If necessary, sacrifice the quality, and the quantity, for the sake of consistency.

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If necessary, sacrifice the quality, and the quantity, for the sake of consistency.

Being a writer is not about publishing books, writing thrilling stories, sweeping essays or mind-blowing columns. Being a writer is about writing.

So write.

Write from the depths of your soul, or the surface of your skin. Whether you touch, crawl, soar, scrawl or roar; write.

Write because you want. Because you don’t. Write because it all piles up in your throat and you can’t find a way to let it all out. Because when you open your mouth, your thoughts have become a whisper, a breeze in the wind. But when your fingers flow from the keyboard, it swoops and sways and the words stay… Branded in the canvas of your screen.

The blinking cursor hastily chasing your ever running mind. Nothing sets it at ease.

Yet, the clickity-clacking of the keys, the stream of words on the screen, the voice in your head that narrates the feelings that you couldn’t describe before… There is something soothing, something meditative in it.

How do you express yourself? If by words, why do you struggle to put them on paper? Are you afraid, Ming? Are you afraid of your own judgement, the feeling of not good enough, of exposure, of being afraid that you will never be good enough to be… what? Successful? A professional? Acknowledged?

Don’t make me laugh, Ming. You’re afraid because you’re chasing a mirage. You feel that you must meet these standards that you’ve put in your head. These high, lofty requirements that will prove that you are a good writer. But they’re not actually there. They don’t exist. Writing is not about writing well. It is about writing, period. Allow yourself to be mediocre. Be mediocre for long enough, and you will polish your writing. You will polish yourself. Until one day will come, where you say to yourself: this, I like. This, I am proud of.

This…

Is me.

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What is love?

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Baby don’t hurt me by giving me that look. It might be the most cliched question in the book next to “what is the meaning of life?”, but I so happen to have an answer to this question that satisfies me, so I won’t be thinking about this question, no more.

The answer came to me when I had to decide whether I wanted to completely commit to a girl or let her go.
It was the first time (I was 20 at the time) that I was in a relationship (not yet committed, but more than dating) that saw chance to become something more serious and frankly, I was terrified.
My gut told me I didn’t want to lose her, but I wasn’t ready to completely commit either. I was living in relationship limbo and the future was unclear to us both (she wanted to commit). I couldn’t figure it out no matter how many times I mulled everything over in my head. I was distraught, as was she.

So I went to a good friend of mine, Paul (who is twenty-nine years my senior), and told him my story, which basically was: So, there’s this girl I have feelings for, but I don’t know if I want to commit. He looked me in the eye, smiled gently and told me one sentence that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. He said: “Love doesn’t go through your head, love goes through your heart.” Damn did it hit home. A short silence followed as I tried to process his words, completely mesmerised. He then continued: “and I know you have a beautiful heart.”

I wasn’t following my heart at that point. In fear of making the wrong decision, I tried to use reason to combat my angst, summing up all the advantages and disadvantages of committing. It was clinical and emotionless. And it didn’t work. When my friend said those words to me, something changed in my mind. I stopped worrying about all the things that could go wrong, all the things that could go right. I stopped worrying about the moment that I might break up with her if I chose to commit, which I thought would make me regret my decision of committing. I just thought to myself: yes or no?

And as I asked myself that question, it struck me: all this time I hadn’t actively been choosing to be with her. I had simply been postponing the moment that I had to decide whether or not I wanted to be with her. I hadn’t wanted to be given the choice of having to break up or not, because the thought of breaking up was frightening. It scared me for several reasons: I was afraid I would really hurt her feelings, I was afraid of being alone again and I was afraid I couldn’t protect her anymore (because I did care about her).
However, by postponing the decision of continuing or breaking up I wasn’t actually actively loving her in the meantime. I was being passive, only ‘loving’ her when I was with her. And as I followed my heart after my friend’s advise, suddenly I realised that breaking up was fine. It was fine if I wanted to break up. It just meant I didn’t love her and continuing would be useless.

