slubs in the city

Slub (adj): Maverick; unorthodox; independent in behavior or thought.


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a field guide to understanding your introvert: PART TWO.

Do you have a friend, relative, spouse, and/or companion that you suspect of being an introvert? Are you a self-described extrovert that desires guidance in navigating the inner workings of your more reflective mates (we humans are such funny and complex creatures, aren’t we)? After reading Part One of this field guide, are you still perplexed by this quiet yet extraordinary culture of people? Please, take a moment – remember how we did it quietly last time? – to sample this second part of a comprehensive field guide to the introvert, compiled entirely from the author’s own enlightened, first-hand experience with this most subdued of sub-species.

1. Many introverts will complain excessively about their extroverted friends for a variety of reasons. Your introvert may find you to be any combination of noisy, compulsive, judgmental, exhausting, and/or unfiltered. If you are lucky, your introvert will have keen communication skills that she will utilize to explain her complaints to you. If you are unlucky, your introvert will find you annoyingly chatty but will never say so, and you will be left bewildered when she greets your detailed description of the 39 cat videos you’ve watched in the past hour with a disinterested glower.

Note: It is highly likely that your introvert is complaining about you because she is jealous of your social skills. Do not lord this reality over her. In fact, don’t mention to her that you think she’s envious of you at all. Females – regardless of their introverted or extroverted tendencies – do not like to be told that they’re “just jealous”.

2. Like the Moon to the Earth, introverts will gravitate to extroverts in an effort to reap the benefits of their superior social skills. Do you find it strange that your introvert prefers the company of extroverts at the start of a public function, as opposed to settling down on the couch with a red Solo cup and his best brofriend from the get-go? Your introvert, just like you, is highly aware of the social morays that dictate his world, and has no desire to find himself at the bottom of the food chain as a result of his introvertedness. Being a smart and capable individual, your introvert will have at least one extroverted friend in his arsenal of acquaintances who will be able to introduce him to others at parties and whom he can rely on to coax him into various socially acceptable activities throughout the night, like beer pong and spontaneous drunken dance interpretations of Gangnam Style.

Note: The introvert/extrovert relationship, while at times tempestuous, can also represent the perfect balance of yin and yang (SEE Part One, point 5). While the introvert can rely on his extrovert for a wild night out, the extrovert can likewise count on his introvert for a soothing night in.

3. Most introverts can trick others into thinking that they are extroverts by mimicking their extroverted companions’ activities, actions, and vocal volumes. The author of this field guide has surmised that this is because introverts are actually superheroes. By day, the introvert will don her Clark Kent suit and tie, mixing with the public confidently as she outwardly expresses her opinions, doles out her business cards, discusses retirement saving tactics and The Bachelor with her girlfriends over coffee, and busts out a painful rendition of Single Ladies at karaoke night. When she is finally alone in the comfort of her quiet home, however, the introvert’s true superpowers are at play. Donning her super suit (which, to the untrained eye, would resemble a stained t-shirt and a pair of ragged sweatpants), the introvert superhero will thoughtfully and methodically solve every single one of the world’s problems in the hazy twilight interim between asleep and awake.

Note: Introverts really are superheroes. It’s time the world knew.

an effective introvert super suit. [image credit: here.]

4. Introverts have the ability to sit in silence with other introverts and not feel awkward about it. This strange phenomenon is captured very effectively by Emily Blunt and Jason Segel in the movie The Five Year Engagement. Tom (Segel) has just had a fight with Violet (Blunt), and tells her that he needs to be alone with his thoughts for a while. Confused, Violet starts to leave their bedroom to give Tom the space he’s asked for. When Tom sees Violet heading for the door, he stops her, slightly incredulous, and says, “I don’t want you to go. I just need to be alone, with you here.” Likewise, your introvert genuinely enjoys being around other people, but is just as happy to be around them in silence as she is to be around them with conversation.

Note: If you watched The Five Year Engagement and didn’t understand Jason Segel’s character at all during the above mentioned scene, it might be a sign that you are an extrovert. It might also be a sign that you thought the movie was super lame. It is up to you to be the judge of that.

