Fitting in vs. being boxed in vs. wanting to be free

How does ‘follow your dreams’ and ‘find a job’ fit into all of this?

I ask myself that often.

Tomorrow I’m meeting up with two job consultants for an obligatory meeting relating to my period of unemployment and subsequent benefit.

And, yeah, in my country I can get financial benefit from the government for being unemployed. How very ‘depressing’, indeed. But you must understand the terms of condition that come with this ‘benefit’. It is very demanding and limited concerning whatever freedom and ideas you might have job-wise. The government doesn’t spend money on people freely, after all. By principle, it’s only fair, but you need to follow strict guidelines and can’t do any volunteering unless it’s humanitarian. Even the possibilities of working freelance and part-time have been tightened. It puts you in a very limited space of finding a paid, full-time job that isn’t just cleaning or working behind a counter in a cafe or supermarket.

And yet, I can’t complain when I’m still getting paid by the welfare system, can I? No. But am I any happier after almost two years of unemployment, trying my best to find my way through the system? No.

Digressing, this meeting tomorrow has ‘forced’ me out of my usual, melancholic bubble of denying my own reality and what I should probably do about it. *scoffs* Yeah, I live a hard, utterly spoiled life.

I’m not sure whether to confess my battle with my insecurities and depression to the job consultants in order to explain my inability to find a job. Should I tell them my struggle with finding a goal in life and wanting to be happy while also desperately wanting to please those around me, fit in [the system] and not be a disappointment?

It would be my most honest reply to any question they might pose and probably help them give me some honest advice in return (hopefully).

*sighs*

But, aside from this, I also have to acknowledge to myself that it is my life, my only life, and that I should be allowed to be happy – since I actually know what would make me happy – however silly and unambitious they may sound – and that I have the means and the privileges to make at least some of it happen. In truth, I don’t believe I’m that hard to please regarding how I live; that I could live much simpler than I do now (not that I live in a mansion or anything now) and that I don’t need much in life other than my few creature comforts. My own little cottage and a dog would be nice, too.

So, I started pondering if my underlying need to please my surroundings (and thus the system; fitting in and all that) and my fear of disappointing and not have high enough ambitions in a world of privileges has caught me in this system and my system of thinking (huh, how meta) – together with my depression as well. And that all these elements hold me down from enjoying an alternative freedom that might make me happier.

Somewhere in that question, I sense that I’ve found my answer.

What would happen if I thought entirely alternatively? If I reinvented my life? (To use a total platitude). If I gave up what I have now, my apartment and unemployment benefit, and invested in what I want (cue such sentimental wishes as the cottage and the dog), damn the conventional consequences! Made my own terms, my own money, however small. I’m not big on finance and I may be way too naive to think this can go around, but, after all, I don’t need much.

Other people have done it before me.

Part of that dream/happiness also include a social aspect as I’ve talked about before; of finding true company in life; romantic partners, friends, colleagues, etc.. I’ve lately come to realize that I need this kind of social interaction; more consistently, more intimately, so to speak. But that part must come when it comes. I can’t exactly force it, after all. The other parts are more easily attainable.

Just having this dream, this alternative gives me a inner sense of peace and comfort that I haven’t found anywhere else yet, though I have no practical experience in how to go about it and make it happen. Still, it’s not impossible, I believe.

This thought of an alternative lifestyle takes me back to my innermost questions; my own, singled-out voice asking: ‘What do you want to do?’ which in turn always returns to my consistent desire to write. It is the one thing I’ve always enjoyed, though I’ve always thought it a futile thing to voice or wish for because it seems so general and something anyone could do; voice an opinion. ‘Not something anyone would or should get paid for,’ says the pessimistic voice in my head. A voice I too often listen to and fall victim for, because I don’t have the courage or the will to fight it.

But then I tried to ignore the voice (for once) and stayed with the thought of writing. Of actually trying to make a living out of it.

So, that lead me to the hypothetical idea of becoming a professional blogger. An idea I’ve previously had in the back of my mind and brushed aside time and time again. An idea which comes with many ambivalent feelings and thoughts, all the different voices returning, telling me different things. On the one side, it’s a most natural and comforting idea, because I’ve blogged – on an amateur level – for years now. On the other side, I guess I still feel the idea is somewhat tabooed, not a real-real job, despite the job landscape has changed drastically in the last two decades. Blogging has become a legitimate job where people can make tons of money, sometimes by simply yelling in a computer game or reviewing the newest mascara on the market.

However, I don’t want to make your usual glossy, Instagram-worthy blog of cute cupcakes and the latest fashion trends. Not that there’s anything wrong with those. But I want to make something that’s my own. Something real, critical, humorous and frank. I want to analyse and discuss art, politics, people, culture, media, TV, etc.. I want to create constructive discussions and, hopefully, change attitudes. Even my own. I don’t want to be afraid to voice an opinion in a public forum as myself. (After all, it’s different with blogs like these, where I can stay fairly anonymous).

Am I wrong to put so many ideals into a project like this?

I admit, being a teacher would sound like the most ideal, concrete job for me in this regard, and it’s not something I haven’t thought of, but I’m still struggling in my (INTP) insecurity regarding the responsibility of teaching. I’m not entirely comfortable with the authority of lecturing and ‘placing my wisdom upon others’. I may be overthinking this way too much, but I just don’t think I’m there yet. I’m still a child of learning and of the world. I’m not sure I could be confident enough to be a convincing teacher yet, if you catch my drift.

Anyways.

I’m still not sure how much of this will be mentioned at the meeting tomorrow. Sometimes such frank thoughts and feelings just come out by themselves because I don’t have the strength to fight them (sensing a theme here?). At other times, I am too embarrassed to ‘fess up and show my insecurity and I just clam up and remain curt in my responses, pretending everything is fine. The former is probably more productive but I can’t help cringing every time it happens because I literally just blurt out things with a helpless, resigned attitude, unable to stop myself.

How very INTP.

I may return with an update tomorrow.

***09/04/18 UPDATE***

Ah, folks, here comes the update you never asked for: The meeting went as expected. Nothing new to report. No grand confession on my part. It was all very calm, business-like. I got a few extra tips regarding my CV and an underlying message of ‘it’s about time to get your shit together’. (No surprise). I get it. I really need to decide on something.

