Life after Dill is much like life before Dill. Except, now that my boyfriend-curiosity has pretty much been satisfied, I spend a lot less time thinking about kissing. And somewhere in the middle of dating and soccer and needlessly complex term projects, Irish has kind of stopped being my friend. Not because of Dill or school or soccer, just simultaneous to those things.

We still say hi to each other in the halls. As long as we are both walking alone. We still communicate using our own private vocabulary, which consists largely of inside jokes, and sometimes he catches me at my locker and presents me with an open package of gummi strawberries or half a bagel for no apparent reason except that he’s hungover a lot and also, he knows that I am pretty permanently ravenous.

He still borrows a dollar so he can buy a Sprite, and he still makes it a point to always pay me back the next day, even though his open tabs with other people are verging on actionable.

We nod politely and smile, and if we miss each other, we do not actually say it.

Because we’re on the block system, Geometry is over, but I still see him most days even, though we don’t sit together anymore. All the sophomores have to take a class called Critical Skills, and my desk is situated somewhere in the middle of the room, while Irish is at the back. With the other drug dealers.

Now, I know I’m supposed to be a professional at this whole writing endeavor, describing and all that, but some things (such as Critical Skills) just seem to defy description. Let’s see—okay, basically this: the class alternates between cripplingly boring and unintentionally hilarious. It involves a lot of activities intended to Prepare Us for the Real World. But Brenna, you say, Be fair. That doesn’t sound so bad.

Let me finish.

When we’re not watching our teacher’s vast collection of uplifting 80s movies and practicing shaking hands, we are performing skits about job-interview hygiene and learning to fold several varieties of origami bird. We are being presented with The Internet. Really.

Between the skits and movies and the handshaking and the origami birds, we are subjected to a barrage of personality tests. And every time we’re handed a new bubble sheet, I sigh and fidget along with everyone else. However, as much as I hate to admit that anything about Critical Skills makes me think, the personality tests kind of . . . do.

The things I learn about myself are not surprises. My Myers-Briggs results indicate that I’m solidly an INTP. So, a walking, talking cortex. With eyes. The Big 5 agrees that I am basically a robot, and I knock it out of the park in the categories of Inquisitiveness and Emotional Stability. My career aptitude test reveals that I am analytical, abstract, self-possessed, indifferent to physical risk, and ranks my most promising employment options in this order:

  1. Stunt person
  2. Probation officer
  3. Novelist

It turns out that Irish is ideally suited for the FBI. We would laugh about this, except for the part about us not really speaking to each other anymore.

For the final, I give my mandatory presentation on stunt performers. Standing at the podium, I’m careful to gesture vaguely and often—make sure everyone gets a good look at my fragile hands, my delicate wrists. Every time I smile demurely or sweep my hair out of my face, it underscores how ridiculous the test result is. I get an A. I never mention to a single soul that my absolute dream job in the whole entire universe is to be a novelist.

It doesn’t occur to me that by presenting on stunt performers, I might be protecting myself. Protecting myself from what? I would have asked.

My reluctance to admit that I’d really, really like to be a writer is complicated. It isn’t because people will laugh or roll their eyes or tell me I’m being frivolous and unrealistic. I mean, yeah, I know they might do and say those things, but honestly, I don’t really mind. Because despite my fascination with pretty much everyone else on the planet, the truth is, I’m just not that interested in what other people think.

No, the reason I won’t admit my secret and overwhelming desire to write books is because I want it too much. And having people know what you want just seems unbearably revealing.

This refusal to voice my hopes and dreams is nothing new. In fact, it’s pretty much an inborn trait. I’ve always been reticent when it came to sharing my personal goals. Public school has just made it a whole hell of a lot worse. It’s kind of made lots of things worse.

If I’m perfectly honest, the self of the last year hasn’t had all that much in common with the girl I’ve spent my whole life being. My new self is stoic and disinterested. She’s closed-off. She refuses to volunteer answers or have opinions or take up space, and maybe she was never particularly gregarious, but before, she was at least entertaining. She was an excellent conversationalist. Now, if she talks at all, it’s mostly to reassure Catherine that her hair looks fine, or to give one-sentence answers when the teacher calls on her in class.

She would not in a million-billion years admit this out loud, but she kind of misses Dill, because even while it was clear that they were pretty poorly-matched, he still made her feel listened-to. And also like she existed.

