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live outside the box

In my last post I talked about following the fun in life, which came right after a post about following the fear. In truthfulness, I followed both fear and fun in my decision to move to Los Angeles. And as I have also mentioned in previous posts, I often still face the question of why I chose to pursue my career in Los Angeles instead of New York City. I will 100% discuss why I made the decision I did, but in order to do that, I need to go back a little in time first.

During my high school years, I opted for an alternative education path and attended an elite boarding school in the Northeast. I’d made the decision to apply at 13 years of age and enrolled at 14. The Hill School was a fantastic experience, and it is one I would choose all over again (but as I’ve said before, I don’t second-guess my choices).

Have you ever heard of or taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Personality Test? Most people I’ve encountered have taken it at some point in their lives. At Hill, it was a requirement as part of the college advising process to help students better understand themselves in regards to their future. Fortunately, I’ve always been someone who’s understood who she is as a person, which was a very important characteristic for me to have when it came time to take the MBTI test. The MBTI is an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world around them and make decisions.*

I don’t remember too much about the actual test besides wondering why the questions all felt so binary to me. To this day, I enjoy staying in and reading a book just as much as I enjoy going out with my friends. Those two examples were options on one of the test questions of which I was only able to choose one. I remember feeling confused during the test because I recognized - even as I took it - that the test situated things in opposition to each other. As someone who - from a very young age - didn’t abide by the rules of binary, the MBTI test was a nightmare for me. But it was a necessary nightmare because it taught me a very valuable lesson.

After completing the MBTI test, I was called into my college adviser’s office to speak about my results. It appeared that the results of my test were inconclusive, along with two other young men in my graduating class who made me feel like I was in good company (one of whom, mind you, does stand-up comedy in NYC). When I learned that my answers on the MBTI test didn’t produce a specific result, I didn’t panic. I actually wasn’t surprised at all given my recognition of the answers’ juxtaposition to each other within each question.

But the very valuable lesson I learned during that whole experience is that most people panic when they can’t place something in a box. I didn’t assume that not getting put into a personality box was a bad thing until that idea was presented to me and framed in a negative way. There’s a reason why my college adviser wanted me to retake the MBTI test, and it had to do with human nature; my adviser wanted me to fit into a box in order to make her job easier. Human beings love labels, order, and compartmentalization - a place for everything and everything in its place. I, too, love having the things in my life neatly laid out in order, but people are not things. What my college adviser came to recognize (especially after my opposition to retaking a test I viewed as pointless) was that I didn’t have a personality type because I couldn’t be fit into a neat, little box. And those two other students who also did not achieve a result their first time taking the test? They were two of the people I respected and admired most in our graduating class.

Want to talk about juxtaposition? We grow up and live in a world where we’re constantly told to think outside the box, yet when the three of us “failed” the MBTI test because our responses couldn’t place us in a box, the authority figures and people around us panicked. We’d literally achieved the thing we’d been indoctrinated with since youth, but other people’s fears and insecurities tried to hold us back and make us something we were not - simple. Had I listened to my ego and worried about other people’s perceptions, I would have retaken that MBTI test and lied so I could fit into a box. Instead, I listened to my soul, chose not to retake the test, and chose my future based on what I wanted instead of what others wanted for me. Life is about the choices you make. They’re your choices, and trying to define yourself by someone else’s standards or fit yourself into someone else’s box to make them feel better about themselves is restrictive and suffocating.

So why did I choose Los Angeles over New York City? I didn’t. I didn’t choose Los Angeles in opposition to somewhere else; I just chose Los Angeles because I thought it would be the most beneficial move for my personal growth. And if I am so fortunate to book work in NYC or Chicago or Miami or Dublin or Paris or Melbourne or back home in Philly, I’ll choose those places next because I choose myself and my career. Choices are infinite and flexible as long as they’re your own. Trust yourself.

So if you have a choice to make, make it. I’ve written about it before, but as long as the choice is based not in listening to your ego but in listening to your soul, it’ll be the right one. Don’t let anyone else try to define who you are; that’s for you to decide. Even language is evolving; new words are added to the dictionary all the time, and words that have been around for a long time take on new meaning. Think outside the box, yes, but more importantly, live outside of it. It’s nice out here, being the self you choose to design. It’s a much happier, more fulfilling existence than trying to squeeze into the parameters of others’ insecurities.

I think that’s a good place to pause until next time! And, of course, as always, if you have any pressing questions or if you want to discuss something further, feel free to subscribe below or reach out to me on the “contact” page. I’m here for you!

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