Hey! What’s up? Oh, me? Nothing much. You know. JUST THE USUAL PANDEMIC / UNPRECEDENTED CRISIS WHERE I PANIC ABOUT TOILET PAPER EVEN MORE THAN USUAL AND WONDER IF I’LL EVER SEE MY PARENTS AGAIN AND WHY GOD WHY DIDN’T I INVEST IN PURELL and… sorry? What was that?
In all seriousness, I hope if you’re reading this, you’re safe and sound AND FLATTENING THE CURVE; DEAR BABY CHIPMUNKS JUST STAY HOME. I’m proud, but not surprised, to say that my adopted central Oregon community is rallying like it’s Black Friday and our favorite child just asked for a Tickle-Me Elmo. Everyone wants to help, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.
Speaking of beautiful things to see, here’s a clip from last night, when I shamelessly invented a new “dog enrichment toy” for my Genius Doodle, Uncle Jesse (who turns 10 on Friday!!! and just EASILY ran 20 miles because we thought we were training for a marathon in April, but obviously it was canceled because plague #plantpoweredpooch):
None of these things would have happened in ye olde Garden State.
Thanks to Rainbow Cloudjumper, I even have the hashtag #NeverInNewJersey to complement this ongoing trend.
I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had an entirely new set of examples. (For examples A-D, click here!)
#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT E
This catalog, from Central Oregon Community College, landed in my mailbox the other day. I giggled as I scanned its front page offerings.
I can’t remember exactly, but I seem to recall my local New Jersey Community College brochure looking a little more like this:
#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT F
I recently went to a clothing/item exchange where a group of eight women all brought things from home that they no longer used or needed. When I arrived, I was shocked to find my friend’s living room transformed into a GoodWill-style shop. It was ridiculously impressive and I walked away with an entire bag full of quality wares. This isn’t even the #NeverInNewJersey part (though it certainly gets an honorable mention)!
As I was unpacking my spoils, I noticed a strange scent. Was that… could it be… cologne? One of the items I brought home was a lightweight running top that was likely menswear.
It was probably the faint remnants a pleasant, manly deodorant, but the point is, it stood out so drastically because: NO ONE HERE WEARS COLOGNE. I sat next to a guy at a film festival last week (benefiting the local environmental center and which required filmgoers to bring their own cup if they wanted anything to drink…#NeverInNewJersey honorable mention #2) and almost choked on his spicy aroma.
Coming from the land of gold chains and Axe body spray, I never thought I’d say this, but: I don’t miss it one bit.
#NEVERINNEWJERSEY EXHIBIT G
All you need to know to understand this final exhibit, a Facebook group chat, is that I now live in a town boasting a beautiful river and waterfront amphitheater.
Stay tuned – I’m sure it won’t be long before I run out of alphabet letters!
“I don’t understand why this is an issue for you.”
I swallow, surrendering to the tears, my face as red as a stop sign. In fact, I wish I had a stop sign so I could hold it up instead of trying to find the right words. I know I’m crying, but I’m not sad!I’m…mad. I have a million things I want to say, a million eloquent, valid points, but they simply won’t rise to the surface.
All I can seem to utter is an emotional, “I don’t know, it’s probably just me. I’m sorry.”
Does this sound familiar? Every time I’m faced with a difficult situation, my body immediately goes into fight or flight mode. Picture your worst stage fright coupled with a funeral, and then those two things have a baby with the ugliest argument you’ve ever had. That’s kind of how my body reacts when it senses anything resembling confrontation.
Meanwhile, my mind has been turning over well-spoken, rational explanations for weeks, possibly months. Long, one-on-one conversations with close friends affirm that I have a sane, solid handle on the matter. Yet all of that goes out the window the minute someone signals it’s “showtime.”
In fellow introvert Jessica Pan’s moving and hilarious memoir, Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come, she tells the story of trying to overcome her introversion by giving herself a series of daunting tasks over the course of one year, ranging from hosting a dinner party to stand-up comedy. In one challenge, given to her by a coach, she has to talk to strangers in London’s Underground. Not just talk to them, but ask the ridiculous question, “I’m sorry, I forget, could you remind me, is there a Queen of England, and if so, what is her name?” She was shocked to find that people actually responded.
“Nobody waves,” her coach explained. “But everybody waves back.”
I used to think something was seriously -I mean seriously- wrong with me. In fact, the feeling was so deep-seated that I didn’t even realize I still carried it until recently, after reading both Susan Cain’s Quiet and Jenn Granneman’s The Secret Lives of Introverts.
Also solid reads.
