The Prolific Writer Type

It didn’t take me long to learn that there are many types of writers. The prolific, the not-so-prolific, those that are good at beginning things, good at ending things, good at short stories, good at long stories, those that write all the time, those that struggle to feel motivated to write hardly at all. The list continues.

I am one of the prolific writers. Perhaps infuriatingly prolific writers. Who churns out pages and pages of content seemingly without significant obstruction.

Because, quite frankly, I am obsessed with it. Not that other writers aren’t obsessed. Writing is hard. We all have to be obsessed with it at least a little to make it a part of our lives.

For me, if I do not write almost constantly, I get heartsick. I tense up, I get restless and unstable and lose my ability to concentrate on anything else. The longer I put it off in favor of homework or other obligations, the worse it gets.

Usually, I take an afternoon/evening Friday sabbath and an all-day Saturday sabbath each week. Friday is to do whatever the heck I want to do as far as wandering around outside, going out to have coffee with friends, watching movies, that sort of stuff. Saturday is writing day. A time to satiate this fundamental, burning need. I’ll spend all day writing, editing, storyplanning (and drawing, because when I say “writing,” storytelling may be a little more accurate).

If you want a better chance of getting me out and about, talk to me on Friday.

Because Saturday is writing day.

Saturday is writing day.

But when my schedule does not permit this? I hate it, for one. Absolutely despise it. It’s cruel and unfair and I cannot get myself to accept such a state. If anything, other things adjust to make room so that writing may remain constant. Other needs suffer in the long run, not writing.

Because there is always a point where it will not be denied anymore. It just takes over.

Like clockwork, this day ends up being Sunday, when I actually need to be working on all the homework I’ve been neglecting. But I can’t do anything until the weight is off my shoulders, out of my lungs, my heart, my brain. I am literally tied up until I have devoted at least a good 2 to 3 hours to some form of storytelling. (Usually through writing/doodling) But even then it’s not enough. Sure, it’s enough to put it off for a little bit, but I can still feel the need, slowly welling back up, constricting my throat, cutting off my ability to think or look at anything as more than a waste of time and energy–even when I value those other pursuits.

(In fact, this blog post is probably a prime example of the manifestation of this writing need taking over when I should be devoting my attention elsewhere, even after I spent a good two hours writing this afternoon.)

I am very seldom at a point where I can purely focus on homework. When I have nothing else needing to be drawn or written. I do homework to get it done. Sometimes I enjoy it. And I hope I learn as much as possible from it. But when it starts obstructing my ability to write, by either sucking up too much time or too much energy, it has severely overstepped its boundaries and needs to learn its place or I will kill it. (I’m at that point right now, actually.)

If anybody has ever envied my writer type, know that it’s a stressful existence. There are few other desires. All time is time to write. That is all I ever want to be doing. It interferes with schoolwork, with taking in new stories through reading/watching things, it dictates my social energy levels and interest. It’s a factor in pretty much everything I do. I cannot relax unless I have time to write. I write because I can’t not.

I can’t function without it. It is breathing. If anything interferes, it is suffocating, draining, panic-inducing.

Perhaps this is why I’m trying to make telling stories–writing, drawing–my career. So I can sustain myself financially the same way I sustain myself emotionally and psychologically.

And 8 weeks remain of my undergraduate degree. 8 busy, writing-choking weeks.

So far, the prevailing phrases in my vernacular are “I can’t be bothered to [fill in the blank].” and “I quit.”

I guess we’ll see what happens. Graduation is going to have to take place at the end of this semester–I will literally not stay here any longer than I have to.

Because I have stuff to write, dangit.

Prioritizing, writing, and biology stockroom surprises

Just rolling by to assure everyone I’m still doing this blogging thing. Even though my posts have dwindled to bi-weekly and consist more of life updates than philosophical musings or cultural commentary. (It will come back sometimes, I swear.)

Life’s just busy. I’m adjusting. I’ve regained some sanity, so far.

