Monday, December 28, 2015

My New Year's Resolution for 2016

I've spent a lot of time thinking about my goals for 2016, things I want to do and stop doing. For a while, the list just went on and on forever - I wanted to not accept any obligation to in-laws, to write so much on Facebook that everyone's newsfeed is flooded with only my stuff, to take serious steps on becoming the untamable, never-been-disciplined kind of person I want to be, etc. The list went on and on until I had this sudden moment of clarity. I don't know how it happened, but it hit me that everything I wanted fell under the same category. As widespread as my individual goals are, there is one umbrella goal that covers almost everything that I want to do:

Going forward, I will not take any actions or refrain from any actions based on guilt.

What this means:

1. I am not doing overtime at work anymore. I never wanted to do OT, but I did it out of guilt because everyone else was doing it, and I will never do it again unless I personally decide that I want to do it for the extra money.

Ever since I stopped doing OT and established (to myself) that I was not doing it anymore, I started liking my workplace and my department a lot more. Partially because I got a new job in my department that is soooooooo much better than my old job, but another huge part of it is because I've established that I won't do OT when I don't want to (which is pretty much always). I really resented my workplace and my department when I felt pushed to do OT, and now that I've decided not to take that action based on guilt, I love everyone and I feel much better being at work.

Of course there will be times when someone continues to guilt-trip me into doing something that I don't want to do, and I'll have to decide whether to tell them to back off or to get out of the situation altogether, but the first step is to simply not take the action based on guilt.

A very important lesson that I learned from this experience: When you do something once, people automatically expect you to do it more. Now, this is not necessarily a problem. If, for example, I validate someone's feelings once, and that person remembers that I validated their feelings and knows that they can trust me and come to me again with their feelings, that's a good thing. That's what I hope will happen. The problem comes in when I do something once, not because I want to, but because I feel guilty about not doing it, and I'm hoping that by doing it this one time, I will earn some kind of credit, brownie points, or social approval that will lead to people accepting it when I say no the next time they ask. That does not work. That's just not how things ever play out. I know that now, and going forward, I am not going to do anything on the basis of guilt, thinking that it will make people more respectful of my choices later on. It just doesn't work that way.

2. Branching off of what I said, I am not going to do things that I really don't want to do in order to see people or make them happy. Last summer I did something that I really, really did not want to do because it was my one opportunity to see a certain friend and I felt guilty saying, "I'm not going to see you because I don't want to do this type of event." Going forward, I am not going to do things like this. If I really don't like something, I'm not going to do it, and other people can accommodate me and do something with me that I am willing to do if they want to see me.

I've done a lot of things like this throughout the years - things that really made me miserable and brought me horrible flashbacks and left me feeling bad for months on end after the event. I did these things because I felt guilty always saying no to things that other people wanted to do. I am not doing this anymore. If I don't want to do something, I'm not doing it. If you want to see me, I'm sure we can find something to do together that we are both okay with.

This does not mean that I won't do favors for friends. If you need help editing a paper or moving into an apartment or if your car breaks down at 3:00 AM, of course I will help you. But helping you is something I would do out of care, not out of guilt. When I do a favor for someone, like helping them move or picking them up when their car breaks down, I know they appreciate it.

When I feel unappreciated is when I do something for someone that, to me, is a huge favor that I'm doing completely for the other person, but to them, it's not a favor at all. This is what happens when I go to an event that I really don't want to go to. Whenever it's a fun social event, even if my friend knows that I really don't want to be there and I'm just doing it to be nice or spend time with them and accommodate what they like to do, they never appreciate it as the huge favor that it is for me. They instead complain that I'm leaving early, not participating enough, or otherwise not doing enough for them when I'm already doing something huge for them. I'm done with that. I'm never doing it again. If something is really important to a person, like a birthday or graduation, I am willing to accommodate a little bit by still attending the event if I'm not feeling well, but I still have my limits. I am not doing something like going on a camping trip even if it is to celebrate a close friend's birthday or graduation, nor am I going to be super guilty for not attending and feel like I have to do everything they want to do after the fact in order to make it up to them. That part of my life is done.

I've always thought it would be fun to go to the trampoline park my birthday party, but I always come back to the same conclusion: some of the friends I want to invite would not go to a trampoline park, and having all my friends come is more important to me than doing a particular activity. When I do plan a particular activity like going to the trampoline park, I do it knowing that not everyone will come. I make a choice that doing the activity is more important to me than visiting with my friends who will not do that activity, and I'll just have to visit with my other friends another time. If you have an event that I'm not interested in, that's fine. There is nothing wrong with that. But you need to accept that by doing that, you are making the choice to do something that won't include me, the same way I'm aware of who will not go to the trampoline park. There is no longer an option of pushing me into something that I've said I won't do.

