Friday, August 21, 2009

The Netherlands:


My friend Amy is visiting me in Amsterdam right now. She arrived yesterday. She really inspires me. She went to the same university as I did, which means she’s also done the whole ‘let’s move around the world every three months, for two years’–thing. Except-her program (industrial design) was five years, not four. Aka: Amy has been moving every three months for three years. Her lists of former homes include: Detroit, NYC, San Francisco, Berlin–and now London. Where she's setting up her own design firm. Cool. Of the eight (that's right people: eight!) groups of Americans that have visited me this summer–she ‘gets me’ the most. We finish each other’s sentences, and we think exactly alike. We should just get married and get it over with. We’d make the perfect, happy couple. I’m sure our kids would be blonde. I also pour my heart out to Amy–something about her makes me talk–quite a lot. We just verbally bounce conversations off each other–as if it were an intense game of tennis. Constant back and forth faster than anyone should ever talk. We just talk in one big–yet punctuated–slur. We’ve even had other people (native English speaks–at that), tell us they can’t follow our conversations. It is intense.

I’m also realizing that I ‘feel’ and ‘experience’ internally–and almost 100% of the time no one else knows what I’m thinking. Even if I’m happy as could be. My emotions do not translate to spoken words, or actions. I remember taking a test in grade school–a personality test (all American kids–I think–the results of, I'm convinced are stored somewhere by the American government–always watching they are–or so they like to make citizens think. Americans just live in fear of authority; but that's another post). I was an INTJ. Standing in for: Introversion, iNtution, Thinking & Judgment. But, like most my age at that time, I didn’t quite care–or even really understand what that meant. I recently took the test again. The test grade didn’t lie. I’m indeed an INTJ, which are also the rarest of the sisxteen Keirsey personality types. A breakdown of what exactly INTJ means (from here):

INTJs are the most self-confident of all types, having "self-power" awareness. To outsiders, INTJs may appear to project an aura of "definiteness", of self-confidence. This self-confidence, sometimes mistaken for simple arrogance by the less decisive, is actually of a very specific rather than a general nature; its source lies in the specialized knowledge systems that most INTJs start building at an early age. INTJs are strong individualists who seek new angles or novel ways of looking at things. They enjoy coming to new understandings. They are insightful and mentally quick; however, this mental quickness may not always be outwardly apparent to others since they keep a great deal to themselves.

They are very determined people who trust their vision of the possibilities, regardless of what others think. Found in about 1% of the general population, the INTJs live in an introspective reality, focusing on possibilities, using thinking in the form of empirical logic, and preferring that events and people serve some positive use. INTJs are idea people. Anything is possible; everything is negotiable.

Whatever the outer circumstances, INTJs are ever perceiving inner pattern-forms and using real-world materials to operationalize them. Others may see what is and wonder why; INTJs see what might be and say "Why not?!" Paradoxes, antinomies and other contradictory phenomena aptly express these intuitors' amusement at those whom they feel may be taking a particular view of reality too seriously. INTJs enjoy developing unique solutions to complex problems.

INTJs do, however, tend to conform to rules if they are useful, not because they believe in them, or because they make sense, but because of their unique view of reality. They are the supreme pragmatists, who see reality as something which is quite arbitrary and made up. Thus it can be used as a tool-or ignored. Reality is quite malleable and can be changed, conquered, or brought to heel. Reality is a crucible for the refining of ideas, and in this sense, INTJs are the most theoretical of all the types.

INTJs look to the future rather than the past, and a word which captures the essence of INTJs is builder-a builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models. To INTJs authority based on position, rank, title, or publication has absolutely no force. This type is not likely to succumb to the magic of slogans, watchwords, or shibboleths. If an idea or position makes sense to an INTJ, it will be adopted, if it doesn't, it won't, regardless of who took the position or generated the idea. As with the INTP, authority per se does not impress the INTJ. They will trust their intuitions about others when making choices of friends and mates, even in the face of contradictory evidence and pressures applied by others. The emotions of an INTJ are hard to read, and neither male nor female INTJ is apt to express emotional reactions. At times, both will seem cold, reserved, and unresponsive, while in fact INTJs are almost hypersensitive to signals of rejection from those for whom they care.

In social situations, INTJs may also be unresponsive and may neglect to observe small rituals designed to put others at their ease. For example, INTJs may communicate that time is wasted if used for idle dialogue, and thus people receive a sense of hurry from an INTJ which is not always intended. In their interpersonal relationships, INTJs are usually better in a working situation than in recreational situations. They do not enjoy physical contact except with a chosen few. They tend to withhold their deep feelings and affections from the public and sometimes even from the object of their affections. They can be intensely loyal and caring, even though this is not always expressed in words.

