Thursday, June 23, 2016

What I Wished Someone Had Told Me As An Introvert (But Learned On My Own)

   I do not have an extroverted bone in my body. Seriously. I am not outgoing nor overly talkative. I hate large groups of people. Small talk is my worst nightmare. My brain doesn't have an off switch. I spend too much time remembering all the stupid things I've said or done. And worst of all, talking is hard.

   If you can relate to those things, you're probably an introvert. Welcome to the club where, despite our reputation, we're actually all really cool here.

   I have been introverted my whole life. I will continue to be an introvert until I die. It took me a long time (a loooooooong time.) to accept that and move on. There was a point in my life where talking was excruciating. I spent a majority of my childhood thinking I was an outcast because I was shy. I've dealt with so much crap for it I'm surprised I haven't snapped yet. There were times I would cry because of the criticism. I cried because I thought if I only tried harder, I would be more outgoing. People assumed I wasn't trying because I was still so quiet, when in reality, I was obsessively thinking about it and trying to "fix myself."

   If you've ever been in that boat, I want to write this for you. I spent years fighting this and trying to stop being so shy and it only make me feel terrible. I wished that instead of telling me to "just talk" people would have actually helped me. I hope I can help you out a bit. Trust me, I learned these the hard way.

   First of all, you don't need to be fixed. Should I say it louder for the people in the back? INTROVERTS DON'T NEED TO BE FIXED. Introversion is not a disease, a fault in your personality, or a defect. It is just who you are. Just because you are quieter than your peers does not make you any less capable or intelligent. It is not a crutch or a weakness. You are allowed to be shy or introverted or quiet. You don't need to talk more to make people accept you. You need to surround yourself with people who are okay with your silence.

   You don't need to try harder. Seriously. Stop punishing yourself when you can't be this person you've made up in your head. We all have that person, don't we? That picture of ourselves where we're confident and brave and can talk to anyone without feeling the crippling anxiety. Yeah. You need to let it go. Because if you set up this standard for yourself, you'll beat yourself up every time you do so much as stutter. You're going to get heavy with the weight of regret from all the times you "should have spoken up." That weight will crush you. I know because I almost let it crush me.

   Accept your shyness. I talked to a coworker of mine the other day about my shyness and he told me "I don't think it's a lack of motivation or desire. I think it's just who you are." There are a million lessons in that but let me say this, you're going to be an introvert forever. So you can either live your whole life in constant worry about not being good enough, or you can learn how to get crap done while being an introvert. I know, the world runs on an extroverted system and it's messed up. So everyone expects you to do things the way outgoing people would, but you're creative. So think of ways to do things. Don't expect yourself to run the same way other people do. Find those loopholes.

   Stop. Comparing. Yourself. To. Extroverts. Or even other introverts. Or literally anyone. Just because some introverts can do things doesn't mean you should spend the next 3 weeks crying because you're too scared to do them. Be yourself. (Cliche. I'm over it.) But true. Alright?

   You are worthy of love and respect. Introverts are the recipient of so much ridicule because we are vastly misunderstood. But you are worth just as much as anyone else. You are just as deserving of love as anyone else. Being quiet doesn't make you any less of a person. It doesn't make you any less valuable. You still have your place in a group. You still have your talents. You are still a person.

   This one's from my favorite book, Its Kind Of A Funny Story. The book that literally changed my life. I've mentioned it before, but Craig says "I don't owe people anything and I don't need to talk to them anymore than I feel I need to." That quote can pretty much take 100% of the credit for how much I talk now. People will give you crap. You've probably heard the sarcastic "wow! Why are you so loud?!?!1" comment. People will try to shove you into uncomfortable situations in an attempt to "cure you." And guess what?! You don't need to talk to them. If you don't feel comfortable sharing something in a group, you don't need to. If you don't want to talk, you don't have to. Not talking doesn't mean that something is wrong with you.

   Those are the biggest things that come to mind right now. But listen, I know for me, once I was able to deal with all that stuff, I actually opened up more. I talk a lot. (I bet now people wish I would shut up.) There are still situations I have bad anxiety with. Some people I don't open up around. But that's who I am and that's okay. You are okay just the way you are.

   I think I wrote this to remind myself of all that. I got a new job doing what I love (photography.) but it requires so much talking and being outgoing. I'm also going to be a leader up at camp (next week!!) and that requires me be outgoing. And I'm going to do it because I know who I am and I know that I'll have my moments (or days or weeks) but that doesn't mean I'm a failure. So not talking doesn't make you a failure either. We can do this. Some days we won't be able to talk. But some days...some days we'll take the world by storm.

