The burden of an extrovert

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Ironically, this blog was first intended to be published for the first time about a week ago. It was only after I had published it did I realised it perfectly coincided with my other year-long scheduled post about how to look back and be grateful.

I just wanted this to exist somewhere in the universe.

21 Oct, 2016

Maybe it was the fact that I am the eldest in my family. Maybe it is that I have wonderfully inspiring and helpful parents. Maybe it is just the fact that this is who I am. But the ease at which I can hold a conversation and get along with most people as an extrovert has become more as a burden as opposed to a blessing. One may say: ‘It’s so great to be outgoing! You can meet so many people so easily and feel comfortable in a new environment within seconds.’ Others may reason: ‘Being an extrovert means you are blessed with the skill to reach out to so many people.’

‘I have something greater than myself to live for. There is a greater legacy than myself that I’m trying to leave behind.’

I’ve repeated the sentence in it’s various forms at least a dozen times as part of my testimony, of understanding that all my ups and downs had to happen for a reason. That I have a purpose.

But. Is it really so wrong that I want some time for myself sometimes?

I have been struggling recently to balance between giving and taking. Knowing wholeheartedly that I am on this earth to give, to be a servant, to put others above myself. ‘You can’t help others until you take care of yourself. Self-care is so important. You just need to take a step back from the daily hustle and bustle to reflect, to relax, and to recuperate.’

So, why do I feel so guilty when I say to myself, ‘It’s okay Rachel, you don’t have to participate all the time, you need to take care of yourself first.’

I have no problem with FOMO, the fear of missing out. I have a problem with FONDE, the fear of not doing enough. That each event that I don’t give my all, is an opportunity where I could’ve reached out to someone who is in need of a little more comfort, a listening ear, a calming presence of just knowing somebody is there.

To place myself in the pre-determined ‘extrovert’ box would be a logical label people would give me. But if introversion or extroversion is determined by your source of energy for social interaction, then I clearly fir within that of an ‘introvert’. When there is a need to spend time alone to ‘recharge’ in preparation for social events…

It shouldn’t be this hard.

I would like to ask the question, ‘Why would God put a burden like this on me?’, but then I would be blaming God. And as an older sister, as a youth leader, as a 360 member, I’m not supposed to do that. Guess I’ve started becoming restraint by my personality to be dutiful, to always do what’s right, and never question otherwise.

This blog is meant to be an inspiration, meant to be a publication, a documentation of all the events in which things all turned out okay at the end.

But it’s not okay right now, and I don’t really know how to fix it.

I guess this is my call of help. I dare you to try and fix it.

Lookingback. Without really meaning to.

This post was written on the 21 October, 2015.

On this day, I had decided to schedule this post for publication one year from now, to be able to look back and remind myself of God’s everlasting grace and mercy, through thick and thin.

Dear Future Rachel, here’s what happened a year ago.

Exactly one week before you were going to turn 20. You experienced the lower point of your life up till then, all the sprained ankles, angry arguments, and relationship heartbreaks would never prepare you for the type of pain you experienced on that day. The 6th of October.

If between now and then, you still have not yet been brave enough to publish the private post you had written about the details of that evening, maybe now’s the chance to take the leap of faith and really let them know what happened.

Up till now, you have told several friends that you ‘getting better’, but there was only 3 people whom you had told the details of that evening. The evening you realised that nothing can be scarier than the monsters in your head, not even those that hide under the bed. Trust me. I’ve checked.  Because in case you don’t remember, you crawled under the bed, fitting yourself just in between the planks underneath your mattress and the carpeted floor. Breathing shallowly. Trying to contain the spiralling thoughts and voices that filled the air around you.

You are getting better.

Today. Wednesday. 21st October. Today was a good day.

You struggled to get out of bed, fighting with the voices in your head that today is a horrible day, and getting out of bed served no purpose, that it would be easier to reach for your laptop and email to ‘apologise for the inconvenience’ and explain how you are feeling ’emotionally unwell’. The rain was pitter-pattering outside your window. You can feel the gloom surrounding you like a dark cloud.

‘Today will be better.’ You tell yourself.

It ended up being a day where you got to observe a lab that used mice to explore the transporter expression in the blood brain barrier, in awe of the complexity of something as disgusting and insignificant as a mouse. It ended up being the day when you truly let go of the need for control in everything in your life. It ended up being the day when you understood why you had to go through that horrid evening, knowing that you can only empathise when you’ve fallen that far.

