freshman Me video and I jumped at the chance to give advice to take advantage of youth. But there was a misunderstanding. It was meant for students in the School of Communication and Information (SCI). This was the school I applied to get into last summer when I planned on being an ITI major. Though I talked about dropping it, I never did take it off as one of my majors until this past week when I realized it should align with my new graduation date (though I haven’t changed that yet – baby steps), so the SCI still sends out emails to me about events its throwing.
I should have taken a closer look at the email; I just assumed Rutgers was reaching out to me and because it was going to be a video it made sense that the SCI school was involved. But the first few questions my interviewer asked me happened to be about my major and what I liked about the school. Minutes already into the video, I knew better than to tell them that I wasn’t participating in the SCI’s offered majors. I played along. I lied.
I walked away feeling no qualms. There’s nothing I can do about them finding out and cutting me out of the video for not giving “real” advice. But the truth is, all that I said commending the professors was true – of the few classes I had.
But I know too well that when a lie is told, it’s looked at at face value and the truth in the lie is not trusted.
I started this semester lying for self-preservation. Only in retrospect do I know that it didn’t make a difference. What I was going to lose, I would have lost anyway.
My winter break was stressful. I did very poorly in my computer concepts class and I knew I had to retake the class to be able to take Programming II to take any other ITI class. The very thought filled me with dread and so I came up with various solutions to be able to stay in college another year to complete my four years and study something I liked. But with all my calculations, the only conceivable other major was English. And I knew my parents wouldn’t agree with that choice. My dad was already on my case for wanting to stay in college one more year to have fun.
Sidenote: yes, of course it was. I already know my life’s going to vastly change when I graduate: between menial jobs until I find a career, trying to write a book and moving back in with my parents, it’s going to be a solitary lifestyle.
A friend of mine joked yesterday about how next year he would move in early only so he could claim the second floor lounge for us – because he wanted our little group to stay the same. It warmed my heart because that’s all I wanted; I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I wouldn’t be there to see it.
Yes, primarily I didn’t want to grow up. I didn’t want to adult. So I told my parents I would buck up and get through ITI – but I built my schedule around the English major instead.
The guilt was horrible. I needed advice. I asked my friends. Most of them told me that I should pursue English because it made sense, all I ever do is write anyway. Others didn’t understand why I had to be lying. “Just tell your parents. How could they not understand?”
But I understood where my parents were coming from: they are afraid I won’t make it. And they simply don’t want to see their baby grow up to be destitute and dependent. Born a first generation Indian-American, the weight fell on my shoulders to make the most out of what my parents had given me. But the daughter of an accountant of double masters and an audiologist with a PhD, all I saw was that their degrees didn’t leave them passionate about what they did.
A friend said it best once when we were having dinner: some people work to live and others live to work. I chose the latter because I do better at things when I am passionate about it.
I still second guessed my choice many times. But every reasoning shouted that I would be miserable forcing myself through ITI. So I stuck to my English major and my plan of pursuing becoming a writer. But it meant avoiding conversations with my parents when they asked me about what classes I was taking, how I was doing in them. Eventually I adopted saying, “I don’t want to talk about school. It stresses me out.”
I should have known my mother would pick up on the truth after that. After all, she is my mother. And eventually she did ask point blank, “Did you drop your ITI classes?”
I could be honest when I said no to that. Because I hadn’t been taking ITI classes this semester. No, it was worse: I’d dropped the major.
All the hedging of the truth came out when my dad sensed I was lying too and demanded I send him my schedule for the semester. When I didn’t respond to the text, he got angry, so to appease to him I made up a schedule. I should have known that he’d be checking up on me more frequently then. But I assumed it meant that he’d text me in class and see if I’d respond. I was too careful for that.
Or so I thought. I skipped a class to hang out with a friend. She wanted to buy work clothes for her internship and I wanted to help her out. My father tracked me on my phone locator and cursed me out for not being where I was at the time.
There were so many mornings I would wake up because I’d feel an overwhelming tightening in my chest because of the fear I’d made the wrong choice and how I was a disappointment to my parents and I couldn’t even talk to them about it. Those early mornings I wasn’t be able to fall back asleep. I wasn’t happy those weeks even though I know I’d made the right decision to pursue writing.
But that day when my father caught me in a lie about my schedule, I didn’t feel anything. My friend worried about me, my lack of concern. But it was because in that moment I knew what was to come.
That night, the truth came out first to my mom about what I’d decided for my future. It was my choice to graduate early. After all, once I dropped my English major, I only needed one more class to take over summer to complete my English minor. I completed my Psychology major last summer and Creative Writing Certificate will be completed this semester. I was never a fan of school, of being stuck in a classroom being forced to listen and being tested. I’d also be saving my parents a lot of money by graduating a year early; it was fair to give up what I wanted – another year with my friends, another year of freedom and being a child and actually thinking about my future rather than being pushed into it – when I wasn’t doing what they wanted anyway.
