The It Factor

Timah Livetravelmore


“There’s just something about you.” I’ve heard this line in various forms quite frequently throughout my life. In my childhood, it often translated into being shown favoritism and fodness by influential adults. In adulthood, it has most often been said by whatever dude is bending my ear to become Mr. Timah for the moment. As such, I usually smile and dismiss it as nice things men say to women they want to bed… That is, until very recently… I find it quite peculiar that I’ve been given this line with substantial frequency by more than a few people – both male and female. Apparently, I’m told, I have It.

It is something, a certain je ne sais quoi, that seems to draw people to me. It is probably the reason why many strangers seem perfectly comfortable confessing some of their innermost secrets soon after meeting me. It is probably the reason why animals and small children often climb into my lap and snuggle up against me. It is likely why the toughest of men and the most guarded of women allow themselves to be unnervingly vulnerable in my presence. This isn’t to say that everyone who meets me fawns over my presence. On the contrary, I am certain that there are people in this world who couldn’t care less about me. That’s fine. But I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the people who, despite giving off what I think is my best bitch face, feel the need to share their life story with me on airplanes, in long lines, or in waiting rooms. I used to be annoyed by them. Now? Not so much. I’ve met some incredible people this way. Moreover, I’ve realized that I can learn much more about the world around me (and even about myself) when I actually take the time to earnestly listen to what these people have to say. I have also learned how to have more meaningful interactions with others because of this.

Unfortunately, It comes at a cost. You see, I am an emotional sponge. I’m over sensitive. I may even have the tendencies of what some may call an empath. It’s very easy for me to be swept up in someone else’s enthusiasm or misery. If you’re a happy ball of positivity when you approach me, guess what? I too will transform before your eyes into the very same. This is the part of empathy I don’t mind. In fact, I excel in this environment. I start believing that I too can do whatever I set out to accomplish simply because you have done something great or succeeded at accomplishing a goal. But you know with every high there comes a low, right? When people around me are hurting, sad, or otherwise distressed, that is when I wish I could turn this It Factor and emotional sponge business off.

“When you cry, I cry” isn’t just something I sing. It’s something I actually feel. For this reason, I can only commiserate with others for so long before my spirit is deeply affected. For example, I used to watch a lot of (quasi) reality TV shows. A LOT! From weight loss competitions to survival shows, to housewives and roommates. And you know what I realized? Every single time I was done watching one of these shows, I was highly anxious, easily angered or cried inexplicably. No, I didn’t know any of these people in real life. But what I found was that the feuding, rage, bickering, and sadness they displayed (or the producers chose to show) would spill over into MY reality. The same thing happens when I see people bickering on the internet or watch and read the news. All the horrible things that happen in the world eventually begin to take a toll on my psyche. No bueno.

What it boils down to is this… I have a need to help, serve, heal, protect, and restore, but I know that I couldn’t do all of that for a living without suffering emotionally. This is the reason why I chose to become a Developmental Psychologist who teaches and does research instead of a clinician or counsellor. I know that I would be awesome at the latter positions, but at what cost to my well-being? For instance, I love children. Love them! I talk a lot of shit and put up a front like I’m a tough person in many aspects of my life, but it’s all a front. Everyone who knows me well knows that my bark is much worse than my sometimes non-existent bite. EXCEPT when it comes to kids. Children are off limits. My philosophy is simple: if anyone attempts to harm any child that is under my watch or my care, my bite will be lethal if necessary. On this I will not budge. Children are off limits. I believe they are the most vulnerable among us and need to be protected fiercely. When injustice happens, especially to children, my need to fix things and make them right kicks into overdrive.

In order to save myself from… well… myself, I have had to learn not to take on so much. I have had to learn to retreat, to withdraw, to pick my battles wisely. For I know that fighting battles is completely draining for me. I use up so much of my energy doing wonderful things for others that I end up neglecting myself. I’m loyal to a fault and will go to bat for loved ones – within reason. I generally tend to give people the benefit of the doubt because I know we’re all just 1 bad decision away from being a complete mess. Somewhere in this process, I have noticed that there are a handful of people with bad intentions who have figured me out. They have figured out how to use my gifts of It, empathy and compassion to their advantage and my detriment. I’m getting better at sniffing these people out, but a few of them slip through the cracks every now and then. And when this happens, my world is completely rocked. Still, I have yet to completely master how I can help, serve, heal, protect, and restore ME! I think that will come with time and experience.

For now, I have learned to cope by controlling what and whom I allow to be around me – blocking advances and building up walls for my own protection. Practically speaking, I stopped watching most reality TV and stopped listening to most misogynistic and violent music. (Just being honest. I’m still a work in progress.) I limit my intake of the news. This means I sometimes appear ignorant, out-of-touch, or cold. I may even come off as being too blunt, uncaring, tactless, or undiplomatic but I know that isn’t the complete picture. I have learned that when the world becomes too much for me to handle, I need a happy corner where I can re-charge and re-center. Most times this happy corner is a quiet place where only I will dwell. Sometimes it is a place where there are others who have been carefully vetted because they understand and support my need to shift back to neutral. Moreover, every time I visit the happy corner I feel renewed and whole – ready to face the world once more.

So, yes, dear reader. There is indeed something about me. I know It and now you do, too.



6 thoughts on “The It Factor

  1. Hi! Sorry if this comes off as rude, but I was wondering if you could email me or if we could skype chat more about what it’s like to be a black woman in Korea. I’ve read your blog posts you’ve written already, but would like to go further in depth. I’m a black woman who can hopefully start teaching in Korea by December, and just wanted to talk to someone who is actually living that life currently. Understandable if you don’t have the time. Just let me know.

    • Hi Whitney!

      It’s not rude at all. You can always email me at livetravelmore(at)gmail(dot)com with any questions you have. We can set up a Skype chat from there. Have you also checked out the Facebook group Brothas & Sistas in South Korea (BSSK)? There are several hundred black people who are living and working in Korea in that group who would also be valuable resources for you, I think.

  2. Timah, I can’t begin to explain how much I resonate with this. There was a time when I seriously thought there must be something mentally wrong with me because of how sensitive I was to other people’s feelings and emotions. I know there’s being sympathetic and empathetic but my reactions to what was happening to others seems so over-the-top at times. And now reading this post, it’s like you’ve put how I feel into really beautifully written words. I’ve learned to cope by distancing myself from a lot of things too and when I do focus on something, I still hold a bit of a wall up so that I don’t get too overly passionate about the issue. Did any of that make sense? 😛

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