And, in a way, through this reflective post, I have. However slow the realization may have arrived.

I don’t know if it has something to do with this day and age, my generation, or if it’s just me, but I feel my problem of ‘being stuck’ all goes deeper; that it’s something very personal I’m struggling with regarding finding a goal, a job, a career. I’m so painfully introspective and, as I said, I’m rather slow to figure out my life and what I want with it – at a fairly late age, maybe – and belatedly acknowledged that I do not have these big concrete ambitions or visions … Although, you could argue that those ideas I mentioned above are somewhat concrete. After all, I’m far from indifferent or despondent; I would like to contribute and do something good for society, but I think it should be on my own terms and at my own pace. I have probably been a bit caught up in this mindset of trying to find a goal that could also meet the expectations around me and maybe even feeling a little trapped in the unemployment benefit system and not daring to think or throw myself into something alternative. I think I must stop trying to fit in (how often haven’t I told myself so?). It has only seemed like an obstacle so far. I just think I have to think in brand new lanes and instead ask myself what will make me happy, first and foremost, rather than trying make others happy about my decisions in life, simultaneously.

At least, for now.

Over and out.

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A future in writing?

“I should write a book about all this, shouldn’t I?”, I suddenly stop up and think to myself one day. “Write about myself – or a fictive version of myself – and catalyze all these thoughts I have into something literary! Maybe that’s what I’m meant to do?”

Is this the stroke of lightning I’ve been waiting for? So soon?

The excitement of the prospect manages to reach a good 10 before it comes crashing down to a 1.

“What a pathetic thought,” I sigh. “A whole book about a naive girl’s reflections on life and her own boring, half-lived one? Come on!”

But then again, aren’t all books more or less about the reflections on life and of life – no matter what stage or level of experience they’re at?

Is my own version then so far off?

However, I trip over my own tongue. Being an INTP, communicating precisely what you think and mean – turning the uncut diamond into a brilliant jewel to hang around your neck; alchemizing, in reverse, all this precious gold into useful rock so that you can build a house from it – is tricky at best. When spoken or written, the jumble of thoughts usually remains a jumble of words to everyone else – and sometimes even to the INTP.

Despite having stated in previous posts and to myself and to everybody else that I have no clue what I want to do, I’ve realized that I do want to write. I’ve always wanted to write. It’s what I do here and write about here; what I’ve always done, more or less. And it takes some swallowing to realize that the very thing I love the most is also something I trip over.

You may have tripped over it as well, trying to decipher some of my posts here? It wouldn’t surprise me.

I’m trying to make sense of all of it myself. It may strike a core with you but you cannot explain it, can you? It’s just one of those times where words aren’t enough to explain what resonates with your own jumble of thoughts and feelings inside. And then again, they just did, didn’t they?

Writing is possibly the least predictable, sustainable occupation in the world. You can use a lifetime to become someone or stay that someone and end up hating that bureaucracy and money still talk. Realizing the hateful but necessary duality of the truth: That no arts are ever truly free of capitalism and that you cannot survive a lifetime without money. That you cannot produce art and give your work freely away and live on nothing, no matter how ideally free and appealing that may sound. My inner realist and common sense won’t allow it.

Anyways, there’ll always be things you will not like and obstacles to cross. And surely, my inner idealist will not allow the thought that the arts themselves will not manage to prevail.

Still: To be free to do what you love. Isn’t that what we all want in the end?

I will try. I will try, I tell myself.

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When nothing binds you …

So, that’s it. I’m offically a Master of Arts.

Huh. Sounds like a title you require in Dungeons & Dragons, doesn’t it?

How do I feel about it then? Five years of academic studies and now I’m done and ready for the labour market.

I feel ambivalent at best. It has all been so very long-drawn-out and anti-climatic. No official celebration given by the university of our institute before November. Until then I’ll probably just get a diploma in my mailbox.

I don’t even feel particularly relieved or exhilarated that it’s officially over.

And so:

“Do you know what you want to do now?”, my parents asked me.

“No. I do not know what I will do,” I sighed. I’ve waited so long for the lightning to hit, yet it never came, and now – when I need it more than ever – the sky is cloudless.

Except in my mind.

“Don’t worry,” they said, “you have the advantage of not being bound by anything or anyone, unlike many of your peers, think of that. No house, family or boyfriend. Nothing to hold you back. You are free to choose wherever you want to go, work or live, for how long and so on.”

“Yes, well …”

“Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out. It will be alright, you’ll see.”

I cannot seem to outwardly voice what’s nagging me – still – by this very common and normal response.

The thing is: Nothing has ever held me back. ‘No house, no family of my own, no boyfriend’. I can’t help repeating those particular words in my head and heart, though they are essentially besides the question of my current career musings.

Yet, hearing those words they somehow hurt the most. Because the hole that’s left inside of me is not one of self-actualization as much as it is of a loneliness that never had anyone but that self to lean on and – out of necessity – actualize.

True, I’m not bound by anything or anyone. But … How am I then to know if I ever will?

Is it simply the proof that you can only ever rely and lean on yourself and have to go through life more or less lonely? We are all lonely, right? Then why do I see happiness, goals and twosomeness – in some form or another – in so many of those around me; strangers as well as close ones?

Can I go on and live my life and wait for the things in life I seek the most but never seem to reach?

However, I have every opportunity now to reach those things, haven’t I? I just need to find out where to begin. After all, now I’m finally free to do whatever I want to.

But the possibilities are so endless that I cannot see the wood for the trees. I’ve tried to let it go, carpe diem, and let life take its course; help others and be their voice of support, only to sink into ennui and realize I am also responsible for the course of my own life to take off.

Aren’t I?

I know, in a sense, I’m utterly privileged and greedy –  a typical product of my generation I think – when I critique the very freedom I’ve sought after for so long and finally reached; reaching the end of the tunnel and realizing it has a different light than what I imagined. That freedom also holds you captured; holds you accountable for its very existence. I’m bound to its existence as it is bound to me for survival. I cannot go on living without making a living. Without essentially selling my skills, myself. Adulthood is brutal in such realizations. You begin to understand more closely the fate of the homeless; why some people just don’t manage to live up to all of it and hold it together. (Not that there’s a direct link; I’m just making abstract thought here).

