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A Right-Brained Girl In a Left-Brained Society - Survival

Updated on January 12, 2018
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Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about diverse topics, from digital marketing to languages and culture.

I march to the beat of my own drummer and contemplate life while basking in nature's majestic beauty.
I march to the beat of my own drummer and contemplate life while basking in nature's majestic beauty. | Source

It's All Very Interesting

Recently I wrote a hub on how the US is a left-brained society. Basically I argued that US culture approaches economics, business and cultural nuances with a left-brained perspective.

I wrote that hub because I am right-brained. I also live in the US.

I have had an interesting time of it and find that my right-brained tendencies make for a never-dull life.

There's that amazing feeling of being "on top of things" - the top of a mountain.
There's that amazing feeling of being "on top of things" - the top of a mountain. | Source

Did You "Always Know" Your College Major, Or Did It Take Time to Figure It Out?

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When Did I Notice?

It wasn't until I was in college did I have the first inklings that I was truly a right-brained person. Oh, sure, there were signs before that: making bracelets for family members at Christmas, winning art contests and the like. But, I never new about being right-brained versus left-brained.

For my experience in higher education, I went to a small, private college. It wasn't typical. This college had classes that lasted 3.5 weeks, took a four-day break, and then went on to the next class.

I learned that I do not do well with minimal processing time. I really, really had a hard time on this particular system. Alas, we right-brained types must have sufficient processing time.

I had tried to transfer, but found out I would lose all my credits and basically a year's worth of studies if I left. So, I stuck it out, but it wasn't very pretty.

Let me back up. I loved school. I couldn't get enough of it. I would make my mom buy my school supplies in the middle of the summer so that I could smell them, look at them, feel them, and otherwise imagine the great things I would write and the problems I would tackle during the following school year. (This seems like a very right-brained thing to do.) By the time I graduated high school, I was valedictorian (in a class of 26, it wasn't that hard to beat out the other students for the top spot I don't think).

I was headed to college to major in biology. Now before you think, "Really? How left-brained is that?" you must know that I had these expectations, you see. I was used to helping my mom assist with her elderly patients in an assisted living center. I had administered saline, cleaned bedsores, dealt with insurance companies, fed people through feeding tubes. I felt confident that I'd go into medical sciences.

Then the right-brain kicked in. Was I doing that for the love or because I thought I was "supposed" to? I wasn't entirely sure, but I knew I loved biology and studying the life sciences because I loved helping people and I loved the outdoors. So, biology made sense, right?

I found out that I would have to take Calculus to fulfill requirements for my major. I signed up, having had a successful year in pre-calculus in high school. The class didn't make me cry...too badly. So, I signed up for Calculus II. For whatever reason, that class became an interminable nightmare. All I needed was a microwave and a sleeping bag and my address would have changed to my professor's office for all the help I needed.

I decided to take a break from the sciences for one class and take a literature class. But, I didn't fare well there, either. Writing paper after paper every other day and reading a novel every two days was just too much. There was no way I could organize my thoughts and sift through the mass of information.

So, I tried a chemistry class next. Whatever confidence I had left in myself was shattered with this class. Let's just say that three and half weeks of living, breathing and regurgitating chemical formulas and trying not to blow myself up nearly sent me to an early grave. That was not a very right-brained class at all.

For the next two years, I would drift in and out of majors until I finally settled on Anthropology. Why? Because I liked the fact that it incorporated history, world language, biology and even sociology all in one nice package. It also was like science-lite. I could have my biology without living through the horrors and nightmares of organic chemistry and physics.

This "drifting" though, I would later learn is a right-brained tendency. That is, if you're trying to force yourself to do left-brained things.

Skiing in the Colorado mountains is an essential part of my right-brained life.
Skiing in the Colorado mountains is an essential part of my right-brained life. | Source

On to Other Things

After studying Anthropology, I knew that for career choices I'd probably be somewhat limited. I had had a business management internship in college with a job offer upon graduation. It seemed like the sensible thing to do.

But, you might recall that right-brained thinkers can be spontaneous.

I only did what seemed logical to me.

I went skiing.

For two winters I taught little three year old children all the way up to adults. I also started subbing at a nearby school.

I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to stay in the Colorado mountains in the summer, in-between ski seasons. I found a job at a local marina. I could have a lake with mountains jutting up as my office. Skiing in the mountains and sailing on the lake really had a certain appeal. A right-brained thinker's dream, right?

