Growing up, birthdays never really meant much to me.
July 28th wasn’t a school day so I never really had the pleasure of being wished ‘happy-birthday’ by peers who would act a little nicer because it was a ‘special day.’
This year though, I made it a point to do something memorable. I invited a few of my close friends to a dinner that hopefully we won’t forget anytime soon.
Recently, I’ve started to work on being more intentional.
There are often moments where I find myself doing something to be socially validated. It started when I was pretty young, I felt ashamed of my name and have continued to until recently.
I remember telling teachers in middle-school it was the letter A followed by B AB and somehow they still managed to mess it up and called me Abe like Abe Lincoln.
It’s not that it bothers me when people don’t pronounce my name properly, I’ve learned that I was more frustrated at myself for not saying anything.
Being intentional starts with speaking up when it matters.
I’ve been a bit quiet the past few months because adjusting to city life hasn’t been easy.
I’ve learned the conflict isn’t due to other people or my surroundings but rather it’s within.
I’ve exposed myself to new environments, people, and lifestyles that make me uncomfortable.
Unlike many people who’ve attended college, I rarely went to parties, can’t dance and never drank or smoked. I also don’t consume most popular culture: music, tv, politics etc… This was primarily due to the fact I wasn’t exposed to it growing up.
I’ve recently come to accept that it’s okay.
I always felt a bit self-conscious when I was around others who did those things. Questions like, “do they think I’m weird?” would run through my head. What I had never thought is there’s something incredible about being different and having a unique story to tell.
Underlying these insecurities there was this thing called confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories.
Here’s how it works: cultural norms popularized certain symbols and as children grow up they unconsciously start to adopt them from their environment.
On the flip side, what most people don’t see are the people who aren’t ‘on the dance floor.’ Let me explain, have you ever realized that at many venues the dance floors are actually pretty small?
Often, a small subset of the attendees at a social event actually end up on the dance floor. Everyone else huddles around and watches them. Since the dancers are the center of attention, you get this Fear Of Missing Out.
In reality, there are many others just like you in your immediate surrounding but it’s not obvious to you that they may feel the same way.
I find this metaphor may be applicable to many other scenarios in life like education, careers, and relationships.
With amplification of often ‘fictitious experiences’ represented in overly posed images and short videos by social media, it’s too easy to focus on the people who appear “perfect.”
Without being cynical, I often challenge myself to think what’s behind the curtain? Is that person truly happy in that job? Do they actually love their partner? Is a degree in psychology really worth it for her to become a screen writer?
Before, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable asking those questions. Now, I don’t. I just ask.
After moving to the city, I’ve started to experiment with consuming new forms of content and engaging in different environments.
One of the questions that I still have a hard time answering is, “do I really want to be here?”
Many times the answer has been no and I’ve had to muster up the courage to leave. Sometimes, I couldn’t and that’s okay too because I forgave myself.
Although, I’ve never really given birthdays much love. I’ve changed my mind, there’s little benefit in fighting with myself.
The present moment is way more fun when I choose to be intentional about how I spend my time with the people around me.
I hope this post keeps me publicly accountable.
Lighting a match…
Some links I’ve deeply enjoyed learning from, maybe you will too.
“Secure attachment in childhood serves as a visceral map for a healthy relationship in the future.”
“The question in distressed relationships is always the same all over the world at every age: ‘Where are you? Do you care about me? Do I matter to you? Will you respond to me? Will you be there when I’m vulnerable? Am I safe with you?'”
“When the answer is ‘I’m here,’ you can deal with almost anything” You don’t have to solve all your partner’s problems – just be emotionally present with them.
“People think that conflict is the issue in distressed relationships. Conflict is the virus, the inflammation is emotional disconnection.”
"When you can be vulnerable for a moment and that person turns in and cares about your vulnerability, THAT’S the person to go with.”
“Emotional responsiveness is the basis of a secure bond” — It’s the willingness that someone has to tune into you emotionally and to allow themselves to feel what you’re feeling.
“People think that conflict is the issue in distressed relationships. Conflict is the virus, the inflammation is emotional disconnection.” — A happy relationship isn’t the same as avoiding conflict.
“We don’t educate people about relationships. We teach them trigonometry in school but heaven forbid we teach them about the most important thing of all.. relationships.”
— Dr. Sue Johnson
I’m moving again soon, let’s meet for coffee if you’re in NYC
I recently met Adam Robinson, it was a chance encounter that I won’t forget anytime soon. Ask me about it when we meet if you’re interested!