Checking-In

self portrait 1

I was sick earlier this week and, while taking a photo of a plant in my living room, I decided to prop my camera up on the couch and take some self-portraits. My nose was red and raw, my skin sticky with sweat from fever, and my eyes felt heavy and unable to open all the way. But….I sat down and took some photos of myself, sickly and feeling terrible, anyways.

It had been a long time since I took self-portraits. Just an honest-to-goodness photo of myself. Not a selfie to post on insta or to snap to my friends. Just me-time in front of the camera for no reason other than I can. It was a good time to check-in with myself.

I try to map growth and keep track of the realizations I have about myself. I do this mentally, or in writing, or in conversations with friends. Here are some of the things I’ve been learning, or re-learning, about myself lately:

  • There is a member of my family who I have spent the last 23 years trying desperately to please. And even though I know I do not need someone else’s approval to validate my worth, I seek it from this person anyway. Desperately. And always failing. Even though I know that this person has mental health problems, and issues with self-worth & character, I try so hard to please. Earlier this year, I was out for drinks when I told my date, “All my life, I’ve only ever wanted to please [this person].” He looked surprised and then smiled sadly, and I realized that that was the first time I’d ever admitted that truth to myself. So there it is. And I frequently allow myself to break down and cry hysterically because of it, asking myself why I am not enough for that person.
  • Last night a friend with a substance abuse problem called me on the phone to harangue me about everything that he finds wrong with me. This isn’t the first time he has verbally attacked me while drinking. You are so judgmental even though you think you are not. You’re so flippant about dating and don’t actually care about the people you date. You’re always trying to start an argument about every little thing. I cried myself to sleep last night, after texting my co-worker to say, “Even if they are an addict, it still hurts to hear awful things said to you, about you.” Sometimes I let the opinions of my friends, opinions rooted in their insecurities & pain rather than my own flaws, get in the way of how I truly see myself.

self portrait 2

  • I’m heartbroken and pining after a boy right now, even though I get scolded by my friends for doing so. I tried going on a date last week, but got home and was overwhelmed with grief and sadness missing this other boy. He was the second guy I’ve ever loved, and only the second person in my life who I’ve ever wanted to be with. It took me two years to get over my last boyfriend, and now I’m worried that it will be another two years until I’m ready to date again….and probably some time more after that until I find another person who I want to date. It seems like for some people, it is so easy to find someone and fall in love and make life work perfect. To find someone who is willing to make sacrifices for you, just as you are willing for them. I want to find that person, and I wish life wasn’t making it so hard.
  • My friend Lily wrote a piece on her blog today about timing in relationships. I love what Lily has to write about dating, but this one is a concept that I cannot agree with. I’ve never understood – or allowed – stupid reasons for break-ups. Timing is one of those things. If you truly love someone and want to be with them, you find a way to make it work no matter what obstacle is in the way. I live with the staunch belief that relationships – and that includes friendships – are the most important thing in life. When you need help, it isn’t your achievements that come to the rescue. It isn’t the places you’ve been or the jobs you’ve had. It’s your friends. So why do we spend so much of our lives prioritizing stupid things and letting love & relationship get put on the back-burner?
  • I have a business idea that I’m really excited about. I’ve had a streak of creativity as of late and my mind is brimming with ideas of things that I want to do. I came up with a children’s storybook idea and am also formulating an idea for a business venture for myself. I love my job so much. But I don’t want to die wondering, “What if I had gone out on a limb for my professional goals? What would it have been like to develop, run, & power my own business?”

self portrait 3

This is where I shamelessly am in life right now. I’m okay admitting to be the girl who cries over stupid things and whose heart is hung up on someone else and who has fears of failure. Although I don’t agree that I actually have the flaws that my one friend says that I do, I know that I have others. And I know that they hold me back and that I need to work on them. So here I am, checking-in, and taking full responsibility for where I’m at right now.

Spanakopita & Gingerbread Houses

The other night as I shuffled around in my freezer trying to figure out what to make for dinner, I found a frozen spanakopita that I had bought at Trader Joe’s. I had forgotten that it was in my freezer, but I remember buying it. A month or so prior, I glanced at it in the frozen food section and my heart softened as I immediately hatched a plan to make dinner for the boy I was dating. I’m Greek, so I was excited to share with him a piece of my (frozen, pre-made) culture. And I could make gyro or maybe even falafel. And perhaps baklava for dessert – I used to make it every year for Christmas, but haven’t for the last couple. I got really excited and my heart was singing at the very thought of the meal I’d make and share with him.