It just so happened to be that I didn’t want to break up. I wanted to be with her. And from that moment on I was with her because I had chosen the option of being with her, not because I wanted to postpone the decision of breaking up. I could finally, honestly, wholeheartedly say I loved her. And if at some point I’d feel like I wanted to choose to break up, that’s fine too. It just means that apparently, my love for her has come to an end. No amount of pretending to love is going to change that fact.

With that realisation, it became clear to me that I must at all times be making the conscious decision of choosing for her while also being given the option of not choosing for her. If that latter option isn’t available, it isn’t a choice, and it’s not true love.

Love is being given the choice to be with everyone you want, and choosing that one person every single time.

Choosing one thing over everything else, deliberately.
It’s what makes love so incredibly strong and beautiful.

Run

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This is a first in a project where I give myself one hour to write something, good or not. It was also my last. I took some liberty, clocking in about 1 hour and 10 minutes with a 10 minute break in between and a proofreading session afterwards. This is hoping that many will follow! Oh, and mom, sorry for using so many difficult words, I’ll try to work on that.

Run

When will it end? It was two in the morning and the streets oozed a pungent darkness, the street lights unable to brighten up the wet stones in the street. A silhouette cut through the darkness, his condensating breath obscuring the dim slice of moon above him. When will it end? The silhouette continued to run, as if trying to outpace his racing thoughts. His breath unsteady, legs burning, posture lacking and determination unyielding. His body screamed, his mind yelled back. Shut up, don’t shit me. Don’t you give up on me now, we’re not even half – his thoughts took a dive. So did his body. Crrrr-aaash. His face was firmly planted against the pavement. His mind halted as abruptly as his legs did.

“What were you thinking?’ a furious woman was bellowing at him. ‘Bob, I’m talking to you!”

His pride forbid him to look her in the eye.

“I was worried sick! Do you know how I felt? How I feel? Talk to me, goddammit!”

A small droplet of saliva hit Bob’s cheek. He had finally gathered enough courage to override his system and adjust his gaze. Her face was red as lava. Eyes bloodshot. A tear clung deftly at the edge of her eye. Oh, there it went.

“Mrs Jones, I think it’s better if you

“I’m talking to him. Stay out of this.”

“But your baby

“I know. About. The baby. Don’t tell me what to do. Stay. Out.

There are few things that can scare a manly man. Wild animals can be overcome with the right knowledge and equipment. Likewise for mother nature. An emotionally (and physically, for that matter) unstable woman that is carrying a miniature you inside of her, however, should rightfully scare you shitless. The only thing you can know, is that you cannot know. Not being afraid in this case is not a virtue, it is suicide. The doctor knew better than to argue with an eight-month-pregnant woman and obediently obliged to her request. Still, Bob noiselessly applauded his courage for trying.

What had happened? Bob needed time to recollect his memories. He was running. He had climbed out of bed at midnight and started running. Why? What was he thinking? Bob opened his mouth and inhaled. He knew he should say something. He also knew he had nothing to say. He closed his mouth again. And opened it. And closed. Then it struck him. He finally knew… what a fish must feel like.

He was released from the hospital with a nose about the size of a baby arm. He chuckled at his own joke, which was met with a cold stare from his wife. She hadn’t forgiven him just yet. He sighed. Guess I know what I was running from again.

As they joined the dinner table to enjoy their Pasta Carbonara (simple but timeless) the creamy pasta shells refused to slide down his throat. He slowly chewed the slimy, salty substance. Something had spoiled his appetite. It was either the fact that he had lain in bed all day, or perhaps… BECAUSE HIS WIFE WAS GLARING AS IF SHE WAS GOING TO MURDER HIM IN HIS SLEEP. He couldn’t decide which story seemed more plausible, so he continued to inspect the herbs swimming in his pasta.

