The Ripple Effect

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the ripple effect – how one small action you take, or don’t take, subsequently leads to other events in your life. That’s basically what life is about, isn’t it? A series of actions/inactions leading up to a bigger picture. And to me, it’s crazy how one mundane, meaningless, random action you might take can lead to something monumental later on in life.

Take my cousin as an example. She graduated from Cornell and then spent several months looking for a job. One night, she went out to a bar with her friends to de-stress, and, at some point, she made the decision to step outside for a cigarette break. While she was smoking, another man asked her for a lighter or something (the details are a bit hazy), and they ended up talking. Eventually, he asked her what she does and she informed him she was looking for a job. Normally, strangers would just say “oh, best of luck with that” and offer advice before moving on. But, nah. He gave her his email and told her to send him her resume, which she promptly did. Turns out he was working at the United Nations, and now, almost 15 years later, my cousin travels all over the world for her job at the UN.

What if she hadn’t made that small decision to go outside for a smoke break? She wouldn’t have ever met this man, and I can’t even imagine what her life would be like right now. Maybe she wouldn’t have traveled as much and thus would’ve had an easier time finding a good husband for herself. Maybe she’d spend more time at home and keep my aunt company (not that she’s lonely or anything)?

As for myself, I applied to several high schools in 8th grade. My teachers said not to bother applying to Milton Academy – not because they didn’t believe in me, but because my middle school was small and no one had even thought about applying to Milton before. When my mom and I were filling out my applications, I suddenly blurted out “Let’s just do it anyway. Who knows.” To everyone’s surprise, I got in with a big scholarship. And because Milton focused heavily on English and grammar, I further developed a love for writing and editing which subsequently led to me now desiring to be a copyeditor.

If I hadn’t whimsically suggested applying anyway, where would I have gone for high school instead? What sort of long term friends would I have now? What career path would I have wanted to take? Would I be a different person too? Maybe I would have continued pursuing paleontology as a career in some way or fallen in love with a whole other career choice. Maybe my epilepsy would have remained dormant for a few more years and not been triggered by high workload stress during sophomore year of high school.

I’ve spent nearly all my life in school now with years of the same routine and constantly going with the motions. Now that I’m looking for jobs, life seems so open ended for me and it honestly freaks me out a bit knowing that I will unknowingly make or not make an action that’s going to snowball (in a positive way) and shape the rest of my life. And I won’t ever know what that beginning snowball action/inaction will be until years later when I look back. I know there isn’t one best road for me since each possible road will have its own ups and downs. But it still worries me that I may unknowingly choose a road that won’t be optimal for my tastes and preferences.

I also know that I have no control over this sort of thing, but that’s exactly what makes it even scarier. As I’ve mentioned so many times, I’m a planner. I naturally need and want to know what’s going to happen for preparation’s sake, so I admit that not knowing is a bit scary. I suppose that’s something I need to work on mentally and emotionally: accepting the unknown.

And I also suppose that at this point, people can interject with ideas of fate – that the choices you make and roads you travel are or aren’t meant to be. Given that I’m worried as hell right now about this kind of stuff, I think it’s safe to say I’m not the biggest believer in fate.

When I discussed it with my mom, she, being a Tibetan Buddhist, talked about karma/luck (the Tibetan word she used is kind of a mix of karma and luck) and said that there are so many people who will work hard and do every right thing for themselves, and they’ll still end up somewhere they didn’t expect, be it for the better or worse. And then there are people who maybe don’t try AS hard, but are always in the right place at the right time. So you can try your best in life, but in the end karma/luck will have a role to play and there’s not much you can do about it.

It made me feel a LITTLE better. But right now this idea is all I can think about still. I’m not freaking out about it too much, but it’s definitely a concept that’s just been lingering in the back of my head. One day, I’ll look back on this post and think about where I am at the moment. Will I be happy with the choices I’ve made?

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Cold Face, Warm Heart

I sometimes don’t understand myself. And maybe that’s because I AM me so I don’t know how to perceive myself from the outside. If any of that makes sense.

I’m a warm person, I’ll admit it. I humbly brag that I am a thoughtful person and I like to do nice things for my friends and loved ones. If you ask any of my friends, they’ll tell you I’m a soft person, I’m even tempered, non-judgmental, and considerate. And yet, I seem to ward people off naturally.