3. In-laws do not get special treatment. By in-laws, I mean a significant other's family and friends, regardless of whether or not we're married. When a friend (not a romantic partner) introduces me to their other friends or family members, I don't feel any kind of obligation to make those people like me. I will be kind and respectful to them, but I'm not going to tiptoe around and try to make sure they like me. I see meeting new people as a chemical reaction - we both pour what we've got into a pot and watch what happens. Maybe something nice happens, or maybe there's an explosion and we both know not to try that again. In any case, I'm just watching to see how the reaction goes - I'm not in any way altering what I'm adding to the mix in order to make the other person like me or to make things go smoothly. But for some reason, when it comes to in-laws, everyone expects you to make more of an effort to get along with them and make a good impression so that they like you. I am not doing that anymore. Not at all. I will treat in-law relationships the way I would treat any others. If I meet new friends through a friend of mine, I don't feel any obligation to spend time with those people. If my original friend has an event and invites all of us, that's fine, but I would not feel like my friend and I had to purposely spend time with these other friends together. If I didn't feel a strong connection with these other friends, I would still be nice to them when we saw each other, but I would not be willing to spend tons and tons of time together just because we had a friend in common. Likewise, if I don't feel a strong bond with my in-laws, I am not willing to spend lots of time with them just because they are my in-laws. I went to lots of events with my ex-boyfriend's friends and family that I really did not want to go to, but I felt guilty not going. I felt like I was obligated to spend a certain amount of time with these people, and like the OT situation, I figured that if I did it sometimes, there would be less pressure and guilt-tripping to do it other times. I am not accepting that kind of obligation anymore. In-laws are friends of friends to me, and like any friends of friends, we may or may not click and become friends on our own. Like any friends of friends, you are not automatically my friend just because we both have a close relationship with the same person.

Ultimately, I am only willing to hang out with people who validate my feelings and my choices and don't pressure me to do anything that I don't want to do. If you want to spend more time with me, these are the requirements. I do not accept any kind of guilt-tripping in the form of "You never come over! I never see you anymore!" from in-laws. If you want to see me more often, you need to change how you treat me so that I'll want to see you more often. End of discussion. You don't get an exception because of who you are.

4. I want to be perfectly comfortable saying, "Meh, I don't like that flavor," after I've been demanding something for a long time. This is reference to a cartoon that criticizes people for saying, "Meh, I don't like that flavor," when someone offers them a cookie. You know what? That is perfectly legitimate! You know what? I don't like chocolate chips OR raisins OR nuts OR mint OR chocolate cookies, and I STILL love cookies, I still crave cookies, I still have just as much right as anyone to want cookies even if I don't have as many different types of cookies that will satisfy me! I only like about 10% of all the cookie flavors in existence, but that doesn't mean I don't love cookies and can't want cookies. And the fact that I'm complaining on Facebook for months on end about wanting cookies does not mean that I don't have the right to reject cookies that I don't like. I am very demanding and also very picky. Everyone judges people really harshly for being both of those things at the same time, and I am not gonna take that anymore. When I complain about not having cookies, I mean the kind of cookies I like, and the kind I like only, and I reserve the right to reject cookies I don't like no matter how much I complain about having no cookies.

Summer 2014, someone fell in love with me and I was not in love with them back. I did not know this person at all and I had a huge problem with them expecting me to give them all this time and attention when I did not even consider them a friend. I wanted to cut ties with this person and stop being friends, but I felt guilty about that. I felt like I should try to make it work even when my intuition was screaming at me to run the other way. The reason I felt guilty walking away was because I had been talking so much on Facebook about being clingy and needing constant care and attention and cuddles, that even though I meant that I wanted those things from people I was already close with, not strangers, I was afraid of how people would judge me for turning down exactly what I said I wanted, because I didn't specify that it had to be with someone I actually liked and felt a connection with. I tried to make the friendship work when I didn't want to because I felt guilty about saying "Meh, I don't like this flavor." I will never do that again.

Winter 2014, I went to a very emotionally triggering event with a friend that left me depressed for months. I had a feeling that this event was a huge emotional risk, but I talked myself into it because I was lonely and wanted to see my friend. But it wasn't just that I wanted to see my friend so badly that I was willing to take the risk. There was guilt at play as well. First of all, I think that I denied how great of a risk I was taking with this event - I tried to convince myself that seeing my friend was more important because I felt like it should be more important, even though deep down, I knew perfectly well that the potential risk was much greater than the potential benefit. I also felt guilty saying, "Meh, I don't like this flavor," when I had been crying on Facebook for a long time about not getting enough attention and being so lonely. I thought I would be judged really harshly for saying no to something that I knew would hurt me, because it was human contact. It was spending time with a friend, which was what I said I wanted to do. Even though this was all private messaging and no one else ever had to know that my friend invited me, I still felt guilty, and I really, really hurt myself as a result of that guilt. This is not acceptable and it will never happen again. If I am screaming on Facebook that I want something and someone offers me a flavor that I know will make me feel bad, or that I just don't want for any reason, I will say no thanks and I will continue screaming for whatever I do want.

Thing about it: If you were really hungry and also really allergic to peanuts, and a friend made you peanut butter cookies, you could thank them sincerely and appreciate that they did something nice for you, but ultimately, you would not eat the cookies and you would still be hungry and need something else to eat. Going forward, I am not eating anymore poisoned cookies in order to not feel guilty about being ungrateful.

5. I will inform people that I charge for acting services. You can read my rates here: http://yourownkindofmusic.blogspot.com/2015/07/i-now-charge-for-acting-services.html
I don't honestly expect to make money this way. What I'm doing is letting people know that the service is not free. I will not pretend to be something I'm not out of guilt or politeness or just because that's how I'm "supposed" to act.