The worst thing is, I can already see it painted out for me: Of me sitting as an old woman talking about all the smalltown jobs and failed careers I had in my late 20s and all through my 30s, but how I eventually found my true profession and settled down in my 40s, working for two more tranquil decades before retiring and enjoying my life as a senior citizen until I die. Perfectly normal and typical existence for most people, no matter how radical they thought or behaved in their youth, rebelling against conventionality and normalcy. I will probably laugh at the ‘silly’ insecurities of my youth; these very thoughts and confessions I write here.

And I feel positively torn about this image. ‘Cause when I ask myself if that’s what I want I’m not sure. On the one hand, a sound ‘NO!’, but on the other hand I can see no point in fighting it off if it will more or less happen anyway, some time or another.

Yet, making my life the adventure I want to experience frightens me, because I want to protect myself, hide away and live my life in peace as well. Never disturbing anyone but helping out if needed. So far I’ve lived just fine by having my adventures through imagination and fiction alone mostly. So why can it not just go on as it always had? Why do I still have this rebellious feeling that I’m not giving myself the chance of discovering the world and the people in it if I keep on going like this?

“Adventures do occur, but not punctually. Life never gives us what we want at the moment that we consider appropriate”, E. M. Forster described so accurately in A Passage to India.

So, this is freedom: Not knowing anything about the future.

But deep down I know something. Something pulls.

What if I – at the moment – just want my own little house by the sea, get a dog and write about everything I find important and true in this world?

Can I just do it?

I am beginning to miss the sea air more and more. Having grown up near the sea, the salt is in my blood, I realize. A house by the sea. My sanctuary. Yes. I feel myself being pulled towards certain aspects of life that I should not spend my time wanting and pondering upon right now.

Do I believe in destiny and fate and all that? I’m not sure. Some things just seem too coincidental, interconnected and lucky sometimes in my experience. But I also just think that some are born luckier than others, by chance, and yet that luck will always vary for each person throughout life.

I’m blessed with things and people in my life and no matter how much I dive into those things and for how long, I hold other things about my own life back or put them on pause. So much that – when I return – I realize that no matter how much I help other people or invest myself in other matters, my own worries will not be solved by themselves. Because they are still there. Still insignificant and small compared to so many fates in this world – and yet so significant and persistent that I fear a depression has clouded the sanctuary I called my loneliness; where I used to find inspiration and tranquility and now seem to have run exhausted. I’ve gotten stuck and yet, I am freer than ever. Why, I can hardly move outside the door of my otherwise so amazing and central apartment in an otherwise so amazing city where there’s everything the heart could desire! Why is that?

I think I need to find a new sanctuary. Something different than where I’m used to look or supposed to look. The routine and sameness have already become too much, despite I really have nothing to complain about. An inner voice screams that I want something that is entirely my own, something true and free of anything bureaucratic and capitalistic (*scoffs* yeah, like that is ever going to happen, especially now at a time where I have to put myself into more systems than ever). It screams of a self-reliant, hermit-like existence that seems ludicrous at best.

Not entirely impossible, however.

But such a self-made fate also foretells a future that is possibly even more lonely and alienated, if I’m not careful. Especially – and what I fear the most – from everyone I hold most dear. You cannot have it both ways and it’s selfish either way. However, right now, my current, existential confusion grasps at anything concrete and can only come up with this sufficient alternative at the moment, no matter how desolate it may be in the long run.

Funny how I am forced to think about my life when it’s all I ever do.

No, not true, I am forced to think about my life in reality. It’s something I’d rather postpone.

Oh well.

I think I need to stop bending to the idea of a conventional life when I am not a conventional person.

Meanwhile, I still hope for the stroke of lightning.

*revised 13/9/16*

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An interview with myself

Silly, isn’t it?

But since I have no illusions about ever becoming somebody famous and being interviewed by some hotshot-journalist, I figured I had to put up the dictaphone myself to get some bloody answers for once (however colored the questions and vague the answers may be in such a situation). In other words: To get to know where the hell I’m going with my life!?

This post is merely another trail on the road to self-discovery. As mentioned before, I’m in the forever consistent limbo at the moment, where I have absolutely no clue what my all too pressing future will bring.

So, let’s jump right into it:

“INTPs … What are we good for?”

“Why, ourselves! Everything!” any fellow INTP would surely sputter in protest to such an absurd question and that is my instinctive response too. Not very eloquently, but that is because I cannot readily answer this question with an eloquent and explanatory argument myself. I just know. We [INTPs] know all too well our inherent value, don’t we? I, for one, have never been in doubt of my value, yet, it is not a value that can be so easily voiced nor confirmed and measured. It is just there and always has been – because I exist.

… Then I face reality and all its practicalities.

Here, an answer like “We are good for ourselves. We have the confident potential to be good at everything (though we will only know when we are posed with the challenge)” is not a concrete one. The outside world cannot put much practical, prolific value into it. And I get that. From an entirely rational point of view, I get that.

“But it does little to the basic ‘problem’ that most INTPs feel misunderstood and displaced in this world. Am I right?”

I believe (though I may be projecting) we rarely outwardly express or address this problem, because we’ve learned to adapt to the outer world, to put on the extrovert mask of sociability, to shed our stubbornness, our independence, our ‘excentricity’, our honest and blunt intellect for a minute. We know how to work our ways through the world when needed by acting as ‘normal’ as possible and thus go about seemingly unnoticed and not let anything touch our inner self. We internalize our own problems and worries because we cannot possible see what other people can do for us regarding such ‘petty’ matters. Not because of people, but because we are too independent for that. Too ashamed when we cannot be entirely self-sufficient and work out a problem ourselves, though we simultaneously know that no man is an island, however much we desperately and stubbornly try to convince ourselves that it is possible, like a petulant child trying to outsmart ourselves and everyone else’s – in our mind – limited logic.

It is an endless circle that can never really be voiced nor dealt with alone, never really fruitful nor defeatist in itself. We’re caught in-between. It’s pitiful and we pity ourselves but we’re wise enough to never want or expect pity from the outside while we’re dealing with all this, internally, and putting on the various extrovert masks for various situations.

