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This month, and for the rest of the summer, I will be working with a non-profit organization called the Writers’ Exchange, which aims to inspire literary skills in young, under-privileged children and to get them excited about reading and writing. As a volunteer literacy mentor, I will be working with kids every week, reading to them, playing games with them, and learning from them (I could write an entire blog post about what I learned from children).

And, after spending many hours with these children, I’ve learned one thing: nonsense is logical.

I’ve seen children organize UNO cards in seemingly illogical ways. They would stack the red cards in one pile, and then take a green card and put it on the pile as well. Then, they’d make another pile with only cards with the number “2” on them. And then, they’d make another pile with only cards that were black. While the children were at work, I would watch from afar, trying to understand them on my own. I would say, “I’m 16, almost a senior in high school; I can do this!” But soon thereafter, I would become so lost in the sea of colours, numbers, and letters.

And every time I asked the kids if they had finished their organization, they would smile at me and say “Yes, I put my cards into a certain order under one system.”

As a pretty logic-based person, I try to use logic and reasoning in everyday situations, with varying degrees of success. But here I was, confronted with something that I thought was illogical. So I did the logical thing of coming to a resolution about the situation at hand: there was logic to it; I just couldn’t understand it.

I like to say that logic is subjective. Something that you think is logical may not seem logical to me. And precocious children (basically all of them) have that wonderful ability to govern their own world with logic that is completely incomprehensible to adults; it’s like their own little world that is open for us to see, but we never see it for what it actually is.

And because logic is so subjective, it becomes ever-so-important to be open-minded, a quality that, after spending weeks with these children, I have pushed myself to develop even further.

While sometimes I still can’t believe that there is logic to a child’s work, I try my best to empathize and at least understand that everyone has their own way of understanding the same things, and while some people will use logic, that logic is so dependent on the person.

And then I remind myself that I am not superhuman. I can’t understand everything and everyone; give me a physics textbook and I will wind my brain into a tight knot and shove it into a jar of jelly. So while I may be able to understand many people, I won’t be able to click with others. And that’s okay.

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Discomfort.

I don’t think I would be able to put this a better way: I am uncomfortable with my life. “Uncomfortable” is the perfect word for it. I don’t hate my life, I’m not depressed (at least I hope so), and I have a loving group of friends who support me every day.

But yet, I’m still uncomfortable, still out-of-place, and while I’d love to write a 1000-word essay about how I thrashed through minefields and finally overcame my discomfort, I can’t. Because I still feel this discomfort today and my discomfort has so many levels and intensities.

As a result, I’ve decided to start bringing routine, this blog, and organization, my bullet journal, back into my life. And I hope I can share a problem or discomfort that I have and how I’m trying to overcome it every week.

So today, I am going to discuss one cause of my discomfort: my trying-to-be-a-better-person initiative.

Ever since I was young, I was pessimistic. People would tell me to see the bright side of things and, while I’d turn to the sunny side and observe it from a distance, I could never truly be happy once I’d been unhappy. And because I’d become so used to being grumpy, annoyed, or just straight-up angry, I started becoming increasingly grouchy and offended by everything.

I hadn’t really noticed by pessimism until last month, when I went on a trip to visit universities and just have fun in Philadelphia and Chicago. I went on the trip with my dad, my mom’s friend, and my mom’s friend’s daughter. For the sake of simplicity (and so I don’t use too many apostrophes), I’m giving my mom’s friend’s daughter a random name: Sandra.

As we toured colleges and universities like Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania, I became increasingly frustrated with Sandra. Her personality and my personality did not get along well for a few reasons, two of which were sensitivity and honesty.

I’m a sensitive person, more sensitive than other people. If someone is having a bad day and yells at me, I will undoubtedly become sad, at least for a little while.

I also keep things to myself. I grew up with the mantra, “If it isn’t nice, don’t say it,” stamped all over my brain. So if I ever had a snarky comment or something not-so-nice to say, I unconsciously kept it to myself.

Sandra, on the other hand, is not an incredibly sensitive person and is exceptionally honest. If she didn’t like something, that something would know it. If she didn’t want to do something, I would know it too.

And what’s more, we had differing opinions in terms of what we liked in a college or university, what we wanted to major in, and what we looked for in life in general (besides success and happiness).

So whenever I wanted to do something, like visit the Philadelphia Zoo, she wouldn’t want to do the same thing and would tell me so, in a very honest way.

And whenever this happened, I just became extremely frustrated, annoyed, angry, the whole nine yards. But I wouldn’t tell Sandra that she was hurting my feelings or that she was being insensitive because that would defy my “that’s-not-nice-don’t-say-it” rule.

These kinds of thoughts rushed through my mind: Why is she so rude? Can’t she keep those thoughts to herself? Does she not have any empathy for those people she just insulted? How can she do that? I would never do that! Why? Why? Why?

And as these events increased in number, my anger increased in intensity. It became so bad that, after spending three days in Philadelphia and arriving in Chicago, I broke down screaming, punching pillows, and sobbing in the plush hotel room. I ranted to my friends back home for nearly an hour and at the end (here’s the big thing), I didn’t feel a single speck better.

Sure, I’d finally released my bottled-up anger, but I still hadn’t resolved anything. Later that night, Sandra would behave in a similar manner, and I would be annoyed, again.

And I genuinely did not think Sandra was a bad person. Her personality just did not get along with mine. I might have thought that she was rude but she probably didn’t. She was just being honest, something that we all wish we had a little bit more of, myself included.

And I had seen how being angry, Type-A, and, above-all, pessimistic (about everything around me) could affect me so negatively.

So from that day on, I decided that I would start being a better person, being more optimistic. Every time Sandra said something I didn’t like, I would close my eyes, listen to music, and remind myself that…

  1. It’s just her personality. And…
  2. I would encounter more people like her in the future, so I should learn to calm down my anger now.

Dear reader, now that you are reading this, you may smile at me and say “Hey, you’ve resolved the problem. That’s great!”

But for me, being a better person isn’t that simple. Sometimes, I become so offended or so angry that I bottle that anger up and release it. But after that, I reprimand myself for thinking such soiled thoughts, such mean things, and I end the day feeling just horrible about myself. Coming back to the pessimism. And I would become even more upset that I was being pessimistic, continuing the endless chain of sadness.

So now that you’re wondering exactly how I’m going to resolve this problem, that isn’t so simple either. For me, it’s about not reprimanding myself every time I think something mean because I am human and I make mistakes.

When I was first trying to be a better person, I thought that this personality change was like flipping a light switch on and off; quick, fast, and seamless. But as I kept scolding myself, I realized that this change would come slowly and sometimes, painfully, but that I would need to encourage myself with positive thoughts. If I corrected myself after I thought I was being mean, I would say things like “Good job for catching that, Mary. At least you aren’t letting mean thoughts just wander in without noticing them.”

To end, dear reader, I want to let you know that I don’t even know if what I’m doing is working, but I want to try. And if one of you is going through similar troubles, at least you have a stepping stone to start on or the comfort of knowing that someone is going through the same troubles as you.

I hope to continue to write more of these “Discomfort” posts, with the intention of just releasing some built-up, heavy matter and helping those in similar situations.