Never try to conform. Rebel. Be critical. Think. (With the help of some insightful people)

As eilamona on Tumblr pointed out – and on a personal note – INTPs should never try to fit in: “The world is built for extraverted judgers (and sensors also have an easier time since there are lots of them) – but it’s a huge mistake to try to fit in. All these years, we have developed our unique qualities as an INTP. It’s your choice whether to hide them like weaknesses, or play them up as strengths.”

If you force yourself into conformity the consequence will be as Virginia Woolf so accurately put it: “Once conform, once do what other people do because they do it, and a lethargy steals over all the finer nerves and faculties of the soul. She becomes all outer show and inward emptiness; dull, callous, and indifferent.” Or as Rita Mae Brown said: “I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.”

Of course, one can simply ‘play into’ conformity but not fully ‘commit’ like author Richard Wright implies: “The thing to do was to act just like others acted, live like they lived, and while they were not looking, do what you wanted.” And, in the end: “I am inclined to satisfy the claims of my own ideals rather than the expectations of others.”

I’m trying to figure out what my life is to become. Not what everyone else expects it to be become or how it should unfold. Not what everyone else sees fitting: The most conventional and efficient way; what an industrious life should be.

No, I see life as so much more than ticked off boxes and filled in formulars proving you are a person. I believe life should be one’s own and that that should be enough. (Ack, my unfailing idealism!). Not so much for selfish reasons, but for the sake of life itself. Granted to you. Asking you to take care of it. Taking the path less traveled. Or, at least, walk the straight main road with everyone else – but a little more ahead or behind; setting the eyes on other parts than the never-ending horizon, letting the gaze wander, become distracted and see what the others do not see. Once in a while letting your legs walk the course of your curiosity. Dare to.

I do not want to keep on freeloading on the welfare system for my own selfish benefits, but I do not want to ‘sell myself’ to the outer world either. It’s almost an instinct to refuse to do so. An instinct not matured or outgrown with age, but consistent and childlike still.

Life is hardly this black-and-white and compromises are to be made, but my damned integrity balks and rears like a stubborn mule, like I’ll become tainted if I compromise it. Or maybe it is something else? Fear? Cowardice? All of them?

I wrote a poem about fluctuating between worlds, of lives half-lived, and it’s true. I need to get out of my comfort zone and the ‘security’ of fictive worlds and dreams. To face reality. At least, once in a while. To dare.

And yet …

“A dream is not reality, but who’s to say which is which?”. Besides, “dreams are all I have ever truly owned”.

I ask myself what makes me most happy? Living in a world of dreams and imagination, of fiction and music, or living in the real world? I know the immediate answer as it is, but it is not a happy answer. I wish it was different. That life, for once, managed to let its claws sink into me and hold on. My own, humble attends to do so towards life have proven fruitless, pathetic.

I keep searching for my bravery – and hold onto it.

*revised 13/8/17*

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In badly need of a reality check

amelie6

When will it ever really hit me?

I’m such a romantic, old fool.

No, not decisively romantic. Nor sentimental. Cynic-romantic. Arrogant and naive, idealistic and self-deprecating at the same time. Like constantly running a voice-over from a film noir inside my head. (Seriously, the commentary is switched on 24/7.)

I wonder on which level of development as a Type 5 INTP I currently find myself? I think and hope I’m (still) on an average level given my polar (or complementary, depending how you see it) cynic-romantic relationship with the world. No matter how pointless this perspective feels at times, with no definitive answers or meaning, it also sustains me, ironically and stubbornly infusing hope and pulls me back from the edge – or sometimes urging me to take the jump (in a positive sense).

Yet, I fear sliding down a slippery slope; of isolating/detaching myself further from the world if it continues to disappoint or I disappoint myself in aligning myself with it. Perhaps rooted in my feeling of having no purpose other than existing? However, more often, I find the fault lying within the world than in me. And I guess that is a rather ambivalent notion, since, on the one hand, it distinguishes me from those who – in desperation and despair of not conforming or finding meaning – end their own lives and, on the other hand, makes me somewhat deluded into being ‘blameless’ concerning what happens in my life. Both, in a sense, are true, I guess.