It didn’t mean that when my father did find out about my decision he was grateful. In fact, he didn’t want to talk to me for a couple of weeks. But I understood why; I lied to him. It was different when I evaded the questions. When I chose to make up a schedule and feed it to him – that was cold-bloodedly premediated.
I didn’t feel the brunt of my father’s anger. It helped to be away at college, to have my own place so that both my father and I could think about my choice on our own terms and deal with it with significantly cooler heads when discussing it with each other later.
He’s come around now but it’s because I’m not lying anymore and I compromised.
I got off easy. But that’s not always the case.
A social group divided soon after this semester started because I didn’t like who I was becoming when hanging out with them, secrets spilled, as they do when a friend suddenly drops the status. And Robbie confronted me about having one of his shirts.
He’d been acting weird around me for a couple of days but I didn’t think much of it. We went through patches like this before. It was until he came into the lounge and sat across from me and asked me did I realize, my heart dropping, how one of my past actions was coming to bite me presently.
It was something that had started and mostly ended with an ex my sophomore year. To deal with the emotionally abusive relationship, I’d take his flannels to stick it to him. It was petty and it was childish, but it was the smallest way in which I could hurt him: I knew when I wore them, he would never admit to them because he wouldn’t want to cause a scene. It just so happened that that’s what I’d wanted to ask for help without asking for help to not care about him anymore.
When things got bad with Robbie later during that year, I retracted my attempted childish strike through an explanation. I never thought I would be in the same position again.
And I wasn’t. I never took the shirt Robbie accused me of this year. It was left in my room on December 13th of last year when I’d excitedly given him his birthday gifts weeks before his birthday. One of them had been a new shirt and he’d changed into it leaving his old one in my room. I was going to return it to him the next day, but that night I realized I wasn’t over him as much as I’d liked to be. And at the party we were at, when he made a move on our friend and she rebuffed him and he sauntered off with some random girl, all my feelings came back to me.
It had been easy up until then to be friends with Robbie because when we went out, we’d all stick together. When he strayed from our typical group to make a move, I realized I’d never quite fallen out of love with him.
Bitterly, the shirt left over in my room stayed in my room.
When he brought it up months later, I knew what he was talking about. But attesting to it meant that I had to admit that my feelings for him were so strong that impulsively I would act out. That part of me I wanted to conceal; in a momentary act of self-preservation I stuck to my lie – to his face – repeatedly.
I came undone when he asked to come to my room to see for himself if I had anything of his.
I tried to explain myself but it was too late; he couldn’t see past the lie. He parted with, “I understand that you’re a stereotypical only child who’s gotten everything she’s ever wanted.”
Those words cut, it was like all the confidences we’d put into each other, the confidences I’d shared with him, all crumbled away to nothing because of a singular choice I made.
Robbie left my room announcing to, I can only assume, the people I used to hang out with, that I had it all along and thus was a liar. I sat there in my room staring at the clothes I’d dumped out on the ground to show him I had nothing else of his. And I felt nothing.
If I feel a twinge of sadness now it’s because we haven’t talked in four weeks and it proves that our friendship couldn’t have survived. So that promise he made on November 14th when I told him I didn’t want to lose him and he said I wouldn’t – that was a lie too. I always knew I was going to lose him. It was inevitable.
He would ask me for things and I wouldn’t be able to say no. And when I did, I would rack up with guilt for saying no. Meanwhile, he walked in and out of my life whenever he wanted. He had the control.
It was never an equal friendship.
So yeah, I took his shirt and I lied to his face about it. A shitty way to end a friendship, sure. But I think we were trying too hard to be friends and it wasn’t healthy. I didn’t do the right thing, I will attest to my childishly impulsive ways, but I also knew if I groveled for his forgiveness after what I did, maybe for a week or two we’d be avoidant, but then we’d fall back into our pattern. He’d ask me for something, I’d do it, he’d hurt me unintentionally, I’d react badly. It had to end.
So I let it end with me.
I still think about Robbie. But I don’t see him around as much even though we live in the same building; it’s as if we know where the other will be and we avoid those spots. By chance, if I briefly spot him, his face is of a stranger’s now.
I have groveled for Robbie’s forgiveness previously in the past year, but since then I’ve changed. I was always so scared of losing him that when it did happen, it wasn’t so bad. Because no one should have that kind of emotional affect or control over anyone else.
I have lied. I have felt guilty sometimes and others, not at all. I have attempted and failed at self-preservation, but I have carried myself through the explosion of the truth as nonchalantly as I could. Because in the end, what’s meant to be works out.
And in the end, there aren’t just two kinds of people. Those two sides I have to me are just a fraction of the couple hundred I have. It’s what it means to be human: we can all be reduced to a story to share, but we give value to some stories over others, to people over others. We can be biased and we can be wrong and we can change our minds.
As I get ready to graduate, I concentrate more on making stories rather than have them make me.