Many of those same friends who may praise me will say that at first they thought I was a cold person. Several of my friends have, in one way or another, said “Before I talked to you I always thought you were a cold person” or “You gave off cold vibes.” One of my friends, whom I met before freshman year of high school, told me that I was probably one of the nicest girl in the dorm, but before she met me she thought I was a cold person.

How?? I know I don’t have the classic “resting bitch face” syndrome – my friends have clarified that for me. I just happen to look cold and uninviting. I don’t know what I’m doing?! I don’t want to smile all the time to myself and look like a lunatic, but I don’t know how people are getting this notion either.

But then there’s a downfall to that. BECAUSE I know that now, I find that I instinctively try too hard to be nice and cheery when someone does talk to me and wind up looking artificial *facepalm* Ugh, how I wish things weren’t like that. Myself being an introvert, I find it hard to initiate conversations and start friendships, but unfortunately just waiting for someone else to make the first move doesn’t help either because they all think I look cold?!

I guess life will go on. I have cherished friends and loved ones who care about me, and that’s all that matters. But sometimes, I would like to have more friends. Ah, the great adventure of life. I guess.

Social Anxiety vs. Introversion

I have social anxiety (overall definition is that you become anxious, and sometimes fearful, of interacting with people or doing certain things due to an irrational fear of being negatively judged and/or criticized), but for the longest time ever I confused it with introversion. I figured that it  was because of my being an introvert that I behaved certain ways, but it was actually a recent phenomenon where I discovered that probably half of who I am (if not more or less) is due to social anxiety.

From what I gather through quick internet research, there’s ‘general social anxiety’ where people become anxious around people in general, and then non-general anxiety disorder where people become anxious only when in groups (so won’t feel anxious around just one or two people). I think I fall in the latter category.

I find that my social anxiety is most evident when I’m in the classroom since I am a full time student and those typically are large groups with there always being a chance I’ll be in the spotlight. But I do find myself getting socially anxious outside of the classroom, like when I’m out with a bunch of people or having dinner with relatives. But, not always! If I’m with people I am familiar with, such as close friends or relatives I constantly see, then I’m quite comfortable with speaking up. In those situations, my introverted side is the only side that is apparent. For example, I won’t talk a lot, I’ll listen more, and I’ll still avoid the spotlight when in very large groups but not out of nervousness – just sheer dislike of being the center of attention.

However, if I’m with a group of people I don’t know very well, my social anxiety acts up (can social anxiety act up? Is it ‘comes out’? You get the idea). I’ve thought about it for quite some time, and I still have a little trouble separating my behaviors into the two categories of ‘social anxiety’ and ‘introversion’. Of course, in some cases it’s very easy to tell:

For instance, during classroom time if the teacher asks a question and I even THINK about answering it, my social anxiety doesn’t even creep up on me slowly it, it full on hits me like a truck to the face. I can feel my heartbeat up in my throat and pretty much reverberating throughout my whole body. It beats so fast and so hard I hear it in my ears and feel it in my fingertips. Speaking of which, my hands start to tremble a little and, depending on the temperature, get sweaty or clammy. My rational mind knows that it’s not a big deal and that I can just earn some participation points since no one else is raising his/her hands, but emotionally and physically I just CAN’T do it. Even if I know that the answer is correct, I still have a hard time going through with it and in the back of my mind I’m still afraid of being judged. Which.. makes no sense. Being negatively judged for getting an answer right?? I never delve too deep into the reasons why I don’t want to speak up in those moments, but I assume it’s along the lines of “I’m pretty sure this is the right answer, but what if by chance it’s wrong? Oh man, I’m going to get so negatively judged…”

Or a minor example: on the rare chance that Gamer wants to play a game with me or wants to watch me play a game, my social anxiety kicks in there too. Boy oh boy, I hate being watched doing something because of the whole being negatively judged. I get quite anxious when he suggests any of those things and pretty rattled like, “what if I mess up in the game? Oh, I just have to hope I play perfectly otherwise he’s going to (negatively) judge me.” On top of that, Gamer isn’t one to just openly throw out comforting words if I do mess up so it just worsens the whole “I’m being judged” feeling. It’s not even the normal “Boy, I sure hope I do well!” It’s such an irrational state of emotion I get like… it’s just a fucking game, come on haha.

