Look deeper than the “good ole days”

Every so often I get fired up about something at work and it always leads to the same conversation; me venting to the next cubicle over about the state of the country. And without fail, she (a boomer) always says with an air of hopeless resolve, “well, it’s not like it used to be.”

The problem is that she only focuses on the effects, the tangible, what she’s personally affected by. Aggressive driving for instance. She says that people drive much more aggressively these days. “It’s not safe. It’s not like it used to be. Nobody takes leisurely drives anymore.” That’s where it stops. Her analysis of the world stops with nostalgia.

I’ve been trying for months to try to get her to ask different questions. Not just what is different, but why it’s different, and more importantly, how did we get to this point? Have you considered that aggressive driving might be born from stress and anxiety? Your beloved leisurely drives have gone by the wayside… what has taken their place? Extreme productivity and time efficiency?

In many cases, these bad things in our society today are not the issues themselves, but symptoms of underlying problems. To continue with the aggressive driving example; local governments can change traffic patterns and reduce speed limits all they want, but at the root of the problem is driver aggression.

But we can go deeper. Why are drivers becoming more agressive? Is it because greater speeds and safer vehicles have unlocked some primal instinct? Maybe, but I suspect it has something to do with stress and how we as a society manage our mental health.

See, the Germans don’t have the same road rage problems that we have in America, and they can go even faster than we can. What does their society do differently? For starters, they treat their workers better. The kids go to school at a later hour. The drinking age is lower. They don’t eat nearly as much fast food.

It’s not perfect, but imagine this: what if Americans as a whole were less stressed, daily. What if that man didn’t have to rush to work every day, because his workplace valued him as a person and not a number, and understood that life happens sometimes. What if he wasn’t quite so worried about things going on at home; that if he lost this job that he hates, his children would starve and his wife would die of cancer without health insurance. What if he was taught from a young age that talking about his feelings was valid and essential for men to do?

Maybe this is stretching the analogy a bit. Try this; a recent study has concluded that high school students today exhibit on average MORE stress that the average mental institute patient did in the 1950s. Meaning that if this were 1950 (the good old days), all of our young people could be put away for “nerves”.

Something is broken. You’re right; in many ways, those were the good old days. But boomers, you have made the world we live in today. Maybe if your generation wasn’t so focused on growing the economy, they would remember that we’re all just people, not machines. Perhaps if your generation wasn’t so intent on gathering as much money as possible, you would remember that your young people are in debt that they will never climb out of. Want to build the economy? Remember the future of it; who will be taking care of you in 20 years. Remember the children born to parents who they hardly see. How can you bring back family values to a world where both parents work 50 hour weeks to put food on the table?

I’m asking, please look deeper than your nostalgia. If you want things to go back to the way they used to be, you need to start valuing people for their souls, rather than the monies they contribute to society.

Look deeper than the “good ole days”

10 Party tricks for introverts

Social tips from an introvert: How to become instantly endearing.

We’ve all found ourselves in social situations where we’re a little unsure of what to do. Maybe, like me, you’re an introvert. Or maybe the situation is awkward due to the group composition. Maybe you’re meeting people for the first time, or maybe you’re meeting people who may or may not like you.

This weekend I was in an interesting situation where I was a little unsure of what to do socially. All in one party, I had to meet new people, reconnect with people who I hadn’t seen in years, interact with children,  all on 4 hours of sleep and somehow come out unscathed.

I played a game of endearment; specifically, how many people could I endear myself to in the 3 hour time frame?

Here are the tips:

  1. Open the conversation

    • “How are you” will absolutely suffice, but might prompt a one word response. Instead, try “how is your summer going?” Or “what have you been up to this summer? Did you take any vacations?”
  2. Find the story

    • Search around for the thing they want to talk about–A trip they went on, or what they’ve been bingewatching on Netflix. Maybe its their kids, or pets, or new spouse. Then ask them about it.
  3. Learn something new

    • Give them the opportunity to educate you. Listening is hard, but if you approach it with a learning mentality, you’ll find it much easier. Tim is on the travel soccer team this summer. Is he enjoying himself? Does he want to play in high school? What position does he play?
  4. Ask at least two “learning” questions before you say anything about yourself.

    • Conversation should flow, story to story. In order for the flow to be smooth, each party needs room to tell their story. Give the other person space. People love when you ask them questions, and it genuinely is easy. You don’t have to think of how to respond– just ask another question and learn more!
    • When you are ready to talk about yourself, keep it brief and on topic. Add another spotlight to their story instead of stealing from it.
  5. Smile!

