Phenomenology — I Agree But I Don’t by Erin King

 

This semester, I’m enrolled in Intermedia — a class cross-listed with the music school, intended for interdisciplinary, multi-sensory collaborative art experiences. One of our reading assignments for discussion this week was “The Reorganization of the Sensory World”, by Thomas Porcello, Louise Meintjes, Ana Maria Ochoa and David W. Samuels. The article talks about a new approach in the field of anthropology in which the senses are not spoken about in isolation from each other, but as a collective “sensorium” of simultaneous responses to stimuli.

One colleague’s response to the assigned readings categorized this article as rooted in phenomenology, to which another colleague expressed confusion in grasping the concept of “phenomenology”. As a result, the class watched “The Muppets Explain Phenomenology”, which you must read the subtitles if you want to actually “get” the title.

I’ve written down a slightly paraphrased version of the subtitles here:

Our sense take in phenomena all around us — constantly, continuously — it’s part of being alive (human existentialism). As phenomena arises, we try to make sense of it using language and abstract thought. We think we understand it, but we don’t.
Every single thought that you’ve ever had is just your brain trying to make sense out of the chaos of the universe. We try to make sense of the phenomena around us even though it’s unknowable chaos.
So if you feel you don’t understand what life’s about or what life has planned, remember that’s the only honest way to live: Confused.
Phenomena — it’s everywhere; unknowable, always arising…don’t try to understand it because you can’t.
So if you feel lost and can’t make sense of phenomena, of life — of your life — That’s life! It’s just random phenomena — always rising, always changing, unknowable, chaotic… Don’t try to understand life; just accept life as it is.

Now, I love this video, and I’m glad someone took the time to juxtapose this explanation with Mana-mana, because it makes that sketch so meta. And I can sort of get on board with phenomenology’s explanation of our search for making sense of things. I think it explains the general confusion I receive about my artwork, and explains the process of refining my art project. I hear philosophical undertones that align with John Cage’s own philosophy on life, chance, reality, nature, theatre and poetics.

Where I take issue with phenomenology (or at least the above summarization of phenomenology) is it’s pessimistic view of the act of seeking meaning. Rather than concluding “life’s just random, so don’t try to understand it” — which sounds like an absolute, definitive conclusion — I feel like the real argument should be “don’t look for an absolute or definitive answer”. I would argue that we should open our idea of “seeking answers” or “searching for meaning” to alter the definition of “meaning” to include “some revelation or lesson the individual gleans from the phenomenon”. Sometimes, the purpose is the act of seeking itself — that we care enough to want to know, process and understand phenomena, and make connections between seemingly disparate data. That is how we learn, adjust, and evolve.

I would like to conclude by including a quotation from the Indigo Girls’ song, Closer to Fine, as I believe these lyrics reflect my own experience in seeking meaning:

We go to the doctor, we go to the mountains/ we look to the children, we drink from the fountain/ Yeah we go to the Bible, we go through the workout/we read up on revival, we stand up for the lookout.
There’s more than one answer to these questions/ pointing me in a crooked line/ and the less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine.

Artwork and Healing: Owning Your Story and Giving Yourself (and Your Subconscious) Credit by Erin King

In my experience pursuing my Masters in Fine Arts, also known as “academia”, I (as well as my peers) have interpreted messaging from conversations, studio visits, lectures, and critiques to be anti-intuition, anti-personal, anti-happy accident… Well, at first reception of that messaging, anyway. There is a dance that I’ve recognized my peers and I do in response to faculty critique:

  1. We make something we believe in or are passionate about or has personal meaning for us.
  2. We speak about that thing only from what we, the artist, gains from the making of that piece, or speak about it in very closed terms.
  3. We feel interrogated or antagonized about this thing we felt strongly about. We retreat to “safer grounds” — play, process, materiality, political response pieces — things that require less resolution and less personal investment in the outcome.
  4. We get “interrogated” again — about our word choices.

We’re never told to not make any of these pieces, or that none of them are good or interesting. We’re told to choose better wording that lines up more with what we’re making in the work.

Except — that messaging is in the spaces in between — the silences, the replaying of critiques and studio visits, the reading over notes taken during these conversations, the critical thinking, the moving forward.

There’s a running joke in conversations with art peers leading into a critique — that if anyone asks whether something was intentional, you say yes. Even if it was a random mistake or happy accident — if they ask about it, you own it. I’ve never been great in doing this because in my mind, that is a lie, and I tend to be honest and transparent to a fault. But I think I’ve learned a lot more in that honesty. (Of course, sometimes these revelations don’t occur to me for 6 months to 2 years later, but I eventually get what the professors were trying to say.)

