It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”

— Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I have come past yet another self-discovery, though the revelation itself is perhaps not so strange since it has hid in the subtext of many other discoveries I have come across on my path.

Like Alice… in Wonderland.

It hit me one evening when I asked myself – for the umpteenth time – why I seem to have no life. Really. And I realized it may be because I never had a life to begin with. It has not so much to do with self-pity as it is simply an objective observation:

I have always prided myself with having an independent and original mind (obvious throughout this blog, I think), but, in reality, my independence has lived off my dependence on others, and my original personality/mind has lived off all the influences around me. (Nothing new under the sun and rather cliché. And, after all, I can never be totally without some level of uniqueness. None of us can.)

But I believe I, so far, have lived a life of a sort of parasitical child – in badly need to grow up! A child who cannot, for the life of me, express emotions maturely – hardly even objectively (I cannot seem to overcome my literal tongue-tiedness)!

In part delusional innocence and part daily-reality-phobia, I’ve fed off the experiences, feelings and stories of others – whether those people have been real-life or fictional. Thus the constant and spineless immersion in fictional narratives and music – to substitute the numb emotions within – and warding off responsibilities in real-life (mostly those to myself).

*sighs* If I indeed suffer from some sort of Peter Pan-syndrome, I’d really like to have it diagnosed for being just that. Then I have a real excuse to shed my responsibilities and go find Neverland. (Hmm. Step up from Wonderland?)… Joke aside.

I am most likely just a maladaptive dreamer.

Have I ever felt empty and aimless when the pages run out or these ‘other people’ stop talking and showing me their lives and I can no longer immerse myself in their liveliness? Yes, perhaps I have. Perhaps I repress it by immersing myself further into something else, such as my imagination (Lewis Carroll wrote it: “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality”). Which again continues to supplant reality or what I cannot seem to have in my own daily reality. Something I am too cowardly to reach out and grasp fully myself.

Arrogantly, I have convinced myself that life is bigger than anything as ‘trivial’ as the daily, material matters of my own here and now. Bigger in a sense of metaphysics. I have a vast universe in my head that I need to discover and fill out with knowledge. Dealing with my own reality heads-on always seems so exhausting, transient and unreliable. I have no control there. I cannot predict the outcome in situations where my emotions feel most at stake but where they are often abandoned, even by myself, because I am no closer to understand them. So, of course, a subtle disappointment has run throughout every action, though I have not failed to see the benefit from most of them. Failures and flaws give life a color beyond compare, because they are what constitute you as a human; your unique you. I have learned from every action and that I have taken as a blessing, you could say.

But still the disappointment, the emptiness has rung hollow within; an undercurrent settling in my gut as I have become more and more aware of life; of all the things I have lived through compared to all the things I likely or may never will. The sense of excitement and curiosity of getting to know what lies ahead has slowly been quelled by every underlying disappointment connecting; a frightening numbness setting in. Tastes turned to ashes in my mouth.

And I immerse myself in all the constructed narratives and emotions to bar out, to hush the raging numbness, silence and solitude-turned-loneliness I live in and come home to every day.

Solitude. My once so trusted friend has been possessed by loneliness; become the Babadook of my mind; a ghost haunting for the purpose of terror rather than company. And I have been its very maker. It is the Frankenstein of my creation; a ‘safe’ theory of ‘companionship’ that my mind latched on to, settled for – anything compared to the real thing; of having no companionship at all. A theory that turned into a being of its own once the egg was hatched; a being that became a monstrosity because it was still unsatisfied with its existence and blamed me. Because life isn’t easy. It was never meant to be.