Jumping quickly to the present-day for a second: last week, I had this really exciting idea to start using more visual aids, so after a lot of rummaging around in my mom’s office, I’ve unearthed some, and here they are. Mostly because I like visual aids—but also because I find the contrast between these two pictures both stark and telling.

10th grade class photopiggyback

The girl on the left is the one who shows up to school each day, precise and pokerfaced—the one who didn’t exist before tenth grade. This is pretty much the closest she ever gets to smiling.

The other one, the laughing one with her mouth wide open and her sister on her back? She lives someplace else—a nights-and-weekends girl. Bright and talkative, she’s perfect for family holidays or babysitting, but I never, ever bring her to class. And that is a real shame, which is something I absolutely do not understand yet.

It’s late May by now. The school year is nearly over and I have just successfully bluffed my way through the ironic Critical Skills presentation. I have successfully navigated my first year of public school, and sitting alone on the rustic and marginally-dangerous rock wall above the cafeteria, waiting for Catherine and eating the rest of Irish’s sandwich, I’m feeling pretty good. I’m satisfied with myself, quietly triumphant. I’ve reached a milestone, and I am a person who really loves milestones.

Then I notice Gatsby, who looks like nineteen kinds of car accident and also like he might have a broken arm. He’s sitting on the other side of the cafeteria, hunched over his tray and trying to feed himself with his good hand—tossing his hair of out his eyes, grinning like he doesn’t even care that everyone’s looking at him.

It comes to me in a disconcerting flash that I am a real, actual thing, the same as Gatsby. I know this because I am taking up physical space. A person could see or hear or touch me. But the thing is, being provable is not the same as being genuine. I’m still the girl who is always dropping her gaze. The one who would rather do her career presentation on stunt performers than admit she needs or wants anything.

Gatsby is laughing, twisted sideways in his chair, and it does not occur to me that he might be just as dishonest as I am, simply making the best of something, putting on a brave face. All I see is someone who never bothers to hide his bruises, and suddenly my triumph is gone and I am very frustrated with everything.

We’ll get our yearbooks today, the perfect end to a perfect year, all those people posed for the camera, so pretty. Like it was really the actual truth. The yearbook staff will have done a good job of smoothing it out, painting it over. Make it look like television, so clean. But the actual school photos will still be there, lined up, the same size, same shape, black and white. Everyone is equal.

Today, Gatsby has his arm in a sling and bruises all over his face. I watched him eat lunch in the cafeteria, leaning forward awkwardly.

In the yearbook, there will be the sports sections, the social sections, “candid” pictures. But that is such a lie. It will be a bunch of popular kids posing for their friends, smiling huge smiles. They will hug each other in color, paint their faces for home-games.

Gatsby’s lip is split open, black with blood, and when he smiles, it is the most candid expression I’ve ever seen.

I write this down like I’ve hit upon some fundamental truth—some profound secret of the world. I don’t quite have the self-awareness to realize that I sound totally bitter, and also that I’m holding forth on things I don’t truly understand. And even though I sound dissatisfied with pretty much everyone else, the girl I’m really judging the one in the school photo. I don’t like her timid mannerisms or her complacency. Mostly, I don’t like that she is me.

I want to be the girl in that second photo, mouth wide open, my sister hugging me around the neck (also me). I want to be real, but not at the risk of being exposed, out there for everyone to see.

And there is the fundamental conflict, the Catch-22. I do not want to show anyone the parts that are most valuable to me and so, most vulnerable.


For discussion: Have you ever felt like you had startlingly different identities for different situations? Why? And if not why, at least, how?

For my own personal edification: I want to hear about the prevalence of personality tests in school. Is this normal? Did other people have to do this? Was my teacher just that desperate to keep us occupied? Inquiring minds need to know!

37 thoughts on “Candid

  1. I never took any personality tests, but I know the Psych classes did. Everyone did get dragged to the computer labs to take this career test sophomore year, though, which helpfully recommended I look into a career as a taxidermist.
    And I’ve never felt startlingly different, but I spent a lot of sophomore and junior year reflecting on how my schoolday basically consisted of going back and forth between being the underachiever among overachievers and the overachiever among underachievers. Which was more a case of me staying pretty much the same but relating to people on very different levels.
    …using the past tense for high school feels weird.

