Ah, the good ol’ days …

Am I the only one feeling a lack of nostalgia concerning one’s first school years?

20 years ago I started in elementary school and I graduated 10 years ago. That’s something to celebrate.

… Isn’t it?

Well, the very same class I started and graduated together with has decided to celebrate it in our hometown this summer. Some of them have tried persistently throughout the last couple of years to get hold of us all on Facebook for a get-together, but have failed to make anything happen so far.

True, my school years were not the worst of the worst, but I have no overly fond memories of them either. After all, I went to school for 10 years with the same group of kids and going to school was obligatory – what was one supposed to expect? I was a kid and was as easy to please/entertain as I was to get hurt. One could easily make friends by simply saying ‘wanna play?’ or enemies by disagreeing who should play with the prettiest Barbie doll. Rarely much thought came with one’s actions. As one grew older, toys and games became less prominent in the ways of interactng and were replaced by more complex ‘games’ of emotional and hormonal rollercoaster-rides, adopting the adults’ more hard-hitting humour (more awareness, yet no more thought behind) and partying and drinking. The stakes had changed. Everyone was trying to find their places in the world, hierarchy by hierarchy; starting, naturally, with one’s school class. Some kept throwing their weight about, physically and verbally, others experimented with how much power they could gain through various devious, manipulative methods, while a few sat by the ‘High Table’, holding court like kings or queens and whom everybody looked up to (eventhough they did nothing special to earn those titles). A couple stayed quiet because the turmoil stayed on the inside, and of course they often received the worst of the brunt. The latter (surprise; I was one of them) became the scapegoats and/or the wallflowers of the group. Of course, this only got worse the older we got. It didn’t matter that we had known each other for almost ten years at that point. The hormones (or something that’s beyond me) took charge!

Should I have known my mates would suddenly turn on me and those they for some pathetic reason deemed weaker? Should I have seen it coming? Could I excuse their behavior for merely being hormonally induced? Perhaps. But… It wasn’t like I wasn’t hormonal too, you know. I was no angel, but at least I didn’t frequently patronize or bully or mock my peers simply because I felt like it or because I had a bad day. I just kept to myself and did my homework. Which may have provoked something in those still-developing brains of theirs. Who knows? I also looked like a nerdy, lanky tomboy-reject from a 1970s’ school photography of the latest arcade game club; bowl haircut, glasses and all (let’s just say, I would fit perfectly into a Wes Anderson movie). I guess such a strange ‘non-girl’ was very confusing for everyone else trying so (too) hard to find their places in the heteronormative systems. So they had to say something, of course, though I never asked for their opinions. Well, kids are kids. Actions forgiven, but not forgotten. To this day I cannot help feeling a touch of old-time betrayal whenever I have bumped into any of them back home.

Still, I wasn’t the one who took the worst of the brunt (though some of it was pretty rough) from those so-called mates of mine. I am ashamed to say I witnessed some awful stuff that I was too stunned by and too much of a coward to interfere with. There was even this one time when I was the mocker, and I will never ever forget the face of the poor girl who happened to be at the receiving end and had done nothing to deserve my vile words. I simply wanted to show off in front of my other friend. I remember feeling so bad the moment the words left my mouth, seeing her face crumple in shock and hurt (and she did not have a very pleasant life at home, in the first place. Boy, did I feel double-bad!) while my friend giggled and we turned away and continued with our usual frivolity like nothing happened. But I felt so paralyzed within. Didn’t recognize myself. And I wondered how the others who did this on a daily/weekly/yearly basis felt? Did they really feel better from projecting that kind of stuff? Did they really tell themselves that this was the way to find a place and role in the world? To be grown-up and cool?! No, it was beyond me.

I couldn’t have been much more than 13 years old, and suddenly I had grown light years older in my awareness.

So this whole reunion-celebration-anniversary-whatever-invitation this summer is awkward to say least. They write in the invitation that – besides all the summer frivolities – we are going to ‘gossip all night long’. Really? What are we to gossip and bond over? ‘The good, old days when we were one, big, happy group of kids and our 10 years togetherness’? Yeah, right. In that case, they remember our school years very differently than I. What do they expect we have in common anymore? We’ve grown soooo much in those last ten years. Are we supposed to ‘share all the good memories’? Sure, there was a few, but those I remember most clearly were when we were playing ball and forgetting ourselves for a moment; with no hackling or power-play. Just kids getting excited about a stupid, but oh-so-essential, little ball in the school yard, getting sweaty and exercise all our frustrations out through the simplest of games – where the only danger of getting hurt was scraping one’s knees.

