Book Review: Quiet


quiet coverTitle: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
Genre: Non-fiction, Psychology

Quiet blends personal stories with tons of research to create a thorough analysis of introversion. How-to meets inspiration in a book that ought to be a must-read for the entire world. Introverts for a fuller understanding and appreciation of their skills. Extroverts for a fuller understanding and appreciation of the introverts in their lives. Continue reading

A Death-Tinged Fall


Literature intersects life at all points. This semester, my literature class talks about death. A lot. I don’t know that it’s necessarily my teacher’s intention…it just happens. For example, studying Keats is almost impossible to accomplish without discussing death. Today, we read and discussed “Ode to Autumn.” Autumn is a predecessor of winter, which is symbolic of death. Keats talks about sunsets too, classic symbols of death. Is that morbid? Not really. The entire point of the poem is that we don’t have to be scared of death. Also, death doesn’t have to overshadow beauty.

Why does all this talk of death matter to me? It matters because it doesn’t. At one point, dealing with death would have resonated deeply within me. It would have touched the cord my whole being was wrapped around. Now it matters because I understand all of Keats’ concerns about dying young, but because I am distant from them. I almost always associate death with depression. Regardless of the dying person and situation, someone is depressed (in most cases). And depression is something I understand. For a significant portion of my high school years, I struggled with depression. Not always at the same level – sometimes not so bad, other times much, much worse – but always present, weighing my every thought and action. Eventually it went away. I don’t have a spectacular story about a person or event or miraculously snapping out of it. Just slowly but surely, the depression disappeared. I still remember though. The overwhelming sense of drowning. The intense desire just to lay down and never, ever wake up. The complete lack of hope. The feeling of perpetual exhaustion…

If anything is a problem in college, it’s exhaustion. I try to use my time wisely and get enough rest. I try not to stay up all night studying. But it still happens. Some days, I remember what depression feels like. I taste the hopelessness, the complete apathy, the impossibility of mustering any energy. I am the lucky one. I know it will pass. I will sleep, pass that test, finish that project. I will wake up in the morning back to normal. But I know that so many around me will not. They are not just exhausted. They are drowning, lost in a world of grey apathy. Sleeping for hours won’t solve their problem. And that makes me so sad. It is a helpless thing, watching someone else in depression. Having no control whatsoever to pull them out…it makes my heart break.

Statistically, there are probably at least one or two people in my literature class suffering from depression. Likely several more of you read my blog. I don’t have an answer for you. I can’t tell you how to change that or how to cope. I will say this: there are people here for you. People understand. And please, please, no matter how attractive it seems, don’t make death the answer. Death has its place…but it is not the solution for depression. Read Keats. May your fall be full of beauty, even under the shadow of death.

Limbo (Also: I might be crazy)


After 1 entire week of no job or classes, I am back at school. I came early for work training, but that’s all over today. Classes don’t start until Wednesday. Work doesn’t start until Monday. It’s just me, alone in my dorm room, with nothing to do.

That’s not quite true. I have books I could read, paperwork I could fill out, organizing I could do, and naps I could take. But I have nothing I must do. And it feels so weird….

I forget how to function when I don’t have a demanding schedule. When my mind is not full of a never-ending task list. I can’t sleep at night, because I’m not exhausted. I could read…but without looming deadlines to make that recreational reading seem precious, I have no desire. It has been like this since I left my full-time job at home a week ago. I didn’t even pack until the day before I left, because there was no urgency.

I am ready for school to start. I want schedules, syllabi, textbooks, an agenda. I thrive on meeting deadlines and completing assignments. I am crazy.

Side Effects of Bibliophilism – Part 1


It seems like such an innocent hobby when you’re young…read lots of books, become smart in the process, experience super cool stories, nothing bad here (except the staying up late and parents telling you you read too much (I know, seriously?), but that’s not important). Now a little older, I recognize a few side effects of such obsessive reading. I’m not saying the side effects are good or bad, simply observing that they exist. Also, there are obvious side effects (did I mention excelling at some school subjects?), but I am not dealing with those.

Side effect #1: Treating everyone around you like a fictional character. No disrespect to anyone around me meant by this. Fictional characters are good. 🙂 Realization of this side effect took awhile to dawn on me. I wrote about my fascination with people a few months ago, and started asking “why?”. Why would I look at some people and suddenly want to spend a significant amount of time picking their brain? I wanted to know what was going on in their head, where they had been, where they wanted to go. Duh! What do you learn about a character? Generally, you see some back story, read their thoughts, watch where their life goes. There is no privacy…you see everything. In the space of a few hours, I’ve probed the depths of a (imaginary) person, every tiny secret of their life.