    • Laughter is endearing! You don’t have to laugh hysterically or smile constantly; rather, genuinely enjoy the moment with the person you are speaking with. It’s only one moment in a million; it is brief. You can do it.
  6. Thank the host(s) individually.

    • This one is genuinely super easy but it’s often overlooked. When you’re saying your goodbyes, add a “thank you so much for having me over! I really appreciate it!” Adding a handshake or a hug where appropriate will bring a level of sincerity to your words.
  7. Offer to help clean up.

    • Humble yourself, and just offer to help. More often than not they will refuse help anyway.
  8. Talk to a variety of ages.

    • Talk to the adults, talk to the youngsters. It shows you’re a well rounded person. The conversations don’t have to be long; the effort was still made.

If you need a little help…

9. Compliments. Everyone loves to be complimented. I like your hair! I love your backyard! Your children are so sweet! It’s one of the easiest things to do– just make sure you come across as genuine.

10. Take a shot. Of alcohol. Sometimes you can put on  your best face but you really just do need something to take the edge off the nerves. No shame, just drink responsibly.

At the end of the day, you may still be worn out and tired–you are an introvert after all–but if the other people left the conversation with better energy than they started with, you’ve done your job.

Parties are never going to be easy for the introvert–think of it as a time to endear yourself to others. Perhaps the next party will be easier.



10 Party tricks for introverts

This Dumb Brain of Mine

I was sitting in the passengers seat of a 12 passenger van. My boss was driving. We had been talking but had both fallen silent as we prepared our minds for the 13 hour day ahead of us.

Suddenly he speaks up with more transparency than I had expected from a man, a boss, my senior.

“I don’t know how to say this other than to just come out and say it,” he began. “But sometimes I get car anxiety? And I’ve got that right now so pardon if I just… talk to you about it a bit.”

I felt like rejoicing in that moment. Not because of his discomfort, for sure, but because I know how to handle this situation. I get it. I totally get it. I have anxiety too! I understand panic attacks and I know how to work through it! I’m on medicine that severs my overactive brain connections and steadies my breathing. I! Get! It!

Because I get it, I didn’t say any of these things until the moment was passed. He needed to talk. He needed me to listen. I asked leading questions and kept him talking for the last two miles of the drive. And after his feet were firmly on the ground, and after he had thanked me for listening, was when I shared my experiences in turn.

It’s okay, I tried to convey. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I get it. 

I have two very dear friends with whom I can be fully open about mental health. They get it too; different struggles within our same biology. They taught me how freeing it was to be open about mental health; how essential it was for improvement and healing.

Unfortunately, they’re not around as much. And double unfortunately, people don’t want to hear about my brain.

My dumb brain.

Talking about mental health makes most people deeply uncomfortable. They do not know how to respond, or they have been raised to not discuss such things, or they just flat out don’t believe that a person’s brain could really behave that way.

Just get over it. Just calm down. Exercise. Eat right. Sleep.

The only thing that’s really helped me at all with anxiety or depression has been being honest with people. Truly, brutally honest, down to how many pills I take, what they’re for, how I got the scars on my thighs, how many times I’ve thought about dying.

But today, I’m sitting at work and struggling. Today, nobody wants to hear about my issues. I know, because I’ve tried to explain and it has fallen on unresponsive ears.

So let me tell you about my dumb brain.

Because of depression, I don’t really care about my body the way I should. I didn’t care that my insurance card was out of date on Thursday when I went to pick up my medication refill. I didn’t care that I ran out of said medicine on Wednesday. I didn’t even care when my anxiety swelled on Saturday and my chest constricted; it made me better at my part time job–more effective and more sharp.

Because I didn’t care for my body, it’s now Monday and I am in FULL withdrawal mode. I’ve been taking this medicine for 1.5 years. it’s in my system. It’s in my brain. Today my brain has been misfiring; zapping electric currents in the form of nightmares and waves of nausea in between hours of fuzziness. Brain static.

Today my body is crying for help; and as I sit at my desk, accomplishing nothing of value, I’m kicking myself for my lack of caring. I can barely stand without falling over. Can barely turn my head without a wave of nausea striking my every nerve.

Fuck, man. My brain is dumb. And all I really need is for someone to say, “I get it. I understand. Tell me how I can help you. My brain is dumb too.”

This Dumb Brain of Mine