Where I See Purple, You See Blue

Perception is a funny thing. It varies so much that it is possible no one ever views anything exactly the same way as anyone else. Where one person sees a cloud in the shape of a sailboat, another might see it in the shape of a puppy or a flower. Two people from two different cultures can look at the exact same color and where one will see purple, the other will see blue. What’s right for one can be wrong for another, and what’s tasty to you may be unsatisfying for me. Perception is born out of the accumulation of experience, and since even twin siblings can encounter different challenges from the moment they are born I hope it is safe to say that that no two perceptions are alike.

This includes our perceptions of other people.

You are walking down a busy city street. Car horns are blaring as soon as lights turn green and citizens bustle around you hurriedly trying to make it to their meetings and lunch dates. The air smells of car fumes and the occasional tree sits up against the edge of the sidewalk to add some color to the grey urban scheme. Every piece of the scenery, every person around you, it has a purpose that you unconsciously take in as you stay true to your long strides toward your destination. But then you pass a man. He sits alone on the sidewalk, his dark eyes weary from a long life and his back pressed against the brick wall of the apartment complex behind him. A gray, scraggly beard falls from his chin, and his clothes are torn and old. Beside him is a tin can, filled with a couple dollars and a few quarters from passerby. He says nothing, and is too tired to raise his eyes and look at the countless people who stroll by without paying him mind.

In the split second it takes you to decide whether or not to add to the collection in the tin can, you will have already made a hundred perceptions about this man. Is he poor? Homeless? Lazy? Unlucky? A drug addict? An alcoholic? Disabled? All of the above? Or none? What is his age? Is the money for himself or someone else? Is he going to use it for food? Surely he could find a job, can’t he? The list goes on and on, and all of the questions are answered in the blink of an eye. Your conclusion drawn from these questions is what will make you decide whether or not to give this man money, and you answer all of them without even asking his name. That is how the human mind works. It is amazing and terrifying, the things we can assume about other people in the time it takes to snap our fingers. Not only that, every conclusion that you make before you either keep walking or drop a dollar is the result of past experience. Every person’s answer to these questions will be different because no two people are the same. Some will give money, but many also won’t, and the reasons they have for doing one or the other will all slightly differ from each other.

To get my point across, this was a more extreme example of the powers of perception. Even more incredible than this though is your perceptions of yourself and how they can differ from others. No on knows you better than you, right? Maybe, but maybe not. In the past where I have seen myself as being helpful, others have seen me as a brown-nose. In the present where I see myself as being selfish, other people furrow their brows and ask me what on Earth I’m talking about. You can spend your whole like identifying yourself one way, and then in that split second someone else can shatter those perceptions. Or something else can happen, they can become even stronger than they were before. That’s the thing about perceptions:  they are stubborn and ours have to be the right ones. I’m pretty? Yeah, okay, no one ever said that until I lost weight. I’m talented? Sure, because this one drawing out of 50 turned out decent. I’m smart? Right, ask my brothers that and they will tell you a different story. I am the daughter of Aristotle and Plato. I like facts, and the facts say that I am not as pretty as her, or as talented as them, or as smart as him. You could be the smartest, most beautiful, and most talented person that God ever had the joy of creating, but if you don’t believe it yourself then it isn’t really true, is it?

I’m not writing this for sympathy. I don’t want replies that say, “But you ARE beautiful and talented and blah blah blah.” They only thing that will get is a polite “thank you” while I go on and continue to see myself my way. No, I’m writing this because even though I don’t think I am the smartest, the most beautiful, or the most talented, I still like myself. I didn’t always, but I learned to, and when I learned to I started to like others as well and I started to see more beauty in the world around me. Perceptions of your world start with your perceptions of you, and you can’t love others until you learn to love yourself.

So where you see a crier, I see sensitivity. Where you see a weak girl, I see a strong woman. Where you see purple, I see blue.

When I say “Introvert,” you say?

I am and always will be the optimist, the hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams.  – The 11th Doctor

It is safe to say at this point that I am not quite as quiet as I used to be. In fact I have outgrown my shyness and have found that I love talking, even if it is about nothing in particular. That being said, I can still guarantee that by comparison I am a quieter person than many of the people you may know. That is something that is never going to change, but I don’t mind it. While some people may view being introverted as a negative I have learned to use it to my advantage. I have become very skilled at listening, learning, and thinking through problems. I know a lot more about the world around me than people probably realize I do, and when my mind is not distracted with other things it is one of the greatest tools that I have at my disposal.