Look at the prices on my list. Let's say you wanted me to be polite around your parents for a 2-hour visit. That's $50. Now, would you ask me to hand you over $50? Not a loan - a gift. Would you ask for it? Would you ask for me to hand over $100? What about $800? That's what 8 hours of pretending in an uncomfortable environment will cost you. See, now you're probably hesitating. You'd probably think long and hard about it before asking me to give you so much money. You probably wouldn't ask for the money as easily as you'd ask for the service. That's why I'm assigning a dollar value to my services - to show you they are NOT free.

Sure, maybe it's someone's birthday, but would you ask me to spend $800 on their birthday present. Sure, your grandma is visiting, but would you expect me to pay your grandma $75?

Going forward, I'm going to actually let people know my prices and make it clear that this is not a free service.

6. I will hand out my business cards. I made two sets of business cards. One says: "I will never suck it up, tough it out, grow up, or get over it, but thanks for asking," and the second one says, "yes it happened a long time ago, no I'm not over it." I printed these and have not handed them out to anyone. This year I want to look for opportunities to hand them out and do it.

7. I will never pretend to be more okay than I am out of guilt, nor will I refrain from posting what I want about my feelings out of guilt. When something bad happens, I am NOT okay, and I will not be okay for a very long time. Yes, I need a ton of support, and I appreciate that support very much, but I will never stop posting bad things or pretend that I'm all better in order to make anyone feel good that their support worked. I am not responding to any kind of guilt trips about the fact that people have given me so much support and I still feel bad. If I still feel bad, that's how I feel and I will write about it all I want. I also will not respond to guilt trips about people being worried sick over me. If you are worried about me, there is probably something to worry about. I don't do false alarms, so if you're worried, then yes, something is very wrong. But I am not going to refrain from expressing myself in order for other people to not be worried, no matter how long a problem has gone on. Summer of 2014 may have seemed like a long time after the breakup, but it wasn't. It absolutely wasn't. I was still in a crisis and I should have been treated that way, and no one should have ever expected me to be better when I clearly communicated that I wasn't any better. I'm never going to act better than I feel so that other people can feel better about the support they've given me.

8. I will never put my own feelings "aside" because of anyone else. I will support my friends as well as I can when they are going through hard times, but if I am having a crisis at the same time that someone else is having a crisis, I am not automatically going to put my crisis aside to exclusively support them. We all have things that we continue doing. Even if you're trying to be really supportive of a friend, you're probably still going to go to work, go to school, buy groceries, take care of your children, etc. For me, the thing that's most important to me - more than work, school, or anything else - is expressing myself. I am not going to refrain from posting about my problems because someone else is having a problem at the same time. Summer of 2014, I desperately wanted to transform myself into Amelia, but I pushed that aside and went back to being good-girl Nikki until December because of something that was going on with someone else. That was a horrible experience. I was still in a crisis and I literally dropped my own crisis and acted like it didn't matter as much so that I could support someone. I went several days not posting anything when I wanted to be posting bad things every chance I got. I will never do that again. Going forward, I only offer simultaneous support, which means supporting people while also posting whatever I want about my own problems and doing whatever I want to do to myself.

9. I will never stop talking or writing what I want because there are bigger issues in the world. I am not keeping anyone in my life who tries to guilt-trip me in this way. If anyone sends me a message like this again, I am automatically de-friending them. Also, you probably haven't noticed this, but I have gone through periods of time not posting stuff specifically because there bigger things going on and I was worried that people would judge me for writing about my own stuff. I'm done with that. 100% done.

You know something? 2008 was the first presidential election that I voted in. What do I remember most about the election? I remember feeling silenced. I remember feeling completely alone and isolated because everyone around me only wanted to either talk about the election or complain about other people not talking about the election (I think these people not talking about the election were imaginary because I never met them). I remember scrolling through my newsfeed after Obama had been elected, reading everyone's messages of how happy they were, finding one classmate from high school who posted "I have a cold :-(" and actually crying because I was so jealous that she was part of a social circle where she could post something entirely about herself on election night.

I don't ever want to go through that again. I will post whatever I want from here on out. It will be very difficult, and I may need to purposely post personal stuff on days of important events whether I feel like it or not, just to get myself used to doing it. I want to write everything guilt-free with absolutely ZERO sense of there being more important things going on.

10. I will post links to articles when I am interested in sharing them. There have been several times in the past year when I found an article about an important issue that I really wanted to post, but I felt guilty posting it side-by-side with other things that were strictly personal, but that I was clearly more passionate about. I felt like people would be even more judgmental about my posting so much about my personal life if they actually saw it side-by-side with a bigger issue and saw how much more passion I have about my own issues than I have about bigger issues. I'm done with this. I care about what I want to care about and that's a done deal.

There are memes all over the place about our displaced values where you'll see a news program featuring something like, "Breaking News! A celebrity got her toenails clipped!" while the subheading mentions people dying in an earthquake. Yes, this is a problem. But you know why it's a problem? Because it's on a news program! News should be about actual news, and devoting the news to celebrities' toenails when there are more important issues is a problem because their job is to report the news. If I saw something like this on someone's personal blog, I would not think it was a problem because blogs are for people to write whatever they want, and it's not as if that person is being paid to report the news, or is claiming to be a news reporter.