Maybe it is the strange, little but significant events that have occurred to me within the last couple of years (I may have mentioned some of them here and there, but I don’t imagine you’ll know what I’m talking about and I cannot go into them right now) and likely set off my depression. If indeed my depression has been lying in wait for this – or if it really is a depression and not just an odd restlessness or lazy down-spiraling of one defense mechanism succeeding another. And, as I said, burying myself in fiction and imaginative feelings helps me to deflect from my own lonely life as well as this perhaps/perhaps-not-depression. A sort of silly ‘coping escapism’ you are more likely to find in some (dark) children’s novel. And despite what I may have learned from these significant events, they have also left tiny, superficial scars in my heart; invisible to the naked eye; slowly accumulating over the years, forming a dark little cloud around it where the sun peeps in every now and then, desperate to emerge fully. I can empathize with others who go through something similar on a daily basis, yet I cannot begin to compare myself to what others feel on totally different levels and maybe I’m not supposed to. Maybe I’m allowed to have this, to feel this, accept it and then find a way out of the fog, somehow.

(Have I become my own therapist?)

All utter nonsense, perhaps. Or, perhaps not? How can anyone answer that but myself? And how can I when it feels like it takes several epiphanies, some life-changing experiences and a lifetime to answer that?

Again, I’m at a loss. At war in my mind. I seek immediate answers I can only gain through time. And time moves both slowly and unpredictably. And then it’s over before you know it.

And again, I haven’t dared to move and grab hold of some part of my reality and truly make it mine; claim it as mine. I have been too cowardly to do it. Perhaps because I feel, deep down, that there’s something too good about life that I do not deserve? I feel blessed and cursed at the same time, and I’m ashamed of feeling cursed; of appearing ungrateful of what I’ve been given; my inability to make better use of what I have and seize the day. I mostly just seize the day to write about life and consume others’ experiences of it, not experiencing it myself nearly as fully as I could. Imprisoned by myself or my inability to do something about it. Is that a life of a writer? I doubt it. And yet, many people imprisoned; physically, institutionally or mentally, have written all throughout history, have they not? Some of the greatest writer have been imprisoned in some way or another, perhaps not directly enabling their writing but channeling it.

Perhaps I can make do with what I have worked myself into?

My writing may be as delusional as it may be cathartic; a circle of self-serving excuses; where fear of pity and perfection mixes in a blend as sinister as the river Styx I have to pay Charon with everything precious I possess to cross.

I return time and time again to a crossroad and I wonder if there is a me in this world and another me in another world and I wonder how often they will coincide in this harsh, bright, beautiful existence I have been given. Or if one will truly emerge with the other and – in that case – which one? And I wonder how many feels the same?

I want to override the consistent self-pity and shame, knowing how silly and unproductive these feelings are, but first I must escape the gripping loneliness from within and around and it is not so easily overcome. My stubborn independence does not help. I still return to myself. I have scolded myself with every line possible and every tone of voice to see the effects, to self-motivate, and yet, it has not helped (unsurprisingly). I have written and drawn and opened up more to those around me, strangers even. Yet, I still come home to myself and myself alone; the loneliness waiting there.

How is something like that overcome? I cannot seem to allow myself to reach for twosomeness, perhaps because I am so conflicted by its very concept. Equally afraid and hopeful. My mind is always one step ahead; one foot in the positive scenario, another in the negative one. All I see is the 50/50 chances and I cannot predict my luck nor my misfortune. ‘That’s human’, ‘that’s life’; god don’t I know ‘it’s bloody life!’ and yet, it does nothing to answer what I am to do. To wait and let it run its course? Sure, I’ve done nothing else. But as Charlotte Brontë once stated: “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.”

But what is life if not lonely and wild, fantastical and quiet?

Meanwhile, I’ll return to a segment of Carroll’s iconic story that speaks to something quintessential in me:

“She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes; and once she remembered trying to box her own ears for having cheated herself in a game of croquet she was playing against herself, for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people. ‘But it’s no use now,’ thought poor Alice, ‘to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!'”

*revised 23/6/17*

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When analytical observation is your default mode …

Do you also let any possible situation in your life play out in your head; regarding as many variables as possible, inserting various dialogues and people in and out of your life?

I certainly do. I always have. It’s a trait I’ve chosen to call my infamous ‘chessplayer brain’ from time to time. And which has caused me as much exhilaration as head- and heart-ache, I must admit, though it has nothing to do with other people as such.