I’ve always enjoyed cooking for people who I care about – inviting a person over for a home-cooked meal is one of the biggest ways that I show them that they matter to me. There is something so special about sharing my love for someone in the form of a meal that I made for them myself. As a child, I always took pride in whatever thing that I contributed to family meals. For a while, during college, I made a flourless chocolate cake every week for my family, and after I perfected that recipe, I started experimenting with cupcakes.

Wait. But I totally wasn’t blogging about cooking. I swear I wasn’t.

After I discovered the spanakopita in my freezer, I continued making dinner (veggie curry with chicken potstickers). I was overwhelmed with sadness & grief that I was never able to share that meal – and that piece of my heart – with that boy. And I started thinking about all the other little reminders of past relationships that you discover after they’re gone.

polar06

On our second date, my ex, J, and I had bought a gingerbread house kit and put together our own gingerbread house. We had started dating just a couple of weeks before Christmas – in fact, for our first date, he came over and helped me decorate my Christmas tree – and we celebrated our anniversary on Christmas Eve.

We decorated three trees together over the years, but only one gingerbread house. For our second Christmas, I had bought a gingerbread house kit just like the year before. We had plans to put it together, and then he went to rehab five days before Christmas without telling me. I was devastated. I couldn’t bring myself to put together the kit that we had bought. I don’t know what happened to it. I think my mum threw it out one day, realising how sad it made me. Like the spanakopita, it was there, reminding me of some great happiness I had planned, sure that the future would work in my favour.

On our third Christmas together, J asked if we could assemble a gingerbread house like on our first Christmas. We didn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to, even though I passed the kits at Trader Joe’s frequently during that month. (Side note: I swear that I do not buy everything at Trader Joe’s. Also know that this is not an advertisement for Trader Joe’s products, or a suggestion that Trader Joe’s is the root of all sadness or the termination of happy futures in relationships.)

As I stood over the stove, frying up veggies and potstickers the other night, I thought about the gingerbread house. And the spanakopita that still sits in my freezer. And I thought about all the other little things that you find along the way that remind you of plans for futures that did not happen.

On Monday, I received a text from a guy I dated 6 years ago (my only ex who I’ve ever wanted to stay in touch with – we were friends first & foremost, and never truly in love). He was cleaning out his garage and found a CD that he had bought for me – MGMT (wow, what ever happened to them????). “I remember buying this at Best Buy – I really liked this CD!” he texted, with a photo of the CD case. It wasn’t so much a plan for a future that fell through, but it was one of those weird little mementos of a time when a relationship felt infinite and all that mattered was creating & sharing happiness with the other person. Sometimes that’s found through a CD from your college years, or a mass-produced gingerbread house that’s sold every year, or even a frozen spinach pie. The future takes form in strange little ways. And so does hope and happiness.

In praise of Charlotte York

charlotte-york

The other night I wanted to watch a mindless movie as I did mindless tasks and mostly let my mind wander (stay tuned to find out how many more times I use the word mind in this post). So, I put on the Sex & the City movie (the first one, for those who care).

I had recently watched the entire TV series for the first time all the way through. And watching it in its entirety and as a wise adult made me question a lot of things (and was also part of my inspiration in starting to blog again).

The root of my questioning laid with the characters. I hated Carrie (I’m sorry). I always remembered her as being a likable character & a stalwart of hard-headed, independent female idealism. No. She’s childish and reprehensible and spends the whole series in the same state of unwillingness to grow. She whines about everything and blames other people for all that goes wrong. Meanwhile, Samantha Jones – who I always thought of as the other favourite – struck me as a background figure who stayed relatively stunted throughout the whole series. As someone who used to view life and live life much like Samantha, I was shocked as to what extent her character belied any true depth. I want to be empowered by Samantha, but at the same time, she’s so one-dimensional and often comes off as callous and heartless. She bucks gender norms but is vilified, in many ways, by lacking depth, humanity, or purpose.

Miranda was fine but she too seemed stunted, rarely learning from mistakes. Does anyone even like Miranda? I always have thought of her as the one no one liked. (Why? Is it the hair? Is it the lack of fashion sense? Is it her pickiness or how she puts work before everything & everyone else…but then, how does Carrie live the life that she does when she hardly even seems to work? But I don’t really want to get into all of this right now. [Okay I do but really, gotta stay on track.])

