Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

30 Mar 2001, 11:27 a.m.

Where does the track end? Can I stumble without falling?

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Comb today, as my sister and my cousin call it. It was pretty disorienting to come out from that movie into a bright, bustling cineplex lobby. There should really be a little darkish room to enter after movies like that, a transition point between the film's world and the physical world, to ponder the deeper questions. But then again, there aren't many action blockbusters that actually create wonder. Most philosophical films are rentable. You're not missing much when you see Clerks on a small screen.

Today, a long ramble about myself and feelings of inadequacy.

I feel as though I have only begun the world of learning skills, rather than subjects. And I feel completely unprepared. It takes a different method and a different attitude, a more forgiving frame of mind, to learn judo or Russian or driving, than it does to learn history. I hate making mistakes, and it's difficult for me to conceive of some sort of learning that includes mistakes. I think I especially dislike making mistakes in front of others, more so than all the seemingly relaxed people I see who almost never make mistakes, but when they do, can laugh it off. I really don't like people seeing me do something at which I feel I am no good. And I feel alone in feeling this way, the deep embarrassment and shame that makes a lump rise in my throat just remembering it. (I took one semester of judo. I cried too many times.)

It's unusual that I should feel this, I think, since I'm pretty outgoing and enjoy public speaking. Heck, I teach twice a week! I enjoy the stage! I'm practically an exhibitionist!

But I guess this is all of a piece. Just as people who can laugh off their public mistakes learn from them better, and thus make fewer of them, I clamp up and panic every time I slip up, so I can't learn from them. And I just stick to what I know, and what I do well.

And I never get anywhere.

Or do I? Is it a crime to enjoy the familiar, to not be a pioneer? Is it not noble to be the anchor and the infrastructure that allows someone else to venture forth into danger and innovation?

Oh, well. I feel dissatisfied wherever I am. I see flaws, and feel trapped, and remember (in the shower) those lines from the end of Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis: I've never done one thing I've wanted to my whole life.

I can't hear myself for all the voices in my head. How can it be that everyone else is so fine and dandy and independent and I'm the only one drowning in other people's expectations?

I wrote a poem back in high school -- where is it? -- And The Track Goes On Forever. (Morose, no?) Ah, yes. Tiger Pause, 1997 edition. Also featuring my Just Another Stereotypical Love Poem, and Bookmarks by Mike Parsons (as with all his work, I find more in it each time I read it). Anyway, as I was saying. Page 49.

Fun - playfulness - light joy - relief from consequences
I used to remember what that was.
They say life is a marathon, not a dash.
But I take fifth place in both.
To try to prep for the Olympics, I pace the oval of the track.
Others zoom ahead - are they cheating?
Or am I just not good enough?
And I want to fall down and sob
Because the track goes on forever
And I am no one, never have been, never will be
And the track swallows me as it swallows us all
And I've been sleep-deprived for three years
Because they are always ahead, always ahead

And it sort of ends like that too.

But now I've looked through my old high school literary magazine, and laughed. How unendingly bummed-out we seem! When, in fact, I can recall laughing at least once each day. I remember organizing that poetry festival, "Fire and Water," my senior year, and trying to arrange it so that there were non-downer poems separating the angsty ones, so that we would have no long stretches containing only literary-pretention suburban teen whines. Sure, I wrote bad teen poetry, and so did all these people. The important thing is getting better, and knowing I'm getting better, and allowing myself to feel good about that.

I think I'll submit this and go watch "Popular."

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at