    • helpfully recommended I look into a career as a taxidermist
      That’s really the best part—those results. The next year, my sister took the same test and it told her she should be an airline pilot. No ranking of choices, no back-up plan. Just, airline pilot. (Also, I totally would have done my presentation on taxidermy if that had been an option.)
      underachiever among overachievers and the overachiever among underachievers
      For me, that was always schoolwork vs. friends. By my junior year, I was in college-prep and AP for almost everything, but all my friends were people who chain-smoked in the back parking lot and never went to class.

      • Ha! I really wonder about the people who make up those tests. As I recall, ours were linked to some kind of search engine that showed schools across the country that offered degrees in your result… but it also recommended a lot of things that required talent and are difficult to make a career of, like singing. Also, no one gives degrees in taxidermy. (It recommended degrees for butchers instead, which it claimed to be offered only by a Puerto Rican community college)
        Pretty similar situation here. I ended up with a core group of friends who were similar not-humourless-but-on-a-similar-class-track kids, but we tended to just miss being in the same classes, so I remember going through a lot of days reflecting on how, in each classes’ group of people I got along with, I was being defined by a lot of things I didn’t do versus a few of the things I did. (Mainly: not doing the homework or extracurriculars and having pink/blue hair and a lot of sarcasm vs. not smoking/drinking or participating in complicated relationship webs but getting generally good grades and pretty much caring about school…) I had all the same qualities, but different ones became important between the kids who had the same everyday concerns as me and the kids who understood my jokes and liked the same bands.
        Also: I almost never tell people that I want to be a writer. Not (entirely) because it’s too close (though that’s part of it), but because, well, even I can’t help being extremely wary in general (it makes me feel snobby, but it’s mostly developed from observation) about self-declared teen writers. I don’t really want to explain to people that yes, I know a fair amount about the publishing industry and yes, I am absolutely sure this is what I want to do, and yes, I have written more than a few thousand words of one story or something. I’m trying to avoid the various inevitable reactions until I’m at a place where I’m actually actively trying to do something with my writing.

        • I don’t know if it was the school I went to, or just the era I grew up in, but there was a pretty huge economic schism where I was, to the point that it really didn’t matter how good my grades were or whether I started on varsity—I still came from a poor family, and that really set me apart from the achievers group. It wasn’t necessarily that they made comments (although, they did), but I always just had this sense of being very separate from them.
          With my day-to-day friends though, it made no difference that they were failing absolutely everything and I wasn’t. It was one of those things where they just sort of shrugged and regraded it as an affectation—like my sister and I had this interesting condition where we took school seriously, and even if it wasn’t what they did, there was nothing wrong with it.
          (Also, my sister had the most amazing purple hair . . .)

          • It’s not so much that it was entirely economically homogenous here (though to an extent it was) but my school was always kind of contradictory just because it was so small. By the end of high school, most of the 200 kids in our grade had been going to school together for over a decade, so there was a lot of not bothering. Or, rather, everyone hated everyone else in an affable sort of way.
            Oh, I know that attitude. Mostly a lot of mild mocking amusement about schoolwork complaints, but in a good-natured kind of way.
            Red was always my signature, but I had good times with purple. Blue was always a disaster, but in a fun way.

  2. I was the eerily silent pokerfaced girl at school and the loud, smiling girl at home, and those pictures illustrate it perfectly. I don’t think we ever took a personality test in school, which is kind of disappointing now that I think about it.
    On one of the last days of senior year, some of my AP English classmates were discussing what they thought various other classmates would go on to do in the future. It was an arts school, so there were a lot of dancers and actors and painters. One girl predicted that I’d be the next Martha Stewart. I couldn’t think of anything more preposterous, but a few people nodded in agreement. It amazed me that no one I’d sat with in class all year had any idea who I was at all.

    • My junior year, I became briefly obsessed with the idea that people had opinions of me that might or might not reflect reality (let’s be honest—mostly not). I was so fascinated with hearing people describe me to other people, because it was like hearing about someone completely different, this stranger.
      Then of course, I had a very self-contained panic, as I am wont to do, and started worrying that every time I thought I knew someone, I didn’t really know them at all and was just making them up in my head and how would I ever know what the objective truth was—there was NO objective truth! Then I sternly told myself to stop being so existential, went and got a coffee, and forgot about it. But still!
      And this is what happens when you introduce very thinky 17-year-old girls to 19th century literature.

