Me —Getting Some Thoughts on Paper.

Let me start by saying this is going to be pretty raw. I think about stuff a lot, and I consider myself to be pretty introspective, but I came across something that made me rethink a lot of who I am and how I feel about things. After nearly 48 hours, my morale has only depleted. That said, I have no doubt that two weeks from now, I will have redefined, recategorized, and reorganized my headspace in a way that I’m comfortable with. But for now, here’s the things I’m struggling with.

As I define it right now, I can count on one hand the amount of times that somebody has shown me true affection in a way that has genuinely, emotionally affected me.

That number is three, and two of those people I no longer speak to (for no reason other than the passage of time). Those people were, ostensibly, the only people that have ever really listened to me and understood me in a way I could express.

This comes as a catalyst to a lot of my negative thoughts this year regarding every relationship I have with others. I don’t feel like anyone loves me, which I know is stupid, because obviously my family loves me, as I have (virtually) always had a good relationship with all of them. But in some way I can’t put in to words, their love feels more obligatory than it does… real. We love each other in the way that we have to, not in a way that has meaning.

I think this points to why I must be the best at everything. My family spent so much time being so big that the only thing that made me noticeable was that I was smart and good at everything. That became my defining characteristic. It became who I was, and, unfortunately, who I continue to be. I’m beginning to think that my need to be the best at everything is because praise is the closest thing to affection I can really receive. I don’t know if this makes my peers think I am above their affection, but lately… praise isn’t enough. Being the best and being told I am the best is… the minimum for me, now.

If I don’t know something on Warcraft, I will look it up myself before I admit my ignorance to strangers, who could easily (and happily) teach me in a fraction of the time. You can imagine how this translates to real life.

I’ve spent all my life trying to feel wanted, and I don’t think I’ve ever truly felt that, even for an instant. That isn’t to say that I feel unwanted, just that my existence is arbitrary. That people’s lives would realistically be no different if I had never existed at all. (Disclaimer: I am not suicidal, and even on the worst days of my life when I had gotten to that point, my fear of hurting those around me was too great a deterrent for me to seriously consider anything so drastic.)

And so, 48 hours later, I’m at a loss. I don’t know if it’s my attitude that needs to change, or if it’s my personality. Perhaps it’s both. All I know is, the person I’ve identified the most with in any media was killed off because her one and only wish of being loved came true and her purpose in the plot was therefore fulfilled.

Rant over. Don’t let my bad day ruin yours. Pet a cat for me.

Life — Making Your Own Happiness

In my experience, there’s a certain type of depression/sadness that a lot of people have. It’s a very common affliction I like to call (as of right now) apathetic depression. It is the primary symptom of a state of life that is suboptimal for reasons that don’t appear to be your own. Your life sucks because you hate your job, you hate your family, you have no idea where your life is headed, etc. None of these things are your fault, so you just live day in and day out moping over how you drew the short stick when you were born.

I think there are people out there who drew the short stick, but you aren’t one of them.

The trap that a lot of people fall in is being comfortable in their contempt. It’s easy. Why blame yourself for the professional career you hate when you can just write it off by saying you have no other options? (It’s like in video games: nobody wants to blame themselves for their team losing; they will always point to somebody else first.)

Being happy sucks.

I say that because it’s not what people think it is. It’s not a magical state of mind that suddenly transpires when you get a raise or when you enter a committed relationship. Good events are easily overshadowed by that wall of the uncontrollable misfourtunes of life, because while it seems that good events are rare, misfortunes are constant and ever present.

But anyone can be happy, despite any misfortune and any life circumstance. I won’t pretend it’s easy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. But it is simple. In fact, you’ll probably nod to yourself and think “Wow, that was really deep, Kollin” as soon as I tell you the trick. (Or maybe you’ll just think I’m an idiot pretending to be philosophical, which wouldn’t be far from the truth.) The key to happiness is something you’ve already heard many times in many different ways from different inspirational quotes. But the inspirational quotes are just flowery ways of mystifying the truth right in front of our eyes. Ready?

