What matters most to you?

Jimei, Xiamen

Why do people feel the need to be always doing something exciting or at least perceived by other people as interesting? They put undue pressure on themselves to be perceived as an interesting person themselves. This sounds exhausting to me.

I can understand young people being under this kind of pressure because it is a normal phase of every person’s development. If you are past your 20’s , you still can’t be as obsessed with being the first one to discover a new bar or restaurant, to be the first one among your friends to have seen the latest Marvel movie, or to have climbed Mt. Everest. As an adult, you need to be out of that playground mentality. Though competition can be healthy in that it encourages you to better yourself, it ceases to be when you constantly compare yourself to others in every aspect of life and put yourself down for not reaching the standard you, yourself, have unnecessarily set to achieve.

Some lives are indeed more exciting than others given the nature of their occupations or their personalities. My life as a wife, mother, and teacher may not be as exciting as that of an artist or a single woman who is a paragliding instructor or a UN volunteer in a war-torn country, but who says there’s an ongoing competition as to who has the most exciting life? Given my personality, I don’t think I’ll find satisfaction doing what they do. We all have different personalities, talents. Hence we create our own stories about our lives. It’s not a competition.

This sense of competition is so obvious to me in daily life. For instance, I have been living away from home for almost 2 decades, and most of my friends have left the country. The ones who are still around I seldom see because when I’m home I spend most of my time with my son. When I go on Facebook I see photos of new places of interest in my city, and it makes me happy. When people ask me if I’ve been to such and such a place, and I say “No,” they have this incredulous look on their face as if I had just come out of a cave!

If I were still in my 20’s I would have gone to the place right away just to prove to them that first, I could afford to go. Second, that I was one of the “in” crowd. Third, that I will not be the last to know.

But I am in my 40’s, and knowing the latest gossip about celebrities or the newest restaurant in town, or what is currently “lit” is the least of my priorities.

I would rather know what my teenage nephew is learning at school; what new sentences my autistic son has learned to say; how my husband solved the problem at work; what my sisters are busy with; how my friend is coping with the big change in his life. These are more important to me than Bradley Cooper and Irina Shayk calling it quits (though as a Bradley Cooper fan, that truly made me sad!)

I would rather go out for a quiet walk with my husband, read or sing to my son, read Dostoevsky, have coffee with my friend as I listen to him complain about life, or have a noisy meal at home with my sisters and nephews than go out with a group doing things that do not really interest me.

But then again each one of us is different. Some are more extroverted than others and prefer the company of more people in a variety of settings. Some of us, introverts, though are pressured into socializing — we are told we have to go out more often; it’s healthy for us to socialize; we have to widen our circle of friends. Is socialization always healthy though?

I force myself to socialize with a group once in a while, and most of the time I only get stress from it — it is too much of an effort. I prefer socializing with a friend one-on-one, but then again I have a very small circle of friends.

My point is: my life may not be as exciting as most people, to most people. But it is MY life, and I choose to live this way.

Something my friend said to me the other day made me think — that being away from home “so much has gone on you.”

Though it may be true that so much has changed in my home city or country in the last 17 years, that my cousins now have grandchildren or great-grandchildren that I have not even met; that my home city has more restaurants in an area I did not even know has been developed; that there’s a new TV series that everybody is talking about; that this or that celebrity has finally come out of the closet and I know nothing about these things — I am fine with it. It is life. There is so much going on every second in every corner of my small city. I cannot possibly make myself care about every thing that is going on in it. I am not bothered by the fact that I am the last to know.

I know myself and I know what matters to me. For as long as I know that the people who mean most to me are happy, healthy and safe — I’m good.

Everything else is for another time or others to care.

What matters most to you?

Have a lovely weekend! ♥️

T.

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Change, Challenges, Moving On

Jimei sky on a winter noon

Introverted, routine-oriented people like me get disoriented when something not part of the routine takes place. The occasional lunch with co-workers is always a task, even though they are nice people, simply because it’s not part of my daily routine, and I always make an effort to be an interesting or even just a lively person (I personally find it rude when a person joins you for a meal and looks miserable. I’d rather that person refuse to join me for a meal than be with me looking unhappy. Hence, my effort at being an interesting/lively rather than boring companion.)

This disorientation is magnified when bigger events occur in my life, like when some 16 years ago, my then-boyfriend left the country (and me!) and all of a sudden, I was left to make plans for the day for only myself. “What will I do with this much time all to myself?” I went to work moving about like a zombie for months!

When my mother died, I felt so vulnerable whenever I remembered (actually, I still do) that I no longer have a “prayer warrior.” In the past whenever I had a problem, I would just pick up the phone and call my mother long-distance and ask her to pray for me. I know it sounds so immature for a grown woman to be depending on her mother so much, but that was all I depended on my mother for. I never asked her for anything else after graduating from university. Just prayers. Still, when she died, I was at a loss not having anyone to call to ask for prayers. I mean I could have called my sisters or some of my friends, but with my mother I was assured that her prayers were most fervent because she was praying for her youngest daughter, the only one to leave her side to work in another country.

