Enigma

How could I feel like I’ve lost something I never really had? It’s as though it’s just a figment of my imagination, but I don’t want it to end. I want to hold onto it for as long as I can.

We connected instantly. Our banter flowed with ease. Our words were firing away. It was such a comfort talking to him. The hours flew by so quickly. Then we disconnected abruptly, and all of a sudden, I felt like a lost, wounded puppy.

He said it was as though I’d trapped him, and used a fishing analogy. I was smug about it, but I hadn’t realised I’d spun my web so rapidly that I’d tangled myself in it too. He said he’d never had such a connection before, that it was as though we had known each other for years and that we could just talk for hours without any distraction. We didn’t want it to end.

He barely knows anything concrete about me, and pointed out that I’d dodged every question he had asked about me. But he was insightful; he was able to read me fairly accurately and I felt understood. He asked that I remove my shield, but I was too afraid. All he has is my alias, and all I know is that he’s 25 and from Manchester. The search is futile.

The regret sets in. The should-haves pile on top of one another. I should have asked to exchange our contact details sooner. It was only after that I realised he had alluded to it, but our conversation was firing away that I overlooked it. I didn’t catch it in time. I was so caught up in the moment that it hadn’t occurred to me how fragile our mode of conversing was.

How could I be so distraught over something that would soon become just a blip in our existence? It’s a sense of loss over a potentiality. A what-could-be turned into a what-could-have-been. It’s a loss of a connection. It’s a loss of an opportunity. It’s a loss of someone that I felt such closeness to. It’s a hope that’s been crushed. I’ve lost my hold on him. I’ve lost him. And in it, I feel like I’m losing myself.

So I hang on to the memory and its bittersweetness. That’s all I’m left with.

I want him back. Is that too much to hope for?

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The Outsiders

The Outsiders poster 2

It’s unexpected that The Outsiders would appeal to me.  I find the bad-boy image off-putting but the story and characters grew on me very quickly.  It’s funny how I came to know of it from a 12-year-old.  I was talking to her about literature and she told me that this was what they were currently reading in class.

Digital Booklet - The Outsiders - 1

When I watched the movie, I first fell in love with Ponyboy during the scene where Cherry tells him that she likes Dally.  The way his face falls as Elvis begins crooning Blue Moon in the background makes me feel very much for him.  When I read the book after, I began to fall in love with the other characters too: Sodapop especially, I’m always smitten by this sort of character and personality, then Darry, and Johnny, even Two-Bit has some insightful things to say, and the way Steve crumples to the ground in both situations.  I first found Dally annoying — I see through the bad-boy ruse easily.  But towards the end, I had a soft spot for him.  He reminds me of Finnick, not just in the bad-boy persona and premature loss alone, but in the way my perception of and fondness (the lack thereof) for them change and evolve.

Digital Booklet - The Outsiders - 2

I fancy that era — the music and the style captivate me.  I’ve purchased the songs used in the re-release of the movie, as well as the original film score that came with a digital booklet, which was a nice surprise.  I’ll be re-reading the book and rewatching the movie multiple times over.  This prolongs the mood I’m in, which I enjoy doing with things that I like.  The emotions simmer and brew inside me, and this’ll be on my mind almost all the time for quite a while.  It provides some relief and escape as I’m absorbed in a fictional world.

Digital Booklet - The Outsiders - 3

Speaking in Absolutes

This is how I’ve made myself to be.
This is my own doing.
I wonder how many of us there are —
The ones who are truly alone.
It’s easy to think of the mountain dwellers
And the homeless —
Ones who chose a life of solitude,
Intentional or not.
But just how many of us loners are there
Living amidst the bustling society?

I could do it now —
Take off for the mountains.
Fear, apprehension, and cowardice
Hold me back.
There are many risks involved:
A meek excuse I hide behind.
It’s not as simple a solution,
But it’s always an option.