5. Introverts, like extroverts, defy categorization, and as such this entire field guide must be taken with a grain of salt. The author of this field guide, for example, is an introvert who expresses many characteristics that would typically be considered “extroverted”. Human nature is inherently incapable of concrete definition, which means that we are all beautiful and insanely infuriating subjects for science.

Thus ends this current version of A Field Guide to Understanding Your Introvert. The author hopes that it has been somewhat enlightening to extroverts everywhere, and that it will temper their thoughts and feelings about the quieter side of humanity. This list is not exhaustive, however; as such, the author readily welcomes additions and comments to enhance this field guide.

Carry on in peace, my introverted superhero brethren.

— shan

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a field guide to understanding your introvert: PART ONE.

Do you have a friend, relative, spouse, and/or companion that you suspect of being an introvert? Are you a self-described extrovert that desires guidance in navigating the inner workings of your more reflective mates (we humans are such funny and complex creatures, aren’t we)? Please, take a moment – preferably a quiet moment, I know you can do it – to sample this first part of a comprehensive field guide to the introvert, compiled entirely from the author’s own enlightened, first-hand experience with this most subdued of sub-species*.

a wild introvert in her natural state, as depicted by Hyperbole and a Half. fascinating.

1. Alone time ≠ social reject in 9 out of 10 cases of introverts. Did your introvert excuse himself from going with you to a raucous party? Do not worry. He is not being a flake (most likely). Gently remind him that he would probably have fun, because after all, people like him and he likes people. If he still politely deflects your social aspirations, fret not – he simply needs to recharge his battery in peace. In no time at all he’ll be ready to fist pump and white-boy dance with the best of them.

Note: If you decide to go to the party without your introvert, do not be too upset when he texts you later explaining that he made a mistake in staying in and that you were right, he wants to rage. He is only human after all. Permit yourself a sigh and then continue with your life – tension’s no fun.

2. Do try to censor yourself a bitin this way, you’ll be extending the same courtesy to your introvert that she is likely showing to you. Are you trying to bounce a thought off your introvert? If she isn’t saying much, it’s not necessarily because she’s bored or mute or finds you to be moronic (although, to be safe, don’t always rule these options out). Rather, it is highly likely that she’s been internally weighing the value of her thoughts and opinions, and is very precisely sifting through all of her possible comments to present you with the best imaginable response. Value the effort that goes into such internal processing, even if you cannot fathom it.

Note: Understand, extroverted partner, that most often she finds your extraordinary external communication abilities to be endearing and will concede that you often help her to think outside the box. Sometimes, however, you must realize that she genuinely believes that 95% of the words spewing volcanically from your mouth are complete crap and should have remained as mere thoughts in your head.

3. Be thoughtful when pulling your introvert unwillingly into a social situation if he has not placed himself there of his own accord. For example, are you a college professor that subscribes to the Socratic method of conversational learning and requires each of your students to speak at least once a class period, or risk a lower grade? If so, your introverted students do not think you are brilliant and in fact do not care much for you at all. Just so you know.

Note: The author of this field guide has a very large amount of respect for college professors and their mammoth, unenviable task of teaching all students regardless of learning style.

Updated note: The author of this field guide admittedly would have preferred not to have spent money learning from one or two of her college professors. There – that’s my one contribution to today’s discussion. Enjoy.

4. Exercise control over your facial expressions when reacting to your introvert. Yes, it is very likely that she will interact with her world in ways that you don’t understand, but there is no need for ridiculous displays of guffawing or eyebrow-raising. Suppose you are telling your introvert about a movie that you’d like to see with a group of friends, and she mentions that she’s seen that movie and enjoyed it immensely. You were not aware that she’d been to the theater lately, so you ask who she went to see the film with. When she responds, “I didn’t go with anyone. It’s fun to go to the movies on your own, you know,” do not stare blankly at her in confusion. She will not appreciate your judgment. Just smile and nod, even though you could think of about a zillion other things that would be more fun than going to the movies by yourself.