Today. You are grateful.

You are grateful for the people that God has so perfectly placed in your life, people you help and people you get help from. People who don’t stop at ‘how are you’ but rather, prod a little further. ‘No really though. How ARE you.’ People who may not first seem to have been the perfect candidate for a best friend, but someone whom you’ve shared more with than you’d dare to say. People who don’t just say ‘it’s just a phase’ or ‘you’ve just got to change your attitude’. Because it was so much more than that.

You are grateful for the opportunities that God has provided you with in your life. Opportunities to serve, and opportunities to do His will through the gifts that He had blessed you with. But gifts that you had been taking credit for. You were impatient when you weren’t appreciated, but you are grateful that you are reminded that servanthood isn’t about getting credit for what you do. More so, it’s for all the things you do behind the scenes without any recognition that should bring true joy.

You are grateful for family. A family that searches for every opportunity to remind you of their support. A mother who not only is a master of flight tickets, but someone who will lose sleep over worrying. A father who understands even though he is silent. A brother who works hard and is a source of strength in all his awkwardness. and a sister who is a never-ending inspiration of pure love and faith in God.

You are grateful for hardship. It’s hard to be grateful for things that don’t seem to fit into the ‘plan’. The plan that is meant for good and not for harm. The plan that reveals itself as thoughts of self-harm simply by stepping into the shower. The plan that puts you to bed with tears every night for two weeks straight. The plan that robs you of all joy, that even on the brightest of days, life is still as dark as the night. But it is also the plan that brings you closer to someone sharing the same experience. The plan that brings you to understand what it means to give. The plan that reminds you that giving should always be an overflow of God’s love pouring into you. The plan that is God-made.

Future Rachel, you know who created the heavens and the earth, you know who placed you in the place you are in, and you know that He is always there. Stay strong and battle those voices in your head. They are never as strong as the power of the Holy Spirit within your heart.

Yours truly,
Rachel of the 21st of October.

It’s been a while.

IMG_4635.jpgI can honestly say that I have attempted to start this post at least a hundred times,
wondering how to explain all that has happened in this past year. It’s difficult to even know where to begin to understand and describe the events, emotions, and experiences that has shaped me to who I am now. Let alone write it out into coherent sentences that translate the mess in my head to comprehensible, organised trains of thought.

I’ve been told that university is the time to find both your lifelong friends, and, more importantly, to find yourself. However, the current ratio between lost and found is heavily skewed towards ‘lost’. I’d like to think that it’s because I’ve been given an extended deadline with a 5 year course to complete the task, hence, I must first take everything apart, before putting it back together.

Oct 3, 2015

I know that I need support, and at the moment, it feels like it’s slowly coming together, and the things that fell apart and slowly falling back in place. But what if I become too much of a burden.

I didn’t tell my family for a few months, wondering, thinking, and deciding that my situation would be seen as a failure of my ability to survive independently. That my lack of success and happiness in my current situation meant I wasn’t coping well enough to meet a certain standard.

It’s not true.

Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of courage to be vulnerable, to open yourself up to potentially be hurt when they discover your weakness, but also to allow yourself to let others take care of you for a little while.

June 12, 2016

‘I’m debating to myself whether or not I am ready to share with the world the events that have happened since January. And after hovering over the publish button a little too long, I’ve decided maybe not.’

My emotions are illustrated as pictures that I can see when I close my eyes. My faith is portrayed as a fire, of varying intensities. For a long time, it had been a glowing bit of ember, struggling to maintain itself, and threatening to go out. But this morning, I woke up knowing that the flames were once again starting to flicker again.

I think the reason why I have been struggling to put this all into words is that as much as I would like to use this blog as a conversation starter, there are things in my life that I would like to keep private. But through all that I’ve gone through, I can say that I’m grateful for all the bridges I’ve built, all the friendships I’ve discovered, and all the understanding I’ve gained.

It’s been almost a year since all of it began. I’m scared to be entering into this season again. Summer fades and autumn flies by to drag winter along. But, I think I’ll cling onto the hope of all the things that are yet to come, with faith, I believe that there are many greater things to come.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Poems #2 Raindrops and Sunshines.

Raindrops and sunshine have gone to war.
They fight to occupy the space between buildings,
they battle to spread themselves amongst the pavement,
and they wage war against one another for their natural beauty.