How many different ways can I say the same thing?
How many renditions can I make of the same thoughts?
How many times can I recite the same old words?
There’s little substance to my words —
Just mere repetition,
Just mere redundancy.
Why do I even bother?
I keep walking myself round in circles,
The loops getting tighter and tighter each time.
It’s a spiral leading to dead center.
     I just want it all to cease.
     I want relief.
     I want to escape.
     I want to be set free.
Things won’t change —
Not for me, not for the better.
Downhill is all I see.
So what’s the point?
It all hurts too much.
Everything is laced with anxiety.
Everything is shrouded in sadness.

I’ve come to realise just how
Passive-aggressive the INFJs can be.
Amongst the NFs,
I’ve always associated it only with the INFPs.
How wrong I’ve been.
It brews a storm of bad feelings underneath,
Deep in my core.
Perhaps it’s just their Fe way of handling things.
Perhaps it’s just me.

It really is a double-edged sword.
It hurts when I try to reach out;
It hurts when I shut myself in.
But, of course,
It isn’t as simplistic as that.
A multitude of factors are at play.
Perhaps it’s the people whom I’m reaching out to.
Perhaps it’s how I’m going about it.
Decades of going through the motions,
Trying different avenues,
But always arriving at the same starting position.
It all comes back to me, doesn’t it?
This is where all the paths lead to.
I am the problem,
The common denominator.
The issue is with me,
And me alone.

Choose Your Own Adventures

I’ve always been drawn to choose-your-own-adventure type of games.  It’s the idea of choosing my own path and playing an integral part of the story that lure me in.  However, only a few have resonated deeply with me.  I found most to be too superficial or just not my style, though still fun and interesting to play (or watch).

Although video games appeal to me, I almost never play them myself as I often find it too scary to do so.  I feel immensely for the character that I play – I become that character; I’m transported into that world.  So when the character dies, I truly feel as though I’ve died too.  It gets too overwhelming for me, especially when they’re being chased and running for their lives, or fighting monsters, or struggling to survive – it seems all too real to me.  I’d rather watch playthroughs of video games (and I search for players who’d select similar choices as I would).  This way, it’s a little easier for me to dissociate from the intense moments by looking away or shutting my eyes, as though reminding myself that there’s a barrier between me and the screen, that I’m not there experiencing the same things.

Beyond: Two Souls is by far the best video game I’ve come across.  To me, it’s an allegory of Ni (introverted intuition).  I’ve watched the entire 9-hour playthrough/movie a number of times in the past (back when there were no ads yet).

Video games aside, I’m also drawn to text-based games – or interactive novels, as they’re often called:

Depression Quest really speaks to me.  I see myself in the text, spiralling downwards into the darkness.  The background music and ambient sounds help set the mood and tone as well.  It can get painfully sad (depending on your choices, of course).

Choice of Romance: Affairs of the Court was a surprising find.  I’m not one who goes for the romance genre per se, but this story is very well fleshed out.  It delves into court politics and the life of an aristocrat.  I’ve played/read it numerous times and I thoroughly love it.

Fallen Hero: Rebirth is the most recent and even more surprising find.  (I’ve just finished it before writing this post.)  It’s highly unusual of me to find the superhero genre interesting, and I had initially purchased this on a whim.  As an INTJ, an Ni-dominant, and a type 5, I relate so much to it.  This is my new favourite, although I wish I could just change a couple of the characters’ names.  I also felt like it ended a little prematurely and was left wanting more.  I can’t wait for the sequel, Fallen Hero: Retribution.  In the story, I chose the name Enigma for my villainous persona.  No mystery there.

A Situation at Work

A conversation I had with an INFP.


INFP: So tell me about your work situation, and I will let my Ne free rein.

INTJ: Fi also please.

INFP: Haha.

INTJ: So because I think you’d appreciate/need this, I teach, ok?

INFP: Ok.

INTJ: There’s this student now who’s doing a personal one-to-one programme, and he has recently been transferred to me.  He’s been branded as “troublesome” by my colleagues and passed to me as a last resort.  Before taking him, they already gave me warnings like: he’s argumentative and will argue for the sake of arguing; he’ll wait till just 5 minutes before the end of the lesson to ask another big question and will keep at it so as to prolong the lesson and end ½ hour later; that if A is the answer, he won’t accept it and will keep asking ‘why not B, C, D’; that he thinks he already knows it all; and the worst of all, that if he continues being like that with me (which I took to mean that it insinuates if I’m unable to handle him because he’s such a bother), they’ll “get rid of him”.  Similar situations have happened before, and I already knew that it’s not so much the fault of the student.  Do you know what I mean?