  3. We took a few personality tests in school– Myers-Briggs of course, and maybe three or four others. The most memorable one was the ASVAB, as I apparently scored very well and kept getting calls from Marine recruiters for months afterward. (Did anyone else’s school have them take that? I feel like we’re the only ones I’ve ever heard of doing it as a school-wide thing.)
    I have different personalities for different situations, but… I’m sort of the opposite from your high school self? Bright and cheerful and super-friendly when I’m getting to know people, and then calm and quiet and almost detached when with or around friends/family. (This is why my mom still suffers under the delusion that I’m shy. Hah!) Not sure why I’m like that… except, well, being cheerful and friendly all the time is hard work!

    • While we didn’t have the ASVAB, my sister did really well on the PSAT and wound up with not only the Marines calling, but the Navy Seals. To appreciate the full ridiculous of this, you would have to know my sister, but suffice it to say, she won’t even go fishing because she can’t stand that the hooked fish is scared.
      These days, I’m the same way about being bright and talkative when meeting people, but really reserved at home—unless I am Holding Forth on something. Then I’m very animated (and sometimes very loud).

  4. Last year we had to take a bunch of tests to try and see what careers we were best suited for, including some big fancy one that supposedly cost 80 dollars (though the school paid for them). In one class we did have to write a report on a career we were interested in. I wrote mine on novelists, and though I spent quite a bit of class time researching, I didn’t use anything I found there in favor of what I had already known about the business.
    I feel like I have different personalities a lot. Like, around these people I don’t talk much, around those I’m loud, sometimes I’m nice and quiet and smart, sometimes loud with a tendency to rant, and sometimes I would think I acted stupid for the way people treat me. There seem to be so many different aspects of my personality that I can’t keep track of all of them. What always interests me is how I sometimes hear people say that we’re drawn to our best friends and boyfriends/girlfriends not because of who they are, but because of who we are around them. And I wonder whether that’s true, and whether we like the person that we are around them because that’s the person we want to be, or whether because it’s the person closest to who we actually are (I don’t even know if that sentence made sense). Something else that interests me is how people change, what makes them change, and why they change. I also wonder whether my interest in these things is why I like analyzing and writing about the characters in a book, or whether the analyzing and writing is what makes me wonder. (There is still the wondering whether this makes any sense, though.)

    • There seem to be so many different aspects of my personality that I can’t keep track of all of them.
      Honestly, I think I’m *still* like this to some degree. I noticed it most at 17 or 18, to the point where I actually applied different labels to the different aspects (okay, that sounds very fractured, but it was really just the most effective way to remind myself that I had all these different parts at my disposal—I didn’t just have to be one thing).
      I really think you’re onto something, deconstructing this idea of being drawn to people who help us be our better selves. While I can’t say that it’s always been the case for me, I do think pretty much all of my lasting relationships do support that idea.
      Even after all this time, I’m still close with my best friend from high school, who I met my junior year. He was really the first person at school who could get me to be myself from the second picture—my at-home self—and when I was around him, it seemed completely effortless. I mean, I like being around him, because I really like who he is, but I also really like who I am.
      More remarkable, I think, is that we’ve both changed a lot, but it hasn’t been alienating. I love seeing how people change, but some of that means being okay with growing apart. With my closest friends, though, we’ve all been able to change without separating and that is just so fascinating to me (not to mention worth something).

  5. When I was in High School I spent my summers at camp as a Jr counselor. I was a different person when I was there; I even had a different name. I was Mindy at school and Bandana at camp. Mindy was teased relentlessly in elementary school so she made herself invisible there. Bandana, well she is a camp legend, vibrant as a rainbow and loud enough to sing a frog off a log. Why the difference? At school I had baggage but at camp I started fresh.
    I remember a few personality tests from high school. One said I’d be a good social worker or computer programmer??

    • Why the difference? At school I had baggage but at camp I started fresh.
      I’m always really fascinated by how easily we can be defined by our personal history—especially when we’re younger and that seems like all you’ve got. It’s especially interesting that you were so far removed from your other persona as to even have a different name.
      One said I’d be a good social worker or computer programmer??
      Because those career paths . . . use the same skill-set? Wait, what? That is awesome!

