Monday, September 15, 2008

The Shape of a Life

So many stories are still in my head about how 9/11 changed lives... how the whole universe shifted in moments. How what seemed important was instantly relegated to the column marked "unnecessary."

This week, as Hurricane Ike hit Texas, I thought about the "friends in my head." I watched as the monster storm grew and grew and wondered if Jenny and Karen were okay and wondered about their neighbors... their kids' friends... their homes. I wondered what must be going through the minds of all the evacuated residents. I wondered if my new quirky friend, Stephanie would in fact be moving there for her husband's new job. I wondered how an event like this might change the course of a life. How events change our perspectives and world views. How they can form our personalities. What would happen if... if they moved, or didn't take the job, or started an evacuee fund... how could this one event change the direction of a life?

For those of you that love personality tests that tell you what you already knew, take the Ultimate Personality Test. The results of mine haven't changed in a really really long time. I'm an ENFP. What that boils down to is that I'm a really fun person who loves a good "win-win" situation and tries too hard to make others happy. I'm also always looking for authenticity in the people I spend time with. Rules and regulations stress me out. I inspire and motivate and sometimes smother.

Yup, that's me. An inspiring smotherer that is impatient with rules and bullshit.

So, how did I become an ENFP? I suppose that could be analyzed to death. Was it nature or nurture? Is it because of my star sign (Taurus) or my Chinese Year (Dog)? You can all weigh in if you feel compelled to play doctor or sorcerer. What I will say is that in thinking about the events that have shaped our nation over the last ten years and the events that are unfolding in Texas, I was lead to thoughts about the events that shaped my own little world view. Here are the big events of the first twenty years that shaped my life:

Gas Lines - I remember the fateful day we tried to get out of our driveway. My mom couldn't see past all the even numbered license plates that had lined up a full city block to get to the gas station at the corner of our street. My mom pulled out and got hit by a car that was going way too fast down the street, no doubt frustrated like the rest of us by the congestion and the situation as a whole. What was supposed to be a solution was just really a panic inducing hassle that caused more problems than anything. I mean, how had we never had lines before, but because of an imposed restriction of only being able to get gas every other day, all of the sudden, people were freaking out, yelling, frustrated.

Iran Hostage Crisis - This gave me nightmares. I dreamed that I had some sort of knowledge of a secret passage and if I could just get to President Carter and on to a helicopter, we could save the blindfolded people on TV. I remember thinking that Americans were not safe in the world. I wondered why the Iranians hated us. I was confused because I knew so many people from other countries that came to live here and they loved the US. I remember staying up way too late watching Night Line and getting in trouble for sneaking to turn the TV on after bed time. I was obsessed.

The Pope Asassination Attempt - This happened on my 10th birthday and I was in Catholic School. What was supposed to be a nice day of celebrating became a sign of bad luck. Sister Elvira confirmed that yes, indeed, the number 13, the date of my birth was unlucky. She canceled any celebrating that might have been done and we spent the rest of the day praying. I don't think I have to tell you what that does to a girl. A girl who just wanted to celebrate turning 10. Who didn't want to think that she was unlucky. Who wanted to play and be happy.

John Lennon murder - Okay, so this was more of a secondary effect. Because of all the reaction from the world, I thought, this is somebody I want to know a little more about. I saw BeatleMania like ten times. I read all kinds of biographies on John Lennon and the Beatles. I learned about their mystical experiences. Their sex lives. Their drug experimentation. All that time, my poor mom thought I was just reading about their music.

Olympics in LA - You know what I learned? I learned that the USA rocks at everything we try to do. I know you all might have something different to say, but when the Olympics were in LA, I was 14 and we won just about every event. It didn't hurt that most of the athletes trained in Southern California, so their bodies were perfectly tuned to the sea level, air quality, etc. But to a 14 year old swimmer, all I could do that summer was dream of Gold!

Space Shuttle Disaster - That was the event that brought me back to reality. That was the moment that taught me that as much as we rocked, we were not invincible. I can't describe the horrible feeling in my stomach as Mr. Salee, our driver's ed teacher read the pink note in his hand... one of many that were being rushed to all of the classes on campus informing us of the unbelievable. About fifty of us were gathered around the TVs in the library during the next break between classes. We watched in a horrible echoing silence as the events were replayed. I just cried and cried and cried. Many of our parents worked with or for companies that had something to do with the shuttle. It could not be possible, what my eyes were watching. Still to this day, I hold my breath every time I watch the shuttles launch.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall - I remember staring at the TV just completely amazed as I watched people my age jump on top of that awful wall that separated them from the rest of the world. I cheered every time sledgehammer connected with concrete. All week, I watched the dismantling of the wall and wondered what this meant for me... for my little baby girl. Had she come into a better world?

