Sometime, one ends up in thought provoking conversations that end up changing one’s perspective; possibly for good.
If you ask any of my friends to name some of my most defining characteristics, I’m sure empathy would come up. My friends have always “scolded” me a little in the past, given that my empathy sometimes clouds my judgment, or completely overrides it. I have been known to do spontaneous jumps into different things and directions like jobs, friendships, relationships, hobbies and passions, which people deemed quite stupid. For me, however, there is always a slight hint of curiosity, as well as the occasional, well, need/want/desire, to push the envelope when I “go off on the deep end.” I do it because I can and it temporarily overrides the deep-rooted doubts I have about my own ability to be spontaneous, exciting and courageous. I have no problem packing up the bags and moving to another city, state or continent, if the possibility for growth and success can be calculated at a high score. But the key word here is “calculated,” and control is what I really need to keep moving. Yes, I know that some may want to jump in right now and tell me how courageous I am and that I am anything but boring. And yes, I also know that most people know that I am a control freak and therefore never dove into drugs or alcohol. However, do indulge me for just a moment down my rabbit hole of thought.
Maybe I am just a moth. Or like the bugs in “Mimic.” I have spent almost my entire life watching and observing people to figure out what “normal” is (and to this very day I still am quite confused about the subject). I watched people do seemingly normal things, from relationships, to climbing up the success ladder, to how to do “family.” I realized that, in order to be part of society, one had to abide by certain rules and one had to look and behave in a certain way. Choosing to overwrite the rules, or expected looks and behaviors, would be detrimental and quite often futile. You can swim up the stream only for so long until your arms and back are killing you and start drowning.
My point is that I mastered the ability to empathize, because I can relate to almost any bad thing one can imagine. I would feel another person’s pain as my own (which is what a therapist told me when I was in my 20s) and acted as an emotional antenna, receiving way too much info, getting exhausted, because it would sometimes take me a while to figure out that what I was feeling wasn’t my emotion at all, but the emotion of someone else. In order to stop this from happening I developed defense mechanisms that work super well. I don’t go out to crowded places like concerts or clubs. When I choose to hang out, I do it with one person. Scattering my attention is difficult, because if I choose to disengage, I get completely distracted. And of course, if I have absolutely no correlation to the experience someone is presenting to me, I actually am no longer all that empathetic and can turn super judgmental and almost cruel, which of course, I end up feeling ashamed about.
I have a fairly well developed wall that I hide extremely well with funny remarks, an apparently super social and outgoing personality and a quick wit. Therefore, my friends laugh when I tell them that I am introverted and used to be super shy as a kid. The truth, however, remains. I don’t like crowds and the only way for me to get my energy back is by isolating for a while, doing something anonymous, like playing a computer game, watching a movie or reading a book. I could live in isolation for quite some time and it wouldn’t bother me at all. The thought is actually calming to me. People and social gatherings can only be tolerated in small doses before I am either exhausted, depleted, or bored. Alas, I digress, again.
The truth is, I have built a persona. This persona is Carmen and I can run her like a well oiled machine. But the edges are now all bleeding and I no longer know where my “true” self ends and my mimicked shell begins. This frightens me. What if I have and always will waste my life, living the learned, successful path of not “losing” it? I’ve lost it once and it was super liberating. Unfortunately, I couldn’t function like that.
It’s probably another excuse or cliche, but the possibilities would be endless if I would be independently wealthy. And of course, this thought is fueled by the belief that I probably can’t make it and am not worthy. Guilt and shame I do better than most. I just hide it better than the rest; after all, who wants to be weak? And on that note, I watched this and thought “Damn. I thought I knew so much and yet, all I know isn’t really quite worth that much.”
Have fun watching this amazingly well done talk at TED