The Freedom of Structure

Everyday, Ponderings

I’m a structure person. Always have been. But recently I’ve noticed that most of my peers are most definitely not. They hate the idea of having structure because it seems more like “restrictions”. They don’t want to adhere to a certain set of rules or a specific schedule. They hate the idea of being tied down, having limited options, being “forced” to do something. Spontaneity is seen as freeing, open-minded, non-commital. You’re more “chill” if you just go with the flow, while structured people are just uptight and rigid.

I agree that too much “structure” can be, well, too much. When I was younger I had crippling anxiety in part because I wanted complete control over the structure of my life. Turns out that just can’t happen. I let my love of structure limit me. Later, during a performance review in college, I was told that I needed to learn to “plan to be spontaneous.” At first this irritated me, but in classic Haley fashion I decided to try. I started training myself to be flexible, to work within a frame that allowed for more movement.

Today, I see freedom in structure. Now that I’ve begun to give up my need for control, I have recognized that spontaneity isn’t always stifled by schedule, but can actually benefit from it. Just as an artist is free to create after mastering the set standards of line, color, and space, or an actor can improvise within the set rules of a particular scene, I find that structure provides a foundation from which to be spontaneous.

In the end, I think we all need to find a balance between the two, which might look different for different people. The main thing is to give yourself a sturdy foundation, something you can tether yourself to, and then trust it enough to take a leap. So that’s what I’m trying to do.

The Hedgehog’s Dilemma

Everyday, Ponderings

I’ve recently discovered my new favorite animal: the hedgehog. I had no clue why I was so drawn to these creatures, so, in classic Haley manner, I decided to do some intense research (via the Wikipedia).

Hedgehogs are adorable little animals that look a lot like miniature porcupines – cute, adorable little porcupines. Just search for hedgehogs on YouTube and you’ll understand their cuteness – especially the one swimming in a bathtub.

They are pretty neat creatures. They are nocturnal and are almost complete insectivores (which means they eat a lot of bugs). They also have sharp quills on their backs that make them look more intimidating than they really are. The spines aren’t poisonous, just sharp and prickly. They have soft underbellies though (which you can see in the hedgehog bathtub video). When threatened or frightened, they roll up into tight balls, causing their spines to point outwards. Sadly, some species are endangered. And that bewilders me, because who really wants to destroy these things?

Despite their inherent cuteness, hedgehogs have a slight problem. They cannot touch each other, even when necessary. When it gets really cold, a group of hedgehogs will try to group together to share each other’s warmth, but, their sharp, spiny backs prevent them from ever touching. And so, they must remain apart.

This concept really disturbed me. And then, I realized why I have a strange fascination with the hedgehog…

I am one.

Schopenhauer and Freud used the hedgehog’s inability to touch to create a social theory called the Hedgehog’s Dilemma. They argued that human intimacy cannot occur without substantial mutual harm. They also use it to explain introversion and isolationism. I use it to explain my fear of relationships.

Since moving away and starting my own life, I’ve discovered a few things about myself. 1.) I can put on an amazingly good show of being confident in myself even though I’m often not, and, 2.) I’m really good at finding everything there is to know about someone without letting them know a single thing about me. In other words, I put up a lot of quills. And no matter how much I want to be close to someone, my quills get in the way. I think I do this because, despite my hard exterior, I have a really soft underbelly and I don’t want to get hurt. That’s why, when threatened, you’ll often find me in a tight, little ball, keeping others out.

And that is what I call, the Haley Dilemma.

And I’m trying to work on that.

Friends Happen.

Everyday, Ponderings

It always amazes me how one meets friends. Sometimes you know the instant you meet that you’ll be thick as thieves. Others times, you’re laughing milk out your noses together and you stop and you think, “I think we’re friends now.” Most times, it just happens. There’s no transition, no growth stage, no schedule. You’re friends and that’s all you need to know.

People say you can’t pick your friends and that’s only partly true. I’ve made a lot of new friends over the past six months. Some, I sought out. Others practically knocked down my door. I think that friendship is a desire to walk through life with someone. You don’t have to have everything in common. You don’t have to be from the same background. You don’t even have to like the same things. You must simply both have the shared desire to help each other grow into better people. And the willingness to get dragged through mud together. Thick, sticky, warm mud.

