Monday, October 31, 2016

Monday, June 08, 2015

Flight

I’m in Minneapolis for Lowe Sisters Weekend 2015. I flew Southwest and on the first leg of my flight from PDX-->PHX I let myself believe, and desperately hope, that I wouldn’t have to sit right next to someone else on the plane. I had visions of letting my elbows spread out on the armrests, of drifting off to sleep and letting my head totter haphazardly in any direction, of not having anyone ask to be let out of the row to go to the bathroom. It was only a 3-hour flight, so it wouldn’t exactly be the end of the world to spend it within 3.5” of another human, but once you have it in your head that you might actually have a little space around you, it feels like it’s your right. It’s what you deserve. Like anything short of a 2 foot radius to the next human being would be an unfair disaster.

I had good reason to believe I might have a seat open next to me. First, there were only about 20 people standing in line for the C boarding group. Basic math led me to believe that meant there would be 20+ open seats on the plan. As I was boarding my suspicions were confirmed by a flight attendant, telling one of the passengers just ahead of me that there should be 25 open seats. Of course one of those open seats was going to be next to me. Second, I was at the end of boarding group B, and I purposely walked to the back, looking for a nearly empty row to sit in. There were only the few C group people boarding behind me and still plenty of open seats at the front of the plane.

I sat in the aisle seat, buckled my seatbelt, started reading on my Kindle, and spread my arms all over those rests, feeling confident I would be staying put.

This story can only end one way. The second-to-last passenger to board the plane heads to the back of the plan, makes eye contact with me and motions to the center seat. He settles in.

We all know at this point that all my hopes and dreams have been crushed, and the little pieces have been swept into a bag, and stored just out of reach in the overhead compartment. But not only is this guy sitting in my imagined space of the middle seat, he’s also sitting in my actual space, with his legs spread within centimeters of my legs and his arms not only covering both armrests, but extending at least 2” into my seat. So much for even 3.5” of space.

And maybe this is when I start to get a little irrational, and start imagining various scenarios where I called him out for his manspreading.
  • First scenario: At thirty-second intervals, I bump his elbow with my arm as if I have an uncontrollable twitch. 
  • Second scenario: I have pre-printed cards that say, “No one likes a manspreader.” I hand him one. Burn. 
  • Third scenario: When he leaves to go to the bathroom, I lift up the armrest between our seats, I put my feet up on his seat, nuzzle my head in, lean my Kindle on my bent legs and comfortably read my book. I pretend not to hear or notice him when he returns. 
  • Fourth scenario: As we’re leaving the plane, I hand him a bill for 1/10 of my plane ticket since he took up 1/10 of my space. I accept PayPal. 
I’ve got to get some cards printed, so I can be ready for next time.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Experiment: The Results

I know it has taken me a long time to post the results of The Experiment, but science takes time! Data! Analysis! Pensiveness! Actually, I’ve just been really busy. And usually “busy” is code for “I’ve recently discovered a new TV show and I’ve been marathoning the crap out of it,” but in this case “busy” actually means “busy.” House! Job! Life! Apparently it all takes time. But it’s been too long.

To recap on what The Experiment is, you can hop down a few posts and read all about it. All in all, I asked 47 friends to describe me in 5 words. I got responses back from 30 people, for a total of 150 words. I asked family members, friends from high school, friends from college, coworkers, current friends, etc. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the random people who took the odd request in stride and responded. I’ve had good people in my life.

First, I’ll give some high-level results. Then I’ll dive into my observations. Science!

