The mood music for this post, a little Napoleon Dynamite:
In the 2004, the movie Napoleon Dynamite bumbled awkwardly onto the scene and pretty much consumed pop culture. “Vote for Pedro” shirts were everywhere, people would respond “GOSH!” any time they were exasperated, and everyone started saying that the Liger was pretty much their favorite animal EVER because it had magical properties.
Around that time, I was teaching 5th Grade. Just about nobody clings more frantically to pop culture than 10- and 11-yr-olds who have all of a sudden realized that middle school is coming at them like a freight train and they better learn how to be cool right quick. One of the assignments each year was for the kids to research animals and write reports about them. Each kid got their own animal, but we also chose one to research and write about as a class for an example of how it was supposed to go. You know, modeling and whatnot. So, I’ll bet you can guess what animal those little dudes picked that year.
Yup, the Liger: (Drawing by Napoleon himself, if the movie is to be believed)
As it turns out, the Liger does NOT have magical properties. Ligers are actually rather sad creatures who are born when you mate a male lion with a tigress. Not to be confused with mating a male tiger with a lioness, which breeds a tigon. I’m not kidding, it’s a thing. They are prone to a whole bunch of health problems and purposefully breeding them is ill-advised and it’s all very depressing so I will skip the rest and jump to the part where I feel like it’s my spirit animal.
One of the reasons ligers and tigons have such a rough go of it is that their natures fight with one another. Lions live together in prides and their instincts lean toward a social, group mentality. Tigers, on the other hand, are loners and prefer not to be in groups. So, the result of mixing those two sets of instincts is that ligers and tigons spend their lives oscillating between craving social interaction and solitude. And here you have how I can relate to the plight of the liger/tigon.
I have always thought of myself as a total extrovert. I am a compulsive people-meeter, I always initiated friendships at the playground growing up and that’s pretty much continued as my pattern throughout life. Getting to go new places and meet new people turns me into Buddy the Elf.
But then there’s this other side of me. The side that looked forward to bathroom trips when I was in school because it meant I got a moment to myself. The side that is happy as a clam when my husband is out of town, despite the fact that I love him and also like him and he’s super-supportive and helps with the kids and I look forward to him coming home from work every night, because I get time to myself. The side that felt suffocated at the idea of spending last weekend in Shine sessions all day and then rooming with THREE OTHER PEOPLE at night. GAH!
I always told myself that that side of me was called being a loner. Turns out, it’s not. It’s called being an introvert. That sounds way better than “loner,” right? So, yeah. I’m an introvert, apparently. A people-loving, social interaction-craving introvert. I’m sure there are percentages involved, CLEARLY I’m not a 100% introvert because I do love me some people, but there is a percentage of me that is one. And it’s just enough of a percentage that I can easily feel stifled if I let my extroverted side make all the decisions and do all the planning.
So, that’s why I feel like I can related to ligers and tigons (and possibly also bears- oh my- in that I would love to just eat myself silly and then sleep all winter). There’s a lot of back and forth between the introvert and the extrovert.
Whereas this tends to make ligers and tigons miserable and at times it as made ME miserable, the older I get the more I’m learning to use it to my advantage. Of late, I have learned that it means I get the best of both worlds. Which, incidentally, reminds me of something else that was very prominent during those days teaching 5th Grade:
But seriously, I’ve learned to embrace it. It’s a pretty solid blessing to feel equally at home in a group of people and by myself. And yeah, it can create some dissonance when I’ve extroverted way too much and my inner introvert is DYING for some time to myself, but I’m willing to bet that those who fall more solidly on either side of the spectrum experience their moments of dissonance as well.
So, there you have it. I’m a liger. A liger is my spirit animal. What’s yours?