Swinging for the fences

I haven’t been compelled to write in a while. I was hoping, unfairly, that this trip to Arizona would magically open my mind to what I want my next step to be. I don’t think it has, but it’s been a good exercise to lay some of this out and see what feels true and where I can call bullshit on my thoughts.

I am good at working toward goals, but right now I don’t have any. Just a vague sense that I’m not doing all that I can or “should” be doing. I used to feel like I was going to change the world. Now I just wish to feel like I’m doing something meaningful or useful, even if it’s in a limited way, and fun. I think fun is underrated. There’s also a draw to being left alone to create in obscurity, which is pretty easily achievable, but won’t keep a roof over my head.

Over the last year and a half or so I’ve had this thought that I can’t quite ignore and it’s that I believe we place far too much importance on our value as a race and that no matter what we do it has little to no value in the grand scheme of things.

And now that I’ve finally written that out, who the hell cares? Maybe it’s a good thing. We exist and we have to do something with our time. I no longer believe that any one profession is better or more valuable than any other, we’re all just people after all. No special fucking snowflakes here. It doesn’t matter if we’re saving lives or fixing the office printer, so long as we do good work and we try to grow and better our selves. Unfortunately, a lot of people get stuck and mucked up with obligations and forget to water themselves, eventually shriveling up to die in the shallow soil of the lives they’ve accepted in complacency.

I don’t know that I’m capable of falling into that trap. At least not without being hideously aware of my shitty existence. I’ve always always always been that person who’s looking at what’s next, what else, what more? It’s both a good and bad quality. It pushes me to do better and be better, but it also keeps me from appreciating where I’m at and what I’ve done. It’s not a great thing to always be seeking more. Sometimes it really is enough. For instance, my personal life is off the charts phenomenal and I’m beyond grateful and aware of it. It’s my professional life that’s lacking at the moment.

Ultimately, I think as long as I’m not actively making life worse for others then I can do whatever the fuck I want. I just wish I knew what the fuck it is I want to do so I can make some effort towards it.

Societal norms, particularly the lure of the safe company job, are so ingrained in how I can possibly expect to take care of myself that it’s brutally difficult to see what other paths I can reasonably take. I am somewhat open to risk, will be more so once I’m out of debt in a few months and can actually start putting money aside, but there is nothing I’ve been able to conceive that I’m passionate enough about pursuing to make the risk worthwhile! And having to worry about fucking health insurance and retirement some day really put a damper on swinging for the fences. Damn responsibility.

Having to be a slave to money means that I have to be a slave to other people to exist in modern society. The problem is, I don’t want to have to rely on other people in order to make a living. If I make a product, then I’m reliant on people to buy it. If I sell a service, same. There’s already so much shit in the world. Do I really want to add to it?

I don’t know that that’s possible to escape without promising myself to a life of poverty and pretending to worship a god. While giving everything up and sitting in silence holds some appeal, I think that’s probably a short-term Eat Pray Love kind of experiment at best and not a long-term solution for the life I want to live. Refusing to engage with life for an extended period of time seems cowardly and boring.

Damn it all to hell and back. I know I want more control over how I’m spending my days. I want to minimize the demands on my time for what I feel are pointless requests. I’d like to feel like I’m providing some level of value, although I know I will continue to wrestle with achieving that because of the aforementioned feeling that everything is basically pointless, at least on a macro scale.

My favorite projects allow me to be creative and resourceful and typically generate a tangible product. I like to work with both my head and my hands and prefer to work independently. If only I knew what I wanted, then I could try to lean into it. I’m so good at getting shit done for other people. There really shouldn’t be such a hang up starting something for myself, but I’m stuck on needing it to feel worthwhile and wondering if anything I can do will ever feel that way. I need to come to terms with my ego.

I’m aware that this is a painfully narcissistic post. There are some schools of thought that would suggest at least part of my problem is that I’m too focused on myself and not enough on how I can service others. But when I think about being of service to others in a general way, it loses meaning for me. It goes back to a sense of disconnection, of questioning our value as a whole. I can’t function on the macro scale. It has to be more personal for me–one to one and then perhaps build from there, but starting small is hard and makes me question, “What is the point?” Is it enough to help one person at a time? Who am I to decide whatever I might have to offer is actually useful to someone else? It’s a crisis of confidence and validation. I mostly have my shit together, but I’m extremely conscious of how little I really know and I have so many doubts and questions about my own existence, how can I possibly impose myself on others claiming I can help? What do I have to offer that isn’t already on the table a million times over? I know no one can tell me what I’m worthy of, it’s something I have to come to terms with myself, but I’m struggling.

