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The shock of unrecognition

I had a conversation this week about the shock we all have now and then when someone tells us how they perceive us… and their perception has nothing to do with how we perceive ourselves.

I think this happens to all of us now and then, and I find that I fret about this more than is probably healthy. I desperately want my intentions to be clear. Simultaneously, I don’t want to be perceived as an over-explainer. This particular example is but one of the many ways in which I care far too much about what other people think of me.

A few months back, while I was in the throes of the World’s Most Absurd Freelance Situation, someone made a throwaway comment that I have a hard time making decisions. I found it hilarious (and slightly insulting) at the time, but I’ve also found myself thinking about it a lot since then. I think of myself as a very decisive person in most ways, though there are certainly examples that buck the trend: it took a year of living here before I finally, finally picked out a new moisturizer for my skin, which had been screaming for a new product for months. We’ve had the same jacked up coffee table for over seven years, and I’ve been putting off picking a new one for probably five of those years. We are trying to plan our First Ever Real Vacation (requirements: getting there necessitates a plane, nothing involving an obligatory or family-fueled event, minimum of five days away), and I’m totally paralyzed.

My own perception of this is that I have a hard time making decisions when they are “luxury decisions,” but I am very decisive most of the time. At work, when faced with twenty decisions, I have no problem at all. I can also go with the flow and defer to someone else’s preference, and I wonder if that’s what inspired the comment above. On the other side of the coin, there are people who have let me know that they find me bossy because I make decisions so quickly, so there’s really no winning here. I also suspect that there’s no real way to know how we’re perceived outside of ourselves. It must be kind of like how one’s voice sounds so different inside one’s own head, and the total shock of hearing your own voice recorded and played back to you.

Have you ever discovered a weird way in which you were perceived by someone else? Did it rock the boat for you, or were you able to just brush it off and move on with your life?

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Lonesome Dove

I’m lonely in San Diego. It feels utterly pathetic to admit this, but when I think about the root of whatever’s bugging me, the thing that rings truest is that I’m very simply lonely. I failed to predict the extent to which this would be an issue; I’m an introvert, but I also enjoy being around people, and I’m sort of absurdly friendly. I kind of figured that I’d get plenty of alone time and hit it off with one or two people here and there, and that would be that.

No such luck. I have one lovely friend, but one friend does not a social life make. Particularly when one is working in a silo. I finally have a part time job here, which I thought would help in a big way. Unfortunately, there’s no physical location and my colleagues don’t meet regularly. I feel isolated, and some days, the only familiar person with whom I interact is the Horse Whisperer. He, on the other hand, is often over-socialized through work, and he wants nothing more than to come home and sit quietly.

FaceTime is my new favorite thing, since it gives me the chance to interact with my friends in a way that feels more substantial (and less scary to this phone-phobe). But I need some buddies. I crave having people with whom to take a walk, or get a glass of wine, or whatever. And I miss running into familiar people out in the world – being recognized from across the room and greeted with a quick hello. Those interactions simply don’t happen when you don’t know anyone.

It’s gotten silly enough that I have just applied to work at several retail stores, largely for the purpose of getting some forced socialization. I’m nervous that I’m starting to lose my interpersonal skills; even writing this feels stilted. I’ve found myself acting more socially awkward than usual in the past few months, and it is getting worse. Time to do something about this.

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Our house is a very very very fine house

We’ve moved houses. Thank goodness.

We started looking for a place of our own in November. San Diego has nothing on San Francisco in terms of pricing, but it is still one of the five most expensive markets for housing. We saw some seriously run down places, some gut jobs, and plenty of possibilities that would only be realistic if we suddenly came into massive piles of money. (Meaning: never.)

About two months ago, we hit a low when we visited what will forevermore be known as The House of the Lord. Without going into too much detail, the exterior of the house was decorated with easily over a dozen crosses, and the interior had more. The House of the Lord featured an indoor treehouse thing, and a hot tub which the owner assured us could “fit three people… I know, because one night, my girlfriend brought HER girlfriend over…” The House of the Lord was also listed for over $600,000.

We laughed about it, but that night we felt like we’d never find something. Naturally, that means that we found our house the next day, because that is how life works sometimes. After a ridiculously pleasant escrow that defied every horror story I’ve ever heard, we moved in two weeks ago. We’re still unpacking, and I’ve only just started to put things on the walls, but it is glorious. No, we cannot walk to the beach, but we’re less than 10 minutes’ drive away. There are no bugs, the plumbing works, and every appliance gets the job done. We can actually cook in our kitchen for the first time in over a year.

The transition from our beautiful home in SF to our new home (the first that we’ve ever owned!) has been a revelation. I have realized that my overall happiness and health is heavily influenced by my relationship with my home. And I’m so grateful. It’s hard to believe that we own a place, one that we bought entirely on our own. I never thought this would be possible for us, and I’m proud beyond measure of finally having a place that is ours.

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Beep Beep, Beep Beep, YEAH.

I bought my Chevy Malibu around 10 years ago, mid-move from Houston to San Francisco. Halfway across the country, my previous car died a rather sudden but quiet death, leaving me with two choices: stay in Texas, or trade in the car and keep going. Given that this entire blog has been written during a decade in California, I don’t need to tell you which option I took.

The thing about SF is that you can very happily exist without a car, particularly if you, like me, live and work inside the city’s seven-by-seven miles. And so, my Malibu made it through nine years of San Francisco living with under 60,000 miles on its clock. San Diego is a different town, though, and I’m living 30 miles north of the city. For the first time in my entire life, I’m commuting a few days a week. I’m not a huge fan of it – I hate traffic and the aggression that seems to erupt from my fellow humans when confronted with five lanes of brake lights. Despite my low mileage, my CD player also recently broke. San Diegans apparently listen to a whole lot of 80s ad 90s rock (and not kind that I personally enjoy), so the radio isn’t my favorite situation here.

Instead, I find myself driving down the road babbling incoherently at myself.

I can’t help but wonder what my fellow commuters might thing, catching sight of me in the car. Thankfully, we live in the era of bluetooth, so I suppose I pass as someone having a very animated phone call. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

I’ve never been a car person in the slightest, but I am finally starting to see the appeal of having a particularly comfortable car. We spent several hundred dollars repairing my air conditioning, which broke years ago, and I feel like I’m living a life of total luxury! I’ve even pondered spending some cash on getting a nicer sound system – one that links to my phone, so maybe I could actually be talking to another human being instead of myself.

Then, of course, I balk against the idea of spending money on my car. It feels so incredibly materialistic, so… typical, somehow. And I realize that this is yet another way that I’ve defined myself as uniquely San Franciscan.

That’s a funny thing, the definition of oneself, isn’t it? Sometimes it feels expansive: I am _____! Other time, though, it feels limiting, like a border I’ve set around myself. I wonder where the edges are, and what’s beyond them.

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Write your own darn story

Whenever I’m having a bored moment, or a bummed moment, or a good-grief-things-are-insane-and-I-need-to-be-distracted moment, I open my RSS feed reader. On a good day, there will be one or two good posts, the kind that tell a story that gets me out of my own head for a moment or two.

More often than not, though, my feed is filled with sponsored posts and ten thousand unread recipes from 3-4 prolific cooking blogs.

I recently paid a relatively pretty penny to renew both my domain and hosting service. I almost let it lapse, and today, after receiving an urgent note that my domain had, in fact, expired, I coughed up the cash. And so, here we are. Most of my favorite blogs have sort of ended or signed off in a similar fashion. Usually, they’ve petered out before just disappearing.  Often, some large life-force pushed the issue, but sometimes, I think it was just… done. They just didn’t want to keep telling their story, for one reason or another. Maybe it felt too personal, or too hard, or too… something.

I don’t really feel like telling my story at the moment, either. It doesn’t feel particularly interesting, on one hand. It feels like the same story everyone is living: get up; work; do the necessary things around the house so that you don’t live in squalor. On the other hand, it feels too dangerous: don’t write anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable with your boss reading; don’t write anything that would infringe upon the privacy of your spouse/friends/kids; the list goes on.

The thing is, I open my RSS reader with the hope that someone, anyone, will have written a story. An actual, honest-to-goodness story, the kind we used to share all the time. Maybe it’s a story of a bad date, or the way dinner was a total flop. Maybe it’s the story of running into someone on the train that we hadn’t seen in a while. I don’t login looking for a specific story. I think I go looking for empathy, for the feeling that we get when we know someone else out there is willing to share something vulnerable with us.

I miss reading that, and I miss writing it, too. And I guess I feel like I can’t really complain about other people refusing to provide me with their stories. I have to write my own.

There’s nothing really to say beyond that. I’ve planned to write more here in the past, and it hasn’t happened. And maybe I’m just opening this up to type because I renewed all those services, and I feel like I shouldn’t be throwing my money away. (Though, let’s be real, the amount pales in comparison to what I’ve spent on unused gym memberships over the years.)

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