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.

An Introvert’s Perspective (In Graphs)

Everyday

I spent most of my life thinking I was an extrovert. Perhaps it because of the years I spent doing theater or tagging around with my very extroverted twin sister, but I was thoroughly convinced I was one of the most extroverted people around. Boy, was I wrong. It wasn’t until college that I made the discovery that I was introverted. This realization led to a miniature identity crisis during which I had to battle my own negative perceptions of introverts, embrace my introverted ways, and learn how to live in a life I had built with extroverted bricks.

So what makes an introvert an introvert? Introverts aren’t all that much different from extroverts. We just get our energy in different ways. Extroverts are fueled by spending time with other people. Introverts are fueled by spending time alone.

photo (1)Some things to remember about introverts is that they like to talk (Introvert Myth #1: Busted), but they prefer talking with small groups rather than in large groups. We won’t typically offer up information about ourselves, but that’s not because we’re antisocial (Introvert Myth #2: Busted), we just need to be asked. We also like to do crazy, awesome, borderline dangerous things (Introvert Myth #3: Busted), but might need a day (or two) to recharge afterward.

One of the things that made me realize I was, in fact, introverted, was when I thought about what I liked to do for fun (things that didn’t drain me of energy).

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But my life tends to require a lot of extraversion. So I implement a trick I call “faking extraversion.” I simply act like I’m extroverted and go about my activities as such. This comes pretty easy for me since I’m naturally outgoing (Introvert Myth #4: Busted). It works so well that I actually have to convince most people I’m an introvert.

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But this can only go on for so long. Like most introverts, I have a limited reserve of social energy (“fake extraversion”) and I run out of it eventually. If I don’t ration it off properly or give myself time to recharge, I crash. And I crash hard.

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At this point I have to become a temporary hermit and will spend anywhere from a few hours to a whole weekend “recharging.” I call my temporary sanctuary (or recharge station) my “hidey-hole,” and it can be an assortment of set-ups as depicted by the formula below:

imageExample:

Tea + Blanket + A Good Book + My Apartment = Perfect Hidey-Hole
Hoodie + Socks + Movie + Dark Movie Theater = Perfect Hidey-Hole
Hot Meal + Sofa + Board Game + Boyfriend’s Apartment = Perfect Hidey-Hole

There’s a lot of stuff going around the interwebs about how amazing introverts are and how people should treat introverts better, on and on ad nauseam. And although I agree that our society’s standards should change to be more understanding of the benefits of introversion, I don’t think that introverts are any better than extroverts. We have different strengths and weaknesses, different preferences and different pet peeve’s. Some of the best teams come from mixing extroverts and an introverts – like my sister and I. Ultimately, introverts are just people who need time to observe, reflect, and introspect. And I’m proud to call myself one of them.

 

 

 

 

Doing Things For Me

Everyday

If you have spent at least five minutes with me then you’ve heard me say “I’m a words of affirmation person.” If I haven’t said it to you yet, just give me another five minutes.

You see, I’m very big on personality assessments and understanding myself better so I can better understand others. So it was a revelation for me when I took the Love Languages test and discovered that the number one way I receive affirmation is through words. I crave sincere words of gratitude, praise, or affirmation. This doesn’t mean I beg for compliments. It just means that I am motivated and feel loved when people verbally affirm me.

This is great in a lot of ways because I am easily motivated by notes of encouragement and little things like being told by a teacher that they think I’m smart or the “chips” affirmation program at my office. But it is also a big reason that I am a Pathological People Pleaser.

People Pleasing is basically constructing your life around what others think. Although I am very independent and don’t really care what people think about my personality, I can care so much about what others think of my competence, intelligence, achievements, or niceness that I am often paralyzed by even the possibility of receiving negative words – or no words at all. But I want to change that. And I know where to start.

Last year, I had moderate success with my Daily Doodle. I got lots of compliments and “likes” and requests. So I began to shape my doodles around what I thought people would like to see. Obviously, the words of affirmation I received grew. That isn’t inherently bad. It’s a smart way to generate content. But now I’m working on my 2014 project: a 365-sentence story created by writing one sentence a day for a year. And you know what? It’s not always the most interesting to read. It can be slow for people who are used to constant information – or who like to read stories more than a sentence at a time. I’ve also discovered that a sentence isn’t as fun to look at as a doodle. Am I right?

So for the past five months I have struggled with contributing to a project with almost no words of affirmation accompanying it (Note: I am truly thankful for my friends who are following along!). But then I realized something important. Like this blog, I didn’t start this project to get attention or get famous or have people hang on my every word. I started it because I wanted to stretch myself as a writer. I wanted to see if I could create a full story with living characters while being shackled with intense time and creative restrictions. I wanted to test my patience.

I’ve decided to stop caring about what people think. My story could be the worst story in the history of stories, but as long as I complete it I will consider it a success. I’m doing it for me, and that’s all that should matter.

Then what does that make me?

Poetry

I may not think the way you do,

Or share a similar world view,

I suck at basic social cues,

But I’m a person, too.

 

I may not laugh out loud at jokes,

Or be a fan of cooked egg yolks,

I am obsessed with Diet Cokes,

But I’m a person, too.

 

I may not always sing on key,

Or like to go on shopping sprees,

I might be terrified of bees,

But I’m a person, too.

 

I may not always keep my cool,

Or say I’ve ever “hated” school,

And every time I sleep, I drool,

But I’m a person, too.

 

I may not have the perfect smile,

Or have the most impressive style,

I would not walk 500 miles,

But I’m a person, too.

 

I may not be the type to cry,

Or one to look you in the eyes,

Emotions tend to make me shy,

But I’m a person, too.

 

I may over-think a lot,

And question everything I’ve got,

But whether you like it or not,

I’m still a person, too.

 

Are you?

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?