Category Archives: My ENFP is showing again

Unhappy v. Depressed

I live in the default emotion of Happy. You’ll notice it is not the more low-key happy, but neither is it the super hyper HAPPY. I can get to HAPPY. Similarly, I can get to happy, and maybe angry or sad. (Rarely ANGRY or SAD, though.) Generally, though, I am a Happy person. So when I start feeling unhappy, it really freaks me out. Because if I’m unhappy, well, the world is obviously coming to an end. No other plausible explanation exists. (Usually I know I’m being melodramatic.) 

But I’ve been learning lately that even if I am being melodramatic, I need to be careful with the words I use, even to myself. It is far too easy to say ‘I am depressed’ when what I really mean is, ‘I am unhappy.’ And that is a dangerous correlation. The words you tell yourself become how you think about yourself. 

Law school is hard and often makes me unhappy. But if I keep telling myself ‘law school makes me depressed’ I place myself (1) in a category I don’t belong and (2) in a dangerous mental place. Unhappy changes with the flicker of my mood. Depressed easily becomes an identity. 

Maybe it is our society, maybe it is the nature of being human, but we live in a world where people expect you to be happy. We don’t deal well with sadness or anger or melancholy. We don’t know how to react to it. So if you feel those emotions, you automatically label them ‘bad’ and try to move on. Now in saying this, I don’t want to belittle true depression. Nor do I want to imply that trying to move on is bad. What I mean to say is that in my own life, whenever my mood shifts from Happy to Literally Anything Else, I feel like something wrong happened and I obsess until it changes. 

But life is not always good. Stress is not always healthy. ‘Happy’ is not everybody’s default. And even if it is your default, that doesn’t mean you don’t experience other emotions. Sometimes, I think it is okay to just be…unhappy. 

Unhappy may equal unhealthy. But if every time I feel melancholic I jump to, ‘Oh no, I’m in a really unhealthy mental state!’ I fail to appreciate the power of melancholy. Or sadness. Or happy. Or unhappy. 

Emotions play an important role in shaping who we are and how we view our surroundings. But our surroundings are not always happy, and it is okay to acknowledge that and live in unhappy for a time. Unhappy may become depressed, but in my life it hasn’t, and if I keep telling myself it has, I lose the power to appreciate unhappy. Or respect true depression. When I think only ‘Happy’ with occasional ‘happy’ is okay, I lose the wealth of nuance and emotion that comes with being human and having emotions.

God gave us emotions for a reason. He experiences emotion. When Jesus was on earth, he wept. He grieved. He got angry. He rejoiced. He did not remain happy all the time but embraced a range of feelings. If Jesus embraced his emotions, why do I feel like I cannot?

It is not that I like being unhappy. It feels heavy and empty. But unhappy will change. My identity is not unhappy. Neither is my identity Happy. My identity is human created in the image of God.  Which is easy to say but hard to live. 

Law school often makes me unhappy. And sometimes it makes me Happy. Even, upon occasion, I’ve reached HAPPY. But law school is not me. The emotions are not me. This is what I want to tell myself when I’m sitting in my messy apartment staring at the paper that seemed so brilliant yesterday and makes no sense today. This is what I tell myself when I realize I forgot to send that follow up e-mail, thank you card, or reimbursement request. Or you know, do the reading for class in an hour. 

This is stressful. This is frustrating. This is growth. But stress and frustration and growth all exist apart from my happy or unhappy response to them. So what I really need to do is pour myself another cup of coffee, re-write that paper, and do the reading for my next class. Not wallow in misery because I’m not reacting to the stress with my usual Happy. 

To summarize: Amy, be unhappy and get stuff done because eventually you’ll be happy and have stuff done. Don’t focus on unhappy because then you are simply unhappy. And don’t tell yourself you’re depressed because you’re not. You’re just not Happy and there is a powerful difference. 