They lay in bed, back to back. Guilt was rapidly nibbling through Bob’s organs. Starting from his stomach, through his bowels right to his chest, if that’s anatomically possible. The only comfort was that his organs seemed to be replaced… by solid burning acid. His mind was simulating a ferris wheel. It was reaching 100 rounds a minute. Another passenger bit the dust… Why couldn’t he calm the fuck down?

“Claire…”

He immediately regretted the squeak he made that closely resembled her name. He knew he had her full attention now.

“I… I’m… Eye…”

Keep up the good work, Bob. Almost there. Bob encouraged himself sarcastically. He let out a big sigh. The kind of sigh that seemed to succumb to its own weight, slowly dripping from the king-sized bed they were lying on.

“I think I’m scared.”

See, was that so hard to do? Bob thought scoffingly. She rolled. Great, now his confession needed an explanation. If only someone could whisper it in my ear right now.

“You see, all these months, everything seemed to be about you. Your challenges, your complaints, your pain. I was the one who nailed it, no pun intended… okay, maybe there was a slight intention, but it was you who was supposedly saddled up with all the burdens. And I… I…”

“Had only the role of a supporter.”

Exactly! I was but a shell that had to help you through it all. But, I guess all these months a lot of feelings crept up on me. Feelings I wasn’t comfortable with. That I couldn’t cope with.”

“So you ran.”

“So I… yeah… Wow, what a fitting metaphor. Well, Actually, what a cliché. If I read that in a story, I would probably bash the shit out of how simplistic that is. So superficial. But I suppose it’s better than nothing, if you’re some kind of amateur that has about zero inspiration and creativity, I mean 

“Bob…”

“Yeah?”

“Let’s focus on your problem, okay?”

“Rrrright. Yeah. No, I think I’m cool. I just needed to confess that. Pheehuw. Glad to get that of my chest. I had been running every day for about three months straight. I was about to get fit too. See, you can almost see a sixpack appearing.”

“You what?! Three? Months!?!”

“Love you, dear. G’night.”

To laugh. To think. To gain

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I’ve always had a peculiar affinity with the word “strange”. Maybe it’s because I don’t like being “normal”. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been seen as a stranger in my native country. I don’t know. Anyway, one of the things I was interested in is how people place the word “strange” in its context: The classmate that had strange pastimes, the colleague who makes strange remarks or the man with the strange clothes. To me it seems as if a slightly bitter taste lingers on the tongue when the word is spoken out. It seems to indicate rather eery or distasteful things. How do things get labeled as such?

‘Strange’ means out of the ordinary, something that is unfamiliar. To me that seems like a good thing. We use the term ‘extraordinary’ in a praising manner. An original writer, a unique voice, an innovative product, it are but some examples of things that are not normal, but higly appreciated. Yet I don’t think the word is normally associated with positive things. Isn’t that strange? Well, let’s try to dissect this.

What is viewed as normal depends on the person it’s asked to and in many cases also the group that the person is associated with (nationality or political view, for example). Introducing unfamiliar things to a group can be tricky because the group already has an established notion of what it accepts. Therefore they will more easily admit to things that are closely linked to that what they already know. People find security and comfort in groups and this is easily found by either joining those that voice a similar belief or ambition or conforming to the view of a group. This will reinforce your confidence for that what you believe in as it will be acknowledged by others. Introducing new concepts that stray far from what the group has already accepted (and thus can be considered strange) may challenge and disrupt the status quo of the group. This can be very discomforting for the group as the status quo is something that connects the people in the first place.This is amplified by the fact that one doesn’t usually want to fall out of the group.

Considering this I think you can say that no, it is not strange that the word “strange” tends to voice a negative association. However, there is a special kind of people who get paid to magnify the strange and serve them on a silver platter to whomever wants to hear it, or might not want to hear it. They are called comedians.