There were lots of other things that happened in my life that were not world events. Just my own events. Some really good. Some really bad. Was my personality formed by those events? Or was I born this way? Did my "pluck" give me the ability to deal with the bad? Does my idealism cause me to look for the "win-wins" in life. Did my handicapped sister teach me compassion or was it there all along? Did my fear of monsters cause me to sometimes care too much. Was I born to inspire or taught to smother?

These are the things I think about when I see events, natural and man made, unfold on TV. Sometimes, I think I need to shut down more. But I don't know... I kinda like thinking about the What Ifs. After all, being an ENFP, I "thrive on the drama of life." Tonight, though, I'm thinking I need a bottle of shiraz and a big tube of chocolote chip cookie dough. I've got a book to read.


What events shaped the course of your life? If you hopped over to take the personality quiz, what were your results? How did your personality influence the way you saw the world news? Please share... it's always so fascinating to hear other stories!



Steph said...

ENFJ here. And I've been that way for a long time. LOL.

You know, you bring up something I've been discussing with Bill lately - how much of our personalities are "set" when we're born?

That question has made me consider becoming a psychologist more than once just to attempt to find the answer. Because I'm a nerd like that. :grin:

At any rate, I think we must be pretty close to the same age since the only thing I don't remember very well would be the gas lines. I'd add the attempted assassination of Reagan to the list, along with, of course, 9/11/01. Other than that, though, your list was complete, IMNHO.

Rowena said...

Turns out I'm an INFJ. I can't remember if I used to be that or an INFP. It's pretty accurate.

My list of events is similar.

Elvis' death.
The NYC blackout of 77
The Iran Hostages
John Lennon Murder
Attempted Reagan Assassination
Space Shuttle Disaster
The Gulf War
All those plane crashes, I can't even remember which ones.
Princess Diana's crash
The big Tsunami

Sigh. Those are the large level disasters. There were some personal ones, too.

But there were good things, too. Discoveries and realizations and people and wonderful works of art and lessons and education.

How do we get to be who we are?

Naomi said...

Do you know, I can't think of a single event that really changed my life? I think I had a screwy childhood, managed to block out most of it yeah denial, and developed my personality early. Ask anyone who knew me as a kid...I'm still the same person who lives at both ends of the spectrum at the same time. Always indifferent to people making stupid choices but always giving too much of myself at the same time.

My midwestern friends say that us NJ/NY people are too self-absorbed (that's why we can't find any states on the map in the south or midwest lol). That if it didn't happen here or to us, then who cares. I think there's a lot of truth to it, at least for me and the people I know (let me add that disclaimer before someone gets their panties in a bunch reading that.)

Honestly, I do remember the shuttle blowing up and the attempted assassination on Reagan, but none of it had any impact on my life.

I think I'm just genetically coded to be the perfect mix of bitch and sweetheart.

KingdomWriter said...

Well, INFJ here, the Protector, apparently... Scored high on intuition and emotional (76%?).
Something that affected me as child was the Holocaust. I remember lying in the floor of the library (11 or 12?) looking at pictures of the mass graves and crying, wondering how evil like that could exist. I still remember the pics. Doesn't help that my mum is of jewish blood, I suppose.
In regards to Stephs question of personalities, I think the seeds of our personalities are there at birth, as we are created after all, and that the world around us shapes us into being who we are. But if the 'seeds' weren't there in the first place, then we couldn't become something we were not. Just a thought.

Ann said...

INFJ - and I'm TOTALLY blown to see 2 others here in comments, bc I understand that we're quite rare and a bit whacked too :). Couple that w/ the fact that I'm an Aquarius and you can see why I'm totally screwed in this world and why I feel so marginalized 95% of the time. And, why I get pissed when folks squish caterpillars. It's allll starting to make sense isn't it???

D'Arcy said...

I have a piece of the Berlin wall... I take it out every now and then and just feel it because it has an aura.

that wall crumbling was a huge part of my childhood.

what a world.