Name Carolyn Sun
Random question: You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What colour would you be and why? The color of fire — we think of it as orange, red and yellow, hot colors, and I do have a temper, and it took me many years and the desire to learn tools on how to diffuse and redirect it more constructively. But fire is also the cool color of blue, a calming and rather hypnotic color that represents a part of me that becomes placid and calm in moments of total chaos and stress.
Are you a bold introvert? Have you always been one? I’m definitely a bold introvert in the sense that I often do what doesn’t come naturally in order to get what I want or need to get done, e.g. public speaking or asking for help. I also encourage other introverts I know to go where they’re not comfortable, use and develop those unused muscles.
However, I haven’t always been a bold introvert. About ten years ago, my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer. I got engaged to my boyfriend at the time, for what were not the right reasons — I wanted my father to see me get married, but I didn’t feel that my boyfriend at the time was someone who was a kind or supportive person. I moved from Los Angeles to New York to be with my fiance (who had changed jobs and moved), having sold off my furniture, car, quit my teaching job and I moved in with my fiance, and we planned our wedding, a little over a month away.
One day, we were arguing, we had been arguing since I moved in, and I left the room to go to the bathroom for privacy. New York City apartments don’t provide a lot of options for privacy. He pushed open the door, dragged me out into the hallway and grabbed me by the neck and shoved me against the wall. “Never walk away when I’m talking to you,” he said.
Shocked, I left the apartment, called my mom and she helped me move out two days later. The wedding was off.
That life event unraveled all my big plans — I was planning to get married, to start a family, to continue teaching — but I ended up living at my parents’ house with no idea of what to do.
I was never the attention-seeker or the person with the commanding stage voice. But, one of my introversion strengths is that I just don’t need a lot of external validation, and I get on with things. Some part of me thought, “Now that my life has blown apart, I am free to do anything I want.” And that knowledge led me to take the GREs, apply to graduate school for journalism at NYU — I got in — and today I have a new career. Boldness isn’t just about being loud or being brash. Boldness is just pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and overcoming adversity, and I think introverts can do that, easy peasy.
What do you do? I’m a journalist and an editor. I worked in journalism for six years after graduate school before I made the leap to branded content. I worked at an agency for a year, then I quit in July 2017 order to make time to write a novel. I’m half-done with my first draft, and I will be going to Yaddo for a residency in October 2018. I have also been freelancing for a few publications since I left full-time employment.
What are you most proud of? I’m most proud of the fact that I do things that scare me, all the time. Like applying to Yaddo scared me. I felt like I had no business doing it, because so many writers with more experience and awards and prestige had been residents, and who am I?
But, I knew if I didn’t apply, even if I got rejected, I would regret it. So, I worked like a fiend on writing the best 25-page sample of work to submit, and lo and behold, I got accepted. And that was such a crowning moment for me.
Do you feel that your personality trait has helped you achieve your goals? My Type-A personality definitely helps me achieve my goals. I tend to be a bit of a control freak, and I write everything down to help me break down large tasks into smaller pieces. Also, I keep a weekly schedule of what I need to do, day-to-day. It helps me accomplish the daily goals as well as the larger ones, like when me and my husband decided to buy an apartment or when I decided to leave my job and write a book. I had to break down the steps on how to actualize these goals so I had a plan of execution.
What advice do you have for introverts who are worried about chasing their dreams? It’s okay to worry about chasing your dreams. That’s the most normal feeling in the world. What isn’t okay is letting that worry stop you from doing anything. What helps me is that I think about how the worst thing that can happen is that you can put yourself out there — and then get rejected.
It’s definitely happened to me, and it’s not my favorite experience, but as a writer, I knew what I was getting into. This isn’t a field that is glowing with success after success, but it is a field that is tough, it’s got a lot of rejection and turnover.
Build a narrative that you would rather get rejected doing the things you dreamed of doing than living the narrative that you excel at a life that you don’t really care about.
Carolyn Sun is an editor and writer based in New York City who covers entrepreneurship. She’s working on her first novel about a control freak who loses control of her tightly reined-in world. In her spare time, she reads, procrastibakes and holds long conversations with her dog Iggy.
Places you can find Carolyn