Turning Points and Comfort Zones

I remember thinking, in the days leading up to high school graduation, that this was it. I would never come back here. My shadow would never darken the halls, my laughter and teenage angst would no longer fill them. I would never again see all of the spaces in the school that brought me comfort or reminded me of bad times. Never again would I run my fingers over the graffiti-covered tables in the vocational building. Never again would I run the track or race around the halls as I so often had. Never again would I stand on the balcony outside the cafeteria and wait for my crush as early morning light filled the courtyard and reflected off the windows of the school buses.

Similarly, I remember days leading up to college graduation, when I was stricken by a similar feeling. The “end of an era” feeling, the one that also contained hints of trepidation as I crossed into the unknown future. Part of me wanted to graduate; by that time, I was sick of writing papers, but at the same time, I knew I would miss it. In fact, I already missed the quiet “reading days” before exams, when I would wake up very early in the morning and go to the lounge above my dormitory (dubbed “the cloister”) just to write. I knew I would never again have that same purity of solitude.

The feeling came back again when I left my first “real-world” job in favor of the “better life” granted by a white collar job. I was there for only nine months, starting in August and ending in May, so it had that same “school year” feel. Hopefully, I would never again work in fast food, but I was grateful for the experience because it taught me more than I had learned in all my years of high school combined. The day after I left that job, I started my new job, where I am today. The world of fast food was so different from the world of office work that I felt like I was starting over again. The useless drama was gone. There was no clatter of pizza cutters and no messy soda spills and no customers threatening to come back with a gun if they didn’t get their discount.

The job is sterile. Everyone is just like me: quiet and reserved. If I pass someone in the hall, they do not regale me with stories of the sexual exploits they had over the weekend. “How are you?” “Good. And you?” “Fine.” And the occasional “Did you do anything fun this weekend?” “Yeah. I went to the art museum.” “Nice.” After working here five years, I have a strange feeling of simultaneous comfort and discomfort. It is my dream job. I sit at a desk all day and correct grammatical errors and meet my deadlines. I’m lucky if I speak to someone once a day. Ninety-five percent of communication is through email. No one reveals much about their life outside of work. Yet everyone is so quiet and calm that sometimes I want to scream and throw things in the air just to watch the chaos unfold that would have gone down at my old job every day.

Anyway, the real reason I write this post is because I am again at a turning point and moving out of my comfort zone. Today I’m getting married, which is still strange to me because I honestly never thought I would get married. But sometimes the person you are meant to be with just appears out of thin air. This is how life goes. This is growing up. This is change. I’m not whining that it will be hard because I know it will be hard. It will be fun and chaotic and quiet and calm and crazy and sad and happy and everything else because that is the nature of it. I have chosen, and I would make the same choice again if given the opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong. I am joyful and happy that I finally get to take this step—and I get to take it with my best friend at my side, which makes it that much better. But I am processing the fact that my house is now “my childhood home,” where I will return on occasion but never again lay my head down in. I am processing the fact that I have to do things as a true adult with no real oversight (except by the government, but that can’t be helped—they’re everywhere). But the most important thing to process is that it’s no longer just “me,” it’s “we.” And that will take a lot of getting used to! 🙂

Differences in Processing Time

In 2015, I read Susan Cain’s Quiet, which is about the hidden power of introverts and the many talents they can bring to the table and how they are often overshadowed in America—a far more extroverted country than, say, Japan. Introverts tend to be misunderstood as “shy” or “rude” or “antisocial,” which has been a source of frustration for me throughout my life.

To me, the biggest difference between introverts and extroverts is what I call “processing time.” Extroverts are way better at making decisions in shorter time frames than introverts, at least in my experience. They come up with solutions faster and their witty comebacks are that much more effective and funny because they are spontaneous. Introverts need more time to process and consider all options. This may lead to a better-informed decision, but it’s useless in times when a quick decision is mandatory. And I find myself annoyed because I come up with the perfect witty comeback… four hours after the time when it should have been said.

