“You’re Pretty Normal, Considering How Weird You Are!”

Have you ever gotten a compliment that you’re not exactly sure how to take? On one hand, you know that the giver of the compliment meant it as a positive thing, but at the same time there’s a sting to it. Maybe it’s about your occupation: “Wow, you’re really not boring, for an accountant!” or “You’re really nice and honest, considering you’re a lawyer!” Well for me, that thing is….

Homeschooling. I was homeschooled.

Today at work, I was having a conversation with co-worker #1, about college professors and courses. I was telling a story about a course I took my first semester of college, and happened to mention that I had been homeschooled until that point. Cue co-worker #2, who I’ve worked with for about 8 ½ months: “Wait you were homeschooled?!” Me: “Yep, my entire life until college.” Co-worker #2: “Wow! I never knew that. You’re the most normal homeschooler I’ve ever met!” Co-worker #1: “Yeah, you are!”

……….Thank you? I mean, this is a good thing, right? That’s a compliment? Literally every time this happens (which, by the way, is more often than I can count), I end up stammering something about how I was well-socialized and handing them my extra-curricular resume from my elementary, middle school, and high school career. How are you supposed to respond to someone basically saying, “You’re pretty normal, considering you’re so weird”?!

Directly after this dialogue, one of them proceeded to talk about the other homeschoolers, the ones that include everyone else except me, of course, because I’m normal, oddly enough. (Although I guess she didn’t really say I’m normal… just the most normal.) These other homeschoolers are either socially inept or academically stunted. Don’t mind me, I’ll just stand here awkwardly. Feel free to check out my resume again.

Without fail, people ask me if making the transition to “normalcy” was difficult. If classes and homework and professors took a lot of adjusting. Actually, before I started my first classes, I had a couple of family members tell me that “It was going to take some adjusting… it might be hard to get used to… taking notes and learning in a classroom setting is something you’re not accustomed to.” (And let me add here that this was seldom accompanied by a “but you can do it!” speech.) So was I scared to go to college?

Duh. Aren’t the majority of college freshmen trembling as they walk to their first classes? Doesn’t college catch most new students off guard? I have met many “normal” people, who had attended public or private school their entire lives, who were terrified on their first day or made comments partway through their first year saying, “high school did not prepare me for this.” So, yes, I was scared. But wanna know something? I made it through that first semester with four A’s, an A-, and (believe it or not) even friends. Even though I was homeschooled.

I don’t like to talk about this much because it’s awkward to talk about your own accomplishments, but in my college career I, among other things:

  • Transferred my sophomore year to a college that was 500+ miles away from home
  • Made so many priceless friendships
  • Was asked to compete in a 2-day business competition—on a team with 3 people from 3 other schools whom I’d never met—and was on the winning team
  • Had 2 internships: one of which meant that I was a co-manager of my own on-campus business with another student, and we had to learn how to do everything ourselves—bookkeeping, hiring, payroll, purchasing, marketing, and so on
  • Was asked to carry the banner for my division in the opening ceremony in my senior year
  • Struggled through classes I hated, and classes I “didn’t get”
  • Had many late-night study sessions with my fellow accounting students with work that we thought would never end
  • Graduated with highest honors, Summa Cum Laude

And so, dear co-worker #2, yes. I won’t deny that I’m “normal”. But I won’t deny the weirdness either. I suppose we all need a little weirdness along with our normalcy to make us who we are.

Also, I did schoolwork in my pajamas, slept as late as possible, and procrastinated as long as I possibly could for certain assignments. If that doesn’t prepare you for college, I don’t know what will.

Dealing with Empathy

You may recall from one of last month’s posts that I’m an empathetic person. I am generally annoyed by personality tests, because they don’t tell me anything really about me, but I took the Gallup StrengthFinder test several years ago and BAM. It knew me. My top strength was empathy, and here’s a partial quote from StrengthFinder, explaining it:

You can sense the emotions of those around you. You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective. You do not necessarily agree with each person’s perspective. You do not necessarily feel pity for each person’s predicament—this would be sympathy, not Empathy. You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand.

Reading this, especially paired with my other strengths, was so weird—there were areas in my life that I never fully understood, and I had started to believe they were weaknesses, not strengths. Ever since then, I have tried to understand the way empathy influences me, and I’ve put together a list of how you can understand the empathetic people around you! So here we go.

