Friday, May 27, 2016

Thin Skin

I know it's a good thing in the grander scheme of things to be sensitive, but it frustrates me sometimes. I feel stupid for getting emotional about such random things that other people just plow though as a normal activity, a passing comment, or a brief phase. What really bugs me is the strange, heightened, inexplicable emotions I get from traveling. I guess I take a lot longer to adapt to transitions than most people. Even transitions I want to make or trips I want to take can leave me emotional for the first day. The worst part is I don't know why I'm emotional or how to explain what I'm feeling.

And it makes me fear that I won't be able to do many of the things I dream of in life because it's just too hard to make those transitions and deal with that emotion all the time. I don't think I can live much farther than a couple hours from home, which will limit my job options, and I am afraid to travel and I don't think I can pursue music as a career (which I know is a long-shot anyways, but I have thought about it some because I'd love to share my music with more people to encourage them, but I just don't think I could deal with the constant change and bustle).

Yesterday, I went to hear graduate student thesis presentations at a grad program I am applying to. I don't know why, but it ended up being a very emotional day. I guess part of it was the anxiety and stress and lack of sleep, but part of it was just being, well, me. I traveled, which can make me emotional because I'm no longer in my known place of comfort. I saw a beautiful place, which inspires me. I saw a wonderful opportunity that I could possibly have, which awakened within me longing. I saw an attractive, intelligent, quirky, but inaccessible man, which also awakened within me longing and frustration with my own shortcomings.

I also began to compare myself to others and focus on needing to get ahead, achieve, accomplish, but was only reminded of my own shortcomings and anxiety about being able to make my way in the world. So I felt this turmoil of a multitude of feelings. It's overwhelming. And I felt angry at myself for getting so many feelings just from one little day trip. And I felt discouraged...how can I do anything if one little trip away from home gets me so agitated?

But I need to step back and have perspective: life is about giving to the world, fulfilling your own potential, and loving the people around you. Am I accomplishing all three to the best of my ability right now? Yes, I would say so. I may not know how to conquer the grand path or forge a great career in the vast expanse of my Future, so I just need to hack away the branches hanging in the path just before me. I know what I need to do in the next year: apply for this grad program, finish my classes, complete my internships, pursue my hobbies, graduate. I have a pretty good idea of how to execute all of those things. So I need to stop freaking out about the future ahead! Those things will become clear in their own time.

And regarding grad school, I am pursuing that path because it opened up to me. The road cleared and I saw an opening. So I just need to walk down that path as far as it takes me, and trust that if it is open, it's because I can do it. I can't worry right now about "what will I do in grad school, how will I complete that" because I need to finish my undergrad first. I need to work on just applying. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other. When you get close enough to the next goal you need to score (or at least attempt to score) the view will come into focus. You won't do yourself any good trying to turn toilet paper tubes into telescopes so you can get a good view. Meanwhile, you might trip over something right in front of you and fall flat on your face.

Wow, that felt very comforting to realize!

Anyways, I started reading Elaine Aron's The Highly Sensitive Person recently to get a better understanding of this significant personality trait of mine, especially since I've been feeling so inferior about it sometimes lately. I found out about the book while reading Quiet by Susan Cain, which is about introversion, which was also a very encouraging book to read. It's nice to know you're not alone, some emotional freak, and it's nice to get affirmation that your trait can be a positive thing. I hear people put others down, especially on the Internet, for being "so sensitive"..."Don't take it so personally. Don't be so sensitive about it. People are taking this wayyy too seriously" sort of thing. I saw it a lot when I followed The Mighty, ironically. It broke my heart sometimes because I know that people going through difficult things like chronic and mental illness often feel emotional and sensitive; any little thing can set you off because you're always in an emotional state on the brink of a breakdown; whatever little thing comes along could push you spiraling into another breakdown. So it's not fair to get on these people's cases for being "too sensitive".

I guess my own sensitivity makes me aware of the need to respect others' right to be sensitive though. And I'm starting to realize that the world could use more sensitivity to others' feelings and needs, but because the culture at large says having a thick skin and loud voice is better, I end up questioning and devaluing myself. The truth is though, that I have produced great art because of my sensitivity, and I have been a comfort to people because of it. As a result of my heightened emotional state yesterday, I wrote two songs, which were the first I've completed in over a year. So even if those actions aren't news headliners or resume padders, they are crucial to make the world more livable, more beautiful. It's time I accepted, embraced, appreciated my sensitivity, regardless of what some (insensitive) people may say.

I'm a fragile thing
Handle with care
I've got a thin skin
And it's a sharp world out there
I don't know if I can make it on this road
All alone, all alone
Out in the great unknown

(one of the aforementioned song's chorus)

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