Then on the other hand, I have moments where I don’t want to do something merely because I do not feel like it. I don’t feel anxious about it or anything, I just do not want to do it. Like on a Friday night I might bail on my friends because I don’t feel like socializing – not because I’m scared of anything.

But I have moments where I can’t differentiate where my behavior could fall under. Like I’ll come across an encounter and I don’t feel anxious, but rather… awkward? Once, I was walking my dog and saw two people up ahead just chilling. When I saw them, I changed my route and took a left turn down a different street instead of walking straight on as planned. I didn’t act with the feelings of “oh crap, there’s people. I’m getting anxious so I’m going to leave” nor was it an “I don’t feel like bumping into people today” type of mood. It was more like, “eh, I feel like this would be awkward so I’ll just go this way for now” type of feeling (it sounds weird, but I tend to be a little socially awkward from time to time so I think that’s why I thought that).

So things like that, I can’t tell where that would fall under. Would it be social anxiety? Since I wanted to avoid getting involved in an awkward situation? It makes sense. I didn’t feel anxious though like I do in some other situations, but perhaps I don’t always have to feel symptoms to have something be classified as acting under social anxiety…. But if that’s the case, then I wonder if there are other moments where I classified them as introverted behavior, but actually is social anxiety?

But for all I know, that is just a situational moment that had nothing to do with introversion or social anxiety and I’m just forcing my mind to somehow categorize all my behaviors because as much as I am a messy teen I do like to have everything organized. *big shrug*

Ah, it’s all so confusing and I can’t seem to wrap my head around it. I suppose one day it’ll become clear. Or maybe it won’t! Maybe I’ll forever live in a gray area of social anxiety and introversion which seems like a more normal route to accept myself as… But I am hitting a boring stage in my life so I might as well have something to ponder about and keep me entertained at nights in bed.*another big shrug*

If anyone knows anything more about social anxiety, I would love to hear about it! I’m still learning up on it and have yet to really talk to my doctor about it.

Good night everyone!

A Lonesome Night of Writing

My parents are away in India. My dad left at the end of January and my mom left about two weeks ago. I’m home alone with my cousin and my dog, and it’s quite nice. But right now, I feel a bit lonely. That sinking feeling of loneliness is gently nagging at me from inside my chest. Part of me wants to talk to someone, but another part of me also wants to be alone. My cousin went to go sleep half an hour ago and my dog accompanied her shortly after. I’m sitting on the couch and, man, I wish I could hug someone right now. It is almost that time of the month for me though, and I tend to get period blues so I’m not entirely surprised at this feeling. But it still sucks. I suppose for now, I will do a little writing tidbit because why not? This is from earlier in the day when I was over at Gamer’s place.

 

“Am I fun to hang out with?” Without realizing, I had blurted out the question that was on my mind while looking up at him mindlessly from his lap.

“Yes,” he responded without looking down at me.

“Really?”

“No, I hang out with you three times a week just to make you feel better,” he said jokingly as he glanced down at me with a smile. I let out a small laugh.

“Okay, good, that’s how it should be,” I replied also jokingly before we both looked back at his monitor. He was sitting cross legged on the bed while I had my head resting on the pillow in his lap. With his laptop out in front of him, he was trying to program but we both were a little too mildly interested in the 90’s gameplay that was playing on YouTube in front of us on his monitor. It was warm in his room and my legs were tangled in his blanket, my arms holding onto his arm loosely. Nearby, my laptop was off in the corner with my phone and a raspberry flavored Airheads wrapper gently fluttering back and forth from the fan in the room. A 4pm Sunday afternoon – it doesn’t get more lazy than this.

“Do you think you’re not fun to hang out with?” I turned my head back up at him when he asked that after a few seconds of silence. His eyes were still glued to the monitor as I repeated that question to myself silently.

“Well, no. It’s just I don’t do much when I’m here so I was wondering what it could be about me that’s fun.”