In the end, God made us to be in community with other people. And this was a lesson that was hard for me to learn. My nature is to hide up in my tower and close myself off to the world. Partly because I don’t like to be vulnerable, but mostly because it’s just easier to be alone. I used to think that I could do it all by myself. I had friends, of course, but I saw them as accessories, like something you were supposed to have. Now I know that they are something we, as humans, need.

Throughout my life, I’ve had friends come and go. There have been fights and misunderstandings and laughs and embarrassing homemade videos. Although some friendships ended in heartbreak and despair, I choose to believe that I’ve learned something from every one of them, whether that be about relationships in general or about myself. Really, I think friendships, true friendships, are God’s way of showing us glimpses of himself.

The Only One

Everyday, Ponderings

Let’s be honest. I’m a bit odd. And I say this without shame, because, well, I like who I am. And if who I am is “odd”, then I’m okay with that. But recently people have been telling me that I’m “strange”, “weird”, or “bizarre”. Again, I’m okay with this, and these statements were meant, I think, as some sort of term of endearment; however, I don’t really know why there has been a sudden surge of people telling me the obvious because I don’t think I’m doing anything different.

I’ve always been a staunch supporter of the “be yourself” camp. I actually made it my life goal as a child to never be “normal”. Growing up, the mere mention of the word “normal” would make me cringe. Since then, I’ve always associated the term with being average – and that’s something I never wanted to be. So I made a point to do my own thing, ignoring trends and fads and even a few important social cues. In true overachiever fashion, I think I’ve fulfilled and exceeded my own expectations. I’d like to say that it was hard, but honestly, it has probably been one of the easiest things I’ve ever done.

At first, in my quest for anti-normalcy, I think I did a lot of things that were silly, like avoid fashion trends or musicians I might actually have enjoyed merely because they were “in”. I wanted so badly to be “not normal” that I tried too hard to be what I already was (which, as I, and many others, have already established is “odd”). But slowly, I became comfortable expressing myself regardless of what was “in” or “out”, feeling confident in my own skin and becoming unwilling to compromise who I was or who I wanted to be.

So, who am I? I say what I want – often without providing context or explanation. I act goofy when I feel goofy and I act serious when I feel like being serious. I refuse to let social norms restrict me and often look ridiculous for doing so. I am awkward in almost all situations and I revel in them. I seek experiences that push me out of my comfort zone. I willingly sacrifice my own feelings, wants, and desires for the benefit and betterment of the common good. I value rationality, efficiency, and structure. I love being alone, but I force myself to be around people. I love being on stage, but I hate being the center of attention. I like doing dishes, taking standardized tests, conspiracy theories, and writing essays. I’m blunt, silly, off-putting, sincere, honest, clever, proud, stubborn, creative, and, for most of the general population, “weird”.

My whole life I’ve been “odd”, “strange”, “peculiar”, and any other synonym you can throw at me. It’s no secret. I’m pretty obviously different. But why, after almost 23 years, are people suddenly feeling the overwhelming urge to tell me so? Why is my life philosophy so foreign to people?

I can’t be the only one. Am I?

Dear 9-year old me:

Everyday, Lists, Ponderings

Dear 9-year old me,

Right now you are 22 years old and about to graduate from college–congrats! College is great by the way, you really enjoy it. Anyway, on the verge of your jettison into adulthood, I decided to write to you to give you some well-needed advice. Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble. There’s just some things that I think you should know that might have made these past 13 years a little different:

Wear dresses. In a few years you decide that you don’t want to wear anything remotely girly because the little boys won’t want to play with you. That’s just stupid. True, you end up with a bunch of really awesome guy friends in high school, but you miss out on a lot of key girl lessons that prevent you from really understanding girl-kind. Plus, people pick on you in high school for looking like a ragamuffin all the time. Believe it or not, the majority of your wardrobe in college is made up of dresses and skirts. Talk about irony.

Don’t dress your little brother up in dresses. It may be cute now, but you’ll pay for it later when he’s taller and stronger than you. (However, the picture of him in the tutu is still a family favorite so that one’s okay.)

