Warning: This is not a travel blog
The very first thing you should do before you continue reading is to watch this: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability
If you don’t have 20:19min to watch and process that, then you don’t have the time to truly understand what I’m about to say.
“A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something”
Why am I starting this blog? The biggest reason why I never started a blog (other than my study abroad one) is because these days any fool with a keyboard can write out his/her ridiculously biased and/or ignorant opinions on the internet and start a fire that might not deserve social attention in the first place. Some of them do have good intentions and cover important issues, but they are so… opinionated… they come off as radical/extreme and they even alienate people who would otherwise agree with them.
I’ve never wanted to be that guy; I’m a neutral fellow. I believe that everyone can get along, so even when I argue it’s because I’m trying to facilitate communication. Honestly, it’s like Socrates said “I do not think that I know what I do not know.” I’m not claiming that I am wiser than anyone, seriously. I’m just trying to make sense of this world, so most of the time I keep my mouth shut; I’m strategic about what I say and when I say it because I always have to know why I’m saying something and I don’t want to alienate anyone who might agree with me, so I stress over how to say things. Frankly, I despise the sound of my own voice. But I speak out when I have to, and I really feel like I have to now.
“I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Ever since I was a kid, I just wanted to understand things. My mom says that when I was little, she walked into a room and I was reading a book. She says “I walked in and you were just sitting there, reading. The funny thing was, we hadn’t even taught you to read yet. You did that yourself. I thought you were just pretending to read and imitating the stuff I’d already read to you so I tested you, but you were actually reading.”
Maybe my love for words goes back that far. I thought about blogging for a while because I really love writing; it’s the one thing that I have genuinely loved for a while and the reason why I am good at languages or why I argue about tedious things like a fundamental difference between ‘start’ and ‘begin’. It takes me ages to write text messages or emails because I often worry about the words I’m using and the order that my sentences and ideas should arrive in. I just love the fact that through reading and writing, if it’s done properly, you are as close to being inside someone else’s mind as you’ll ever get. If you make the effort to read into someone else’s words and into why they say something or how they say it, the line between people gets blurred. Mind-Reading has always been my genie wish (even with all the terrible things that I might encounter) and I feel like reading and writing are essential to seeing what is deep inside another person’s mind and to understanding how they see themselves. One reason I am an over-thinker is because I look into someone’s words and I make every effort to blur the line between speaker and listener, between reader and writer, between your thoughts and my thoughts, and ultimately between you and me.
Few people know I created a match.com account in November (2013). I created it in a desperate attempt to save my job just like in the movie The Proposal, except a lot more real and a lot less romanticized. Eventually I lost my job and I came to realize that I don’t want to be married at 24, but as much as I really dislike dating, I still talked to people there occasionally just to see what came out of it [until the account expired]. Well, consider this blog as a result of that experiment. Today (16.4.2014) someone asked me “if the cost of education didn’t matter, and you had an endless supply of money so what you made didn’t matter, what would be your dream career/job?” Here’s what I said:
“That’s actually a pretty solid question. Honestly, it’s always been a tough one for me because I’m interested in so many things. I’ve actually never told anybody this but deep down I’ve realized that I would be a writer. I love words. I love language. And I love people. I’d probably write about random people a lot because I think everyone is fascinating and deserves to have their story told (now you see why I don’t idolize much). I read psychology, behavioral econ, and all kinds of interesting things but ultimately it’s all because I want to understand people and connect with them regardless of where they come from or what they’ve been through. Writing is one of the best ways to connect with others or ‘read their minds’ (since I want that so much) and it lets you tell stories ABOUT the world and TO the world.
The biggest reason why I haven’t tried to become a professional writer is because I’m afraid that money might consume my passion. I feel like I am a decent enough writer, and people say ”if you are good at something, you shouldn’t do it for free” or ”if you do what you love, you will not work for a single day of your life,” but I’ve read studies that show how people will slowly forget/erode their passions in the pursuit of money. They start doing something because they love it, and then when money gets involved, they eventually do it for the money and not for love. I love to write when I want to, but I would hate to write because I have to. It’s a huge paradox, really.”
Honestly, I’ve always been an extremely quiet person when it comes to my thoughts. I don’t say things, I write them. The way I make sense out of life is by writing things down and revising them. Some friends think that I am an argumentative extrovert but I think my closest friends and family would agree that when it comes to my mind, no one really knows what’s going on up there. A couple of months ago my dad told me that I should become more open because I close myself in too much; my closest friend once told me that she saw me as someone who “doesn’t like the spotlight and would be the one behind the scenes pulling strings”; and my relationship with my brother has shown me how much I really don’t talk about things, especially personal ones.
My only answer to their complaints is “You’re right.” I have never been extroverted at all when it comes to my thoughts or my personal life. Almost all of my seemingly-extroverted actions are extremely premeditated and calculated by my introverted planning (except when I drink).
That’s what I’m trying to change.
In early 2014 my life was crazy and my thoughts went bananas. My life plans were changing drastically every couple of months, and my thoughts were flying at 10 paragraphs per second, so I started writing more and more. I have all sorts of long files in my Google Drive where I’ve just written away my thoughts, but I started realizing that all of this has closed me in more and more, creating a mental barrier between other people and I, which is the opposite of what I want. I love people. I want to connect with people. I’ll be the first guy to hold a conversation with a ‘creeper’ (I despise that word) or a ‘psycho’ because I just want to understand and relate to that person. When I studied abroad, I talked with a borderline-homeless Italian guy who ended up hitting on me and trying to take me to his place after he bought me a beer. I’m not gay, I simply agreed to chat with the guy until he got weird. Then I decided that he had some questionable motives/intentions and it wasn’t a good idea to continue that conversation, but that whole time I was actually trying to figure the guy out.