I am NOT a news reporter. Going forward, I will be posting articles that I think are important, and I will being posting them side-by-side with things that are 100% personal. I make no promises to talk about current events, no promises to post things that are "relevant" such as posting election stuff around election time, and no promises to be a news reporter and prioritize what is most important. I will post articles that have nothing to do with current events, even on days when other huge things are going on. My posts about my own life will always sound way more passionate than anything I write with an article link. I am not a news reporter, and I am not accepting any kind of pressure to re-prioritize what I care about.

11. I want to get comfortable saying that things are private, or that I'm not sure if I should share them. I know I share pretty much everything on Facebook and my blog, but this is specifically for people that I don't share everything with, such as extended family, coworkers, and friends' parents. My current mode of operation is that when someone asks me a question or brings up a topic that I don't feel I can discuss with them, I make up a small lie to get out of having to answer. For example, if someone asked me if I made a New Year's Resolution this year and I didn't want to tell them about it, I would just say that I hadn't made one, rather than saying that it was private.

Sometimes, I don't want to discuss a particular issue with someone because I don't trust them and I think they'll do something mean with the information. If this is the case, then lying to protect myself is still the better option, as they will probably probe a lot if I tell them that something is private.

More recently though, this hasn't been the case. More recently, it's been an issue of feeling like I'm not "supposed" to share certain things with certain people because of societal rules. I'm trying to be done with that altogether and share what I want to share, but when I feel too uncomfortable doing that, I'm not going to lie. I want to look people in the eye and tell them that I'm not sure if I should tell them, and give them a chance to tell me that it's okay.

I never like lying. There's something about saying, "I can't really talk about that problem while we're at work," that just feels so much more authentic than saying, "Nothing's wrong, I'm fine." Even if we never get to talk about it, I just want it known that the issue exists. This feels like a first step in being more myself with people I'm less comfortable being myself around, and there's even a chance that the person might care enough to assure me that it is okay to talk about.

12. I will not do anything to purposely pretend to be something I'm not. There are times when I'll do things that I don't really want to do or say things that aren't completely true in order to avoid hurting someone's feelings. That's fine. I'm okay with that. What I'm not okay with is when my primary motivation is not really about the other person's feelings, but about what they think of me. While I was dating my last boyfriend, the majority of the times that I ate foods I didn't like was not because I truly thought someone would be hurt - it was because I wanted to present myself as less picky than I actually am. I also used to try to squeeze my things into my smaller backpack when I was staying at my boyfriend's family's house even when the larger one would have been more convenient for me because I was trying to act like I was the kind of low-maintenance person who would not pack a lot for a weekend. Basically, I picked up on the fact that people were judging me for certain things and subtly took actions that inconvenienced myself in order to show them that I wasn't really like that. Even though I absolutely was like that. It's like, anytime I notice someone judging me for being extremely picky, high-maintenance, demanding, lazy, clingy, unwilling to function unless every one of my needs is met, etc, I find myself trying to act like I am not that way. I am done with that. If I sense that someone has a problem with me, I will continue acting the way I'm acting. Or I may even be upfront and say, "I'm not willing to function unless all of my physical and emotional needs are met, and I am not accepting any kind of pressure from you to not be that way." Going forward, I will say this kind of thing to ANYONE, including my friends' grandparents. Absolutely no one gets a free pass.

Again, if there is a reason for me to do something - say, if a friend told me that the car was pretty full and it would be more convenient for them if I could squeeze my stuff into a smaller bag, I would be fine doing that. But it needs to truly be about the other person, not about how I look to them. I've spent the last few years lying to myself on this issue, telling myself that I was doing things to avoid hurting people's feelings or to make their lives easier, when deep down, I knew it was really about me. Going forward, I'm going to ask myself, "Is this really about them, or is it about you?" and act accordingly.

13. I will not avoid or back out of confrontation. When I was in college, I had a friend who I was close with until she got a girlfriend and started ignoring me. Even though we were living on the same campus, it was impossible to get in touch with her by any means - phone, email, or just knocking on the door. I was really lonely. I knew that she wouldn't notice if I just disappeared. One day I ran into her at dinner and I told her how much I missed her and how miserable I was, but she was distracted and not paying attention to me because she and her girlfriend were going to see a musical in town that night. Now, I happen to love musicals, and my friend knew this. I asked her, "Is it a date?" and she said no, that a few of her girlfriend's friends were joining them. She didn't take the hint to invite me along, so I said, "Can I come?" She said yes, but I was still very upset that she didn't seem to care whether I came or not, and it hadn't occurred to her on her own to invite me after I had expressed how lonely I had been. I was so upset that I really didn't feel like going anymore. When the time came that I was supposed to meet up with them to go to the play, I decided not to show up. I decided to wait and see if I got a phone call, if anyone noticed or cared that I wasn't there. I normally tend to show up when I say I will. It would be very unusual for me to not show up at all. So if I'm not there, it could mean that there's a major problem. I should also mention that I had told my friend at dinner that night that I wanted to jump off the library tower and I didn't think anyone would even notice. So when I didn't show up, I really should have gotten a phone call or something. But I didn't. No one noticed or cared that I wasn't there.

