Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: The book that changed my life

I've read 500+ books in my twenties. Many of them had a powerful effect on me, but one stands out as being the most formative: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (which came out five years ago today).

In every personality quiz I've taken, my introvert rating has been at least 95 percent. I've always known I was more of an introvert than an extrovert, but it wasn't until I read this book that I really understood what that meant.

We live in a society that favors extrovert traits. We're told to be assertive if we want to be promoted, to be friendly if we want to be liked, to be charismatic if we want to be remembered.

For years, I tried to develop these traits. I made goals to smile at least once every hour in hopes that it would make it easier to be nice to people (or at least give them an incentive to approach me so I wouldn't have to reach out to them). I worried endlessly about the shy image I was portraying to all but those who knew me best. I worked myself to exhaustion just trying to fake my way through a party. Oftentimes the effort of getting myself out the door would drain what little storage I had for social energy.

Try as I might, I never morphed into what American society deemed an ideal personality type. I made significant improvements in overcoming my shyness, but I was essentially still me. The one who wasn't quite right in the head because she just wanted to hang out at home every Friday night.

Then I read this book.

Gradually, I stopped feeling like I needed to "fix" my introvert flaws. I quit wasting precious energy on becoming something I'm not. I finally learned how to fully embrace the person I am.

Once I understood why I am the way I am, I started paying attention to the things that energized and drained me. I figured out what my limits were, which helped me know when I needed to push myself and when I needed a quiet night at home more. I allowed myself to gravitate toward activities I felt more comfortable in (sports and games rather than whatever the "cool kids" were doing) to make the most of my social time.

Finding that unique balance I needed did more to strengthen me as a person than almost anything else has. I found myself in Quiet, and I've been much happier in my own skin ever since.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: Cracking the independence illusion

You may have noticed that adulting is hard. All it takes is a trip to Jiffy Lube for a routine oil change to make you want to go home and hide under the bed for two years. (Why are you asking me if I want to replace the air filter? Do I actually need all these services you are trying to sell to me? Oh my gosh, is my car going to explode because of my negligence? I'M NOT READY TO MAKE SUCH DIFFICULT CHOICES DADDY SAVE ME.)

So you're not immune to the crushing realities of adulthood. But generally, you like to think you have a firm grasp on it. You figured out how to handle car challenges, survived college, and you're no stranger to the world it threw you out into.

But as you get closer and closer to being 100% independent, yet another one of the ideals you held about adulthood proves to be false. 

One hundred percent independence? Yeah, that's impossible.

You may pay for all of your wants and needs with your own money. You may have your own health insurance. You may be debt free. You may have complete control over where you live and how you live. You may answer to no one but yourself. But you will never be fully independent.

Don't believe me? Keep reading.

You will get sick. So sick, perhaps, that simple chores like laundry and dishes will temporarily be beyond your capabilities.

Your car will break down, or get totaled, and you will have to rely on others to get around, like a helpless teenager.

You will find yourself in situations you are not prepared to deal with. You could get an unexpected lay-off or promotion, someone close to you could die unexpectedly, you could become unsatisfied with your life, or a million other things could happen that will force you to acknowledge that what you have isn't enough to help you claw your way back to normalcy.

But when you swallow your pride and start asking for help, advice, and support, you will find that people would much rather jump in and save the day than allow you to be stranded at work because your car won't start. And while every "Call me if you need anything!" may sound insincere at first, people are genuinely happy when you cash in on their offer.

It's not rocket science, just life; true independence is unachievable—we're meant to do this thing together.