This leads way to why this back-and-forth, cynic-romantic pull also sustains my sense of being caught between a rock and a hard place as I’ve so often mentioned on this blog. It enables and feeds a passivity (or even a depression) to do nothing at all because there seems to be no real meaning in doing it anyway, in the end. That – combined with the knowledge that life is absurd and most things happen by luck, unluck and coincidence – takes most of the control out of one’s hands, rendering most actions and ways of life pathetic and deluded; as means to distract ourselves from this lack of control.

At least, that’s what I tell myself. And that may be a delusion in itself. Another deduction and excuse to do nothing about it. Another knowledge that does nothing to lessen my frustration, passivity and sense of pointlessness but instead drives me into circles.

I’ve got no narrative in my own life. Thus the lack of purpose. I can live in and make out everybody else’s narrative but not my own. And reality is there for me to make it in and to guide me, yet I feel like there’s a gulf between us. I’ve become too accustomed to live in a world outside reality and only exist in reality. As author Richard Wright once so aptly put it: “Whenever my environment had failed to support or nourish me, I had clutched at books…”

Is fear and knowledge holding me back? Probably. The cynic romantic in me pulls me back and forth from the edge of the gulf in an eternal loop. And I wonder when it will tell me to jump or let me – in order to take the chance and reach what should be more real. Because I fear what I will become in this otherwise eternal stasis.

*revised 30/1/17*

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Independent to a fault

I have discovered this for myself – and I may have said this before, but I say it again: I cannot live anybody else’s life but my own. If your life is not your own then what’s the point of living it? Of course, freedom is relative (we’re all part of a system, one way or the other) and not everyone can be as lucky as I am or other more privileged.

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It makes no sense of comparing yourself or your life too much to anyone else. It is something I’ve learnt for myself as I’ve gotten older but still have to realize from time to time: That I don’t want to be like everybody else! It’s weird and quite terrible really to have to keep reminding oneself of this. Like some unknown voice from above and beyond keeps booming or whispering that I should be more like everybody else. I think it’s a common flip side (or naturality) of society that we all, more or less, unconsciously or not, try to satisfy: Conformity. The norm. And in a modern society that (for a couple of decades now) salutes indvidualism and ‘uniqueness’ where everyone now has become ‘individual’ and ‘unique’, it isn’t always easy, ironically, to stand out from all the ‘uniqueness’. I don’t know exactly where I stand myself, only that I too fight the same fight on a daily and existential basis. I mostly just want to ‘conform’ so that I can be left alone to be myself. It may be the coward’s way out, but honestly, it is the only solution I can see for myself … for now.

That also comes down to the fact that I don’t like to answer to anyone but myself. That doesn’t mean I don’t take responsibility for my actions or is an anarchist or anything like that. It doesn’t have to be understood in an extreme sense. In a spoilt sense, perhaps, since I’ve been so privileged of never having to compromise myself as such. That day may eventually arrive, but even when or if it happens I don’t think compromise will come naturally to me and that I may fail at it on a larger scale. There are many types of compromise, of course, and you cannot avoid it; I’ve just never had to compromise myself on any significant, personal level (yet). That may make me naive and far from an adult, but I’m also still young and trying to find myself so I don’t expect to have lived life by the age of 25. I may be stubborn and childish still, in this aspect, but I just don’t like explaining my life to anyone – or, to put in another way: it isn’t anybody’s business how I live my life. I’m a hypocrite by this fact, since I’m not without meddling tendencies myself, especially when I’m around my influential mother (the judge of my life) or my sweet, younger sister, though I try to curb my tongue, knowing it’s my mother’s voice speaking most of the time.