INFP: Well, behaviour management is down to the skill of the teacher as well as the problems of the student… if that’s what you mean.  There’d be students who can’t be managed but there’d also be teachers who aren’t good at managing.

INTJ: But there isn’t any behavioural problem.  He isn’t argumentative; he’s asking because he would like to understand.  The others (my colleagues) get surprised when I say that I like teaching that way — that I like explaining why A is the answer and why not B, C, D.  That is what the students are here for, to learn and understand.  It’s really sad that they’re being treated this way and branded as a trouble due to the incompetencies of the teachers, and I can’t do much about it (which is what I wanted to discuss with you about).  The part where he was described as a know-it-all is most likely with the portions where it’s too pedantic and simplistic.  He’s smart.  I took him for one lesson so far and there were no issues with him whatsoever.

INFP: That sounds really good!  I know what you mean.  “Inquisitive” minds don’t fit well with lazy teachers.  So what’s the problematic part?

INTJ: They aren’t lazy.

INFP: Okay, other possibilities are just different mindsets or thinking styles or teaching styles.

INTJ: Yes.

INFP: Like an SJ teacher might struggle with an N.

INTJ: Yes, wasn’t really sure if I could say that to you.

INFP: No, it’s fine.  Say anything.

INTJ: It’s just so sad.  I feel for the students, I feel the injustice on their part, and I feel powerless as to how to help them (other than just having them be assigned to me).  But I understand my colleagues as well.  It’s just a snowball effect: the students come here to learn, the teachers are not giving them what they seek, the students get frustrated and act out, the teachers brand them as troublesome, and because they act out, they really do become a bother for the faculty.  All of this can be cut out if they had been assigned to me first, you know?  It’d save everyone a headache.

INFP: That’s true.  I guess you could try to present it as a learning styles issue, and see if there’s a way to promote an awareness of that?  (In terms of student allocation.)  I understand your frustration!

INTJ: Maybe because of my current unhealthy state of mind, the frustration bleeds everywhere and into everything.  It affects me a lot — I don’t know how else to emphasise that.  It doesn’t just stay at the level of frustration, not that it escalates to anger, but it manifests in sadness.  (Maybe I do know how to phrase it after all.)  Handling this sort of situation is another tricky part.  Remember when I said I don’t (can’t) work full-time?

INFP: Ah, so do you feel like the solution to your problem would depend on you working more hours… so you feel trapped or something?  Like you want to demand a better solution, but logically you should be part of the solution?

INTJ: For the sake of the students, I don’t mind putting in the hours.  I’d even do it pro bono because I really do want to help them and will put my all in it (and I can’t be bothered with money, just need a little for survival and books and classes).  It’s — I’m not sure what the right term is — it’s principle, it’s the right of the student; I have to do something for the students and not stand by and watch them combust.  My being part of the solution, yes, and it gets tricky because I work freelance, and it’d seem as though I’m stepping on others’ toes and scheming to get more benefits for myself.  In reality, if I speak out, there’d be no benefit for me, and in fact would be more detrimental to me.

INFP: I think you’re right; it’s more of an Fi problem than an Ne question.

INTJ: I’m approaching you for a reason, INFP.

INFP: How many actual students like this would there be?

INTJ: Hard to say, it’ll be ongoing.

INFP: Thinking as an Fi-dom, this experience of frustration with sub-ideal systems and institutions is very familiar.  Usually my experience is either that the system is “just the way it is” and there’s nothing I can do, or it’s a situation where I can exhaust myself trying to help everyone.

INTJ: Between these two options, I’d choose the latter, INFP.  Like the starfish story.

INFP: So I guess my question is what you want to do?  Feel better about it?