   (With plenty of intervals of alone time.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Remnant Review + Giveaway

   First of all, if you're reading this because you thought it said the Revenant I would just like to inform you this is not a review of the movie Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar with. This is a review of the book The Remnant by Clare McIvor. I can't speak for the film considering I've never seen it, so let me talk about this book of a similar title.

   The Remnant is a Christian, dystopian-esque novel that follows the outlawed, underground church that calls themselves the Remnant. Most of the band of believers hide secretly under Shakespeare House where they train seers and prophets, but some of them risk their lives above ground as they convert people to their cause. Our story focuses on Hunter Rhodes, the only son of the Remnant leader, and his group of fellow Christians as they fight for the survival of the gospel.

   Remnant is an action packed tale of the church, persecution, the spiritual realm, and how believers can stand up and fight in the midst of it all.

   The most interesting thing about this novel that really sets it apart is the unique perspective. Although Hunter is the main character, he is not the narrator. An angel is. Because of this, the reader is given insight into things that the characters themselves are not always aware of. Spiritual warfare is one of the main themes in this book, and with the help of the angel as narrator, we can see how supernatural forces shape the events that occur. Demons threaten to thwart plans, angels come to the rescue, and there are battles unseen by the Remnant. The whole dynamic changes when you're aware of these beings and the effect they have.

   One of the most prominent supernatural beings is called the Muse. He was, to me, the most fascinating thing about the story. He's a demon that whispers to Lady Babylonia, who fancies herself a psychic. With the help of the Muse, she is able to tell the future to her clients. This demon uses and manipulates everyone around him, and his presence in the story gives it a darker edge, which I personally love.

   There's some politics involved that remind me a lot of The Hunger Games. (Which doesn't really say much. All books in this genre sound like THG to me.) But there are striking similarities in how the Presidents in each book respond to perceived threats. Saul Raymond, one of the 4 presidents of the world, operates on publicity and fame. He uses his daughter as an icon to sway crowds, as well as manipulates her love life to meet his own agenda. That plot point mirrors well with Katniss and Peeta in THG. However, Saul isn't really in charge, and we get to see that his crutch is his devotion to Lady Babylonia and her Muse.

   Then there's Hunter and the Remnant. I really liked Hunter as a protagonist because while he's the son of the leader of the Remnant, he has doubts. It's made very clear he sees himself as an outcast, even among friends. He likes it, in a messed up way, which I think a lot of people can relate to. I know I did. He enjoys being in rebellion, even though its not what God wants. He struggles with his faith, with his anger issues, and with his need to be different. He doesn't think of himself as the hero, which is why God chooses him to be one, despite his obvious dark side.

   Hunter isn't the only one who has faults either. In fact, the entire Remnant seems to be a flawed rebellion. While Christ has called them to share the gospel and be brave, they have spent years hiding away underground thinking only of their own self preservation. This is pointed out when one character remarks, "The Remnant have been too scared of their own mortality and reputation to share their eternal truth with a world that desperately needs them to." I love that McIvor wasn't afraid to go there in her writing. To openly acknowledge the flaws in this church is bold and yet necessary. Because Christ followers aren't perfect. I think a lot of Christian novels make believers out to be these Always Faithful, Always Loving type people and completely miss the fact that we are sinners (present tense.) saved by grace. Remnant, on the other hand, stays true to that idea.

   As a whole, I enjoyed the book. It's not my normal cup of tea, but I really liked the concept of spiritual warfare in it and couldn't pass up the opportunity to read and review this book. It had it's flaws; sometimes cheesy dialogue and a few typos; but its significantly better than almost all the Christian books out today. Clare McIvor embraces the reality of spiritual warfare, which can be really taboo in some churches. Personally, I don't think enough people are aware (or even believe in) spiritual beings that have such a major effect on our world. McIvor takes a dystopian world and brings it to hit home. There are so many takeaways in that novel, but if I had to isolate one overarching theme, it would be perseverance of the saints. No matter what you're going through, you have more resources than you know of. Your prayers are heard and they do make a difference, even if you can't see it.

   I think Hunter Rhodes sums it up best himself. "Sometimes faith is a feeling, but the rest of the time it's something you choose to do."

   Now for the giveaway portion...

   I was so excited to have gotten to be in contact with the author of this great book, and now I have the chance to do my first ever blog giveaway! I will be giving away a code for an ebook of Clare McIvors debut novel, The Shadows Where We Walk. I haven't read it yet but I plan to over the summer. But now you can help support a growing Christian author and my weird little place on the Internet by entering this giveaway. There are a lot of ways to enter, so may the odds be ever in your favor. 

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