That leads me to another matter. Little, white lies may sneak their way into my daily life when I don’t have the energy to answer to anyone which includes being social and outgoing (most often). It’s easier to keep one’s cards close to one’s chest if you only know few people in your life that you have to ‘manage’. Right. I come off as an manipulative bastard, don’t I? It’s not my intention. Once again, I guess making excuses for interacting in the outer world is a common theme for introverts, though there are various ways of doing so, just as there are various ways of living your life as an introvert. I have a feeling INTPs can, essentially, be very hypocritical (and once again, paradoxical). Though we value honesty and mutual respect more than anything, we’re also masters at seeing through systems as well as weaving our way through them the easiest way possible. And the easy way isn’t always the right way. So, we may not come out on the other side entirely clean, but that doesn’t mean we’re intentionally mean either (could have rhymed better but I let that one slide). It’s just an unfortunate added ‘bonus’. As long as our ‘ways’ of dealing with life don’t hurt anybody else and don’t go directly against any of our principles, we’ll gladly continue to do it. After all, we’re talking the ‘little, harmless’ things in life – at least, in the INTP’s eyes. Others might not appreciate it very much. On the other hand, we like dealing with matters that others sometimes prefer to ‘manage’ their way out of the easiest way possible. But this is no ‘who’s-better-than-who’-contest. We all have our weak spots. I still throw out the little white lies. But only because I can. The minute I cannot make excuses or disappear unnoticed I have to grin and bear it. And of course, I do; I’ve practised this ‘necessary evil’ all my life on the sideline and I don’t always despise social interactions. Sometimes they just drain me – beforehand. I think this is quite natural for the introvert.

Am I ashamed of being rather evasive and pathetic when I make my little white lie of having a prior engagement (though I don’t have one) to excuse myself from another for the umpteenth time? Yeah, and sometimes I even regret it, but the introverted nature inside me overrides the shame. I need to have this choice in my life: To be able to withdraw when I feel like it. Since I balance it with actually being social and engaging in the outer world from time to time, I don’t see how it could harm anyone that I don’t always participate – whether or not it is more frequently than others. I don’t really care. Of course, that is also a matter of context and the certain responsibility I’m talking about. If ‘the thing’ I’m supposed to appear to demands more responsibility – if people are dependent on me or expect a certain task of me – then, of course, I will appear!

But I still value and guard my fierce independence the most and thus may come off as egocentric. Even arrogant. And maybe I am. But if that is the price for simply listening to myself – my instinct and my nature, so to speak – then I have to pay it. I’m prepared to take my failings to heart and learn when my independent nature meets resistance, and, to some extent, I’m willing to compromise given the situation, but I doubt I will ever releash it. I may not even be as independent as I so proudly claim to be – I may be utterly pathetic – but that may only be so to some people. To others, I may be able to inspire something in their hearts – I might even be an example of going against even the smallest of streams – but that is, of course, just an ideal dream. In the end, your own view of yourself comes first, and if I find strength and value in my independence, no matter its (objective) degree or range, then I will hold on and be willing to let go, momentarily, whenever I choose to. After all, you can never tell people how they should live their lives, you can only live your own as you choose. It may sound all grand and guru-like, but think about it on a very basic, daily basis; in the way you, unconsciously or not, ‘harmonize’ you inner life and outer life with the view of yourself. It may sound vague, but it helps me and, if you get where I’m going, it could hopefully bring some clarity to your own lives. Even if you disagree 😉

Over and out.

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Between a rock and a hard place

In so many aspects of life, I feel like I’m caught in a limbo.

Maybe we all feel like that?

I can’t claim to know anything for certain, only that I exist (and will die) and thus, unequivocally, have value, meaning and a place in life. What kind of value, meaning and place is another matter entirely. And everything in-between is just – up for discussion (sorry, I’m not feeling very poetic at the moment).

However, in general, I feel I have drawn the long straw in life. So many things have come almost disturbingly easily to me (though I’m not one to complain!) – maybe out of sheer luck or just coincidence (back to the straw). When I see where and how other kids grow up in the world – bruh! – no, I have shitloads of luck compared to so many others living in poor and awful conditions, with no safety, no rights, no freedom and no possibilities. And that’s the extreme comparison! Even well-developed neighbour countries don’t have the possibilities, secutiry and advantages my country gives me. It’s not an excuse to downplay everything in my own life (I’ve certainly been through that already) – but a way to put my life in perspective, be humble and grateful. Maybe a bit too humble but that’s my vice I guess and it could be worse. Then again, I say that about everything in my life. Not an excuse either.