Nathan Boyer, in the first mid-term critique in my time at Mizzou, stated something that has stuck with me for the duration of my studies in the MFA program. During a peer’s critique, the question of why a certain mark or action or material came up in the work over and over was asked. The peer said they were utilizing chance and play in the work. In response, Boyer replied something to this effect: the first time you get a result, it’s chance. The second time you do something and it happens again — it’s no longer chance because the result becomes predictable and anticipated.

In the pain and personal trauma that critique can feel like, we don’t always hear what is actually being said. We are only hearing the words being said, and are already feeling on the defensive. We hear the above response as “play (or chance) is bad.” Or, “personal meaning is bad/uninteresting.”

Over time, I’ve concluded that what we’re really being taught in the subtext and silence is marketing, and standing by your product. We’re being taught to give ourselves, the artist, more credit. If a process always involves a form of deconstruction, or the use of found objects, that must be important. It’s our job to sit and analyze these commonalities between seemingly disparate works and recognize what our subconscious is trying to communicate.

We are not being told that the personal experience, intuition, or play has no place in the Art World or academia — no matter how much it may sound like it at the time. Rather, we are to identify broader ideas and themes that are “universal” experiences. (There’s not a true universal, but there are themes that accompany the human experience.) This isn’t because that’s what defines good art; it’s about mass appeal and marketability to survive in a consumerist culture that wants to acquire things. It’s about living in a society where people want to see themselves represented in things.

But it’s also about empowerment of the artist. It’s about giving us the power to communicate unquestionably what our philosophy, experiences, perspectives, and perceptions are so there is no confusion in the art critic and art historical debates down the road. We don’t need a Clement Greenberg or a Lucy Lippard to get people to buy into our ideals or create our “brand” for us. We control the messages we put out into the world about our work, so we might as well make sure we know what our artwork is really saying — because if we don’t. than anyone can misuse our artwork for their own purposes.

In other words, we’re being taught to own our stories.

I have been focusing a lot on healing for most of my adult life. It probably started the semester I studied abroad in Thailand as a third-wheel with my now-married friends. This insatiable need for healing was unidentifiable for a very long time — in part because I was a workaholic and an overachiever, and filled every waking moment so I wouldn’t be alone with my thoughts. The other reason was because I didn’t have the words beyond “single” and “isolated”. Even before I started identifying my experiences as trauma, or my physiological symptoms as PTSD, anxiety, and depression; even before I sought counseling — I knew the pain of isolation; of being accepted, but not belonging; of being liked, but not known or heard.

My journey of finding resolution in my artistic practices coincided almost perfectly with my own journey in addressing my fears of isolation; loss; being unloved; being seen as a fraud, unintelligent, or unstable; being unable to be self-sufficient; and being alone with myself. In my research, I discovered that many of these issues were correctly associated from the primary traumatic event I experienced at age 6, but it was also in part in the inherited traumas that were passed down from my parents and grandparents through epigenetics.

I can’t say I was all that surprised by these findings because I had pretty much reached that conclusion on my own by the time I sought my first counselor in August of 2014. When I moved to Columbia, MO, in March 2013, I spent a lot of that winter and early spring alone in my sublet, staying up late into the night working on my microcosm artworks (circle pen & ink drawings over gouache backgrounds) and would spend that time identifying how I had gotten to where I was. I always believed that since I could name the root causes, I didn’t need counseling.

When I first started to talk with my parents about the possibility that I was depressed, I was warned against taking medication just because a doctor prescribed it. When I finally did come to terms with my depression and decided I’d seek counseling, my mom finally opened up about her own experiences with depression. She mentioned that she didn’t want to take antidepressants because she was afraid it would take away her creativity. While watching Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix stand-up special, “Nannette”, this sentiment came back.

Gadsby recalled a particular show after which she had been approached by an audience member about her use of medication for depression. He claimed that if Van Gogh hadn’t suffered, we wouldn’t have had The Sunflowers. Gadsby, as an art historian, went on to educate that man in Van Gogh’s biography — that he actually had medicated his illness, and in fact, his use of color in some of his most innovative paintings could be credited to his medication.