Note: In the name of science, the author of this field guide recommends that you try going to the theater alone at least once in your life. You may even become addicted to the freedom you gain when you realize you don’t have to share your popcorn with anyone.

5. Remove your introvert to a quieter environment when he becomes cranky and no longer finds your off-color Apples to Apples word pairings even remotely amusing. It is likely that he is feeling fatigued by being “on” in a given social setting for a long period of time, and would appreciate a moment in a less stimulating atmosphere (SEE point 1, above). On the other hand, it is recommended that you likewise allow your introvert to help you relax a bit – it’s not always essential for the extrovert to set his or her life meter to Kenyan Runner Warp Speed. Your introvert is a thoughtful, reflective, intuitive and empathetic being; just as you help them to find quiet when they become insufferably bitchy, so too must they aid you in becoming less of a preachy loudmouth.

Note: If your introvert is in need of some alone time but is stubbornly refusing to leave the party, drop the issue and go back to your Apples to Apples witticisms. Being an ass is not a hallmark of the introverted soul – it is simply an indication that your introvert is also (albeit temporarily) an ass. Take heed and proceed with caution. And remember, extrovert, sometimes you can be an ass too.

And now — A Field Guide to Understanding Your Introvert: PART TWO.

–shan

*The author of this field guide would like to concede that, as a social scientist, she is fully aware that not all introverts uniformly act in the above stated manner, nor that all extroverts exhibit egregiously insane social tendencies. The author of this field guide would also like the reader of this field guide to approach all commentary with a sense of humor. Thank you.


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this is for you.

According to the US Census Bureau, there are over 7 billion people sharing our planet today. There are 7 billion people eating breakfast, talking on the phone, walking to work. 7 billion of us are brushing our teeth, becoming a parent for the first time, battling a disease, losing a loved one. Throwing a baseball, throwing a tantrum. Doing our homework. Singing and dancing. Shouting and fighting. Giggling. Weeping.

Over 7 billion people are living today. Isn’t it ironic, then, that in a moment any one of us can feel alone?

To date, our blog has been mostly about happy events and solitary reflections. But to me, the purpose of blogging – more broadly, of writing in general – is to chronicle a variety of emotions and experiences. Not every day is going to be a happy one. It can’t be, and it shouldn’t be, and that is a reality which every person in this sea of 7 billion must reconcile himself or herself to. Sometimes our day doesn’t end on a good note, but that’s all part of being one in 7 billion, and in certain instances a lack of Hollywood-like resolution should be embraced.

Aside from serving a functional purpose, in taking the bus I have found that public transportation can also provide a study in the human condition. I have overheard plenty of congenial and warm conversations, but I have also been witness to tense phone calls and outright verbal warfare. Some people quietly read a book or fiddle with their technology. A few listen to music.

Others, though, stare listlessly at their hands, at the passengers sitting near them, or out the window. Sometimes these individuals convey a sense of thoughtfulness, and I wonder what images or stories must be playing through their preoccupied minds. Sometimes they seem to imply a sense of weight, and I wonder what their lives have witnessed.

I was struck by these same reflections yesterday as I served an afternoon meal at a homeless shelter in downtown Minneapolis. Many of the individuals who wandered through the doors of House of Charity were polite, well-spoken and well mannered. They said “please” and “thank you”, just like my parents taught me to do, and they sat down to their meal with friendly conversation for whoever wished to join them at one of a few dozen communal tables.

Like on the bus, though, some of the individuals seeking a warm meal and a sturdy chair came to the shelter wearing their unhappiness on their sleeves. A few stumbled through the line, clearly intoxicated. A couple chatted nervously to themselves and to the servers. Many held their trays out to receive food, neither speaking with the volunteers nor making eye contact. Who has the right or the responsibility to judge their story? Who among us at the shelter was spotless enough to throw the first stone at the drunk, the drugged, the mute? I wondered at their lives as I passed out rolls and slices of bread. Some of those individuals no doubt had every reason to be heartsick. But while I was serving food from the other side of the table, with my own lunch waiting for me back at work, I couldn’t help but feel that our experiences might in some basic way be similar. I have felt the expressions of contentment and doubt that are reflected on the faces of bus passengers and meal-seekers alike register in my own features.

