You Are Perfect, Just the Way You Are

Over the course of the past sixteen months, I’ve had several people comment that I seem wise for my age. Self-aware, genuine, passionately curious, spiritually attuned, intelligent,  etc. My first response is always a beaming smile and a gracious “thank you”; my first thought is always that I wish I’d have figured out some of these things sooner. I wish someone would have told me that I’m perfect just the way I am. I wish they had developed a way to tell me so that I’d actually have believed it.

I recently wrote a letter to my younger self, with the basic theme,” Stop taking yourself so seriously!” While that certainly still applies, there’s so much more to be said. Life is a maze, growing up is a struggle, finding balance between autonomy and outside advice is a constant challenge, and discovering what you personally believe is admittedly not easy. I see friends venturing down the conventional paths, I hear stories of kids dying before their eighteen birthday, and I desperately long to inject them all with some of the wisdom I’ve gathered up over the course my lifetime. I want to convey the same message that’s been preached for decades, but in a way that people will understand and take seriously.

You’re weird. It’s okay.

Growing up, I was always a bit of a loner. Outside of my siblings and cousins, there was one little neighborhood girl who I hung out with, and another quiet friend at school. I preferred books, jigsaw puzzles, and people-watching over social interactions. I still keep to myself, and I’m perfectly okay with that. I’m at a place where criticism doesn’t bother me. If someone asks why I’m so quiet, I can just throw on a smug grin and shrug my shoulders. Be yourself. Embrace your hobbies, and throw yourself into them. Someday, once you’ve found your niche, people will appreciate you, for all you are. 

I was a scrawny kid. When I hit junior high and high school, I was bombarded with concerns that I wasn’t eating by teachers and peers, while at home my family joked that I was a bottomless pit. For the longest time I was self-conscious and unhappy with my body. Despite the blistering Arizona heat, I wore oversized jeans and sweatshirts year-round. The next stage involved trying to fit in – wearing shorts that only someone my size could pull off, but that no parent should let their child out of the house wearing. At the time, I told myself I was happy with my body, but that was simply an effortful lie. You have control over what you put into your body, and how you care for your body. Beyond that, let go of your worries, and learn to be happy with the beautiful and unique body that you’ve been gifted with. 

All the cool kids are doing drugs, drinking alcohol, dating, having sex, breaking the law. So what? Those are the kids who are going to end up in rehab, brokenhearted, pregnant, without a college education, or in jail. (Not necessarily, but oftentimes sticking to your guns and following the rules is the best option.) If you don’t want to do something, then confidently decline, smile politely, and walk away. It really is that easy, trust me. 

Good, clean fun.

Volunteer. Be humble. Be kind. Realize that you have it better than a lot of people. Be gracious for all that you have. Quit being so angsty. The world doesn’t revolve around you and it never will. Get over it. Help others, because it will ultimately help you. 

Be a good person, stay true to yourself. Authenticity is more appealing that an expensive Starbucks habit, designer bags, or new outfits every day of the week. If you’re a nerd, go all out. If you’re a goofball, spread the laughter any way you see fit. If you’re kind and empathetic, quit acting tough already. We’re all strange, in our own way; that’s what makes is unique and interesting. Stop trying to hide your true nature because you think people won’t accept you. Find the right people and they’ll love you for all that you are – strengths, imperfections, and everything in between.   

Life doesn’t always go as planned. You have less control than you like to be believe. The past is the done and the future will change before you have a chance to implement your intricate plans. Don’t worry about things you can’t change. Fix the things you can. Put a full effort into all you do. Learn to accept things as they are. Let go of your need to control.

Everyone has shortcoming and weaknesses, yourself included. Forgive, and don’t hold grudges. People are likely to reciprocate, but don’t hold it against them if they’re unable.

You’re still weird. It’s still okay.

Your parents generally know best and are just looking out for you. Rules sometimes don’t make sense, but they’re in place for a reason, and one day you’ll be grateful for the guidance and discipline. Listen to your parents. Thank them. Tell them that you love them. Someday you’ll wish you’d have said more, sooner. Whether or not you realize or fully appreciate it, your parents have offered you the world, and countless opportunities for love and success. Never forget that. 