Most of my life I have been drawn towards wanting to help/please others, particularly those in my immediate sphere, out of a desire to be liked and to foster a sense of belonging I suppose. I’m damn good at it and that still holds true, but I’ve realized over the past year that it has come at the expense of often smothering my opinion or wants to make space for others to have what they want. After 27 years of this, I’m exceptionally bad at asking for what I want or even knowing what that is. And I struggle to trust that if I have the audacity to take up space and be fully seen that the people who matter most to me will still love me. I’m rolling my eyes a little at the cliche language that seems to be defining our generation, but it holds some truth. In reality, I don’t think I want anything particularly radical. It’s mostly about making a conscious decision to have and share my preferences and opinions particularly when asked instead of shrugging and saying, “Whatever you want.” And maybe also being brave enough to voice negative emotions when people overstep my boundaries instead of letting things slide for the sake of their peace.

Gosh, what a rambling post. I think I’m glad I wrote it out. I don’t have a conclusion.

I think maybe I’m excited to see where I go from here? Maybe it’s enough to question, enough to be aware, enough to be open and engaged with life. Every day I’m learning. We’ll see what happens next.

 

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To ink or not to ink

I think about tattoos a lot and go back and forth between wanting to get one. There’s a million and one different reasons people give for getting their tattoos, but I think it boils down to a human need to define things as a means to give life, ourselves, whatever meaning and understanding. That song lyric or symbol or date or piece of art resonates with you somehow and it’s something you want to remind yourself and others is a part of your psyche. In my mind that is as powerful as it is limiting.

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde writes, “To define is to limit.” I’ll admit, there is little I’m more fearful of than confining myself to a definition of who I am moment to moment. As a somewhat whimsical and volatile being, I can’t trust that I will want the constant memory of a part of myself I have since shed since needle met skin. I prefer the anonymity of the blank canvas in its infinite potential. It makes sense. I have ALWAYS been one to value possibilities and somewhat gun-shy of commitment. And yet…the allure is there, a constant subtle nag to shout this is who I am, or was, from my skin.

I find little fun in the finite, at least when thinking theoretically, and yet I realize the finite is where the action happens. All of my best growth has come when I’ve leapt off the cliff with only the confidence that I’ll figure out how to swim on the way down.

It’s the god damn brave who commit to something being the truth and then act with foolish daring in the name of getting shit done and moving forward. This is the foundation of the human race rising above all other creatures. We turned sounds into words to give meaning to our surroundings and rubbed sticks together to give birth to flame, not knowing why exactly we needed the burn. We are lunatics seeking the light in an impossible-to-perfect environment with too many variables to ever have any hope of being accurate.

Seriously, whoever thought mixing flour and water together and then heating it up was a good idea had no fucking clue they were creating a food staple for much of the modern world. Or what about the entire experimental field of medicine? Cutting people open, injecting foreign substances, removing and adding pieces…see? We are insane risk-takers.

We are constantly at war with each other and within ourselves seeking the balance of controversial ideas. And I think that is the allure of definition. Life is a complex beast. We lean into what feels right or seems logical given whatever information is at hand and continue adding blocks here and there building, what we hope, is a better future, more representative of who and what we are, seeking life, seeking meaning for whatever time we’re given.

Minding the Gap

One of my bigger epiphanies in the last year has been that I struggle, pretty much all the time, with the gap between reality and how I think something should/will feel. What it basically comes down to is that my imagination sets me up for a sense of loss because it has a tendency to gloss over the details, make everything seem magical, easy, and amazing and totally ignores the necessary effort–the FREAKING struggle–to achieve the desired outcome. I feel like it’s kind of a hybrid of impostor syndrome and maybe aggressive idealism?

So, when I actually have the experience in real life and it doesn’t come easy to me I have feelings of failure and question why I thought I could do it in the first place. And let me be clear, I’m not afraid of working hard and I’m not particularly prone to quitting. For whatever reason I just assume that if something doesn’t come naturally to me I must suck, because obviously everyone, literally anyone else on the planet can do a better job, right? And that’s so FUCKING PREPOSTEROUS it’s insane. Because we’re all idiots. Truly. Sorry to burst your bubble. We might have moments of clarity and talent when the stars align and we fucking get it, but, generally speaking, humans are morons and we’re all just doing the best we can with our limited knowledge and experience.