I had a plan that the next time I saw my friend, I was going to point out that she was ignoring me and use this example as proof that she wouldn't notice if I just disappeared. I was planning to. But then when I saw her the next day, I completely chickened out and made up a phony excuse that I was too busy to go to the show and apologized. She reacted as if I didn't even need to apologize, as if I hadn't broken a commitment, as if she didn't even remember that I was supposed to be there. I wanted to confront her, but was too scared.

This is an extreme example, but I've backed out of confrontations that I've planned a lot since college. Last year around Christmas time, I was so upset that I was going to delete my entire book and no one even cared or responded. Then later that day, I posted a FB status that said I was on page 105 of my book, for the sole purpose of getting attention and proving to people that they were flat-out ignoring my issues and weren't simply too busy to be on Facebook. I wanted to trap people and say, "GOTCHA! You don't care about my problems and you're not being there for me, and you're clearly ignoring the status about deleting my book if you're just gonna like the one about what page I'm on." I didn't yell "Gotcha!" I still really, really wish that I had waited for more likes and yelled, "Gotcha!" but I didn't. This was another example of putting my issue somewhat aside to make other people less upset. I will never do that again. I will never back out of this kind of confrontation again. I want to confront people about stuff from now on and not feel guilty. And if  any future situation ever gets to the point where I have to do what I did with ditching play in order to prove a point, I will absolutely go through with the confrontation and not back down.

14. I will not keep perpetual guilt-trippers in my life. There have been a lot of people in my life who constantly made me feel guilty about things. (This does not apply to any of my current close friends). Whether it was about joining clubs, going to important events, "missing out" on social experiences that I never wanted to have in the first place, or just being guilt-tripped about being the kind of demanding, entitled, clingy, never-gonna-function person I am, there have always been people who were just perpetual guilt-trippers from the start. I have no intention of making or staying friends with anyone like this, even if we are related somehow or have already known each other for a long time. If you regularly try to make people feel guilty about their actions or inactions, regardless of how good your intentions are, I want nothing to with you.

Time for a truly guilt-free year.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Normal Distributions

According to mypersonality.info, these are the normal frequencies of the personality traits on the Myers-Briggs personality test:

65.5% of people are Extroverted
34.5% of people are Introverted

73.5% of people are Sensing (factual, concrete, interested in reality, detail-oriented)
26.5% of people are Intuitive (imaginative, abstract, interested in possibilities, big-picture oriented)

50% of people are Thinking (make choices based on logic)
50% of people are Feeling (make choices based on their feelings)

51% of people are Judging (organized, like structure)
49% of people are Perceiving (not organized, like not having routine or structure)

In a workplace environment, you won't find these distributions because different people are drawn to different fields. I suspect that the distribution of these traits at my office would be very different than the distribution you would find among people working in a hospital or a school.

But when it comes to the students in a public school, I feel like these distributions should be there. If it's not a private or specialized school, if kids are just going there because it happens to be the closest school to them, then I would assume that the distribution of students in the school should roughly follow this pattern (I say roughly because I'm sure there are regional differences among these traits as well).

So when I hear that "all" of the students at a school like working with others, that concerns me. What about the 34.5% of kids that should dislike working with others and want to work alone? Do those kids really not exist at the school? Or are they being forced to go along with something they hate while everyone in charge gets to brag about how into it they are? And what about when I hear that everyone is organized and learning how to get into a routine. What about the HALF of the population that dislikes structure and routine? It really, really concerns me when I hear these things because it doesn't tell me that the school is good - it tells me that the school is awful because all the kids who aren't like that are being oppressed, and that's a really horrible thing to do.

I would only ever trust a public school that said, "Well, about half of our kids sit at their desks while the other half run wild, about two-thirds of our kids work well with others while the other third sit in a corner by themselves and ignore the presence of others..." I would only ever trust a place that claims to have normal distributions, not a place that brags about making everyone into what they want them to be.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Life Updates

I have not been able to start working on my special surprises for my friends yet, so they will probably be special January surprises rather than Christmas surprises. I still have Christmas gifts for people, but the surprise thing that I mentioned earlier will probably be done sometime in January. Nothing is wrong - I've just had a lot of activity and stimulation lately and not enough down time, and I didn't really stop and think about how much time I had before Christmas when I announced that I was making surprises. So you will get your surprises definitely, it will just be a few extra weeks.

Things have been going much better at work lately. I feel like I'm really starting to bond with everyone and feel like my coworkers are my friends. Not super close friends yet, but friends. We're getting there. It's going to take a little while for me to open up more to them, but that's the direction I'm heading in, and it feels wonderful. I actually look forward to seeing everyone each day.

I'm beginning the process of editing my book very thoroughly. I've been itching to get started but didn't know what to do, then it hit me today what I needed to do. This will mean fewer blog post in the near future. I only have so much energy for writing, and the book is taking up a lot of that energy. I do have a couple of long posts in process, and I'll need to write at least one more blog post before the end of 2015 so that I can break 200 posts.