And yet their experiences are not mine, and mine are not theirs. Our world may be tumbling into the dangers of overpopulation but we each have our own lives to straighten out.

When I spend time wandering aimlessly through an internal dialogue on the human condition – what makes us be happy, and what makes us be sad – I find personal inspiration in the poetry of Brian Andreas. His written work is a mixture of simple statements and bold theories, and is illustrated by strange and fantastical representations of human beings that oftentimes I don’t understand. It’s one thing to document experiences with strangers on the bus and at the soup kitchen, but since Andreas has captured that quiet part of me that resonates with beauty and despair alike I wanted to end this post by sharing one of his best pieces. This is for you.

[image credit: here.]

con amor,

shan


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what it means to be America

This past Monday, in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the slubs paid homage to our academic foundations. First, we sat down to watch Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, given in the formidable shadow of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of over 200,000 marchers on August 28th, 1963.

If you have never heard a recording of Dr. King giving this speech himself, it’s entirely worth the 17 minutes to experience. He was a true wordsmith, a master orator, and the way he draws listeners in to the hypothetical and idealistic world of his dreams is an art form. The imagery used in this speech is legendary. His words powerfully unfurl themselves in waves over the crowd and they react in turn, as you will too.

Notice how Dr. King repeats key phrases at the beginning of the sentences of select paragraphs in his speech. He does this to over-emphasize his point, in effect stirring up the audience and clearly driving his message home. The slubs would like to point out that this rhetorical technique is known as anaphora.

After we had spent some time discussing the legacy of Dr. King’s dream and the relevancy it holds for America today, we moved on to watch President Obama’s 2008 election victory speech. This speech, as well, is rich with imagery. Particularly powerful is President Obama’s story of Ann Nixon Cooper, a 106 year-old American whose lifetime has witnessed the most drastic events of the 20th century. His speech is a true lesson in election-time patriotism.

As a Political Science major I recognize the craftsmanship in both of these pieces. Dr. King and President Obama take full advantage of our uniquely American brand of civil religion, infusing time-honored messages of American patriotism with (Christian) religious undertones to create a political-spiritual cocktail of words. (To conceptualize American civil religion, examine the text of nearly any speech given by George Bush directly following September 11th – he portrays America as a city on a hill, a super-unique nation where the word “democracy” evokes the same type of spiritual reverence as “righteousness”.) Each section of these two speeches acts as a subconscious cue for the audience to respond appropriately. Based on the textual meaning of a phrase or the tone of the orator’s voice, each listener knows what he or she is supposed to feel – elation, approval, hope, victory, perseverance, thoughtfulness, joy. Dr. King and President Obama guide their audiences through a range of emotional reactions, and by the end of their speeches we’ve all experienced the intangible influence of their words.

As citizens, though, my roommates and I can appreciate the social value of Dr. King’s and President Obama’s message. Each speaks of a nation of freedom and responsibility, where all inhabitants have a right and an obligation to change their worlds to achieve a holistically “better” standard. They extol the virtues of the individual, but they are careful to remind us that our strength as a nation lies in our collective ability to believe in the potential of America. Can Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech still resonate as powerfully today as it did 50 years ago? Perhaps not in the same sense as it did during the Civil Rights Movement, but the idea that we can and must achieve the social vision outlined in the Declaration of Independence is the undercurrent which directs nearly every conversation in our public government arenas. History will look on these two speeches as snapshots of our citizenry’s particular and endearing brand of social capital.

We have so many blessings as Americans, not the least of which is the right to access our own governmental institutions (though this right is not currently extended to every individual living on our soil). Dr. King and President Obama reminded Kat, Anna, Nora and I of this on Monday, and for that we are grateful.

