Breaking My Norm

What’s this? ANOTHER surprise post? Ahhhhhh!

Whelp, since my schedule is going to be pretty hectic for the next month and a half which is not conducive to having my blog ready by my usual time, I shall compensate with random timely posts every so often. You’re welcome!

I just got done doing something crazy: I broke my norm. I did something completely out of character from my past pre-college self. Are you ready? Wait for it…

I just went to a movie. By myself. By choice. Isthatcrazyorwhat?

I know, I totally just shattered your expectations–didn’t I? I know, you’re probably thinking: LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMEE!!!!!! Quinn, you really need to re-evaluate your idea of “crazy.” But hear me out.

My idea of crazy isn’t trekking across the States by myself or jumping out of a plane (though either of those situations would totally amp up my anxiety). If anything, I’m more into the take-a-walk-by-myself-in-a-foreign-country-and-get-hustled type of crazy. But this time, no lying individuals were present, no terrible artwork. Nope.

I just went to the movies. Alone. For me. I had a date with just me.

Keep in my mind: I’m an introvert. Not only that but a very introverted introvert when it comes to the spectrum of introversion. Add to that I’m relatively independent, self-reliant, and, oh, I have social anxiety–all in all, I’m not the most fond of unnecessary social interaction. (Not that you’d know by my perma-smile whenever faced with a stranger in public. I mean, c’mon guys. I may not love socializing, but I’m not going to be rude about it. Anyways.) I don’t get out much, and up until college, embarking on a social outing alone would have been included in the list of my Top Fears… which is pretty weird when you consider the traits I just mentioned…

It’s just, in a place like the U.S., social life matters. Having friends, extremely visible friends plays a vital role in your image, in how others perceive you. Especially in the grade school years. And when I say visible, I’m not talking of the non-imaginary variety; I mean friends who go with you everywhere. And when you do spend time apart, you’re communicating with one another via message system or social media, as if to say Look, everyone. Look at how social and popular I am. Yes, it is so neat how close we are. 

But the thing is, once you get to where I am in life–in college, about to enter that “Real World” (or maybe you realize this earlier in life, if you’re lucky)–you realize that 1) It’s really just a big facade, and 2) It’s not that important, really. Looking like you’re social and have friends really doesn’t matter, doesn’t compare to actually having genuine friends. Who may not be there to fill a physical absence, but who is always there to console my anxiety episodes, to help me think through my problems, to make me laugh uncontrollably with just a look. That is what genuine friendship looks like, and it can’t always be made clear by a physical being standing or not standing beside you.

And I guess it took me going to a movie by myself to–not realize that. No, I realized this earlier on in college, in high school, even. But, to be fully comfortable with the idea, to embrace it, that’s what this movie date did for me. Sure, I’ve done things by myself before, like running errands or going out to eat. I mean, I’m an introvert–I spend a lot of time by myself. But running errands and eating aren’t deemed solely social activities by society. Something like a movie is…even if it’s literally spending two hours in the dark not socializing (Hey! Introvert’s dream date come true! Kidding…). So this was a pretty big step for me. To not only be introverted in public, but excessively so.

After getting over the fact that I was literally the only. Single. One. in a theater full of couples (might’ve had something to do with the fact I was seeing a coming-of-age romantic comedy and it was discount night for students at the theater, but besides the point), I was pretty content with myself. I was happy with where I was, I was at peace. I was comfortable. I didn’t need a friend next to me to look credible, normal. And when you have social anxiety, and are convinced everyone is always watching you, when in reality they are likely doing anything but, that’s an AMAZING feeling. Maybe it’s just the irrational, anxious part of my brain talking, but I felt like everyone around me could see I didn’t mind being so independent, so single in a room full of socialites, and were secretly in awe of me. Or something. Yeah… all in my head…

So after coming down from the high of doing a big social thing all by my big girl college self, I just wanted to document my experience for you Readers and share what I learned. Hopefully, if you are wiser than I, you’ll have already learned this lesson. If so, enjoy the review. Take pride that yet another individual has finally embraced her independence. If not, well, here’s to something new.

It’s time to break your norm, Readers.

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Times Like These

It’s no secret I’ve been suffering through some copious amounts of anxiety as of late. More than I usual–and understandably so, I think. But all that came to a momentary halt when I came home from work on Friday and was greeted by my younger brother, Max–and a present. He had specially made. For me.

Let me just pause here to review for you Readers who may not be as familiar: I’ve written about Max a bit on here, but just in case you do not feel like searching through my blog’s archives for accounts of our sibling interactions, here’s the gist. Max is my younger brother whom I love with my whole heart…and who also happens to be on the high-functioning end of the spectrum of Asperger Syndrome (which is on the high-functioning end of the spectrum of autism). Basically, he has AS, but functions so seemingly “normal” (by society’s definition, anyway) in everyday life, passersby would likely not know he has it unless told. At the very least, he may simply come across as eccentric, but beyond that…

Asperger Syndrome and autism have made remarkable waves throughout media in recent years, so I think the general population has a decent grasp on the concepts. But, in a nutshell, autism is a developmental disorder that interferes with the ability to communicate, to interact with the outside world. Asperger Syndrome is much the same, only the interference with communicating is, I suppose you could say, to a lesser degree; as I said, AS is more high-functioning. So while someone with autism may struggle to interact with another, with the outside world, to the extent of being nonverbal (no talking), someone with Asperger’s does talk and interact with others, but there are conditions. Maybe they talk too much about a certain subject yet are notably silent on others. Maybe they pace back in forth while they talk. Or don’t make eye contact. Or speak in a flat, monotone voice. It all varies, case-by-case. In short? Autism folks struggle to communicate; Aspies, as well, but to a lesser degree–so much so that they are more perceivably “normal” to the rest of us… yet, not normal enough.