Being happy is just a matter of putting in the effort to be happy. It means getting up in the morning finding ways to get excited for work instead of hitting the ‘Snooze’ button as many times as you can get away with. It means preparing for your future (near or far) instead of rewarding yourself for things you already had to do. It means taking steps to forgive and love yourself rather than dwelling on things you can’t change.

Most inspirational quotes are just an indirect way of saying that being happy is like going to the gym. It’s not easy. It’s a ton of work. Very few people want to go to the gym, they just want the results. It’s the same thing with happiness. It’s so much easier to dwell in misery because misery requires no action on your part. It’s also like the gym in that the more you do it, the easier it gets and the more you can lift.

Treating yourself to Starbucks before or after work isn’t going to make you happier. That’s a mental lie you tell yourself that will actually just perpetuate the problem. Caffeine addicts aside, you don’t (really) need anything but to commit to a personal promise that you’ll think about things with more positivity, and take action to ensure your days are better.

It’s hard, and you might need the help from friends and family to make that effort, but it is worth it.

Learning! — Are You Creative?

A while back I wrote about what creativity is. I have a different way of looking at it because my improv experience has taught me that most people think of creativity as the ability to pull things out of thin air, but it’s just not. You’ll have to read that post to hear my full thoughts on that, because today I’m going to talk about something slightly different.

I would say a lot of people also think of personality traits as sliding scales on a Sims game. (I really hope that’s how Sims games work or else I’m going to look real dumb here.) You have 2/10 laziness, 7/10 attractiveness, 5/10 intelligence, etc. Creativity is no different, right?

I actually think it is very different.

All my life, I’ve had things swimming around in my head. Dragons single-handedly fighting off armies of thousands. Powerful spell casters throwing hurricanes and tidal waves at each other, sundering the landscape around them. An evil king increasing the gravity in his throne room to literally force those around him to kneel.

There is always. Always. Something like this in my head—even if I don’t have the willpower to put it to paper, like right now.

This is just part of the way that my brain works, so I was a little surprised when I found out that not everyone thinks like this. To be honest, it still seems a little strange sometimes. But maybe that’s just it.

Maybe having a creative mind isn’t something you put a scale to. Maybe you either have it or you don’t. This is only an inkling of a theory, so I could be way off base, but perhaps there’s a kernel of truth in here somewhere. Hear me out.

If you split it this way, turning it into a dichotomy, it becomes easy to differentiate the sort of people around you. It’s easy for me to split everyone in my writer’s group between creative and non-creative people.

Now, being creative doesn’t necessarily mean coming up with scenes of a book. Maybe it’s hearing new melodies or seeing magic in poetry. Whatever it is, it’s breathing life into something new.

It is important to note that when I say non-creative, it isn’t an insult, merely a descriptor of how our brains function. In fact, some of the best writers in my writer’s group were far more technically inclined. They weren’t creative at all.

You may or may not agree with me, but thinking of people in this way has helped me better accommodate for the strengths and weaknesses of those around me. Putting creative people in technical fields can yield interesting results, and the opposite holds true as well.

You could probably immediately tell me whether or not you’re a creative person with my definition, and if you start thinking about your friends and family, you might be surprised to discover that their profession is something contrary to their personality. Well, you might think it’s contrary, but in actuality they’re just bringing different things to the table.

Just because it’s unconventional doesn’t mean it won’t work.

Me — Being Independent

I love being independent. That isn’t to imply that I am completely independent. I’m a college student still living at home, after all, but even from high school at the latest, I never liked the feeling of needing others.

I lived relatively close to my high school (within a half hour’s walking distance), so whenever anyone was late to picking me up, I’d just walk home. I have no idea why this is. I would walk home with relative certainty that somebody is coming to pick me up just because I could. I hate asking for money or asking people to drive me places, because I like to hold onto as much agency of self as I can.

Psychoanalyzing this part of myself has never come easy, but if I had to guess as to the big reason this is, it would be that I’m the youngest of six, and have never had my own private bedroom. That simple fact restricts some life styles, and the fact that my roommate is so vastly different from me as far as lifestyle and preferences certainly doesn’t help. He likes artificial light, I like natural light. I’m a morning person, he’s much more nocturnal. That sort of thing.

