Thinking about what it means to be seen and understood. And about how this writing space is meant to be an exercise in vulnerability. I’m thinking about how I understand myself, what factors in my life I think most strongly shape the person I am, and all the things I wish I could immediately get across to everyone I meet so that they can get where I’m coming from. Let’s call this a practice in mindful self-indulgence.

So, here is a (longer than anticipated) list of things to know if you feel like understanding me today.

Some of these things I am very open about. Others, I’ve told only very few people who know me extremely well. At least one of them I’ve never told anyone before.

  1. I have an unbelievably loving, supportive, and compassionate family. My relationship with my parents is freakishly strong and fulfilling. My dad is a solid rock of support and love. My mom is a fluffy cloud of loving compassion, wisdom and such intense understanding that it’s actually mind-blowing.
  2. I was IQ tested as a kid. I was given three different tests. I ceilinged out of two of them and scored a 178 on Stanford-Binet (for reference, Einstein’s IQ on this scale is estimated to be between 160 and 180.) I have a very complicated relationship to this information.
  3. I have never, not once in my life, had to worry about money in any kind of real way. I have a complicated relationship to this too.
  4. Because of the above three points, I feel that my life has been exceptionally easy. I have never had to work hard for the things I want to achieve.
  5. I have an overwhelming urge to make things more difficult on myself than they need to be. I crave struggle, opposition, and insurmountable odds. I actively seek out (and create) my own suffering. I believe any mental disorder I have directly grew out of this and is entirely self-inflicted. I also firmly believe I could stop having any sort of mental problems if I tried hard enough. Make what you will of this.
  6. I have a very strong sense of duty to make the world a better place in a big way. The odds of my being born in to such incredible privilege are so astronomical in the grand scheme of existence that achieving anything short of the messianic is, to me, a waste of this opportunity.

 

  1. My sun sign is Gemini, my moon sign is Aries. I am almost evenly split between an ENFP and an ENTP, but slightly more on the ENFP side. In terms of the Enneagram, I’m an 8-7. Say what you will about astrology and personality tests, I’ve found all of these descriptions of myself to be quite accurate.
  2. I first became political when I was 7. It was because Bush won the presidency after Gore won the popular vote. It felt unjust.
  3. As I’ve radicalized over the years, I find it more and more difficult to have political conversations and debates. I used to be able to talk about policy. Now, every policy I think should exist is deeply rooted in my entire view of human civilization, society, and spiritual development.
  4. That view pretty much goes like this: humans start in the anarchic chaos of survival, build structures (hierarchies, contrasts, tribes), dissolve these structures into a new chaos, and through that find true harmonious community.
  5. I began my spiritual search when I was 11. After delving into Wicca, Buddhism and Hinduism, I found the closest approximation of what I believe to be true about the universe in Shakti Tantra Hinduism. I will forever be grateful to Douglas Brooks, who lectured during my yoga teacher training when I was 16, for speaking to me my own truth. I have come back to the things I learned in that workshop in new ways recently.

 

  1. I don’t have much of a relationship with my sister. She is brilliant, talented, very different from me, and, on the whole, psychologically unstable. I’ve been told that my relationship with her when we were very young likely shaped a lot of my character. At this point, I don’t feel like our relationship affects me much. It would be nice if we became close someday.
  2. My firm belief in the active self-infliction of my own psychological distress strongly affects how I view mental illness in general. I’ve experienced intense psychological suffering, and can empathize with it in other people. I can intellectually understand that my beliefs about my mental disorder might be completely wrong, and that they also have no bearing on other people’s mental illnesses. However, I also can’t fully shake the belief that anyone can get better if they try, and that people who aren’t better just aren’t trying hard enough. I know, I know, and I know that this is bullshit. But it’s still in there somewhere in a way I hate, likely because I have to believe it in myself. This strongly relates to my relationship with my sister.
  3. I have a very strong relationship with my de-facto sister, Felicity. I tend to cycle through best friends, lovers, partners and treat them in largely the same way. I am close to lots of people, but there’s always one person at the top of the list, and that person changes relatively frequently. Felicity is the only non-blood relative outside this cycle.
  4. I find sustaining any emotion to be extremely difficult. Anger, hurt, sadness, joy, contentment, platonic or romantic infatuation, I feel them all very strongly and I stop feeling them very quickly.
  5. I would say I’ve been properly in romantic love with 5 people. I also feel like it may be true that I fall in love with everyone all the time and the only difference between love and infatuation for me is how long it lasts. By some people’s standards, I’ve been in love a lot more than I would say I have. By other people’s standards, I’ve probably never been in love at all.

 

  1. I have never failed a class, been expelled from school, or been fired from a job.
  2. I have been dumped only once.
  3. Only one person I’ve loved has died. Her name was Kathleen.
  4. When I was 21, I made a very half-assed suicide attempt. It was one of those cry for help things, and it occurred shortly after the above two events happened in quick succession. I was extremely drunk, distraught, and sat in my bathtub cutting my arm with a kitchen knife. I sent a lot of dramatic texts to friends, Felicity 5150ed me (for those of you not from California, a 5150 is when you or someone else calls the police on you when you’re suicidal, they forcibly take you to the hospital and keep you under a 72-hour psychiatric hold). I talked my way out of the hospital after about 6 hours, mostly because my self-inflicted injuries were so minor.
  5. After my “suicide attempt,” I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and put on Lamictal. I had a severe allergic reaction to my medication and had to go to the hospital. After many conversations with my psychiatrist and a decision to defer my move to London for a year, I was put on Abilify.
  6. I stopped taking Abilify in August of this year. I recognize where things are more difficult, but I feel that my life is, on the whole, manageable without medication now.
  7. I dislike feeling dependent. On people, on medication, on money. This does not change the fact that, at the moment, I am dependent on many things.