Life can be tough, the most daunting challenge of them all. When you’re young, everything is confusing, ridiculously nonsensical, and simply hard. Does it get better? Yes, but there are stipulations. From all my experience and learning, the key is to be accepting of who you are and where you are. Life is in a continually transitional state – friends, jobs, favorite outfits, and hobbies will change, probably more than you could even fathom. Within seven years, your body will have completely replaced all of its cells (except neurons in the cerebral cortex). You will literally be a new person. Rather than being freighted by change, embrace it. Just look how far it’s gotten you. Think about how much you’ve learned, experienced, and overcome in your lifetime, and be in awe of it. Know that more of the same lies ahead, if only you put the time and effort into pursuing and developing it.


Ten Poems to Say Goodbye

“A goodbye is an opportunity for forgiveness, kindness, intimacy, and ultimately for love and a deepening acceptance of life as it is instead of what it was or what we may have wanted it to be.”

Saying goodbye can be one of the most trying experiences, whether it be to a dying family member, a lover, or your own past. In Ten Poems to Say Goodbye, Roger Housden has compiled a series of selected poems by several different authors, including cummings, Neruda, and Rilke. Each poem conveys one or more of the many pungent and unique emotions that accompany a goodbye – from sadness and longing, to acceptance and triumph.

After each poem, Housden explores and dissects the piece, stanza by stanza, with a keen and insightful eye. His analyses are compelling, sincere, inspiring, and bring to light the solace that can be found in times of transition. Amongst all suffering exist flicks of awareness, instances of beauty, and countless opportunities for growth.

We look up at the stars and they are
not there. We see the memory
of when they were, once upon a time.
And that is more than enough.
– Jack Gilbert, The Lost Hotels of Paris

Through poetry, inexplicable experiences and emotions are eloquently put into words, words which are powerful, moving, and emotionally potent. Subsequently, through the breaking down of these poems, one can come to a better understanding of the underlying themes and subtleties, and take away from the work all that the author had intended.

This is a wonderfully written book, which anyone who’s ever experienced any form of loss will be able to relate to. I thoroughly enjoyed the poem selection, as well as Housden’s analysis and personal thoughts on the poetry.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

“It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for…” 

I can’t begin to tell you how many times friends have playfully jested, insinuating that the silently observant individuals, like myself, innocently skirting the periphery are the ones secretly plotting some mischievous crime.

In her debut release, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain takes a different stand. Yes, you should be watching the quiet ones, but not because they’re creating a scene or causing trouble. Rather, Cain proposes that introverts – the conscientious, deep-thinking, thoughtful, individualistic, empathetic, shy, and often socially awkward individuals of society – hold a unique power in today’s world.

What they lack in charisma and quick-wit, they make up for in problem-solving abilities, determination, and their ability to focus. The time that an extrovert spends socializing is time that the introvert spends reading, delving passionately into their favorite hobby, having a deep conversation with another, and reflecting on life. The high school loner, when transplanted into a hospitable environment as an adult, has the ability to thrive and excel. Those who are happy living in their heads are the inventors, the artists, and the engineers, those innovators who are then able to release and project their internal paradise into their external world.

“The glory of the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is its long association with intellectual and artistic achievement.” 

If these ungainly closet-geniuses have so much to offer the world, then why are they so often overlooked, and even shunned? Extroverts make up between one-half and two-thirds of the population, and we live in a society that has been built around, and increasingly caters to, and promotes that “extrovert ideal.” Assignments within both work and school environments often obit around collective collaboration, situations in which the intelligent but slow-to-speak introvert can’t get a word in edgewise. Employees may be accused of being uncooperative; spouses may be guilt-tripped for not responding properly to criticism; and students may be written up for not participating, in the traditional sense of the word. Is it possible that introversion and its associated traits are not necessarily negative and restrictive? Is it possible that these individuals are not, in fact, antisocial, but rather have a different perception of the world, and thus different means of interacting with others?

Cain explores the story of Rosa Park and her quiet strength during the Civil Rights Movement, as opposed to the charismatic and rallying power of Martin Luther King Jr. Both were important figures, in their own right. Placing the framework of this contrast into modern contexts, we imagine “connectors” – people who have a “special gift for bringing the world together” and “an instinctive and natural gift for making social connections” – to be charming and bubbly; yet, with the emergence of online communities and social media, introverted “connectors” have discovered a safe and comfortable environment in which they can interact with foreign friends, exchange ideas, empathize and offer advice, and ultimately serve to model a new form of leadership. As stated so aptly by Pete Cashmore, founder of Mashable, “perhaps social media affords us the control we lack in real life socializing: the screen as a barrier between us and the world.”

