Learning sign language

I’m taking a class in American Sign Language, and I absolutely love it. The hour and a half of complete silence, where we speak with our hands and enjoy the stories told by our deaf teacher are just the best hours of the week.

Sign comes pretty naturally to me. I think it’s because I took dancing lessons for so long. I already associate meaning with movement, so associating language to movement was a small leap to take. I now spend a lot of time practicing, fingerspelling words as I read, doing .gif flashcards on my Memrise app, and watching these lovely “TheDailySign” videos where this girl signs along to songs:

Uptown Funk: https://www.youtube.com/watch? Y

Thinking Out Loud: https://www.youtube.com/watch

I just really like it. It’s the first language where I don’t have to hate my accent while using it, and the first one that I feel good about using. Did you know more people use ASL than Italian in the world?

But anyhow, it is amazing what people can do, isn’t it? Communicate with hands…we are so adaptable. Sometimes our schedules and our problems seem like too much…but we adapt. We can do anything, that’s what being a human means. We can learn to speak with our fingers, we can build flying machines, we can use a pocket computer to have food delivered to our doorstep. We know these things exist, and don’t think of them as being remarkable, but they are. They are innovation leading to adaptation. The reason why they don’t seem remarkable anymore is because we’ve—say it with me—adapted.

This is why things we love get boring. And why we sometimes feel an urge to sabotage ourselves. Why we sometimes want to run away to greener pastures, and why if we do we eventually get tired of the greenness.

Sometimes, adapting isn’t the best thing. New is exciting. Once we’ve mastered something, we look for the next challenge.

Perhaps this is why learning ASL is exciting to me. I’m constantly in awe of how deaf people adapt, and I’m constantly learning more vocabulary so it’s never boring.

Maybe that’s the key? Find something you’re comfortable with but that keeps surprising you. A helpful tip for relationships, as well.

In the meantime, I’ll keep signing. I have a midterm soon, gotta study up!

Support

 

Oh, now you come here with a grin ear to ear

And you say not to fear the first day of the year,

You’re a cheer engineer, and now you volunteer

Schedule clear, if I can persevere…

But how can I dare? To walk upon air

Dance among debonairs with champagne in the air

You may have not a care, but Times Square’s a nightmare.

It’s not fair. I’m the heir of despair. Yes, I’m scared

That your promise will fall, you’re not in the long haul,

And you think, overall, that you are a heal-all

Midnight call, protocol, almost done, after all

A rag doll in rainfall…I can’t go to your ball.

I’d just hide, by your side, an invisible bride

They might chide but I’m fried. If you’d let me confide:

Bonafide petrified. Amplified cast-aside,

And my mind is outside, for I’m dying inside.

Let me get out the way, let me run faraway

Oh just please don’t delay, help me find the stairway

Or some small alleyway, where there’s no disarray

I’ll decay while you stay, I won’t ruin your day.

 

But I want you to go. And hey, you never know

It might be a fun show. If your nerves domino,

Shaking hands, spilt Bordeaux, We’ll just go. Don’t you know,

I’d rather be home with you than a party alone.

Top 5 ways of dealing with anxiety

 

As a person who deals with anxiety on a pretty regular basis, I know how hard it can be to deal with it. When there’s no bathroom stall to hide in, or blankets to cover your face with, you can feel trapped, panicky, and like you’re losing control.

I’ve collected here a list of my top 5 helpful things when you feel anxious, whether you suffer from deep anxiety or are merely a little unsettled. I hope it can help!:

5. Becoming mindful of my body and my environment. This is the newest one I’ve found; it’s a type of meditation you can do at any time, no matter where you are. Allow yourself to feel the chair you’re sitting in, to hear every sound in the office, to smell the world around you. Do a mental scan of your body, take note of every ache, itch, and sensation. Becoming aware of how you fit in the world helps you feel more connected to it. This site is great for guided meditations like this: http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22