 

  1. I grew up in a mansion in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in California (and in the US in general. And also probably in the world.)
  2. When I was 9, several of my dad’s investments went south and our family lost a huge amount of money. I didn’t know until much later how serious the loss was and how much debt it put us in. We moved out of the mansion. We stopped having nannies and babysitters around. I became much closer to my parents because of this, and it has strongly affected the way I view money.
  3. Money, to me, is a tool. My family has a lot of it. Like all tools, it can be used for good or ill. I don’t value money much. Part of this relationship, to me, is wisdom. I detest status symbols, I don’t buy many expensive things, I try to be generous with the money I have. Part of this relationship is, of course, naiveté. I don’t value money because I’ve never had to work hard to have it, I’ve never not had it, I don’t know how it feels to not have it. What I do believe I know is how much easier my life has been because I’ve had money, how unfair the distribution of wealth is in the world, and that that should be changed.
  4. My dad recently stepped down as the CEO of a company called Tri Alpha Energy. When he joined the company many years ago, he invested huge amounts of stock in my name and my sister’s name, and sold the majority of these when I was 18. I believe this sale paid out to about $480,000 in total (240 for me, 240 for my sister.) This put me through college, graduate school, paid for most my costs of living through all of that time, and I still some of it left over. I also still have stock left to be sold.

 

  1. I’ve been praised for my intelligence my whole life, significantly more than I’ve ever been praised for my hard work.
  2. I believe there are all kinds of intelligence, and that IQ is a rather bullshit method of measuring anything. To me, IQ pretty much equates to how fast your car can drive. It has no bearing on where you’ve driven it, if you’ve driven it at all, whether you drive it far in one direction or take short trips all over the place (which is more what I’ve done).
  3. I know that I am smart, but I have trouble sometimes understanding how smart I am or what, if anything, that means. I’ve not always felt that I was the smartest person in the room, but I’ve never had the active feeling that I wasn’t. I have also often had the feeling that the people around me don’t fully get how intelligent I am, and to varying extents I both try to instill in them the full weight of my intelligence, and, sometimes, the opposite. I also have a great deal of anxiety regarding not living up to my intelligence, or that it’s all a lie or has decreased over the years, or that it doesn’t mean anything and I’m actually an idiot, etc.
  4. My intelligence makes me arrogant, that is for certain. It also makes me trust my own reasoning more than I probably should, the thought process being, “Well, if I’m so smart and I’ve figured this out in this way, it’s probably right.” I’m aware that this is bullshit, but once again, I can’t fully shake it. I’m not sure if I wish I’d never been told my IQ.
  5. I had several conversations with my parents as a child about whether I should be put on the Go-to-MIT-at-14 track. I decided this wasn’t something I wanted. I don’t know what I would have achieved, what my life would have been like, where I would be now if I had chosen otherwise. On the whole, I feel that taking a more traditional path through education has served me better, and I am happy for it.

 

  1. I have an unhealthy relationship with food, my weight, and my body image. This both caused and in turn was caused by my being seriously bulimic for 6 years.

 

  1. One of my best friends as a teenager thought for a long time that I was an only child with a strained and toxic relationship with my parents. She was shocked to find out that not only did I have a sister, but my relationship with my parents is loving and supportive. This likely says a lot about how I engage with the world, or at least used to.

 

  1. Communication drives me. Not just expression, honest expression. I find people whose personalities are in any way performative very difficult to be around. I don’t feel that I perform my identity, I feel I communicate it, and that there’s a very strong difference between the two. Namely that communication is authentic, performativity is inauthentic. They have serious overlaps, and perhaps the dichotomy between the two is entirely a farce, but it’s a palpable difference that I draw.

 

  1. I may or may not be queer. I have a queer understanding of sexuality and gender, certainly, but I’m not sure how gay, if at all, I actually am. I’m very attracted to masculinity and male bodies. I’m not at all attracted to femininity, and I can tolerate female bodies. I also find it difficult to be sexually attracted to anyone who doesn’t have a beard. Go figure.
  2. I am white. I am rich. I am a cis woman. Gender is a social construction, but I like mine. On the whole, the privilege I’ve felt from being white, rich, straight-ish and cis far outweighs any lack of privilege I’ve felt from being a woman.
  3. I have only once felt oppressed by my gender. It was at the bar of a hotel in Port-au-Prince, it involved an Australian guy, and I left that night feeling anger, sadness, loathing and self-loathing like I’ve never felt before.

 

  1. The five most important things to me are Love in all forms, my relationship to myself, art, spirituality, and social justice. I am building my life around all of these.
  2. I said it before, but it’s so important that I’ll say it again. I find it incredibly important to communicate. To relate. To understand and speak back. As a result, I try very hard to communicate effectively who I feel I am to all people, including myself. That is why I made this list.

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