I know (via Facebook) most of them still live close to our hometown or even in the town (still – after all these years, geez) and that some of them have maintained some contact during the years, so I will be one of the few who have lived ‘far’ away from home and not been in close contact with any of the others. As far as I know, we’re also only few who have taken a college education. Not that it is time to get all snobbish, but I’m not sure whether any of the others will go all the way back home for this. At any case, I will be an outsider who shares no greater nostalgia for my past school years nor have a need to stay close at home or keep in contact with old school mates. But why pretend? The ‘school mates’ I connected with (and still stay in contact with) were first and foremost from my high school years.

Shouldn’t I give them a shot, you may ask? Am I not a little harsh and unfair? If I expect we have all more or less grown so much since we last saw each other, don’t I expect them to be different than what I remember them to be? To have become nice and behaved grown-ups?

Honestly, I’ve spent most of my life since our graduation to move on and separate myself from that time. To free myself and become myself, since I felt stuck in the role I ended up having in that class. I do not hate that time; I accept what it was and that we were all just kids growing up and trying out the world (though, I never counted on that it was to be tried out on each other as well), but I honestly cannot evoke or fake any lingering nostalgia about that era of my life. Most times that I’ve happened to bump into one of the people from school in our hometown, I’ve more or less avoided them (yeah, really mature, I know), but I hate putting up a front of fake politeness, so most of our chance-meetings became nothing more than a awkward, crooked half-smile or brief, stilted greeting. A rare time or two some of them started a conversation like nothing has happened, but all I kept thinking was: ‘Don’t you remember what you said and did back then – at all?!’.

I have no real desire to get to know any of them. I have moved on. It may sound harsh and unfeeling, but I cannot help feeling that that chapter of my life is over and I have no nostalgia left to even find an anniversary celebratory and cozy. Not in my case. If the others feel it, let them! I honestly think they remember those school years differently than I do. Or they have managed to become nostalgic about us being kids … or something.

Sure, this coming reunion (which I don’t know if I’ll participate in) could prove to be all fun and interesting, such as hearing what the others are up to – instead of always hearing it through our parents (or maybe it’s just me). But again, I’m not that interested beyond that nor renewing any friendships (which were barely there in the first place). Sorry. And not to be a full-fledged pessimist, but I can almost see the strained, put-on front we’ll all have adopted beforehand when we meet each other – and I’m not entirely sure it’ll just melt away if we give it some time and a couple of drinks and that we’ll ‘fall right back into the good, old patterns’. I’m not so sure how ‘good’ those old patterns ever were … But then again, they may see something I don’t.

However, some say nostalgia is denial – denial of a painful past.

I have a wicked wish of wanting to ask them if they indeed remember any of the less ‘good, old’ episodes in our school days together. Now, there’s something I’m interested to know about – all polite masks aside! To really see how they react and if they indeed have changed! I certainly have my suspicions about one or two of them, but I’m not sure if they will come to this event. Hell, I’m not even sure I’ll come – and what does that say about me? That I’m a cold-hearted bitch who feels too high-and-mighty to join the rest of them? Perhaps. I have persistently stayed away from the sporadic, back-and-forth conversations on Facebook regarding this renunion – which I honestly hoped there would come nothing of since it has failed to do so the last couple of years. Now I would look even more an ass if I don’t show up when they’ve finally pieced something together, right? Especially since I know I’ll be back in my hometown this summer – and given it’s a very small town, it would be a miracle if I don’t bump into any of them and then I’ll have to come up with some sad excuse for not joining the party … Ugh. Maybe I’ll just have to grin and bear it. Smile like nothing happened.

… Really?

I wish I felt nostalgic about my earliest school years. I really do. But I don’t and I’m not going to as long as I remember what also happened beyond all the supposedly good stuff and the fact that we were just kids etc. etc. (though, people were equally if not more bad in their teens). Funny how you can still be hung up about the past yet not be nostalgic. Some – or most – would probably say: “Ah, would you relax! Forget about all that stuff for a minute and have some fun, will you?”. Hm, yeah, well, if only it was that easy. Again, I’ve forgiven but not forgotten, and I cannot face the past and be asked to forget it at the same time. It does not compute in my brain and if that is very INTP or very me, then that’s that. I cannot change it. I’ve been in such situations before and tried to do so, but I never quite succeed. I will rarely make greater fuss about it during the event itself; schooling my attitude to that of fake politeness and overall friendliness, but that doesn’t mean it sits well with me or that I don’t go home with a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. Whether it was the wine or something else. And I hate that; knowing fully there’s little one can do about it; it’s just life, and I sense this will be more or less the situation after the reunion – if I attend it. I’m not sure I want to have it confirmed. And yes, I could go to have it unconfirmed – and if it was anybody else I would. I just don’t feel it’s worth it with these guys. What do I have to renew or give a second chance, when there hardly was a first chance?