I consider myself fortunate to work in a department that consists of mostly introverts (editors and writers). We understand each other’s “antisocial” tendencies and need for “processing time.” We don’t have too many long-winded water cooler conversations because we just want to get back to our desks and focus. However, I think I got a little spoiled by my workplace, because when I go out into the real world, where the majority of people are extroverts, I get frustrated when they don’t seem to understand my “slow” thought process and impatience with small talk.

Then I also realize that perhaps I am not being as understanding of extroverts as I ought to be, and I may be using “introversion” as an excuse to avoid social situations that might otherwise benefit me. So the need for a fine balance comes into play. There are times when a quick decision is necessary, and there are decisions that require more thought. There are times to go to parties and social gatherings, and there are times to go home and relax and read or watch a movie. Some projects would be better when worked on in a group situation, and others are best worked on individually. As with many other things, it’s a matter of understanding other people and what they’re like and how their brains function.

It’s not like in the days of elementary school when you can immediately write off that one kid as weird because he likes to play by himself, or avoid another kid because he likes to be the life of the party. In the real world, we have to work together.

 

Bridezillas and the “Perfect” Wedding

Confession time: I used to watch Bridezillas, that horrible reality show about brides abusing their future husbands, their hapless bridesmaids, their mothers, their future mothers-in-law, and basically everyone else they came into contact with in their quest to reach the altar.

Now that I’m planning my wedding, I understand the beleaguered brides’ plight much more than I did when I watched the show. I don’t sympathize with or condone their bad behavior, like breaking into bar fights on the day of the bachelorette party or engaging in unnecessary drama. But I understand the pressure, and pressure makes people do crazy things, like having a crying fit over something as seemingly simplistic as what kind of flowers to put in a boutonniere.

I still find it amusing that the most common piece of wedding advice I’ve gotten is “it’s your wedding; do what you want.” In all honesty, if I could do what I wanted, I’d just have a church wedding and avoid all the rigmarole and expense that comes with the reception. Hell, if I could do what I really wanted, I’d have the wedding at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The reality is that “it’s your wedding; do what you want,” but with several caveats: what the budget allows, what your family will and will not tolerate and/or pay for, what his family will and will not tolerate and/or pay for, what the church will and will not let you have at the Mass, and so on.

So… it ain’t Burger King; you can’t have it your way. In that sense, wedding planning must be the smallest microcosm of what marriage is going to be like: realizing that you can’t do what you want anymore, at least not without consulting with your future spouse. This has been particularly mind-blowing to me because I’m a fairly independent person. I like to do what I want, and I don’t like having to consult what seems like a thousand other people for their opinions, because then I begin to second-guess my own opinions.

Then there’s all the “informative” material: wedding magazines, wedding etiquette books, sites like Pinterest and the Knot and WeddingWire… and the list goes on. I read or scan through it and literally get sick to my stomach. It’s too much. Weddings are a business and an industry, and the vendors have to make money and will inundate you with aggressive advertising for stuff you don’t want or need. It’s easy to get bogged down in it all and forget that you’re planning for one day. One day. Yes, it’s one very important day, but it’s still one day. No wonder some women become bridezillas.

The fear of becoming a high-maintenance bridezilla has caused me to stay far, far away from all that “informative” material. I don’t want to read a sappy story about how Person X and Person Y met and planned the Best Wedding Ever and how they did it all incredibly cheaply and it all turned out looking like a Disney fairy tale. To me, it ought to be less about the wedding and more about the marriage, the journey together, the ups and the downs and the day-to-day stuff that can make you or break you (not to mention the spiritual aspect of it, but that’s another blog post). I just wish that for every wedding magazine, there was a marriage magazine, and for every happily-ever-after, picture-perfect wedding, there was a good, stable, lasting marriage.

I guess all the wedding hype is another symptom of how our culture is so laser-focused on momentary pleasure and making things look Facebook- and Pinterest-worthy, but I think that’s yet another blog post for another day. I’ve bored y’all enough. 🙂