At the conclusion of Gadsby’s heartfelt stand-up routine-turned-testimonial, she declared she was going to own her story, but also admitted she wasn’t strong enough to carry her story alone anymore. Gadsby asked the audience, “Do you want to know why we have The Sunflowers? It’s not because Van Gogh suffered. It’s because Vincent Van Gogh had a brother who loved him. Through all the pain, he had a tether — a connection to the world. And that is the focus of the story we need. Connection.

So, in my project, my research, and my personal healing, I’m shifting from shame and not “boring people with my personal story”, and am deciding to own my story. Because, as Gadsby said: “I don’t want to unite you with laughter or anger — I just needed my story heard, my story felt, my story understood by individuals with minds of their own. Because, like it or not, your story is my story, and my story is your story.

Still Learning from Mr. Rogers All These Years by Erin King

On Sunday, July 8th, 2018, I had the pleasure of seeing the Mr. Rogers documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

I am not so deluded or so vain to place myself in the same class as Mr. Rogers, but much of what he said in segments of this documentary (and what others touched on), resonated with me.

Like Mr. Rogers, I had/have a lot of anger and was raised in a family that did not talk about ways of letting out this anger, so I turned to music to help me express the emotions that I was repressing. Like Mr. Rogers, I know what it’s like to play alone with your stuffed animals and find ways to entertain yourself because I was isolated from other children.

I too considered attending seminary, but ultimately decided that whatever I studied would still be rooted in and an expression of my own perceptions on spirituality and faith. Much of what I’m drawn to in the Bible are the moments of paradox: Ecclesiastes, the Beattitudes, expectations of the Messiah vs. reality in Jesus, David vs. Goliath, etc. The earliest spiritual element in my artwork explored ways of having materials present the interdependence between weakness and strength.

Recently, I have also been reading Brene Brown’s “Braving the Wilderness”, in which Brown mentions our understanding of belonging and when we confuse fitting in for belonging. She quotes Maya Angelou as she speaks to her understanding of true belonging existing only when you belong to yourself — not to a place or a tribe.

Brown mentions multiple times that Carl Jung held paradox as one of our greatest spiritual gifts, which I completely agree with. But this is different from binary oppositions. The dichotomy of absolutes are considered as opposing forces, set up as either/or, right/wrong. The truth that I am discovering about the spiritual gift of paradox, however, is that it’s not in the mastering of the quality which is deemed to be “good”, but recognizing that reality exists somewhere in between those two poles. What is spiritual is finding the happy medium where both qualities are held in balance — where they coexist simultaneously.

This is, above all else, the most prominent aspect of my art-making; whether I change the material I work with, the formal presentation, the aesthetic, or the words that I use to talk about the meaning of my work, this tendency toward breaking down these false dichotomies is constant.

As I’ve written about in other entries, my work involves a lot of materials, processes, and a combination of subconscious decision-making and logic-based systems that I’m inventing. It is very complex when I describe what my end goal for my project will be, and yet the actual message I am communicating to the audience is very simple, if they take the time to see and perceive, to hear and understand.

In one of the more moving scenes in “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, Fred Rogers’ sons read a letter he wrote to himself expressing his impostor syndrome and self-doubt. He was always concerned about whether his project was actually accomplishing the work he set out to do. Fred’s wife added that he confided that he wondered if people got that he wasn’t just some weird guy that lived in a poorly decorated housed with tacky curtains and puppets — that his purpose was something else.

Mr. Rogers was detail-oriented, meticulously planning everything that would be in the episode. Nothing was unnecessary or filler. Rogers treated silence the same way — silence was used purposefully; there was no dead space.

This is where I most identify with Mr. Rogers. I feel my artwork is a part of my spiritual awakening and part of my calling. I feel called to speak to the importance of coexisting in community. I’m drawn to music as a vehicle to help communicate the message. I get a lot of feedback that makes me feel like people are missing the message in my work. But maybe that is because I’m communicating better to people’s emotions and their subconscious. Maybe they are getting the message, but similar to my own struggle to find the words, maybe they find themselves unable to express what my work says to them.

I also recognize that my work probably won’t be fully understood until it is seen and experienced in it’s final presentation. So as for now, I’m focusing on belonging to myself and keeping my blinders up while I complete the work at hand.

“You are only free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” — Maya Angelou

The Surrealist Narcoleptic by Erin King

I struggle in talking about my artwork — except not really. Obviously, my work makes sense to me at this stage; I have a fairly solid picture in mind of what my project is. But to some, because my work isn’t 100% logical or systematic— it seems like I’m confused.