No, I’m in love with the possibilities of life. Not in achieving as much as imagining them. The sheer fact that they are there. Though I may not or never experience even a third of them first-hand, the mere thought of all the wondrous crevices and elements in life enthralls and possesses me to no end. My brain naturally and constantly absorbs all that it possibly can and simulates all the possible narratives and feelings not yet discovered.

I am an INTP to the core. This abstract universe of pure thinking and imagination that I can practically get off on is at the very essence of my being.

In real life, on the other hand, it dawned on me that no matter the situations – big or small – I am thrown or throw myself into in this life, I always return to a state of analysis and observation. It’s my default mode. The center of the court I return to when having caught the ball and bounced it back over the net; once in a while missing it, but always returning to the center.

For a long time, I couldn’t quite fathom why my life has been relatively quiet; why I had so little happen to me and so little to tell.

It makes sense now. I violently facepalm myself because of my own blindness, for not having realized this sooner. Because, of course, my life has mirrored my introspective nature. Whatever little or bustling event that has happened to me has seemed paradoxical and mystifying at best – in keeping with the very fascinations I have with life, roaming my head; its paradoxes, strange occurences, big and small mysteries, etc.. The entire, complex, abstract, real and absurd, but utterly fascinating connection I wouldn’t want to miss or be without. That, naturally, goes hand in hand with my existence as well. Whatever significant effect the events had on me, an implosion rather than an explosion occured.

It’s a strange explanation for a strange phenomenon that is life (for an INTP) but I cannot put it in better words at the moment.

And so, I wonder if I’ll ever partake in much in life if this – this harmonizing stasis of analytical observation – will forever be my default mode. Not that it is so bad, it’s just … illuminating. Strange. There’s the word again.

My role in life has and maybe always will be shaped by this notion. I don’t mind it so much. After all, it suits me for a reason. But, for that reason, a distance of some kind is already cemented, because being of an observant and analytical nature I have to step back; to distance myself in order to gain clarity and objectivity. No matter my involvement in a matter, I can never give everything of myself. In fact, I cannot allow it. I have to keep something at bay; something to pull me back and let me breath. But more than it’s something that ‘I am letting’, it seems instinctive. Necessary. A core part of me.

And for that part there are situations I do not dare to even try, because when your brain is programmed to take in and study every possibility in life, it, inevitably, also take in every risk. And those risks hault the extent of my bravery.

“Do it or don’t do it — you will regret both,” Søren Kierkegaard so wisely said.

Thus, I fear parts of what’s essential in life will never reach me. Not truly. I do mind that, I guess, since I fear the potential loss of what others seem to find so easily or fight to reach, but, in the end, always will taste. Because even if I find it or choose to fight for it, I will inevitably and out of necessity see myself drift back to my status quo. Draw back to my analytical self.

However, I will always fear losing something, won’t I? Won’t we all, as Kierkegaard said? It’s part of life, after all. I just wish I felt less pity for myself about it. But I can’t help it.

And that may be my role in life, my toil, my destiny, my yoke, my burden, etc.; selfish or unselfish: To stay the always observing, distanced analyst while others tend to other parts of life. (That said, I’m a logician; my brain needs to, first and foremost, divide and dissect things in order to analyze and understand them and how they go together – with each other as well as with their surroundings. So, naturally, that former sentence seems a bit silly and black-and-white. But I need to think like this in order to dig out the complexities and my points).

But there are times, in social situations and gatherings, where I – unconciously or not – assume different roles according to what I analyze and see the need for – in order to maintain harmony, I guess. When someone is panicking or unravelling I become calm and collected, but if I see others staying cool and on top of things, I allow myself to unwind and not worry if I panic, because I know someone else will provide reassurance if needed. When travelling and no one is taking the lead or can figure out where to go, I usually come forth to suggest various approaches and often become ‘the one with the map’. If someone becomes wary or sceptical of a situation, I become confident and positive, and, at times, vice versa. When there’s a quiet or awkward tension at a party I become the jokester to defuse it, but when I see someone else being the jokester, I pull back and stay much more quiet. At times, when I feel utterly ignored or feel that the people around me are being totally ignorant, petty or unjust, I become moody and sullen and I justify my right to be so because of people’s sheer stupidity. Other times, I become slightly self-righteous and a warrior for justice and reason; I want to challenge and fight and change people’s perspectives for the better.