And I only JUST realized I do this for most things! I do it at work. I do it in my relationships. And I do it with my many varying interests. Now I can recognize it and talk myself out of it, but it takes conscious effort to stop feeling like a loser and to acknowledge that the struggle is part of the process, that the end result is usually pretty damn good, and that all that really matters is that I keep trying.

Sometimes I totally miss that a life event I wanted to happen has actually happened because it didn’t feel like what I was expecting. I’ll give you an example. When I moved here over a year ago I put a lot of mental pressure on myself to make new friends. It took me months to chill out about it and change my perspective. I actually realized I already have amazing people in my life so, while I was still open to meeting new people, I decided to focus more on being a better friend and strengthening existing relationships. Lo and behold, further into the year I reconnected with a college friend who invited me into her ever growing friend group and suddenly I have a bunch of new people to exercise and hang out with. But, because I didn’t consciously decide that I was going to make friends damn it and it all sort of unfolded organically, I didn’t fully realize until recently that my network has grown considerably since I moved here almost a year and a half ago.

Reality is almost always more subtle than what I expect. We don’t just wave magic wands around and poof! there’s everything we want in a neat little bow. And thank goodness for that. How boring would that be? Life would be a lot less special if it were that easy.

There is such an insanely huge gap between the world in my head and the life I’m actually living on a day to day basis, it’s no wonder I’m always falling off the damn cliff. And, honestly, I kind of love it. I don’t find the gap disappointing. If anything, it shows me possibilities and forces me to recognize the magic in the struggle and the little gifts of life that often unfold without having to strive for them.

The good life

Let’s talk about the magic of making small decisions that feel good. I’m having a day. A really good day. For a hundred relatively small reasons. I actually have my period, but I seem to be in reprieve from the toxic wasteland that my thoughts often turn into during this time of the month and I’m going to use this space to give way to my gratitude for the day.

A project I’d almost finished at work has evolved into something bigger. I was annoyed at first, but now I see that I’ve been given a gift to flex my creativity and I’m in love with the process of making something that is hopefully worthy of printing.

I decided not to be a total bum and offered up myself for a volunteer opportunity which I also used as an excuse to rope in some other coworkers, because yay friends.

I took Dorian, my car, in for an oil change and let them talk me into balancing and rotating my tires and new brake fluid. I had planned on saying no to any and all additional sales pitches, but he asked me about some specific car symptoms and sold me with his rationality so I feel responsible and pleased with the purchase. My car is hands down my favorite possession. It means freedom to me so it’s worth the bit of extra maintenance. On top of the new breaks I just got last week to pass inspection, in the six years I’ve had him he’s never driven smoother. We’re feelin’ fly as hell. Unstoppable. Maybe we’ll make it a couple more years.

I took 45 minutes to close my eyes and zen out because I haven’t been sleeping well. It was restorative.

Then I remembered to take out my garbage before I went to Target to get deodorant and look at skateboard helmets. No helmet yet, but I got sunscreen and a glass pitcher to make all of the sun teas and fun summery drinks and I’M SO STOKED!

I’m writing this from my floor pillows stationed next to my balcony with the door open so I can hear the birds chirping and kids screaming and cars speeding by while I eat the leftover chicken lo mein I made earlier this week and I’m so high on life. And you better believe I’ve got a mint peach blend slowly steeping out there to break in my new pitcher.

None of these things is particularly earth shattering, but it’s funny how simple and good life can be when I focus on simply making decisions that feel right. They add up.

I have pineapple and wine in my fridge and I remembered to buy chocolate earlier this week because I tend to crave it. It’s supposed to be a rainy weekend and I have plans to clean my apartment, start editing a book for someone, and meet up with some friends to exercise.

I’ve got photos from my trip to go through and I’m already dreaming of where I want to go next. Tonight I’ll spend some quality time letting my mind wander and appreciate where I’m at mentally and physically.

Life is good.

April pricked me: a lesson in embroidery

You know that old saying, something about having to learn to walk before you can run? Yea. That’s a life lesson that never stuck with me and would probably make me a more effective human. I regularly get ahead of myself because I’m good at visualizing the end result, then I get all excited and tend to skip the basic steps to build a strong foundation for getting there…and by default, the end result tends to be a bit rickety. Sometimes a rickety outcome is all I need, I get a high from trying new things after all, but sometimes it’s cause for frustration. Perfectionism is not something I’ve ever burdened myself with. I’ve always been in the “good enough, on to the next” camp. But sometimes I could use a lesson in taking things a step at a time.

