Don’t blame me, blame my brain
I think I’m having a mental breakdown.
It took me a while to figure it out. At first, I attributed it to hazing. That seems to be going around. Quickly, however, I realized that my sorority hadn’t given me free breakfast in a while, so I probably wasn’t being hazed (Nothing f***s a kid up more than complimentary bagels). What else could possibly be wrong?
It was on the way to my class in the god-forsaken place they call Gross Chem that I finally realized what was wrong with me. I was late because it’s an evolution class and, being the backwards Southerner that I am, I would consider perfect attendance the equivalent of a satanic ritual. It was then that I walked through a flock of birds—pigeons or peacocks or turkeys or something (I’m bad at birds)—and noticed that some of the birds reacted differently to me than others did. Some flew away, some of the obviously stupid birds didn’t even seem to notice.
Then I realized something. Birds are conscious of things, and they react differently than other birds to the same situation! Birds have personalities! It was this extreme and unprompted over-analysis of birds that firstly, spurred a day-long spree of vegetarianism (In which I ate beef from Panda, which I refuse to believe counts as meat) and secondly, made me realize what had been causing all my problems: neuroscience.
No, I don’t mean chemicals in my brain or whatever that word actually means (if I had to define it, I’m fairly certain it’s German for “a whale’s vagina”). I’m currently in Duke’s introductory neuroscience course. I signed up for this course because I have been trying to get a Program II in Ninja Studies, and I figured that knowing the parts of the brain might aid me in the silent murder of my victims. But it has been mindf***ing me in ways I would have never dreamed possible.
For those of you who don’t know, we humans and most other organisms (most mammals, some invertebrates and all plants) have brains. And that thing is really super important. It runs on a system of pulleys and levers, and it basically governs anything and everything that you do.
It explains everything! If your brain is in charge, the same forces that created your brain probably created everybody else’s (said forces are likely power generated by Jesus riding a stationary bike. Again, I’m Southern). So maybe THAT’S why everyone on Duke’s campus wears the same stupid salmon-colored shorts. And why people think Pitbull is a musician. Or why I inevitably see only girls lined up at the LoYo truck (I took a picture one time. The flash went off. It was a glorious amount of awkward.)
But I don’t wear salmon pants. I think LoYo is meh, and Pitbull makes me want to claw out my eardrums with a backscratcher. What could be the source of my (for some reason super trendy) nonconformity? There is only one explanation: There is something wrong with my brain.
I quickly determined that the location of my brain damage is in my frontal lobe—where my personality is. More specifically, I seem to have damage in the areas that prevent obsessions with dinosaurs and “Star Wars,” and in the place that gives you control over the volume of your voice (people called me Megaphone Mouth when I was little. It was hurtful). I obviously have impulse control issues, judging from how lightly I take the societal pressure to wear pants and the number of times I’ve eaten chicken salad out of the vending machines in the Link (which may actually be contributing to my brain problems, come to think of it).
WAIT WAIT WAIT. If these actions are all coming from my brain, am I not in control of my behavior?! Some weird lump of grey s*** has more say over what I do than I do? AM I A LUMP OF GREY S---?! OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD.
You know what? No. I’ve gone past the “freak out” stage of grief and straight into “defiance.” Whether or not it’s just because I have chemical reactions within chemical reactions forcing my decisions (REACTIONCEPTION), I have some kind of autonomy over what I do. I don’t think people can be summed up in a series of reactions. And if they can, I think it’s about as likely that I’ll understand my own cognition as it is that a nematode would understand my orgo lab TA. Or hell, that anyone would understand my orgo lab TA. In fact, the fact that I might not have free will keeps things interesting. And if I don’t have free will, that can’t be all that bad. When I fail neuroscience because it freaks me out so much, I CAN BLAME MY BRAIN as if it’s a separate entity! I think I’m going to use that excuse from now on—as long as my brain lets me.
Lillie Reed is a Trinity sophomore. Her installation of the weekly Socialites column runs on alternate Wednesdays. Follow Lillie on Twitter @LillieReed