In a fast-talking, risk-taking society, why would evolution preserve a gene that discourages thoughtlessly jumping in and doing what needs to be done? Extroverts and introverts lie on polar opposites of the same spectrum – where one acts, the other thinks. Although it’s necessary to have members of a society who can fearlessly venture into the world and “hunt for dinner,” a community also depends on those who can notice a predator in the distance, or recall that a certain berry is poisonous. Ultimately, both personalities are important in the perpetuation of the human species.

So, as an introvert, what can you do to fit more comfortably into the world around you? What can you do to improve your relationships and help those around you understand that introversion is not a pathology? The underlying theme of Quiet is that introversion is not only okay, but a gift that, if properly harnessed and nurtured, can take you to places you never dreamt possible. The key is to find balance between your natural tendency towards introspection, and the social necessity to interact with others and act on ideas. Although horrified of small talk, most introverts revel in deep discussion – find other deep thinkers to exchange thoughts with. If you’re socially awkward, connect with like-minded people in online communities. Force yourself out of your comfort zone, but allow yourself to take baby steps to arrive there. When you feel over-stimulated, create “restorative niches,” in which you can unwind and find your center. Identify your core personal project – figure out what you loved as a child, the type of work you gravitate towards, and the lifestyles and people you envy – and pursue those passions relentlessly.

The book is built on meticulously researched data in the fields of personality, evolutionary, and neuropsychology, with additional support from case studies and one-on-one conversations. The author examines every facet of the life of an introvert, from school and work to interpersonal relationships. The book encapsulates every angle of the personality trait, as only a thoughtful and detail-oriented introvert could, taking into account and preemptively responding to any questions or challenges that may arise. I would highly recommend the book to anyone who considers themselves introvert or is the parent, spouse, or teacher of an introvert, as well as anyone with an interest in social or personality psychology. The book is informative, engaging, and highly relatable.

Now, savor your solitude, and go change the world.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

A New Perspective

My cats loved being held. Owen will purr contentedly as his eyes shift from the paintings, to the cabinets, to the gnat flying by. Sebastian will extend his neck as far as possible, in hopes of seeing what new sights and adventures lie just around the corner. A five foot elevation provides an entirely new perspective, a new way of seeing and experiencing the world. It’s no wonder cats enjoy leaping and climbing so much.

I’m apparently not allowed to mention my cats without an accompanying picture.

Children loved being held by their mothers and propped up on their father’s should. Already in awe of the world around them, being raised just a tad bit higher than their everyday experience is always unbelievably exciting.

It’s easy to forget how easy the attainment of some new perspective can be. You don’t need to physically move in order to gain new insight or a new vision, although climbing a mountain or flying over your hometown are both spectacular experiences. Reading a book, spending time in nature, observing strangers interact from a distance, having a meaningful conversation, and enjoying each individual moment to the fullest can have the same effect.

The weather has been incredible the past few weeks – sunny with highs in the mid-70s and a light breeze. There’s something about Spring that always makes me feel so much more alert, aware, and alive. The colorful flowers and their wafting scents, the bright sun pouring in through my open moon roof, the lively green leaves fluttering in the wind, the birds and the dogs and the children enjoying a day at the park. I love it all.

Reading a new book has the same power. Although I enjoy nearly all genres, light young-adult reads leave me less thoughtful, and deeper and research-heavy books drain me. Diverging from John Green and Robert Wright, I just finished reading a book on spirituality, meaning, and inspiration, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, which has altered my perspective more than anything else, in recent times. (I would highly recommend it to everyone, and will review it here in the next few days.) I’ve been in a weird funk for the past month or so, as if disconnected from everyone and caught in some perpetual existential crisis, getting too caught up in my own thoughts to step back and see how beautiful and humorous life truly is.

Getting lost in an inspirational story, laden with guidance, insight, and advice for life is the ultimate pick-up for me, the greatest escape. Despite knowing how to live a happy and fulfilling life, and tapping into all the facts I’ve learned in books, psychology courses, and from mentors, it’s not always as easy to habitually apply that knowledge to your own life. A refresher course here and there, whether it be through a mind-numbing conversation or amazing story, is often the perfect remedy for lethargy, loneliness, or hopelessness. Often times, all we need is a kick in the behind, a small reminder that we’re not alone in this world, that beauty exists right below our noses, and that there is some ultimate purpose beyond our comprehension.

Sometimes, all we need is a new perspective to realize how wondrous life really is.

Reading at the park. Win-win.