4. A calmer task. When I have homework piling, I often like to take a break to freshen up my makeup. Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone, but doing my makeup is a calming task that allows me to let my mind take a break. It’s also a great way to get my eyes off a computer screen and let my hands do some work. Doing a task that is still productive (ie, not watching television. Something like knitting or playing a sport) for a few minutes but isn’t the stressor can help you reset. These two websites are less productive than knitting or so, but are still calming and may help if you just need to turn your brain off for awhile: Silk: http://weavesilk.com/

Line 3D: http://www.barcinski-jeanjean.com/entries/line3d/

3. Talking it through. Whether a long rant to my mom over the phone or a brief pep talk to my mirror, talking out loud can help relieve the stress. Someone who will listen without telling you you’re being unreasonable or too worrisome would be best. Even just listing to yourself what is stressful can help you put your thoughts in order. If you have no one to talk to, try this site: http://www.7cups.com/talk-to-someone-about-anxiety/

If you really need someone professional to talk to, try this:  https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/

2. Staying organized. When tasks keep getting put on my desk one after another, it makes me want to crawl under said desk and hide for days. Having a to do list helps a million—I like to put a star next to the items I have to get done today, and then number them in order of importance. It helps me realize how much I really have to do, and how much can wait until later. I use an app for this: Productive. It allows you to check off events throughout the day, even things you might not think of, like eating fruit or checking your posture.

1. Deep breathing and meditation. The best part about deep breathing is that you can do it all the time, without anyone noticing. Stressed during a meeting? Stressed in the subway? Deep breathing is your friend. If you have a bit of time, meditation is like deep breathing to the max, helping to relax you from the inside out. I have this amazing, free app on my phone called Pacifica that uses guided meditation and pleasant sound-scapes to help you relax. There is also a deep breathing activity that simply helps your breathing stay constant. You can plug it into your headphones wherever you are to help you calm down.

Of course, sometimes none of these work, and anxiety takes over. Whatever you do when anxious, even if nothing helps, know that you are not alone. There are millions of people dealing with anxiety all over the world. If you have extended period of anxiety or feel anxious often, and want to learn more, go to http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

Time Zones, and a Big! announcement

Hello, friends. It just recently came to my attention that my WordPress clock was off for some reason, so things have been posting willy-nilly at random hours. I’m sorry if an email about my blog woke you up at like, three in the morning. I fixed my clock and now things should be posting at better hours…according to Eastern United States times, anyway.

It’s always a bit mind-boggling when I think about how people are living at different hours–even in different dates!–across the world right now. Having to accommodate for time zone changes is something I’ll have to get used to…in my semester abroad.

Surprise!

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This fall, I’ll be studying at Kasteel Well, shown above, a literal castle that my school owns in the town of Well in the Netherlands. I’ll get to visit several countries while there, all while taking a Travel Writing course.

What does this mean for Introvert Playground? Not much change. I’ll still be posting about the introvert life, but now it will include how to travel as an introvert. I’ll also be posting bits about the trip separately.

I’m very excited! It’s really the first thing I have to look forward to in a long time. It’s a well-earned break, that will help me expand my horizons and learn more about the world that I have only discovered a small portion of.

Also, fellow introverts, where should I go? The weekends are free for us to travel to any country we want in Europe. Any suggestions? Any little, hole-in-the-wall places, lesser-known cities, hidden museums, exciting locales, fun outdoor hikes I may not find myself?

I hope you’re excited as I am! I depart in September, so it won’t be for awhile, but I’m still glad I get to bring you on this journey with me, and document it day-by-day for the future. Much better than a hap-hazard Facebook photo album, no?

In the meantime, share your favorite places, and travel tips for introverts. I’m working on an introvert travel guide to post here.

 

In defense of Vanity

Benjamin Franklin has his fair share of unusual ideas, such as the benefits of having affairs with old women and how keeping an insanely accurate diary in graph form can help one become the perfect moral being. But perhaps the most interesting quote I found when reading his autobiography for class was on his views of vanity:

“Most people dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themselves; but I give it fair quarter wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often productive of good to the possessor, and to others that are within his sphere of action; and therefore, in many cases, it would not be altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity among the other comforts of his life.”

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The first thing I think of when I hear the word “vain” is Vanity Smurf, the little gay stereotype with a flower and a mirror who can’t shut the smurf up about how hot he is. The second thing I think of is that Carly Simon song: You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you…even though it is. But that’s beside the point.

