15 Days, Day 7

This is part of a writing exercise dictated by this list. It may benefit you to read it if you seek to know me (or merely someone) better; it may benefit me in the selfsame way. And if knowledge of others is your goal, seek out Anna, whose list prompted mine, and Kimi, whom Anna credits for said list.

Day 7
What character traits do you admire most about your parents?

I’m not positive whether my mother knew how ironic her question was when she nonchalantly inquired on our way home from church Sunday whether I had abandoned the fifteen day thing. I told her no, I’d just been busy; it was suspended, not cancelled, and I planned to get around to it. What I didn’t tell her (and wasn’t sure if she knew, had checked the list to see) was that the next day on the list was meant to be in part a praise of her, and she was indirectly asking me to get on with it already.

I give my parents quite a bit of grief, to be sure, both overtly and unintentionally. Always in my subconscious is the title of a subpar Matthew McConaughey rom-com called “Failure to Launch,” a fitting descriptor of me, their eldest son, who squandered his money and spent the last 11 months living in his parents’ basement, unemployed in every sense of the word, his prospects of every parent’s dreams for their child — success, progress, marriage — dwindling in the rearview mirror.

Of course all that looks ripe to change next week, but even if it didn’t I’d have much to be thankful for in my parents.

Mom,
I’ll start with you because you wanted me to, and though it’s not a character trait I’m incredibly thankful (as all writers might be) that even if no one else follows what I have to say here, you are my constant reader. I still have hanging on my (soon to be not my) bedroom wall the frame within which I arrayed the dozen or so notes you wrote for me to find before, after, or during school, or on trips, adorned with smiley faces and the word “love” to remind me that, no matter what sort of child I was, you cared about me.

You put up with so much crap all the time, and your ability to push through that, to never give up, to always bounce back, is something to which I must always aspire but never hope to attain. I’d have exploded, stormed out, quit halfway through most of the challenges you deal with daily. Certainly I’d have given up on church, on what would to me have become a facade. But you persevere, and you’re the greatest example I have of what that word means. Every Sunday you’re in the pew, hands uplifted, reaching out to God for the strength and peace and joy you need. Your dedication never ceases to inspire me.

You work more or less full time, a thing which you never fail to remind us of (well, me, anyway, usually when I ask once more what’s for dinner), but you’re not doing it for selfish reasons. You aren’t going out on shopping sprees and spending your evenings at restaurants with your friends; all that money is going towards making sure Joshua and Rachel have the gift that I’ve never properly appreciated: a mouth full of teeth that look like teeth and not brambles. Your sacrifice for your family is overt and obvious, and even if I fail to show it I’m grateful for what you do and who you are.

You are always there when I (or, really, anyone) need someone to talk to, always trying to help in whatever way you can. You have a servant’s heart through-and-through. You are easy to relate to. You always endeavor to understand. You apologize more often than you’re wrong, and you do all things with love. Thank you.

Dad,
I’ve tried for a long time to come up with a proper metaphor for our relationship, for it ebbs and flows between high-tension explosions and docile, friendly familiarity. Often we erratically jump between the two, fighting and then going out to eat and watching a movie and then fighting again. We clash for many reasons, but they are all part of one thing: I am your son, and as that woman said, you’ll never be able to deny paternity.

I envy your industriousness. Your commitment to work once you’re involved is truly inspiring, and I get to see the strains you don’t let other people see when the job — be it secular or church-driven — becomes truly stressful, and how you deal with them. You aren’t one to throw in the towel or throw your hands up in surrender. You see problems and you find their solution, even if it takes hours, days, or weeks to figure them out. Whenever anyone has a problem, they come to you — and although I know you’d like a break every once in a while, you never turn people away. How many times have I seen you sweating over someone else’s car or computer, sometimes late into the night? I’ve lost count. What I haven’t lost is the general unwavering image: a man devoted to the job, seeing it through, and proud to see it finished well.

You are always on top of the latest technologies, which isn’t itself a bragging point but points to something else, something greater: your ability to adapt and learn quickly. The reason you remain at your job while other, younger people disappear is because those people know things primarily because they’re immersed in them; you know them because you take the initiative to learn them and learn them well. Whenever I need a glimpse of the future, what I’ll need to do to prepare for it, what choices I ought to make, I need only ask you, because you’re on the bleeding edge and see the tissue of the world before we cut through it.