Maybe I don’t know people well enough or have been around that many to know if this is fairly common; to assume different roles in social situations in order to keep a balance of sorts. And, after all, we all have various identities that come together to the person we are, according to what situation we are in; at home, at school, at work, with family, with friends, etc., don’t we?

I think I’ll leave my reflections on the matter here, for now, as any true, analytical observant would do. A bit of food for thought is always healthy, after all.

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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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Moments of epiphany

How and when do you know you’ll probably never reach a deeper understanding between yourself and your family/parents?

I guess there are many degrees of toxic environments to grow up in and I definitely got the ‘lucky’ end of the stick. Still, certain patterns do form within relationships, no matter what kind, hidden, denied or not, and today I realized mine. I may always have known it was there but I also thought I was merely reading too much into things; that I was being dramatic and pathetic; that I was more at fault than others. And though this may sound dramatic either way, I can’t help but telling what I know to be the truth for me. Especially, if the truth comes through the seemingly smallest of incidents, followed by a silent epiphany that tells a message somehow all too familiar to oneself; one you have always known deep down. Especially, if it comes the very first day back in the family’s bosom – and unfolds in its usual and all too disappointing pattern.

Moments of epiphany come in many shapes and sizes and mine came like a stinging reopening of a cut close to my heart, if not on the heart itself. And, as I said, when it happens the very first day back home for the holidays, you know in your heart (you all but literally feel it) that this is wrong – that this shouldn’t be so. When I realize that the very essence of my being can be so easily disregarded and mocked as something silly – still, after all this time – and that I cannot entirely be myself even among my kin. (NB: This may be too subjectively implied, vague and thus uncomprehensive to follow exactly, but I hope to make way for some significant points of self-discovery in the end.)

The thing is: I love my parents yet they do not understand me; they cannot read me. They are my closest of kin – they made me – but they do not understand me – which makes it hurt all the more. This may sound awfully reminiscent of a moody teenager’s voice speaking, but I have outgrown that teen; I know myself more than I did then. I know that this feeling is not ‘just’ the cause of a coming-of-age, hormone-charged fad. It has been brewing for a long time, never building like a snowball of anger and bitterness but simply just there; a constant sense of displacement, of a wire snapped.

They don’t understand why I seek away; why I seek elsewhere than where they are, because that crucial connection is missing. And if they do not understand or cannot read me by now, I don’t think they ever will. It saddens me because I thought I had shown myself; that I was as close to my developed self as I could be by now – or, at least, that their love for me would have shown them my heart and mind by now. I know; you can never truly know what a person thinks or feels, but isn’t the idea that you’ll get to know and learn about them along the way? Apparently, that isn’t the case with my parents and myself. It seems we are always meeting at cross-purposes no matter how well-meaning our intentions may be. I try to reach them, yet they pick up the wrong clues and mock those they have found, throwing away precious chances to come to a greater understanding. I don’t know if it is their embittered hearts that have no more room for such tender dealings or if we simply have very, very bad timing since we continue to go wrong of one another. My mother misinterpret and my father misunderstand. Not in any necessarily big, dramatic way, but in the undercurrent of every benevolent interaction or passionate discussion lies the risk of misunderstanding simmering and waiting to attack and screw us up. I think my parents feel it as well because they make sure to trample down every aggression and passion, even positive passion and conflict, or judge it as misplaced or misleading, fearing it will set off a potential avalanche they wouldn’t know how to handle, thus making it close to impossible to discuss important matters. I’m always exhausted rather than relaxed or exhilarated by their company. I cannot talk with them. I do not ask them to be like me (you can hardly demand everyone around you to be like yourself), but simply to understand me on an entirely basic level. Or just, for once, listen without making too-quick judgments or (mis)interpretations.