Vanity isn’t something people usually think fondly of, but here is a beloved father of America saying that it wouldn’t be crazy to thank God for vanity.

Well, I thought it was crazy…until I looked closer, and slowly I began to realize that I spend a lot of time thinking in terms of “I.” That’s what this “magical land of quiet introspection and peaceful alone time” is about, after all. An introvert playground. A place to think deeply and enjoy one’s own presence. Is it so bad to like yourself?

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Think of the mirror scene in Mean Girls, when everybody is picking apart the minute imperfections of their gorgeous bodies, and then look to Cady for her input. It’s expected to think poorly of oneself, even if you think you’re rather fine (as those girls clearly do). It’s my firm belief that if you say or think something enough times, it is sure to become true…whether that thing is positive or negative is up to you.

I agree with Benny Franks…to a point. Certainly we wouldn’t want to be so vain as to seem obsessed with ourselves or to think that we are the most important thing in every situation, but we could afford to have a bit of self love. To pat ourselves on the back every now and then, and to allow a bit of healthy pride into our daily diets. After all, we accomplish great things every day. We deserve to be happy with ourselves.

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This is especially important with introverts. We may not spend as much time with other people, and therefore have to give ourselves the extra love we might be missing. Also, since we tend to like to be alone, we spend a lot of time working on ourselves to make ourselves better. This time that we spend thinking about ourselves isn’t self-indulgent—it’s self-improving. It’s looking honestly at our strengths and weaknesses, evaluating how we might improve, and then doing that. We are breathing examples of how thinking about yourself isn’t a negative thing, outright.

Vanity is something we all try to hide, to the point where it’s strange to hear someone indulge in it, even to a small amount. I say, smurf that. If someone says you look nice, or did a good job, or some other compliment, don’t deny it, thank them. We spend  a lot of time on our appearance and on our accomplishments—enjoy them!

Vanity can be extremely helpful in small doses; as Franky Ben said, it is “often productive of good to the possessor, and to others that are within his sphere of action.” So go on, my beautiful people, and feel good about yourselves. You deserve it.

My little cactus

I love my little cactus. I got him (him? I suppose so) about half a year ago, and the little guy’s going strong. He’s been through a lot, like the time I left him in my dorm over winter break, or the time I whacked him off the shelf and the dirt went everywhere.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like, to be a plant. Can trees feel the wind in their leaves? Do cacti feel safe, hidden behind their spikes? Does my little bamboo plant feel lucky, or does it feel just constant growing pains?

For millennia people have used earth, water, air, and fire to categorize personalities. You can see this in…well, a lot of things. Harry Potter houses, for instance. Zodiac signs each align with one of the elements.

I’ve always wondered…why not plants?

An “ivy” personality is far different than an “elm tree” personality. Seaweed, cactus, basil, lilac, lettuce…or just “plant,” I suppose.

It depends on whether you think there are only a handful of different personalities, or an infinite amount. Sure, you can categorize people all sorts of ways, but none seem to quite be accurate…

Well, anyhow, what I’m trying to get at is: what plant are you? Not in a silly, ice-breakery sort of way, but which do you most identify with? The endurance and safety of a cactus? The bamboo, which grows quickly and with abandon? The strong oak tree? The weeping willow? Delicate lily pads? Expansive grasses? Nuanced herbs, like oregano or thyme? The beauty and complexity of a flower? Resourceful vegetables? Crawling vines? Clover, peeking up in sunny fields?

It’s more fun than the four elements, because there are far more possibilities, and have far more implications. And once you pick one for its positive attributes, you can look deeper and see the more telling traits…the way the cactus shields itself from the outside world, for example, or how the bamboo grows so fast it doesn’t take the time to enjoy where he is, or how the oak is so strong and steady that when it does fall it takes other trees down with it in a huge, crashing disaster.

It’s a tool to help us look deeper at ourselves. And even if it seems silly, give it a try. You might be surprised at what you find.

I think I’m a lily pad. Perhaps with a flower, now and then.