Turns out… I’m (we’re) normal! There are other people like me (us)! I always knew I was an introvert, but some part of me never let go of the notion that it was something to fix. Gotta give that presentation, gotta speak up in meetings, gotta tell charming stories at that dinner party… And I did. And I do. Sometimes it’s even kinda sorta okay! But it’s never, ever without sweaty palms and a racing heart.
While it’s deeply soothing to know that this reaction to stressful situations -including those uncomfortable confrontations- is actually just part of the introvert package, I can’t help but continue to wonder what my life would look like had I been born an extrovert.
How many more relationships, promotions and opportunities might I have experienced if, instead of crying and stumbling through awkward moments, I spoke my piece with confidence? …Would I be willing to trade my entire identity -including my introspection and “hyper” sensitivity, as some have called it- to find out?
Maybe I (we) don’t need to answer that question. Maybe, for now, it’s enough to know that if and when we wave, we have nothing to fear.
What do you think? Do extroverts have the advantage, especially in their love and career lives?
My mind flashed back to a month earlier, when I’d confidently stepped out of the Whidbey Island, Washington hotel bathroom in underwear and pantyhose. I was the thinnest I’d ever been in my adult life, and the future seemed to span before me like the winking promise I’d always heard it could be.
Frank’s eyes swept over me, a frown accentuating his already elongated face. He held up one of the padded bras that had been in my suitcase.
“I think these should be illegal. It’s false advertising.”
“I just…don’t like having ‘the headlights on,'” I swallowed thickly and retreated into the bathroom, taken aback by the venom in his voice. I stared at my stocking-clad figure. I looked…sexy…right? I suddenly felt ridiculous. Who even wears pantyhose anymore?
On the drive to dinner that night, having decided to don my single-digit-sized new green dress, Frank told me about a recent trip to L.A. with one of his Navy buddies.
“I could never live there. The women at the bars wouldn’t even talk to us. Such snots.”
I stared out of the window.
At dinner, Frank assured me I could “go ahead and order whatever I wanted,” adding, in case I’d missed the inference, “Don’t worry about the cost.”
I smiled tightly. I’d recently been laid off from my well-paying corporate job thanks to “merger redundancies.” This was good. A guy like this never would have dated me before. You know, when I was…the F word. I mean, just last week he saw an old picture of me and said exactly that!
“Ouch!” I cried, putting a hand to my face.
“You had a chin hair,” Frank said casually, leaning back into his window seat.
My cheeks burned, the unforgiving sunlight streaming through the airplane window. First I was the Pilsbury dough boy and now I’m Tom Hanks in Castaway? I blinked back tears.
“What’s the big deal?” Frank demanded, seeing my watery eyes.
A month later, he dumped me. Via email.
This Valentine’s Day, I was going to make light of all of my bad dating experiences in a post entitled, “If My Actual Dating Life Were Valentines.”
I took silly photos and even joked with friends about what a gold mine this was. On Monday night, I sat down to write my brilliant Valentine quips, staring at the crimson hearts on the screen. Before long, my own heart sank. It…wasn’t funny.
I imagined all of the other hearts out there, smiling shyly in their stockings, exposed and vulnerable. I thought of every person rationalizing shitty situations because feelings of “less than” ate away their confidence. Smart, funny, kind people who might also entertain the truly insane idea that some jackass in aviator sunglasses was tied to their wellbeing.
Despite what you might believe after reading this, I love Valentine’s Day. I don’t love the commercialization or the temptation to feel lonely, I just love love, and choose to embrace any excuse to celebrate it.
On this Valentine’s Day, in a brand new decade, wherever you are and in whatever circumstances you find yourself, I hope you’ll accept this embarrassingly sincere post as a tiny token of my love for you.
And if anyone so much as lays a g.d. FINGER on your chin hair, so help me baby Jesus Tom Hanks, you have my permission to bludgeon them with a jumbo-sized tube of Pilsbury crescent rolls.
This doesn’t look good. I should probably make the prudent choice and turn around. I’ve still got all week before the new job starts.
Rain turned to sleet, then snow, as I wound my way from Bend, Oregon to nearby Mount Bachelor, the city’s crowning jewel. Every winter, thousands of locals and tourists flocked to the snow covered mountain to…shred…powder…or something.
When I moved from New Jersey to Bend last June, I made several promises to myself:
Try all of the winter sports: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and downhill skiing.
In other words: Do all of the things that petrify me. As of this month, the only two left on my list both involved skis. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), Mt. Bachelor rewards new skiers with an incredible deal via their “Ride in 5” ski lesson package, complete with equipment rental.
