Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mask of Caring

This post is a continuation of my last post, here. Be careful when reading this post. The tone of this post may not come out as I intend. It is not with sadness or loneliness that I post. For now it's merely an observation, a musing over the last several days. This post is rather long.

The more I come to realize about myself, the more I realize that my life is not always my own . . .

What I'm about to say I've never told anyone, and I doubt anyone remembered the event at any rate. When I was around 7-years-old or so, I wasn't all that well-behaved (are there any well-behaved 7-year-olds?). Once, my mom got so pissed that she swore at me in Chinese. It was the phrase 该死 (gai1 si3). I didn't know it meant "Damn it" as the second character, 死, means "death." I thought that she wanted me dead or something. So I went to the kitchen, took out a knife, walked back upstairs, and gave it to my mom. And told her to just kill me as clearly my life was causing her problems, and that if she didn't do it, I would. Of course she freaked out and never said that about me (or later my brothers) again.

Flash forward a decade or so. In high school and in my undergrad, I was the friend that others went to for help. I may not have been at the top my class (particularly so in my undergrad), but I had a way of explaining things that others understood, even if I myself didn't quite completely understand. Many of my friends weren't as eloquent at explaining things back to me, so I didn't get much out of this. My mom found this very annoying actually, and she would often say, "Why does so and so ask you for help? You always help them, but they never help you back! You're always giving them knowledge and get nothing in return. You need to be more shrewd and say 'I don't know' every now and then, you can't just let them take everything you know and then do better on the exams than you."

Even now this rings true, perhaps more so. And yet I continue to do it. I continue to help. I think my one jewel, perhaps my one defining characteristic and curse is that I sometimes care too much for others I know and get relatively little in return. Ironic how it's almost eerily similar to the doctor-patient relationship: you want a caring doctor who listens, yet you're "done" with them once you leave the office. This then, is my Mask of Caring.

When I was in high school, I would wake up an extra 20 minutes early or so and make breakfast and pack lunches for my brothers. Everything would be ready by the time they woke up, brushed their teeth, and came downstairs. I would proof my brothers' college application essays. I was the one to truly push and motivate them where my parents failed. In my own small way, I guided them without forcing them (unlike my parents, lol).

I'm no saint by any means. I hardly do much volunteering anymore. In high school I would volunteer for all these community service clubs, but I found too many of them shallow and purposeless. I would do things but never interact with - or even see - the people I was supposedly helping. I've found that in some respects, such undergrad service clubs are similar. Instead I did biomedical research. Although I'll never see the faces of the people my research may one day (in the distant-ish future) help, I know that it will help someone, someday. I've had a hand in breast cancer research, human genetic deafness, and colorectal cancer. These are not uncommon things that plague society. Yet I know I will never gain any glory (aka first authorship) from my research.

And whenever a friend needed help with something, no matter how reluctant I was, I would do it unless I had a legitimate excuse that trumped (which doesn't come up often, except during finals week). I was the one constant, the "rock" in people's lives. JW-M would rant to me, RZ-F would rant to me, SR-F would vent her frustrations to me. I took it upon myself really - no matter how much they didn't want to tell, I would elicit it out of them because I knew they needed to talk to someone. For a long time I was able to listen, passively, stoically, process, then give advice. I let things pass through me so they didn't affect me personally.

Then things changed, I don't know when. When someone was down, I became down. When someone was happy, it would temporarily lift me out of whatever state I was in. Reading the events surrounding other bloggers the last month or so has been rougher on me emotionally than I even realized. It was difficult to study for my final exams. I may sit here passively, stoically on the outside, but inside I cared. And it hurts, almost physically, when I find out a person can't confide in me. And although it's easy to just ignore my Google Reader while I studied, I had to know what's going on if at all possible.

It's easy for me to care less (aka, not think about) people I've never met, don't know in any way, and are removed from my life. But once a person enters my life, even at the very periphery, I can't help but care. Even if they don't talk to me much, don't reveal much to me, I will care. I don't know what it is, it almost feels like a duty for me to care. As if caring is a duty that we as humans owe to each other - to care unconditionally, without any real thanks even. How many times my friends have asked me why I cared about x, y, and z. Because I do, because I must.

I don't reveal much about my inner self, not even on this blog where I'm quite open, considering. I wonder how many people care to find out. I wonder what readers out there think about me - if I'm just talking out of my ass or actually being sincere. I know I don't come across as the most emotional blogger. That's just how my writing is. In caring for/about others, I've left little room for myself. Hence, my life is not always my own . . . I live, in a good part, for others I think.

And again, I don't really get much out of it. It's not like my brothers help me much. Actually, they try to get out of helping me wherever possible, lol. And despite helping others - in my lab, my friends, etc - it's not like I'm rewarded. Heck, most of the time I'm not even invited to things as they simply "forget" to invite me. Even the best amongst my friends - JW-M, SR-F, RZ-F, etc - will sometimes invite me as almost an afterthought at the last moment.