The raindrops sprint bravely, hurriedly,
in diagonal streaks across the sky.
Their paths interrupted by the rays of sunshine,
that illuminate them into strands of gold.

Raindrops end as water drops on window panes.
Sunshine ends as a glitter of light within the water drop,
shining as tiny twinkles and glittering glimmers.
They fight for my attention.

The raindrops are allies with the wind,
sometimes being pushed upwards,
pretending to be a flicker of snow
that steals my hope.

But the sunshine latches onto the tips of eyelashes,
constantly forming translucent golden circles,
decorating the edges of my vision
and prohibiting me to ignore it’s existence.

I close my eyes and the sunshine colour my inner lids with gold.
The rain drops fill my ears with it’s rhythmic pitter patter.
Not one is better than the other,
because only when you have them both will you see a rainbow.

Poems #1 Shadows

I like that my shadow is glued to the sole of my feet.

I like that it loves to run circles around me, sometimes quickened by the headlights of a car passing by.

I like that sometimes there is two of me, until they merge into one again.

I like that there is sometimes a shorter one of me, that grows to a desired height until the legs and head become disproportional and slowly fade away.

I like that it can overlap other shadows and make it darker,
and sometimes it can merge into other shadows and disappear for a moment.

I like that sometimes the shadows around me will sway lightly in the wind, as if saying ‘goodbye’ to my shadows.

I like that shadows can draw delicate lines on the pavement, illustrating a personal game of hopscotch for me. Whereas, sometimes shadows colour in parts of the pavement and leave the lighter areas for me to finish.

Shadows may sometimes be sinister.
But there is also beauty in shadows.
Because it’s only in the dark that you can see light shine even brighter.

MushyFeelings. #14 Rescued.

I was ready to let go on Saturday.

I held on.

I survived. And on Sunday, rescue came along, in the form of an unexpected worship session with Kari Jobe, with an unpredicted trip to the ‘half-price-when-raining’ ice cream shop, with an unprecedented feeling of calmness.

On Sunday, I heard Him speak to me. Finally. After all this time.

You’re not okay. And that’s okay. But you will be okay. Eventually.

Today, I had a GP appointment, a counselling session, and a thoughtful afternoon and evening. I can’t say that the sessions went particularly well, they never seem to be what I expect, but they are something more in another aspect.

There isn’t much to say.

But I do know that out of this… hole. cave. valley, I will come out stronger. I need to be stronger, to fight this… monster, demon, part of myself… whenever it may come back again.

If you’ve ever walked down a dark alleyway on a night where the moonlight is hidden by dark clouds, where the wind whistles words of danger, and where the shadows are a presence that lingers to stir fear into the depths of our hearts. The kind of fear that can be hidden by laughter and smiles, but not be contained for lifetimes.

It explodes in moments and engulfs you as if it were quicksand. The more you struggle, the harder it holds on to you, the more you cry for help, the more of it reaches deeper into you.

In those moments, you cry out, you reach out, hoping that someone will help. They may throw out a rope, but they won’t be pulling hard enough, others may say they understand, though you both simply sink faster, with limbs caught amongst one another. The only rescue is up.

This is still an ongoing battle, but I’ve found my sword and my shield.

Let’s do this.

MushyFeelings. #13 On my way to school.

I currently live about 20 minutes away from school. Walking. Or otherwise on lazier days, an 8 minute bike ride. But on more lazy days, when I’m not bothered to fix my flat tire or bike through the cold only to end up sweaty in the lecture theater, I live 20 minutes walk away.

After a whole year of walking to school since last year, I have become more familiar to the faces I often pass by during the 8.30 rush to get to school, to get to work, to get to life. Most faces only register as someone familiar, but there is one person that I often see walking in the opposite direction, and had caught my eye the first time I saw them. They weren’t wearing anything special in particular, what was different was the way they walked, the way they had a skip in their step, the way they smiled as they walked. He’s the boy with the red backpack.

It’s been a while since I’ve smiled giddily at myself looking at leaves falling from trees, since a simple walk to school in rain or shine brought an unconditional kind of joy that is not dependent on words, actions or circumstances. It’s the feeling you get when you know that even though everything is not alright at the moment, that it will be. Soon.