Humour is a wonderful thing. I know there’s a quote floating around somewhere claiming that analysing a joke is like dissecting a frog; few are interested and the frog dies along with it, but I like analysing too much to let this one pass. There are different theories about where humour’s origins lie and what its function is. My personal view on the subject was greatly enhanced by a video about the development of humour in evolutionary context, but sadly I can’t find the video to show you. Anyhow, this is my current theory in a nutshell:

Humour is a biological mechanism that occurs when the body (brain) recognises that your initial anticipated frame of reference differs from the correct one and it rewards the brain for noticing and correcting this mistake.

Let’s try to illustrate this. Behold.

Your dog is doing his business on my lawn

What makes humour universally perceived as funny or not depends on whether we have the same understanding of the initial framing of the joke and the same shifts of perspectives. Creating expectations is an important component of most jokes. The comic illustrates this nicely. Besides the literal meaning, “doing one’s business” is also is a term coined to tastefully communicate the word “shitting”. It’s not unusual for a dog to poop in the grass, so we naturally make this association. However, in this case we see that the dog is not pooping, but actually doing business work. The realisation that we misinterpreted the use of the euphemistic expression triggers the tickling of our funny bone. Anti-jokes are another good example of setting up expectations. They are based around the betrayal of our anticipation of a funny punchline – in turn making it funny by being not funny.

– Why did little Timmy drop his ice cream?

– He was hit by a bus.

Context and background information is essential as well. We need to know both meanings of “doing one’s business” for it to be funny. Looking at the comic once more, the setting seems to be your normal neighbourhood. In this context, the reader is probably impressed by the fact that the dog seems to be highly intelligent, far more so than the pooping on the lawn kind of dog we all know. However, the man doesn’t seem too pleased by the sight of it and even complains about the repetition of its behaviour. This need to shift the context wherein we must view the comic to one that’s pretty much the opposite of our own situation can also bring a smile. Racist jokes illustrate the need for background information rather well, too. In fact, they only work if you know the stereotyping of a particular race. the Dutch joke:

“- Why aren’t Moroccans worried when their bike gets stolen?

It stays within the family 

is based on the assumption that a relative large percentage of bike thieves in the Netherlands are Moroccans. In the joke this assumption is greatly exaggerated and the extremity of this prejudice makes it funny. If you don’t know that this prejudice is apparent, the joke is lost on you as it comes across as nonsensical and rude.

There is one last element involved in humour that is quite, quite essential. Namely, both the realisation of the mistaken frame and the forming of the new one must happen in a harmless manner. If you think the teller of the joke is trying to put Moroccans down by forcing his prejudice on you, for example, you might take offense in the joke and it then loses its playful touch. When someone slips on a banana, it’s funny. If you slip on a banana, it hurts. And when your friend slips on a banana, it’s only funny as long as he isn’t in pain. So something needs to be harmless to the observer for it to be funny, or have happened in the distant past long enough so that it no longer brings out painful memories. That’s why we may make jokes about the second World War today, but it might still be unwise to tell them to a Jewish holocaust survivor. It’s worth mentioning though that the humour of some jokes are partially derived from their rude, shock-value loaded, possibly harmful nature. Racist and sexist jokes are obvious examples as they clearly belittle a group, but let’s not forget dead baby jokes.

– What is funnier than a dead baby?

– A dead baby in a clown uniform.

What makes good comedians special is their ability to play with these conventions of humour. They are masters of setting up a certain frame and then reaching a conclusion that at first seems strange (different from what the audience expects), but when the audience realises the rationale behind the conclusion and is able to shift his viewpoint the earlier mistaken anticipation is discharged in the form of laughter, or snickering, or smiling; the punch-line has done its work.

Comedy is the celebration of the strange, the realisation of the strangeness of things and ideally making it unstrange. It’s about giving the strange a place in our minds and broadening our acceptance of the foreign. For something can only be funny when the new, before unknown frame is accepted. That is what I can appreciate about comedians. They are constantly poking, questioning and challenging everything that we had long thought was normal. And boy, is it fun to reach these epiphanies. I believe that in an ideal world we are able to joke and laugh about everything with each other. For everything can be normal, yet strange, logical, yet ridiculous. But I do believe there’s one thing that will forever stay normal: humour’s ability to connect people. For a joke can only work when two people reach the same standpoint.