Everyone says that “if my life wasn’t the way it is it would be much better”, but I do think there is some of that going on here. I don’t like recording audio narrations of my stuff because either he is asleep and I don’t want to wake him up or he is awake and making noise. I would probably be doing a bit of yoga, too, because I bought a mat for one of my college classes and I’ve found it to be relaxing, but the room is small, and I would rather it be a night activity than a morning thing. So if I were to do it I would be taking up all the space in the room.

I don’t like having any factors in my life dictated by those around me. I feel that when you have to rely on others they let you down (or the mere presence of other people makes things convoluted, assuming the task is a simple one).

As I said, I don’t really know the “why” for this line of reasoning. On one hand I don’t think it would be inaccurate to claim that I dislike needing help. (Boom triple negative, try to wrap your head around that sentence. I certainly won’t.) But I think that paints a picture that misrepresents the truth. I don’t mind help if it is for the purpose of my own betterment and growth. It’s actually pretty difficult for me to articulate, though.

It’s also a double standard, because I like helping people. If you put two of me in the same situation and explicitly put one in charge, the other one would hate it.

You know what? This post doesn’t even mean anything. I hate writing about myself and then just start talking about what it feels like to be a human with emotions. I’m sure most people like to feel independent. This just ended up being another ramble-y post that doesn’t stick to one topic or even have any relevance or novelty. So, you know, quality content. Here you go.

Review — Samsara

Samsara is an interesting film. It doesn’t have characters or plot in the same way most movies seen in a theatre would. Instead, it could simply be described as a collection of shots depicting life in dozens of different countries around the world.

The main characteristic of this film is all through cinematography. In a way, the camera seeing this all is the most prominent character throughout the film. People are constantly staring into the camera in close-ups, and each have their own unsaid meaning behind the way they look at the camera. These people are factory workers in metropolitan cities, indigenous people from various lands, or cultured performers of specific nations.

One important thing the camera witnesses is the rate of change in many of these countries. Whenever the shots take a drastic change in location, the camera sets this up with one or several extreme long shots, panning over cities or deserts or mountains. Often, as the camera pans over a more “industrialized” part of the world, the rate is sped up. Highways become blurs of motion and streets become filled with quick blurs of people. This implies the rate at which the people live their lives here, as none of the shots involving monks or tribal folk have fast shots.

The movie has many messages. Some are obvious, but some are more vague and open to one’s interpretation. Many rituals are performed throughout the film, but without context it can be difficult to describe the purpose of them. Shots like sleeping newborns transitioning to the corpse of an old man are powerful, and it is through moments like this that Samsara really conveys its purpose.

Is it good? Well, I’ll be honest. I fell asleep for a good thirty minutes in the middle of the film. As I said, there’s no characters. No plot. That makes it difficult to really hold onto it. That doesn’t make it bad per-say, because that isn’t the point of the film. It wouldn’t be fair for me to say it’s bad, because my evaluation would be as a writer and storyteller. It would be like saying a lemon is a bad fruit because it isn’t as sweet as most other fruits. Sweetness is simply the wrong way to classify fruit.

That being said, I honestly didn’t enjoy it. My life is more or less characterized by striving for a constant state of productivity, and I felt like I wasted nearly two hours for having watched this. I know that’s because I was watching it with the wrong lens, but that fact doesn’t change the way I did see it.

Samsara is different. It’s not a bad different, but don’t expect engaging storytelling. This movie is about opening up a new perspective on how vastly diverse our modern world is that a conventional movie could never have achieved. It did give me some writing ideas that may or may not ever see the light of day, so in a way, I’m obligated to say that it did a good job. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it is for some people.

Life — Appearances

For me, one of the more frustrating things in life is that it is impossible to know what you mean to other people. You can’t know what they think of you, what they like about you, or anything related towards you. You can ask them, of course, but any info you get that relates somebody’s opinion about you to you will be at best second-hand information. You can’t get in their head and know what they think.