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Vitamin D

I’ve been playing phone tag with my doctor about some blood work for the past few weeks and finally got ahold of her. Or rather, a nurse who works with her. The nurse, however, lacked my doctor’s bedside manner. Or maybe I was a little too much in my old world. 

*over the phone*

Nurse: “So, you’re totally fine but you are Vitamin D deficient.”

Me: “Vitamin D?” I think, but I’m a redhead. We’re not supposed to need much of that stuff.* Does this mean I need to go outside more? Maybe I really am a vampire. Do vampires get Vitamin D deficient? I wonder if they absorb it from blood.  

Nurse: *apparently misinterpreting my confusion* “Don’t worry, you just need a little more sun. Or a vitamin. The doctor is sending a basic vitamin prescription to a pharmacy near you. Where should we send it?”

Me: Will this problem go away when I am in Thailand? Thailand has sun. I’ll get lots of it there. I’ll also get sunburned. I wonder if I should bring sunscreen with me? “Oh, Madison. I’m not sure where in Madison. I haven’t had to visit a pharmacy yet. Do you have a way of looking up some locations? If not I can try from my phone.”

Nurse: “I can do it.” *long silence* “It looks like there are two.”

Me: “Two pharmacies? Where?” Why do I need a prescription for a vitamin anyway?

Nurse: *names two streets*

Me: “Where are those located in…Madison? I haven’t heard of them. They don’t sound near my apartment.”

Nurse: *exasperated* “Well, honey, Madison is a small town! You can’t expect that many pharmacies!” 

Me:  “We’re talking about Madison…right?”

Nurse: “Madison, Wisconsin.”

Me: “And there are only two pharmacies?” 

Nurse: *exasperated sigh* “Well, give me a zip code!”

I give her mine. She pauses. Names a street. I am not sure it is near my apartment, but I say it will work anyway. I think she might give up on the whole thing if I try again. 

Me: “Thanks for your help!”

Nurse: “Uh-huh, good day.”

I really hope this prescription doesn’t end up in Madison, Georgia. 

 

*https://gingerparrot.co.uk/facts-and-myths-about-red-hair/

 


Old Friends, All the Acne, and Scary Amounts of Enthusiasm

‘That looks like Joel,’ I think as I stand in the church lobby and observe the other attendees. ‘But he lives in Virginia.’ 

Joel Grewe is the director of Generation Joshua and a mentor of my high school and college years. 

For a moment I marveled at the resemblance before realizing that Generation Joshua’s iGovern West camp started this week. It could be him. 

“Joel?” I ask. 

Considering the odd surroundings, he takes my presence in stride for a few moments before the oddity strikes him. He motions to where the other iGovern counselors are gathered, ready for lunch. I’m ecstatic. These are my old friends. I practically run across the sanctuary to say hi. 

Then I remember what I’m wearing. I chose sleep over makeup this morning; my jeans have a huge hole and my top is a castoff from my sister – a bedazzled Star Wars t-shirt I only wore because I haven’t done laundry. To match my odd shirt, I paired my choker necklace and I have a decided goth-wannabe feel. Or I would if I bothered with makeup. I wish I had; I’m so broken out today. 

I feel very self-conscious. But also excited. Everyone is confused to see me. It is so good to see them, even briefly. These are my people. They invite me to the camp gala on Tuesday night. I don’t have a ride but I will find one. I’m more excited about the gala than I was to go to the Supreme Court last weekend. 

My ecstatic mood lasts through brunch with the other Young Life interns. I’m bubbly and bouncy in a way they haven’t seen before. I’ve mellowed a lot…but there is nothing like Generation Joshua to bring out all my enthusiasm! 


180 Days

Exactly half a year ago, I was sitting between classes trying to find a Thai language app. I figured it was good to get a jump on it what with my new found interest in Thailand.

Unfortunately, I did not find one. I did notice that Duolingo finally had Korean, though. So I started there.

Today marks 180 days of doing Korean for ten minutes a day! I don’t actually know if I am learning anything, but it is fun.


Not the CEO

I thought I was done geeking out about the Strength Finders test. But I’m not. 