“I have fun hanging out with you, but if you’re bored here you should let me know.” He looked down at me and I shook my head. That’s not what I meant.

My mind flashed back to the first night we met. After a round of hot chocolate, I met up with him again after his work was over and we went to his place. It was an awkward, incredibly polite meet up now that I compare our current hangouts to that November night in 2015. Upon leaving his place, I recall that moment where I walked away from his apartment down the sidewalk at 10pm. The brisk chill in the wind washing over my cheeks as I looked down at the pavement with my hands digging deep into my pockets to keep warm. Well, that’s that. I had thought to myself, trudging toward the train station. I was so sure that I was never going to see him again. So sure that it was like the other guys I met before him – a hit and run type of meet up with those empty words of “we should hang out some time again” and “I’ll text you.” I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever tell him about how I think about that night periodically from awe and pleasant surprise.

“I do have fun with you. I was just wondering,” I smiled genuinely. As repetitive as it may seem, I did enjoy doing the same things over and over with him. Though, sometimes I do wonder what it is about our hangouts that seem fun to him. It’s normally him doing his own thing while I look on from the sidelines. What do I do that’s fun for him?

“Well, you stop thinking that, you fluff nugget,” he smiled jokingly again and squeezed my cheeks with his one hand, making me pout.

“Okay,” I said in a very nasally voice, causing some chuckles to spurt out of both of us. “So, when are you free next?”

“Whenever. You pick the day.”

Surviving vs. Thriving

I’m ashamed to look and see how long it has been since I last wrote a post on here. I do have quite a few posts to write about so I will probably spread them out over the week. For my first post…

Recently, my dad’s friend from Chicago (let’s call him Reader) came to visit with his daughter who is two years younger than me. He is a very intellectual guy who has loved to learn since he was a child back in India. He’d pick up any and every book just to expand his knowledge – and boy, did he really expand my mind when he came and stayed for a few days.

One night we were all chilling by the kitchen counter and he gave me a speech about how I should choose to go into my future and nothing has ever struck me as much as what he said that night.

As many people say or have heard from others, you should follow your interests and do what you enjoy. That was the message Reader gave me essentially but worded this way:

You need to find something you’re obsessed with. Something that interests you so much, and something you are so passionate about, that you will wake up in the mornings and chances are that THAT is what you will think about. It should be that way. Anyone can do any job in the future, humans are capable of adapting to their environments.

But if you choose something you obsess over, you will excel no matter where you go. You will be promoted sooner than later, you will get a higher salary raise if that’s what you care about, and people from other fields will come to consult you because you are one of the best in your field. But most importantly, you will have fun.

You can be really talented in one field, but if you don’t obsess over it or have fun with it, then in the end you will be surviving, like everyone else, when really you should be thriving and making a difference in the world – regardless of the field you are passionate about.

“Don’t just survive. That’s what we immigrant parents all over the world have done and are doing right now for you kids. All these immigrant parents have left the comfort of their home countries and are merely surviving right now. Don’t be like us, that’s not why we brought you here. Be better than us, make a difference.”

His speech hit me hard. I’ve always heard people say follow your interests, but it what how Reader put it that made me rethink my entire future. I had plans to go through the English field and become an editor of some sorts, because I enjoy going through the editing process and also that is one of my skills. But.. I don’t obsess over it. I don’t wake up in the mornings wondering what literature I’m going to read next (as much as I’m trying to read more nowadays) nor do I pick up and read any of the books on writing/grammar that I have received as gifts from family.

The one thing I obsess over is paleontology. I love it with all my heart and have since I was a little kid. Paleontology is the subject where I willingly go and WANT to buy books on and read on the train. Every time I go to a bookstore, I always search for a paleontology section. Currently I am reading a book on the Tyrannosaur family that I found at a thrift book store and I am learning so much.

Reader’s speech didn’t just affect me though, it seems like my mom was also enlightened by it. To my surprise, my mom, who had once strongly suggested neurology as a career path, is now encouraging me to follow paleontology. First, I should finish my English degree and get a masters, but afterward – go get that paleontology degree and maybe become a professor.

To be honest, I have yet to look at schools that have good paleontology courses and am still feeling slightly lost despite knowing what I want to do. But I have a good feeling about it.