Category Archives: On My Mind

A Little Shy

I recently told a friend, in the context of a wider conversation, that on a scale of “none” to “I’m the most awesome person ever”, my self-esteem is probably around a 6. I don’t know if that’s actually true. I don’t know what a self-esteem of 6 means. I teach DP Psychology and Theory of Knowledge and I can tell you all about the many problems with rating scales. Hopefully, so can my students.

The point I was trying to make is that self-confidence is not my strong suit. I am, as I have written before, shy. It takes effort to introduce myself to new people and I am so nervous before doing it. More than once, when unsure of whether or not I should say hello to someone I vaguely know, I have intentionally walked more slowly than normal when getting off the bus behind them. True story.

That I am shy sometimes surprises people. Get me in a space where I’m comfortable and you’d never know. I hardly know because that’s when I stop being shy. Meet me in a time or place where I know one other person in a huge room and I’m no longer shy, even if that one other person is nowhere to be seen.

At a PD course on social-emotional learning a number of years ago, I realized that I am best described as an extroverted introvert. I like time alone. I like the quiet. I am content out in the world by myself. When anxious, scared, upset, or stressed, I find equanimity when I have the space to pull myself together without anyone else interfering. But I also love people. I love my friends and my family. I love parties and groups and conversations. My happiest memories, with very few exceptions, are with others. But sometimes, others are a bit too much and then I need a break to reset. An extroverted introvert.

Sometimes I play a game that I call, “If I were Mary”. Mary is a real person, the second friend I made in high school, and a friend to this day. The most outgoing person I know. She always has a million people to see, things to do, places to go, and an astonishing ability to say “yes” to everything. Just the thought of being Mary makes me want to curl up into a hole and wait until it’s over, but sometimes she inspires a game. “If I were Mary” I’d say hello to this person. “If I were Mary” I’d go to this party. “If I were Mary” I would have stopped thinking about it and done it already.

I’m not Mary, but sometimes it’s easier to pretend and do the things I think Mary would do. (Obviously I have grossly oversimplified this very real, complex person for the sake of example. Just go with it.) I think this is something I first practiced doing theatre in high school. It is not me, it is the character. How would the character respond, reply, react? I have embodied characters for the stage and played them in the real world. Sometimes it’s easier to pretend.

The times when I worry are the times when I realize I am spending too much time alone, whether out in the world or not. Too much time with just what is going on in my head – my own thoughts, my own ideas, my own musings. There’s a reason I seek out people who I can talk with.

This is why I think I often do better with a buddy, a partner, a person. I haven’t yet sat with my neighbours outside in the courtyard. I haven’t yet gone to the weekly meet-up at the climbing gym. I haven’t yet ridden my bike to the next town (though in fairness, I only got it two days ago). I am braver when I am pulled outside of my own head, and then I can be comfortably left to my own devices.

And yet, this is true to what I know of the experience of adjustment. This is not new. What is new is the place, which means a new adjustment. A new adventure. It is this adventure to be embraced, not an adventure that only exists in my mind. It is this adventure that I will come to know, and this story that I will be able to tell.

All of this is part of the story.

Traveler, there is no path, the path must be forged as you walk. – Antonio Machado

Weimar, Germany – July 2021

Night Thoughts by Day

I think that to write is to come to an understanding.

I think that, I think that.

I think that, to know what is in one’s own mind, one must express.

Does a feeling need a name to be known?


Sleeping has been a challenge for a while now, but last night’s experience was particularly interesting. I was part of a conversation that included two people who I know, only one of whom was making any sense. I remained alert for quite some time after awakening and mulled over what had been said, but it trickled away from me as fast as I recognized the nonsense that was happening. And then I remained alert thinking about the strangeness of these people having a conversation, and I noticed a feeling of something lost.


I wonder what people mean when they claim to understand others.

I wonder what people mean when they claim to understand themselves.

Can we understand others without understanding the self?

And can we understand the self separately from understanding others?


I am far calmer lying awake at 3am than 11pm.

At 11pm, my eyes are active. It takes effort to put the book down, effort that my occasionally rational brain insists upon because it’s late. It’s 11pm, after all, and I haven’t been sleeping.

At 3am, my eyes are tired. My brain spins but my eyes are tired and at least I’ve slept until then, which is comforting. I need to stop the thoughts from dancing but at least my eyes are closed and that feels good.


At 3am, I go back to:

How am I feeling about the move?

Aside from feeling defeated by the question, I’m terrified.

I was a different person the last time I moved, and that was in a different lifetime.

How am I supposed to be feeling?

At 11pm, I am alert enough to avoid the subject.