It’s not just the future, though, because when I look into every big moment in my past, you are there, and that’s not something every son can say. Moreover, your presence in my life is a comfort rather than a bane. Where we’ve clashed, it’s mostly because you’ve pressed me to be better than I am — to work, to learn, to be a person who won’t settle for mediocrity but actually wants to improve for improvement’s sake. You still want me to do great things, to be someone who makes a mark on the world, and wherever you find a way to help me get there, you take it. Thank you.

Mom, Dad,
I know there are a lot of shadows in our past, a lot of scars which hurt when we look at them. But at the end of the day I’m still proud to have you as my parents, still proud to be your son. I don’t say “I love you” often enough, but perhaps, soon, my life will say that for me, a living testimony to the fact that you did not fail to raise your son; that, after a few malfunctions here and there, we have “go” for launch. Mission accomplished. Over and out.

Love, Adam

 

15 Days, Day 6

This is part of a writing exercise dictated by this list. It may benefit you to read it if you seek to know me (or merely someone) better; it may benefit me in the selfsame way. And if knowledge of others is your goal, seek out Anna, whose list prompted mine, and Kimi, whom Anna credits for said list.

Day 6
What is your Myers Briggs personality?

Late in high school or early in college (the time already begins to blur), I took a Facebook app-driven survey which ultimately decided that I was an INTJ. A few years later I was prompted to take a different survey (neither, mind you, is the official test) which tagged me as an ENTP.

I think both tests were right.

First, the obvious overlaps. I’ll quote from here for characteristics.

N. iNtuitive.
-Mentally live in the future, attending to future possibilities.
-Using imagination and creating/inventing new possibilities is automatic-instinctual
-Memory recall emphasizes patterns, contexts, and connections
-Best improvise from theoretical understanding
-Comfortable with ambiguous, fuzzy data and with guessing its meaning.

I have always been, and continue to be, a very strong N. In fact, the Facebook version of the test provided one of those bar graphs where you can see the degree to which you ranked one way or the other, and the divide between N and S was greater than with any other ranking. Creativity, trend-sensing, and theory are my forte; common sense and detailed histories, my bane.

T. Thinking.
-Instinctively search for facts and logic in a decision situation.
-Naturally notices tasks and work to be accomplished.
-Easily able to provide an objective and critical analysis.
-Accept conflict as a natural, normal part of relationships with people.

The extremity to which I continue to achieve T’s suggests I’m completely devoid of Feeling. In truth, my alignment has swayed a bit over time. To the extent I struggle with selfishness, I tend to miss out on people’s emotional needs; at the same time, I have an innate ability to read many people like an open book. But I learned a long time ago that, in conflict resolution, emotions are difficult to handle and impossible to argue against. Though guilty at times of becoming too impassioned, my passion is always for strict adherence to logic and fact, and that’s where I win my T, for better or worse.

I/E. Introverted/Extroverted.
I -Think/reflect first, then Act.
I -Motivated internally; mind is sometimes so active it is “closed” to outside world.
I -Prefer one-to-one communication and relationships
E -Feel deprived when cut off from interaction with the outside world.
E -Usually open to and motivated by outside world of people and things.

I’m a living contradiction, and the fact that I undulate around the I/E divide with almost no give underscores that truth. As I said for Day 5, I am a bit two-faced: outgoing, loud, and desperate for human activity and other people to keep me going; ridiculously full of thought (though not always thoughtful), with only a few close (but highly-valued) friendships and a tendency to not quite fit in socially. Perhaps it’s most accurate to say that I am an Introvert trying with mitigated success to be an Extrovert.

J/P. Judging/Perceiving.
J -Plan many of the details in advance before moving into action.
J -Focus on task-related action; complete meaningful segments before moving on.
P -Like to multitask, have variety, mix work and play.
P -Naturally tolerant of time pressure; work best close to the deadlines.

If we were on the phone discussing our plans for the following day’s outing, you would inevitably hear me ask “what are we going to do?” or “where are we going to go?” But if you asked me for a preference, I’d (likely this would annoy you) say “I’m good with whatever.” And that’s how I am: I’m good with doing just about anything, but I like to have some idea of what it is before we start. I tend more towards J than P, but my penchant for procrastinating and a tendency to do whatever comes up (a holdover from my desire to be with people) ensure I’m never a full Judge.

