*Mira, i want to resolve this year to be more compassionate toward people that annoy me, but i’m forced to be around anyway. is it wrong to force kindness out of myself, even if that kindness is fake?
Being nice to other people I am forced to be around, even people who annoy me a lot, has always made me feel less bad about myself in the long term than doing the opposite. I have mimicked other's bad behavior in the past because I felt hurt/bothered/[etc] and it has only ended in me feeling embarrassed and shitty about myself.
However, if someone you know is doing something that bothers you, and you have a concrete and reasonable solution to it that benefits both parties (or at least doesn't harm anyone) then I would absolutely recommend saying something about it.
Neither of those options seem like 'forced kindness' to me. It’s only forced if you don’t feel earnest. Acting in a way that does not cause problems because you don't want to cause problems seems earnest and fine.
*Mira, would you recommend resolutions focusing on specific qualitative terms, like treating people better or improving your grades, or resolutions which attempt to reach that kind of goal through quantitative approaches like spending less time online or meditating more often?
In my experience, it has been more helpful to have resolutions with a more quantitative approach, like 'cutting back on meat' or 'doing less drugs' or 'not being in a relationship for a while'. That being said, sometimes the 'cold turkey' approach is the best/only way to fix something that is perceived as a problem.
For example, when I first moved to New York last December, I entered into a relationship that I have described to my friends and family as a 'death spiral'. The relationship essentially consisted of looking for drugs, finding drugs, doing drugs and having extremely violent sex. During the span of this relationship, I did more drugs than at any other time in my life. That’s not to say that my drug consumption was the fault of the person I was dating. My drug consumption was, and continues to be, nobody's fault but my own.
After a few months of experimenting with drugs in various combinations from various dealers all over the city, we eventually found a few reliable dealers. One of which, was a young man located in East Harlem named James.
James lived next door to my ex's apartment. He sold crack in tiny, difficult to open blue baggies for $10 each. In retrospect I think he was over-charging us because we were two nervous white kids who had never bought crack before.
Up to this point I had always felt relatively in control of my drug use. I had never felt like a 'drug fiend'. Crack was different though.
The peak of the crack high happens immediately as you inhale, and starts to wear off as soon as you exhale. The first inhale is one of the best feelings I've ever experienced. I imagine smoking crack to be the same level of satisfaction as eating a cheeseburger after being stranded on a desert island with no food for over a week.
The come down was truly a nightmare. My ex always explained it as like in those Wile E. Coyote cartoons, when The Road Runner chases Wile E. Coyote off a cliff, and for a second he doesn't realize he is off the cliff, so he is running in mid-air and only falls when he looks down and realizes he already ran off the cliff. Becoming aware that no amount of crack will make you feel as good as the first inhale is like being off the cliff. For a while, you will do literally anything for more crack in a desperate attempt to feel it again, and you will truly believe that you can achieve that same high. Any attempt at logical thought goes out the window and you become willing to spend every penny in your bank account or use your laundry quarters to buy more crack (I have done both of those things).
Being completely out of crack is one of the most devastating feelings I've ever experienced.
At some point I 'resolved' to 'never smoke crack again', which ended in me smoking crack again. Multiple times. I was smoking crack ~3-4 times per week for 4 or 5 months. There were a lot of mornings when I would wake up to my ex frantically pacing around his apartment looking for the crack pipe, then throwing it away in a fit of nervous despair, which only ended in us buying another crack pipe.
Eventually I realized that crack wasn't fun for me anymore and I guess my ex realized the same thing and we stopped without thinking about it too much.
(*DISCLAIMER* I still do drugs. Just not crack. I will always look back fondly at my time with crack cocaine.)
Another time, or rather, multiple times, I resolved to stop having sex with the person I was smoking crack with because he was lying to me and making me feel bad about myself. He treated me poorly, he treated other people poorly and he enabled me to act in ways that are embarrassing and shitty, in retrospect.
Each time I tried to break up with him, I would tell myself things like 'I can still talk to him' or 'we can still be friends' which always ended in the relationship continuing the way it was, and me continuing to feel bad about myself. The only way I was able to get out of the relationship and stop allowing his actions to affect me emotionally was by cutting that person out of my life completely, which was incredibly difficult, to the point where I had to block his email address and phone number. I did this partially to stop him from contacting me, but mostly to stop myself from contacting him because I didn't have the self-control otherwise. Not talking to him made me feel like shit, but in retrospect, 'going cold turkey' and completely disassociating from him was the only way for me to actually 'move on' and feel okay again.