But feeling like being stuck in a limbo is as paradoxical and annoying as it can be. Like being stuck forever in purgatory, not Heaven nor Hell, or the Wood between the Worlds in the Narnia Chronicles, where nothing ever happens and one is drowsily, indecisively and disorientedly stuck between worlds. Multiple choices and the possible intervention of fate. The eternal, absurd, existential crisis between determinism and indeterminism; the maelstrom of causality, free will, karma, fate, luck and chance. It never seems to be just one thing, does it, and how could it be? The world is anything but simple. Sure, the theorists and philosophers who first suggested each of these terms had to go a different way than the other guys just to argue their own theories but even they couldn’t avoid taking the other possibilities into account some way or another. Even ‘free-willed’ decision-making on my part has become wrapped up in a sense of equally causal- and chance-like events; the expected satisfaction of such actions overrode with questions of how much I made things happen myself or whether things happened to me? I’m never left with a solid answer.

Being an in-betweener, so to speak, is as liberating as it is imprisoning because you never settle down on either side but are free to choose – or not to choose at all – yet are imprisoned forever in-between. Of course, you have to choose and settle down for a bit at times, but never for long because your nature (or fate?) rebels against this and seems to have other plans. I don’t mind being in doubt, but doubt can certainly be as rewarding as it can be unproductive.

*scratches head* Is this getting a bit too abstract?

Scaling down a bit, to entirely superficial matters, my self-image is as certain and secure as it is changing and fluctuating. When I view myself on the outside – when I wonder how I strike people – I can be as harsh as I can be fair. I’m neither pretty nor ugly (in the conventional ways), I am both entirely average and entirely unique. Most girls I see and compare myself to are pretty yet so boring to look at; they all look the same, dress the same, wear their long hair the same. I feel I look different but in a good way and the megalomaniac in me often wonders why no one seems to ‘fancy’ me. Then the self-deprecator in me answers by saying everyone is unique; what I feel or exude is nothing unusual or extraordinary thus why should I seem more noticable because of that? Yeah, it’s both a sad and a bad excuse, but maybe profoundly human as well?

It is especially in matters of romance that I feel caught permanently in-between, never getting a taste of either side, so to speak. That I’ve drawn the shortest straw. Or simply haven’t drawn anything because the straw was given to someone else. Should I feel particularly lucky about that? I don’t know since I can only feel unlucky about not having been given the chance to draw in the first place. I’ve come so desperately close once (I think) only to see it ripped away from me before anything truly came to be. In these matters I feel myself wondering about fate and karma and superstition and all that shit, because I’ve never been given a sign or thrown a bone – and if I have, I’ve been purposely blinded to it or have gotten it taken away from me before I even managed to grasp it. I’ve not lived long but long enough to wonder if it will ever happen. Truly. I may overthink and over-analyze things, become too self-centered too easily, because I know other people around me, the same age, mind or personality, are as inexperienced as I am in these matters; I’m no extraordinary case. I tell myself over and over again that it will happen when it happens, that love and soul mates don’t have to come from romance but can be found amongst family and friends and myself even – which I already have. But love like that – well, it isn’t necessarily stagnant and unquestionably secure – it just isn’t … enough. And I don’t know whether it is society that erroneously has taught me so; to expect romance and love to come swooping down in immediate, various forms as I got older, or really my inner being having a hole where something – something significant – is missing. Some part of me feel that I have something to fill and give that I cannot receive and give through the ‘altruistic’ love of family and friends. Something from which I will change, mature and develop from in different ways than the love of family and friends and myself. Rather than a question whether I will feel whole or not through such love, it is about not sitting in a life-long pool of stagnation and being content with that.

Am I too greedy and selfish? Perhaps, but at some point I also feel a right to be – as a human being. A part of me has always been humble, grateful, giving, listening and obedient (never quite in any Mother Theresa-kind of way) but in the ‘smallest’, most ‘insignificant’ of ways towards the people around me. Don’t mistake my tone for bitter, but there just comes a time in your life when enough is enough and you need more than what you give. Just the smallest of things. I’ve always placed myself at others’ disposal, always lending a helping hand or a willing ear, never for my own benefit, purely, but because it has always been second-nature to my curiosity and willingness to help and offer advice the best I can. And though I’ve not been perfect in matters of picking up the phone for the daily or weekly or even monthly updates with friends and family, I’m always here. And maybe that’s why I’m easy to take advantage of and take for granted: Because I’m always just there; a statue in my temple where change never reaches me. No matter how far or long we are apart, it doesn’t change anything for me. I’m always here to offer objective, sound advice (well, according to myself) – like another Gandalf appearing out of the blue to offer his help when most (or unconciously) needed and then retreat in mysterious ways when help is no longer needed. The benefit for me is that I get to learn about other people and if that means I have to stay the lonely wanderer all my life, so be it. It is really no wonder that I’ve always been fascinated with the Byronic anti-hero-cowboy archetype who appears out of nowhere with a questionable identity and background and finds himself more or less willingly help out those in need before he disappears into nowhere, alone again. Selfish, yet not un-selfish. Caught in the eternal limbo with no certain roots, too, it seems.

