Misunderstood

Every weekday at around eight o’clock in the morning, I hang my clothes out to dry.

If you’re a non-Singaporean folk, this is how we do it:

bamboo-poles-and-clothes

Not recommended to people with a fear of heights. I imagine this will please daredevils, though. You know, like Tom Cruise.

It’s a mixture of dread and comfort.

Comfort, because sorting out my laundry helps me plan my day.

Dread, because the old man from the opposite apartment block is watching my every move.

That’s right, he gives new meaning to the phrase “people-watching”.

Our awkward stares started a decade ago and I’ve lost count the number of times we’ve caught eyeballing at each other.

(Bear with, because we’re on to something here.)

Two weeks ago, the lovely Jenn Granneman published my essay on her website, Introvert Dear.

An essay titled, To My Extroverted Ex-Friend Who Manipulated My Introversion.

It was a story about a toxic friendship and a message on how silence is an act of violence.

Right after it was published, I hopped on over to Facebook to read the comments.

And it was devastating.

People from all over the world came forward, shared their stories, and unmasked their vulnerability.

It was a bold move, because as we all know, the internet can be a vindictive and unpredictable sinkhole.

One comment stood out and it gave me a lot to think about what I wrote.

A reader felt that I’m driving a wedge between introverts and extroverts and that I’m using my personality trait as an excuse.

It wasn’t a mean comment. Rather, it was cordial and polite (See, folks, it’s possible to have a healthy discussion!).

Still, when I read it, I was floored.

Because it was never my intention to throw extroverts under the bus. The mere thought of introverts being better people than extroverts or using my personality to justify my behaviour never once crossed my mind.

Until now.

I didn’t think it was appropriate to get defensive, so I took a cue from Scott Derrickson and replied:

“I’m listening and learning.”

I thanked everyone for sharing their thoughts and stories and logged off Facebook. I also might had added a cutesy symbol.

It was the only way I could think of to ease the tension.

Days passed and l couldn’t get the reader out of my mind:

Am I throwing shades at extroverts? Of course not. It just so happened that this ex-friend was an extrovert. Plain and simple.

Did I get too carried away and missed the point? 

Am I using my introversion as a crutch? God, I hope not. It’s a lot more complicated than that. I hope it reflected in my essay.

What if it didn’t?

It stung.

I reread my essay and you know what?

I could see where the reader’s coming from.

I wondered if, deep down, subconsciously, I was using my personality trait to defend myself.

I was worried people would twist my words.

It hit me hard.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Worse, I couldn’t stop second-guessing myself.

I tried to put it on the back-burner but couldn’t.

Introvert Dear toxic friendship essay

the first paragraph of my essay

Thank the stars it was temporary.

Because a week later, I stumbled on a book by Alexandra Franzen, and it made me look at the matter in a new perspective.

Here’s a quote (or quotes?) that completely changed my mentality:

 

alexandra-franzen-1

In that moment, the reader and my eyeballing matches with the old man have tied together.

Maybe the old man was staring into blank space.

Maybe my essay reminded the reader of a fight with an introverted friend and it brought back unpleasant memories.

Maybe the old man’s staring at me, because he thinks I’m staring at him.

Maybe the reader just disagreed with what I’ve said – and that’s okay.

Our personal experience, background, temperament; these things play a heavy role in our perception – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

It’s like that scene on The Golden Girls where Rose, Blanche, and Dorothy confide in Sophia.

(A little bit of a background: Sophia’s advice to the girls involves a wacky story about a beautiful young woman and a sea of pepperoni.)

What Rose, Blanche, and Dorothy got out from Sophia’s story is starkly different.

Rose, who was sexually harassed by her boss at her workplace, learns from the story that she should “take a bad situation to make it better” by telling him off.

Blanche, who caught her boyfriend with another woman, gets the impression that she should dump him because there’s a lot of pepperoni (translation: men) in the sea.

Dorothy didn’t know what to have for dinner – thanks to the story, she now wants a pepperoni pizza.

Where do we go from here?

light bulb Burly Vinson

Image credit: Burly Vinson

All experiences are unique.

Our perception, our way of thinking, our ideas – they’re all poles apart.

Which brings us back to the moment of truth – the reaction of our work?

We don’t have a say in it.

Good or bad, we have to let the audience decide (Of course, we have to be smart enough to know the difference between hurtful feedback or useful criticism, but that’s another story altogether).

The bottom line: we can’t be in the driver’s seat all of the time.

We can’t control how our work is interpreted by others – we have to learn to roll with the punch.

This is the reality of being a creative.

The is the reality of life.

This is a risk we must be willing to take.

Now stop overthinking and go create something rad!

share-notice-1

22 thoughts on “Misunderstood

  1. Joey Leslie says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I needed to read this tonight. 🙂 I often find myself not writing something I’m itching to write because I’m afraid of the discourse it might cause in the comments section. I appreciate your insight and this example… it really shows that creating is the important part because if I’m itching to write it’s probably because someone out there needs to read it, even if they don’t agree. Even if they’re just staring out into blank space. So cool 🙂

  2. Mary says:

    There is a lot of truth in what you wrote. You are only responsible for what you write…you are not responsible for how people interpret it. The written word can be tricky because it is so easy to misconstrue the meaning. Text messages can be misinterpreted because you can’t see the body language of the person you are talking to nor can you hear the tone in their voice. Same goes for anything that is written. Unless it is explicitly stated what the tone is supposed to be people will look at it differently.

  3. simplicity says:

    The writer’s biggest challenge is controlling the way the readers view a topic. Most times it is successful, many times, it is not, and this can at times discourage the writer from writing again for fear of the backlash the readers will give. Thank God you found a way to conquer this challenge. I would love to read that essay one day.

  4. Lola says:

    I have a fear of heights, so I can’t imagine living there. Well written post and I think it’s very important to realize that you can’t help how your writing is interpreted and that everyone has a different point of view and there could be multiple reasons for the same behavior. I can imagine it’s hard to put yourself out there with your writing, I think you handled the situation very well and it’s encouraging to hear people can discuss matters in a positive way and that person worded her comment politely.

  5. thecoffeebeanbrain says:

    Hi Priscilla! I think I have read that article of yours in Introvert, Dear. I love your style of writing. You have a signature to the way you express things and that’s important. Yes, we don’t always control how people will react to what we put out there but they should also reciprocate the feeling that we are only expressing what we perceive is true. And I take into a positive light those comments that help us think more because it finds us into better (albeit more) thinking and learning as days go by.

Leave a Note