A Cat Girl in a Dog World

Sometimes it’s hard being a cat person in a world of dogs.

Oh, the energy and the constant need for attention!  I don’t know about you, but I get overwhelmed when anything runs up to me, kisses me without permission, or needs me to take it for walks.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been single for almost five years, too.

I grew up with cats and was an only child to a single parent- the perfect recipe for introversion.  I read books, I drew pictures, and I hung outside with the ducks.  Independent and mild mannered, I was a child who felt like an old lady compared to my peers.  Kids my age, puppies, and dogs in general overwhelmed me.  I wasn’t equipped to handle their energy.

As an adult, not much has changed.

This is what “dog people” don’t seem to understand.  I’m not lonely- I am just preserving my energy.

There’s a time and a place for social interaction, and it’s important to know the difference between being alone and being lonely.

I’m proud of my independence- and I’m grateful I am able to sit with self.  Not everyone understands the demeanor or the needs of a cat, and that’s okay- I’m on my own journey.

Faux Extrovert

The other day I picked up the book “Quiet” at the library. It was a timely find, as I’ve been reflecting on my own self care needs, causes of anxiety, and everyday interactions with those around me.

As I read the first few pages of Susan Cain’s book, one paragraph struck me:

“Now that you’re an adult, you might still feel a pang if guilt when you decline a dinner invitation in favor of a good book. Or maybe you like to eat alone in restaurants and could do without the pitying looks from fellow diners. Or you’re told that you’re “in your head too much,” a phrase that’s often deployed against the quiet and cerebral.

Of course, there’s another word for such people: thinkers.”

Oh, how I relate.

Lately I’ve been exhausted; not due to a lack of rest, but with the amount of social interaction I have had. This has been a month of healing, but it has also been a month full of groups, social activities, and sharing my story, thoughts, and innermost challenges. In a community setting it can be difficult to find the space and time to sit and reflect; there’s always someone talking, somewhere to go, or someone critiquing what I say. Sure, I have no problem speaking up, but I am easily drained when I don’t have time to just be.

Over the past decade I’ve been extremely outgoing, which served its purpose when moving to new cities, recreating myself, making friends, and succeeding in the workplace. Alcohol helped with that, too. However, alcohol no longer serves, either.

It’s time to embrace who I truly am- on my own.

As I’ve written numerous times before, I grew up as a shy only child, spending my days drawing, reading, and writing. “Boredom” is not in my vocabulary- I’ve always known how to entertain myself through creating. However, somewhere along my path I became a social butterfly, only to find myself lashing out when my batteries weren’t charged. I never considered that my mood swings were partially due to a lack of energy.

Someone explained the definition of “introvert” to me years ago: someone who gains energy from alone time. An introvert is a very misunderstand type of person; they’re not necessarily timid or weak- an introvert holds a modest strength that doesn’t need to be proven through loud words, social interactions, or attention-seeking.

As I dig deeper into the person I once was, who I’m becoming, and the person I want to be, I have realized the power in quiet. Truth be told, extroverts tend to annoy me. How can these people be so loud? How can they be so needy? Can’t they just learn to sit still and create something instead of constantly consuming?

Of course, it’s not my place to judge people who gain energy from activities and social interactions; diverse personalities make the world go ’round. However, I have always gotten along best with fellow introverts- those who are introspective, creative, independent, and calm. I prefer one-on-one interactions to groups, deep conversations to small talk.

I’ve also learned that I don’t have to pick up a drink and be the life of the party; I can find my tribe by being myself. I can develop meaningful relationships, a purposeful career, and live a happy life by embracing my introvert characteristics.

Susan Cain describes people who pretend to be extroverts just like I have; it’s a breath of fresh air to leave that facade aside and own my introversion. I may not be loud and aggressive today, but when I do speak up, I do have something meaningful to say.

I’ve found solace and strength in my writing, and for that, I am grateful. I’m no longer afraid to speak my truth- my whole truth- and admit my struggles. More on that later. As for now, I’m enjoying my Saturday afternoon curled up with my book, writing in my journal, and soaking in the sunshine from my window.

Quiet is a beautiful thing.

Being Your Own Partner

The other week at work I told a friend of mine that this would be the summer I would meet a guy with a sailboat.  She looked at me and replied, “you need to find a guy with a dog.”  I looked at her, gave a puzzled look, and said, “I’m more of a cat person.  I’ll go with the sailboat.”

Truth be told, I don’t want the guy.  I want to go sailing.

Society makes us think we need the guy- but guess what? We don’t.

This morning I was messaging with a friend who lives in NYC who mentioned there’s a sailing school on the Charles River, which I had looked into when I learned about the community sailing program.  Sounds like a happy medium to me- the perks of sailing without the baggage of the guy.

Funny enough, over two years ago I went on a date with this friend; yes, he has a sailboat, and no, I am not interested in him.  However, two years ago I would have hung out with him purely for the boat.

This Kristin would rather hang out alone.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about partnership.  How many people do you know who are in unsatisfying relationships?  I don’t know about you, but I know a lot of these people.  Sure, some people are scared of being alone.  Some people are extroverts.  Some people want to settle down.  Some people like the security of having a “plus one.”  However, I see absolutely no reason anyone should feel obligated to settle down with another person.

To me, a man would only hold me back- unless he was extremely strong.

The one and only time I am certain I was in love ended after this person told me he didn’t want a partner- ever.  This shook me to the core.  He was one of the only people in my life I could just sit in a room with, fall asleep next to, and sing old Chicago songs with.  He was only time I ever got “the fuzzies;”  I didn’t even know what “the fuzzies” were until I met him the very last night in June of 2014.

Nevertheless, it ended, and it has taken me four years to finally realize he wasn’t perfect, either.  He would sit on his phone all morning, go to Brooklyn and hang out with his old Harvard friends without me, and was the most self-deprecating person I had ever met.  Still, I loved him.  A lot.

But since he left me, I learned to love myself.  In fact, now I love myself enough to not let another person bring me down.  If a guy were to tell me my sunglasses were too big, my lips were too red, or my hair was too short, I would laugh at him.  If a guy suggested I wear shorter skirts, tighter tops, or send suggestive photos, I would run.  Fast. 

Sexism, misogyny, and objectification have no home here.

The old Kristin didn’t stand up for herself, so she fell for everything.  Yes, that is cliche.  However, what I didn’t realize was that I was attracting the wrong people because I was insecure.   I know this is partially because I grew up without a male role model; and the things I did hear about women were negative, judgmental, and, well, mean.  

They say women get their loving side from their mothers, and confidence from their fathers.  Not all of us have those blessings.  In a society where women are mean to each other, men treat women like playthings, and the media forces mixed messages down our throats, what are those girls supposed to do who have no role models at all?

This is why I write.  This is why I let my vulnerability out after years of holding back.  Maybe, just maybe, I can help one other woman realize she is worth so much more than her label, her view of herself, or what the world says about her.

So, I’ll leave you with this: my friend at work also told me there is a “lid to every kettle.”  She is probably right.  Whether or not I do meet my match one day, I will be fine- because I have the best partner of all- myself.