“Were we [INTPs] ever really meant for the concrete, practical world?”

The theoretical, the philosophical, the abstract, the analytical world, oh yes, but all the rest … I’m not so sure.

“I wonder … Are we here to be astute about some things that others do not immediately see, while leaving others to be astute about matters we do not immediately see, and thus there is balance in the world..?”

*sighs* I sometimes think I cannot see the wood for the trees. It may very well be a very INTP thing to think so; trying to give things a logical meaning or place them in some logical system, even if you can’t place such a meaning upon the MBTI types or put the world into a logical system of balance.

And it’s not such a bad thing, per se. It’s our force, you could say: Dominating the abstract world in a way only few can follow or comprehend. I’m proud to call myself an INTP, after all.

I just wish I was better suited for the real real world. It sometimes feels like I was born outside of reality. Not a total disconnection, but the significant disconnection to the things that are so immediate, life-affirming and fruitful to most people. I cannot explain what they are because I’m hardly aware of them myself and I fear they are too subjectively experienced anyway. It is not that I don’t place value in these things because I clearly see them when confronted with them through others, but I cannot pretend to get inner joy from the normality most people hail and strive towards. I get joy from the all but obscure normality in that sense. The small gestures; of impulse and kindness.

“Maybe because I crave them myself..?”

Oh, I can hardly distinguish between what is true and my projections of what I want to be true any longer and it frustrates me. (Sorry for the vagueness.)

“Have I no tangible dreams or wants or ideas about the future at all, then?”

I cannot help myself (aka my brain); I cannot see myself in so many of life’s parts and roles, and though I’ve more than accepted that’ll you have many roles in life and that you’ll never have to settle or stay put, it doesn’t really help my initial, instinctive feeling of always feeling out of place when it comes to putting my inner being into the hard, concrete matters of every-day life. Of never having been in an relationship or had an actual career- or job-based goal (though that doesn’t have to be true for all INTPs) which is all the world ever want to know or cares about, it seems.

I know what I want in life (have I spoken of this before?) – but that doesn’t have to have anything to do with job or people or money. And I think I more or less know what I want with my life, but I cannot seem to think myself past those entities; of one’s life more or less evolving around job, people and money. Making more jobs, more people and more money. What I want with my life has to do with something much more internal (as you would guess).

I have known people who believe in the word of God and people who believe in the word of money. People who passionately stick to one political ideology and people who are sports enthusiasts, letting it consume them. People who want kids and family and settle down in their mid-20s to repair old farms or built their own wooden house. People who have great ambitions to become the next Vivian Maier or the next chief curator of MoMA, moving to the most bohemian parts of New York and travel to only the biggest and best cities to get what they want.

I, myself, have no fixed point in my life besides my core; my inner self-assurance and self-value. I’m not a religious person, I’m not a nihilist nor a happy-go-lucky person. I do not believe in one political ideology and I do not have one particular passion or interest; I have many. I do not despise mediocrity or seek out-of-body thrills of life. I have no desire to have children or get married and make it an authentic life-project to build my own house in any near future. I have no clear ambitions to become the next great anything (though, if I ever got the opportunity I would not outrightly refuse such a position). I do not lack laughter in life (that’s for sure) nor the love of family. I am not dispassionate nor obedient. I’m a – sometimes passively, sometimes actively – curious, cynic-romantic observer of life at best. Always in-between. Always a paradox, to myself and others. And yet, despite my asocial nature (all extrovert masks put aside), I am easy to get along with (I believe) and I don’t recoil from intimate company as long as it is the right company and setting.

That said, I never felt I was better than everybody else, only that I felt different.

“So what is this? Ennui? Monachopsis? An existential crisis?”

Not unlikely. Yet, I can’t possibly be bored when I feel like I have hardly the (life)time to learn all the things I want to know, can I..?!

I guess people would say I lack a sense of purpose in life, but it isn’t as depressive as that. Again, I never felt that I was here without a purpose, because existing and living in itself is a purpose, in my belief, but I’ve simply never measured it in jobs or money or hands-on skills or anything external like that.

My existential crisis has never been about being inherently confused, feeling utterly incompetent and undervalued (I’ve always held a staunch value of myself), dependent on the acknowledgement of other people or dependent on drugs or anything dramatic and unlucky like that. Of course I realize my luck in all this.

Nor have I ever been dissatisfied with life; disappointed yes, but that’s the way it is sometimes.

No, my existential crisis most likely occured when I realized that I’ve never struggled to reach the top of Maslow’s pyramid because I’ve never lacked self-actualization. I’ve struggled downwards towards the middle.

“Aww, poor you!”

Yeah *said in self-deprecation*. Yet, I’ve never aimed to complain about my life nor to seek pity – not in these posts nor ever. I have only ever sought to pose and understand the absurdities of life and the limbos I cannot seem to work myself out of. And which seem to have correlations with that of being an INTP (from what I’ve read so far). It’s is important for me to underline this. These are unfinished thoughts; I think while I write and I will continue to do so after this post is published (thus the occasional revisions). However much I’m sure there must be some truth in some of what I say, I’ll only ever pose thoughts in questions to continue to ponder upon or debate. This may very well be the essence of my being and is – from what I understand – the quintessential INTP.

I have no doubt however that pity is what I receive from most people, consciously or not. I think it is somehow quite instinctive to pity the INTP’s contradictory combination of brilliant potential and childlike laziness, but then again you could most likely argue something similar with every other type and their respective dualities. Albert Einstein, a famous INTP, once asked: “Why is it that nobody understands me, yet everybody likes me?”. It sums up pretty well how it is to be an INTP. You’re always almost there.

I think that if you do not understand someone yet you do not dislike them either, all you have left is pity. Is that a harsh way of thinking? When I say, time and time again, to friends and family and strangers that I rarely meet up with people or go to parties or social events (though that doesn’t mean I don’t), or half-jokingly, half-seriously allude to my displacement in society and that I wouldn’t mind simply living as a shepherd in the Scottish Highlands, do you not instinctively pity me in some way? My god, people just laugh at me and dismiss my words as silly at best!