It's all okay, I suppose. I don't dwell on this much. I suppose the one thing I want most in this world is someone in person to love and care about who cares and loves me enough to want to figure out everything about me, and then reflect my care back on to me. I think, that's the only way I can truly care about myself in a positive way. At any rate, my Mask of Caring is almost a duty I undertake - to care almost unconditionally about others that I personally know.

So, for the last 2 days, I've been relentless catching up on two blogs in particular. Two blogs that many bloggers who read mine are well-acquainted with. They are:

Mirrorboy's Blog
Right Time and Place

If you haven't had a chance to go over and say hi, I suggest doing so. :P

Also, I'm still fighting for my A in Pathophysiology. The ONLY way I could get an A- is if they "standardized" the letter grades, which is weird and unfair. I can't let the ONE class I actually really CARED about give me an A- when the average according to the average points on my exams give me an A. Grrr.

I also read something in the news that made my blood boil. I won't talk about it here, that's for another post in the future.


julian. said...

hey, haven't commented in along time, but something in your post totally resonated with me.

you know when your mom said 该死 and you thought she wanted you to die? my grandmother said the same thing to me when i was around that age, only I didn't figure it out until I was much older. I only thought she wanted to kill me. haha, and I've been deathly afraid of my grandmother ever since. even now, when I know she was just saying dammit, I'm scared to death of her. it's so irrational.

TNC said...

You appear to be selfless and have a open and caring heart, and that is a positive human characteristic. Many people envy your ability to be patient, listen, offer straight-from-the-heart advice, and connect deeply with others. You are a person who enjoys giving even when you receive nothing in return. Your heart is an asset. But beware that others do not take advantage of your being there for them. And this is where your mind and rational thoughts must come together with your emtions. You must draw a line where you will stop giving without receiving. Otherwise, they will always look to you for help and believe you do not need anything in return. Every relationship is a two-way street. One way never works.

Anonymous said...

I think such a person would be a boon for you. I really do. *weakly raises his hand* :] Anyways, it's about time you realized it! >.<

Anonymous said...

While it's all good to care for others, u should know that u need to care for yourself first ;)those who take you for granted do not deserve to be called a friend. you're too kind in a world that's, for the most part, evil.


Anonymous said...

thanks for the post. you might find this interesting:


Steevo said...

Sometimes it seems to me that we gay people try very hard to justify/make up for being fags. Its a subtle theme that permeates all we do.

Deep inside we have vestiges of the het world homophobia.

So if I am very caring, only have sex with someone i really really care about, maybe they wont think Im just a horn dog slut like all the others. I'm really a good person, see?

I'm kind to little children and animals, Im not into sport fucking, etc. Remember I only do beautiful ideal sex with people I've known for a long time and I'm very responsible and I'll just go ahead and save the whole f'n world FFS while I'm at it.

See? Yeah I like boys, but I kinda cant help that but lookee how good I am otherwise!!!

Just bcuz u r gay u dont hafta be more perfect than everyone else.

rant over

naturgesetz said...

I've got to disagree with the people who say, "Draw a line, don't let them take advantage of you, they aren't your friends, you don't have to prove you're better than other people," or something along those lines. I think it is great that you are willing to listen to other people and give them advice. I think it is an admirable character trait.

Jesus said, "Greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friend." I know you are not a Christian, but I think your behavior in this area is something any Christian would recognize as highly virtuous. Of course, you are not literally laying down your life in the sense of dying, but you are generously giving a part of your life — a part you could withhold. IMO it is great that you are so magnanimous; and there is no need for you to make yourself more mean-spirited. Don't let other people talk you out of your generosity.

You may occasionally be disappointed that people seem to take you for granted, but the reason you are so giving of yourself it that it is who you are, and it is what gives you true happiness.

But having the mood of others control yours is not so good, especially the part about your mood being dragged down. The older model of "objective caring" is better, IMO. The question is how do you avoid the recent emotional effects on you. I wish I knew. Hopefully, just realizing that it is something you should try to avoid will help you.

I hope you find someone who cares about you and loves you in the way you want (if you haven't already found him).

Mike said...

I enjoyed reading about this "mask." Caring is something that so many lack and is truly a blessing I believe. I have to say I am like you about people entering my life and suddenly really caring for them/their wellbeing. It is just who I am.

Aek said...

julian: Haha, there are some things that I think only a fellow Asian can get and appreciate.

TNC: I'm not sure I'm able to draw the line here. To do so would make me feel somehow . . . inhuman.

James: Realized what? . . .

Anonymous: "There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so." From Shakespeare.

Steevo: Errr, I'm not justifying for anything. o.O

naturgesetz: Thanks.

Mike: Yeah, that's just who we are, isn't it?