Review: “Dry Land”, A Play

DRY LAND is a play about abortion, the harshness and sweetness of young womanhood, and the sticky ambience of a high school locker room.

I decided to go see a play last weekend, based solely on the fact that I knew one of the leads, and one of my friends who participated in theater was interested in going. The Facebook event told me the play was called Dry Land, with the promotional picture being two girls in swimsuits (presumably of a racing variety) lying down next to each other.

Every so often, with the event upcoming, I would see some pictures from rehearsals. It seemed the set consisted solely of a fake pool locker room with benches. The racing swimsuits were confirmed. Upon buying my ticket, that was all the information I had.

I showed up alone, to a small theater on campus, and received my program from what I later learned was one of the producers of the play. The first one in the theater, I sat on the far end of the second row of black chairs. There were only four rows in total, perhaps seating about 20 each. I was within 30 feet of the illuminated set: the same pool locker room floor I had seen online.

Opening the program, I scanned the cast and read the biographies printed inside. There were a mix of recent graduates, and those still going to the University of Minnesota, involved in the theater department. Soon I made my way to the summary, where I was met with the description this review begins with.

I realized I was at this play alone, mostly to see someone who I had met over a few weeks when I was a pit member for another musical, but who I had hardly seen since. I was feeling a bit uncomfortable, but I realized this was a rather immature feeling. So I settled in for what would likely be an engaging play.

I was completely blown away at the end, fairly close to tears. I won’t give much of a plot summary, but let it suffice to say the how we view friendship was questioned, and there was a very long scene where an aborted fetus was being passed, complete with copious amounts of fake blood. Mixed in were fights, complete silence, lonely scenes where a character was on stage for minutes without speaking. Altogether it was a fantastically beautiful play, exploring the dynamics of relationships we have with each other and ourselves at a time period — between high school and college — where we are transitioning our lives and determining who will remain as we move forward.

While the run of the play is over at this point (it was only on for a weekend) I highly recommend finding other performances online (if available) or locally. I was deeply affected, in a way I can’t quite replicate via writing a few days later. While the play was uncomfortable at times, an audience who can take it quietly will come out with a greater sense of empathy.

Book Review: “Quiet” by Susan Cain

I recently finished reading the book Quiet, by Susan Cain. In it, Susan Cain puts forth her concept of the “Extrovert Ideal” in western culture, and what introverts can do to help themselves in a world dominated by extroverts. In addition, she makes a case for why introverts are often exceptional leaders at all levels, although this may depend on the dynamic of the workplace itself.

As a self-avowed introvert, I found much of what she said to be very appealing and helpful. Most useful to me was the idea of a restorative niche, an environment to which you naturally go whenever you’re feeling a bit down or out of place. I enjoy this part of the book in particular, as it is personality-agnostic. She makes a case for having self-awareness of your personal restorative niche, regardless of your introversion or extroversion. The reason being that we all need a place to go and revitalize ourselves.

Introverts are often characterized by susceptibility to over-stimulation. As a result, it is often necessary to seek a quiet place of solitude, or perhaps one or two close friends. I know whenever I had to be in front of a large group (anything more than eight for me) I could do it, but then felt very drained. It was imperative that I find a spot to be to recover, or perhaps connect with a single person in that large group quickly so that I have something concrete to focus on.

Conversely, the group situation above can often be the restorative niche of an extrovert. After a long day at work or studying, they crave a group of friends to go spend the evening with. Perhaps they work somewhere and find themselves severely under-stimulated (a common occurrence and your average campus job) and just need to unwind with a large group of friends. The key is to know where you stand, and seek out a schedule which maximizes the time spent in your restorative niche.

Of course, this is not to say that every introvert should work alone from home all the time, or that extroverts should spend every waking hour at the stock exchange. There is a balance to be struck. But understanding your own mood patterns, as far as they relate to your social habits and preferences, is powerful when trying to form a schedule that suits your needs.

 

Another point of interest is how introverts and extroverts interact with those of similar and opposing dispositions to them. There was a study in which groups of introverts talked with themselves one-on-one, as did extroverts; then the groups were mixed together so that introverts talked with extroverts.

In the first part of the conversations, introverts tended to immediately delve into personal topics about each other’s lives, or about current events in the world. They often found a common topic of interest very quickly, and were able to stay focused on one or two ideas for most of the time. Extroverts required a bit of warming up, talking about the weather and more surface-level details about the other person’s lives. The dynamics were clearly quite different.