No wonder, really, that introverted people who prefer to be alone rather than socialize get the worst of the brunt.

“What then? Do I just ‘wallow’ along and presume that life will hand over itself in all its changable, caleidoscopic colors?”

Well, no and yes. It’s just not that easy to answer. What I know of life so far is that it mostly consists of randomness; of coincidences or luck and unluck, and that there’s little one can do about such things, despite one’s freedom of choice. I’ve never blamed life for being anything else than what it is. I may have cursed it from time to time, in the heat of the moment, but in the end such moments have only reaffirmed how little one can control anything. I cannot complain about life not meeting my needs when life cannot be all that changed, not for one person, and what reality do I even presume should come of my wants in that case..? A Salvador Dalí painting most likely. *chuckles dryly* … Never mind.

It seems life in fiction has always had the narrative that real-life never had, at least, not before the finish line. A misfortune of sorts to steer away from, to get past or to overcome. Not always a passion or concrete goal to guide the characters, but nonetheless a concrete, planned-out narrative from the author’s side, however reversed or fragmented it may be. This is the only realm where one possesses an ounce of control of life’s fate, I guess. Maybe that’s why we create and seek to fiction when life does not turn out to be pliable.

“But we INTPs have been strangely absent from that narrative, haven’t we? We have the few, successful, real-life INTPs but not many – if any? – fictive INTP idols to relate and compare ourselves to or whose professions we can aspire to.”

Well, besides Sherlock Holmes maybe. But his profession was rather fantastical. Being a detective in real-life is not so. And, of course, there was Jane Austen, a female INTP, but she was ‘lucky’ and talented enough to live on her writings before she, unfortunately, died too young. Still, of all the types, INTPs are perhaps the least represented type portrayed – anywhere. Especially female INTPs. Even (female) INTJs get their sly villain character or super clever, obstinate science guy/gal every now and then. They may be clichés and superficially portrayed but at least they are portrayed. And I somehow think it’s easier to find female characters that fit the INFJ type, however rare the type is, than the INTP.

No INTP character/person is alike, of course, but most characters have just those certain characteristics that make them fall exactly outside of the INTP type. If you google MBTI charts for various franchises you’ll spot a character in the INTP spot and sometimes even a female, but, mind you, those charts are not always agreed upon. I certainly have my points of critique to some of the female characters placed there. But the overall lack of female INTPs on page or screen has definitely been dominating my entire life and the reason why I thought myself to be an anomaly and a freak for so long.

“Is it because we are overly complex to get right? Or because we seem to be everything and nothing specific at once? Or/and because we go unnoticed in the greater, visible scenery of life – in real-life as well?”

Yeah, we tend to hide, don’t we? Physically and socially. Hide inside in our homes or put on the social masks. We are not active out there, but in here *points to head*. Perhaps we have become so good at hiding and blending in even when we are outside that we have become close to transparent. Like ghosts. Hell, I’ve trouble enough getting automatic sliding doors to open for me or smart lighting registering that I’m in the room, no matter how big my arm gestures get..! Hmph, that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

Most of all, my instinct just tells me to run and hide and buy a cottage by the sea with wi-fi, a dog, tons of books and live there for the rest of my life, away from society and people who don’t understand. *sighs*

“So, again, without seeking to offend – though we will all instinctively bridle at such a myopic but all too common question – what are we, INTPs, good for in the concrete, real world?”

I’m not really sure what we are good for in the concrete, real, practical world. Everything and nothing. As I’ve mentioned before, if we could get a job à la Gandalf or Dumbledore, mysteriously walking around and guiding people, giving wise, slightly idealistic, random comments on the world around us, we probably would. But that’s wishful thinking.

“You make your own life, they say, but that’s only partly true, isn’t it?”

You’ll always have to adjust, I know that. I have known it all my life, because I have always adjusted. Despite all my ‘bigmouthing’ about ‘my damned stubborn independence’, I’ve been forced to adjust in small and large parts; sometimes subtly and unconsciously, sometimes dramatically aware. Adjusting to reality is not a problem when you’ve mastered the art of faking and pretending, while doing your thing on the sideline, in secret.

“But it is not ideal, is it? You wish to find your true profession, don’t you? Something that aligns with your inner core somehow, so that you feel you contribute to the world while being honest to it and yourself at the same time. No more pretending and doing your thing in secret only. Is it really so naive to believe in?”

The few paid and volunteer jobs I’ve had, I felt zombie-like in them. They only required my hands or my presence. I never connected with the job or the people. I toned everything about myself down to a straw man who rarely spoke, just forcibly smiled and nodded, while dreaming of a different life where I didn’t have to do what anyone else said or be where someone else wanted. I wondered if this was how ‘work’ and adulthood and doing everything right according to society would essentially become. After a good day’s work, my body was exhausted, but I felt my brain shrivelling up; unused, unchallenged. I felt a shadow of myself; someone else temporarily inhabiting my body, my voice; ‘selling myself’, because myself was not enough. That’s certainly something that you learn when you grow up. Sure, I may have learned about a practical side of life I wouldn’t have gained otherwise, met people I wouldn’t have met and got something to write on my CV, but did it do anything for me personally? No. No, not really. It just filled out a flat paper form. A facade of ‘doing’, less ‘being’ – or where ‘doing’ became ‘being’ somewhere along the way. Besides, no one was interested in what I was interested in and certainly not sought any deeper conversation. And I know; jobs in your youth are rarely supposed to be big, insightful epiphanies, they say (well, except if you do something ‘wild’ like travel the world and do volunteer job for refugees etc.), but are simply for the experience of earning your own money and the hard work. So you wait ’till you get older when you are hopefully able to make your own life and find the people who understand you. A wishful dream, perhaps, but for some reason I keep sticking to it.

I am half-discouraged, half-encouraged. It’s too easy to write this off as simply being romantic or cynic. I’ll keep wander this earth ’till I find what I’m looking for, knowing not what it looks like or what form it takes, just that something essential – deep down – is still missing. Until then I cannot form the words or describe this to anyone around me, hardly to myself, only that I know. I know. As Kafka said: “I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself”.

