Knowing this is quite helpful. With the kind of undergrad degree I'm getting, the obvious thing would be to go straight for an advanced degree at the swankiest school that will pay my way. It is less obvious that I'd be happy living an intensely competitive and academic life. I've started trying to cultivate the skills to do the work that will make me happy. Since I'm pretty good at investigating things, that means becoming more creative and more collaborative.
I have a long way to go on both of these fronts. To become better at being collaborative, I've been trying to practice kindness. . . and particularly, to practice being open to the people around me. I know people are responsive to this sort of thing; they want to spend time with someone who isn't going to shut them down, who is pre-disposed to be enthusiastic about their good qualities and accepting of them as an over-all package. It is so hard. I try to smile when I see people, but somehow it doesn't get to my eyes.
I have a friend, L, who is exceptional at this. People flock to her; you mention her name and people will immediately and enthusiastically mention that she is AWESOME. They speak the truth; being around her just makes you feel good. She threw a birthday party around the beginning of the year, the preparations for which involved baking several batches of cookies in our dorm kitchen. It was like being transported to a farmhouse kitchen in some alternate reality, with the infinitely loving cookie-baking family that you never had. . . except that she was also nineteen and brilliant and adorable and not your sister. Needless to say, it was a popular attraction even before the cookies started to emerge.
Perhaps part of the problem is that I haven't worked out the ways in which I do and don't want to be judgmental. There's boundaries to be sorted out here. A lot of people do things that I find grossly unacceptable; what's the best way for me to deal with that fact?
The creativity thing is also hard. The Creative Habit has been very helpful, though I disagree with some of her premises. Yesterday, along with my usual journaling (and now also blogging) and "professional" writing time, I made myself draw for half an hour. It was incredibly difficult, even at the library with piles of drawing books before me, but I'm glad I did it. Last night, when I was settled in with one of my "girl with a sword" books, I ended up putting it down and starting to write my own. . . because it was just more fun. Hopefully, this is a quality that will slowly grow. It's ironic that I'd shut down this part of myself, thinking it self-indulgent, being hyper-critical of my own work, on the assumption that I would never be able to create anything of real value. I will probably never draw or paint or fiction-write anything spectacular, but being in the habit of making things--of overcoming the blank page with something interesting and new--can only better my work, whatever that work turns out to be.