      • I’ve done this as well. In my transition from middle school to high school, I went from a small (43 kids in my grade), selective, K-8 school to a huge (500 kids in my grade), public, 9-12 school. In elementary school, I was reading way above my grade level, and read CONSTANTLY, so I was dubbed “the smartest” kid in the grade. And, for the most part, that was true. (I certainly wasn’t the best in any individual subject, but overall, I seemed most knowledgeable about everything.)
        When I went to high school, I was the only one from my old school who went there. I knew practically no one and got to start completely fresh, which was exhilarating. I had been toying with going by my middle name for a couple of years at this point, and decided to go by that in high school.
        By no means am I the smartest in ANYTHING now, nor am I the best all-around, either. To be totally honest, it’s GREAT to tell someone your grade and not have them squee with excitement that their grade is higher. I’ve noticed I act a bit differently, too, but that’s more to do with the fact that I’ve made it VERY clear to all my new friends that I WILL disagree with them, and I REFUSE to change because they don’t like some aspect about me. But that may be a direct result of growing-up more than anything else.
        And I’ve always wondered how people see me. Some of it is a bit more of “what do I look like from such-and-such angle I can’t see in the mirror,” (like movie-Hermione in PoA with “Is that really what my hair looks like from the back?”) but some of it is wondering if I come off as pushy, or if on the days when I am so so angry, does anyone notice? I’d love to have a camera crew follow me around for a day for that alone.
        Ah, didn’t mean for this comment to get so long. :D

        • I knew practically no one and got to start completely fresh, which was exhilarating.
          I think this was the thing I actually neglected to take advantage of when I first started school. Or else, I didn’t recognize that a self was something you could actively project, because for whatever reason, I spent that first year basically being not-myself. I mean, it wasn’t like I was being someone else—I was just sort of absent. My interior life was just as active as it had ever been, but from the outside, I think I must have seemed very inconsequential.
          I’ve made it VERY clear to all my new friends that I WILL disagree with them, and I REFUSE to change because they don’t like some aspect about me.
          I had SO much more fun after my sophomore year, once I adopted this philosophy. It was kind of shocking to learn that there were people out there who even liked it when you disagreed with them! That it was how you explored ideas—it was how you got things done.
          some of it is wondering if I come off as pushy, or if on the days when I am so so angry, does anyone notice?
          Really, I don’t think I’ll ever stop being interested in perceptions. Even now, I kind of love knowing that everyone is having this unique experience of what is essentially all just the same world.

  6. Yay, visual aids. What a contrast between your photos!!
    “No, the reason I won’t admit my secret and overwhelming desire to write books is because I want it too much. And having people know what you want just seems unbearably revealing.” <- THIS. This is how I felt, always.
    I love reading your high school stories. Just love ’em. I’ve never related to any of them (Your high school self and mine were pretty opposite – I was a very VERY talkative, boy-crazy cheerleader) – but this one… totally related to. I protected the fact that being a writer was what I wanted (still do) more than ANYTHING to the point where I focused my public self on cheerleading and art – which is what I did well (I’m ISFP – The Artist, go fig) and never, ever, EVER admitted to anyone but my family and best friends that I wanted to be a writer. For four years, I made lame excuses as to why I went home after the Friday night football games instead of partying with the football team like all my friends. So I could work on my book.
    I didn’t admit to anyone other than my close circle of peeps that I wanted to be a writer until about a year ago, and admitting it was insanely scary, even at the age of 29. I would have been much more comfortable giving a presentation on being a stunt person, even though that is so obviously NOT me. :)
    Also, we had to do personality tests in Psych class.

    • For four years, I made lame excuses as to why I went home after the Friday night football games instead of partying with the football team like all my friends.
      Oh, that is excellent! I’m so fascinated by these ways we have of keeping certain parts of ourselves private just by projecting a different version to the public.
      After my sophomore year, I got over a lot of stuff (at least on the surface) and became very social—although still pretty detached—but I never really shared any of the things I was most interested in, even with my closest friends. Even now, I can’t necessarily explain it. Some things just seemed more precious and fragile than others. I didn’t want to take them out into the world and get them dirty.
      I’m delighted that you were a gregarious cheerleader, but still score as an introvert, because I’m the same way—I score super-high on introversion, but you wouldn’t guess it just by meeting me out and about (although yes, I was *clearly* introverted at 16).

      • “Some things just seemed more precious and fragile than others. I didn’t want to take them out into the world and get them dirty.”
        Yes, yes! And said so beautifully.

      • I suppose this probably sounds neurotic, BUT . . . an unexpected bonus of writing these posts has been describing feelings or experiences that seemed singular at the time, having a bunch of people come right back with their own similar stories, and thinking, “Oh, thank God!”