Finally, I want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who has supported me on my blog and with my validation book. You are the reason that I've kept going. The support I've gotten on my blog is what made me want to write the validation book in the first place. I remember when I started this blog and I was suppressing myself so much. I was holding back everything. But what I wanted more than anything was to save other people from going through what I went through. I wanted to help people feel like their own feelings are valid and that it's okay to be who they are and express themselves however they want to. And now, this year, I've done that. Friends have told me that my writing has helped them to express themselves and make the decisions that are right for them, and that to me is what it means to be successful. That's what I've been wanting to do for years. Support takes all different forms, and one form of support is listening and learning from another person's experience. And I've seen that happen. I've seen people do and understand things because of what I've written, and that's what inspires me to keep on going.

I will be focusing on my book a lot, and I may not have as many good-quality blog posts in the near future as I've had in the past. But I just want you to remember that you got me here. Your support and warm fuzzy cuddles got me to where I am. You're the reason that I may be getting published in this upcoming year. Never, ever forget that.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Marketing

When I think about marketing my book to people (which I know I'll have to do when it's ready), I can divide everyone into 4 categories:

1. My close inner circle. This includes my immediate family and close friends. Most people in this group have been super-supportive and are even helping me edit the book in its early stages.

Most people in this group also know me very well and have been reading my blog and/or listening to me talk about these issues for years, so nothing in the book will shock them in terms of not knowing that I was I like that.

Everyone in this group will get a well-deserved free copy of my book, so there is no need to market to them. In a way, people in this group are part of my marketing team and will probably tell other people about the book and help get the word out. (I'm not ordering anyone to do this, but I suspect that it will happen based on how supportive all my friends have been :-)

2. People I have clear, consistent relationships with, but whom I purposely do not share everything with. This includes my extended family whom I don't see very often, and the people in my department at work, who are very nice. The only reason I don't share everything with my extended family is because we just don't see each other or talk often enough to get into everything. I don't feel comfortable having people see my Facebook wall and my blog and knowing everything about me when we don't hang out and talk regularly. I am not purposely trying to give anyone in my family a false impression of who I am, and if we ever do start hanging out and talking more regularly, I will definitely share everything. Work is work, and obviously I can't share my blog with anyone from work because there will always be the barrier of "I have to keep my job," but the barrier is starting to come down a bit and I've become much more honest in recent months.

People in this group do not know everything about me and might be very shocked by some of the things they read.

People in this group have strong enough relationships with me that they would probably buy my book as a way of supporting me, but I do feel the need to promote the book to them so that they will buy it and pass the word on to other people. Since I am in regular contact with people in this group, especially at work, someone could connect me to people who are extremely interested in the book. I have a huge network in this category.

3. Friends of friends. Friends I know through other friends, whom I'm not close with and whom I don't actively seek out. We may or may not be Facebook friends. We may or may not run into each other often. I don't purposely avoid sharing anything with these people because I'm only interested in being friends if we can potentially become close friends - I would never purposely choose to keep someone at a casual-friend distance, unless there is a reason that I need to like with my coworkers.

People in this category may or may not be shocked by what they read in the book, but most likely not because they either have seen my Facebook posts or we never knew each other very well to begin with, so there was nothing to assume. Again, I am not concerned about how they will react to me because I'm only interested in being friends if we can be all-the-way friends.

I definitely want to market to people in this category, but in terms of reaching the most people, this group is not as important as Group 2. People in Group 2 have a loyalty to me where I think they would help me promote the book, whereas people in Group 3 don't have that added loyalty, and whether or not they'll pass it on depends entirely on their reaction to the book. Don't get me wrong - this is a great book that people will love, but I need to hit the right people first, and it helps a lot to have the Group 1 and 2 people who will promote the book no matter what, even if it isn't their personal cup of tea.

4. Complete strangers. Obviously I will need to market the book to people I don't know in order for it to be successful, but my initial word-of-mouth marketing will start with people I know.

Here's the issue - Group 2 is the group I'm the most concerned about in terms of how they'll react to the book and whether they'll be less friendly to me and treat me differently as a result of reading the book. Group 1 people already support the message in the book, and I don't care what people in Groups 3 or 4 think about me. But Group 2 is also the most important group I need to market the book to. Group 3 people don't have that added loyalty to me and our relationships are inconsistent in terms of how often we'll see each other. Group 1 is extremely loyal and will definitely want to share the book, but the number of people in this category is so much smaller than Group 2, a lot of the people that they will market the book to are people in my own social circle, and I simply don't need to market the book to them because they're already insiders who have their own motivation to get the book passed on. It's Group 2 that I need to market to the most. And it's Group 2 that I'm scared of.

I need to look my supervisor in the eye and say, "You should buy my book - you'll love it!" knowing full-well that they may or may not support my project and may end up treating me differently as a result. I'd like to think there's no risk, but I know better than that. It will be scary. But it's what I'm going to have to do.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Surprise!!!