I learned something new about myself today!

The Strength Finders test measures strengths based on 34 different attributes. So much I knew. (As previously blogged, my top five are Strategic, Communication, Positivity, Learner, and Input.) However, what I didn’t know was that Clifton Strengths classifies those 34 attributes into 4 different types: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking

The sheet I received describes the types like this: People with dominant Executing themes know how to make things happen. People with dominant Influencing themes know how to take charge, speak up, and make sure that the team is heard. People with dominant Relationship Building themes have the ability to build stronger relationships that can hold a team together and make the team greater than the sum of its parts. People with dominant Strategic Thinking themes help teams consider what could be. They absorb and analyze information that can inform better decisions. 

Guess what I learned? I do not have a single strength in Executing. Not this time I took the test. Not the last time. I guess not ever! 

Slightly less shocking given my recent discoveries, my dominant strength comes from Strategic Thinking. I absorb facts and find problems. I look for solutions. I’m happiest and most effective when doing this. I do not know about Amy 2017, but that sure describes Amy 2018. 

And I think I am okay with that. 

Strategic Thinking doesn’t sound like me. It sounds like someone who likes math, or plays chess, or runs the War Department. But I guess it also sounds like someone who loves writing research papers and playing Sudoku and growing community field offices. So that’s me. 

My results illustrate two other things about me that I did not previously realize: 

1. Leadership Style.

When I think of leaders, I think of the executive type. Those people know how to get things done. They have descriptors like Achiever, Arranger, Discipline, and Responsibility. I want those strengths and to be the sort of person who leads others with a single-focused drive. But that isn’t me.

Just because I am not an executive leader doesn’t mean I am not a leader, though. My leadership skills reflect big-picture problem solving. I plot. I plan. Sometimes I even follow through on those plans. I am less the executive CEO type…and more the in house legal consultant. (Hey, that’s convenient!) 

2. I might not be as entrepreneurial as I thought. 

I love entrepreneurs. I want to be one. But when I started thinking about my strengths, the lack of executing stands out pretty strongly. It also explains some of my previous difficulties running a field office. Just because I can see a problem does not mean I am good at fixing it. I need to work with others who can. 

No one functions entirely solo, but turns out I really can’t. I would never accomplish anything and I would unhappy if I tried. It isn’t the way I am wired. Far from depressing me, I find the realization somewhat freeing. I do not need to build, or accomplish, anything on my own. I am most effective when working with others.

I suppose that is probably true for everyone, but I still find it gratifying. I do not need to partner with an Executing type because I am weaker or underdeveloped in that area, but because I am better and more fulfilled doing something else. Heck, that’s the beauty of the free market. I do not know why it surprises me so much to find that in my everyday life!

On a more personal level, my discovery looks like this: Maybe I do not actually want to start my own law firm like I thought. Maybe that was the expectation I placed on myself because I am not a natural, executing leader but I still want the independence that comes with authority. So I told myself I needed to start a law firm to gain that independence. You know what that tells me, though? Independence is the value I crave, not authority. 

Where does that leave me? Somewhere between a need for others and a desire for independence. I do not know what that looks like yet, but I do know that when I find that sweet spot, I will be set


Shifting Strengths

Law school does things to you; it changes the way you think and the way you interact with people. You start viewing language differently. You exist in a pressure cooker all semester and when finally released from it…the world seems different. I have struggled to explain the difference to people. I feel…firmer. Or grounded. More analytical. Possibly more capable, or at least developed. 

Yesterday I took the Clifton Strength Finders test and I might have more words now. 

The strengths test measures your inherent “talents.” It isn’t supposed to change much, at least not once you hit adulthood. Yet over the past year, my strengths shifted dramatically

I took the test the first time almost exactly a year ago. At the time, I was leaving my adult job to move to the mountains of Idaho to work as a camp counselor and hopefully attend law school in the fall. Uncertainty was my watch word. It shows in my strengths:

Adaptability
Activator
Positivity
Intellection
Includer

Roughly translated, that tells you I am a flexible, happy, smart, inclusive person. Which I like to think is true. 