I just fucking love people and I want to understand them.
One of my biggest philosophies in life is Neutrality. I love neutral things, not because they are indecisive and uncommitted, but because in my experience, neutrality is often the key to understanding. I am not a religious person (I’m not an atheist either), but I think one of the biggest reasons why Buddhism resonated so much with me right from the start was because of its focus on “the Middle Way”. I’ve come to realize that when you truly understand something, it’s hard not to be neutral. I feel like a lot of people today dislike neutrality because it comes off as weak, uncommitted, and lacking confidence.
If a politician doesn’t choose a side on an issue, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
If a leader struggles to make a decision, he seems to lack confidence.
If a person chooses not to join a fight/cause that he believes in, he comes off as disloyal or uncommitted.
I understand that sometimes this really is the case. But I am a big believer in life’s grey areas. Off the top of my head, I truly can’t think of anything I see as black and white. Not one thing. It’s all contextual to me. So I love being critical of a situation and trying to put myself inside the other person’s mind so that I can find out how we can reach a middle ground(see? there’s that neutrality again). I truly believe neutrality is the key to understanding, and understanding things is [to me] the key to life.
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.” Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
So in my endless quest for self-improvement and neutrality, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to find extroverted actions to balance out my introverted thoughts. I have to “Think like a man of action and act like a man of thought” instead of just being a thinker. Some people take a leap by ‘coming out’ and saying they are gay, I’m coming out and saying: I am ridiculously introverted about my thoughts and I really really don’t want to publish this stuff. Introverted thinkers, that’s not how we roll. We keep our shit to ourselves because “you just won’t get it” if we give you a piece of our mind. I’m not the kind of guy that talks just because people expect/want me to say something; I like to talk when I actually have something substantial to say. I like listening instead of talking. Personally, I believe there are too many people trying to talk in this world and my generation’s listening skills have gone down the drain. The analogy that I came up with is this:
Too many people in this world are madly trying to give you their 2¢ just because they can [thanks to the internet]. In response to this, there are two kinds of people:
1 – the ones that respond by throwing their own 2¢ into the pot – without bothering to actually pick up the other person’s because it’s “less valuable”
2 – the ones that pick up the 2¢ and keep them – because the assume every penny has intrinsic value and they feel like they’re getting substantially rich.
This means that we either have a pot full of $ (thanks to #1) or an empty pot where the ‘rich people’ don’t do anything with the excess that they have (#2). Once again, I don’t see things as black and white, so I’m trying to be that “1.5-guy.” I want to pick up every 2¢ and trade them for another 2¢. In my crazy little world, 2¢ has no intrinsic value unless someone actually values it. So the people that are madly spending end up preaching to deaf ears, and the people who are saving are not really planning on doing anything with what they learn, they just enjoy the fact that they are ‘rich.’
That’s how I see arguments. That’s how I see society. That’s how I see life.
[If you picked up on the social/economic metaphor within a few sentences, and you truly understand it, then you and I are on the same level and let me just say that I blew my own mind because it happened to work out so well]
I’m not an arrogant, pompous guy who thinks he knows everything and goes around screaming “listen to me.” I am truly not. I have this huge fear of becoming another piece of internet junk or another monkey with a keyboard. But if there’s one thing I learned in college doing research, it is that I have to start putting ideas out there so that like-minded people can help me develop them and people who really disagree with me can show me the flaws in my views. In other words, I need to put the few cents I’ve gathered out there so that someone who is willing to trade with me is able to do so, then we’ll all be fundamentally rich.
I’ve realized I love discussions/arguments not because I’m trying to prove that I am right (which a lot of people do) but because I honestly enjoy getting to the root of a problem and finding that fundamental difference between my thoughts and someone else’s. I hate “agree to disagree.” It’s a total cop-out because it’s saying “I am right, you are wrong, and you just don’t get it”. It is the ultimate way of saying “my 2¢ are worth more than yours.” I claim that I am not extreme and I always remain neutral, and I feel like I do that pretty well, but the best way to test that theory is by starting this blog. I want to hear from anyone who thinks I am being extreme so that I can explain my thoughts and correct myself back to the middle if I have to.
I want your 2¢ in exchange for my 2¢.
Neutrality truly is one of the most important things in my life. As I said, the religion I am most attracted to is Buddhism (The Middle Way), I’ve been obsessed with living in Switzerland or Sweden (Armed Neutrality in every war), and I refuse to ever label myself as Mexican or American, Republican or Democrat….
Well, I guess this is my next step then. I hate elaborating to other people about my personal life and what I truly believe/think because it’s so complicated. But I love writing, which should theoretically make this excruciating process a little easier. So here’s my extroverted act of publishing my introversion. Here’s my “Act of Vulnerability” for anyone who cares about legitimately trying to connect with me. Cheers to you for taking the time to read this far, and feel free to debate things that seem debatable because I love intellectual discussions.
In terms of the content of this blog, it will simply be an elaboration of all my thoughts and reactions to things. I might summarize and discuss books (so I can remember them better), articles, documentaries, TED talks, quotes, specific words, places… I don’t really know, it’ll be whatever comes to mind, really. Ideally, I will also be using this to practice some languages in order to keep them fresh, so forgive me if it’s not all in English. Any advice you have will be appreciated and any serious attempt to connect with me as a person will be reciprocated.
Here’s to hoping that I’m not just another monkey with a keyboard.