And then there was Charlotte. At first I found her character boring and easily cast aside. (In fact, before the re-watch, I forgot she even existed.) But then she started to glow. Charlotte had a strong moral center. She was very sure of herself, her abilities, her worth, and what she wants in life, but she was also willing to compromise, admit to her mistakes, and grow. And I also found out that I really needed Charlotte in my life at that moment.

A few months ago I came to the realization that I want to find “my person.” I could say that I want to “settle down” – but I don’t….In fact, I feel very settled in life at the moment and I hate it. I want to find someone who I can adventure with & try new things with & go new places with. I have no interest in settling down. I could say that I want to get married but…that’s a bit down the line for me. Charlotte knew what she wanted and she went out and got it – a husband. (Okay, a husband, a failed marriage, and then another husband.) I found reassurance in this. She didn’t ever lose her character – her strong moral compass, her self-worth, her career, her ability to get shit done, her independence – in her pursuit of a companion. And she also made it very clear that it is totally okay if your goal in life is to get married and be a homemaker. There is no shame in this.

The feminist side of me has always made me feel utterly independent. Like I don’t need a man; I create my own happiness; I enjoy being single more than anything. And this was true for a number of years. This was true until I fell in love for the first time and started realizing that having a companion doesn’t mean forfeiting yourself.

That relationship didn’t work out, and I enjoyed being single again. I focused on my career and advancing myself. If I had met someone, I could have made space in my life for them, but space wasn’t readily available and so I focused on different goals.

And now I’ve gotten to the point where I want that companion and I have made room in my life for one. I want to create my life with someone else now. I ultimately want a companion more than any other thing in life. And that is totally fine. I am no less of a strong, independent career woman because of it. And thanks to Charlotte, I feel totally okay in feeling that way.

(Side note: It is totally okay if you’re like Samantha and you’re not looking for monogamy. My point is that Samantha has what she wants, but her character is poorly constructed to the point where she has no depth in the life she has chosen, which is a poor characterization considering how much outside the status quo her aspirations are. She doesn’t leave much for the viewer to admire or strive for. I say this as someone who very much used to be “a Samantha” and was vilified for it.)

Charlotte proves that life is about getting what you want – and compromising along the way, but never losing yourself in the process – and being happy. I couldn’t help but notice that in the movie, Charlotte is the only one who actually seems happy and fulfilled. She seems so glad in life, and you saw her grow along the way.

I feel like so many people – and I was caught up in this too – view Charlotte as the least interesting character in Sex & the City. She is driven and knows what she wants, which many of us don’t, and she gets what she wants – making her less alluring along the way. But in actuality, I think we should all be taking a page out of Charlotte’s book.

And so, Charlotte helped me admit that it is totally okay if your goal is to find “your person” and get married, or have kids & quit your job if you want to (I don’t – but it’s fine if you do!). What is life if you aren’t getting what you want out of it, including fulfilling relationships, and growing in character along the way. I am a Charlotte, and I have no shame in admitting that. Here’s in praise of Charlotte York and all the other women who stay true to themselves, reach their goals, & never lose their moral compass or sense of self along the way!

From the outside looking in, on addiction

6_0007_blog

My ex was an addict. This is not information that should be new or surprising. I’ve blogged about it a lot, and I mention it frequently in passing. He was a heroin addict in recovery when I met him, and he began using again some 6-months after we started dating. 6-months after we had said I love you and established our draw and commitment to each other.

Addiction is everywhere. I know so many people who have lost their loved ones to addiction. I am lucky that J didn’t die. I am lucky that we didn’t have children who he would let down. These are the blessings that we can count.

In my blog that is now non-existent – stories that cannot be brought back – I wrote about how often my support system failed me during this time. I wrote about the desperate emails to his family far away, that often came back in silence, or damning me for interfering, or for caring. “Leave me alone, go get professional help, and move on,” came one from his mother after there was a long period of days without contact with J. I also wrote about crying to friends, or co-workers, or my own family, and being told that I am foolish, or things far much worse.

I pleaded for help, for community, during those months, and was always shut out.

These are stories that I’ve already told. I’m not interested in re-telling them today.

