Life of a Dropout
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Life of a Dropout

On Pain

Play the game.

In many ways, my life has been a story about the many shapes of pain.

Understanding the nature of purpose has been fundamental to most of the self-growth and discovery that fueled my life between 13 and 17 years old. Understanding the nature of pain is proving to be the fundamental attribute to fuel my journey of self-realization and actualization for years to come.

All our lives are stories of pain and suffering, or so I think—I’ve never lived another life.

Pain has many shapes, and it is pervasive and foundational to how we lead our lives, both in the day to day and the big picture. We all want to avoid pain, and we all despise being in pain, but we also become accustomed and safe under some types of pain. I have come to believe that pain is something similar to the Microwave Background Radiation, or the idea of space-time fabric. So pervasive and fundamental, inescapable even when it seems to not be there. Lurking in the background, as a backdrop to all thought and action. I’ve never known a life without pain, and I wouldn’t know one. Life and pain are entrenched in a way so fundamental to each other that talking about one becomes impossible without the other. Life is pain, and pain is life, just as pain if lively and living is painful.

There are moments when I think that I doesn't have to be this way, when all the pain that I feel becomes so overwhelming that all else melts into it, when its shine becomes so bright, I become pain. At other times, I see pain as a component of life that simply repels and attracts, setting incentives to the game of life, but without being life. Other times I am to tired to think of pain beyond the pain I happen to feel. I have always been very axiomatic, and understanding pain becomes a mechanism for me to cope with it, but it doesn’t make it go away.

A challenge to analyzing the nature of pain is arises from the simple facts that (1) feeling pain is so much different than remembering pain, and (2) thinking during pain and about pain is clouded by pain itself as well as other emotions. I would take all this analyses as they are, a representation of my Emothuoghts, which is to say emotion-thoughts.

The way I came to think of pain as the ultimate fluid behind the dynamics of behavior began when I thought of loneliness. I discovered, about 14 months ago, how much of my behavior was strongly influenced by minimizing loneliness, and not by going with the most rational or convenient option. I then began thinking about how this was probably common but strongly the case for me due to my history. I realized that there was a deeper reason. I don’t just hate being alone, I hate being alone because—and to the extent in which—it is causes me pain.

It should be easy to reach that conclusion when thinking in a common edge-situation, like being with someone we dislike. We probably prefer loneliness to bad company, because momentary bad company is even more painful than momentary loneliness—this changes when time is prolonged enough, but in the end it is a story of pain.

Another point to elaborate, is the definition of pain. Words work well in this case, but one needs a string of them. Pain is pain, but so is discomfort, suffering, tension, dissonance, irritation. Those are all shades and forms of pain. Pain fills any reservoir that can contain emotion, and expands and contracts in order to fill it and exert pressure on it. Our minds are steam machines that run on pain.

When filled with pain, I often think about writing a letter to pain—this story being the closest thing to it I’ve ever done. I am still unsure what kind of letter that would be. A love letter comes to mind, a melancholic one perhaps. A hateful one? Doubtful. All our lives are stories of pain and suffering, and our relationships to it are destined to be bittersweet and contradictory. I love pain, even if it pains me.

Pain makes us who we are.

My life has been shaped by pain as much as it has been shaped by anything. All achievements of my life have a direct link to pain, both as causes of and ways to cope and avoid it. All pivotal moments and stages are and have been so because I learned something about pain and how it affects me. I still fear pain, and I will do when I’m 64. The things I most desire and most despise are symmetric through the line of pain, and so am I.

Pain is in and behind everything we do

Pain is gravitational and magnetic. It draws things towards it, attracts others, and repels yet others. It sets an incentives system, written in fluid; the water below the floating chessboard. When we feel pain and we fear pain, we feel eerily similar things. We generally dislike it, and go away from it.

Some pains make us feel safe

But pain is not always so simple, because our like/dislike of it is independent to our get-near/get-away from it. This is best exemplified by the types of pains and dysfunctions we experiences as kids, that although probably distasteful are in the end familiar, and comforting in some fashion. We are often hurting by things we do—as well as hurt others—yet we come back to them, again and again, just to feel the type of pain mamma made for breakfast.

Pain is symbolic

Aiding and in many ways causing pain to be a complex system lies the fact that our approach to pain profoundly symbolic. That is, pain exists to us beyond how it does in the realer world. That is to say, that pain can stem from things that are not painful in and on themselves, like a memory, a pattern of weather or speech, or the mere anticipation of pain. And beyond this, (symbols can be painful), pain can become entangled with emotions and events in such a way that new shapes of pain can be created, feeling pain again under similar circumstances or at all, can bring even more pain, and conjugate different types of pain, turning pain itself into not only a symbol, but a symbolic system.

Some pains we would do everything to get away from

Some shapes or shades of pain are symbolic in such a way, for instance, that feeling them can be unfathomable and paralyzing. Those types of pain can make life seem unbearable, and even eclipse life completely for stretches of time. Some pains are so painful, that they kick in thought processes so primitive they can make us act in ways impossible to rationalize, yet fully rational in their domain.

Pain can wipe life from meaning

These pains, can make all life seem meaningless, and make themselves appear to be of higher order than life itself. Under some pains the basic mental functions necessary to process meaning are lost, and as such all becomes meaningless. There are pains under which all else, is simply more pain, simply because one couldn’t see beyond said pain.

Pain makes life meaningful

In a more general way, pain also makes meaning deeper, and one could even say, possible. Most other feelings and emotions are defined in terms of pain, for it is the emotion bridged strongest to our biology; the most carnal thing to be felt. Pain means life is there—and viceversa—, for there is a struggle to struggle.

Pain is pain

Lastly, and easy to forget, is that pain is just pain. This statement at first appears to be meaningless, but the thing with pain, as with most things, is that we like to make it more complicated not only than it is, but than it needs to be. The biggest discovery I have made about pain, is that in the end, it is just pain, and most importantly, it just is pain.

I have desired to kill myself many times. I have desired to live forever plenty others. Both these extremes, and everything else, has always been a story of pain.

I am still discovering and understanding pain and my relationship to it, and through it, I can relate to how life is lived. Studying pain within ourselves, I have come to realize, is like studying atomic physics within the universe. Pain is still with me, and forever will be, but although the conversation of who controls who is meaningless, the one of what I do when I do things is not. I hope not to die, for there is still so much to understand, about pain and things in the world.

Lastly, pain is about symmetry, and just as I mentioned how we are within ourselves symmetric through pain, and how our most beloved desires and our most despised fear are also symmetric between them through pain, I think what we seen in the world, and how the world is seen within us, is symmetric through pain. This last symmetry means all, at least for me, that pains needs to mean. Both so esoteric and trivial. It pains me, my life and this splinter.

I wish to, in time, turn this symbolic and empirical analysis of pain into something a bit less in-the-air, but for now I am thankful to think of pain, still.




I am dropping out of High School just one year off graduation. How’s that?

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Felipe Acosta

Felipe Acosta

Writing stories; code, literature.

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