In May last year, I was cafe hunting, hoping changes in scenery would motivate me to study just a little harder for end of year exams. I had spent many of those days sitting at coffee shops on Bermondsey street. The ones which have a hipster vibe to it, the ones that overcharge you with special imported coffee grains, the ones that never played the generic UK Top 40, the ones that always had some form of home-made beverage that if labelled anything else, would probably not sell as popularly.

On my walk to these overpriced coffee shops, I’d often pass by a small residential street, where a quiet white building stood, not much taller than those around it, but with the sign ‘School House Coffee’ on it. A blackboard stood in front of it, ‘We’re open from 8.45 – 15.15’, thinking that the time permitted to sit and get comfortable would be too short, I always walked by it without a second thought. But one day I actually searched it up, looking for reviews and maybe make it a potential study spot, their Facebook page came up with this description:

The Cafe has been established by Spa School to provide work experience placements for young people with autism.

The next time I passed by, I went in for a quick takeaway coffee. Knowing that it would be worth it. I entered into the coffee shop. It wasn’t unlike any of the other over-priced hipster coffee shops I had been working at. Though, I saw a familiar face. The boy with the red backpack.

I’m quite sure they don’t recognize me, I would’ve been just another face on the street. Though I realized that at that moment, that they had that spring in their step because they were so excited to come to a place where they enjoy what they do. A place where they belong, a place where they are supported. A place where they are loved. A place entirely their own.

I woke up this morning. Face-timed my mum. Got frustrated at absolutely nothing more than not being organised enough to pack my lunch, make breakfast and have a conversation at the same time. Hung up. Went back to my room with my breakfast. Contemplated not going to school. Thought about how overwhelmed I already was with the piling mount of un-annotated lecture notes. Gulfed my breakfast. Didn’t enjoy it. Changed. Got annoyed at the bathroom that’s constantly unoccupied. Rinsed my mouth with water. Headed out.

Then, I walked by him again on my walk to school.

Up until that moment, I had just been thinking about how much I dread the day. How it started too early, and how it ended too late. Until I walked by him, I hadn’t noticed it was a bright sunny day. Although there was a chill in the air, and it seemed like my shoulders and arms were too warm, whereas my fingers, nose and toes were too cold, it was a sunny day nonetheless. And I wasn’t able to notice it.

I want to notice sunny days. I want to have the same hopeful step whilst I walk to school. I want to be like the boy with the red backpack. I want to be happy again, not just the joke-responding, situation-demanding happiness, but an unconditional joy.

 

MushyFeelings. #12 Rice.

I returned home quite late on Sunday. And since not having a phone has given me relatively more freedom with replying to messages and phone calls, I had often missed desperate cries of help from her.

Sunday night. I returned to the following conversation:

20:19

Her: Hi sorry.
Her: Free for lunch tomorrow?
Her: Please call me back

22:10

Her: Nvm.
Her: I’m going to bed.

In the end, we managed to meet for lunch on Monday afternoon. She didn’t feel the same, she had ‘stopped caring’. And I felt helpless not knowing what to say, or what to do to help her keep holding on. It is selfish of me to say that I need her, so I don’t say anything. Instead, I do what I do best, offer my presence, offer to just sit there and share oxygen.

So I ditched my plan of staying behind in the library to study, and went over to hers to study together on Monday evening.

We didn’t end up doing much. And the most memorable thing that I remember from that evening was when she was cooking.

Rice with bok choi.

Simple. Yet homey. Something that feels like home. Something that sends you warmth and nostalgia for home. When she said that she was running out of rice, I was taken aback wondering why she couldn’t just buy rice from Tesco’s, or Sainbury’s or the many other choices of supermarkets London has to offer.

Whilst pouring the remainder of the bag of rice she had into the plastic container, she said that her preference of rice was when ‘rice smells like rice.’ Although that may be a bit weird to think that something as bland as rice alone could be comforting with it’s scent, it’s true. When she said this, I was immediately reminded of the many adverts we’d often see come on TV whilst growing up in Hong Kong.

(You don’t need to understand it, just listen out for the word ‘Heung Pun Pun’ – as a descriptor for what ‘rice smells like rice’ is supposed to mean. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%E9%87%91%E8%B1%A1%E7%89%8C)

Then she ran her fingers through the rice several times. Gripping. Lifting. Letting Go. Hearing the grains of rice gently fall back into the pile. For a while, we didn’t say anything. But I didn’t need to say anything, the silence was a mutual understanding that we’re there for each other. Through the small and big things. At least I hope she knows.