As such I don’t mind being mocked by family since it has always been so, more or less; again, not in an evil-intended kind of way, but for the mere chance of poking fun of one’s antics, I guess. And I happen to have many antics! But I have accepted them because they are me. I have enough self-irony and self-consciousness of my shortcomings as it is; the shortcomings my parents already know, yet cannot help to continue to poke fun at instead of treating them with understanding and acceptence. After all, it’s healthy and constructive to be taken down from one’s own – sometimes – unconscious piedestal (in order to know you even had one in the first place), but there’s a fine line between laughing with you and at you. I sometimes fear that I appear more arrogant and self-important than I feel I am (which makes me doubt whether I really am arrogant?!) and if it looks like I put on airs in a discussion when my intention couldn’t be farther from the case. It leads back to the ‘problem’ of being an INTP; that “…people think you argue because you have to be right, but arguing is just a part of your quest to learn”. But my parents aren’t simply ‘people’, right? They are my parents.

Maybe your parents were never meant to form any deeper understanding with you? Maybe this is an all too common, universal and perhaps even banal problem and I’m far too blinded or naive to have noticed it before? The problem of what parents ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be is perhaps as old as time.

But still something grates me. The world doesn’t revolve around me – I know – but among all people isn’t it your parents who should be the first ones to respond to you and celebrate you? If your parents can’t even see the development within you then who can? And what does that say about your relationship with your parents?

I find myself saddened and disappointed by the fact that they are apparently so blind to things I have learned to see now, because I have finally come to various self-realizations about myself and though these realizations may not sound like much, they are significant to me – despite the possible ‘selfish’ nature surrounding them. Perhaps that’s the impediment to our wrong-footing? These moments of self-realization may be barely visible to the naked eye – even to your closest of kin?

I cannot help myself: I have finally learned the art of learning to love myself; of celebrating myself as having come this close to a developed self; celebrate that I have virtues as well as flaws and that flaws can be good because it makes me human and that I can only learn and develop myself from flaws and mistakes, not from perfection or denying my flaws. I celebrate that I have an open mind (isn’t it wonderful to be human; to have this ability?) and am willing to learn and understand, knowing I may never be fully ‘developed’ in mind or spirit but that I’m willing to grow and am damn well close (for my age, if that says anything). And the (self-)realization itself shows it, I feel, and makes me proud on a deeper, inexplicable level.

Isn’t that what life is about? Not being selfish but finding and loving oneself? Connecting with oneself? Forget the hippie clichés and pseudo-spiritual ‘life-inspiring quotes’ hanging on every branch for a bit (though they can be helpful). I’m no survivor of terrible, life-changing events nor hold some celestrial spirit connected to the circle of life within or anything like that. I cannot speak for what one have or should have to endure in life in order to find oneself. Such realizations are your own and can show in the most surprising or even familiar of ways; from the outside or within, roaring or silently. And I can only speak for myself, being as human as any of you, and tell you what I’ve discovered for myself. And whether it may or may not be for entirely self-absorbed and pathetic reasons, which I’ll perhaps discover later in life and laugh at, so be it. Pathos is a part of man, after all, as much as ethos and logos.

In danger of sounding too holy and pompous after all, and, I may just write all this as much for myself (if not mostly) as for you, I would like to say that what is important is right now – what you have learned for yourself along the way – in order for you to take the next step, no matter how big or small. As long as it is significant to you. Of course, it’s tough if others (esp your closest ones) don’t see it as well. Our self-image is not entirely self-made after all. But even if you discover the self-realization is somewhat off or misconstrued, at least you had some sort of realization (all your own); one that is important for your own self-image and -discovery right now, making ways for new and even different ones (of the world and the people around you as well), enabling you to learn from yourself, choose for yourself and accept yourself. Knowing and reaffirming your own ability to learn.

If that is not the first and foremost most important thing in your life; the love of thyself, flaws and all, keeping an open mind and willingness to learn, I don’t know what is.

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