By nature, INTJs are independent individualists. They see their visions so clearly that they are often surprised when others do not see things the same way.They set internal standards of achievement for themselves and often do well academically. Being sociable is a standard that they rarely think is worth their time and energy. (You can take a test based off the original, here. It might not be completely accurate, as it is not the original but it will lead you in the right direction). I’m realizing that it’s not the Netherlands that’s ‘changed me so much’–it’s life that’s changed me–and I’m just growing up. Completely normal. Though looking back at everything up until this point, I can easily see how I thought NL was the culprit. I guess what makes everything so intense sometime, is that–at the end of the day I’m growing up alone. In a foreign country at that. Which I forget, quite a lot. 

And that’s the thing; I don’t ever realize I’m in a ‘foreign’ country. It’s also probably because the Dutch all speak English. Quite well. Which only represses a foreigner’s attempt to learn, and speak, Dutch. Though I do like Dutch–and I like speaking it. My favorite words?: Kijk, alstublieft, and makkelijk. Love them all. They just make my mouth move in the strangest ways. Today I was looking at an image, and said to myself, 'ah–that's mooi'. But how could NL not feel like a foreign country? I am a Europhile; totally. I relate to European life so much more than that of life in America. The other day–as I was sitting on the edge of Eglantiersgracht, my favorite canal in the city–I had a mind shattering thought: Nothing is keeping me from leaving. If I was able to come here on my own–with almost no money–and no friends–and still managed to make things work out, hen I’m certainly determined and mentally strong enough to keep myself here. And that thought puts my mind to rest. I love it here in the Netherlands. And not just Amsterdam. I really think that most everything about the land of tiny–even the cow-filled countryside–is spectacular.

When I write about how people here will never quite know me the same way as they do in America–I’ve never expected them too. But at the same time, I’m learning that I’ll never quite know them the same way as their friends here know them. But of course, that changes with time. And it’s also one of the most wondrous aspects of life. As much as you know someone–you’ll never know everything about them. And that’s what keeps it interesting. Because no one, will ever be–someone else.

And this is why I need to learn Dutch. Because life is about sharing. And I would venture to say people are better able to explain themselves–in their native tongue. Why not learn it if you live here? I'm starting lesson next month. I have decided. I have a huge base knowledge of Dutch, just from hearing spoken and seeing written words. There’s a quite inspiring sentence painted above a house in the Jordaan. The other day I tried to find it, to snap picture. No luck. But I do remember the quote. ‘Why are we all born as individuals, yet we all die as copies?’ Why do we?

You see it everywhere. Me included. People mirror the actions, language, customs and fashions of others. What’s keeping us from being ourselves in this false illusion of ‘reality’ that we live in? Besides, what is ‘reality’ anyway? I’m not sure it exists, as the world is in a constant state of change–as is the built environment around us. Leaving nothing to immune to change. Then again, I really don’t know and more than likely never will. My friend Melissa recently commented on an old pos, which reads: 'John, I'm proud of you. And I too am trying to recognize how I am growing. I feel like change stirs up the hidden inner pieces of who we actually are. Disruption and the following adjustment seems to show us what is real and what can melt into air. I love glimpses of that. I love when life can show me something new. I hope I can catch up with you soon. I miss you. Melissa.' My life has sort of been given a bit of a shaking since I took off to Italy; I experienced many unexpected social encounters on the Italian coast.

And I think it was for the best. Though I'm still confused about it–to be honest. My time in Italy was cut short, and I ended up taking a 22 hour train ride from Italy to Amsterdam. Which is something I've always wanted to do, just not this summer. I also came to Europe to unravel my self; find out what truly makes me tick. That's the truth; however it may sound. Last year I did some personal shake-downs (getting in shape, eating super healthy–as in baking my own bread, making every meal from scratch healthy. And I mean healthy. I'm heading in the right direction. I know that. As Melissa said in her comment, ‘Disruption and the following adjustment seems to show us what is real and what can melt into air.’ But what if–after those adjustments–what we thought was real before, didn’t melt into thin air? What if it was real? But then again, if reality isn't real–then adjustments cannot take place; therefore, how do you define an 'adjustment''? I may never know. I've been lying in the park lot these days, reading–and in what other city, can I lay in the park, next to a sculpture by Picasso? Very, very few, this I know to be true. And so, life moves forward.