turning 30 was highly anticipated and greatly welcomed. i spent the night before playing music up in nevada city, spent the morning of eating good food with joel, and spent the evening at my dear friend ryan’s cottage with a small group of some of my closest friends. we ate, we drank, we laughed, i sang (I SANG!) and we danced. i love having my birthday in january: it’s a way to re-affirm a new beginning for the new year. someone once helped me describe my struggle with my late-20s as my “chrysalis”. turning 30 felt like i was finally beginning to emerge.
Coming Out of the Introvert Closet
until 2012, i struggled with an inability to fully explain myself when measured against the expectations of my close, more extroverted friends. i felt misunderstood when my need for alone time was mistaken for a desire for distance, and then felt guilty for taking time for myself when I needed it, despite friends feeling vulnerable in the relationship. it didn’t help that i couldn’t explain myself: i didn’t know why i needed time alone, i just did. i’ve been this way since i was a kid and always wished i wasn’t.
this feeling was exacerbated when i started a new job, where i had to meet new people and introduce and represent myself to a whole new world. i worried about repeating past mistakes, about sending mixed messages and sacrificing boundaries i needed because i worried about making other people feel bad. what if i cracked jokes and told stories and sent the message that i was an extrovert, only to then need time alone — skip happy hour in favor of a good book and an empty room — and make people think i was in some way personally rejecting them? the anxiety kept me up some nights.
after a particularly tough day, my boyfriend Joel sent me an email. in it he explained that these difficult situations are key to my personal growth, and that no matter how outside the “norm” i might ever feel, people still need what i have to offer. “you should take solace in who you are when your self-awareness turns to over self-consciousness and doubts seep in,” he wrote. “it’s also what makes you the rigorous, thoughtful, and caring person you are.” in the email, he included a TED talk by author Susan Cain called The Power of Introverts where she discusses that in an extroverted world, people often lose sight of the importance of introverts, including introverts themselves. they are made to feel they should be one way, instead of being the way that they actually are. both introverts and extroverts have something to offer, she argued; both are needed to balance the world.
the talk inspired me to read Cain’s book, Quiet. some passages taught me new things, while others had me nodding and smiling like a lunatic on the bus ride home. the need to take some time off from others i loved despite loving them so? i wasn’t alone. feeling guilty about it? i wasn’t alone. having people misread your introversion and take it personally? i wasn’t alone! i was so moved by the book that i took to Twitter and posted a snapshot of a particularly close-to-home passage from a chapter dedicated to the common miscommunications that exist in extrovert/introvert relationships.
much to my surprise, Susan Cain herself responded.
her book has helped me understand myself and better explain myself to other people; to set the boundaries i need to not feel over-stimulated, and the right expectations with others so they never feel i’m pulling away from them when that’s not my intention. i only wish i had learned all of this sooner. (like, way way sooner). but i am so appreciative to have found Susan Cain and her book at all, and that i got the opportunity to thank her “in person”.
if you’re an introvert, love an introvert, teach, parent or live with an introvert, i highly recommend reading it.
Playing Music Again
after an exceedingly long (too long) hiatus, 2012 brought music back into my life. i wrote two new songs, performed across northern california with my good friend Sean and his band Professor Burns and the Lilac Field, and contributed to his first full-length album, Ghosts be Free (including this little gem). just by being back on stage or back in the studio, i met new people to play with, listen to, discuss art with, and collaborate with. i learned that saying “yes” to something that scared me (yes to playing music again after such a long time) was just what i needed to remind me that this is something i love doing.
Becoming an Auntie
i have a photo album on my iphone dedicated to baby liam (current photo count: 207). my desktop background on my work cellphone? personal cellphone? home computer? work computer? all baby liam. i skype with my brother just to watch baby liam eat pureed sweet potatoes.
becoming an aunt has changed me. as much as i have ever thought i loved in this life, liam has taught me a whole knew kind of love. the kind of love that moves you to tears at the sight of a photograph; the kind of love that swells your heart at the sound of a giggle; the kind of love that thinks you’re the cutest little man ever, even when you’ve pooped your pants.
i am so grateful to him for introducing me to this feeling, and i can’t wait to get to know him better as he continues to grow.
Mourning the Loss of Betty
after 10 years of missing her beloved husband, this year, my 97 year old grandmother finally returned to him.
my gran taught me two important things in life:
(1) when you are young and hate having your photo taken, when you are young and think you are not beautiful, when you are young and don’t know any better, you miss seeing how truly beautiful you are. then, when you grow up and become old with your face covered in wrinkles, you will wish you had those pictures of yourself in your youth, your happiness shining through those smiles. always appreciate this time and who you are. always.
(2) don’t give a man what he wants right away and he’ll love you for it. naturally the male friends i’ve told this to told me i was crazy; but it worked out pretty well for my grandmother. she only said yes to my grandfather’s proposal on his third try, and they were married for over fifty years.
god bless, betty. love you forever.
this year i traveled to massachusetts for the first time. touring the small town where joel grew up and spending more time with his family put someone i love in an even greater context. i was told repeatedly by his family how lucky i am, i got to hear his grandmother’s entire medical history (and about the neighbor girl who “goes to school with the asians”) and i got his grandfather to sing to me instead of tell me one of this [in]famous jokes. i got to see all the brick of boston, share a drink or two with old friends, and see pictures of joel from the giant baby head days to the awkward teen years. as so much of america’s history begins in boston, so too does the history of joel, and i loved playing the historian.
Ending the Camping Hiatus
what i expected versus what i got
after a notoriously terrible first and only camping experience at the age of 13 (8 miles uphill carrying a guitar and a backpack that had no padded straps) i famously and firmly gave up camping forever.
but oh: the things we do for love.
17 years later, i agreed to go with joel and some of his friends to yosemite for joel’s birthday. when i realized what i’d signed up for, i made note to tell him that i was looking forward to the spa weekend getaway that i was going to drag him to for my birthday.
“if that’s what you want to do and you want me to be there, i’ll do it,” he concedes. “but wouldn’t you rather go with someone who actually likes that kind of thing?”
i say nothing, only stare.
“ah, okay” he says after a while, “i see what you did there.”
Surviving Another Movember
you’re welcome, testicles.
it felt like everyone left san francisco in 2012. this place hasn’t been the same without them.
my dear friend brian moved to oregon to live with his girlfriend. just when we had become vital to each other’s survival in this town (possibly life?), we went from bi/monthly cocktails at the local watering hole to toasting to each other over skype. but if there’s anything two introverts are good at, it’s remaining close despite the distance.
it was strange enough adjusting to life without sharing an apartment with my sister (for over 10 years!), but even stranger still to see her leave this city. she’s in seattle now and living with her boyfriend. while i miss having someone i love so much be so close by, i am so happy for her on this next leg of life’s journey.
a table usually surrounded by my family and any friend needing a place to celebrate christmas, this year was reduced to four place settings for my parents, myself and joel, two weeks early.
i spent my first christmas away from my family, and it was much harder than i had anticipated. you realize all of these things you do on christmas that you never before realized were traditions: the christmas crackers, the paper crowns, the cheese plates with grapes, the never-empty glasses of wine–even that god-damned flaming turd of a christmas pudding (sorry, Ma).
it was an honor to be invited to sit at the christmas table with joel and his family; but it was different and change always requires adjustments. but these experiences teach you what traditions mean the most to you–that you want to continue when you get around to starting your own family.