Results

The top 5 most common words
  • Funny (9 mentions)
  • Thoughtful (8 mentions)
  • Smart (7 mentions)
  • Intelligent (6 mentions)
  • Kind (6 mentions)
  • Runner ups: Creative (5 mentions), Independent (5 mentions), Organized (5 mentions)
The top 5 most common concepts
The top 5 words are a little misleading because a lot of similar concepts are conveyed with slightly different words. So, here are the most common concepts (with some pretty liberal and subjective grouping of words):

  • Smart (27): Thoughtful (8), Intelligent (6), Articulate (2), Bookish (1), Smart (7), Logical (1), Educated (1), Competent (1)
  • Determined (20): Independent (6), Determined (3), Ambitious (2), Resourceful (1), hardworking (1), Focused (1), Fearless (1), Driven (1), Doer (1), Daring (1), Committed (1), Capable (1)
  • Funny (15): Funny (9), Witty (3), Hilarious (1), Entertaining (1), Dry Wit (1)
  • Grounded/sense of self (14): Confident (3), Authentic (1), Unpretentious (1), Stable (1), Sincere (2), Self-possessed (1), Realistic (1), Real (1), Integrity (1), Honest (1), Grounded (1), Genuine (1)
  • Kind/loving (12): Kind (6), Loyal (2), Loving (1), Helpful (1), Generous (1), Friendly (1)
  • Runner up: Quiet (10): Reserved (2), Quiet (2), Private (1), Pensive (1), Listener (1), Introspective (1), Introvert (2)

Observations

Flaws in The Experiment
Yes, as sciencey as this all clearly is, there are some flaws in The Experiment. First, I hand selected the respondents. I didn’t, say, reach out to my ex-boyfriends, or to people who I thought might be weirded out by the whole thing, which ruled out a lot of casual acquaintances. To make this more accurate, I needed a much larger and much less hand-picked sample size. I also didn’t make it anonymous. I’m sure the fact that people were submitting their words directly to me affected words people chose, and definitely decreased the amount of negative words. Interesting note: the majority of people I requested 5 words from were women (36/47).

Negative words
I was fully prepared to get negative words. I even encouraged negative words because I didn’t want people to think I was just looking for affirmation. Even still, almost no one included negative words. (This obviously means there’s absolutely nothing negative about me, right!?)

I have to say, it’s probably for the best more people didn’t send negative words because, as prepared as I thought I was, they actually really hurt. Well, I guess I should say there are two categories of negative words: there are words other people may perceive as negative, but I fully embrace as either neutral or great parts of me (these are words like stubborn, strong-willed, standoffish, skeptical, and sarcastic), and then there are negative words that I fully recognize as true, but make me very uncomfortable because I don’t like those aspects of myself. These are words like moody. And extremes. And inconsistent. All true. But there is something about knowing other people fully comprehend some of the qualities that I don’t like about myself that is disconcerting.

None of the negative words themselves were surprising, but I was surprised by my reaction to them. It made me realize I might be less comfortable with some of my deficiencies than I might have guessed.

Family
As I was analyzing the data, one thing I did was group the responses based on how I know people to see if I could identify trends. Generally, different groups of people, even from different times in my life, used similar words or themes. Except my family. My family used a lot of the same words that other groups used, but there was also a strong theme of fearless independence. Some words used by my family and no one else: adventurous, daring, fearless, doer, driven, ambitious, and determined. I think this perception is likely influenced by the fact that I just bought a house and everyone has heard an exhausting amount about all my projects. But still. There’s something interesting (and kind of great) about my family having this perception of me.

My mom
For most people, I don’t have a way to quantify how their perception of me has changed over time. But I happen to have a birthday letter from my mom that she wrote when I turned 18. I found it the other day as I was going through my pile of sentimental stuff in my loft. In the letter, she included a list of words to describe me. So, now I have a 2004 vs. 2015 comparison:
  • 2004: creative, smart, curious, responsible, friendly, athletic, leader
  • 2015: fearless, educated, hard working, responsible, resourceful, determined, smart
I can see my high school self oozing from the 2004 group of words. I played soccer, so being athletic was a big part of my life. And I was very involved in my church and clubs, so I can see how I may have been seen as a leader. Apparently I’m smart and responsible through and through.

More gaps
Not to get all Saussure on you, but not only is there a gap between how I perceive myself and how others perceive me, there is also a gap between what people think/perceive and the words they use to represent their thoughts. Words don’t always feel like enough. As some people gave me their 5 words, I tried to think of 5 words for them to better understand what it was like to articulate someone in such a simplified way. And it was difficult! General feelings, and varied concepts are difficult to articulate, but are even harder to try to distill down to a single word. I think that’s why words like “funny” and “smart” are so common—they’re kind of a catchall. With all these gaps it seems like a miracle we manage to make any sort of connection with people.