I’m not confused. I know the overall idea I want to communicate to the viewer, but I want to keep open to the work evolving with the research. I described this in my last blog entry using the metaphor of a lump of clay on a pottery wheel. I feel the lump of clay is finally centered on the wheel, and as the project moves forward, it’s necessary to start removing the excess clay to form the work. My process of art-making is a journey. These days, it’s growing to be more of a pilgrimage of sorts. In its most closed sense, it’s a journey of me understanding who I am — unpacking my mental health and neurological conditions as well as my affinity for music and art, and my experience as an empath.

That’s not to say that my work is only about my relationship with the artwork, or my lived experience; rather, I want to recognize the importance of both empirical knowledge and research as well as the perspective/life experience/philosophy of the artist to make the work more accessible to the viewer.

When I first began my graduate studies, I said I wanted to make my artwork about mental illness. I crocheted synapses. Some people really liked them, but they were caricatures of a synapse — a kitschy fetish object.

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My kitschy crocheted synapses. Also know as something I can make and sell when I get out of the program.

In all of the twists and turns of my studies, alongside my pursuit to be finally diagnosed with narcolepsy, things have begun to make more sense — but my research has once again circled back to neurology. I laugh because I remember in an earlier studio visit, a faculty member said, “You don’t want to have to be an expert in neuroscience to make your work…”

In the year following my official diagnosis of narcolepsy, reading about neuroscience has been my side project. During this timeline, I have also: seen a counselor, gotten back on anxiety medicine, (turns out the stimulants I take for narcolepsy heightened my anxiety), started taking my sleep hygiene more seriously, and began seeing a chiropractor in place of seeing primary physicians, Urgent Care facilities, and the ER for my breathing trouble and chest pain. As my spine became more aligned, my insomnia subsided and my mind began making fast connections and clearer decisions in my project.

I have always believed in an interconnectedness among all creation — a symbiosis between all living things — but learning the importance of the alignment of your spinal column on your nervous system and adrenal functions has opened my eyes to how complex yet simple our nervous system is. My work is a result of a symbiosis between repetition, paradox, and abstraction. In this entry, I speak about the role of repetition in my life and in my art.

Repetition

In the midst of these behavior shifts, I began to understand why I’ve struggled to apply words to what my work is, why I choose a particular material, or why I make a mark.

As someone with narcolepsy, I don’t experience enough REM cycles when I sleep, so I am always sleep-deprived. Affects of narcolepsy manifest in symptoms including excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep attacks, micro sleeps, automatic behavior, hallucinations, lucid dreaming, and sleep paralysis. Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that my micro sleeps and automatic behavior may explain some of my inability to explain decisions I make in my work as I believe during these times, my subconscious takes over in decision-making. During micro sleeps and automatic behavior, your brain goes to sleep, but you continue doing things that you were doing. These typically occur during repetitive tasks, which I use a lot in my work.

Oddly enough, just as repetitive tasks can cause my brain to go on autopilot, they also help me to hyper-fixate and keep awake in situations where I might otherwise have a sleep attack. It’s a strange paradox, much like how I have to take a stimulant to help me wake up in the morning, but drinking caffeinated beverages can either cause me to have palpitations or make me (or keep me) sleepy.

Formally speaking, repetition in my artwork builds structures, systems, and rhythm. I have never been great at remaining consistent in repeated tasks, and one look at my drawings (which I’m making to translate data into a musical composition) will confirm this.

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Example of variations out of necessity. 

Example of variations out of necessity. 

These variations and deviations from steps in this process are evidence of my problem-solving to make the process more efficient, but also make it easier for me to translate the data to the next chart.

Repetition is at the basis of meditation, exercise, and behavior modification. Repetition has the ability to build and strengthen, but also to injure and wear away. Variation can also reduce the number of times in which I enter into automatic behavior, as well as indicate when I have entered into automatic behavior. Repetition is at the heart of mastering any skill, but if you fail to practice the way you should perform, repetition can set you up to under-perform. Like all things in life, the above qualities of repetition present paradoxes. But they are not either/or dichotomies, but rather, they are two sides of the same coin because those outcomes are always possible and present simultaneously.

In my next post, I will delve deeper into paradox’s role in my work, and paradox’s spiritual nature.

I Need to Carry a Voice Recorder by Erin King

Forgive the confusing, vague title. I’m still trying to figure out where I’m going with this entry.