Once introverts and extroverts joined together, they were able to adapt to each other. Introverts let the conversation become a bit shallower, and the extroverts reported feeling at ease, since they felt heard to a greater extent than when talking to other extroverts. Introverts reported being more at ease, since the other person would lead the conversation. They were both able to interact well, and had very good ratings of how the conversation went.

What’s important here is that we can all help each other, and serve a role, whatever our social preferences are. Extroverts can often talk about many things very quickly, processing things out loud with other people, and having an introvert who will happily sit quietly just to listen, and respond when appropriate, can be very helpful for this. In addition, an average introvert may not always want to be engaged in incredibly serious discussion, or just wants a bit extra social interaction. Being carried along in a conversation (or some other situation) with an extroverted friend can help move someone out of their comfort zone.

 

This book has some very important ideas for everybody to be aware of. While I did not touch on some of the larger ideas presented (how extroverts dominate the business world, and the ways this effects employees), even just the two things that resonated with me are worthy of significant discussion. Give it a read. It’s a very concise narrative style, easy to follow, with great ideas and advice for becoming more aware of how you operate within the wider world. I know it had a great effect on me.

Switching Things Up

I recently graduated from college, and while I may touch on that or write a longer post about my experience and what that means for me, all it means in the context of this post is I now have free time.

While I objectively had less “scheduled” time during college, I always felt that I needed to be doing something towards my degree and my future. I only read a handful of books for fun during those four years, as I felt it imperative that I instead spend the time working on my programming skills or looking through math textbooks. I did not want to “waste time”, and this greatly affected how I spread myself out.

I will be moving onto a full-time job fairly soon, and while this obviously eats up a chunk of every day, it is a consistent chunk. I know the time I have left, and all that time is spent on projects that I am invested in. I get to decide on what to do. This summer, I’ve finally gotten back into reading. I’m also hoping to record my podcast more frequently, especially now that I have taken over editing duties. I began playing baseball again (kind of) and playing music a bit more. There is a lot I can finally begin to do which I put off during my time in college.

What that means for my writing here, is that I’m going to try and post consistently. My plan is to write a post every week. There is truth to the idea that making a schedule out of something takes the fun out of it, but I know I am the sort of person who needs deadlines to be productive. My goal is to post on Mondays (as I am doing now).

I’ve also removed my Facebook link to this website, so I don’t have an effective way to share it. This was mainly to take pressure off of the writing process. If those who have read it in the past stumble on it again, that’s great. But this is just meant to be a place to put my normal “personal” writing, while allowing it to technically be accessible for those who care. If it obtains a following, that will happen organically.

The posts are going to vary as widely as the current posts do. Sometimes it will just be a small piece of math that I find interesting. It may be an explanation of how I work, or what I do in my free time. I want to keep it open, and allow a slog of a week to have a shorter post like this (sub 500 words).

For anyone who comes across this, you now have a bit of context for the posts that will (or will not) appear in the future.

Drafts and Completion

I’ve been struggling a lot over the past few months in starting a new post, or a new piece of writing for myself, and faltering a few paragraphs in, not sure what to do with myself. A large part of this, as was mentioned in a previous post, is due to my habit of editing as I write. I don’t often plan my writing ideas, put them in some flow chart or other organizational structure, or summarize the points I want to make before I write. This helps keep my writing natural, and keep its place as a release valve rather than work. This also puts me in the position of sitting down with what seems to be a well-formulated idea, only to have it peter out faster than anticipated.

I recently had a conversation with someone who pointed out that this isn’t necessarily bad, as it still shows that I’m thinking about these topics. I start to second-guess my own thoughts. It also means that I am still writing, even if the finished product does not get produced as prolifically as I would ideally have it. All this has led me to think about the importance of completing projects in life, and to what extent my large folder of draft documents can be justified and excused.
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Pushing and Pulling

Over the past 6 months or so, the idea of pushing and pulling in education has been on my mind. What I mean by this is whether we should focus on pushing kids who are achieving in a particular subject as much as we can — advanced study in mathematics and reading, honors classes, extracurricular options — or focus on pulling kids up who have struggled in some subjects. I have been intrigued by this dichotomy in the education system precisely because I have seen both sides of it, and it makes me feel conflicted.

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First Drafts

The way that I approach a first draft is not quite the same way that other (more experienced and successful) people approach one. The general advice is to hack through it without looking back. Particularly in writing, it is important to not focus on any grammatical errors, any misspelled words or issues with flow. One needs to get all of their ideas onto the page before they can hope to begin the process of refining those ideas.

I do the opposite.

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