Yeah, until boredom set in. The old right-brain kicked in and told me I had to do something besides run the counter at a marina. I tried to shut that voice off by painting a mural on one of the marina walls.

I had also met the love of my life. He needed to be near his ailing parents...1400 miles away in North Carolina. I didn't mind dropping everything and heading across the country. I was craving something spontaneous...again.

And, ya know, that part of me that loved school? I knew that if I was going to get married, I'd do it for the long haul. I was adamant about that. So, I studied marriage before getting married and got my husband-to-be on board with that. We're ten years strong and still learning cool things about each other.

But, something else disturbing happened to me once I moved to the bible belt.

I left organized religion and began a journey of finding my own path.

I had been raised Catholic and for most of my college career I really struggled with it. My questions went unanswered by clergy and by Christianity in general.

I tried on other churches like I tried on clothes. Nothing fit right.

After years and years of trying to conform to the left-brained organizational structure of religion, I found my peace. I became spiritual - another right-brained tendency.

I also began to paint - a lot. I also did a lot of other arts and crafts like knitting, macramé and beading.

I even tried to make a business out of it. But, that's a left-brained activity. The whole business model eluded me and I could never market myself the way I knew I was supposed to. I was not willing to spend the money on it. (Here's an interesting thing: I'm a frugality-freak. I actually think that has more to do with being female and requiring a certain measure of security more than right-brain, left-brain issues here.) I was also unable to "put myself out there" to sell my products. I couldn't objectify myself or the things I created with such love. Yes, being subjective is a right-brained trait.

So, I had to give up on that idea. Plus, I didn't really welcome the idea of being a starving artist. So, now, I paint for pleasure only. I'm all right with that. I make crafty presents for everyone I know at Christmas, too.

Desert Turtle - 2009 Acrylic on canvas.   The American Southwest is the inspiration for lots of my paintings
Desert Turtle - 2009 Acrylic on canvas. The American Southwest is the inspiration for lots of my paintings | Source
A mural I painted as a project at a school.
A mural I painted as a project at a school. | Source

My Current Career

After returning to school to study Spanish (I already spoke it...well, I spoke Spanglish, anyway), Fine Art and Education, I figured I'd find the right-brained utopia of a career, right?

Well, I've learned a thing or two. Though I am a quixotic dreamer, I've been beat over the head with the fact that there is no perfect job. That and being a teacher is not very creative - at least not where I work. Lots of people mistakenly believe that it is, but adhering to a schedule and cranking out prescribed lessons, attending meetings, keeping up with current methodologies, tending to behavior issues, and filling out paperwork is not only exhausting but it's very left-brained.

So, for now, I'm a round peg in a square box. I try to focus on the right-brained aspects of being a teacher: the very interesting students I meet, looking for outlets to let my Latina sarcasm fly, and I make sure that I combine art and Spanish as much as I can in what I teach. I also dabble in storytelling.

This leads me to my dreams, because right-brained people do that all the time.

My Dream

You know how when you're a kid you have big dreams of being an astronaut or a firefighter or a doctor?

I still have those sorts of big dreams, but they've taken an interesting turn.

I read a hub this morning about a guy who rejected the normal work routine. I even commented on it because it reflects my mentality.

Actually, I have too many dreams to list. But, here are the big ones:

  • To build a tiny house of my own somewhere in the middle of nowhere, preferably a forest.
  • To never work for anyone else again after ending my teaching career.
  • To travel the world and do a lot of hiking and mountain biking.
  • To paint and write and grow my own food.
  • To wake up each day and ask myself, "What do I get to do today" and not "Geez, I have to go to work today. There's no choice in the matter."
  • I have this secret desire to sell everything - the house, the possessions I don't need - and buy an RV and drive around the US and Canada. I'd do Mexico, but I'm a little scared of the drug cartels down there.
  • If I do stay in my house, I'm frugal and insane enough to try to pay the mortgage off in as few years as possible. The current goal is ten years. Then I won't be a servant to any financial institution.
  • Ever heard of the Camino de Santiago in Spain? I've wanted to hike it since I was 19. One day, I will.

These are a few of my right-brained dreams. Maybe I'll get to them, and maybe I won't. But they're the tools I have in surviving in a left-brained society. That and finding those creative outlets wherever I can is absolutely critical.

Pardon me while I go paint another mural at a school....

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun


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