It is a lonely quest, I’ve come to realize. And I would be utterly surprised if it doesn’t universally resonate with everyone else at some level, no matter how much they seem indifferent or uninterested in this notion; their tendencies to call it naive, silly, impractical, made-up, selfish, etc. etc.. I do not believe them when they dismiss it so readily. Thus, I believe my existential crisis is no more different than anybody else’s. It is just there. It is human. And you decide how to go from there. You wish to pretend and fake less than all the adults you have witnessed growing up did, but also being smarter than them and not become a shadow of ourselves like so many of them became. So you find idols among them whom you believe did it better than the rest.

And individualism has certainly taught you a thing; all romantic notions aside, at the end of the day, to not trust or depend on anyone else but yourself. You always zoom back to this core value you’ve been taught throughout your life, directly or indirectly. How are we supposed to truly interact if all we truly do is just co-existing with all our individual agendas and dreams secretly roaming our cores, while also secretly longing for connection but not knowing how to overcome our incessantly individualistic core? The knowledge I’ve gained besides my personal experience with my parents tells me having children doesn’t necessarily make you more connected with the world or the persons you put into it. Blood doesn’t equals any soulful, deeper attachment and understanding. Your personality and what you choose to share and be honest about does. But I digress.

So, no, I have no specific, accepted, real, job- or people-based dream. I have every certainty about what’s wrong with the world. Great. Not really productive or conversational or CV material. So I’ve tried to figure out where I can put myself in the system … put myself to use. (Mind, here I’m merely trying to establish what I can be, seen from the dominant, paradoxical traits of myself and what I reckon are, more or less, similar to other INTPs). Here’s what I’ve concluded so far, based on what I’ve thought could be possible careers for me:

We [INTPs] love to teach and give away our knowledge to others, to debate and see people’s intellect flourish along with our own … But we rarely make it work in practice, as it appears being an actual teacher in the real world demands ‘slightly’ more than just being knowledgable. The system, the bureaucracy, the schedules, the human skills, the constant judgment and weighing of others’ talents and intellect (however professional) to-and-fro, etc.. Ugh.

We can potentially be excellent at anything (seriously!) we put our minds to because we have so many ideas and great analytical skills that can be adaptive to almost any area in life … But because we see all the possibilities and possible outcomes beforehand and all at once, we get easily overwhelmed or disillusioned beforehand and end up doing nothing about it, after all. All that potential wasted in real-life.

By principle, we are excellent at giving advice on a variety of subjects because we – as mentioned – take all possibilities and outcomes into account and analyze them without judgment … But when it comes to emotional support – which usually is in need of most advice – we simply fall short. That’s a rather big incompetence for an advicer or counsellor. Even in the academic world people tend to get highly emotional about the smallest things, so that could prove to become highly awkward for all parts.

That’s that. So far. Slightly realistic, slightly pessimistic, slightly hopeful it will show itself or that I will stumble upon whatever I’m looking for … some time or another. This little, indulgent, incoherent self-interview gave me no new hopes, no solutions, no clearer answers. Somebody would likely say what I miss demands a ‘positive change of mind’ or something annoying like that. I do not doubt that there’s some truth in that but until then the pull of rural sheep herding is rather strong.

You see? I’m not blank about my future for no reason. (The reason mostly being the gulf between myself and the world).

So …

Where do you sign up to become ‘a Gandalf’, I wonder?

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On writing

For some reason I’m awfully ashamed of my writing – or rather, that I write – around my closest ones. I cannot tell them; not about the blogging, the prose or the poetry, the fanfics or short stories or any of it, really. Only that I dabble with it; making sure I speak as frivolously about it as possible.

Partly because it feels so utterly personal, though paradoxically – as long as I stay anonymous – I am able to ‘publish’ and lay my heart out here, to you guys. However, the things I write here – these are matters I cannot really talk to my closest ones about, which is rather sad, I guess. But here I get no judgement and it’s freeing. Maybe I’m learning myself to one day speak about it to the people around me. I hope so.

However, explaining this or having this as an excuse for a possible career choice is another matter.

Writing seems as loose a profession as saying you want to become an actor. It’s hardly even a profession because, all in all, everyone can write like everyone can act; some just do it better. At best, it seems a pastime fancy one does in your sparetime apart from your real job.

Sure, writing is many things, but especially creative writing seems feeble and tabooed to aspire to. It isn’t really a title either to go after. I find ‘writer’ too unspecific (I think most people do, if they don’t think author), ‘author’ limited to novels or short stories, ‘poet’ to poetry, and ‘journalist’ to journalism, etc.. Of course, you can be a bit of both and everything, but you’re mostly one thing and though more and more gets published digitally and online, writing your stuff through free and open-source blogospheres still seems frivolous, at best. It’s hard to convince the older generation to take it seriously when it’s on the Internet only. Society mostly demands something concrete and peer-reviewed before it apparently is deemed valid. It is something independent, professional bloggers – which, luckily, is a more common, prominent profession nowadays – manage to slip past and I have so much respect for that, because I still have no idea how one can manage to simply blog for a living and get away with that. Almost as if it seems too easy compared to so many other professions. But one really shouldn’t compare. I guess most of them works sort of freelance, too, for many online magazines or gets paid through advertising, but it’s still something I have to look into.

However, despite not wanting to become some big-shot ‘digital poet’ of sorts, I find my stuff so utterly personal, meaningful and significant. And it’s somewhat painful to have to excuse and validiate writing as I and many others do; that to me/us it is and should be seen as more than a pastime. Especially when I see other professional bloggers – or vloggers – being able to build a millionaire life in their early teens(!) on such trivial things (in my eyes) as fashion, make-up, gags and gaming. Of course, these things have a broader appeal and more entertainment value with a great number of readers and/or viewers, but still … I’m not even asking for millions of dollars and readers, just more common recognition or awareness of other parts of online self-publishing. There’s so much potential out there if only one bothered to look.