INTJ: Doubt that would happen.  I’ve set up a casual meeting with the manager tomorrow — did it before I even met the student, because N.  It’s just going to be a couple of minutes of me trying to express myself and her (and, later, the rest of the faculty) taking it the wrong way.  I plan to say that I experienced no issues at all with the current student and to make a suggestion that, in future (which will fall on deaf ears), should there be other “challenging/difficult” students, to assign them to me.  There, misunderstandings would snowball.  It’d be seen as me trying to get more money, insinuating that I’m a better educator than the rest, especially when I don’t have credentials (big issue here).  Oh, and trying to climb up the ladder (which I have no intention of).  I don’t know what else to do, for the students.

INFP: I think that is all you can do.

INTJ: It isn’t enough.  There’d be no step forward for the students, while I take two steps back myself.

INFP: If you make known your willingness to take on students like this, in an ideal world, management and other teachers will be happy to “dump” them on you.

INTJ: Although I’d be phrasing it that way, there’d be no way to tell if they’re going to be challenging in the beginning.  Plus, I seem to be low down on the list of getting assignments.  I’m like a vulture swooping in to peck at the remnants.

INFP: One thing I’ve noticed is that you do have some very negative expectations about how things will unfold.  One of the characteristics of an Fi-dom is that I’m usually forced to do my best according to what feels right, and be agnostic about the outcome.  But here it sounds like you’re doing that, yet telling yourself the outcome will be bad.  I think that’s guaranteed to exacerbate bad Fi feelings.

INTJ: Yes, but then, pessimism or realism, which I think we’ve discussed before.

INFP: So your sadness is a response not only to this sub-optimal situation but to your broader pessimistic read on it.

INTJ: Yes, and for the future, that it’d keep going on like this, never changing for the better, and likely to get worse.  Inferior Se.

INFP: Your Fi wants you to be more optimistic, because that will feel better.

INTJ: To lie to myself?  Don’t think so.  Me feeling better isn’t the objective either.

INFP: So what is the objective?

INTJ: In this situation, to help students.  On the broader scale, to help improve the world.  Though, we can ignore the second part.

INFP: Then you need a longer term path to having the necessary power to effect the improvements you desire.

INTJ: By climbing the ladder?

INFP: You could start your own school, seek higher qualifications, climb the ladder… What would you require to be in a position where you can make the desired changes?

INTJ: Which makes me stuck, and it’s sad.  But thank you, that is realistically one of the ways to go about it.  Just, it’s a little too late for me, and it’s unfortunate, not for me, but for others, that I’m letting them down and not helping them.  (My issue though.)

INFP: Fi also desires authenticity… Would it be an improvement if you were part of a smaller operation that championed a better approach, even if your current school remained unchanged in its practices?  That’s part of why people go independent.

INTJ: Yes, that would be an improvement.  It’d be an effort to try to better things, as long as I try to keep the starfish mentality at bay.

INFP: As an Fi-dom, I would rather be an authentic private tutor doing things the right way than being part of a bigger organisation doing things less ideally. But for you numbers may matter too?

INTJ: I’m not sure what you mean by numbers?

INFP: I’m just trying to take into account other factors. Like, you might be committed to helping these particular students, or in particular quantities. For me the quality of my efforts would be more important, but I’m not an NT.

INTJ: I still don’t really get it.

INFP: Don’t worry about it.  I was just being extra open-minded in case I said “go independent and do things your way” and you replied “but that’s not going to help enough people” or something.

INTJ: Ohh, yes, like the starfish mentality I mentioned.  But quality still trumps quantity.  The best would be quality with quantity, but never quantity on its own.  Going independent is too much for me as a less-than-healthy 5.  I don’t have the resources (internal and external), the network or networking skills, and I’m not one to boast about and sell myself.  I don’t mean to keep shutting your ideas down — I hope I’m not coming across that way.  I appreciate your insights.

INFP: Nah, you don’t come across badly.  I just disagree with your pessimistic outlook.

INTJ: I disagree with your outlook that it’s pessimism. (joke)

INFP: Feeling better doesn’t have to come only from things that feel untrue.  It can also be a choice of what to focus on.  E.g. The system might be sub-ideal, but how great is it that this “difficult” student found his way to you?!