7 things you should know about your empathetic friend:

  1. They care. A lot. This is obvious. When a person is naturally strong in empathy, they deeply care about the people around them. If you are their friend, they want to hear your updates. They want to hear what’s going on, not because they’re nosy (although some may be—nosiness and empathy are independent qualities, but not mutually exclusive), but because they feel involved!
  2. Give them a break. If you’re friends with someone who’s empathetic, there’s a good chance you’ve seen them get all swept up in an issue they care about, whether it’s a particular person’s situation, or a larger humanitarian cause. Don’t automatically dismiss them as annoying or over-emotional, realize that they might simply need to vocalize their passion so it doesn’t burn up inside of them!
  3. They don’t need to agree with you to feel your pain. Even if your empathetic friend seems to be taking the villain’s side, don’t automatically assume they are. An empathetic person can feel someone’s pain and hurt for them, even if they don’t agree with the choices that got them there. For example, when I watch The Amazing Spiderman II, I definitely am not a fan of the fact that Electro tries to destroy Spiderman and take away the city’s electric supply. But the empathetic person is inside of me saying “HE JUST WANTED A FRIEND!!!” …understand?
  4. It’s exhausting. Being empathetic isn’t easy. Taking on someone else’s burdens is not all kicks and giggles—go figure, right?! Being emotional over your own issues is bad enough as it is—taking on someone else’s is double the pleasure, double the fun.
  5. Sometimes, they need to turn it off. After a while, feeling everyone else’s emotions simply drains a person. It’s easy to get to the place where the empathetic soul learns to turn a blind eye or not let someone too close, because of pure exhaustion. The problem with this is, the person is attempting to turn off a God-given gift, which will ultimately leave a hollow spot.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” –1 Peter 4:10

  1. They’re often in the background. The gift of empathy is usually not an attention-seeking gift. You’re not out there with the gift of leadership or teaching, just feeling. The thing about listening to other people’s problems and joy is that it involves just that— Closing the mouth, opening the ears. As a result, this person is often the silent support to the person in the front. They’re the encourager, letting the leader know that they’re understood, that they have a friend, that they’re loved.
  2. They want to be understood. An empathetic person wants someone to feel their pain, to feel their joy, to understand them! Even if you’re not naturally empathetic, you can still be a good listener. (Duh.) Take the time to listen to your empathetic friend. Let them let go of the burdens they’re carrying. Let them know that they have a support system too.

Now I know this post is a bit long, but before I wrap up, just two little pieces of advice for the fellow empathetic people in the room:

  1. Don’t close your heart. I know that sometimes it seems like you just can’t get away from the feels. Like you don’t have a choice but to feel other people’s hurts so deeply. But, trust me, you can It may be unnatural for you, but from experience I know that I can let my heart be hardened and while I still may be able to perceive someone’s feelings, choose not to let it get to me. It’s exhausting, after all. But as I mentioned in #5 above, we are called to serve! God has given you this gift for a reason. It’s a strength. So don’t close off your heart. Keep praying “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.”

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” –Galatians 6:2

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” –Romans 12:15

  1. Remember it’s not all on your shoulders. Your job is to carry them to Jesus. He is the one who can take care of your friends. If you try to carry everything, you will only let yourself down. Jesus is the One who can handle your burdens!

“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.” –Psalm 55:22

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” –1 Peter 5:7

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30

Better than Fiction

Today, it’s (one of my) sister’s birthday! Which warranted story time, of course. Have you ever had a moment that was so bizarre, you had to take a moment and ask yourself if this is for real or if you’ve somehow ended up a comedy flick? This story is about one of those moments.

I’ve been daydreaming recently about vacations, both in the past and in the future—in case you couldn’t tell by my last post when I rambled about my honeymoon (and that was the short version—I could go on and on about that cabin). Today I’ve been thinking about a particular vacation I took with my sister, several years ago.

My sister Cadi and I, for many years, would go on a vacation in the summer. Nothing huge, usually. And in fact I don’t even remember which year this was. Or where we were. I think we might have been somewhere in Virginia. So obviously this memory is still in tact. 😉 However, I do remember one particular night quite well. We were staying at a KOA campground, which are all family owned and operated. They’re kind of fun, actually, because they’re a nice combination of high standards and a homey feel. We were tent camping, in order to save money on lodging. Which is great, except this particular night, it was thunderstorming. (And in case you were wondering, I hate thunderstorms. With a passion. I like to blame it on genetics, because my maternal grandmother is a lightning magnet and she passed her reasonable fear and hatred on to me.)