My words
One of my regrets with The Experiment is that I didn’t spend more time thinking about 5 words for myself. Right after I received my first 5 words back (congrats, Jon Hastings, you were the first respondent!), I realized I should record my own. So, I took about 5 minutes brainstorm. Had I taken more time, I think I may have come up with something different. But here are my off-the-top-of-my-head-didn’t-overthink-it 5 words to describe myself: independent, smart, creative, stubborn, and open-minded. I also listed some sub words: organized, funny, resourceful, responsible, and genuine.

Interestingly, all of the words I used to describe myself were used by at least one other person except for open-minded.

Conclusion
I wasn’t shocked by any words I received. Almost everything felt consistent with my personality. But what surprised me was the consistency in responses from people who knew me at very different times in my life. I feel very different than I felt in high school. But surprisingly, people who knew me in high school, and people who know me now used very similar words to describe me. So, perhaps I’ve been a fairly consistent person for a long time, but have just slowly come to understand myself better and have become more confident and self-aware.

Overall, it was a fascinating exercise. Fun to get in touch with people I haven’t talked to in years. Interesting to see how people responded to the request. And compelling to have conversations with people about The Experiment that led to discussion about what it means to define yourself and others.

You should do it too. Ask everyone you know for 5 words. You know, for fun. And for science!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Haircut

I have a history of cutting my own hair.

It all started when I was 3. And had thick, thick bangs. One day I must have decided it was all too much hair flopping around on my forehead, and I found some scissors and snip by snip managed to cut off all evidence. Since I can’t remember what it’s like inside 3-year-old Kristin’s head, I can’t say exactly why I took the scissors to my bangs. Curiosity? Rebellion? I had no idea what I was doing and it didn’t mean anything? Who knows. But ultimately it wasn’t a big deal. My mom probably had to answer the “Oh my! What happened?” question a million times (sorry, Sue!), but all in all I was still pretty much owning the look:
Now, I wish I could say my impulsive haircutting ended in this moment at the innocent, low-stakes age of 3 when the only people I interacted with were my family and friends from primary. But we all know I wouldn’t be blogging about it if it did.

Fast forward to Mt. View High School. I’m an awkward and self-conscious Junior taking AP classes and just trying to be normal! Blend in! No one look at me, please! I think it goes without saying that the last thing I needed was a terrible haircut to draw attention to me. (I mean, that’s the last thing any teenager needs.) We all know where this is going, but I’ll share the gory details anyway. One day while I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, it suddenly felt like a brilliant and rebellious and bold idea to cut my own hair. I took my long blondish, brownish hair in my hands, and I began chopping away. One chunk at a time. Cut after cut. Until there was a huge pile of hair on the floor and only a few precious inches left on my head. Layers. And chunks. And then the overwhelmingly, deep, devastating horror that comes when you realize you’ve just done something that can’t be undone. There are only so many hats you can wear. And so many hours you can spend in front of the mirror trying to convince yourself that it’s ndb. All you can really do is wait it out. Pictures exist of this time in my life, but I just can’t. It’s too soon.

Again, I wish I could say that the high power of teenage self-consciousness was finally able to cure me of the compulsion. But wait.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. It’s 2015 and I’m a 28-year-old adult with a full-time job and a house and my life together. And somehow, again, I find myself in front of the bathroom mirror, scissors in hand, and cutting my own hair feels like a really solid plan. To be fair, about two months ago I gave myself a haircut. And it actually turned out pretty well. I only took a few inches off, added a few layers, and it mostly looked normal. So, the idea of a haircut wasn’t as crazy and rebellious as it was back in high school. But as I took the first cut, I had that sinking feeling. The this-is-a-terrible-mistake-but-now-I've-done-it-and-there's-no-turning-back feeling. I cut an inch off. Then an inch became two. Then layers became higher. And weirder. And then I put the scissors down and realized that it was all wrong. That I wanted my hair back. That I’d made a huge mistake. I spent at least an hour washing it, blow drying it, straightening it, curling it, and straitening it again, trying to find something that looks normal. It’s no use. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I hate absolutely everything about it, and I want my two inches back, and I never want to leave my house again.