Because people swarmed to the mountain on weekends like Go Jules Go to compliments, I decided to attend my first lesson on a Monday. I had already talked myself out of it for two weeks. The memory of my one and only other downhill skiing experience was still powder fresh in my mind.
I was 11, and somehow, in the course of two hours, managed to: drag my mother off the chair lift, crash into a fence, and fall down a ditch, requiring a pimpled, teenage rescue team. I’d always been considered an athletic kid, but apparently this was limited to swimming pools and soccer fields.
This past Monday, I turned left into the Sunrise Lodge parking lot, clenching and unclenching my jaw. Ten foot high piles of snow blocked any form of signage.
Seriously? They don’t tell new skiers where to go? This is a sign. I should just go home and hug my dog.
Eventually -on the third attempt- I made it to the proper parking lot and found the check-in and rental office.
“You look excited!” the check-in employee exclaimed. He had clearly been born with a snowboard attached to his feet.
“That would be the sheer terror,” I retorted, feeling the wild look in my eyes.
“Oh no, you’ll be great! Let me just make sure I have all of your information… And what is your weight, my dear?”
I swallowed. I knew this was coming. I didn’t even lie, lest I increase my chances of death from 99.9% to 100%. Besides, it was printed right on my new Oregon driver’s license [because despite the endless smiles and generosity, they are MONSTERS here].
I was sure to tell everyone at the outfitting station that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, my eyes darting frantically from the rows of skis to the exit sign.
“I think Matt Damon wore these in The Martian,” I marveled at my borrowed ski boots. They were harder to get on than pantyhose after a steamy shower.
“NASA actually used ski boots as the model for their latest expedition.”
My head shot up and I looked at the guy who’d just made the remark.
“I don’t care if you’re yanking my chain,” I said. “I choose to believe you.”
“Do you want a helmet?” he called as I headed outside, shockingly heavy skis in tow.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
“You mean we’re not just practicing how to take these on and off today?”
I’d been certain that, in a package of five lessons, lesson one was simply: These are skis. See you next time!
He laughed and walked over to a giant wall of black helmets. “I think it’s a good idea.”
“I’m not gonna argue! Safety first,” I replied as he jammed a 47-pound bowling ball on my head. I had flashbacks of a similar moment preceding my epic mountain cycling fail. He tightened the chin strap and I waddled outside, almost an hour early and feeling utterly ridiculous.
By the time my Australian instructor, Rohan, introduced himself, I was so antsy to get moving that I shouted,
“I’m Jules! It’s great to meet you!”
Because it was a quiet Monday on the slopes, there were only two other first-timers in my class, a couple from Brazil, who chose to spend their week-long vacation away from their hometown beaches and…learning how to ski in central Oregon. I sized them up. We were all going to die.
The lesson was two hours long, and much to my dismay, in under an hour, our downhill ski instructor announced that we were going to ski downhill.
After nearly falling on Satan’s conveyor belt, which jerks you forward as soon as you place your skis on it, Rohan decided it was time for the real deal. The ski lift. The part I had been dreading since my summer ski lift tour.
“I’m not gonna lie,” I confessed to Rohan as we boarded the lift. “I’m glad these snow pants are waterproof.” I glanced skyward and said a prayer.
Rohan held my arm as we disembarked and miraculously, I didn’t fall. By the second and third rounds, I was launching off on my own with all of the confidence of a newborn giraffe.
“Looks like you two ah friends nowah,” he said in his Australian accent, nodding towards the chair lift.
“I might even let it take me out for dinner,” I grinned.
At some point, Rohan had to tell me to slow down and prove I was still in control on the turns.
“Wheee!” I cried as I flew past him and he laughed in spite of himself. When we hit the bottom of the hill, I said, “Admit it. We’re the best class you’ve ever had.”
“I’m very impressed,” he smiled indulgently. “It helps that you’re all athletic.”
After spending the better part of my 37 27 years in New Jersey, not far from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, I moved to Bend, Oregon last June. I was pretty sure I’d completed my Oregon transformation by the time I embarked on my first backpacking trip in September.
One of the most fascinating things about moving across the country has been observing the utter lack of jadedness among my new neighbors. And how, in a town of over 100,000, EVERYONE KNOWS EACH OTHER. I find myself constantly sending the New Jersey crew texts like, “I don’t remember what a car horn sounds like,” and, “Someone just BOUGHT MY GROCERIES,” and, “[Sara] and I just realized we went out with the same guy.”
In fact, this happens so regularly that I’m about to fill an entire blog post with examples FROM THE PAST WEEK ALONE.