It’s not that I don’t know what I want to write; it’s just that while I was weeding and harvesting in my garden earlier today, my internal monologue started drafting 5 different entries. Now, to me, they’re all interconnected and woven together — because that is how I perceive EVERYTHING. Unfortunately, not everyone can see the connections between things if there isn’t a clear “thesis”, call to action, or linear narrative present. Which makes my feeling motivated to sharing my writing non-existent.

There are many, many, MANY times that I have come to the conclusion that I need to start recording my conversations when I’m trying to explain my research or my artwork to my mom over the phone, or when I’m getting on a soapbox rant while I’m running with my running partner. Or when I’m venting my frustration with my friends in the grad cohort and they assure me that there is a researchable and valid argument to which I’m just scratching the surface. I can explain to any number of people what my thoughts are on almost anything these days, except for when I’m asked specifics in relation to my artwork, specifically by art department faculty or in critique.

There are becoming more and more instances where I need to be recording my internal monologue, which means I would have to be that person walking around talking to their self out loud. (I’m already known for doing that at work or when I’m in a store shopping, almost always when I need to remember something.) Stubbornly, I push back that I would never listen to the recordings (because I hate the sound of my speaking voice). Also, I can’t get the visual of Dr. Zimsky from “The Core” constantly recording himself out of my head.

But you and I both know that I would probably make this whole “writing my thesis” thing and “navigating conversations about my work with faculty and peers” thing less painful if I would record myself.

Which brings me to…

Self-Destructive Tendencies

Throughout the duration of my second year in my graduate school experiment, I’ve found ways to say yes to myself more often, and have gotten the closest I ever have to making sense in my MFA project. But that was the result of a lot of push and pull, and some backsliding. Picture a potter trying to center a lump of clay on a pottery wheel before building a vessel. I’m a very wobbly, stubborn lump of clay.

A Recap

As I had briefly written about in my Medium entry, Let’s Felt Hands in a Mirror Maze in the Mountains…, I had felt more confident in my work than I had in a long time upon my return from Arrowmont School of Art and Craft. I had recently started a job at a church as a Finance Assistant for the summer, and it was keeping me from being able to put in regular hours at the art studio during the summer. But with my new-found love for experimental frame-loom weaving, I made a goal to make a weaving a week, and I lost myself in it.

It was the third frame weaving that really got me excited. There was something about it that communicated something to me that for lack of a better word, I called “musical".

Around the same time, my second reader for my thesis committee, Chris, was trying to coordinate meetings with all of the students whose committees he served on before he left town for the summer. During this meeting, I was so excited and filled with energy — a sight that was rare near the end of my first year of grad school — and he fed off of this.

I talked about my experience at Arrowmont, and how excited I was about the weavings I was creating, and had mentioned that this weaving made me think of music. He confirmed that he also saw that too, and we started trying to unpack what I could do with that. He mentioned that I should try to develop a system for interpreting the elements I was using into a musical arrangement. I grew a little silent.

When I spoke again, I mentioned that I had almost majored in undergrad in music, but was so worried about the music theory and my not-so-great reading skills of rhythm, and so I majored in art instead. I also mentioned that I’d thought about bringing music into my work, but was afraid I couldn’t defend it or do it well enough. I felt afraid that if I changed my direction again that my committee would give up on me because of all of the many ideas I had flitted from in my first year. (My counselor would later tell me that this wasn’t so much inability to focus, but hyper-vigilance and my need to please everyone.)

That was when my second committee member gave me the best set of advice: If something is worth-while and you love it enough, it should make you want to work harder at the thing you’re not good at — not run away from it. Better yet, he gave me permission to follow that instinct that I originally had buried out of fear. As a people-pleaser, the best thing someone can do for me is give me permission to follow my instincts.

Following that studio visit, I traveled to St. Louis and met up with the now-retired music composition professor from my alma mater, Webster University. Bob and I go way back. He used to play organ and accompany the choir at my church. He let me borrow his typewriter for one of my art projects freshman year, and he used to tell me stories about participating in some Happenings in St. Louis. During our visit, we discussed ways one might go about translating each of my weavings into different songs. He also told me about World Make Music Day, and Pianos for People. This led me to emailing someone at Pianos for People and coordinating the possibility for me to acquire two dead pianos. (That’s a story for another day.)

I didn’t get permission from anyone, or tell my committee members — I just went for it. I was on a track that would take my art all over the place again, but this time, I was sort of refreshing myself on the basics of music theory and rhythm. I was reading up on the development of modern-day music notation and mass production, and I was finding similar issues in translation that the early music printers faced. But I had a box to work from, so to speak.