25 years later and some things never change. See you in a month. (Or two.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Experiment

Last Wednesday I woke up at 4am and couldn’t go back to sleep. As I was lying in bed wishing the sleep pain in my eyes would slowly lead me back to hibernation, I started thinking about a random (and super awkward) internet date I went on several weeks ago. I was joking around with this girl when she paused, looked at me a little funny, and said she could tell I was “a real smarty pants.” Which, as my go-to source for information defines it, is “someone who displays intelligence in an annoying way.” I was pretty amused because she was mostly (maybe?) joking, and because I don’t really see myself as a smarty pants. Sarcastic? Absolutely. Opinionated? Occasionally. Smart? Sure, get me talking about TV. But annoyingly intelligent? Of course not.

Unless I am.

In a sleep-deprived haze that at the time felt super insightful, I started to realize that even though she may not actually know a single thing about me, she had a powerful thing I don’t have: the ability to observe me external to myself. And even more intriguing, she got to observe me making a first impression without any additional information about me. And I mused that while I may have some decent guesses at how I come across to others, there will always be an unknowable space between how I view myself and how other people view me. The smarty pants comment mildly challenged my self awareness.

This is how I found myself, at approximately 4:15 in the morning, deciding to run a minor and casual social experiment to gather at least a tiny bit of external data about myself to come a little closer to closing the unknowable gap. So, I decided I must reach out to everyone I know and ask them to describe me in 5 words. That’s it. Just me in 5 words.

Of course I started messaging people that morning. By mid-afternoon, when the sleep haze had sufficiently worn off, and I had a chance to think coherently about how weird, crazy and risky this project is, I was committed! There’s no going back now.

With some minor variation, this is how I’ve described the project to people: “I have a really odd request. I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between how people perceive themselves vs. how other people perceive them and that unknowable gab that inevitably falls in the middle. Anyway, as part of an incredibly casual experiment, I’ve decided to ask a lot of people to choose five words that describe me. I’m trying to ask a huge range of people who have known me in various capacities. I’m not looking for affirmation here or anything, and I 100% anticipate negative words. Do you mind humoring me? 5 words to describe me?”

I’ve requested 5 words from 48 people so far, ranging from family to friends from high school that I haven’t spoken to in 10+ years. And the results are trickling in. My plan is to collect and organize the data, and to analyze it from various angles to see what I can discover. (We can all agree to maintain the fa├žade that this is all very scientific, yes?)

Stay tuned. Results to come.

(PS, if I didn’t request 5 words from you, please don’t let that stop you! Email me. Don’t you dare say smarty pants.)

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Greatest Hits

I haven’t blogged in 524 days. And I feel a lot of pressure to re-enter the blog world with something pretty phenomenal. Like if I haven’t been blogging, I should have at least been spending all those days drafting some mind-blowing post that’s going to change the way you view yourself and the world, and will act as a key to life with the power to solve all the great mysteries like the purpose of being, what happened to Amelia Earhart, and, most importantly, why Meg Ryan and I never became best friends. I’ve drafted this post (obviously), but something tells me the world isn’t quite ready for it yet. So, I guess I have to settle for playing some catch up. A lot can happen in 524 days.

I was talking to my friend Christie the other day as I sat on the bleachers of the little league field at Lents Park, and she said when you don’t talk on a daily basis, you really just have to focus on the greatest hits of your life. So, I've decided to write about the greatest hits since I last posted. (Though, to be clear, by greatest hits I mean big events, not necessarily good events. Some of this stuff was pretty terrible.)

I got a promotion.
Last April I got promoted from Marketing Assistant to Marketing Specialist. Don’t know the difference? Yeah, me neither. But since I’ve spent approximately 2,664 hours at work in the past 524 days (cue internal weeping), it seems like something work-related deserves a shout out on my greatest hits.

