“he’s just so nice”.

I have heard that so many times.  “He’s just so nice”.  Someone who’s just so selfless and does things for people all of the time, someone who goes out of his way for no reason.  Someone who’s just so nice.

Well, I used to think that.

I used to see all of the favors done, all of the thoughts thought of me or the prayers prayed to keep me safe.  I used to think the food handouts, spare change, and bought meals were just part of that perfect niceness.  But it’s not.  He’s not so nice, really.

What is it to be a good person?  Is it doing favors here and there, smiling, asking about someone’s day, and making materialistic contributions to others?  No, it’s not.  Not at all.  Being a good person is doing things for someone that often never get acknowledged.  And it’s NOT about donating money and things but more about donating time and making sacrifices.

It’s about staying behind after work – even if you have somewhere to be – to make sure someone makes it to the car store for oil, not about asking if they’re okay and handing them cash then going home.

It’s about telling someone else “no” to something you wanted to do, like sub in a volleyball game, so you can say “yes” to do something you know means way more to your friend, like be the only fan she’s ever had at one of her games and sitting the whole way through.

It’s about volunteering or going to church to better yourself, but it’s NOT about telling someone else what you’re doing in hopes that you can win them over in some way.

But most importantly, it’s about treating those closest to you the best.  It’s great that your mommy thinks you’re just an excellent, attractive good-doer.  (Part of that is she has to, she’s your biased mom.)  But does mom see how you treat those who are emotionally the closest to you?  Who rely on you to feel better about themselves?  Who invested trust in you and then you broke it fifty times along the way?  Mom only sees what you let her see, and you’re not letting her see that.

Why do people give money anyway?  Well, honestly, it’s a selfish act.  Donations make people feel good without having to really do anything.  Seriously, look it up.  Why we do things for others.  It’s actually centered around ourselves more than the people we’re helping.  So when he’s being so nice, isn’t he really just boosting his ego?

And when you give out money, ever considered how it hurts?  To feel so incapable of taking care of yourself that someone with a similar job has to be giving you handouts?  So there we go.  You boost yourself up, I bring myself down.  Who’s it really helping?

I don’t care how much money you give someone or how good you make your life look on a resume.  If you can’t make real sacrifices from your own life to be a true, supportive friend… If you can’t stop thinking about yourself long enough to keep from breaking trust and wounding someone… well then you’re really not such a nice person after all, now are you?

Think about it.

people pleaser.

There’s nothing I hate more than feeling useless.  Uselessness garners worthlessness.  Worthlessness fosters a slew of depressing images of yourself.  It’s all of those things that make me work overtime to avoid them.  My fear of feeling normal, ego-checking emotions imprisons me in the position of the perpetual people pleaser.

I never noticed my tendency to try to please others until someone pointed it out a couple of years ago, then I resented it.  I resented what it was and I resented having a label.  I didn’t want to admit to needing people, to being caught in an ugly egg-and-chicken cycle of needing to be around others and then needing to please them enough to make them stay.  Yet…

Learning to embrace my faults only strengthens my qualities.  Yeah, life loves throwing in catches like that.  To get better, you’ve first got to get worse, etc.  But how?

I’m still constantly crippled by the possibility (or consequences) of not pleasing someone:
-I dread the criticism.
-I picture the worst and live it in my head.
-I take every affliction personally.
-I believe every word someone says about me, even when they’re not thinking clearly.
-I just feel like I’m NEVER GOOD ENOUGH.

But how to embrace that??

It’s not easy, but there are some benefits from being a people pleaser if you’re able to keep a few things in mind.  For example, it’s okay to say no.  It’s okay to be too busy, too tired, or just disinterested.  You can turn things down as a way to keep control over how other perceive you.  If you drop everything for someone else too often, you’re giving them all of the power over you and showing it.  Only listening to the opinion of those whom you value will also save you from hurt when those who are cruel and meaningless to you inflict useless pain.

On the bright side, being a people pleaser means you’re also a dedicated and caring person at heart, and not just anyone can have qualities like that.  The problem is, taming yourself.  And that’s something I definitely still need to work on…

breathing.

It feels good right now. My mind wants to race but I’m nearly 9,000 feet up in the Swiss Alps, drinking beer after a good ski. From my pictures, life could look perfect.

And life isn’t bad. I just struggle with the nonessential.

But being so far away and in the heart of real mountains in real air with real people who live here and love this…it is so relaxing.

I realize it’s not about going anywhere cool half the time. It really is just having nothing to worry about, relaxing, enjoying nature which goes on with or without your daily anxiety, and engaging with people removed enough from your life to put your thoughts in perspective.

So, cheers.

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who would i be?

Flying from Ohio to Virginia today, I got to thinking about planes.  I could see two planes on the horizon.  I could see the shadow of my plane on the tops of the clouds.  There are planes everywhere, and I was only seeing a handful.  The flights so short.  The trips so far.  How could so many people have so many places to go?

I thought about the world and how interconnected it is.  I thought about how this changes our perspective, how it makes our “needs” just become more frivolous “wants”.  How it encourages our outrageous American sense of entitlement.