And now, knowing all these things about humour and then some, it’s time for you to practice! The following joke probably won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I like it because it’s a great play on humour’s conventions. Even if you don’t find this funny, try to ask yourself how this joke could be perceived as such and why you aren’t tickled by it. It might just improve your sense of humour.

– What is black and yellow and makes you laugh?

A schoolbus full of black people going over a cliff.

P.S. I know my offered analysis of humour isn’t conclusive. I haven’t touched things like puns, slapstick or sarcasm much for example, but I think I’ll leave it to your analytical prowess to dissect those areas. Just browsing Wikipedia gives a long list of different humour theories, of which this was just one. Okay, two (detection of mistaken reasoning combined with incongruity theory). Another one I find worth mentioning is the ‘benign violation theory’. Peter McGraw, a researcher of humour and probably a smarter man than I am has a slightly different and more elegant interpretation of humour that’s quite smart, but I do think it is a slightly limited explanation. His TED-talk can be found here.

The badminton life for me (part 1)

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I was loudly singing along with the pleasant voice of Ben Howard while the cold small droplets of rain quietly swirled down and rested on my cheek as I wandered the Erasmus University campus. It was half past one in the night and I had been walking for at least twenty minutes with two large bags dangling from my shoulders. My brain was cracking two big questions currently on my mind: one, why do academically schooled people lack the ability to point out clearly where the sportcentrum was and two, had I or had I not mistaken the address of the location? It was cold and wet, my bags were heavy, I was definitely not walking the most efficient route towards my location and frankly, I felt great. Just the thought of two full days of badminton to play, new people to meet and fresh experiences to be had was enough to dismiss everything else as arbitrary. As I finally made human contact again to ask directions (“uhh, it’s there” *points to a building 50 meters further down the road*) I was finally ready for my new adventure. “So you must be Ming.” Yes, yes I am. With a big grin spread across my face I was relocated to the sleeping facilities where I chose the best spot to re-energize myself and slept in.

The next day everyone was woken by gentle songs about waking up (WAKE UP! bldafpcfjoiajaoen MAKE UP! dklaf noewja;lseo SHAKE UP!) but it didn’t take me very long to jump up on my feet and get ready for a full day of fun. At breakfast I randomly joined some guys (from Cuijk… I think) and discussed our badminton background and assessed some pressing matters (what is your favourite fruit?). At the other side of the table an English group was discussing whether “chocolade vlokken” was supposed to be put on bread or used for cereal. I told the guy who was gushing it over his bread he was doing it just fine. At that moment our main protagonists arrived: three guys from my old badmintonclub, Paul, Robert and Sander, so I rushed towards them and gave them a warm welcome. Sander had the brilliant idea of starting with a beer in the morning, so I did what every man would do in that situation and flushed it down along with my milk.

Before the start of the matches we were drilled by a very fanatic work-out instructor, so I obediently jumped and moved along while Paul, Robert and Sander reluctantly swung their limbs around. Then it was time to meet up with my team. We looked glorious. My first match was with Stephan and to my surprise Paul was in the opposition. It took some time for all players to adjust but in the end we were able to take the game in two sets. The second game was an odd one. My teammate was Adam, who looked a bit scruffy, but in retrospect it was probably from the jetlag he was experiencing. Together we played a great game; we were fast and ferocious. I was smartly working the shuttle towards the empty places from all angles while Adam played a powerful and steady game. However, one of our opponents was an old Polish man who had a peculiar routine before serving or receiving that threw us off-rhythm because of the long time it took for him to prepare. So although we won the first set, in the second we lost a bit of focus and the other opponent (I forgot his name, goshdarnit!) was able to aptly push us around with pressure plays, resulting in a third set. We now played more carefully then we’d wanted to, but with great persistence we were able to pull off a win which surged a great sigh of relief in both of us. Good stuff. I won’t bore you with more details, but in the end I won four games and lost two that day (both losses were doubles against an Englishman called Steward who went to lose zero games during the tournament. Tough boy). During lunch I joined the opponent who played with the old man and we discussed the game. He wore glasses and was in his thirties. He had a Polish wife/girlfriend whom he persuaded to eat a sandwich with chocolate sprinkles. It was an endearing sight. Opposite the table we were joined by another Polish man, a friend of the Polish girlfriend whose name I learned to be Ariel (“yes, like the mermaid”). Ariel was soft-spoken, but he looked like a sharp and genuinely nice guy and I came to like him a lot during the limited time I interacted with him.