Today. We were both happier. And that’s good.

MushyFeelings. #11 Change this heart.

 

Autopiloting.

I have been going through day to day. With only a slight remnant of motivation to keep me going. Making plans. Attending plans. Following scheduled events. I push my feelings aside, afraid to let them take over, so I’ve hidden them all in a box, put a mask on, and continue through day to day, answering ‘how are you’s’ with ‘It could be better, but meh.’

Lord I have so many masks.
To cover up and hide.

I fear letting go of my faith. I can say that a significant part of my life, key events that seem to be the puzzle pieces that build up who I am, all the closest relationships I’ve formed, are on my faith. To let go, is to admit that all of that was fake.

And I refuse your help.
Out of my own selfish pride.

But I’m really tired of hearing ‘I’ll be praying for you.’ or bible verses that quote how God will pull through, how He had ‘intended it for good’. I really struggle to see it all. So I keep pushing and pushing back. Because each time I hear this, just reminds me of how God has left me here, all alone for so long.

So I push you away, but I don’t know that I’m wrong.
I don’t know the words to say to make my faith that strong.

I don’t want to let go. Because when I do, I don’t really feel like there is anything left to live for. God had been my purpose of living and the source of my joy and hope. But I don’t understand why God would let me continue hurting when He would feel this pain ten-fold or even hundred-fold or more.

I just want to be happy again.

I appreciate all the care and help that I’ve been given. Counselling. Friends. Family. From strangers to the people I hold closest to my heart, I’ve heard it all before. I’ve tried almost everything to make myself better. But this is a battle I have to fight on my own. Only I can admit that I need to change and let go.

It’s so much easier to say that I will let go. But making my heart let go, that’s the hard part.

So I will pray to you right now
To take away my sin
Heal away my brokenness
And change this heart again

I used to rely on songs to be my source of revelation. For words to speak out to me as if they were destined for that time and place. They would make me break down and admit that I’m not okay.

This one only made me put my head into my arms. Squeezing my eyes trying to force some tears out. Nothing. So I just lay there on the table, thinking. My prayers don’t really feel genuine anymore. But I’ll keep at it. I’ll hold on just a little longer. I can’t afford to let go.

 

MushyFeelings. #9 Suffocating.

I walked into church today. At 1.30.
Context: church ends at 1.30.

I was assigned the task of passing over a parcel, and the only reason that I made the trip to church was for that alone. I walked away from the church through cobbled stone streets of seven dials, strolling fasting than normal, wanting to escape it all.

I woke up this morning feeling absolutely shattered. Tired from dreaming. Tired of thinking. And just a little tired of living. It took so much effort to each task, because each to-do isn’t just a simple to-do. It never is.

‘Can I fit it into my schedule?’
Please select from the following answers:

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. ‘Can I afford to say no?’, ‘am I allowed to say no even though I’m free?’, ‘what will they think of me if I say yes?’, ‘will they even think anything of it?’, ‘or worse, what will they think of me if I say no.’, ‘are they going to see through why I had said yes?’ ‘YES.’

Each question had become a branch, a tree which stems from a simple seed. But at a speed that surpasses any fertilizer or genetic modification. A weed which spreads and seeps deep into each space surrounding you. Maybe if I stand on a mountain top, there will be unending amount of space that the branches won’t start growing inwards to suffocate me.

I walked into church today repeating to myself. ‘All you have to do is pass on the box. All you have to do is pass on the box. It’ll be easy. You can do this. All you have to do is pass on the box.’

But from the first hello. I was suffocating inside. ‘What will they think of me if I don’t say hi back.’, ‘I don’t have enough energy to smile genuinely’, ‘they’ll see through it all’. I identify the person needing the parcel, I pass it on.

‘Where were you today?’

With a gathered breath, I speak: ‘I’m not feeling well.’ Though what was meant to be a loud, confident sentence only ends as a gentle whisper that’s responded with a ‘what?’. One more try, Rachel, you can do this. ‘I’m not feeling too well. Bye.’

I turn. And everything blurs, no faces, no expressions register in my mind. I am only focused on making it out of that room without breaking down. Whilst this whole event occurred over the span of less than 5 minutes, it dragged on in my mind for centuries.

To document all my thoughts onto this one entry would simply put the most energetic and caffeinated person to sleep. So I’ll just leave it there.
-end-