When my mind is not distracted. In case you missed it, those were the key words. Why am I so quiet, some people wonder? Because my mind is constantly in overdrive. I often get so distracted by my own thoughts and ridiculous daydreams that I miss important plot points in movies, have to reread a page in a book two or three times, or even mentally check out in the middle of a friend talking and then feel like an awful person when they look to me for an answer to the question they just asked. It is something that I have gotten a little better at controlling over the years, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t slip up every now and again. I still remember back to when I started college and focusing in class was the most difficult thing for me to master. In high school it didn’t take much effort to do well, but after moving on to advance my education I learned very quickly that my old habits would have to become just that, old habits. It was time for new ones.

Retraining your mind is not an easy thing to do, in case you were wondering. If my professors managed to say one word that reminded me of something else (be it an inside joke with a friend or a quote from a tv show) my attention would be diverted for the next ten minutes. Next thing you knew, I was missing important information. With time and effort I eventually managed to calm my overactive brain so I could focus when it counted, and let run it wild in my downtime.

Up until this point I might have made this sound like a curse, but I can honestly say that I love my imagination. While it is annoying when it interrupts me during important parts of the day, it keeps me entertained. I have joked with my friends about how with my mind I am never bored, but I still don’t think anyone actually understands just how active the mind of an introvert is unless they can experience it for themselves. The best way I can think to explain it is that it is like having 10 different tabs open in your web browser at once:  one on Facebook (duh), three videos (one music video by your favorite band, an instrumental music video to make you feel cultured, and one showcasing the best moments from Scrubs, all playing at the same time), a picture of a Chimera (because why not?), a picture of a kitten (look at that little face and it’s playing with a ball of string and its wittle paws and ahhh it’s so cute I want to die!!!1!one!!1!), a forum thread about the best powers to have if you were a super hero (or villain, let’s not discriminate), a recipe (probably involving a lot of sugar), an educated and well-informed science article that ponders the mysteries of the universe (or possibly food…), and IMDB to look up everything about the movie you’ve been waiting to see (aka the third Hobbit movie). Yes, at peak moments that is my brain in a nutshell. Are you still wondering why I don’t talk so much?

In all of this mayhem, there are also the moments of extreme and beautiful clarity. When I can really focus all of my thoughts into something meaningful, that is when I find amazing things happen. That is when I can draw, or take pictures, or come to my own conclusions about the purpose of life and what I want out of it. In these moments I can even still let my thoughts run free, but in a more directed path that paints a canvas full of wild fantasies and dreams. Many of these dreams are never going to come true – I am never going to be standing center stage on Broadway belting out an incredible solo – but even knowing that, there is something comforting in the fantasies.

Maybe it is time to revisit the idea of it being a curse as well. Having an overactive imagination is often wonderful, but sometimes detrimental. Much of my anxiety comes from my own mind. Everything can be perfectly fine, but with just the right amount of stress and just the right destructive thought, my world crashes down around me in an explosion of negativity. Because my mind never stops, one negative thought feeds the next until I feel like I am being suffocated. It often results in the illogical feeling of paranoia. I will begin to question and make unfounded assumptions about my friendships, my choices, and my life thus far until time or someone pulls me out of that panic. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and for having fun high moments I guess it is only fitting to be plagued with intense low moments as well.

Why is it that I’m telling you all of this? There was a reason behind me going off on this personal tangent. In fact my reason behind this post is generally the same reason I had for starting this blog. Through experience I have learned the true meaning of an introvert, and I have also learned that introverts are misunderstood and often viewed in a negative light when held next to societal standards. Being quiet is supposedly unattractive. We are supposed to be vivacious, outgoing, leaders! We have to be assertive and take charge! And that is fine, for many people. What is forgotten though is that us introverts are your thinkers. We are your inventors and your artists and your writers. Don’t get me wrong, extraverts are just as amazing, just as intelligent, and just as important. No society could function properly without a healthy helping of both! But introverts are left off to the side and forgotten about. We are the ones who sit in the classroom and get looks from classmates who wonder why we are so “weird” and “quiet.” This short delve into my mind was to (hopefully) humanize me and everyone else who has ever been misunderstood because they don’t talk as much. Yes I am quiet, but I am also real. I have feelings, I have thoughts, I have opinions. I laugh, I cry, I empathize, I love, all more fiercely than you could imagine. Because of my nature I’m not so likely to walk up to a stranger and say hi, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to. Try making friends with the quiet one next time, it could change your perspective and your life in more ways than you realize.