It was still pretty early in the evening but we didn’t have plans, and we didn’t really want to be in the tent during the storm. So we went over to the rec room and played ping pong, which by the way we are both terrible at. We checked the campground schedule (because there were always activities going on) and saw that they’d be playing bingo in the pavilion that evening. Being bingo people (although generally at a hall or casino, not at a campground) we of course joined the fun. And by joined the fun, I mean joined two other people: one other guest, and the bingo caller, who was probably about 12. We played for candy.

Are you with me here? Cadi and I are at a campground, playing bingo with 1 or 2 other people at most, for candy. Meanwhile, the storm picks up and decides to start dumping HAIL on the pavilion. Also, that night was karaoke night and the karaoke guy was testing all of the equipment and playing the music—loudly. ALSO, have I mentioned that the pavilion had a tin roof?

We are sitting under a tin roof, in a hail storm, playing candy bingo with a 12 year old caller, who is desperately trying to yell “B-5!” over the sound of a hail storm hitting a tin roof and a karaoke man playing “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” at full volume.

I’m telling you, this stuff is better than fiction.

So, happy birthday Cadi. May the candy bingo games always be in your favor.

Happy birthday, Cadi!

8 Things I Learned in 2014

I’ve been meaning to link up with Emily Freeman’s blog for quite some time when she does her “things I learned” post each month, and now seemed the perfect time! Therefore, without further ado, here’s my list of 8 things I learned in 2014:

1. If I ever became a hip-hop artist and needed a rad name like Ke$ha or Flo-Rida, I’m prepared. Get this, are you ready? alex&ra. Like Alexandra. AlexANDra. alex&ra. Boom.

2. I like to cook. I actually really do. I don’t like to bake, however.

3. For all the brides-to-be planning your honeymoon, here’s a big one: Relax. Don’t worry about going somewhere exotic or European where you’ll simply want to explore. Most people end up sick or exhausted on their honeymoon because they’ve been go-go-going for so long. This didn’t happen to Tyler and I and I think that it’s partially because we chose a honeymoon where we could just relax and spend time together.

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In the background are the salt marshes that our cabin overlooked. So beautiful.

There was no Eiffel tower to be seen, no open bar, no luaus to attend, or anything else of that nature. We stayed in a gorgeous little cabin on Edisto Island, about an hour south of Charleston, SC.

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We cooked our own meals so there was no stress of finding restaurants every day, only when we wanted to. We were a mile from the beach so we could go there any time we wanted to.

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Sunrise on the beach!

It was a cabin, so it was private and personal but with practically all the same things as a hotel—maybe more.

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Our back porch 🙂

In short, it was perfect. I know that everyone is different, but my advice is to look something that will relax you, whatever that may be.

4. I love being married. 10 stars.

What a STUD.

What a STUD.

5. Don’t let the Wii U make its own mii for you based on a photo. Don’t ask why I know, just don’t do it. Your husband will laugh at you mercilessly.

6. The value of friendship. I’m realizing how much I miss my friends at college, who seem so far away now. Friends that I made not so long ago, but who I connected with deeply as we did life together. I’m also realizing how fortunate I am to have friends here at home that I can be real with—no matter who the real me is at that moment. There are only a few people in this world who I feel I can be completely open with, raw and vulnerable. Thankfully, I married one of them.

7. I like pickles. I never thought I would! When we were in Edisto, there was a guy selling homemade Sweet & Sour pickles, somewhere in-between a dill and a bread&butter. SO GOOD.

8. I learned about forgiveness, letting go (thanks, Elsa), Parks & Rec, Once Upon a Time, Cystic Fibrosis, humility, and embracing the beauty with imperfection. I learned how to rent our first apartment, budget, and make big purchases like a dryer (woo hoo for doing laundry in our own apartment—finally!).

2014 was a big year for us. We got married almost 7 months ago and are loving it—even in the rough times. My newest nephew was born, and with him came the love of an aunt all over again, plus the love of watching Tyler experience being an uncle for the first time. With him also came knowledge of Cystic Fibrosis, a disease I didn’t know much about until Riley made it extremely important. 2014 has been a year of love, broken relationships, healed hearts, letting go of the past, and running toward the future. I can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring!