The above song, "Santa Monica," comes from Savage Garden's self-titled debut album. It's the final track. Chances are, unless you're a huge fan of the band, you've never heard it. It got no radio play, there was no official music video, it's just one of those songs the world glosses over. It's also the one most completely out of place on the record. It's no pulse-pounding dance club track like their breakout hit, "I Want You". It's not a poetic profession of love like "To The Moon and Back" or "Truly, Madly, Deeply", their other two hit singles that year. "Santa Monica" is a quiet, low-key, un-rhyming introspective about being all alone in the middle of the gigantic mass of humanity such is California.
It's not the song I bought the album for. In fact, I had no idea what the song was even about before I heard it, but it is, in my opinion, the best song on that record. I've never been to Santa Monica, but I've felt exactly what Darren Hayes is singing about nonetheless. Replace "Santa Monica" with my college town and this is my life. It's been two decades, and I've still never found a song that captures and encapsulates 'me' the way this song does.
The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator is a series of statements you respond to by indicating how closely you associate yourself with them, and your options are ranges of agreement or disagreement with those statements. There are a bunch of online versions of these tests you can take for free, most of them take about 10 minutes, and their results are fairly accurate. The answers you provide will be tabulated, and the test will return one of sixteen different personality types based on eight different characteristics and how you weigh towards each one (Introversion vs. Extroversion, Perceiving vs. Judging, etc...). The end result will be a four-letter code that corresponds to four of those letters, and probably a graph to show where you're closely aligned with both given aspects, or whether one side tends to greatly outweigh the other. If you want to take a quick one and see what I'm talking about, try this one:
I've taken this test numerous times throughout my life, and the result has been the same every time: INFP (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving). Those interested can read a nice, long description of what that all means here, but basically it means that at my best I'm a strong force for good and diplomacy, and at my worst my emotions grind me down into a bland wreck of a person who barely has the energy to interact with the rest of the world. Right now, that second part is where I'm at. It's a fight with myself I've been engaged with since I can remember, and INFP's are particularly prone to it because we live almost completely inside of ourselves.
I've never been afraid of emotions, but I have been afraid of what actions I know those emotions could cause. In other words, I don't fear anger, but rather I fear what being overcome with anger could lead me to do. I don't fear sorrow, but I do fear what could happen if I spend too long being sad. More than once in my life, I have voluntarily spent periods of time in a stress center, which is a euphemistic way of saying I've allowed another group of people complete control over my life because I, an otherwise functional adult, was incapable of doing so. This is not weakness and it is not surrender, it is recognizing a problem exists that I am woefully unprepared to handle by myself. It's no different from recognizing that, rather than attempting to treat a broken arm at home, I would heal faster and receive better care by going to the hospital. It is also a problem that stigmatizes a large population here in the United States. People who have no issue going to a doctor to receive assistance with a cancer diagnosis look at people who suffer from depression and ask, "Why don't they just grow up and get over it?" Imagine the absurdity of asking someone who had a leg amputated and replaced with a prosthetic, "I don't get it...why can't you just walk like everyone else? Why do you need a new leg?"
Depending on the day and my mood, I can get lost in a crowd of one. I could stand in the middle of Time's Square, on New Year's Eve, at midnight, and despite the crushing throng and overwhelming noise, the potential exists that I could feel just as alone as I am sitting here, writing this blog post in my office. My wife is outside working in her garden. My dog is outside running around, enjoying the sunshine. I am alone, and this is when I thrive. This is when I fill my reserves of energy, when I re-fuel the tanks that drain so quickly when I'm forced to be around large crowds of people. If I don't get this time, regularly, daily, I will retreat inside myself until I find it, and I will stay there until I feel safe enough to come out. This isn't something I can control, it's an automatic response like the nervous system reacting to pull your hand away from a hot surface. It is not something I enjoy. It's more like having an off switch that could be flipped by anything at any time, and never knowing what might activate it.
But I have made peace with it over the years. I'm 39 years old, and I understand things will be this way up until the point that I no longer exist. The cost I pay for not being an extrovert is enormous in this society: I don't have a massive social network of friends, I don't garner energy by spending time with people, and my refusal to participate in social events is often seen as dismissive of those involved. Movies get this wrong all the time, where the introverted girl with the glasses just needs someone to yank her into the spotlight and let her shine so she can finally see what it means to be living. This does not work any more than ripping the shell off a turtle and putting it under a heat lamp would improve its well-being. Doing so would, at best, severely harm the turtle, and at worst, kill it. The turtle does not need to be removed from its shell in order to live a better life, the turtle needs the world to understand that it needs its shell to survive the life it has.
Who is the most difficult adversary a Warrior Nun faces?
She can get lost in a crowd of 10,000 or a crowd of just herself. She expends considerable energy dreaming of worlds that exist for no one but her, pursuing dreams that cannot possibly come true, and aspiring to goals that she cannot achieve, and suffers the heartbreak of seeing those dreams shattered, those goals unrealized, those worlds vanishing in the blink of an eye. And yet...
Here she stands. Or sits. Or reclines. Still dreaming. Still planning. Still making goals. Still idealizing the hell out of everyone, hoping for the best, knowing she'll be disappointed, she can't win, that just over the hill there's only another hill, and the aftermath of every battle leaves room only for a new fight to begin.
She would have it no other way. And neither would I.