“…Young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled…we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red and blue states; we are and always will be the United States of America.” – President Barack Obama, 2008

con amor,

shan


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why I choose to serve: living in solidarity

“Volunteerism benefits both the society at large and the individual volunteer by strengthening trust, solidarity, and reciprocity among citizens, and by purposefully creating opportunities for participation.” -UN State of the World’s Volunteerism Report, 2011

I am over four months in to my year as an AmeriCorps*VISTA. For those of you who do not know, AmeriCorps is like the domestic Peace Corps. Its three different branches work to fight illiteracy, provide disaster relief, improve health services, manage after-school programs, aid community development, resettle refugees, and strengthen volunteerism in nonprofit and government agencies across America. VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), one of the three branches, strives to fight poverty by increasing organizational capacity through sustainable efforts. I want to take some time, as we navigate our way through the holiday season, to reflect on my experience so far and why I choose to serve.

Living at the poverty line

As an AmeriCorps*VISTA, my stipend is calculated so that I live at 105% of the poverty line. I qualify for and use food assistance. I have a scholarship to the YWCA. I can get discounts to local attractions ($1 for the science museum!).

The intention of this small stipend is to allow us to live in solidarity with the community we serve. The idea is that we will come to better understand the difficulties of living in poverty, so that we can better empathize and better serve low-income communities.

Goodbye lattes…

Practically, this means that I have had to be more conscious of where I spend my money. I have to budget so that I have enough gas money to make it across the Cities and back for work. I have stopped frequenting coffee shops and Banana Republic.  I have been more frugal as I begin Christmas shopping. But, I must stop and ask myself…is this poverty?

Applying for food assistance at Hennepin County may be the strongest glimpse at what living below the poverty line is like, although I would still argue I had an unique experience. Hennepin County is a large, crowded, and confusing building. When a person goes to apply for assistance of any kind, they can expect for it to take upwards of two hours. Luckily, I had the flexibility to spend that much time there. Can you imagine doing it while employed, with children, and lacking access to transportation?

Hennepin County Social Services Building. It is huge, crowded, and confusing.

Laura and I in our business casual clothing stood out like sore thumbs. We received a lot of “why are you here” looks. My caseworker talked to me like a peer, not a client. She told me about her bad day and how they were understaffed, but overworked. I haven’t had a problem with my EBT card or account yet.

While it went smoothly for me, for my roommates and friends it was often times a struggle. We have reflected on the fact that we all had trouble filling out the application and navigating the bureaucracy… and we are college-educated, native English speakers (see how we are constantly surrounded by our privilege?). And this is just a small glimpse into what it is like to live below the poverty line.

Living in solidarity

I am not trying to undermine what AmeriCorps is trying to do. Honestly, I think living at the poverty line is a great experience. I believe it is so important to understand and try to relate to the population I work with.  But, again, do I really live in poverty? Probably not, because poverty is not simply a lack of money. It is a lack of opportunities. A lack of access to the most basic things like healthcare, childcare, jobs, affordable housing, networks… but I have access to those services. I have my parents, who have graciously lent me their car, kept me on their cellphone and insurance plan, given me gifts in the kindest way possible, and always been there for me in a pinch. I have an incredible network of St. Olaf alums. I have a college education. I have met fantastic professionals in the nonprofit field. I have opportunities. I know my situation is temporary.

Yes, let’s live in solidarity. But not a solidarity based on what we earn. Not a solidarity based on the color of skin. Not a solidarity based upon our religion, sexual orientation, gender identification, native tongue, etc. Living in solidarity is so much deeper than that. Instead, let us live in solidarity based on our common humanity. An acknowledgement that we all deserve access to basic needs and beyond. That by working together we can all thrive. This is why I choose to serve.

I want to leave you with a quote for reflection that was introduced to me by one of my favorite college professors, Tom Williamson. This is a quote that really encapsulates how I feel about service and how I strive to serve others. I would love to hear our readers’ comments.

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Aboriginal Activists Group, Queensland, 1970s (Lilla Watson)

Thanks for reading. -Kat