I just thought of a really fun Christmas surprise for everyone!!! I'm not telling, you'll have to wait and be surprised, but you'll be happy :-)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Knowing an Ingroup from the Inside Out

Earlier this October, I started reading an article about what to say to a friend who is wearing a racist Halloween costume (some people will dress up as a very stereotyped version of a person from another race. It's especially common for people to dress as Native Americans). The article set the scene saying that you've arrived at a costume party dressed as something relating to a current event, a play on words, or a nerdy reference because those are the best costumes ever - duh! And just like that, I felt left out. Silly me, I had thought that standing up to racism was something that anyone could be interested in, but nope. This was clearly a geeks-only club that I was not a member of.

If the wording had been, "You arrive dressed as a play on words because you thought that would be clever," that would have been fine. I would have felt like I was reading an individual person's narrative and they happened to go as a play on words. Or if this post had been on someone's personal blog, not a major blog that tons of people read and write for, I would not have been as bothered by it. But since I was reading a piece that was meant to be public (not like reading someone's personal blog or online journal), it was really disappointing to feel excluded.

That opening statement changed the way I read the rest of the article. I felt like an outsider. Since I would be going as either a glamorous princess, a character from a super-popular movie that everyone would recognize, or anything super girly and sparkly because in my world, those are the best costumes ever (duh!) I had this underlying sense that I wasn't the kind of person who would talk to someone about a racist Halloween costume, so why was I even reading the article?

I need to very careful not to do that in my book. Not on my blog - I know that my blog is aimed at a target audience, and I'm fine with that. But in the book, I need to make sure that I'm not targeting it toward the specific ingroup that cares about the issues I'm discussing, and making assumptions about them that have nothing to do with the actually issues I'm discussing. Whenever there is a group of people who all have a certain interest in common, a culture develops around that interest, so that everyone in that culture has other things in common as well, that have nothing to do with the original interest. Once that culture develops around an interest, people expect that if you have a particular interest, you will have those other interests and traits as well, even if they are not really related to the initial interest. And what's more, even if you are extremely passionate about a interest, you may never fit in with a group of people who share that interest because they may all have other traits in common that you don't and expect you to be something that you're not just because you share that one interest.

It's hard to understand what the ingroup stereotypes are when you're inside of an ingroup. Sometimes you get so used to everyone in the group being a certain way that you don't notice that a culture has formed around an interest and has expanded to things outside of the interest. Sometimes it takes an outsider or newcomer to say, "Hey, you said this knitting club was 'open to everyone,' but all anyone talks about while we knit is chores and obligations at home. As someone who doesn't do any work, I have nothing to say and I feel left out."

Obviously my book is aimed at people who want to be validating and consent-conscious. But beyond that, who is it aimed at? What are the interests and traits associated with those qualities that I'm not noticing because I'm an insider? That's a difficult question.

I know the book is too middle-class right now, with too many examples about kids going to college and summer camp and having music lessons after school. My friend Eli is working with me to change some of those examples for more of a balance.

The online culture where people talk about consent issues is basically the same culture where Halloween costume post came from, so my book is definitely not going the route of being geeky. There's also a lot of focus on autonomous relationships, and I especially have an example in my book that is accepting towards clingy, codependent people like me.

I'm just not sure if I might be missing something, if there are other traits that are commonly associated with being validating and consent conscious, but aren't specifically related to those traits, and I'm just assuming that everyone who reads the book shares those qualities.

If you are reading my first draft, any advice in this area is welcome. I don't to be assuming that everyone who cares about racism wants to dress as a play on words for Halloween.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Coddled

I WANT TO BE CODDLED!!!!!!!!

I am 100% serious. I WANT to be coddled, I want absolutely everyone in my life to coddle me, and I am so fucking tired of hearing everyone use that word like it's some sort of a problem. OF COURSE I want to be coddled. DUH!!!!!!!! That's the best feeling on earth and I absolutely expect everyone to coddle me. If you're gonna criticize me for that, you can go fuck a porcupine.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Everything Starts Small

In my validation book, I have a section on accepting that everything is not okay with everyone, and not assuming that people are okay with a change in the plan without asking them first. In this chapter, I begin with a very basic example that you told your friend you had Oreo ice cream at home, they said they'd love some, then you get home and realize that it's actually chocolate chip ice cream. This example explains to ask your friend if they still would like the ice cream, rather than just assuming that they'll still eat it. I include several examples of this kind of situation, gradually building up the stakes, until reaching the point of someone breaking a living arrangement promise because they assumed you would be okay with it, leaving you nowhere to go.

Upon editing this chapter, I asked myself, "Do I really need to include the ice cream example?" It just seemed so small to bother mentioning. Would the section be better if I only mentioned the examples with higher stakes?

Then I realized something - I understood why I needed the ice cream example. I needed to start small because everything starts small. Consent, validation, respect for people's differences and choices - they all start on small-scale situations.

I've spent a lot of my life rationalizing staying friends with people who were not validating, did not respect my choices, and who pressured me to do things I did not want to do. I sometimes used the rationalization that, "This is a small thing, I don't know that this person would behave this way with something more important." In other words, that if I was upset because someone kept pushing me to try a food that I didn't want, I would tell myself that maybe they only acted that way because the food seemed like no big deal to them, that this behavior was not indicative of how they would treat me if something came up that was really a problem.