Obstacles

I was being more true to who I was, and was more confident than I’ve been in a long time. I had a goal of where I was going, and just needed to figure out how to get there. I was starting to be okay being me. And that’s when I found new ways to undermine my success.

What I mean is the first year, I was so fixated on “winning” critiques (sounding smart), coming up with something clever, or preaching through my artwork to address social justice issues that I just couldn’t sustain a large, overarching project. Now, I think about that version of me, and I think it was “Advertising Major Erin”. Advertising Major Erin was always focused on making something funny or clever, but they were one-off ideas that didn’t tie into any overarching campaign. Which is frustrating, because Advertising Major Erin also hated brands by how hard they tried to be funny or clever (cough cough Geico), and couldn’t keep one consistent campaign going. Hi Kettle, you’re black.

Anyway, most of those “failures” I had was a combination of my insecurities and self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, I was afraid I couldn’t keep up with the amount of reading, but set myself for continual failure because I didn’t go through with meeting with the Disability Services office. Or, I was afraid I wasn’t intelligent enough to be in the graduate program, so my anxiety and incessant need for people to like me caused me to continually shift my focus. I was making a lot of stuff, but not finishing anything.

So, for the beginning of year two in graduate school, I went against my better judgment and entered a relationship at the worst possible time. Without going to far into any of that, there were millions of red flags, and I always found ways to justify or explain them away. But the guy made jokes about my pursuing an MFA in Art, I let my passion for my studio practice and research slide, and my confidence in myself imploded. Having the energy to always give him allowance for his point of view or his glaringly different (or downright troubling) opinions on things going on in the world wore me down. I was trying to carry him in the midst of his grief, since he couldn’t recognize he needed to see a counselor or therapist, but I was also filling my time so I couldn’t be alone with the questions about my artwork. I was so afraid of failing in this new direction of my artwork that I entered into a relationship where I could retreat from my fear of failure, thus allowing me to underperform in my studio work that semester.

By the time I realized that I needed to end that relationship, I had exactly one and a half weeks until my second-year review, and while I didn’t twiddle my thumbs making nothing the whole semester, I hadn’t made nearly the progress neither my committee nor I had hoped for. But in those one and a half weeks, (with some direction from my committee), I buckled down and cranked out my strongest pieces, (one being my mentor Pazia’s favorite).

Wrap It Up

I can tell I’m meandering, and jumping through lots of changing timelines, so I’ll wrap it up.

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s “Braving the Wilderness” and it echoes so much I already know from my own experience about wanting to belong, and about the political divide in society right now. I can tell her writing is going to somehow work into my thesis.

In my recent reading, she’s been talking a lot about in order to really belong, you must first belong to yourself. Belonging to yourself means staying true to who you are, to your core values, and not compromising yourself or those values to avoid conflict or for people to like you better.

As I look back, I realize I probably owe my career to not belonging. First as a child, then as a teenager, I found my primary coping mechanism for not belonging in studying people. I was a seeker of pattern and connection. I knew if I could recognize patterns in people’s behaviors and connect those patterns to what people were feeling and doing, I could find my way. I used my pattern recognition skills to anticipate what people wanted, what they thought, or what they were doing. I learned how to say the right thing or show up in the right way. I became an expert fitter-in, a chameleon. And a very lonely stranger to myself.

I nodded so much when I read this. I’m pretty sure I took a picture of that page and captioned it on Facebook, “Stop writing about me, Brene Brown…”

I’ve also recently started rewatching “The Office (US)” on Netflix. One of my favorite characters when I first watched it was Andy. I only vaguely remembered he had some anger issues. But after he moved to Scranton following the merger, I got very tired of him, very fast. Andy has gone most of his life as a “yes man”; a chameleon. It’s a good way for people to first like you, but people can see through the inauthenticity really fast.

I used to be like Andy — not completely, but enough. As I’ve gotten older, moved farther away from family, and lived very different experiences than the rest of my family, I’ve developed very defined opinions and points of view. Being more liberal when most of your family tends to be conservative is just one more way of feeling isolated and alone. But, I also feel more loved and like I belong more because I’m becoming more true to myself.

Will I start recording my thoughts and conversations? Well, yes and no. I don’t know that I’ll ever record them via voice recorder, but I am going to try to develop a habit of writing blog entries so that my thoughts are already written, and searchable for when I have to get my thesis written. Stay tuned.