Another person who I learned to appreciate was Adam, my team partner. He was a cool, laid-back guy who could easily express himself. He also wasn’t too shy to crack a joke now and then and he seemed to enjoy himself in general. The second day we played two more games with each other and in the end we agreed to play a tournament together, just for fun. It’s great to see how relations can spontaneously blossom in such a short time span.

The opposite can be true too. During the first day I was on the tribune a lot because my bag was there and it provided a great overview of the hall. Also present there was the announcer of all the games, a girl named Claudia. Her announcements were characterized by the occasional silences and the “uhmm’s” that accompied them, or sometimes just by laughter in the background. They sure made the announcements more colourful. Anyway, because we spent a lot of time there alone we made some small talk and she seemed like a sweet girl. During the evening our terror trio (plus Pieter-Paul, a friend of theirs who doesn’t play badminton) were nudging me to try to make a pass at a blonde girl, but I told Paul I was more interested in Claudia. Later that evening he pushed me in her direction with a wink and although I didn’t feel like making a move I realized I would get nowhere in life with an attitude like that. So fueled by misjudged confidence that was strengthened by the power of alcohol I tried to persistently make contact with Claudia. At a certain time she was joined by a guy, but I didn’t pay too much attention at him as he seemed a bit dull. In retrospect though, that might’ve been her boyfriend. Whoops. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that the next day we haven’t exchanged another word. So yeah, that’s also how things can develop.

Wow, this post is getting a bit out of hand. I wanted to write a simple but stylistic report about my weekend that I could optionally send to the organization of the tournament to put on the site or something, but it got rather personal. I know I don’t have a lot of readers :P, but is this kind of piece appreciated? It wasn’t my intention to turn it in a diary kind of thing. Still, I think I’ll write about the rest of my awesome endeavors of the weekend (and there is still a lot to be told!) in another post.

Thinking Over Overthinking

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I don’t like the feeling of being judged. It makes me painfully aware of my shortcomings, mainly because I am my own worst critic so I know what’s lacking, and when people do have a positive judgment I tend to dismiss it as either politeness or having low expectations. Yeah… silly me.

But then I thought: if I’m going to be judged sooner or later anyway while writing this blog, why not expose it myself? I might as well get it out of the way right? So I’ll tell you about everything that’s bugging me about myself. Starting with what I consider my most glaring flaw: the act of overthinking.

Thinking is a wonderful thing. It allows us to learn abstract ideas, make better decisions and understand the motivation of others, to name just a few examples. Overthinking, however, does none of these things. Overthinking is the act of thinking after every relevant thing has already been thought. It is the superfluous strings of thought that cripples action and stifles judgment. It stimulates anxiety, insecurity and restlessness. And I have the ability to elevate it to an artform. Behold:

I always want to plan things right, so I usually spend a lot of time worrying about things that I have to do. That’s fine, except most of the times the amount of time worrying far exceeds the time that it would have cost me to JUST DO IT ALREADY. I’m painfully aware of it. So then I keep worrying over the fact that I’m needlessly worrying all the time. You see the problem?