But it was. It absolutely was. I know that now. From all my observations and interactions with people who are validating and invalidating, I know this very clearly: the people who couldn't accept that I didn't want to go to their house after school or share lockers or get my driver's license as soon as I turned 16 also could not accept how bad my college experience was, or how I've reacted to my latest breakup. The people who do validate those things pretty much validate everything I tell them and don't push me to do anything that I don't want to do, even small-scale things like sharing lockers or trying a food I don't want.

When I learned to be validating, the magnitude of situations did not matter. There was never a difference between saying, "It's perfectly fine if you want to quit your job," and "It's perfectly fine if you don't want broccoli," There were times in my life when I was not very validating about anything, but I cannot ever remember a time when I would have validated one of these things but not the other.

The smaller situations have always mattered to me a lot anyway, but I realize now that they really do say a lot about how someone will behave in higher-stakes situations. If someone keeps insisting that I try a food I don't want, I can't trust that person to accept bigger things in my life like wanting to quit college. I've learned to watch for that now. I need to be able to trust someone on those smaller things. That's how I'll know if I can trust them on anything.

And that's why the ice cream example is necessary to the book. Because everything starts small. Someone who has an instinct to say, "Are you still okay with this flavor?" is more likely to ask, "Are you okay with a change in our living plans?" than someone who tends to assume that everyone is okay with everything.  The example of changing apartment plans when you had promised your friend you would live together will not apply to all of my readers. Some readers will be too young to have experienced this issue. Some readers will be past the point in their life where this situation would come up. When a situation is far from anything you've done, it can be difficult to relate it back to your own life. But the ice cream example, everyone can relate to. Almost everyone experiences situations like that. The concept of asking your friend if they still want a different flavor of ice cream is something that young children can understand. The ice cream example is essential because that's where validation starts. If you respect people's choices in small situations, you're more likely to respect their choices in bigger situations. Everything starts small.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Yeah...

If all you people who insist on hurting me could Google the term "misophonia," that'd be greeeeaaaaattttt....

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I'm Home!!!

Hello!

So, you may be wondering why all the cryptic "This is what I'm gonna do sometime later" posts. Well, for the last 17 days, I was on vacation in India!!! I didn't want to mention this earlier because I didn't want to reveal that no one would be home in my apartment for all that time. It was a great trip, but I'm also happy to be home.

I got home last night, slept, and woke up this morning. I have work today, but I woke up before I have to leave for work.

I really, really missed my friends and want to call everyone right away, but I'm also too tired to talk, and I think everyone else is asleep right now. (I have to keep reminding myself what time it is and what people would normally be doing at that time, because my internal schedule is still a little bit off).

In the next couple of weeks, including this upcoming weekend, I only want to do extremely low-key visits with people that don't involve big crowded places or events, or having to talk to people I don't know.

The weekend of December 12th, there is a wedding in my family and a lot of huge parties that will last the whole weekend. It's way too soon for me to do something like that again, so I'm going to rest up in anticipation for it.

My sleep schedule seems to be reasonably back on track with our time zone, but it will take a few days for me to tell. The reason I'm mentioning this is that I *might* be in a situation where by 5 or 6 (or even 4) PM, I'm too exhausted to hang out with anyone, but I should have a better idea of that in the next few days. Last night I went to sleep at 6:00 PM and woke up this morning at 4:45 AM, so I'm not ridiculously far off, and I don't normally need 10 hours of sleep every night. (The last time I took a trip like this, I went to bed at 9:00 AM the first day, so I was really thrown off for a long time. I doubt I'll have as many problems this time).

I loved all the Indian foods I got to eat! But I did eat a lot of greasy foods while I was gone, and a lot of the foods that I liked gave me an upset stomach. My stomach is still a bit upset, so I want to try to stick to very simple, healthy foods for a little while and avoid things that are greasy or that might upset my stomach. I'll still be ready for all the treats at Christmas time, but I want to take a little break from that right now, especially since I know I'll want to eat lots of treats at the wedding.

I got Christmas surprises for my friends from India! I think my friends are going to be very happy!

I will share my pictures as soon as I can. We used my dad's digital camera for the trip, and he doesn't know how to link it directly to the computer (I don't either), and the last time we tried, it was a disaster and we almost lost a bunch of the pictures. So I have to wait until my dad takes the camera to the store to get physical copies for him and my mom, and a disc for me, which I'll load and share. I'm not planning to post all the pictures on Facebook, but I can either show them to friends in person or share them on google drive. I decided not to use my cell phone as a camera because I didn't want to risk it getting lost or stolen. If I had a phone signal, I would have kept it with me like I always do and sent some pictures to my friends right when I took them, but without being able to use the phone, the internet, or send pics to people right away, it didn't seem worth the risk of having it with me all the time just to use as a camera.

As for the blog, I'm probably going to have some posts about the trip, and some posts not about the trip. I've never liked doing travel blogging, but this trip was different because I met with family and got to see things that I wouldn't normally see when I'm only visiting the big tourist areas, so I may have some posts about the trip. Right now, I mostly have non-trip stuff that I've meaning to blog on my mind, so I'll probably focus on that first. I'm not sure yet. I'll decide based on what's at the forefront of my mind.