When introverted, routine-oriented people like me are put in a new situation, we tend to have an extremely difficult time adapting to change. We may seem to look like we are coping well with the change, but deep inside, the challenge is overwhelming. Yet, we survive and I think our introversion has much to do with it. As introverts, we rely on very few people, but more important and this is most helpful, we rely on ourselves the most. Slowly we learn to start a new routine, and we recover in due time.

And we move on. In due time.

May you find the courage to adapt to change, face challenges and move on.

Happy New Year! Happy New Life!💕🎉

On Mistakes, Memories and Introversion  

One of the lines that struck me from the season finale of Westworld, was spoken by Bernard to Maeve: “How can you learn from your mistakes, if you don’t remember them?

Though some memories are better totally forgotten, these actually have contributed to our present selves. The “we” that we know is a product of all the experiences we have been through and our memories of them.

I think I have an earlier post on a similar theme, but I like musing on this idea: that awareness and understanding and acceptance of our past – all the good and the bad – help us deal with our present selves. I had some very sad experiences as a child, and even sadder and painful experiences as an adult, but I acknowledge that those same experiences have helped shape a more confident, wiser and stronger ME.

In my early twenties, I was made aware of certain patterns in my behavior towards certain people and circumstances. I would have the same problems, dilemmas over and over again. Same story, different people that I was unhappy with  and different settings. It took me a while to see that I was following a pattern. Thankfully I was patient enough with myself and had the enthusiasm to write in my journal my thoughts and feelings during this very confusing period of my life. My journals have been a great help in my journey through self-awareness and self-acceptance. My memories have taught me how to handle my emotions better, and how to prevent myself from getting into an unhealthy pattern of behavior of unnecessarily feeling hurt by other people who may or may not have the intention to hurt me.

My memories have helped me narrow down my list of trusted friends. My memories remind me of the kind of people and situations I have to avoid to have some peace within, because it is true –one can be kind to everybody, but one can’t possibly have everyone as a friend. It may sound like I have built a wall around me, and that it’s not a good thing. I beg to differ though. I think we need walls to protect ourselves, but the walls have to have a door where we can let certain people in; and certainly with age, I feel this works for me. I do not feel the need to meet with so many people and have more “friends”. I do not get energized going to parties and making small talk with people who, just like me, are merely being polite. It’s exhausting. (But yes, once in a while, necessary which is why I socialize once or twice a month.)

However I enjoy being among my family and a handful of people I call friends, with whom I don’t have to be merely polite, but be able to show not only the loving and caring me, but also the silly, goofy me. Then I can laugh. And the laughter is real.

I recognize the changes I have gone through from being introverted as a child, extroverted as a teenager and twenty-something, and introverted again as an adult. This is quite common, I guess, as a number of people online have asked if people become more introverted with age.

The shift to introversion may be a result of the experiences older people have had and their memories of them. The mistakes they made in their lives somehow make them build a wall around themselves, not to hide themselves, but to let only a few people in – the ones they think are worth keeping. And with the wall too, they get to have more time for themselves and introspect and assess their lives.

I agree with Bernard, we should remember our mistakes. We should have memories. And we should be mindful of them. Learn from them. Or we risk making the same mistakes we did in our youth,trapped in a looped narrative and not even knowing it. That is just sad.

 

I wrote this in December 2016. I don’t remember why I didn’t post this though. Perhaps later I will re-read this and realize why I didn’t and then take it down. Lol. I’m looking forward to the next season of WW. But first, Game of Thrones! 

De-stressing after socializing 

As an introvert and a creature of habit, I get stressed when my routine gets thrown off especially by socializing with people with whom I’m not really keen on socializing. A friend asked why I meet with such people when I don’t like doing so. The answer is simple: because as a member of society, I have to.

I have a very small circle of people I get in regular contact with, and I usually initiate the communication. So when I have to meet with people outside that circle and put on some kind of a role, where I make “polite” conversation, I get exhausted after such an “event.” It IS like an event.

You may say, ” You don’t have to pretend! Just be yourself.” Now, if being myself is looking unhappy while having a meal with people, is that a good thing? You may also say, “Nobody is forcing you to hang out with these people.” Well, I am forcing myself to hang out with these people because I do not want them to think there is something wrong with them that I do not want to spend time with them! This is really true — it’s NOT them; it’s ME! Just because I do not find them interesting or like listening to them does not mean they are bad people. They are not, so I do not want to hurt their feelings. Besides, what I feel about them is not a rational judgment of them as a person. What I feel does not really determine who or what they are, but it says so much about who and what I am. Hence, I socialize and suffer afterwards.

So what do I do to de-stress after socializing? I go to a place where I don’t know anybody and nobody knows me. And then I go dark.

Earlier today I visited a park I had not been to in 10 years, and right now I’m writing this as I’m having coffee at a McDonald’s I had not been to in at least 5 years. It’s a busy place, but nobody’s talking to me, and I’m at peace.

Is it age that makes me get easily exhausted after socializing and disoriented after a change in routine? Or am I no different from my son?

Here are some photos I took at the park.

Hope you have a relaxing weekend!
T.


Zhong Shan Park, Xiamen