My own family has a history of addiction. My family tree is riddled with it. I would say that it destroyed lives, but we are still here nonetheless so it couldn’t have destroyed everything. My family stands, with the puncture wounds of addiction. But, this is also a story that I’m not interested in telling today.

The one I want to tell is of the aftermath of the trauma of looking at addiction from the outside in.

I have difficulty reading articles about the heroin epidemic, just as much as I have trouble reading articles about the campus rape epidemic. I cry uncontrollably when I see movies depicting drug addiction, specifically heroin. I’ll fall into a deep hole of fear and helplessness for that day. A trigger.

I recently put a caption on an instagram photo in which I depicted one of these triggers. I chose the photo because in it, I felt strong, when the girl writing the words actually felt very small and lost and helpless.

Some of my friends reached out to me, thinking I was talking about the heartbreak and grief of a recent break up. I wasn’t. I had witnessed something that day that triggered feelings of helplessness surrounding addiction.

I walked away from the scene sinking and shaking. I sat in a pew at church wanting to fall on the floor and cry. I eventually called a near-stranger and cried to him in an alleyway. And inside, I felt like that 20 year old girl who was pleading for help and constantly being shut down. Once again I was on the outside looking in on addiction. And anyone who knows what that feels like knows that it feels pretty awful.

But as I cried to this person I barely know, something happened. Instead of being told that I’m foolish, or immature, or I don’t know what I want or what I’m doing or who I love or how I care, I was lifted up.

“I’m so proud of you for what you did,” he told me.

“You have a good handle on the situation.”

“I’m going to call a few more people and see how we can help.”

And then, updates as the day went on. He had pulled together a community of people who all validated my feelings, and me as a person.

Addiction is hard. You feel helpless because an addict is only going to get better if they want to get better. And you feel helpless because the person who you love so dearly is no longer there. And when you feel this helpless, and then are constantly shut down by people who you typically know as your support system…well, it’s bad.

Yesterday as I stood shaking and crying and being transported back to all the nasty things that were said to me and felt by me when I was 20, I asked for help. Because I didn’t know what else to do and I needed help. And I was greeted with love and care and validation. And a community of people who I don’t even know came to my rescue and lifted me up.

To all my friends on the outside looking in, you are not alone. I hope that you can find that community that you need. And if you don’t, know that you can always find one in me.

Jon: a story I wrote as a hopeless romantic 17 year old stuck in biology lecture

mississippi-river-crop-jon

I’ve been re-watching My So-Called Life, a pivotal part of my coming-of-age experience, like so many others of my generation & the generation before. In one episode, the class writes various pieces and puts together a literary magazine. I started thinking about a story I had written when I was seventeen that I had titled Jon after the boy who inspired it. I had written it for a writing class I was in, doodling out the words and thoughts and feelings during long biology lectures (I finished the semester with a D in biology and an A in writing), and then stringing all of that together into a coherent story. It was eventually published in my university’s annual literary magazine, alongside an Egyptian mythology inspired poem I had written on the back of a Nickelodeon Universe receipt.

I spent most of my early college career writing little love stories for all these people who I was so in love with. I was in love with the world and wanted nothing to last – only to be constantly fascinated by everyone who I stumbled across, or who stumbled across me, only to have them vanish so that I could feel a rush of emotion & then fall in love all over again. Until today, I hadn’t read the story since 2011. And I wanted to share it with the world again, because even though I’m changed, a piece of that 17 year old girl in love with the world & wanting none of it to last, forever lives on in me today.

“I want to take a photo of the Mississippi from this bridge every day, for a year,” he mused, his cigarette-smoke voice humming along with the breeze as it rippled through his blonde, wiry hair. My eyes traced his delicate face, then his stringy, veined arms all the way down to his dirty fingernails clutching the side of the bridge we sat on.

He turned and smiled at me, his crystal eyes piercing the sun. I smiled softly. This was Jon. I found him in the arcade fixing Ms. Pac-Man, who would break every day, and writing poetry on the back of unwanted receipts. He was one of those extraordinary people whom no one could wrap their mind around. At one time – at this time – I thought I could.

He took my hand, holding it lightly as he sifted through all the charms on my bracelet.

“This one is my favorite,” he said, separating the sad-eyed donkey from the rest. I smiled at him, a sad smile.

“I wrote a story about a girl who kept a charm bracelet, with a charm for every place she’d been in life,” he smiled. “A souvenir, for every person she met, every museum she walked through, every hand she held and every hand that held hers.”