Just today, I was sitting back in the soils lab talking to Jeff and then I blurted out, “Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we just didn’t have air conditioning, heating, electricity?  If we didn’t have those expectations and then the simpler life would be so much more?  Wouldn’t we have less stress and less obligation and be better off?  And I wouldn’t need to worry about my hair looking lousy today or the fact that I had to put on a tank top under this shirt because I panicked when I realized you can see my bra…”

He laughed at my outburst, but he agreed.  And I think it’s true.

Then I wondered, what if… what if we didn’t live in this frantic era?  Here I am, starting a long journey overseas, ready to “seize” and “define” and “become” and “challenge” – but what in the world does that all mean anyway?  What if we didn’t have those opportunities?

Who would I be?

My incessant journeys abroad arose out of a panicky scramble when my personal life was falling apart, my academic life seemed too uninteresting to ever land a job, and my graduation date was approaching too soon for me to actually graduate.  There was no glorious find-myself-out-there moment or decision or scholarship…it was just GET ME OUT OF HERE and DEAR GOD HELP ME GET BACK ON TRACK.  Back on track in EVERY aspect of my life.

I was a mess.  What else would cause me to move temporarily to West Africa ALONE??

Every time I ride a train in Europe or fly through an airport, I can’t help but notice the plethora of young women in small groups giddily dancing around an unfolded map with hiking backpacks, black leggings, and sneakers.  They’ve got their bandanas on, their Fodor guides out, and they’re ready to “rough it”.  But why?

No, dear lord, please…don’t tell me I’m part of a trend.  I didn’t ask for this!

Now that the world is at our fingertips and women have access to more generous means (thanks to the push for higher education and the encouragement to abandon home-making for a life of independence), so so so many young women are out there traveling.  It’s like an epidemic.  It seems like I always see them, hear about them, or even witness them among my friends.  (I mean, men too, but not my point.)

What is it that they’ve lost about themselves that they think they’re going to find?  Am I really just the same as them?

I honestly don’t have an answer.  But while they’re so busy trying to find out who they will be, I can’t help but see who they would have been and wonder the same for myself.

At 23, where would I have been two generations ago?
A housewife, surely.  World War 2.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  Shopping.

It sounds dismal, but part of me wonders if I would have preferred it.

Relaxed, taken care of, at ease, important, with a place in this world.
These days, I don’t know where I belong.
These days, there are high expectations put on me.
These days, I still can’t walk into my job or my hockey game like a woman.
Because I’m still at the disadvantage.
I still have to work a little harder to just pass, because, well, men.
But that’s okay.
Look how far the world has come already.

But is there an intrinsic spark in me that would have caused me to rebel?  Would I have become a journalist like Skeeter in The Help and taken life into my own hands?  Chosen against a husband and instead fought for human rights?

I want to say yes, yes that would have been me.
But I’m not so sure it would have been.

Sure, now I feel like a rebel, going against the grain, going alone, fighting for native rights.
But that’s so trendy now.
Is that really that awesome of me?  Or am I just mundane??

It’s like when the whole world tries so hard to be “different” that “different” becomes “normal”.

But I’m not out to fight being normal,…or am I?

Questions even I can’t answer for myself.
But let’s say I am out there to be different.
And it’s 1940.
What would I have done?  Joined the Army?  Fought in WWII as a “soldier”?  Refused to marry, gone to school, practiced science?  Eventually walked on the moon?

Geez… Life is hard to understand sometimes.

Not only do I not have any idea who I am, but I’m unsure of who I will be and also confused by who I might have been.

Well, one thing’s for sure…I’m about to board a plane for Belgium.  And I know who I USED to be: a girl who could never board a plane by herself to Belgium.  And here I am, student card in hand, an ex-resident of southern France, ready to face the world with a loose itinerary and no reservations.

Because I’m kind of over asking what ifs.

physics and life.

Last night, I was driving with my friend Minnie from her house on the north side of Charlotte, North Carolina to Indian Trail, just before the South Carolina border.  We’re playing in the Southeastern Region districts and, if we win, we will be traveling to Boston for USA Hockey Nationals.  We had just carpooled from Raleigh and had a lot of long conversation about life right now.  And school.  And GMOs.  And Physics.

“I hated Electromagnetism,” said Minnie.

“Really?  Physics II?  I hated Physics I.”

“Physics I, I can understand that.  I can SEE it.  Electrons?  No.  I can’t see it.  It doesn’t work for me.”

“Huh…for me, because  I can see it, I think I know what I’m looking at and I make false assumptions.  With Physics II, I’m given the rules that I can’t see, so I work within those constraints…”

“I see,” said Minnie.  “With the stuff you can see, you transpose your experiences too easily on what you’re doing and you cloud the truth.”

“Yeah, I overanalyze it…”

Just like life.

I overanalyze life.

I’ve noticed lately I’ve become more and more confused by things that are simple.  I’ve been over-thinking everything.  I’m never sure anymore what’s a real answer or an appropriate response to an emotionally-charged situation.  I keep longing to just tell everyone to slow down and just stop overcomplicating things when they could just be so simple.  And knowing that there are simple answers just makes my complicated outlook that much more confusing and unbearable.

So life as of late has become my Physics I while my head is so occupied with Physics II, with the itty bitty pieces that are making things work but the itty bitty pieces that I also can’t manipulate, the ones that will do what they do without my help.

Sigh.