I also like playing my own devil’s advocate. When I feel confident that I have formed a strong opinion about somethingfor example, I then try my hardest to convince myself it’s wrong (succesfully, most of the times). Or when I’m content with a personality trait of mine, I try to pinpoint all the negative influences it can have. Doing this helps me to stay on my toes, reflect on my actions and views and never get too full of myself… but it gets to the point that I feel flawed and insecure as a result. It’s silly, really. I know I’m growing and self-reflection leads to a better me and I’m making great strides in becoming a better person. And yet I can’t shake of the feeling that I’m getting ahead of myself every time I tell myself that. Then it all just becomes one big confusing skirmish in my head and I just end up thinking: geez, you big bubbly mess that you are, you still have a long long way to go. Silly me.

The most obvious times I know I’m overthinking things though, is in social situations.  It all starts when I want to approach someone: “Gee, should I talk to him? I don’t know, where can we talk about? Study, pastimes, ambitions? I’m afraid I’ll only be a bore. I’m no good with small talk. Not one bit. Why did I even consider approaching him in the first place? I think I’ll just stay here and stare in the distance.” It’s actually even more awkward now that I’m confronted with it on paper. Then when I do talk, soon enough the thoughts creep in: “What subject will keep the conversation going? How expansive should my answers be? Should I act more friendly or would that be weird? Where do I keep my hands?” Just thinking about it makes me feel stupid again.

I’ve gone to great lengths though to change my social awkwardness and with quite some succes if I’m allowed to boast here. The trick is, I noticed, that whatever you say or act like, do it like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Be confident and comfortable with whatever you’re doing. Basically, stop worrying about it. Sure you probably can’t the first time. It took me years to grow comfortable in simply having conversations with strangers and I still chicken out occasionally. I’m serious. However, in this case practice definitely makes perfect. That combined with a few handy tricks made socializing way easier for me. I think I’ll devote another post to that in the near future.

So yeah, I’ve definitely changed along the way in some regards. Still am changing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from thinking this much it’s that I myself am aware of my faults and I’m the kind of person who can and will try to improve as much as possible. And that’s a very comforting thought.

Tl;dr: Less thinking, more mingling.

Re-evaluating the introversion/extroversion discussion

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When I made up my mind to write about introversion, I started devouring posts about introversion this and extroversion that. I agreed with the things said, especially the characteristics of introverted people that I could relate with, but one thing kept nagging, and it was nagging rather persistently. The thing was, I noticed, that every single person writing about the subject writes it in a “us vs them, introverts vs extroverts” manner. Every writer wanted their side to make a stance and to be appreciated for who they are. What confused me was the fact that the people were so convinced of the specification of these two camps. My gripes with this is: we are individuals, right? We all believe we have diverse individual traits and personalities, right? So why, suddenly, in the introversion/extroversion discussion, is everything so black and white? You are introverted or extroverted, or maybe you can be a bit of both? Is that all? That just doesn’t sound right. And I think it is wrong. Here’s why.

Less well thought-out articles fall to the trap of using the words introversion and extroversion without actually defining them, only giving several examples to illustrate their definition of the word. In other words, they assume that the reader knows what introversion and extroversion is. This is the biggest mistake that you can make in on this subject and I think it is the single reason why black-and-white thinking is so prominent. To illustrate what this rigid way of thinking did to my view: I myself always thought that I was introverted, because in my mind I was always doing what introverts do. Then in university I learned that others thought I was extroverted, and I was puzzled. After giving it some thought, I concluded: I might be someone who is naturally introverted, but who can fake extroversion when in groups. However, I now think the real answer is something more in the middle. Sometimes I behave as someone who we would call introverted and sometimes as someone who we call extroverted.

What does this mean? I think it means we have a poor understanding of what the essence is of introversion and extroversion or whether the distinction can be made at all, for that matter. Right now they are normally used for defining a person to several personality traits, but those traits don’t necessarily all have a relation to each other. So in my essay, I want to try to find if there is an essence to what we call introversion and with some luck being able to link it to the brain. After that, and I think this is far more exciting, I want to explore if you can deliberately become more intro- or extroverted.

It’s far from finished though. Sorry ’bout that.