During a very dark period of my life, I used to record my thoughts in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. I used to turn on the songs that made me cry and play them over and over. I’d mouth the words until they became part of me and then I’d cry and be able to rest.

This is not that time.

But I am aware of how the patterns of behaviour that I developed out of necessity at that time have imprinted themselves on how I cope with challenges.

Adaptation is critical to human survival, and I wonder if I have become habituated to the sort of aimlessness I am experiencing now. This is not the right word, and far from an accurate characterization of my time and even my personal reflections of my time, but it is an accurate word to describe this feeling. It is a strange world when the reality and the feeling do not match.

Something is different this time, this move, this change. I cannot blame the pandemic, for blame is cause-effect, right-wrong, black-white. And the world is shades upon shades of gray and purple and green and blue and and and.

But I can acknowledge that coping throughout the pandemic has necessitated adaptation.


I wonder about our claims to significance.

Do we know at the time that a thought, a conversation, a shared glance, an observation will become signficant?

Or is significance developed through, over, across time? And then, is it the act or event itself or our memory and interpretation of it that becomes significant?

And does it matter?


I remember what it means to be excited and intellectually, I am. But my body does not have those feelings. The first inkling I had of what my body had lost was the moment when a friend reminded me, “This is an adventure.” As I write the word, I cannot keep from smiling.

Adventure.

My body knows what it is to have an adventure.

My mind knows what it is to live an adventure.


Does a feeling need a name to be known?

I think that, to know what is in one’s own mind, one must not be afraid of looking.

Into Boxes

The last time I packed my life into boxes was four years ago. Some of the boxes were already packed from a year earlier. At that time, I’d moved to four countries in four years and I was well-practiced. But in the intervening years, I have not only acquired things that I would actually like to keep, but four years in a place is just a different sort of packing up.

If it can’t fit in a box, which then fits into 4.5 cubic metres, and if it can’t fit into one of two 23kg-limited suitcases, it can’t go. There is no space for last-minute decisions.

Buying real furniture was a big deal. It meant that I could no longer pack a suitcase and leave. I have three pieces of furniture that will take up most of the space. The kitchen chairs are last on the list. We’ll see, the movers told me.

But even if I’d packed up and left before the furniture, it would have meant leaving the books and I’ve already done that twice. So all fifty books will be packed. And how is it only fifty? The others, countless others, are in different boxes on a different continent. They will stay where they are.

Most of my kitchenware will be packed. I’ll need to buy a few new things on arrival, things like pots and pans and chopping boards. No sense waiting untold months for those to arrive. But I can live without the dishes (containers are on the upon-arrival-shopping-list), so all of the dishes will be packed, three pieces of service for four. I wonder how many will break on the way? All of the cutlery, too, because it’s a set for eight and a good one. The glassware will be packed. And some of it will probably break.

The art will be packed, as will what I termed “decorative items” (close enough to tchatzkes, right?) on the insurance list. We need clarification, they wrote back. I clarified.

The climbing gear is packed, as are journals and letters, mail received and beloved. Board games neatly stacked – do they sell board games in English over there? The bag of bags was packed with another bag, along with dance shoes, crochet materials (I’ve brought the nice yarn all this way, after all), stationery (I’ve had that orange stapler since someone made me a pre-university care package), a spare sewing kit, and all of the things we forget we once needed until we’re ruthlessly discarding them. But the two pieces of leftover tissue paper came in handy while wrapping the aforementioned tchatzkes. Decorative items.

The contents of my night table drawers will go into my carry-on bag. Things that they tell you not to pack in a suitcase. Laptop and related tech, legal documents, jewelry, cash, camera. Current journal with two pens because of that one time. Etc.

A sheet and a towel need to go into the suitcase, along with a small knife, my most favourite cooking utensils, and a set of bamboo cutlery. There are several weeks to go, after all. And then I’m moving immediately into an empty apartment, and my shipment won’t arrive until it arrives, and it can’t land at Customs until some bureaucracy is attended to. A couple of weeks of work outfits and their shoes need to go into the suitcase because school will likely start before my stuff arrives, and first impressions are everything.

It is making decisions about the clothes (and gosh, what if the weather turns?) that I am postponing as I write this. There’s nothing remaining on the walls, there are neat piles on the floor, but there is still normalcy in the closet. I know where everything is and it looks like it’s supposed to look in there. Once the hangers are piled up and boxed for shipping, everything left just sits in a suitcase.

And then the apartment is empty of most of what it means to physically live somewhere.

But I’m having guests for dinner this weekend so the kitchen, at least, will wait another day.

Daytime at Clarke Quay – Singapore, October 2020