The Mind's I

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April 30, 1999

One Year Ago Today
Thursday, April 30, 1998

I am waiting for the bus that would take me to work. I have no confidence in myself, I thought as I waited.

Well, perhaps a little. I've only been working at Kinderhook a month and life has been like a total whirlwind. I felt ripped out of life. I lived the past five and a half years in Urbana, Illinois. I was a Jersey girl until I came to the midwest. At first I felt like Dorothy. I'm not in Kansas anymore. [insert a very Keanu Reeves "woah" here]. But then, I fell in love with the vast prairie, the flat expanses of green. The multitude of stars was amazing. I recall looking up and ducking at the star-ridden sky. I had never seen so many stars in my life.

My stars were gone now. That was a bit disheartening. I missed all my friends I left behind with my beautiful prairie. But at the same time, I landed a job that paid almost three times the salary I was receiving in the midwest. I got a job that put me on the career path that I want with a company that would give me a career. That gave me a bit of hope.

In about a month Mike was going to join me. That gave me a little more confidence. Soon, I wouldn't feel so alone and isolated. My own little haven of Illinois would be here with me. Soon.

I looked up to see my bus.

Five Years Ago Today
Saturday, April 30, 1994

I don't think I could cry anymore.

I am a failure. I never had to drop anything before... no matter how high the pressure got, I kept driving myself despite it all. I would overburden myself with groups and clubs and organizations and even when I wore myself down, I was resilient and kept going. Kept plugging away. Kept churning.

Now, I am a failure because I had to drop something. A freshman in college and I was already a failure. I couldn't hack it. I couldn't keep up with a schedule of 21 credit hours, five of them being a painful course in Japanese. I had done okay work past semester. A C in Japanese 101. This semester, I got off the wrong foot. I realized I hadn't really retained anything from last semester's material other than how to read the characters and properly pronounce them. Grammar? Vocabulary? Out the window. The only reasonable phrase I could remember was "I study Japanese."

I couldn't keep up with the schedule. A class every day. Two quizzes (vocabulary and conversational) and a test every week. I might have been able to handle it had I not taken my first biology class that semester. I decided to jump into the biology and take the basic biology for bio majors sequence (three semesters. 120, 121, and 122 typically taken second semester freshwad year, first semester sophomore year and second semester sophomore year respectively) out of order since I didn't need to take to take 120 (thank you AP exams). So, I was in 122, with no 120 or 121 background with sophomores and a sprinkling of juniors. I did well in the class, but with that lab class and the chemistry lab class and the Japanese.. it was too much. All too much.

So, I dropped Japanese from my class roster. That left me with 16 hours, a reasonable amount of work. I could still graduate a semester early.

Somehow, that still didn't make it feel any better.

Watashiwa nihongode benkyoshimasu.

Ten Nine Years Ago, Approximately
Sunday, April 29, 1990

I don't want to be here.

I look up scathingly at the white-clad minister. My much loved Brother Felix Lim was gone and some mechanical idiot had replaced him. Gone to Miami, Florida, where a congregation needed him more. Now, the New Jersey congregation of Iglesia Ni Christo had to deal with this unknown minister who seemed to speak the words of each lesson but had no real passion behind it.

Brother Lim was a major reason why I was a part of the church. He lived through example. He didn't just speak the words of God, he lived them. He believed in them. He wasn't strict with the restrictions of the church. While other church leaders would frown at seeing children dance, he would walk into the room with good music playing and start dancing himself. He would quote a passage that God loved happiness and joy and would dance despite the disapproving gaze of the conservative members of the church. His marriage was one of the genuinely happy relationships that I've seen in the church.

He was the one that brought me in and taught me. Indoctrination into the church required 22 lessons one-on-one with the minister of the church. He was never offended whenever I would bring in passages of the Bible that I'd read the past week and didn't understand how they seemed conflicting with the church's position. He would explain things to me, make me understand and welcomed my questions.

Now, he was gone and I was left with this mechanical animal that quoted scripture and looked back at me with glassy eyes. No soul. No feeling. Nothing.

Did I ever have faith?

Ten Years Ago Today
Sunday, April 30, 1989

"Do you have any questions, Eileene?"

"Yes, actually. I do." I pause, not feeling comfortable asking this question. "Is it okay to ask questions?" The other church elders didn't seem to like how much I questioned. Perhaps they wanted me to step in line with the other children being indoctrinated. Then again, I was a little old compared to the other indoctrinees. I'm 13 at the time and most indoctrinees were 10 or 11.

He laughs. That hearty laugh that I adore because it is full of spirit and love. He opens up the Bible and read a quote from me. [The 23 year old in me has forgotten the quote now. It's buried somewhere in the piles and piles of notes that I've taken in the year and a half that I was involved in the church. Really involved. I want that quote back. It would be my motto in life.]

I look back at him with a slightly puzzled look. Did the quote really say what I thought it said?

"Eileene, as it says here, God always wants us to question. He wants us to never stop searching for the truth. There is no sin in searching for the truth and that is what you do when you ask questions."

"Really? What if I leave the church and explore other religions and beliefs?"

"Isn't one's faith stronger after you explore something else and find that it is not for you and return to your original beliefs?"

I nod.

"God wants you to find the truth. The truth makes the faithful. God wants you to not follow blindly."

I nod. I couldn't do or say anything else. In that answer, I saw God. And He was beautiful.

Fifteen Years Ago Today
Monday, April 30, 1984

Bzzzzt. Hzzzt. Pwaaaaaahhhhhhhh.

The hum of the modem is sweet melody to me. I rush home every day ever since I got the modem attached to my computer a year ago. Now it was an addiction. I couldn't keep away from it. School's out (4th grade is so dull). I walk home by myself, typically with my face buried in a book. I was probably finishing off another Stephen King novel. I had a great deal to catch up with in his repertoire, ever since I discovered Firestarter a year ago. I rush to the computer (conveniently located in the cool, dark basement), drop my bookbag and jacket to the side of the desk and eagerly switch it on. I fire up my communication program (Telix, probably?) and quickly start my round of BBS-hopping. I have about two dozen BBSs I call on a daily or every other day basis, another two dozen that I call atleast once every two weeks.

I log into a BBS where I'm a cosys. That means that with the System Operator (the person that has the computer that I'm dialing into), I help run the BBS, answering user questions, moderating newsgroups.. that sort of thing. I quickly read through the messages that are in my mailbox. Man, I hate it when guys hit on me. It's hard to avoid when you're only one of a dozen women on a system with over 200 users. Then again, these same dufuses that see my user profile should be able to subtract. 1984 minus 1975 makes me nine, fellas. I quickly erase them. Morons.

I drop into the board that I manage and start reading, fielding questions about how newbies can get started, welcoming new handles that I don't know. I rarely have to glance over at my list of user names for this system to know it's a new user. I take some pride in that. That I'm a responsible and aware-enough welcoming/newbie cosys to recognize the newer people from the older ones.

I finish my rounds on this board and quickly log off and dial the next one.

Can you believe that I enjoy this?

I lose track of time. My mind doesn't snap away from the machine until my mother calls me for dinner. Seven o'clock. Half hour dinner. Half hour working on homework then another hour or so on the machine. Perhaps two if my father forgets to call me to get to bed.

I am the ghost in the machine.

© Copyright 1999, Eileene Coscolluela