Broccoli is really tasty. I’m serious, it’ll become one of your favorite foods. Actually, a lot of the foods that you think are gross end up being seriously delicious. Except for paté, stay away from that stuff.

Do more musicals. You’re good at them and meet some of your best friends doing them. When you get older you get so busy with other things that there isn’t time to do much theater. Besides, there is just a small window of opportunity to qualify for one of the Von Trapp kids…

Don’t be so shy. I know you don’t like to put yourself out there, but there are a lot of things you’ll miss out on because you’re afraid of making mistakes or what other people will think of you. You are an extremely bright little person with a lot of great ideas so share them. What’s the worse that can happen? I’m not going to tell you but it’s really not that bad.

Surprise! You’re an introvert. That means that you like to think… A LOT. This may not mean anything to you now, but you spend the majority of your youth thinking you’re an extrovert and that’s the reason why you get overwhelmed all the time. Oh, and there’s a difference between being shy and being introverted, so don’t use it as an excuse. It’s rare to find introverts who understand their extreme talents for introspection, so take advantage of it now.

Growing up is more fun than you think. I know you’re afraid of puberty and going to high school and having to act like a grown-up all the time, but you’ll change your mind. Yes, there are days when you miss making mud pies and playing dress up, but there are a lot of things to look forward to, like driving, wearing adult clothes, and getting to see whatever movie you want.

Don’t take your family for granted. I know you love your family now (you always will), but make sure to really cherish the moments you have with them and etch them into your memory. When you get older the memories of the times you are all together will become more valuable than you can imagine. Also, whatever happens, remember that it’s not your fault.

Be 9 years old. You’re just a kid, so try not to put so much pressure on yourself. If you’re not careful, you’ll spend your high school and early college years with an anxiety disorder because you think it’s up to you to keep the world turning. It’s not up to you to keep Mom and Dad happy or the family together or your friends from failing–that’s not your job and it will never be. Also, your future career doesn’t care what your GPA is, so you won’t need to worry about that too much.

Learn to love yourself. You try so hard to be perfect for everyone else that you forget to be the person God made you to be. Yes, you’re awkward, and no, that doesn’t go away, but you find friends who love you for it and wouldn’t change you for a thing. God will use your crazy ability to blurt out random facts and your disabling compassion and concern for others to do some truly amazing things. Stop comparing yourself to your sister, everyone else will do it enough for you. You are you. You are nerdy and bad at small-talk and socially-awkward and creative and talented and smart. Just watch out for your sophomore year of high school, because that awkwardness is inevitable and embarrassing…but you’ll live (consider burning all photo evidence, though).

Don’t regret anything. I don’t. You’ve done pretty well for yourself, kid. You got me where I am today and, although there were some cavernous bumps a long the way, I wouldn’t change any of it. You go through a lot in the next 13 years (gathering enough material to fill at least two seasons of an HBO miniseries), but know that you make it out alive and you learn from it all. Just keep doing what you’re doing now and everything will end up working the way God planned it to. God’s plan may not look like something you want to sign off on, but He takes you on an amazing ride that will change you for the better. He seems to know what He is doing.

Sincerely,

Me

A Point on the Exclamation Point.

Everyday, Inventions, Ponderings

I wanted to create an abbreviation for “exclamation point”. It is far too long of a phrase to be useful in spoken word. The written form only requires two movements of your pen-laden hand so why must it be such a clunky thing to say? In my quest to create a proper short-mouth version (the verbal form of short-hand — see, I’m making up words already!) I discovered that one already exists: “excl”. This discovery actually irritated me, partly because someone had sought to solve this problem before me, partly because it is an ugly thing to say, and mostly because it looks too much like Microsoft Excel. It’s supposed to be pronounced /eks’kl/ or, for those of us who were never properly taught how to read pronunciation notes, “ex-cla”, which makes perfect sense. Why didn’t I think of that!?

On to my next quest: to find a way to use hand gestures to represent the excl. A la “air quotes”… Please enjoy the following.

The Air-Excl (or question mark?)

Q&A

Everyday, Ponderings
Q: Haley will you miss college after you graduate? Or are you ready to be done?