Unfortunately, life outside of books doesn’t work that way. I have no excuse to become so knowledgeable about a person, no basis for probing them. Probably best for them…real people deserve privacy from the intense curiosity of strangers. I watched this side effect play out in my relationships too. The best excuse you have for that type of deep probing is the guise of a relationship. With no conscious intent whatsoever, I believe I may have enjoyed the high of figuring out a few of my partners as much as I actually enjoyed the “relationship.” My depression after those breakups was more from the sudden lack of connection rather than any real hurt. I have yet to decide if that was unfair to the guys…I’m just aware of it for my future relationships.

This side effect is a mixed bag. Is it bad, my desire to probe the depths of a person? Probably. However, my fascination of people leads me to be accepting and more appreciative of humanity, which is clearly a good thing. It balances out…I am fascinated from afar, with no threat to anyone’s privacy.

Has anyone else experienced this side effect? Please tell me I’m not alone!

Opera is not just socially acceptable torture


Confession: College makes me feel very uncultured. I am at a liberal arts university, where my exposure to music and drama is considered as important as my classes. I love it. Especially the drama! Plays are very cool. As are concerts….I attended a cello concert last semester and loved every minute of it.

Tonight there was a performance of Verdi’s Requiem at my school (first time in 25 years, I found out). I mostly went because I had a bunch of friends in the choir and my dad told me I should (I trust my dad’s taste in music). But it was still opera….so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

It was amazing. I was mesmerized. For a sleep-deprived college student, it’s saying something that I stayed awake through an hour and a half of singing. At the very beginning I wasn’t impressed. But after a section or two, I managed to keep up with the Latin (yay for translations in programs!). When the “Dies irae, dies illa” section started, I was hooked. To use modern terminology, it was epic. Stupendous. Awesome in the most traditional sense of the word. Full choir, booming orchestra, bone-shaking drums….it definitely makes an impression. The guest singers did a marvelous job…I’m particularly biased toward the mezzo-soprano, who was extremely classy and had a wonderfully rich voice (Latoya Lain, if you’re interested).

On a spiritual level, I had not anticipated how rich the lyrics would be. It was like reading a prayer. A gorgeous, rich, almost scriptural prayer. I was also happy that I could understand some of the Latin. 🙂

Give opera a chance…give culture a chance. It may be one of the most beautiful things you ever experience.

 

All the World a Story


Do you ever have the feeling that your life might just be one long story? Do you ever wish it was? These questions tend to haunt me…I see in my own life the ups and downs, conflicts and resolutions of the many, many stories I have read. My wish is always for that happy ending, the quick and painless conclusion to my confusion. But I’m just a character, not the reader. For me the resolution may take days or years, not the few hours it would take to simply read about it. Admittedly, this leaves me often frustrated and discouraged, stuck on the slow path, unable to see the plot map of my own story. This has been one of those weeks.

For those of you who struggle with the same feelings, let me share the insight that carries me through. Ultimately, I do know that there is a happy ending. I also know the Author of my story. While I may not be able to see the plot map, He can and His resolution is better than any I could dream up myself. I am not just a character. I am a character that He loves and for whom He is writing a wonderful, beautiful story.

For now, I carry on day by day, page by page, with the belief that there is a happy ending and that any current conflicts are necessary for the plot and for my own development.

The Best Thing About College


I’ve talked about a couple of things I like about college – the learning, new experiences, a wide variety people for watching. Based on my long experience in school, I have formed an expert opinion on the best thing about college. 😉

Friends are the best thing about a college experience. Now maybe this is just me, because this also probably true of most high schools, I just happen to have missed that. Being at college, surrounded by people who have at least a few things in common with me, if not many more, has been awesome! At home, I don’t have very many friends. That’s the plain truth of it. Obviously, I have friends from my church, from my homeschool group, a few from work, etc. But not many that I would consider very close friends, people with whom I share great memories. Here at school, I have a group of really spectacular friends and I cherish all the memories of time with them. There is always someone around…for studying, for meals, for having fun, even shoulders to cry on.

I found this especially important to realize because I am prone to shutting people out so that I can reach a goal. I’m very serious about the academic side of college, so I’m often tempted to stay in my dorm room every night and study the whole time. Obviously, my grades are important, but I have to find a balance between studying enough and socializing. Right now, I think the balance is working. And I have been reminded every day this week just how much I need my friends.