Back to Max’s gift. My little brother has surprised me with his behavior throughout the years. And this past weekend, he continued that trend. Individuals with Asperger’s are not typically known for their thoughtfulness; they tend to live in their own world, focusing on their perspective. I attribute it to a starring character in a movie–the person with Asperger’s takes on the main role, while everyone else serves lesser roles. Everything that happens to the former is a BIG DEAL, and is interpreted and reacted to only based upon on how said happening affects them. Seems kind of selfish, yes? But I think we’re all pretty guilty of that from time to time. In any regard, while Max exhibits this way of thinking, he also balances it out with his random bouts of thoughtfulness.

Evidence A: I’m a pretty big fan of Disney. I mean who isn’t, to some degree? I’m certainly not a fanatic by any means, but do I like the movies, the catchy songs, the overpriced theme parks? Yeah! I do. So anyways, Max is taking an art class at school this semester and I guess his teacher was giving students some free reign in their latest project and so Max sketched a detailed replica of the acclaimed Disney Castle…with the intention of giving it to me. Which he did! And Readers, let me tell you my heart became so full right then–so much that I think it promptly melted as a delayed response to the kind gesture.

Look, I know, in most other cases, with “normal” siblings, this wouldn’t be a big deal. Some siblings might be genuinely touched but not make a huge commotion out of the affair. Others might not think anything of it, limply accepting the drawing and then forget about it in the weeks to come. And there are those who may not do much of anything at all. I mean, it’s only a drawing, right? Of something I only like, but not fanatically love. What’s so great about that?

Max and I are not a “normal” case (is there such a thing with any set of siblings, though?). I don’t see a measly sketch. I see tangible evidence of my dear Aspergian brother thinking of someone else. I see an act of kindness, of love, that lets me know Max loves me and thinks of me and values me. To receive that, when people with autism/Asperger’s aren’t known for their consideration or their affection, just warms me to my core.

And gives me momentary respite from my constant, nearing-graduation-anxiety. Nothing distracts you from life’s hardships quite like love…or something. And I’m thankful I’ve been granted times like this to remind me of that.

Love on, Readers.

Okay, Fine–I’m Scared

Do you remember a few posts ago, when I was so confident, so at peace with where I was in life–despite not having my future figured out beyond graduation? I remember concluding with something along the lines of, “I hope this season of peace lasts!”

It’s like I know myself so well, like I knew my unusual bout of contentment wouldn’t remain.

Now, I wasn’t being negative, just realistic. I know myself (you know, to some degree) and I worry about everything. It’s just who I am–it’s side effect of anxiety, or something. So when I wasn’t worried about my lack of post-grad job, lack of calling, lack of purpose, I suspected it was only a matter of time… And I was right! Not that I wanted  to be…

Once I officially hit the two month mark before graduation, reality really set in for me. I’m doomed to a series of lasts with where I am in life. Er, a suspected series of lasts. Who knows? Maybe I’ll go back to school after all. But at the moment, I’m planning on this chapter of my life to come to a close. After I walk across the stage, receive my diploma, I will be diving into the workforce, impressing my new employer with my super awesome writing skills. Better yet, helping people in need with those writing skills… somehow. But once all that begins, I will no longer be in school. A life I’ve known for the past 17 years or so will be replaced by another. And that’s kind of daunting.

I should clarify: I’m really not that sentimental about leaving school behind, no longer being a student. Sure, these past four years have been filled with an abyss of change; I’m not the same person now as I was coming into college, that’s for sure. But I’m ready for something new; I’m ready to break free from the coddling of school and enter the real world. Ready to help the real world.

No, what I’m more fearful of is: I don’t know what this real world, what this new life will entail. I don’t know my path, what His plan is for me. Sure, I’ve talked about on here my ideals to write and help others and to somehow merge the two, but that’s what want to do. I don’t know if that’s what I’m supposed to do, what He wants me to do. There’s a difference between passions and talents and callings–only in some instances do those happen to be synonymous (also known as a vocation, but I digress)–and I’m not sure my wants and abilities align with where the Lord places me. I mean I imagine He’ll interfere at some point if I’m barreling down the wrong path; I’ve prayed for Him to direct me. But so far, I’m still waiting. I’m still uncertain. And that scares me.

I don’t know what’s in store for me next. And when I hear everyone else disclose their plans following graduation, whether it be workforce (already signed on for a job) or graduate school or mission work or some other amazing Plan XYZ, how they seem to have everything all figured out, I’m led to feel… left behind, I guess. Like everyone else has their life together and I don’t. Look, I know there’s a chance they don’t, in fact, have their life together as much as they may say they do. I know comparison is detrimental–especially for someone with anxiety. But knowing that isn’t going to stop my worry, prevent me from wishing I had A Plan after I move from one phase of life to the next. I just want to know what I’m supposed to do, what I’m meant to do. But I don’t. And man, Readers, it’s teaching me a whole lot about patience and God’s timing.

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I actually haven’t even seen “FRIENDS,” but this seems relevant…

And if any of you Dear Readers who may be going through something similar, who are about to embark on a new time in life, who don’t know what’s next? Whelp. I feel your pain, I do. Huzzah, solidarity! I’m here, too, waiting right there with you… I guess we’ll see what happens, right?

Also, for the record, I don’t hope this season lasts.