This is frustrating for me because I like learning things. Everything, really. I like learning what we don’t know, too. So it’s always annoying to me when I encounter something that is impossible to learn. That said, appearances are very important. Whether or not we notice it, people make judgments and actions around us based on what we look like and who we appear to be, both physically and socially.

This is one of the reasons I changed my sense of fashion. I used to wear a t-shirt and hoodie every day, and that served my purposes just find. Clothes were just something that was necessary. I barely even looked at the shirt I grabbed before putting it on in the morning.

Then, I started taking myself seriously as a writer. I didn’t like the casual shirt and hoodie combo that says “nerd” to everyone. I’m okay with people thinking of me as a nerd, sure, but I don’t want that to be anyone’s first impression of me. So I got a coat, and now I wear it with a collared shirt every day. As far as a typical “dress code” is concerned, I went from casual wear to what I would say is midway between business casual and business professional (if I wore a tie it’d be business professional).

So, I have no idea how my change in appearance has affected the people around me, both strangers and friends. I can guess that I look more professional to people, as that is the point, but on an individual level I can’t tell.

On a more social (rather than purely physical) level, I also want to present myself professionally. When I’m talking to other people, I always follow the same rule: Present yourself in a strong, positive, but not arrogant light. For example, I tell people I run a blog, that I’m a writer, and that I teach high school kids. The image these facts present to people won’t be quite accurate, because many will make assumptions that are not true. For example. when I say I teach high school kids, one may assume that I’m a literal high school teacher, which I am not. At best, I’m a “guest teacher”, but I don’t have a teaching credential or anything that would qualify me as a formal instructor. Am I lying to people? No. Am I intentionally misleading them? Sort of. I didn’t say any word that could be considered untrue, but the picture those facts paint is one of a more “professional and successful” me than the real me is. I don’t see this as a bad thing at all.

When you’re trying to get into virtually any field, presenting yourself as a better person than you really are serves multiple purposes. The first and most obvious one is that in order to get people to give you what you want, you need to convince them that you don’t need it. If quality assurance is what I’m looking for, I’m not going to buy from a little girl’s lemonade stand when I can buy it from a store. I wouldn’t want to take the chance that I might not enjoy it as much. It’s the same thing with everything. People won’t want to hire applicants that are unsure of what they’re doing: they want potential employees that are experienced and carry themselves well.

Another reason why putting on a professional persona helps is that in a way, it helps you become that person. If people treat you as a successful person, they will be more positive and encouraging, and thus your job will get easier. It’s a lot easier to play the part of a professional that knows what you’re doing when people treat you that way.

You may be reading this and think I’m trying to tell you to lie to people and tell them you’re better than you really are. Absolutely not. Lying will never get you anywhere you want to be (unless you’re really, really good).

All I’m saying is that when you are given the opportunity to talk about you (in an interview, with a friend, even non-verbally like through clothing,) don’t be upfront with your flaws. If people ask about them, that’s different. When people ask me about my writing, I tell them I’m not published. I’m not ashamed of it, but it’s not something I tell people right away, because then their view goes from “author” to “wannabe”, which is detrimental to my career. People will look at you in a different light if your shortcomings are less apparent, so make them dig for it if they have to.

You don’t have to change yourself all at once, either. Even if you just go from wearing t-shirts to button-up shirts like I did, it still has a significant impact. And even if it doesn’t stick long term, it doesn’t hurt to try.

Me — Being Overly Critical

One of my biggest strengths and weaknesses is that I’m always critical of everything. I have to look at everything and understand everything about it, and it frustrates me when there’s something I don’t know and can’t even guess. When I’m watching a movie or TV show, I’m actively listening to the soundtrack. I’m imagining the script being written and the actors saying these lines and whether or not I think things were executed as well as they could have been. If there’s something I don’t like about the movie, I point to the clear flaws and try to find a general, concluding statement as to what was ‘bad’ about the movie.

