The Pleasure in Chaos

It took me years to realize that being in a chaotic environment comforted me.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I used to think that I was a quiet child. I felt this way because I became an even quieter teenager. But the more I think about it, the more I remember all those times my loud mouth got me into trouble. I was an only child back then, and I had no one to talk to at home. Everything interesting was saved for school, and at school, I would keep blabbing until I lost my voice—four times one year.

I quieted down after third grade when my classes grew louder. I always preferred listening to everyone around me argue, laugh, and beat each other up over nonsense that I would never care about; it was like watching downgraded reality TV on a kids’ channel. Everything good was censored, and the best parts were always the flashiest.

I had one of the best classes in the fourth grade. The girls and boys acted alike, and my class slowly turned from the gifted program into a giant Asian gang that loved teaming up on our substitute teachers. This one substitute teacher, Ms. Horse, was old and nearly blind. She brought in a wooden board with all the months engraved in white and encouraged us to recite the months in French with her. When no one batted an eye, she got up to the blackboard, plucked a shard of chalk from the ground, and scratched out some letters shakily. Ms. Horse couldn’t write without turning her back on us, which nudged the masterminds of my class into action. The three lightest boys leapt up onto their desks and began making faces of mockery. A dozen of the others made play gun symbols and stood up, gently pushing their chairs behind them without a squeak. Everyone laughed silently, one girl beside me even falling out of her chair. But the teacher turned back around too late, for all the mischievous students had already returned to their seats, aimlessly twirling their pencils as if nothing ever happened.

I treasured every moment I spent with this class. They were never too serious, rowdy, boring, or exciting. The loud classes I had before always annoyed me, but this class felt balanced. And when I moved to another country in 2018 with different people, I did not look for new friends and instead looked for people who resembled my old friends—other puzzle pieces I could rearrange to fit into the picture I had before.

These standards I held for my peers prevented me from making new friends in the eighth grade. I lost my will to socialize and began stalking my old classmates through their instagrams, attempting to reconnect with what I had already lost. I got anxious and disturbed by everyone around me until I met two people I had never seen before.

I was louder and more reckless around them. Everytime they listened to me, they seemed happy, making me realize that I didn’t need replicas of my old friends. I couldn’t survive on a dormant friendship with these two with no drama; my attention span is rather small. I need that spark, a little flame to kickstart an entire fire, to quench my thirst for excitement.

I’m still in the process of finding friends at Stuyvesant. I learned that it’s supposed to be a difficult process that could take months, years, or sometimes just a sudden chance. I’m still getting over the mindset that in order to feel comfortable, I have to be surrounded by people I’m used to seeing. Life feels more beautiful when you open your eyes wide and look around: the bell ringing, doors swinging open, the teens all storming down the halls, and the occasionally locker slamming shut—and the chatter all make up this crazy symphony that shape shifts every day. It’s not just disorder, overpopulation, or chaos. It’s real life.

I’d be insane if I lived a quiet life. That quaint and natural life that so many of my old friends dreamed about is nightmarish. I can’t imagine walking through the night without the buzzing chatter and jeering cars. Those moments are when the ghosts of the past come about, whispering and creating trivial thoughts that terrify me. When there’s nothing else to criticize, I can’t stop thinking about all the dumb things I’ve done in the past: asking my Girl Guide leader if her baby was dead, throwing a pinecone and turning my brother’s eyelid green, dropping the Pepsi bottle during my Shakespeare rendition of “Much Ado About Nothing,” and attending my middle school graduation. I didn’t blame the thousands of people who didn’t clap when I got my diploma, because who would cheer for someone they’ve never seen? Only Canadians do that. Unconsciously digging up buried bones prevents me from getting over anything.

I’ve noticed that whenever the room gets quiet, I feel the urge to say something dumb. Just something that would provoke a reaction, a conversation of some sort. It's nerve-wracking to be around people who like to stare and watch for something loud to happen. I used to want to be that person—the witness, the grey area, the spectator—long ago, back when I was happy to sit in silence. But those dancing thoughts of falling back into my past mistakes morphed into something that drove me crazy, making the thumping of my heart louder and louder until I despised the noise. I’d choose the crowded halls, scraping limbs, and shrieks of laughter over that any day.