I’d be crazy not to smile at that. Jon was talking about me. Souvenirs: you can carry those with you forever. The sad-eyed donkey was from a road trip to South Dakota when I was ten. The donkeys came right up to the car with their round, black eyes pleading, so I rolled down the window to pet their scruffy manes and to feed them trail mix. I looked at my friend sitting next to me now and wondered what souvenir I would have for him. With Jon, I’d never want to forget his pretty-boy mullet, or the way his eyes played like the night sky or light moving through fragile icicles clinging to eaves. But I didn’t need to worry about that because he was here and my charm bracelet was designated for memories. I need to keep all my memories strung around my wrist, because the things that you really want to hold on to will always escape you, and those things that you want to forget, those will stick with you forever.

We decided to walk to the little drugstore a few blocks away to get drinks and escape the July sun. Jon and I sat there, me with my lime phosphate and him with his Coke….Jon was always drinking Coca-Cola out of that slender bottle with the label choking up to the neck. It’s hard to picture Jon without a bottle of Coke in his pale skeleton hand. We sat on red vinyl stools at the drugstore counter and Jon told me about how he went rock climbing that weekend. He told me about his three dogs and growing up in the South. He told me about road trips to New Mexico and North Carolina and wherever else his truck could take him. I just listened and asked questions, feeling so lucky to know this boy who was so genuine and so full of heart.

When I was ten, I used to go to the arcade and play video games almost every day. A few months ago, I had walked by that same arcade, looked in, and saw that they still had Dig Dug, Galaxian, and even Ms. Pac-Man. I went inside and played them again, using all my spare change. It brought me back to the days when I had blunt bangs and my sister watched me after school, letting me eat popcorn and watch Scooby-Doo.

I started going to the arcade every day after that. And every day, there was Jon, drinking his Coke and wearing sunglasses, a cigarette resting between his slim fingers. Jon had come up here on a whim, liking the sound of the Great North. He was still a kid, like me. A drop out who had spent his life working odd jobs and living with friends or family where he could, or whomever else he found along the way. When I stopped by after class or work, we’d talk about getting tan in the sun, or the state fair in August, or wearing long underwear in winter. Jon was one of those people who could talk about anything and sound like he’d given it a great deal of thought.

One day, I asked to try on his sunglasses, so he took them off and handed them to me with his warm sugar smile. But hiding beneath those shades was a bruise, big and blue, circling his eye, cratering his slender nose and sharp cheek bone. I didn’t mention anything, but every time I’d go by the arcade after that, I’d notice some new mark on him. Every week something new, but I never asked about it. Who could ever hurt such a lovely person?

And then one day, Jon was gone. I asked a different employee at the arcade about him and was told, “He’s not here anymore.” When I asked where he went, how I could contact him, they just told me that I couldn’t – he was gone.

I went home and put on a Janis Joplin record, letting her cigar-smoke, summer-heat croon saturate the thick, humid air. I sat on the sticky July kitchen floor and thought about all my souvenirs. Put them in your pockets until no more can fit and they’re spilling out wherever you walk. Chain them around your wrist so they’ll never be free, just jangling by little hooks. But eventually, you can’t enchain anymore around your limbs and you can’t shove anymore into the pockets of your jeans. You have to let some go. Unhook each little token, kiss them goodbye and bury them in the dirt. Maybe I will have to forget Jon’s silly mullet and skinny arms, or his rhinestone eyes and the smoke slipping from his lips as he spoke. But I don’t want to forget anything about him.

I changed my route so I don’t have to walk by that dingy arcade anymore, with the quarter-eating machines and the suicidal Ms. Pac-Man. I don’t need another reminder that people rarely hang around, that people are always slipping in and out. That the world can be cruel to people who are so lovely and so soft.

Today as I walked across the bridge, I looked at the dark, muddy Mississippi. I sat down on the edge of the bridge again, and started examining my bracelet and each little souvenir one more time, remembering the South Dakota burros; the dry mud pueblos of New Mexico; the sticky seats of the Small World ride in Disney World; crying at the Vietnam War Memorial; my short-lived foray into ballet dancing; baking cupcakes with my grandmother in her stuffy little apartment smelling of baby powder and cigarettes; my big sister, who was always there for me, six feet under; the little almond mouse named Henry whom I had for a year. I closed my eyes and held onto all of these things, trying to forget. I opened them and saw the hungry river below. I slipped the bracelet off my wrist and let it fall into the river. She swallowed it whole and roared for more, but that was all I had left to give.