I bought a house.
After years of dreaming about building a tiny house, I somehow found myself buying a giant, normal-people house with two bedrooms and a yard. (Ok, so not exactly giant, but definitely too much space for me.) I’m still a little confused by how this happened. No, wait. I know exactly how it happened. It was the loft. The moment I walked into this house and saw the loft with the tiny door to my bedroom, I became a giddy 10-year-old ready to discover secret passageways and hidden treasures and lost all capacity for rational thought. So I bought it. And now I’m sitting in my living room as I type this with Harry Potter 7.1 playing in the background, eating a banana Laffy Taffy, feeling like such an adult.

It’s a pretty great house. (Refer to previous paragraph about the loft!) I probably could've created an entire DIY blog to document all my projects and victories. Some highlights: I painted every surface, put in new kitchen and bathroom floors, got rid of the cat smell (mostly), and actually went grocery shopping, so I have flour and at least 3 canned goods in my pantry (again, such an adult).

I came out.
As an introvert. Just kidding—this isn’t a David Archuleta bait and switch. I came out as gay! (You know, for those of you I haven’t told.) This was a little bit terrible and terrifying. But also really great. There are a lot of stories to be told with this one, but for now I’ll just say that I feel pretty happy to understand myself and relationships better, and to actually see the possibility for happiness in my future. I’m painfully aware that this doesn’t come as good news to a lot of people. But I’m ready to move forward with my life. And I’m finally really happy.

My dad passed away.
This was incredibly terrible. And shocking. And unexpected. It only happened a few months ago, so I’m not very eager to talk about it. Except to say how insanely bizarre death is. I can’t think about the concept for too long before it starts rattling my understanding of reality. And also to say that I miss my dad. I miss going over to my parents’ house and finding him sitting on the back deck with his iPad in hand watching the bird feeders. I miss going on long hikes where he’d tell me it was going to be 4-6 miles then it would end up being more like 10. I miss being able to ask him all the photography questions (I guess now I need to figure out what this whole Google thing is all about). It’s a weird feeling when someone is gone. I’m still trying to grapple with it.

Ok, whew. That got real. 524 days in 731 words.

Now the pressure is off and I can go back to writing about TV and social anxiety. I’m back!

(PS, I'm pretty exhausted by how much math went into this post. Numbers! It's all a little much for this English major.)

Monday, September 02, 2013

Center part

I think it all started when I parted my hair down the middle last Monday.

Before Monday, I don't think I had parted my hair down the center, well, probably since I was 11.

Sure, I've swapped which side my part is on. And over the years it has progressively gotten further and further from center. But it has been years since I went with a symmetrical center part. A side part has just become habit. 

(As a side note, give or take 6 inches, and minus a brief stint with bangs and some auburn hair dye, my hair has been the exact same for 15 years.)

So, I was standing in front of the mirror Monday morning, and I was feeling restless. Restless with my boring job. Restless with my waning Portland social life. Restless with my apartment on hipster alley. And restless with that stupid side part that's inching towards my ear. In what alllllmost felt like an act of rebellion, I took my comb, lined it up with my nose, and slid it through the center of my scalp, painfully separating hair that hadn't shifted direction in years. After some blow dryer coaxing, I walked out the door. 

Now, what I want to write next is that this center part looked amazing and changed everything. That it somehow reinvigorated my life with meaning and connection and hair identity. 

But instead, it looked awkward. Like D.J. Tanner (circa 1992) meets Kristen Stewart pre fame kind of awkward. I was incredibly conscious of it the entire day, trying to catch glimpses of it in mirrors and windows to assure myself that it wasn't actually that crazy. And it seemed to act as a catalyst for the weirdest week ever. Like a friend put Baby on in the car [yes, I'm talking Bieber], and it felt like my jam, and I sang every word passionately [it's amazing how those words just flow back to me], and I went to a movie by myself for the first time, and I've been eating a really odd amount of Chex.

It's been a week, and I think normalcy is finally coming back around. I'm back to a side part for the time being.