INTJ: Kind of like the starfish story, right?  It doesn’t work for me, but that doesn’t detract the positive outcomes from that one starfish.

INFP: I guess so.  Like, I’m roasting coffee beans and it feels like a chore.  But I can choose to focus on how much I love coffee and actually it’s quite satisfying.  There’s no objective reason to focus on the bad-feeling thought that it’s a chore rather than the good-feeling thought about the enjoyable aspects.

INTJ: That I agree with and understand and can do, but not when there are lives involved, for me.  Is it like talking to a wall with me?

INFP: Nah, I’m definitely learning.  For me, pessimism meant my life.  I couldn’t continue being that unhappy.

INTJ: That’s the road I’m on.

INFP: I just finished proofing a book on philosophy.  It reinforced for me the subjective nature of all knowledge.  There are levels of truth and no agreement among experts, in philosophy at least.  So I guess I decided my life was more important than my prior choices of what to focus on in life, because even the wisest make choices on which truths to emphasise.

INTJ: Yeah, as a 5, I don’t believe in objective truth (which the INTJ 1s do, and it’s intriguing).  I view my life as minuscule and not as important.

INFP: Subjectively, it’s your whole world.

Drawing Parallels

I typically shrink away from physical contact, but hugs from children are different, I’ve come to find.   It’s borne out of such innocence, which makes it trustworthy.

Some time ago, I told a pretty, little ENFP child that she’s smart.  “I’m not smart,” she responded softly.  In that moment, it was as though my ceramic heart cracked.  “You are smart,” I emphasised, but she shook her head.  She told me that I’m friendly.  « Je ne suis pas gentille.  Tu es gentille, plus gentille. »  I said to her, and placed a hand lightly on her shoulder.  She held my arm, and I knew it was a moment so I held onto hers as well, and she said, “You are good at your work, you are a good person, and you are a good friend.”  I looked at this sweet, little ENFP, thinking about how she’ll learn to intuitively tell what truly matters to others as she grows, and gave a smile and nod.

There was this other time when another bright, little child stopped slurping her spaghetti, looked up at me and said, “You have something here,” while tapping the side of her lips.  I looked at her, saw her chin and cheeks covered in a beard of pasta sauce, and burst out laughing.

When talking to two adult INFJs on separate occasions about my experiences with children, they each said, “You’re a good person, you know?”  Ah, the NFs and being a good person.  “You’re just like Katniss,” one of them commented, which is amazing — that they see the resemblance, that they understand.

As I retreat further into myself, my world becomes smaller and I feel more alone. As I retreat further into myself, I then truly become more alone. The connections I make through work fuels me, yet the sadness persists. I’m caught in the land in-between, sinking further down into the soil. Some have come to me with their problems, some while crying. I feel sad for them, but I also wonder why they feel comfortable enough with me. Shouldn’t I, a stone-cold INTJ, be the last person others would want to approach with emotional issues? Perhaps it’s the environment we’re in — the conducive atmosphere. From an outsider’s perspective, it must seem like such a bizarre setting. I feel like a fraud helping them. I am in no way qualified to do so, and I’m much more troubled and unhealthy than they are. It’s strange, isn’t it?

Restlessness

I dislike the days when the restlessness seeps in. Days such as these. I toss about wanting to do several things, flitting from one thing to another, never finding the satisfaction nor the concentration for whatever I engage in, even with mindless tasks. (i.e. In Enneagram terms: The 5’s disintegration to a scattered 7.)

The need for social interaction intensifies and takes over, but I refuse to give in because it isn’t fulfilling either way. So I push it aside, minimise the need, and wait agonisingly for it to pass.

In moments like these, the contemplation sinks deeper, but the risks are great. To quote the duchess in a rendition I’ve watched countless of times over the years, there is “a death worse than fate”.

Then there’s the battle with sleep. I doze off for short periods of time when I don’t want to, yet I’m unable to fall asleep when I’d like to. It takes hours for sleep to come, but then I rouse a couple hours or so later. The tiredness weighs on me like I’ve been dipped in glue, and I’m never able to shrug it off.