The intrinsic joy of a life well-paced

guatemala-lake-atitlan-edit

Although I’ve only traveled there twice, I consider Guatemala a home away from home. You know those places that you travel where as soon as you get there, something connects? Deep in your heart and soul it just feels right that you’re there, and when you’re away, you long for it terribly. That’s Guatemala for me. It’s the shores of Lake Atitlan, and the busy streets of Guatemala City, and the winding, hilly roads of the countryside. There’s something about breathing that air that is good.

I was there last year in September, in part for my job and in part for a committee that I head at my church. Leading up to going, I was so busy. Between committee meetings, dating, social engagements, networking…I had no time for anything. People would ask me how I am and I would say, “I’m so busy.” (An aside: No one wants to hear that when they ask you how you are. Busy isn’t how you are, busy is an indication that you don’t do well to balance your life. It’s an indication that you have no time for that person who wants to know how you are. It’s a lack of joy. It’s a life not lived to its fullest potential. Read more about that in The Disease of Being Busy by Omid Safi. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I ask how someone is and they say, “Busy.”)

In Guatemala, life moves at its own pace. It isn’t dictated by dates, or committee meetings, or networking, or anything else. We moved from place to place with leisure. We worked. We had meetings. We planned. But it moved along on its own and we were never busy.

When I got home from Guatemala at the end of September, I canceled all my upcoming meetings (non-work related) and social engagements. And I decided to take a step back and re-think how I move through life.

For the next three months, I limited myself for how many things I scheduled on my calendar. If I had a committee meeting one night, I didn’t schedule anything to pack in before or after that meeting. The same goes for a day when I was going out with a friend, even if it was just a quick happy hour drink. I saw the boy who I was dating just once a week. Essentially, I limited myself to one committee meeting, one date, and one friend-related thing a week. Nothing more. I spent my free time doing long yoga sessions; reading at the quiet little neighborhood bar (every Tuesday evening, a different book every time, but always brandy old fashioneds); cooking and listening to theological podcasts; cleaning and donating the things taking up space in my life; sewing and repairing clothes that had long been piling up; and simply taking time just to be alone and re-prioritize. It was my own little sabbatical.

I knew that at the beginning of the year, I would slowly allow more things into my life – that was the promise of my 3 month sabbatical. And I did. Little by little, more engagements with friends. More networking. More saying “yes” to things. More meeting new people. And dating again. But for 3 months, I allowed life to move at its own pace, like it does in Guatemala.

My father is preparing to travel to Guatemala to celebrate Day of the Dead in October. I’m so sad that I cannot afford to go this time, but every time we talk about the trip, I think about this lesson that I brought home with me last year.

Even though I am back to doing more, I retain control over my schedule. The way that we pace our lives is so important. What is the point of having friends if we cannot savour those relationships? Why date if you have no time to bask in the loveliness of the other person? How do you fully flesh out your passion for a volunteer committee (or your job) when you hurry from one meeting or project to another? Almost everything we do should intrinsically add meaning and joy to our lives, and how we do those things is a large piece of finding that joy & meaning.

I think that, even when life is not particularly exciting, I have more joy than typical. Even when I have many things packed into one day, I find myself able to linger in the moment longer, breathing everything in and churning out joy and appreciation and gratitude in return. And for that, I give abundant thanks. My little self-manufactured sabbatical did me good, and I know that I can return to it at any moment if need be. Pace yourself – you have control over the joy you find in life.

A rare, exotic bird

IMG_20160721_175213

I know a lot of people who are obsessed with Myers-Briggs (MBTI) assessments & I frequently get asked what I am. Last year we took an all-staff retreat day at work to do the assessment & learn more about each other and how we work as a team. It was informative but I didn’t fully grasp just what that meant for myself on a more personal level. We moved around the room to indicate how strongly we were of each quality (I was a 1 or 2 out of 5 for everything, which means that I am flexible) and then discussed how we work in dynamic. And then we went back to work and life moved on.

Last week, strolling through Afton State Park, my friend Lee asked me what I am in Myers-Briggs. “INTSFJ-something,” I said. “You just named all the letters, basically,” he retorted. I shrugged. I don’t know. I’m something.