And being a woman and growing up as a girl, this has, of course, always been highly confusing to identify with – all these male, fictional archetypes that seemed so purposely stripped of feminine values – since I desperately wanted to fuse these traits with the femininity I also thought I felt and which I thought held both. Actually, I always felt confused by the fact that most people was so concerned about keeping them separated; masculinity and feminity. And I didn’t even feel – although I might not have been aware of this at the time – that one’s being could be divided into categories and only two. But sadly, I felt myself involuntarily being drawn into these forced, limited patterns – that were as visible as they were invisible – everywhere in society. I couldn’t even call them out and I couldn’t understand or figure out why before later on, only that it all felt linked somehow. It seemed I was caught in one limbo after another when growing up – true Inception-style – and though some were explained, they just kept on coming quicker than they were solved. Today, I spot heteronormativity’s frighteningly infused power practically everywhere and though we still have such a long way to go, I feel blessed to have been born into an era where it is finally and properly being rebelled against.

I remember this episode during a painting class in high school where I made this portrait of two humans facing each other with a heart between them. Cheesy, I know, but I just felt something about expressing this particular image, I don’t know why. I made the profiles of the humans look entirely sexless, that is, with no visual, gender-prescribed signs that told which gender they were. I didn’t feel it was important to the painting. The important thing was that they were humans and they loved each other. However, my teacher was for some reason baffled by this choice and suggested I should make it visible who was the woman and who was the man. And like the meek, little teen that I was, I just said ‘oh, okay’ and did as she said. It wasn’t necessarily a bad painting and my mother had it hanging in our kitchen for years; there was just something about it that didn’t sit right with me, though I couldn’t quite say why. Soon I started feeling strained by its in-your-face image and in the end, I ended up hating it and decided to take it down (without permission. Just said I was sick of it). I think this episode paints a pretty good picture (haha, pun intended) of this whole theme I’m talking about.

I’ve always been the mousy, nerdy-looking wallflower and got a rather androgynous look and as a kid it was in full bloom since I never really bothered with acting and looking like the heteronormative version of a girl. I wasn’t a tomboy either (I’m not overly fond of that word since it implies a deviation from the default form girls ‘should’ be) as I wasn’t at all with the incrowd of most of the boys (however, I did befriend a couple of boys here and there). Hence, the most ignorant of kids being somewhat confused around me, I guess, thinking I was the one being confused. Some bullied me, some ignored me, some I got fairly well along with but never in any deeper context and still I got a rather ambivalent, apprehensive vibe. Maybe I developed my chameleon-like skill of adapting to most social interactions later on – or I always had it, more or less. But I realize I was caught in the limbo early on already. Not only did (and do) I look androgynous but I also couldn’t conform or identify to the binary gender descriptions and expectations. I still can’t.

And I only just realized today that the word androgyny can be ascribed to gender as well – not just looks and attitude – and that it is the closest I can come to classify this gender-based limbo I’ve always been in. The term encompasses my gender in all its intermediate complexity yet differs from my sexuality which is straight (though straight is a terrible way to describe (hetero)sexuality, really. If anything, sexuality should be just as fluid and dynamic as one’s identity. And I find that I, more likely, verge on demisexuality; in keeping with existing in a grey area). Androgyny suggests that one is not entirely feminine or masculine, nor that one necessarily feel both or either of them. The above link elaborates a lot on the intricacies, legitimacy and problematics surrounding this term since it’s not very commonly acknowledged as a gender description even by LGBTQ+ people – which might explain why I’ve been stuck in this limbo for so long. However, it’s gaining prominence.

So. Apparently, I’m androgyne inside and out. I guess, once again, I can breathe a sigh of relief of actually having a term for what’s happening inside.

One limbo down … um, more to go.

tbc

*revised 24/5/17*

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