  7. “No, the reason I won’t admit my secret and overwhelming desire to write books is because I want it too much. And having people know what you want just seems unbearably revealing.”<–Agreed, completely.
    But it’s interesting how this works for me. I think it has to with different identities, which is slightly scary to me because it means I have different identities in front of myself, too. I’ve never had a problem talking about professional goals. I’ve known that I am going to be a writer since I learned to do it at the age of six. I’m going to be a writer, and have books published, and all that jazz. In my brain it was, and–shamelessly, I know–still is, a given. So I had and still have no problem telling everyone about it.
    As for personal goals? Those are things that I hardly allow myself to think about, much less show off. They’re shiny, flashy little birds that I keep locked up all the time because I barely understand them and I don’t want anyone else to know that I have them lest they deem me an unfit caregiver.
    Also, I never had to take a personality test in school, thank goodness. I’m sure it just would have pissed me off by telling me I’d make a good social worker when I already knew that I wanted to be a published author some day. And I love these high school stories! Especially the visual aids. Thanks for sharing with us. :)

    • which is slightly scary to me because it means I have different identities in front of myself, too
      At this point, I’m honestly kind of mystified by people who have one very set identity (my mom and my sister both qualify, I think—I’m always impressed by how steady they are, while I tend to be fairly capricious).
      As for personal goals? Those are things that I hardly allow myself to think about, much less show off.
      This is really interesting, because I think I’m kind of the opposite. I feel like I just have a much easier time talking about interior goals and expectations for myself, while I *still* feel weird talking about any aspirations that might involve the outside world (i.e., publishing). I don’t know why that should be, because those external goals are really the ones that we are traditionally supposed to share with our friends and family!

  8. I once read an introduction to The Glass Menagerie written by Tennessee Williams that resonated very strongly with me– here’s part of it:
    You know, then that the public Somebody you are when you “have a name” is a fiction created with mirrors and that the only somebody worth being is the solitary and unseen you…
    Even though I’m not famous or well-known, I still identified with it and hoped it was true– that the person who I felt I was, was on some level worth being– as opposed to the person who I felt I ought to be (likeable, never angry, easy to get along with, not boring, etc)
    I distinctly remember taking a Myers-Briggs test in health class but I don’t remember what my results were. I never took a career test, but I did go to a private school, so perhaps that’s why not.

    • I love that! And I think it really does apply to anyone—not only to people in the public eye. Or else, everyone who spends any time at all with other people is already in the public eye.
      I think that idea of the unseen you is so intriguing, and also very touching. There’s definitely great worth in that self, and the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that he’s sort of indirectly talking about the integrity of the interior self.
      And maybe that’s what you’re talking about too—that person who gets angry or doesn’t go out of their way to please or entertain others, but who is never disingenuous. To me, there is so much value in just being that authentic, undisguised thing, rather than the fiction.

      • And maybe that’s what you’re talking about too—that person who gets angry or doesn’t go out of their way to please or entertain others, but who is never disingenuous. To me, there is so much value in just being that authentic, undisguised thing, rather than the fiction.
        It is what I’m trying to get at, however imperfectly I worded it :-) It’s definitely something I’m still trying to work through, even though I feel like at this point I should really Have It Together since I’m done with high school and finished college a year ago.

  9. Those photos! I could produce quite similar ones of myself, I assure you. Back in middle school I felt very much like there were several versions of myself. They even had different names although I have forgotten them in the process of not being that person anymore. I was the quiet girl at school, the smart and loving girl at home, and when I was all alone I was the girl who prayed to not wake up the next morning.
    I feel that my not-fitting-in is encapsulated in this story. In eighth grade, for superlatives, I was voted the quietest girl by my classmates. Considering that I didn’t know most of the 300-odd people in my year, I had no idea how that had happened. More importantly, I was mortified and outraged. Who did these people think they were to call me quiet? They weren’t my friends. They didn’t even know me! Yes, I was quiet at school because teenagers have a nasty way of turning everything you say against you. But at summer camp, where I had friends, I was loud and obnoxious like everyone else. I came home from school and burst into tears when I told my mom I’d actually been voted into the superlatives – something that should have indicated popularity. It was a turning point for me. I resolved to never be considered “quiet” again.
    As for personality tests, we never did them at my schools but I know some friends in other districts had to. I’m sorry to say that in my area it’s an earmark of an underprivileged school district. I’m not sure why that is, or how it might be elsewhere.

