Week 2, and where am I? I'm in bed. With pink eye...in both eyes. I've got a nasty cough and potentially a rising fever as I write this. I've decided at the risk of delirium, the upside is I could produce some of my best writing. I always think about that artist who creates self portraits on various drugs. Though the results are at times frightening, they never cease to fascinate me. The idea that by altering the mechanics in your brain, you could unleash such drastically different creations, from the same being, is so mind boggling and cool to me.
I've had a lot of time to self-reflect over the last week. I've learned a lot about myself and the new friends I'm making and I've become keenly aware of a particular trait that I have. I have a keen sensitivity to those around me. It means, at any given time, I find myself watching and observing, sometimes so caught up in body language, in facial expressions, in trigger words, that I've completely lost track of the conversation at hand (clearly another battle of remaining present). At times, I think it's a gift that I have this deeper understanding -- it's made me more intuitive, a better friend I suppose, a natural empathetic, and then some. On the flip side, however, my quest for this understanding leads to a bit of an obsession of proximity, of comparison, and ultimately of self-consciousness (obviously being conscious of others means I have x2394872349 consciousness of myself). This is not to be confused with envy -- while I can't wholeheartedly affirm I'm free of envy, I find that I'm just simply fascinated that someone carries an ability that I don't have. I want to understand so I can unlock those parts of me as well. So conversations with me (or in my head) can sometimes go like this:
"Wow! You traveled for a year alone? I really admire that. I don't think I could do it. How did you get past loneliness? How did you make friends? Do you feel like you came out a better person having had that experience?"
Wow, I love the way that she commands a room during a meeting. Her voice is strong. Assertive. Well thought out. Uninhibited. She confronts sexist remarks without apology. I will train myself to be like that.
"I love how positive you are all the time. What do you think contributed to this disposition on life? Religion? A book? Your parents?"
I find myself trying to unlock the environments and the influences people have experienced that have shaped them into the admirable human they are today. I want to absorb the best of people, letting their positive habits, outlooks, mindsets, philosophies, whatever sit with me so that I can become the best version of myself. As a self-proclaimed introvert, I feel that it's necessary and only worth my energy to surround myself with people I can learn from. And in turn, I always hope I can reciprocate. The self-conscious, self-deprecating voice in me at times will tell me I have nothing to give, but as I focus on being kinder to myself, I'd like to think that what I give and put out the world just isn't definable. I have a beautiful family, and lots of loving friends, and the respect of people I admire, so I must be doing something right.
Interestingly, one of my suggested reads for this month came from one of my closest friends Matt (who is one of the most positive, all-loving, ambitious people I know)...a poem titled Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. A particular part resonated with me.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
While my comparisons stem from a place of good intentions (self-betterment), I think it's important to be keenly aware of the sobering fact that I can't do everything. I can't be everything. I can't be everywhere. There will always be someone smarter, more creative, more talented, etc. and I have to learn to celebrate those achievements in others and stop at admiration; say masha Allah for the gifts they have (and swiftly followed by an Alhamdulillah for the gifts I have) and move on.