I took the test again yesterday. This time my top five strengths were: 

Strategic
Communication
Positivity
Learner
Input

First off, I don’t think anyone has ever called me strategic before, much less ranked that my top strength. 

Second, while input sounds cool, it really just means I collect things like words, books, and ideas. 

Third, initially, these results really shocked me. They seemed so…different. But then I started reading about them. And, y’all, these are me. Future oriented, chatty, enthusiastic, thirsty for new ideas and intent on remembering them. Throughout, the test emphasizes my love of books and reading.

I really do love books. (Though the test also says I think speed reading is a waste of time because I want to ponder each new idea, which isn’t true by a long shot. But I do process things fast.) 

These results are not as far off from last year as I initially thought. Adaptability and Strategic strengths share a common theme of flexibility – just with the Strategic strength I have learned to pick an option and follow through on it. With Activator I got people excited about projects, now I use Communication to carry through on the whole project, not just the beginning. 

My main purpose in sharing all this stems from a broader theme I’ve learned over this past year. Going into law school, I felt a bit like a fraud. Detail-oriented people are supposed to go to law school. Not big-picture, idea people like me. You go to law school to put things in boxes, not to turn the box upside down and beat on it like a drum. 

Or so I thought. Over the last year, I have learned my talents aren’t that uncommon for the law, and are in fact quite valuable. Where I am weak, I have learned to adapt. And where I am strong, like in communication, I flourish. 

I am waiting for one last grade, but in all but one class so far this semester I’ve gotten an A or A-. You might find that par for course knowing me, but in law school that is hard. But I am learning and I am loving what I learn. It is a bit of a relief to realize that I am not a fraud and 6-year-old me wasn’t crazy when she announced she wanted to be a lawyer.

Moreover, I am good at this. Just saying that makes me feel a little bit crazy, but also happy. I see God’s hand at work around me and I cannot wait to see what comes next.


Three Years

Three years ago today, I graduated from Bryan College with my bachelor’s degree. I then chose to take a gap year (er, two) before attending law school. In an alternative universe, I would have gone straight to law school. Instead of ending of my 1L year, this week would culminate in my graduation from legal education. That was the plan. 

I am so glad it did not happen that way. 

It strikes me as funny when I talk about the past two years. I murmur offhandedly, “Oh, I worked for a few years before coming to law school.” As if two of the most formative years of my life were just NBD…no big deal. 

I suppose in the big picture they might prove just that: a mere blip in time between college and my “real” career as a lawyer. 

But even if that is the case, I wouldn’t trade those years with AFP for anything. My work there developed so much of who I am and how I see myself. I can’t imagine who I would be if I went straight from my undergraduate to the pressure cooker that is law school. That vision holds no appeal for me.

From an academic standpoint, straight-from-undergraduate-me might have embraced law school better. Independence would mean little to her, so a life of student loans and borrowed rides to church would feel natural. I would still be a perfectionist with an angsty desire to go go go so I imagine I would have joined just as many clubs (if not more) and still jumped into an internship as soon as possible. From a practical standpoint, I doubt my legal career so far would look very different. 

Yet that isn’t quite true. I landed both my legal internships to date because of my connection with AFP. I’ve prioritized certain activities and de-emphasized others because I know the sort of people I want to be around. I’ve approached projects and people and ideas with the confidence of someone who has achieved something difficult, and failed multiple times while doing it. 

I am so much more me because I waited two years. Also, I owe a heck of a lot less loans because I paid off those undergraduate ones. 

It gives me hope for the next three years. I never saw myself here three years ago, and yet here I am. Who knows what will come next? The only thing I know for certain is that  whatever it is, I’ve been equipped and mentored and well prepared for it. And if I fail? I’ve got an amazing community that will cheer me on anyway.

(Plus, I can always peace back to the mountains of Idaho and live the rest of my life in chacos, right?)