A: I’m ready to be done. I don’t think I’ll miss college in itself, I think I’ll miss the learning environment. Once I get a job, extra learning will have to be self-reinforced and done on the side which will be hard and time consuming. I would love to be a permanent academic. I love learning and feeling intellectually challenged and stimulated.  However, I’m ready to have my own apartment and “free time” – and yes, it’s amazing that I’ll have more free time after school. I want to be able to cook my own food and put nails in my walls and have furniture that isn’t designed for a dorm. I want to be able to finally commit to leading a junior-high Bible study. I want to only work ONE full-time job and have quiet hours all the time. I want my career to depend on my success as an artist and not on a grade. I am ready to get out into the real ad world and make some great work – work that truly rewards the consumer and treats them like a cohort, making them feel like they have personally benefitted from the campaign. Sure, I’ll miss the dorm life, the unlimited food, the companionship, the creative freedom, the relationships. But I’m ready to be done. I’m ready to make a difference and affect something other than my own future. I want to do something bigger than this campus and bigger than myself.
It may sound corny, but I want to change the world.

Hair in your mouth.

Everyday, Ponderings

This weekend, I went to the Deep Ellum Arts Festival this weekend – as I do every year. Walking down the street passed art booths and food stands, I was taken aback by a building on the street. There were no markings on it and the only reason that I knew that there was something going on behind its doors was the red carpet that lined the sidewalk and two long-haired men dressed in coattails and carrying elegant walking sticks who guarded the door and a sign that read “By invitation only”. So what do I do? I google it of course. I discovered that the venue is called Quixotica and is a “magikal” event space whose goal is “to entertain, give good feeling of positive energy and a sense of childlike mischievous adventure”. Thrilled by this most interesting find, I delved deeper into the magikal realm that was their website and discovered my newest passion – to be a hair poet. The good people at Quixotic provide a definition of this most elegant craft as follows:

Hair Poet (noun)

A man or woman who expresses his poetry through his hair, as well as on paper. A hair poet will have poetic hair. He may communicate with others through his hair. He cuts, sculpts his own hair. His hair may portray his joy, his sadness, possibly his confusion. A hair poet is most of all, quite a character. (also not in the dictionary)

Despite the clarity with which they so eloquently wrote this description, I am still at a loss as to what exactly a hair poet is. Is poetry about hair really so popular. Let the search begin!

A Private Prayer

Ponderings, Random

I do a lot of praying in bathrooms. I just always find that the only time I have to be truly alone is when I’m in a bathroom stall. That’s when I finally have time to think, think and pray. Surrounded by four sturdy walls (metaphorically, since they are usually quite flimsy literally), I can finally seek solace from the noise of the day and slow down the circus in my head. No errands to run, no paper to write, nobody bothering you – that is, until the worst happens: you are forced to engage in a stall-to-stall bathroom conversation.

I’m not talking about the ever common “pass the toilet paper” exchange that is a necessary evil in the world of public hygiene practices. No, I mean the unsolicited (and usually meaningless) chatter that occurs between two unfamiliar people in a public bathroom facility. Now, I know everyone has experienced this phenomenon at least once in their life. You’re sitting there (or standing for the men out there), minding your own business, then, out of the blue, the person next to you gets the crazy idea that it would be a wonderfully opportune moment to talk to you. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, they just have the sudden urge to shoot the breeze. Do they know you? No. You they have a reason to know you? Not unless they enjoy meeting people whom they’ll never see again. Do you want to know them? Most certainly not. Although, under normal human circumstances such as an office party, luncheon, or park outing, you might enjoy meeting said individual, all that potential desire is deemed moot once you enter a public bathroom stall.

Of course, you go along with the conversation. We always feel the need to be polite and respond, despite the complete lack of politeness on the part of the initiator. So you painfully endure this human interaction that breaks through the private barriers of your public stall. No longer is it safe. No longer are you alone. You now share it with a detached voice that penetrates the walls and fills the space around you.

I often pray a lot in bathrooms. Most of the time, I pray that no one talks to me.

Pick a side.

Ponderings

If Time was really on our side, why are we always racing against the clock?