Ultimately, Myers Briggs fails to truly capture who I am in 4 letters. But six…six might suffice.
Consider me an iNtuitively Thinking Extroverted Introvert; a Perceptive Judge.

15 Days, Day 5

This is part of a writing exercise dictated by this list. It may benefit you to read it if you seek to know me (or merely someone) better; it may benefit me in the selfsame way. And if knowledge of others is your goal, seek out Anna, whose list prompted mine, and Kimi, whom Anna credits for said list.

Day 5
What sort of person attracts you?

An odd way to put it. I’d have asked “what sort of person are you attracted to;” then my English major compadres would have scolded me for the preposition, and we’d be needlessly off-topic already. Oh wait.

There are two ways for me to answer this. The first, more obvious, is tinged with romance, and though it stretches beyond “what’s your type?” it can’t help being bogged down with the awkwardness of answering that question. Nevertheless this is an exercise in honesty, not in cowardice, so I’ll do my best.

But first there is the other way, an inquiry of sheer magnetism: when I look around me, is there a common thread uniting my inner circles? For the most part, there are two threads, circles in a Venn Diagram which so overlap that one might not notice the exclusions: intelligence and faith.

Doubtless this is what led me to a Christian college, for there (glaring exceptions notwithstanding) the majority of people possess both qualities; they are smart waxing wise, inquisitive, open to pondering “big questions,” and all of these things under an umbrella assumption that the God of the Bible is real and that He became incarnate in Jesus as the conduit of redemption for the human race.

I have had some decently close friends who are atheists and agnostics. I have also been close with, not idiots, but people for whom good grades come hard (if at all) and the fields of philosophy and theology are prohibitively complex. But all of my “true” friends — that is, the ones who know my deepest secrets and fears and hopes — are bright believers.

One interesting point: as much of a role as gaming has had in my life (and though many of my close friends love gaming) I am not, precisely, drawn to gamers. The gamers in my life who do not fit into either of the other categories (particularly those who are not Christian) possess various other qualities which have drawn me towards them, but never has the shared experience of loving games actually proven enough to form the basis of true friendship with me.

Ahem.

I have never had a girlfriend. I’ve been on exactly “one date” and that didn’t really count since it was a date based on company rather than mutual attraction, had neither anticipation nor promise of a sequel, and was a mostly unmitigated disaster insofar as my “good date” gestures go (I still shiver a bit at the thought of all the things I did wrong).

I have been “in love,” or as close as one can get without reciprocity, three times, with two close-but-not-quite-there runner-ups. And when I survey those five, I see no particularly obvious similarities beyond the professing of faith. So let’s start there: for attraction beyond the basic and animalistic, a girl needs to love Jesus.

I firmly believe in the principle of “equal yoking,” but a lot of people seem to misinterpret what that actually means. Really, it’s no more complicated than the image of a yoke suggests: two creatures united under one burden. If one is dramatically weaker, or pulling in a different direction, or covered in fleas, it will inevitably hinder the progress of both. If every single girl is a prospective partner, then I’m looking for one who is headed the same way, doesn’t conflict with who I am, and balances out my shortcomings while benefiting from my strengths.

Granted, who I am is malleable, and some parts of my life can (should?) and will go as I become a better person. But anyone who requires me to change major parts of my life right off the bat isn’t going to be wringing any heavy-hearted poetry from me. Assuming we agree on the Christ thing (same direction and all that), she’s got to also love stories. Now that could be books, movies, plays, games (all of the above? JACKPOT!), I don’t really care which; the key is imagination. I’ve spent my life wrapped up in creativity and I don’t plan to stop just because “the missus” wants me to pull my head out of the clouds and concentrate on things that “actually matter.”

I don’t claim to deserve immaturity, but being young at heart? That’s a birthright. A girl who doesn’t read or game or watch movies that don’t suck is a girl I’ll never get; more importantly, she’ll never get me.

Personality-wise, I’m a bit of a Janus. I’m either loud and outgoing (and extremely opinionated) or quiet, introspective, and brooding. The latter tends to come out around my closest friends and, inevitably, would be seen by a wife. I’m thus attracted to a girl who makes me quieter when I’d otherwise make a fool of myself but keeps me optimistic when the raven starts croaking “nevermore.” Typically this means free-spirited; strong-willed.