But what can one do? And I think what is perhaps most important at this point of my life and what I need to remind myself is: I’m also so damn proud of what I have ‘achieved’ for myself. Though I may not outwardly say or show it, it is important and utterly essential to me. To get the words out and be free to ‘publish’ as I like. Anonymous or not. Unpublished or not. Unrecognized or not. Nothing of that is as important as the writing itself. In that regard, blogging has saved me and so many of us. And if my writing happens to resonate with someone or even several out there then I cannot ask for more. And to those who are like me, who dabbles with the same writing material as I; I can see the heart and soul so painfully and keenly through your stuff, no matter the objective quality of it, and I champion you all. I’m right there with you.

It reminds me of a post I read on tumblr:

Yet, you cannot build a career or a CV on such a romantic notion like that, I realize. Perhaps one day.

If I could only have loads of money so I’d never have to worry about money again, and be able to go away, buy a small cottage by the sea, get a dog and an old motorcycle, perhaps, and live in peace and quiet and write, I would. Yet, never having to worry about money like that would be utterly selfish, spoilt and irresponsible and I wouldn’t really like having so much money; I would feel guilty and uncomfortable, wanting to free myself from them by giving them to all my family, friends and to charity. However, it must be possible to have a bit of both, right?

Maybe this is a common condition among writers or wannabe-writers?

I rest my case.

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Don’t make predictions, particularly about the future

Where do I see myself in the future?

Everywhere and nowhere.

It’s a stupid question to ask an INTP, really. By principle, you cannot possibly predict the future (sci-fi’s not included) and though you may have a will of steel to steer towards one goal or one place in life, the very thought of doing so makes me gag because I’m thinking of all the possibilities you’ll miss or be blinded to along the way if you do so. INTPs like to keep every option and possibility open so the notion of settling down on one, singular path in life is just outrageous. At least, it is to me. Oh, I know where I have no intention of ending up and though I’m not without a path I still keep an open mind towards the future. Thus, evidently, I am making certain predictions about where I may end up in the future. The title merely aims to advice people to be less single-minded and more open-minded about the end goal and the road to it. In reality, most people rarely end up where they thought they would, anyway.

So, where do I see myself in the not so far away future?

When people ask, the question is always, first and foremost, seen from a ‘practical’ standpoint of career-making and economics; where I see myself working and making money to earn a living. I’ve always been perplexed by this standpoint of interest.

What if I, first and foremost, simply want to live a nice place – a cottage by the sea, perhaps, with a cute dog as company?

‘Yes, all that is very well, but where do you intend to get the money for such a cottage?’, you may ask.

I’m not a child. I know I have to work in order to live and to take the rough with the smooth. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it (hell, none of us do in the end). Money is a necessary evil to live in this world. And, after all, I am fond of my creature comforts and without them I would probably not sound so careless about money as I do. I know I’m a terrible hypocrite and practically human trash for living off other’s earnings (we get paid to study in my country) and not participating and contributing to the economic growth of my country by having a job. But I simply cannot do it for the money or for the sake of having money. There must be more to life! If I had been born into other circumstances where beggars can’t be choosers, then, of course, I would simply have to change my tune and do what was necessary to even live a basic life. I’m bloody fortunate and grateful that I haven’t been, so if my being ‘a slacker’ – in the sense of not spending most of my sparetime behind the counter of the local supermarket – is what I am, then I must accept that. I have a luxury problem, after all. Don’t mistake my tone for passive-aggressive. I’ve long since come to terms with these facts. Protesting against the value we place on money, wanting something else before wanting money, is unusual at best. It may be romantic, naive notions about living, really living in the harsh day of light, but I cannot force myself willingly into the hungry, cooperative money-making machine of society. Of only achieving success. Every instinct, principle and voice within me bridle and dig their heels in by the sheer notion; wanting to be free of that churning, merciless system that I deep down know I cannot be free of.

David Orr puts it so well:

“The planet does not need more ‘successful’ people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.”*

Of course, working isn’t all about money and success. It can be good, fulfilling and delightful. That’s not my problem (how could it be?). Maybe it’s my highly independent individualist within my INTP personality that wants to be free of any constrictions that go along with having a job. Childish, I know, but it’s just so basic an instinct within me; personal freedom and space to do my own thing, so to speak. Maybe I should become self-employed, but then again I wouldn’t have the self-discipline or the management skills to drive a business. I wouldn’t even know what business I would want to have in the first place. However, I have considered becoming a professional blogger, since this would give me an opportunity to write my own stuff, I can decide for myself what and when I want to write or publish anything, I can give advice to people and help out this way while getting paid (though I’m still a bit confused how the latter part works). Or maybe a freelance journalist? It could be fun to work for some feminist (online) magazines/blogs such as The Mary Sue, Bitch Flicks, The Toast, Ms. MagazineBitch Media, etc., all the while keeping my own independence and self-critical stance.

I’ve also thought about embracing the archetypical INTP profession of the ‘absent-minded professor’. University seems partly ideal for my kind of mind, despite not being absent of a fair deal of bureaucracy. I’m seriously considering applying for a PhD scholarship at my university this spring, hoping to get in by this fall, though the chances of getting through seem considerably slim. I wouldn’t mind teaching that much, either. What I’m not so hooked about is that you have to have a satisfactory, diverse CV already before you apply – proving you have a great deal of experience with the ‘outside’ world. Bleah! I honestly wonder how some of my lecturers and professors managed that since some of them easily categorize as the ‘more than absent-minded professors’. Boy, some of them are awkward and eccentric (more so than me!) but they are also inspiring in their enthusiasm about their own fields of research, clearly disappearing into their own heads just like me, and if they could come this far within the system – with all their eccentricities – then why couldn’t I?

See, when I say I aspire to stay at university and possibly work there, I don’t get a lot of understanding. People are in awe of course, but that is perhaps because not that many work at university or they do not know any who does. So they seem interested but blank. Not much to go on, conversation-wise. If I had said teacher in an elementary school or high school, people would probably have more to go on. If I said I wanted to be a curator in a museum, people would be able to ask all kinds of practical questions. Maybe university lecturer sounds awfully dull. All they do is talk and talk and make curriculums and review essays and talk some more, right? It sounds elitist too. But that’s just snobbish. I partly want to prove them wrong but partly I don’t give a shit. I know who appreciate university lecturers and that is university students. If I can give them something worth thinking about, then I’ve done my job. If I manage to give other people something to think about too, then I’ve done my job extra well, I guess. That’s all I really want: Getting people to think, open their minds; be curious and question everything within and around them.