And for some reason, my entire evening opened up last night to work on my art school application, so thank you, God. I hope to get it finished within the next couple of weeks. Then it will be completely off my plate and I will be free to not worry about it anymore.

Trying to get over myself is working, maybe. I keep having to remind myself that when I don’t have time on one day, chances are I’ll have time on another day. And if I don’t have much time, I can make time. Anything I can neglect a little in the next week or so will not jeopardize my chances of graduating. I’ve pulled some mediocre exam scores so far, but I don’t care enough and they’re decent, so I’m moving on. I still don’t like prioritizing, but I’m coming to accept it.

It’s probably for the best.

My written endeavors are not suffering too much, though I haven’t really been able to spend whole afternoons writing. Most nights, I write a little before bed, which enables me to whittle away at things and keep that necessity consistent even when my classes get demanding.

I’ve come to find out this week that if I just sit down and bust things out, stuff gets done way faster than when I mill around whining about everything I have to do. (Wow.) So I’ve been trying to do that.

My advanced human anatomy class has been dissecting cadavers the last three weeks. I’ll probably comment on that in more detail sometime later. It’s been interesting. Yesterday during my biology stockroom shift I picked up a supposedly clean bucket left out to dry, and I got an unexpected sickly sweet whiff of preservatives. Cadaver preservatives. It gave me lab flashbacks. Anime style, probably.

Thus concludes a poorly-organized life update. Moral of the story is I’m still going and things are generally going well. I would like to extend a thank you to my friends and family for being so supportive. You make me feel like a cool person and pet me empathetically (or set me straight) when I don’t. Your love, words, time, and encouragement mean the world to me.

Coping with Transition

I am on the line between seasons again. And, as I’ve come to find out, struggling hard during these transition periods is a bit of a trend for me.

Right now, I just want to go, but my classes are determined to hold me here, demanding far too much work, threatening to sabotage my ability to apply to art school, to further my creative pursuits, to possess any sort of joy in my current efforts. I’m having to devote a troubling percentage of time and attention to a waning season. I worry that this percentage is at the expense of the season to come.

I write lists to keep my head clear. Last week, writing my list for the next day sparked an emotional breakdown.

I drag myself out of bed in the dark, trying to convince myself that skipping early morning class is a bad idea.

As I receive two additional assignments in class, panic rises in my throat.

I trudge back up the stairs to my house in the rain, exhausted, shoulders forward, gaze distant.

I think about the weekend and I want to cry again. What weekend? What rest? What respite?

I sit closed off in my room, trying to rise enough above the anger, depression, and stress to work on the elicitors of these emotions. Because I need to study. I need to sleep. But I also need to prepare.

I sleep, but I’m tired. I feel like I’m barely treading water, legs cramping, lungs burning. I begin each day with low energy, and I end it even lower. Breakdown low. I-can’t-handle-anything low. How am I to prepare when dealing with the daily routine of classes and work take almost everything out of me?

Trudging to and from, feeling stepped on, dragged around. Am I just supposed to take it?

I oscillate between brief sparks of “Bring it on.” and much longer fits of “I hate everything.” It’s hard to cram pages of human anatomy in my head when I hate everything.

I don’t want to be optimistic.

I’ve fallen so many times. I don’t want to give up. Due to some inner compulsion, I can’t stop completely. I feel like I can’t do this, but I have to. Because I’m so close. There is no other option this close to the end.

So I have no choice but to pick myself up. As if on strings, dragging myself up from the ground, from the depths of utter desperation. I stop sobbing. I stand up and creep to the mirror. I look at my damp, red eyes, and the futile fatigue in my face. I go to sleep. I start again.

I don’t want to be optimistic. I don’t want to lie to myself. I don’t want to pretend everything’s fine, like I don’t feel trapped, cornered, dominated. I want to be honest with myself and this pain.

But this is not who I want to be—angry, thwarted, pessimistic, so stressed and emotionally unstable that I only want to skip beyond the next three months of my life. What do I do then? Plaster a smile on my face and blatantly lie to myself while my heart fractures under the surface? Let the darkness take hold and drag me down to become something I never wanted to be?

I can’t pretend this doesn’t exist. I can’t run from this if I don’t want to drown.

I’m not necessarily afraid that I will not be able to pull it off. More, I am afraid that I will manage to do what is required of me, but that something much more important will be lost to compensate. That things I need at the forefront will inevitably fall through the cracks. That something will break again.

I avoid conflict, but in matters of my own life and wellbeing, I can be stubborn. Incredibly stubborn. To the point where studying even 2 hours for advanced human anatomy feels like giving in. Listening to an arrogant opponent laugh and taunt me, its foot pressing down across my neck. But I have to submit anyway, however livid, because I am proud and I want good marks. I refuse to let this semester take me over, but my weaknesses are being exploited and I haven’t been handling that well.

Perhaps this is training for reality. Life isn’t fair. I can’t expect it to do what I want, but somehow I expect it anyway. And I’m angry and hurt and disappointed when I can’t control anything or have my way.

I thought I fully dealt with that life lesson in gradeschool…but I guess not.

Over the last two weeks—in which I neglected to post a blog update because it would be pure rant (this is only partial rant)—I have decided that it’s ok if I break down. It’s ok if most days are hard and I just hate everything. The only thing that matters is that I maintain the ability to pick myself back up when it’s over, to take more care to recognize instances—however fleeting on some days—when I am happy despite everything looming over my head. To pay attention when I’m doing ok. Appreciate the fact that I’m still going. Still trying.

Also, it would probably be good to get over myself a little bit.

(Or a lot).

Biological Honesty

I was at home having great time talking with my dad and younger sister around the kitchen table when suddenly, the symptoms of “day one” hit me.

And I tried to act like it didn’t feel like someone had started scraping out my abdominal cavity with a serrated spoon. (Which didn’t really work.)

Being female really sucks sometimes, and on day one, I tend to feel like we female body types received the rougher biological allotment. Not that males don’t have it rough in other respects. But menstrual cramps, man. I’ve once heard it described as giving birth to the lining of one of your internal organs, which I feel is accurate. I try to pretend I’m all intense, bleeding and hurting and whatnot and being like, “Psh, this is normal.”

But on day one, when the cramps are worst and ibuprofen-resistant, I just kind of mill around dead-eyed and think, “Why?” Heaven forbid it happens on a demanding day—which, sometimes, it does. And that’s the worst.

So yesterday, I put off going back to school longer than expected because I didn’t want to drive 45 minutes with the distraction of my internal organs creaking and groaning like wood about to crack in two.

My little sister suggested a heat pack, so I planted myself in the living room with said device across my middle. It felt good. My dad was also in the room. A part of me thought I should remove myself from his presence or continue to pretend I wasn’t hurting. Because who wants to face blatant signs of everything menstruation means?

But the thing is, he knows what it is, and he doesn’t seem too worried about the nature of this weirdly taboo subject. American society talks about sex all the time, why should menstrual cramps be something to be ashamed of and tough out in silence? I mean, I wasn’t whining excessively about it. I was sitting quietly on the couch with a heat pack, typing away on my laptop. I was dealing with it. This was normal.

In high school, in the early days of this feature of female biological maturity, I used to get bad cramps for a good two or three days of the cycle. And one day my friend, who happened to be a boy, noticed I looked like I wanted to die, and he kept pressing me if I felt all right, trying to figure out what was wrong. I said I didn’t feel good, but he didn’t want to accept such ambiguity, because he was worried about me.

Still, I couldn’t bring myself to admit it—though I assume he got the message eventually. Now, I kind of wish I had told him outright. Because I was ashamed of it back then. I didn’t want anyone to know. Like no one seriously believes that women face this monthly process.

I felt like crap because my uterus was freaking out. I shouldn’t be ashamed. None of us should be ashamed.

Obviously, puberty is strange and horrifying so I can’t really beat myself up too much about those days. But still, I’ve started to appreciate honesty quite a bit.

Including biological honesty.

Work

I came here to work, so why am I not working? This has been repeating in my head for a good two days at least.

Seniors are told to “finish the year strong.”—a phrase that feels more and more thwarting every time it dances saccharinely through my recollection. It brings me more restlessness than motivation. A threat that perhaps I’m not doing as well as I should be.

Luckily, no one has seriously said it to me, but I think it every now and again as the countdown to graduation begins. I look at the next three months: book writing, art school application, finishing my first book and seeking publication, planning a month trip to Costa Rica, professional preparation, preparing to move to a different state after graduation….

…Classes…?

Finish strong.

Can’t I wheeze by? Doesn’t that count?

For most of my classes—formatted to small, intimate groups of people studying a subject in depth—wheezing by will make me the obvious weak link. The one who isn’t willing to work anymore and therefore sabotages the experience for everyone.

And I’m familiar enough with myself that I know I’m far too proud for that.

But is it really that I’ve lost all desire to work? I’m entering life, for crying out loud. How can I lose all desire to work now?

I’ll have to start structuring my life again, time managing and discipline and the like—which I get a little dark, whiny feeling inside just writing that down. Resorting to the life survival tool of time management feels like admitting defeat for some reason. Like I’m not really in control and can only try to organize the storm. That classes this semester are going to take over my life so I have to start putting up walls, making priorities, taking sides.

Like: Do I want to sleep or complete my novel? Or: Do I really have time to doodle babies right now…?

JHSbabies   I understand I’ll be better off if I buckle down and work now, but why does it have to be so hard?

Why am I so incredibly unmotivated to the point where I’d rather go to bed early than do even what I love to do? Where things are feeling so repetitive and tedious that I simply can’t be bothered to care anymore? These days I feel like only my underlying perfectionism, this drive to excel and succeed and finish what I started, drags me along like dead weight on a string.

I blame stress. It usually freezes me up. Also, burnout. The undergraduate life is wearing on me.

In light of all this grumbling and muffled whining noises, I have spent the day organizing things, washing dishes, cleaning my room, doing laundry…things I have been putting off that have been slowly stripping my wires over the past week. I learned the three colors of acrylic ink I purchased are compatible with my dip pen. I also made pancakes and eggs and drank coffee from a mug with a map of Middle Earth on it. So that was cool.

All that to say I’m figuring out how to reconcile pride with necessity and find some kind of enjoyment in the middle ground.

Because I can’t stop here.

That one time I went to Florida for science

I keep thinking it’s been ages since my last blog post, but I realize it was only 10 days ago. This week has been really busy and downright exhausting , albeit beneficial—and I find myself a little uncertain of what, exactly to comment on.

West Palm Beach            Two days after New Year’s Day, I flew off to Florida to attend the SICB Annual Meeting 2015 (SICB = Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology), where I was to spend four days listening to research talks and present my own research in a student poster symposium.

And I began the meeting utterly dead.

I entered the travel day yet again with 2 hours of sleep not wholly of my own volition (I was aiming for about 4), and I finally arrived at the hotel in West Palm Beach at 1am. 8 hours later, I was at the conference center, trying to maintain consciousness and motivation because I was presenting my poster at 3:45 that afternoon.

After listening to a great many talks, I ventured up to my poster right on time (I wasn’t going to stand there any earlier than I had to), and the first person that came to hear about my research completely grilled me. But it helped jog my memory and the rest of the 2 hours went more smoothly. Somewhere along the line, the epinephrine woke me up.

Our advisor signed us up for a “best poster” competition, which I was apprehensive about, because that meant we were going to be judged. But the judge was a very sweet little lady with bobbed gray hair and a pink sweater, and we ended up fangirling over the thermoregulative properties of toucan bills (even though my research was on hummingbirds). So it was fun, overall.

Then we went back to the hotel and passed out for 3 hours before actually going to bed.

Fortunately, the next day was easier.

Our supervisor gave us the freedom to plan our days, provided we didn’t ditch the entirety of the conference—which would have been lame. So one day my three other lab partners and I walked to the beach, and on the last day, some of us went to the zoo—which was a lot of fun after filling my head with what I could list out by name but for the purpose of succinctness I’ll just fondly call science.

My head was filled with much science, and it was a nice cap to the bulk of my experience as a research intern.

I was chronically surly and unmotivated for most of these days, because I really didn’t like feeling so dragged around. When we finally made it to the zoo, I was worried my irritability—and general notion that I shouldn’t have spontaneously decided to brave public transportation and walk around the zoo in business attire—would dampen things.

As my lab partners and I sat at the zoo café, surrounded by American White Ibis who wanted our food and honked at each other when food was bestowed, listening to male grackles having a display-off for a female rooting around in the brush and trying to decide who was the fittest, along with what neurological triggers and tradeoffs played into their behavior, I decided I was glad I came.

photo (4)All throughout the meeting, I was interested in learning about hormones, genetics, and comparative ecology, so I attended quite a bit of those when not following my lab partners around because I sometimes wasn’t interested in striking off on my own. I tended toward simply planting myself in a full session instead of dodging around rooms for specific talks on different overarching subjects. I learned so much. If you want to hear more details on what “so much” entails, I’d be happy to to tell you about it. (Seriously though. Science.)

This last six months have been highly taxing, as I’ve been fighting with an extreme shortage of social energy/interest, patience, and motivation. So traveling like this rudely launched me out of where I wanted to be, and I highly doubt I was the easiest person to spend a significant amount of time around, especially for my more socially-enthusiastic friends (who are also my lab partners) [Sorry guys…]

But my friends dragged me along like grumpy cousin Draco, for which I really am quite grateful. I got more out of the experience that way.

On the voyage back, we came extremely close to missing our connecting flight to PDX. I could go into detail about how everything just kept getting worse, but I’m sure anyone who’s traveled much by air can imagine what we went through. (It was my first experience like this, and in Washington DC, no less.) And then on the plane I had an unexpected intimate moment with God, which consisted of no actual words, only memories and impressions. Like an arm thrown around my shoulders, pulling me into a hug and gently holding me there.

I wasn’t even actively worrying about anything. But it happened. Simple and subtle, a reassurinphoto (6)g “I’m still here.”

I haven’t had a moment like that in such a long time. In fact, I didn’t even expect to be receptive.

My last semester begins Monday, and it is shaping up to be so much busier than my surly, dormant self would like.

But, all things considered, I think I’ll be all right.

2014 in the world of brooding sweatered corner-dweller (aka me): a recap

Summaries are hard. Which is perhaps why I write more novels than short stories.pajamas

But this year was certainly an interesting one, so I’ll attempt it before the clock strikes midnight.

2014 brought a significant season of moving forward in my creative pursuits. I have edited 6 total versions of my first novel, which will be ready to submit for publication hopefully sometime in the first half of this year. I officially began writing my second novel, of which I am 485 pages in. It will likely end up split into two books.

I incorporated drawing classes into my academic load, which provided my first introduction to being part of a community of artists, and to being brave and letting people much more skilled than myself examine and critique my work. I have contacted my top art school choice, and am working on the application for the MFA program for Illustration, even as I make initial movements for marketing myself as a professional artist. Throughout this crucial preparatory phase, I have been learning to take myself seriously as a writer and an illustrator, despite the fact that I’m nowhere near as experienced as I want to be.

In May, I went overseas for the first time. This year, my travels took me to South Korea, Hong Kong, and Vietnam, which landed me more confidence in traveling, learning and navigating new systems, and grew me in ways I’m not even completely sure of. God willing, May 2015 will see me back to Costa Rica, making my first voyage outside of the United States unaffiliated with academics.

This year also brought biology research—physiological and ecological studies on hummingbirds at high elevations in the mountains of southeastern Arizona. This was unlike anything I’ve ever done, as I know I’ve said before. Excruciating heat, all-nighters, 6-hour DLW sessions in the disgustingly early morning, strange living conditions, wrath-invoking bugs, harrowing work hours, and a terribly inconvenient visit from the BBC. My lab partner and I were just a couple of derpy kids left without a supervisor for three weeks in the middle of nowhere—but we nailed our research anyway. And those six weeks taught me so much about pulling through, of doing whatever it took to woman-up and show up and find gratification in the work I had accomplished.

And by the end of the summer, my lab partner had become one of my closest friends. (Which is a story I’ll have to tell another time, ‘cause it’s a good one.)

I seriously wanted an easy fall semester. But the latter half of this year brought a cold season spiritually, and a persistent state of social exhaustion—juxtaposed with an increasing passion for alleviating the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, and a quest to reconcile my more traditional religious foundation with what I have come to believe regarding gender and sexual identity.

By the end of the year, I ended up retreating for maintenance and recuperation—recognizing limits and taking care of myself and trying to let go of the crippling insecurities that had made this new journey so stressful. As the new semester swiftly approaches, I am still feeling out where I am, and looking to treat this new year like a blank page.

On the verge of a new year, with new adventures and experiences and challenges, I want to thank everyone who has held a part of my life thus far. I am truly affected and honored by all your love and support. Thank you so much. I wish you the best this upcoming year.

Writer’s Block

Funny how initiating serious publication research sparks writer’s block.

It’s actually not funny. It’s annoying.

But it’s understandable—stress and all that. The feelings of overwhelmedness arising from all the things I need—or want—to accomplish in the three weeks of near complete freedom of Christmas break. Things pertaining to publication for my first novel, writing the second, preparing myself professionally–both in general and for my artistic career–and preparing my portfolio, resume, and statement of intent for application to art school.

But what is good enough? Or not just good enough–exceptional. How can I find exceptional in three weeks?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited. This is an awesome season to be in.

Still, I feel like I’m wasting a lot of time, freezing up, sleeping in too late, succumbing to lack of motivation. And I’m supposed to be resting, aren’t I? This is Christmas break. I’m going to be graduating in four months.

But how can I rest? How can I not use these open-ended days to get ahead and make life easier for myself when I have considerably less time at my disposal?

And then there’s Christmas. Figuring out presents for X number of people has often been a daunting prospect for me. I would love to make everything by hand, or have it all deep and meaningful and show that I care like I want to.

But…but everything.

I’m finding the counterproductive nature of having too much time. There’s none of the structured pockets of time that usually keeps me in line.

I’m putting along though, whittling away at things, staying on top of writer’s block by writing whatever scenes or concepts or conversations come to mind regarding the novel in progress. It seems to be helping.

But there’s definitely a more restful way I could be going about this.

Still trying to figure that out.

So I made myself dinner tonight. I think that’s a start.

Character Analysis ft. The Insecurity that Probably Insults My Friends Sometimes

Eight-year-old me was surprised.

I had just found out that my two friends called each other’s moms “Mom,” and that they referred to each other as sisters. They were already super close by the time I entered the picture, painfully shy and fresh out of homeschooling. I remember just standing there, looking up at my friend’s mom, who worked in the cafeteria at the small private Christian school I had entered probably two months before. She was smiling. My friends hugged each other, and I stood by, trying to smile or something—to take part in the moment, pretend I was amused or that my heart was warmed as I sought to ignore the implications of what was taking place here. They didn’t call my mom “Mom.” No one but my sisters had ever called me “sister”, and I got the feeling this nickname was reserved for just the two of them. Something I might never earn because I had been tacked on after the bond between them had already crystallized.

Later that school year, it was twin day. My friends and I decided to be triplets, and we had coordinated what we were going to wear over phone conversations and everything. I don’t remember the whole outfit, but we were going to wear a pink long-sleeved shirt and black pants, and I was so excited because I knew just what I was going to wear. My shirt was a deep magenta, with a few pink jewels around the collar. I was convinced it would be perfect.

But when I showed up to school, my heart sank. My two friends had the same exact shirt. They were perfectly coordinated, and I guess one could tell I was supposed to be a part of the group, but I still didn’t quite fit. I tried to brush this off too. I had simply missed the fact that they had the same shirt (which I didn’t have anyway so it didn’t matter). It was an innocent coincidence and my friends never meant me any harm. But the memory stuck. I still have bits of visual information from that day, but I remember most clearly what I felt enduring the rest of it, playing with them—more like following them around because I was really shy and didn’t talk or engage much—in a non-matching shirt, feeling like the third-wheel—again. And the response deep inside of me was a strange, sort of smothered sensation, like I simultaneously tried to ignore or rationalize my exasperation, and also that I didn’t quite understand that I was feeling hurt.

I didn’t have a large friend group at school (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Most people played “bump” in the gym, or jumped rope. I was more interested in playing exciting pretend games and climbing things. But when my few friends were absent, I was alone. This trend continued throughout grade school.

In junior high, I was highly insecure about being the third wheel, and it caused problems in my friend group. By high school, I had friends, but I was relatively closed off. As far as everything related to the school sphere, academics were all that mattered to me. I was on a different level—or something. Perhaps it was a coping mechanism, perhaps I was just perfectionistic and arrogant. Probably a combination of the two. I was very driven, and I considered friends a luxury, not vital to survival.

I didn’t realize much of this until my senior year in high school, when I began to look back and analyze what specific wounds I carried and possibly why. And it seemed all these random little instances of me standing by, feeling left out, looked over, forgotten, had built up and found their mark. Growing up, I never had any huge, catastrophic event that tore my heart open—it was these little thorns. Like constant, dripping water wearing away a hole in my sense of identity and how I related to other people.

Ultimately, it ended up with an intense self-reliance and persistent feelings of unimportance and loneliness, the scars of which I still feel from time to time—not out of any sort of grudge-holding, but just that they’re very deep and perhaps rooted in more than simple circumstance.

My first couple of years at college, I had to tackle these voices head on and force myself to fight them, to shake their hold, and to expose them for what they were. I had to look around me and have the audacity to admit that I have not been left to fade into the background. It was a key turning point in my sense of identity.

I thought this victory was final.

But every now and then, the pain shows up again. The hurt, the self-reliance, the ungrounded feelings of loneliness and of being forgotten. Thirteen years later, I feel like, deep down, I’m still that soft-hearted little girl with a mop of brown hair, a thumb-shaped overbite, and a pink graphic t-shirt, just standing and watching from a distance, being too shy to step forward or say anything. Persistently unpopular and more than a little self-righteous, who never felt she truly fit even when she knew she had people who cared about her.

I think even if I had led a perfect life, I would still carry these insecurities. Because fallenness does not obliterate our capacity to excel in our strengths, but enables the very aspects that drive those strengths to unearth weaknesses on the opposite side. My drive for creativity, connection and communication, for example, is plagued by an underlying terror of mediocrity and unimportance in the lives of those I care about most. My aversion to unnecessary conflict or forcing my own desires on someone else easily results in passivity in group decision making. And the list goes on.

Speculating about factors of my own personal character development fascinates me. I find it therapeutic to pick apart a flaw, insecurity, or disinclination, trace it to its origins, figure out what it’s associated with, and try to extrapolate if or how it might sabotage things if I let it go unchecked.

I do this all the time with fictional characters. I guess it’s only natural to do it with my own personality. With myself, it’s sort of like a systems check, blowing out dust, eradicating bugs, making sure I continue moving forward. It’s ultimately part of my ever ongoing pursuit to understand and accept myself and learn to be a safe place for people to embrace who they are as well.