Quite bluntly, if she can’t keep up with me and put me in my place, it’s not going to go well for either of us. I’ll come off the bully, she subservient, and we’ll both grow to despise one another before long. She doesn’t need to be as smart as I am but what she lacks in intelligence she’ll make up for with wisdom and clarity, an example of the humility I so desperately lack.

Really, it comes back to the yoke. Each time I’m drawn in it’s by a girl who I’m trying to picture as a partner: not one to dominate and drag or be dragged and dominated by, but equals; not mirrors of one another, but fitting puzzle pieces.

I could rattle off a list of specs, hair colors and body types, nationalities and ages, but I won’t. Because I recognize that all the typecasting in the world won’t matter when I find the North to my South and, like magnets, we are pulled irresistibly and inseparably together.

15 Days, Day 4

This is part of a writing exercise dictated by this list. It may benefit you to read it if you seek to know me (or merely someone) better; it may benefit me in the selfsame way. And if knowledge of others is your goal, seek out Anna, whose list prompted mine, and Kimi, whom Anna credits for said list.

Day 4
One passion in your life?

Quite a ways into writing this, I suddenly decided I really love autumn, and that I would finish my brief thoughts and go ahead and write about that. I liked what I’d written, and thought maybe others would too (since, after all, if you’re reading this it’s because you want insight into who I am) so I’d post it below my thoughts on autumn, and that’d be that. But then, as I continued to work out my thoughts on passion and its role in my life, I realized that what I was writing was more important than any pontifications about cool air and colored leaves and pumpkin pie could be. So a passion in my life is New England autumn. The rest follows:

Part of the reason that I had to call it (temporary) quits on this 15-day task was a seeming inability to respond to this question. As one who tends to be over-passionate in all things, nailing down a specific passion has proved fairly difficult for me. I feel a bit like a fruit-of-the-month club member who’s trying to answer the question in a more precise way than “fruit;” or at least figure out how to talk about “fruit” in an interesting and unique way. (No, I’m not passionate about fruit).

At any given time, my passion may be gaming, or cinema, or theatre, or photography, or writing, or vampires (no, but seriously), or politics, or…well, you get the point. And I don’t mean to list hobbies, or general areas of interest; I go through seasons of extraordinary obsession, ravaging the flavor of the month in a way that cannot possibly interest most people. For example, I went through a pretty strong Kingdom Hearts phase a few months back, which led to buying a game, reading about lore, catching up on news, following a half-dozen tumblogs, changing my twitter avatar, etc. In the moment, I was frighteningly fanboyish about it.

And then one day, all of a sudden, it was something else, and I unfollowed the blogs and changed my picture and stopped playing the game halfway through. It was as simple as that. The passion which had driven me for three or four weeks just up and vanished. But it’ll be back, I’m sure, because this is the fourth (or was it fifth?) time that that passion has taken me by storm.

There are few constants (true constants) in my life which can be talked about in a non-abstract way. I’ve pretty much been a writer since I was 9 years old, but I don’t get off on sentence diagrams or crave sonnets or revel in bookstores and cafes quite as much as I’ve always felt I was supposed to. In fact, I’ve spent precious little time in libraries since junior high, and am only now (in post-graduation haze) rediscovering a love for what got me writing in the first place.

Alternatively there’s the Jesus route, but while I’ve been quite a theologian for the past few years my actual faith and knowledge of scripture has floundered (again, things are changing). I don’t have a there-and-back testimony; there’s no before and after. I’ve called myself a Christian ever since I had self-awareness (or at least ever since Mr. Sauder handed me a New Testament and told me that going up to the altar every single time there was a call for rededication was just plain unnecessary), and though there have been crises of faithfulness there has never been a true crisis of faith. God has not so much saved me as He is saving me, and though sometimes I forget to tremble with fear I am still working out my salvation.

Here’s the thing: I’m bad at my passions. I love Christ but go long stretches without serious prayer or devotional. I love gaming but haven’t gamed in weeks. I love writing but struggle with actually, well, writing. I love theatre but I have no plans on seeing a play anytime soon. If this 15 Day Challenge is useful, perhaps it’s because of epiphanies like this: seeing that I don’t embrace life (or facets of it) with the fervor that I ought to, that others do. I have impetus to change, to define myself more fully, to be a more consistent and faithful believer, writer, gamer, photographer, human being.

So that’s not bad at all, is it?