We were just a random bunch of kids, compulsory put together in the same class in 1996. Who said we were to become life-long friends and always have something in common other than we happened to start in school together? When so much happens those years growing up and that it seems only natural one has little in common with the kid one once was? I have no overt desire to revisit who I once was. I have no need to reminisce of the closed-off child I was at school; for so long boxed in between all the others who elbowed their way to the front in various ways. Not because I am bitter about that era of my life or hate that version of myself. I simply accept it as a chapter of my life that I have written and have no desire to revise because then I wouldn’t be where I am now. I want to be the person I needed as a child: Someone to speak up and stand up in the face of injustice. I cannot be silent and smile one more time – just to keep the waters calm. What is past is past, but I will not pretend it was never there either. The truth of the past. And that may be to put way too much into an innocent, little reunion, but I’m only trying to explain the lack of – anything really – I feel towards my former school time and ‘mates’. I might not give it a chance but again, why should I when there was hardly one to begin with?

And maybe that’s just me – being weird. But I cannot change how I feel and what I cannot forget.

“…It’s strange how I’m reliving it, hour by hour, with the mission of neutralizing it, and transforming it into an inoffensive past that I can keep in my heart without either disowning it or suffering from it. That’s not easy. It’s at once painful and poetic.”

— Simone de Beauvoir, from a letter to Jean-Paul Sartre c. January 1947 featured in Letters to Sartre

*revised 25/10/18*

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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 femininity. I couldn’t understand why everyone seemed to judge one’s gender before one’s person. 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 17/04/18*

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On alcohol

I never really liked alcohol and partying which seemed all the other young kids ever did when they first hit puberty. So, of course, I kept this statement to myself most of the time. It wasn’t looked kindly upon from any side.

To say I was confused about this unanimous ritual among my peers is an understatement.

I’ve never felt the need for alcohol or getting wasted. My brain is my most treasured quality; I’d never want to sedate it like that! Don’t get me wrong: I treasure having fun. But I treasure memory just as much.

Besides, I’m too physically sensitive towards alcohol; I get too tired too quickly or just get tipsy and silly in a way I don’t like.

Yes, for a moment I just don’t give a damn which can be freeing, but I’ll never allow myself to get entirely wasted, thus I do remember what I said and did while intoxicated and I just don’t recognize myself. I feel ashamed.

I’m not totally opposed to alcohol and can enjoy regulated amounts when the occasion calls for it, so I have been slightly intoxicated but never drunk as a skunk; reeling and puking and waking up with a hangover and no memory of the night before. I’m utterly repelled by the thought of going through that.

Of course, some would argue that being slightly intoxicated ‘unfortunately’ means one remembers ‘last night’ and how one behaved – and ‘who would want that?’

Well, if ‘getting fucked’ is the only point of drinking I pity you, but I do not blame you nor do I want to moralize about individual choices. I can only speak for myself and where that places individuals who dare oppose such ‘rituals’ and what I see as a larger, societal problem – at least, in my country – but I’ll get to that in a bit.

I like to believe I can have fun (and be funny) without intoxicants. Normally, at parties, I prefer observing and participating with a clear head and I can still have a great time.

However, I never was a party animal; I can only manage for so long. Being an introvert it is quite draining to be social, no matter what. I’ve felt the need to forget about life and its worries, but never with alcohol. I’ve never felt the need to let loose like that. And I do not need alcohol to disappear; I just go into my head, use my imagination. I can get drunk on music, books, films, art, good conversations, etc. and the only kind of true hangovers I have are these ones.

Like Fernando Pessoa once wrote: “Everyone has his alcohol. To exist is alcohol enough for me. Drunk from feeling, I wander as I walk straight ahead. When it’s time I show up at the office like everyone else.”

ravenclaw1

Not to mistake this with a ‘holier-than-thou’-attitude, but I simply cannot understand the incessant need my peers have for the kind of oblivion that involves walking in a constant alcohol-induced fog – without thinking at all!

I get that it is the most common option for having fun, but I can’t help finding it somewhat problematic that so many find it so necessary to let loose like that so often.

Why is that? Are they too worked-up by worries and problems in their daily lives, of always presenting the best version of themselves, always performing to the fullest, too insecure, too many expectations to live up to? Well, I get that, since that is our currently fawlty society in a nutshell, and I don’t see myself without worries and insecurities either, but again, I’ve never felt the need to drown my sorrows. Maybe I just haven’t lived a full life (well, I am only 25), maybe I don’t have the great need for socializing in the first place, maybe I’ve been fortunately spared from most sorrows in life, maybe I’m just so lucky to be content with other ways of ‘intoxicating’ myself without the help of alcohol and drugs. Maybe it’s just that.