I looked it up at work the next day (actually, I referenced our chart indicating which Star Wars character we are – I am Obi-Wan Kenobi) and decided to do a quick Google search to learn more about what that means for me.

INFJ. Introverted, intuitive, judging, feeling.

I am less than 1% of the population. “Like a rare, exotic bird,” I texted Lee.

I spent the rest of the day going back & forth between reading about my personality and actually doing work. (And occasionally announcing to my co-workers something that would explain my tendencies around the office.)

I’ll admit that I’m someone who actually reads horoscopes and bases my activities around moon phases (Mystic Mamma is great, for those interested) but reading more about my own personality through Myers-Briggs was eye-opening on a new level. And strangely empowering.

It justified that I made the right career choice, indicating that INFJs do best in environments where our work has intrinsic meaning to bettering humankind – such as the non-profit sector. I’m creative and a natural communicator, making writing, marketing, and communications strong career paths (currently what I do professionally). Learning more about my MTBI empowered me to continue with my dreams of one day owning my own business, as INFJs often find best success in being their own boss.

According to the website 16 Personalities, an INFJ’s “eloquence and persuasiveness” and “quiet, determined idealism and imaginative expression” draws influence and make me highly desirable.

“A rare, exotic, and highly desirable bird,” I amended my text to Lee.

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly desirable or influential person. I’ve had friends tell me that I should be a motivational speaker (eye roll) or a politician (I’m way too weak & politics turns me evil). But, the point that warmed my heart was that my personality draws friends to me (and then I’m highly picky and see through people’s facades and therefore keep a very small pool of very authentic friends – all of this is so true and I totally didn’t need a test to tell me so).

But, it was also interesting to read about my personality post-recent-breakup. I identified with a lot of what my personality is like in seeking relationship (both romantic and not) and it made me step back and ask, “What the hell…doesn’t everyone look for that?” Head scratch.

I’m a very monogamous, loyal person. I get that not everyone is that, but I cannot imagine myself any other way. In relationships, I become very committed to the other person and only have eyes for them. The last guy I dated, I dated for about 3 months before things went south. In conversations with him since, he seemed baffled that I liked him so much that I wanted to be with him, and that I wasn’t dating other people during our time together. Is this the new norm in dating? I cannot wrap my mind around dating someone for 3 months and not being totally committed to making that work. I only had eyes for that guy, starting probably about 2 weeks after our first date. I went on a couple of other dates after that, and the whole time I just wanted to be with him. It was the same in my last relationship. My love for the other person in a relationship runs unconditionally and very deeply. I get all heart eyes and cannot look the other way. (This has only happened 2 times in my life. I don’t find such companions very often. I’ve had other romantic relationships that were very “friend”-ish in that we enjoyed each other’s companionship but we were both very obviously just hanging out until something better came along…something which I am not doing any longer, now that I am not a teenager.)

I always look for someone who complements both my strengths and weaknesses. Someone who makes me feel safe and good, who can fight my fire with water, and who I can grow and adventure with. But I also like to have my space and don’t require a lot of attention or “maintenance.” (My friend Erik, who refers to me as his fake girlfriend, recently disagreed. “You’re more high maintenance than any of my real girlfriends ever were,” he said. This comment was a result of me wanting to get pizza before the baseball game.)

Apparently this is my INFJ personality: seeking depth in my relationships. Being intensely loyal and bound to that person (rather than that relationship). Seeking authenticity in the other. Having great enthusiasm & a sense of spontaneity for the relationship I am in & the person I am with. Embracing emotional & spiritual connection beyond physical. Growing into the other person, rather than alongside them. Requiring little attention & being fiercely independent. And being extremely picky in finding this partner.

(There were also a couple of lines on the 16 Personalities website that read, “their relationships will reach a level of depth and sincerity that most people can only dream of” and also that my ability to show love creates “a depth to the relationship that can hardly be described in conventional terms” which honestly sounds like a line from a bad YA novel. Ahem. Twilight.)

But, again – what the hell. Isn’t that what everyone looks for?

I don’t consider myself a hopeless romantic and I don’t really believe in the concept of “soul mates” (though I do believe in the concept of finding someone who moves you on a cosmic and undeniably deep level, as blogged about in A New Leaf). But what are you doing dating or in a relationship if you’re not looking for this unique type of depth, connection, and companionship?

It’s made me so curious. What is your ultimate goal in a relationship or dating?