    • I hate that they even have quietest as a category! I mean, I know the other ones don’t really hold that much formal meaning either, but quietest is just the biggest lie of all.
      After my sophomore year, when I stopped being quite so paralyzed and started behaving a little bit more like myself, I got very interested in the various quiet people at school and kind of started collecting them as best I could, because the one thing I knew from personal experience was, they often had a lot to say.
      Suffice it to say, my “quiet” friends turned out to be some of the most hilarious people I’ve ever met, and often some of the stubbornest and the ballsiest!

  10. I took a critical skills class. It was called “Adult Roles” and we took it as seniors.
    There were a lot of personality tests, but I don’t remember most of them. I think I remember that my color was RED. But that’s about it.
    I’ve drawn a big fat blank about the career pathing stuff. I’ll have to look tat up in my collection of junk from way back then.

    • Oh, I *wish* we’d had colors! I have no idea what that means, but it sounds very symbolic and metaphysical.
      I saved so much stuff from school for no apparent reason other than that I secretly have a little of my mother’s pack-rat streak, and I still discover that I’ve thrown out things I wish I’d kept. You can just never tell what you’re going to need later!

  11. Just catching up on my feed posts, including yours…and yes, many places love the personality and career tests. In junior high, we did a career one, and I came out as most suited to be a counselor, rabbi, priest, or pastor. Which is really funny since I can’t imagine ministering to anyone, then or now, about religious beliefs. But, having been a public health educator for nearly 10 years and now as someone who’s gone back to school to get my teaching license in high school English, I guess I can see the connection in that I enjoy working with and helping people.
    Also, through the wonders of 4-H (, I found out that I was too an INTP as an adolescent. I have since transitioned to an INTJ, as eerily predicted by Maggie Stiefvater due to a comment I posted on her blog and which I then confirmed by retaking the Myers-Briggs.

    • You got to take personality tests in 4-H?! We never got to do anything except decorate cakes and show rabbits! (4-H is big around here.) Well, I did do archery one year, but I only liked going out to the range and shooting at the target—I didn’t want to actually compete or do it in public or hunt anything.
      Coincidentally, I also test INTJ now, but just barely. I feel like the actual Myers-Briggs description of the INTP suits me more, but the last time I was tested, I got something like 51% J. I wonder if adolescent perceivers blossom into judgers over time? Due to adverse conditions? Something in the water? Exposure to reality TV?
      (Okay, I’m reaching)

  12. When I’m in a new situation, or threatened, or just around people I don’t trust I become a caricature of myself. All quick jokes, and cleverness, and bright energy. And people walk away with a pretty good impression of my defining characteristics, but no idea that I’m something more than a list of descriptive words.
    A caricature can’t be hurt, or made to feel stupid. She always knows what to say, because she’s more like a heroine in a book than a real girl. The more comfortable I am the quieter I can be, the calmer. The less I have to work to be vivacious and entertaining. I think that I am more me, sitting alone in a forest than I am any other time. I could grow roots, and let my face tip towards the sun, and never leave the freedom of it.
    As far as personality tests go: I’m an ENTP on the myers-briggs. Which basically translates into: a person who doesn’t like/ and or follow rules, but is clever and charming enough to be successful anyway.
    While this is quite flattering, in an unsettling way, it’s not hugely helpful in understanding myself.
    I was subjected to A LOT of personality tests over the years. My school was very fond of them. The careers I was recommended were always completely unrelated and faintly silly. Honestly, how does one become an professional assassin? Do you take it up as a hobby, and hope someone likes your work?

    • When I’m in a new situation, or threatened, or just around people I don’t trust I become a caricature of myself. All quick jokes, and cleverness, and bright energy.
      This is very much the way I am now, but it was definitely a learned skill. Now, depending on the situation, strangers might actually guess that I was an ENTP, but that’s only because I start talking really fast and waving my hands around. And I strike all these terribly twee, vaguely-anime poses, but I don’t know that I’m doing it until it’s too late to stop!
      I think if our test had included options like professional assassin, it would have been a much better test! Or at least, more entertaining. But you’re absolutely right—the barrier to entry is very high for an assassin. I mean, it’s not like you can just take it up as freelance work.

      • Haha. Assassin was actually an option that poped up when I googled “ENTP careers” in an effort to find my calling in life.
        I think that the fact that you’re an INTP and I’m an ENTP explains why our experience of high school was so similar, but the people we were in high school (and probably still are) so different. At least on the least complex level.

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