Saturday, November 16, 2013

Beliefs

The title of the first online journal I ever had was "No Day But Today." I didn't mean it in the way that you're probably thinking - it wasn't about living for the moment. I used to have a lot of ups and downs, a lot of mood swings, and I predicted that my online journal would reflect this. I may be on cloud nine one day and ready to break windows the next day, or perhaps just later the same day. When I said "No Day But Today," I meant that each journal entry only described how I felt at that exact given moment, and nothing more. I didn't want to be judged for my inconsistency. I didn't want people saying, "Hey, you were feeling awesome yesterday! What happened?" For the same reason, my Facebook "about me" section at the time said, "I honestly don't know what to write here, because whatever I say will probably be different tomorrow."

I've swung completely around now. I know what I believe, and my beliefs are solid. They don't change based on what I'm in the mood to write about on a given day. Perhaps it's more in the nature of what I'm writing now, since I write more about concepts than about what's going on in my life at the moment. But still, I never look back at something and think, "Oh, I was just having a bad day that day. Now that I feel better, I don't really think that's an issue anymore." Not that I ever thought that way. It's weird - I read in American Girl that if you wrote down your feelings when you were upset, you'd look back sometime later and think, "I was upset over that?" I don't have that experience. No matter how much time has passed, no matter what adults have told me about how I'd feel later on, I have never once looked back at something I've written and not understood why I felt the way I did or why it was so important at the time. EVER.

In sixth grade, I wrote a lot about how much fun I had in my first play and how that made the entire year an awesome one. At my K-8 school, our teachers were constantly saying that life was only going to get harder and worse later on, especially when it came to "next year" at school. In fifth grade in particular, our teachers scared us A LOT about how hard and strict everything would be once we were on the other side of the building, in grades 6-8. (Never mind the fact that our middle school was still structured like elementary school, where we stayed in our own classroom most of the day and only changed classrooms for one class. No lockers, no showering for gym class, no moving to another school. None of the changes that most people experience when starting middle school. But somehow everyone convinced us that it was going to be the hardest thing in the world). While I mainly talked and wrote a lot about my first play because I loved it so much, I felt like I had learned something really important. I learned that the teachers at my school wanted to scare us for some reason, but that what they said about how hard everything would be "next year" had nothing to do with what was actually going on. Sixth grade was way more fun than elementary school because of my first play, and drama club was only for grades 5-8, so that was something BETTER about being in the older grades. You know that saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side." I came up with my own version, which was, "It takes time for the grass to turn green, on whatever side." The book I started writing about sixth grade was called "Next Year," and I had planned the final lines of the book to be: "Life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get. And what I got this year was better than anything I could have imagined. Sometimes I wonder about what will happen next year. I wonder what play we'll be doing, what field trips we'll take, and whether our teacher will be nice. Once in a while, I even wonder how long it will take for the grass to turn green next year. But at least this time, I know that it will."

Okay, looking at that now, it goes against everything I believe in. I've been fighting so hard to tell people that getting used to something does NOT make it okay, and that sixth-grade catch-phrase makes me sound like all those people who thought I just needed to "adjust" to college and it wouldn't be a problem. My goal now is to help people figure out what they want and take steps to achieve that, which often means getting out of a bad situation. But when I really think about it...I don't think my beliefs were that radically different back in middle school. I remember saying that getting used to something doesn't make it okay at a young age. It wasn't something I said often because it didn't come up often in my life, but I noticed the way adults talked about getting used to things and I often corrected them. I think I just hadn't had as much life experience in sixth grade. I hadn't had anything really bad happen yet, so it was easy to stretch "adults lie about the future to scare you," into "everything will actually be okay." The funny thing is, most of the really bad things I've been through were not things that anyone "warned" me about. Every adult I talked to said that college was awesome, so perhaps the lesson here is that there isn't much correlation between what adults told us things would be like and what those things are actually like (unless of course, someone says, "Based on what I know about you, you will probably like this/not like this").

When I was in eighth grade, I had a sixth-grade friend who was really worried that she would get held back in school because her grades weren't good. I told her that according to the student handbook, you could only get held back if you got an F in two subjects. Since she wasn't failing any classes, she was all set. I remembered being her shoes. Back in the younger grades, our teachers talked about getting held back as if it was at their discretion, like they could just decide to hold anyone back if they wanted to and we had no idea whether we'd be promoted until we got our final report cards on the last day of the year. I was in sixth grade when I actually read the handbook and realized that I had nothing to worry about. When I shared this information with my friend, I really felt like I was doing something good for the world. My focus is a bit different now, since I got into a bad situation by believing good things that other people said, but my beliefs are actually stronger. Instead of thinking, this is silly - why do people say things that aren't true? I think, telling someone that things will only get harder/worse later on is detrimental to anyone who is not okay with the way things are now. You've probably told someone to kill themself by saying that. In a stream-of-consciousness poem I wrote in college about someone jumping off a building, the speaker recalls the equation A+B=C written on the first-grade blackboard and being told that she would have to simplify that someday, but now they had it easy. "Now" was always the best they'd have it. One of the last thoughts that crosses her mind before she hits the ground is, wait a minute...A+B=C was the answer, there was nothing to simplify. But she's two feet from the ground at that point. A different take on my sixth-grade "rumors aren't true and everything is really happy and sunny and awesome!" ending, but the same concept.

Writing my beliefs now solidifies everything. I recently applied for a job where the requirements only listed very specific skills. When a recruiter contacted me later about the same job and wanted me to apply through them, they told me the top three qualities that the company was looking for in the candidate, and one of the qualities was "outgoing - not introverted." Now, looking at the whole picture and what the job entailed, it seems like they just wanted someone who had communication skills and would communicate with co-workers in the ways necessary for the company to function. There was no customer interface, so you wouldn't have needed to be social or outgoing or extroverted. I understood that. But my conscience felt uneasy going to that interview. It's not the fact that I am introverted, it's the fact that I'm an advocate for introversion. I've written so much about it that it feels hypocritical to pursue a job that doesn't welcome introverts. I have always been an introvert, but it wouldn't have bother me so much if I weren't an advocate. The same is true when interviewers ask me how I liked Colby. It would have always bothered me to lie about that, but the fact that I've written so much about hating Colby College really solidifies the fact that I'm lying. One interviewer really wanted to talk to me about Colby and I kind of worked my way around the questions, but I was really scared. My mind kept racing, thinking that he had read my blog or somehow knew that I was lying to him. I'm always aware of when I'm not being honest, but having all my truths spelled out on the internet sort of feels like the interviewers are walking through my house and I have to keep diverting their eyes away from everything I don't want them to see.

It's an uncomfortable feeling, but I'm glad it's there. I'm glad that I at least know when I'm betraying myself, because otherwise my beliefs wouldn't be solid. Someday I'll add to my pool of knowledge and life experiences and might make adjustments to all the arguments I have now, but the core will never change.

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