There she stood, higher than her peers, but still not high enough, breeze blowing an aroma mixed with citrus and lavender.
Reduced cognitive functioning, or perhaps coffee after thirteen hours of sleep, or perhaps a sudden necessity to focus after a weekend of living.
Yes, she concluded, there was a difference between focusing and living. Living was reacting, saying what felt right, making connections to others, doing things for others. But this? Filling up notebooks with numbers and symbols, making synthetic connections some – most – would deem meaningless, this was not living. This was focusing, clueing in on one idea, seeing how far an idea could take someone. This was not living.
More and more, she felt her mind wandering to places she could live. Not focus, but live. Live in a coffee shop, or a rock climbing gym, perhaps a concert venue. Live, react, interact, connect with, do things for others in these places. What would she be doing for others by filling up notebooks with ideas that once held so much promise, but whose allure was now dwindling?
Personal triumph was nothing but showing what she had done for others. Solving equations wasn’t for the benefit of others – it could even be argued it was for the detriment of others at the institution she was “living” at; the better she did, the worse others did.
This was not what she wanted. She didn’t like the selfish mentality that surrounded her, that was rewarded everywhere she went. Independence, selfishness, for the sake of survival? What about selflessness? What about the interdependence that this society truly depends on? Interdependence in that supply and demand curve, one relying on the other.
This was a society of numbers. Plug and chug. Isolate the variable. Manipulate the variable. Exploit all of its properties. This was a society in which people were numbers, being manipulated, reduced down to generalities, grouped together with others “similar” to them, broken down into equivalence classes.
This was a society she was trying to escape. But ticket to the so called “freedom” to live, to help others, was time. Time, a handful more classes, an application for graduation, walking with others who have enduring this ceaseless focusing, and then, my ticket.
My diploma, which shows I can focus, I have focused, and I am ready to live. Just time. Time. Tick tock.