But it still baffles me that people say they drink to loosen up, open up, be social, have fun and, well, get laid, when too often afterwards they complain and regret time and time again having done all this while being drunk, because it rarely was the outcome they’d wanted. If they even remember what they did to the persons around them, that is. I’ve witnessed many shrugging off that paricular aspect with frightening frequency. As long as they had fun. Didn’t they …?

Sure, alcohol loosens the tongue, but I’ve seen very different types of drunks, up-close even, and not every person benefits from having their tongue loosened. I’ve seen otherwise lovable, sweet people turn into ugly, sneering, bitter people, too depended on their drink and too oblivious about those around them and the subtle hurt they inflict on them by ‘opening up’ and become careless. Boy, the list of things I’ve witnessed and overheard in my young life-time: Broken arms, cracked skulls, ruined livers, young kids dragging their drunk parents home, others finding themselves abandoned by the road and nearly asphyxiating in their own vomit, and some close-to-irrevocable consequences for generations to come following intense drinking binges and escapades among grown-up school mates and friends. And this isn’t even the worst on the list.

And here I wonder: Is that really the price to pay? Should alcohol give cause to this? To so much damage? Some of those former ‘drinking buddies’ argued that smoking was more dangerous or that getting hit by a car was a more likely cause of death than alcohol. Sure, I thought listening to their unsurprisingly unanimous rant. But weren’t they overlooking the giant elephant in the room?

The gulf between me and everybody else on this subject sometimes seems so great. I’ve only met a few people who felt the same way as I did and even they were reluctant to admit it and stand by it when they were at parties with friends. Because we still want to be there; at the parties – with our friends! (No matter what I say about partying not being my nirvana, I don’t necessarily despise it either). We just don’t like not getting to choose or being judged or shunned by standing by our choices. We too want to enjoy ourselves and party – just without alcohol. It is possible, you know. And we don’t want to ban all alcohol, simply because we say ‘no‘ to alcohol. We just want the right to choose. Just like everyone else.

In my country, alcohol is so integrated in basically every tradition, festivity and celebration across all generations with great historical resonance, equalling coziness and good times, that saying ‘no’ to it is extremely taboo – and I’m not understating this. You cannot have a festivity here without having a drink! Alcohol is simply a part of the community. And if you say ‘no’ to alcohol, in some sense, you say ‘no’ to be a part of the community.

It is a severe problem that young kids (and we’re talking down to 12-year-olds) think the only way of letting loose, having fun and get together is through alcohol and they begin to drink often and heavily all through their teen years and well into their 20s and even 30s. And when those who say a single ‘no’ this one time are more or less regarded as freaks…

How misguided is that?!

I’m not kidding. I’ve experienced first-hand, again and again and again, from schoolmates to family, friends, colleagues, even total strangers etc..

The people of my country are generally very liberal and relaxed about things many countries would go off the deep end about, that’s sorta the way we roll, but there’s a catch to this, of course. If you resist the rituals contained to this relaxed culture, you are already ostracized even if you try to moderately and politely participate. Even those who say it’s entirely okay not wanting to drink (the typical response, besides ‘Whaaat?!’. As if I needed their permission in the first place!), I see it in their eyes and behavior that they’re not used to people actually saying ‘no’ to alcohol. (You should see when you say no to cake or sweets … It’s like you’ve suddenly grown a second head or something). That I’m regarded as somewhat of a prude, that I’m not a risk-taker, that I do not allow myself to have fun or want to join the community. Really? Because I said ‘no’ once or twice? Because I simply don’t fancy alcohol all that much I’m suddenly a anti-social prude who can’t have fun? Only those who don’t know you would say something as careless as that. And you suddenly realize just how important alcohol is to so many people when you meet this reaction again and again. Suddenly, the oh-so-celebrated liberal-mindedness becomes a bit hypocritical.

There’s a lot of (unspoken) peer pressure going on in every generation concerning this. It’s funny to see how other countries make it out as such a big deal when it happens, whereas in my country it’s totally taken for granted and laughed at when studies show just how much we drink. Parents often encourage their kids to drink because it’s already so heavily integrated in family and holiday gatherings in the first place. It’s sickening! And when it becomes a part of the sense of community, a cultural ritual, it is so much harder to let go off. If we had been talking about a religious ritual it would have seemed less significant and scandalous to refuse because our country is already so secularized. But this is a highly socially integrated ritual and not as easy and legitimate to excuse yourself from.

*revised 5/12/17*

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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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