Now, I actually really like this about me. It helps me understand a lot about things and lets me look at things on a deeper level than just mindlessly doing something because its fun. But the worst part about it is that I can’t turn this off, even when I try. When I see a flaw in a videogame I’m playing, I can’t help but notice it more and more, and in some situations it inevitably makes me enjoy whatever the thing is less. I’ve recently developed a nasty habit of talking during movies and stuff to make quips or point out certain things. I used to only do that if everybody had already seen the movie, so it worries me a little that I have such a strong desire to be funny around other people that I can’t keep my mouth shut when I should.

Unfortunately, this feature/flaw also applies to people. I could count on one hand the number of voluntary friendships I’ve had that lasted longer than three years. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying a deeper or simpler issue here, but I largely blame it on the fact that after a certain amount of time (ranging from a few weeks to about two years) of being around somebody, I start to pick out things that I don’t like about them, even if its personality traits that they can’t help, like somebody’s laugh, or their sense of humor, or their tendency to bring up certain topics too often. Many of the friendships that have lasted over a longer period of time have been the lucky few whom I’ve never found flaws for or whose flaws I’ve fortunately learned to accept.

It is entirely unfair to dislike somebody simply because of how they laugh, which has lead me to this love/hate relationship I have with this particular quirk. Once I find this flaw I can’t help but notice it more often, and it can unconsciously make me want to spend less and less time with them.

I am thankful that many of the people I’m closest to tend to grow an immunity to this effect. It’s only people that are in the ‘friend to close friend’ zone that are in danger.

In the end, though, I do consider this part of my personality to be a virtue. I just hope I can learn to reign it back as time goes on.

P.S. This is also something I don’t like telling people. When I do, the first thing out of everyone’s mouth is “What’s my flaw?” or “What’s X person’s flaw?” and it is never a good idea to answer that question. Could you imagine telling somebody you hate the way they laugh and making them insecure about it the rest of their life? With self-esteem as fragile as it is, it’s often best not to touch it unless you’re building it up.

Learning! — Construals

Social psychology teaches us that each person behaves predictably given certain social situations. How we talk to family is not how we talk to friends or people we don’t know. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, but construals, (defined as “how we interpret situations”,) are super important for how we go about our daily lives.

You’re going to treat people differently depending on who they are. If you’re talking to somebody you haven’t met, our brains will try to tell us how we should interact with them based on who we think we are, and it’ll scramble to soak up all the information we can about that person. Consider the story of the Prince and the Pauper. When they switch places, people don’t notice because they don’t perceive anything being amiss.

But the thing I find fascinating about this concept is how it bleeds over into philosophy. Specifically, I’ll bring up Ralph Waldo Emerson. He teaches us that each of us live in our own, individual worlds, created by our own minds based on past experiences and our own personalities (I’m sure you’re familiar with nature vs. nurture).

Our own individual worlds are incomplete. We are never operating with all the facts. For example, I might hate the rain because I work in a job where I have to deal with a lot (and I did have a job like that). You might love the rain because it makes your grass so much greener the next day, and it makes your house looked beautiful. This could, in turn, lead us to regard something as simple as rain as a positive or negative influence/stimulus on our life. I might have terrible days because past experience has taught me that rainy days aren’t good days. Your past experience could say exactly the opposite.

Now, obviously we can’t say either of us is “right” or “wrong”. We’re both right, given the individual circumstances, but what is the “truth”? Is rain a positive or negative influence on society? Even a question like this is fundamentally impossible to answer in regards to Emersonian philosophy because it states that humans are incapable of perceiving reality. It is always under the influence of past experiences, and these cloud our judgment. We can’t jump into the mind of the person that cut us off today to see that they’ve just had a stressful morning and are going to be late to work. If we knew them, we might be understanding, but to a stranger, we hate them because that’s all the information we have on their personality.

The closest we can get to finding the “true reality” is by learning as much as we can. Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle. We can guess what the puzzle may be if we filled out the edge pieces, but the more we learn and understand every aspect of the world around us, the more we start to see the full picture.

Long story short: Don’t jump to conclusions. It’s natural instinct to assume you’re right and the way you see the world as “correct”, but in the end, we’re all biased and seeing it through a narrow lens. So take those construals, figure out why you interpret things the way you do, and see if you can find another way of thinking.