I think what I just said insinuates that I somehow simultaneously do and don't recommend having concrete resolutions. What I mean to say is that you can't do anything unless you resolve to do it, but also if you hold yourself to an unreasonable standard then you will just feel upset at yourself for not being able to commit to your idea of self improvement.
In the context of your question, I don't think it matters whether you focus on resolutions in qualitative terms or quantitative terms. What matters is that you only resolve to do things that you are capable of achieving.
*Mira, I want to socialize more in the next year, the thing is just that I always hate myself when I'm doing dull smalltalk or laughing at jokes that I don't view as particularly funny. I view my behavior as disingenuous in those situations, even if it may communicate my desires (connecting with other people) more clearly than just sitting still and staring (which I usually do and which feels much more pleasant and peaceful to me).
I recommend drugs and alcohol. Not weed though. Weed will probably make your problem worse.
*Mira, i’ve noticed more and more in myself that the only people i’m sexually attracted to are also people i have an unhealthy obsession toward. how do i fix this, or does this even need fixing? should i resolve this year to have as much meaningless sex as possible?
This is an issue a lot of people I know, including myself, seem concerned with. The more I think about it though, the more I wonder whether or not that is necessarily 'unhealthy'.
Like, for example, say you were obsessed with someone you were having sex with, and they were equally obsessed with you, then it would just be a balanced power dynamic. Or say, you were completely romantically uninterested in the person you were having sex with, and they felt the same about you, then you could just have sex with no romantic obligation and that would also be fine.
Obviously in real life, or at least in my experience, relationships where both people are completely obsessed with each other and relationships where both people are completely romantically uninterested in each other never stay that way. It almost always ends in an imbalance of feelings (i.e. one person is more invested than the other). Emotional extremes like that seem very hard, if not impossible to maintain in a relationship over an extended period of time.
The most successful relationships I've had I might also describe as 'boring' at the onset, to some degree. By that I mean that they don't begin with intense and unsubstantiated emotions that may or may not be reciprocated. They begin slowly by learning more about a person and developing interest in them over time. This way, the relationship becomes based on liking the person because you know things about them and interacting with them makes you feel less alone, instead of some out-of-control feeling of being 'obsessed' without knowing very much about them.
It seems likely to me that your 'unhealthy obsessions' are you projecting a desire to feel strongly about a person onto someone who you don't actually feel strongly about. If you feel immediate, overblown feelings towards a person in the future, and you view those feelings as unhealthy or unreciprocated, I would recommend maybe trying to figure out whether you actually like the person, or if it is just a misplaced desire to feel strongly about somebody.
So, would I advise that you have as much meaningless sex as possible this year? Maybe. Having meaningless sex tends to be my default way to attempt to deal with any given problem in my life. People have told me (many times) that having meaningless sex with a large variety of people doesn't help anything and will only make most issues worse, and maybe they're right. Emotionless sex can be extremely unfulfilling and depressing and I doubt it will solve your problem but I am not gonna tell you that I don't recommend it. I've had a great time with meaningless sex. You just have to make sure it’s actually meaningless otherwise you're completely fucked (literally and figuratively).
What I would recommend more than anything else is to discern what kind of relationship you want with a specific person, then act in a manner that makes your intentions clear. If you want to have meaningless sex with someone, then don't tell them you love them. If you want to be in a relationship with someone because you like them enough that the idea of them having sex with someone else hurts you, then tell them that. And, if they don't want the kind of relationship that you want, don't compromise.
*Mira, i have often been told that i don't express my feelings enough to people i care about. should i resolve to be more emotionally vulnerable?
Jesus Christ. No. Take all those feelings you have and shove them deep, deep inside of you. Somewhere nobody can find them. Forget about them completely. Then, allow them to resurface years later as some more manageable emotion like anger or bitterness or severe depression.
To send Mira a question, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit anonymously through Submittable. "Ask Mira" will be a regular Hobart column, published twice monthly, whenever we/she feel like it (but usually on Mondays).