Less Than Zero Chill

I am a person who feels things intensely. I don’t do neutral. This is not a conscious decision, nor something that appeared out of the ether. I’m pretty sure I was, to borrow a phrase from Lady Gaga, born this way. I love fervently, I hate vehemently. I rarely say, “I don’t care,” and when I do say it, chances are that I don’t mean it. I commit myself to things completely or not at all. I potty-trained myself when I was three-years-old because Carly Tesser called me a baby for still wearing diapers. I came home from nursery school that day and informed my mother that I would be wearing Big Girl Underpants from now on, preferably ones with Ariel from The Little Mermaid on them, thank you, you can dispose of these diapers, I have decided that I am So Over Them. And that was that. A more recent example: I did not write or create anything for months, and now I can’t seem to stop.

If you find yourself slightly alarmed or thinking, “This kind of behavior probably warrants some kind of diagnosis and treatment,” don’t worry about that because I’m on it and have been on it for longer than I care to admit. But as my therapist likes to remind me, diagnoses are labels and while they’re helpful in organizing disordered thinking, they are not the be-all-end-all of psychotherapeutic work. Just ask Rachel Bloom. Also, this is as good a time as any to inform you that even though any and all diagnoses are irrelevant (as well as hella private), I do not have Bipolar Disorder.

People often tell me that I’m a “big personality,” which is usually more of a compliment than an insult, and that’s nice, I guess. The more overtly negative synonym is that I’m “overbearing.” Many years ago, I went on a few dates with a guy I met on OKCupid. I remember them being relatively nice dates, but nothing happened. I eventually asked him about it, and he told me that I came on strong: “You’re just…you’re kind of a lot.” I’m okay with being a lot. When I like something, I like it, and spend time pursuing and exploring it. When I don’t care about something, I don’t think about it at all. (The best example I have of this is sports. Don’t understand them, don’t think about them, just don’t give a shit. It’s the Super Bowl? Oh, ok…Which one is that again?) But when I hate something, I go on long, mostly unwarranted rants about what is Wrong with the Thing I Hate and why you should hate it too. I trash-talk the shit out of it to anyone who will listen. (Also, by the way, fuck you, Carly Tesser.) I have less than zero chill. (Which, by the way, would be a great title for a millenialized version of Bret Easton Ellis’s cult classic, so dibs.) I don’t do chill, mostly because I can’t. At least, not for the stuff that matters. Go big or go home, right?

It’s not that I actively allow my consciousness to root itself in all-or-nothing thinking. While I can see the middle ground, can logically approach a situation that I feel passionately about (whether that passion is positive or negative), it’s harder for me to act concordantly. You’ll know if I like you. And you’ll know if I don’t. Largely because I have the world’s worst poker face. I used to work for a company that had a lot of employees who telecommuted, so we frequently had video conference calls. One day, my boss suggested that I start going on audio only for these meetings. When I asked why, he said, “You have a tendency to roll your eyes when you disagree with someone. I’m not even sure that you’re aware you’re doing it, but it’s coming off as hostile.” My response, by the way, was, “Ok…but you know they’re idiots and that their ideas are stupid, right?” I was young and had not yet learned the realities of office politics. Also, I thought I was hot shit. Also, they were idiots and their ideas were really fucking stupid. I’m a free agent now, and it’s because I don’t play well with others in a work environment. I’m at my professional best when I am in charge and everyone knows it. I’m lucky that this personality quirk (or, depending on how self-deprecating I’m feeling on a given day, defect) works to my advantage in my current career.

This way of existing in the world, existing without a “happy medium” or “healthy middle ground” is both exhilarating and overwhelming. Which makes sense, obviously, because if you’re living a life that rarely glides happily along in neutral, it would be paradoxical to find that experience itself neutral. I don’t do the recreational drugs that encourage continuing that train of thought, though, so let’s not and say we did. (That said, if you’re smoking a joint while reading this and want to chime in, be my navel-gazing guest.) Historically, my happiness has manifested itself as radiant, almost impossible-to-contain joy. My sadness, on the other hand, has looked a lot like depression even though I’m not clinically depressed. My anger has taken the form of rage-fueled bridge-burning sprees (metaphorical bridges only, of course).

I’ve gotten much better at tempering these extremist emotions. But it took me a long time to accept that although they’re hard to live with, they’re what make me who I am. You and I might process sadness differently, but I wouldn’t trade my devastation-tinged sadness, because my happy is the absolute best. When I’m happy, it’s like I’m in love with the world and I am absolutely overjoyed to be a part of it. (I acknowledge that these feelings can be confusing, especially given the world’s current state. So, let’s try to be kinder to each other on a micro level, okay?) Feeling things deeply, feeling them intensely—that’s the part of me that’s a creative. When I’m excited, I talk a mile a minute. If you’re telling me a story, I will interrupt you no fewer than twenty times to ask questions because I want to know everything and I find you and what you’re saying super interesting. And I will want to say things back, tell you what I think, because you might find it helpful. I offer unsolicited advice while saying I know this is unsolicited advice, because I believe that blatantly acknowledging your flaws makes them less inherently offensive.

The way I exist is not a flaw. It’s just who I am. I spent a long time wishing I could change this part of me, wishing I could coast through life without feeling everything so deeply, wishing I could live in the far less vulnerable middle. But feeling things intensely is why I care so much about other people. A huge part of living this passionately is being compassionate. It’s what makes me a loyal friend, a devoted sister, a thoughtful cousin, a loving niece, a patient daughter. I will celebrate all of your victories, no matter how trivial they seem. I will drop what I’m doing to comfort and cry with you when you’re sad. If someone hurts you, I’ll tell you exactly why that person is the garbage-iest garbage who ever did garbage.

I live loudly. I live in technicolor. And even though I’m a lot and overbearing and have a big personality, I wouldn’t trade any of it for a life made up of only muted neutrals. It doesn’t seem like it would be worth it.


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