Stand Partners & Drift Compatibility

“Drifting” is a notion from the 2013 movie Pacific Rim. In the movie, the world is under attack by giant godzilla-inspired monsters, called kaiju, from another dimension. The most effective way to combat these  proves to be the construction and operation of massive robotics called jaegers. These mechs are controlled via neural uplink to two or more pilots within the body of the robot – the neural stress proved too much for one pilot alone. These pilots have to mentally synchronize with each other to operate one mech fluidly and effectively. This synchronization is referred to as “drifting,” or “the drift.”

The Pacific Rim wiki contributes the following:

“The process of Drifting is a type of Mind Meld[4] that requires the pilots to share memories, instinct and emotions. Drifting allows them to act as one and control the very movement of the Jaeger itself, one pilot controlling the “right hemisphere”, the other the “left hemisphere”. Rangers who pilot on the right side of the Jaeger are considered the dominant pilot.”

This process results in subtle impressions of personality traits transferred from one pilot to their partner, and a muted ghost of the drifting effect remains even after they leave the jaeger behind.

This is all very fun and juicy for a whole lot of lovely relationship dynamics and fun AUs taking the concept in all sorts of different emotional directions. But I am taking the time and space to explain all this because for a while I have considered sharing a stand partner for long enough establishes a sort of drift compatibility.

Playing orchestral music with your stand partner is an exercise in mutual contribution and compromise. Particularly when you sit in a front stand, in leadership positions. As I experienced for three years of high school, the assistant concertmaster must defer to the concertmaster in terms of bowing, articulation, and dynamics, just as the right-hemisphere jaeger pilot is considered “dominant”, but when the concertmaster falters, they rely on their co-concertmaster to catch them with the correct rhythm or an established fingering in a difficult technical spot. They learn how to exaggerate together, how to play with abundant and quite unnecessary flourish, or how to play emotionlessly and hunched in, in protest or despair. They establish a rhythm of page turns, of marking their music, of looking at each other when something amusing happens in another section, of exchanging confused and alarmed glances when they get lost.

Justin was my stand partner for three years, and over those three years, we acquired a musical rapport unlike anything else I’ve ever had. There’s just no other way you can get such a high level of instinctive, empathetic intuition in a musical setting with another person. I knew how to follow Justin when he sped way up as a joke, I knew how to glance at him when I messed up, or when he did. I knew when we were about to stop playing to laugh. I knew how to imitate his tone – if we were moving way more than we needed to, sliding around and elongating our vibrato, I had a setting for that, a mode for each of his modes.

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I still channel him, this year now that he’s graduated – my own version of ghost drifting. I play a g major chord at the end of any scale we play to warm up as a class, because he isn’t there to do it. I slide up an octave sometimes, like we might do together, or trill when I feel like it. I channel him in my solos. I channel him in my silent rebellions against the conductor, the way I slouch in my chair sometimes, the way I call out encouragement to other people as they play.

This year, I’ve been concertmaster. Which means that I only follow the conductor, and the other section leaders. It cannot be my responsibility to mold my playing against the shape of my stand partner’s. I have to set the tempo, I have to set dynamics, I have to be bold and confident. I have a responsibility to lead, and to compromise, but in the midst of playing it is their responsibility to follow me.

And so I miss that sensation of having my drift partner alongside me, of being able to read someone else’s signals and surf on the wave of their musicality. All this to say, my music is a collage of impressions from other people. Sometimes I channel Uzuki in my movements and my intensity, sometimes my Dad, often times other players in a present chamber music engagement, but most of all, in orchestra at school, I find myself synchronizing in accordance with Justin’s impression on my music and my memory.

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Sleep Is Important

One might think that this isn’t an argument that requires making, merely supporting with additional scientific discovery, at this point. But apparently, one would be wrong.

This is a response to a certain art teacher, who says certain unhelpful things such as “find the time, find the money, stay up late”, “stay up late, get it done”, and “as they say in college: when you are partying or sleeping, someone else is working.”

I have several issues with this.

  1. Factually, this sort of advice/chastisement is drearily off the mark. Sleep is a basic and essential human need for survival. Sleep is a priority. If you can sleep and still have your other essential needs – food and shelter – the next morning, you need to sleep.
  2. Ideologically, I find this even more grating. If sleep is beneficial, and it is, then no one should be trying to idealize the deprivation of sleep. Point blank, you cannot and should not shame people for looking after themselves. Taking care of yourself is good. Knowing what you need and letting yourself have that is good. Supporting your brain in its need to function is good.
  3. Practically, this is completely ludicrous. Losing sleep is not going to make you a better student, in high school or in college. By staying up to finish one project, you sacrifice much of your cognitive ability, physical and emotional wellness, and energy to address classes and additional work for the following day. Even if you’re trying to prioritize your academic performance over your own health, this is not an effective way to go about it.
  4. Logically, this is the wrong argument to be making. Yes, we high school students do tend to stay up late to finish our work. Situations can vary, and occasionally we do in fact have to. But oftentimes, in the case of my fellow art students and me, we only have to stay up late because our time management skills are abysmal. If you are trying to coach us into being more effective students, you should be targeting our methods of managing our workloads.

A lot of my personal anger at how frequently he delivers such harmful remarks comes from my experience with sleep and sleep deprivation in combination with a major clinical depression. I have learned, through a long journey of self examination, that I Need To Sleep. This is not unusual. Everyone needs to sleep. Everyone feels better and performs better when they are well slept. For me, though, I have learned that the less I sleep, the less I am able to perform basic daily functions such as getting out of bed, performing facial expressions, and sometimes even moving. Not that I have ever been immobile for an entire day just because I didn’t get enough sleep, but exhaustion exacerbates my depression, and my depression likes to give me brief episodes of fairly severe executive dysfunction when it’s provoked.

I know, that for my success in addition to my safety, I need to put sleeping well before anything else I could possibly do. I know that I need a full night of sleep, or else I risk spiraling into a cycle of failure to complete important tasks, consequent self loathing and decreased motivation, and an increased compulsion towards self destructive behaviors. That is my personal experience, but to varying degrees these sorts of consequences are present for all humans. Humans need sleep. Some neurotypical people such as yourself, Mr. Brandhorst, might be able to lose sleep, suffer, and shrug it off, but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone else. Even if it were:

DON’T TELL TEENAGERS

TO LOSE

MORE SLEEP

It’s honestly such a misuse of your authority as a teacher and adult to encourage and enable the devaluing of sleep by teenagers and society as a whole, which is already a huge problem. Teenagers don’t get enough sleep. Teenagers need to get more sleep. Our brains are not fully developed. Even if they were, sleep deprivation causes minor but permanent degrees of brain damage. Furthermore, losing sleep isn’t helpful in any sort of long run. Senior student Emma provides testimony that “literally almost all of my day to day troubles arise from or connect with not sleeping.” The message you spread is detrimental to health, self image, and academic performance as a whole. You cannot pass this one off to society or “just the way it is,” when you bring it up so frequently.

And you say this not as a warning, not as a helpful tip, not in conjunction with any actual advice about managing your time or surviving societal demands, but as simple brute intimidation to a class of overworked, anxious, neurodiverse individuals. I find this unacceptable.

I’m trying to speak logically and objectively, but to be quite honest, this makes me so furious that I could just as easily (and certainly as willingly) fill this long a post with cursing and vitriol. I’ve restrained myself thus far, and yet I will allow myself to conclude this post with the following.

Brandhorst.

Shut the fuck up.

10 Things To Tell

I have a vivid memory of scanning articles in my freshman yearbook and coming upon a list of “10 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Freshman Self”, and as a then freshman myself, I found every item extraneous to my own personal experience, and rather condescending. Things like “your grades matter” or “your work freshman year will impact your GPA as a senior” – things I didn’t need to hear. I was a bit rankled, but decided it wouldn’t be fair to critique the list fully until I was a senior myself.

I’ve been waiting three years to produce an adequately informed list of my own, and now here I go! Dear Freshman Julia:

growth

(Disclaimer: your hair doesn’t actually look quite that cool this year)

  1. You are actually, literally depressed. You’re not imagining it. You’re not making things harder for yourself deliberately, or sabotaging your work ethic to feel “special”, or any of those things you think. Major clinical depression. Have some validation, kid.
  2. Things get harder. And then they get better, and right now they’re harder again. The point is; this too shall pass. Things always have the potential to get better, and you are always growing more equipped to combat the darker times.
  3. You have the most generous, supportive, hard working friends on the entire planet. I know you know you’re lucky, but you haven’t had the experiences I’ve had in order to realize just how lucky. Your friends are there for you and will work hard to make sure you are safe.
  4. You owe it to your friends to do everything you can to support and cater to them. Nothing you can do will even approach what you owe them, but it’s important for you to keep trying. Don’t let them go.
  5. Speaking of things to not let go: your grades. I know how hard you work, and I know how harder it’s about to get for you to maintain that same level of performance. You’ve done me a solid all throughout high school so far – honestly I only have beef with earlier-senior-year me. Point being: you are capable, you are intelligent, and you are driven. Your depression does not change that. Trust yourself.
  6. DON’T TRUST YOURSELF ENOUGH TO TAKE AP FRENCH THOUGH MADAME MONYE IS LYING TO YOU AP FRENCH WILL TEAR YOUR GUTS OUT AND SQUEEZE ANXIETY FROM YOUR LIVER DONT DO IT YOU’LL DIE
  7. Some actual advice here: keep taking therapy at the beginning of 10th grade, that was Rough. Also, there’s nothing wrong in asking for therapy later just because a) you said you thought you were fine earlier or b) your parents haven’t pointed out to you that you’ve been struggling. You know yourself best. No one thinks you’re making anything up. Shhhhhhh.
  8. Right now you’re of the opinion that you’re too young to really date. And I agree with you! But nonetheless, you’re gonna. I don’t even know what to tell you about that. I won’t say that you shouldn’t date Emma, because that is mostly a fun and good time for you and has ended up as well as it could have. No regrets, I guess. But also. Just. Maybe try to be less of a blundering idiot, yknow?
    But hey, here’s a real tip: there’s nothing wrong with kissing someone before you’re 15. It’s okay.
  9. Justin and Uzuki become good friends. You’re already in love with Uzuki, but Justin will become just as important to you in different ways. Treasure them while you still have them with you, please. I don’t have them with me, anymore, and that has been one of the worst parts of being a senior.
  10. You are really, really, really lucky to have the parents that you do. I know you love them as you are, and you’d never want to fight with them, but you still have a lot to learn about how well off you really have it. That’s going to be an upsetting process for you, but it’s worth it to be able to better help other people. Mom and Dad try so hard to help you. Right now, they have it easy. Please don’t take it personally when it gets harder for all of you to make yourself function.

Unnoticed

(This is a writing I found on my computer from a while ago. I thought it was nice enough to share.)

A small child steps onto spongy grass and laughs as wisps of dew paint her bare feet. The laugh is a light cascade that wind snatches and scatters like fragile mist across the lawn. The flowers buffeting in the breeze take no notice, too immersed in their own struggles. The trees are equally unmoved, and remain as stoically apathetic as ever. The child’s laughter goes unnoticed by the world around her, and time moves on without it.

A young girl has learned many things about her voice. She can talk to her friends and talk to herself and talk to even no one at all. The girl is teaching herself how to sing. An abstract, lonely melody twines around her and floats into the trees. The crackling of leaves in a relentless autumn wind smothers her voice before it can reach the sky. The clouds never even knew it was there. The brittle grass pays her no mind. Her song goes unnoticed by the world, and time moves on without it.

A young woman sits hunched against a stone wall, running her fingers compulsively along veins of moss. She is so very tired. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the world. The world blithely forgives her for her discomfort. A bird chirps and the young woman smiles slightly. It is a rare and beautiful sight upon her lips. Smiles are not frequent, when the world has bleached out your laughter and your song. It is all she has left to give, but the world doesn’t bat an eye. The smile goes unnoticed and time leaves it behind.

A woman, not as young, walks briskly down the street and bites her lip as winter nips her cheeks. She doesn’t smile or sing or laugh, just emits a low, anxious hum as she paces, clutching a purse closer to her chest. It would hardly make a difference if she did show signs of beauty, youth, or happiness. The world wouldn’t care. The stars can’t distinguish between fretful humming and joyful tunes, and the stars are so much bigger and more significant in the scheme of things. The woman can see stars peeping out from between clouds, and knows that they can’t see her.

The stars move on and the world moves on and people move on and time leaves the woman behind. The woman is no longer part of the world, and it doesn’t remember that she ever was.

A Troubled Teenager

You clip your briefcase shut with a perfunctory snap – clear-cut, direct, and orderly. The entirety of your adult career could be summarized in that single, routine click of the briefcase clasp. Everything in place, everything succinct. The epitome of a stable lifestyle.

Not everything is as tranquil, you often lament, as the reassuring clack of a briefcase. The insurance workers in the office suite across the floor, for instance – oh, that can get messy. That sort of squabbling, bickering pursuit really isn’t for you, not at all. You stick to your cubicle, with the calendar and the bulletin board and the lap top, the magnets and the pushpins and the sticky notes… Orderly. Beautiful.

You are satisfied; on the continuum of chaos in this life, ranging drastically from insurance to accounting, you are smugly perched in the tier of secretarial realtor work. You live in a world where adventure is the morning spreadsheet, serenity is the air you breathe, and order is inherently woven into the very fabric of your universe. Every sticky note has its reminder, and every coffee cup has its saucer. Even the squeaks and grunts of the elevators making their way to the third floor have a regulated charm to them.

You have always loved working on the third floor. Three, the most stable number, the basis for efficient structural support. It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that there even is a fourth floor.

It’s easy to forget, sometimes, what lurks in office suite 450.

A shiver runs down your spine unprompted, but you shake it off. Briefcase securely latched, held loosely by your side, you nod to your well-groomed coworkers and make your way over to the fogged glass door. Polished black shoes click against the stone floor with every step – further reassurance. The sound is snuffed on the hallway carpet, but even the rustling of high grade suit fabric brushing against itself serves to calm.

The elevator doors open as you step up to them. Out walks a man on his way to the insurance suite. You exchange nods. The lobby button is waiting for you in the elevator. It illuminates with a familiar glow when you press it, a friendly, industrial wink to all the inhabitants of the Mayflower Office Suite Building. 3, 2, L…

The doors open. You take one step, lift your eyes, and –

Oh.

Oh lord.

It’s a girl, a teenage girl. Dulled brown eyes under an unbrushed swathe of dark hair, shoulders slumped under a low-hanging blue backpack, paint-smeared jeans, ratty tennis shoes with holes and dirt splatters of epoxy coating, earbuds trailing out from a loosely clasped fist…

You could’ve smell the adolescence before you’d taken one look. But you were distracted, and now you’re rooted to the spot. She glances up at you, intelligent eyes clouded with lethargy and exhaustion; she’s waiting for you to leave the elevator, you realize, but you’re frozen rigid. Your eyes flicker to the plaques in the lobby, listing the businesses on each floor – you see it now, all too clearly, what you never should’ve allowed yourself to forget – Lena Franklin, Psychiatry, MD. When you look back at the girl, you sense the Teenage Angst rolling off of her in tangible waves, prickling at your skin and raising the hair on the back of your neck. It’s burning at her, you can see it now, piercing every bone in her body.

The longer you look, the more you see it, the harder it is to look away – you see the angst in her, festering underneath her skin like a mottled bruise permeating her entire underdeveloped existence. You see the smoke behind her eyes, the embers smoldering within her skull. Suddenly, you are inclined to doubt that she’s a girl at all – that she is anything, anything at all beside pure, undiluted adolescent suffering.

Your gut lurches and your throat constricts. Ever last shred of tranquility is snatched forcefully from your fingertips as her gaze traps you. You are suffocated by a merciless, unrelenting question:

Has she lived life?

There is an aged quality to those eyes, to the corners of her mouth. There is a depth there that you couldn’t have anticipated, ragged and murky though it may be. How much validation does her suffering merit? How much must one suffer, must one endure to have lived? Does she even have the capacity to qualify as a Person, underneath all the standardized testing and the procrastination and the screams of her comrades?

You are now beginning to realize that they have always been screaming, they have never stopped screaming, not once even since you left high school yourself has the screaming stopped -you can hear it now, from across the park, and oh god, you can’t escape the wretched shrieks. You had blocked it out for so long, warded it off, but your shields are crumbling. The angst is with you now, as present in your world as you are in hers, and the insatiable vines of pain and confusion creep up your mental battlements and tear them ravenously to pieces, laying waste to the marble walls that for so long have obscured from you huge expanses of Hell…

A Hell that burns not with brimstone and demons and lakes of fire, but a dark room, murkily illuminated by shreds of light filtered under doorways, through windows – a prison, and the walls are constricting, closing in on you, crumbling around you – something is there, something waits for you in this pinnacle of torment, you see it in her eyes, you see it in the void opening up before you, something is there-

And suddenly you are running.