Another option for a less bureaucratic position would be as a teacher at a folk high school (a common, widespread phenomenon in my country). The six months I spent as a ‘student’ at a folk high school were the most insightful and inspiring times of my life and being employed in a place like this seems like so much fun. As a teacher I would be free to create my own classes and curriculums, free of exams and requirements of the same kind as in the normal school systems. I would also have to be more social, given the responsibility an employed at a folk high school have besides teaching, but I don’t think I would mind that much. I may not be the most authoritative person but I like helping and advicing people and I think teaching in such a relaxed atmosphere would be great.

My mother once suggested becoming a reviewer of art, literature or film etc., and even though the thought has crossed my mind before, I almost instantly realized that I couldn’t possibly wield judgement on other’s works of art of the simple reason that such kind of ‘traditional authority’ – of deciding what is good and bad – would be ill-fitting for me, since I find all opinions noteworthy and would much rather discuss the respective work of art from different points of view. (Sounds very INTP, doesn’t it?). In this instance, going to and fro through traditional media and even in writing would become an awfully slow and drawn-out form of discussion, making room for many unnecessary misunderstandings that I think could be prevented face-to-face. Maybe I’m still too immersed with the culture of the university where I’m among equal-minded souls (NB: not meant as a devaluation of anyone outside uni) and such discussions flow easily in class and are a natural extension of being a student.

Maybe being a teacher at uni is what will be my most fitting end goal, after all?

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we? In the meantime, I do not fear the road to it so much.

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Well, to begin with the beginning.

For so long – all my life, really – I’ve thought that there was something wrong with me (or the world) since I always felt so different from everybody else. Not in a ‘I’m superior to all of you’-kinda way (though I behaved as a self-obsessed, little diva as a kid and certainly tricked myself into believing it at times in order to test the waters around me), but the other, contradictory part of being an INTP – at least in my case – has always been the feeling of personal insignificance and humility; the natural, but constant down-playing of yourself. I continue to do so, mostly when trying to function in the outside world, which is problematic when we are being taught that being ambitious, competitive, self-praising and putting yourself first is a given in order to get a job and career nowadays. How are you supposed to rebel against that and never give in?? It is not a way of life I want. Like so many else, I’ve always tried to find someone or something to identify with; someone like me and though I found people who shared the same interests as me (mostly online), in general it was hard finding a sense of community that resonated my own mind and reasoning. Yeah, elementary school and high school are pretty much going up stream but I still missed that significant voice that said it was OK to feel and think how I felt and thought. That I wasn’t the only girl who felt tomboyish, bookish, more or less out of place socially (I was pretty much a lone wolf), wasn’t into clothes, boys and battling for power like the other girls, and was independent and confident in my academic abilities. Though, I was always handicapped when it came to mental arithmetic, and the teachers complained in general that I didn’t say enough in class despite they knew I knew the answers. There’s a perfectly reasonably explanation for that, however, as another INTP explained:

“People think you’re slow at thinking because there’s quite some time before you reply to what they’re saying. In reality, though, you’re lightning fast; it’s just that you’re having a mental shootout over a lot of things, like the possibilities and implications of what’s been said, whether they’ll think you’re slow at thinking because you haven’t replied yet, or whether you should say anything at all, and then finally decide to reply, but then forget what you were going to say.”*

… Or you were simply too late to answer and somebody already beat you to it. That was the daily fare in my case, anyhow. I wish I had this explanation as a kid.

In school, when I was about 16 years old, we had about narcissism as a theme in literature, which appeared once again in psychology class in high school, and for a long time I thought this was my ‘diagnosis’ for my conflicted self: The megalomania with the contraditory mix of inferiority. I still have it, these tendencies, but I don’t know whether it is as extreme as once predicted. It’s not such an outrageous term anymore. Everyone is more or less a narcissist nowadays.

Then for a while I thought I basically suffered from schizoid personality disorder after reading about Kafka having been suspected of suffering the same, and as I began to read about the disorder I found frighteningly many similarities to my own life. Crazy, right? I remember discovering this during class at university not so long ago and I literally felt ill by the thought of having this disorder! Of course, I didn’t – or rather, it seemed pointless to even try to self-diagnose myself since I’m in no way qualified to do so! It’s always stupid to panic. But it left me rather stupefied and shocked that I had come so close to identifying with the traits of a personality disorder than anything else!

Then, by sheer luck and some panicked research, I discovered MBTI. That I am – without a doubt – an INTP. It came as both a surprise and a given when I first read about it. It all makes sense when I think about. My entire life has basically been caught in this maelstrom and finally the waters have calmed somewhat. I have found my ship. My crew. To set me on a straighter path. Other people who have experienced a life much like my own, almost scaringly similar in detail. That the reason I haven’t met anyone like me, especially not any girls, is because we are so few. But we are there. Not to mention, actual scientific terms for a personality like mine. Not just my being weird, an anomaly; the geek girl in the stereotypical bunch of high school/college students. I let out a breath I didn’t know I had been holding. This was what I had been searching for all this time! And though my identity crisis never had reached the levels of extreme as I had seen around me among my peers, inside some essential cogwheels had been missing and now they were in place. I didn’t have to hide and excuse myself anymore, like some circus freak. At least, not as much. The clock still needs some work, though. Hell, it will probably not be finished before my deathbed, but that’s alright. I’ve got some time.

INTPs are often thoroughly engaged in their own thoughts, and usually appear to others to be offbeat and unconventional. The INTP’s mind is a most active place, and their inward orientation can mean that they neglect superficial things like home décor or appropriate clothing. They don’t tend to bother with small talk but can become downright passionate when talking about the larger theoretical problems of the universe. Reality is often of only passing interest to an INTP, as they are more interested in the theory behind it all. INTPs are typically precise in their speech, and communicate complex ideas with carefully chosen words. They insist on intellectual rigor in even the most casual of conversations, and will readily point out inconsistencies of thought or reasoning. Social niceties may fall by the wayside for an INTP who is more interested in analyzing logic, and they may offend others by submitting their dearly held values and beliefs to logical scrutiny. (via fictionalcharactermbti)

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