This month I decided to finally take a stab at embroidery. Pun intended. And I say finally because it’s something I said I wanted to try over two years ago, my parents humored me and bought me a few kits for Christmas, and I’m just getting around to trying it now. Better late than never, yea?

So I read some stuff on getting started and watched this video, decided I should probably practice stitches, but ultimately said “fuck it” and jumped right in to embroidering a cheap sweatshirt with zero game plan. At the risk of stating the obvious after all that build up at the beginning of this post, it was kind of a train wreck. Take a look. I actually don’t think it looks totally awful, but the placement is off and I feel kind of “meh” about the design as a whole, if you can call it that.

It’s a good thing I amuse myself because otherwise I’d probably be pissed off all the time at the amateur running my life who’s addicted to trying new things. Since altering and customizing clothing is one of my favorite pastimes I decided it was worth another go so I cut the leaf monstrosity out and started over.

You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to commit to an idea. But as a self-described overzealous word enthusiast who figured I could handle a simple back stitch, I went with the word giant. Random as fuck, right? All I can say is that the word giant has been speaking to me. Between Magic Giant the band, Roald Dahl’s BFG, the Iron Giant, and “there are giants in the sky” from Into the Woods, I’ve become somewhat enamored with the giant concept from a metaphorical standpoint that I can’t quite put into words.

It’s not great largely because I didn’t practice or prep it in any way and I free-handed it in the spirit of getting shit done before the end of the month. I still need to dot the i and if I’m being completely honest, I probably never will. Or it’ll be several years from now. Given all that, it doesn’t totally suck and I probably won’t rip it out right away. I may even wear it.

So, I think embroidery is pretty cool. I’ll probably like it more with practice and I think it’s something I might grow into. Fabric paint and ink is still my favorite medium, but this whole thread and needle thing’s got potential.

And with that, I’m very excited to announce that May is my month for SOLO TRAVEL. Dun dun Dun! Stay tuned for what I expect will be an epic adventure…largely in part because I’m so good at planning, committing to an idea and taking things a step at a time. Teehee

Being human

Being human is such a weird, wonderful, awful thing. We’re all just kind of renting space on this planet and we desperately, foolishly, try to stake our claim on each other, land, this, that, and the other thing to make us feel like we actually have some semblance of control over our limited time here. That these things give us weight, give us staying power, give us reason, give us meaning. And maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

Deep down I think we all want to feel understood, to feel as if we belong, but life turns into this messy battle of finding how your wants and needs fit in with everyone else’s. If you’re lucky like I am, you’re born into the right tribe that fits you and loves you and grows you, giving you the foundation and confidence to expand that love outside of the tribe, to open up to new people and experiences. Unfortunately not everyone is so lucky.

In this chapter of my life I feel a deep sense of belonging that is maybe somewhat ironically coupled with a sense of isolation. I feel oddly in tune with the universe, like our energy levels match and I can trust in the uncertainty of the path I’m on right now. Oddly enough, I am comforted by the uncertainty, at least as I’m writing this. It’s fluid and flexible and full of possibilities which very much feels like home. Moving weeded out some of the excess in my life and I feel lighter for it. I think it’s made more room for me to grow. I have entered into a bit of a reclusive existence, not in any extreme way, but enough to truly value the people I allow into my life on a regular basis with enough space leftover to probably over contemplate my own existence. What a time to be alive!

I acknowledge and appreciate that my impact, especially at this moment, is fairly limited. And for the first time in my life that doesn’t make me feel sad or small or insignificant. I can create in relative obscurity, try new things without any real fear of failure and choose to learn whatever I want without the weight of anyone’s judgement because I must survive no one’s scrutiny but my own and who am I to judge? I suppose I’m staking a claim in this rented space of mine and carving out the world I want to live in. Mostly I’m just here to play. Join me.

 

The year of the unicorn

If you’re an observer of the blogosphere, you may have noticed a few weeks ago that it was pretty trendy for bloggers to choose their word of the year, something to base their intentions on. While I don’t consider myself a blogger anymore and this space has really turned into a personal catchall where I indulge my whims or neglect it for long periods of time, I appreciate any kind of wordplay, especially if it encourages substance.

So, for me? This is the year of re-schooling which I have fondly nicknamed the year of the unicorn because it’s more fun to say and there is magic in learning, especially learning for fun and mischief.

Why re-schooling?

Because there is so much I want to learn about still! Hopefully always. I never want to lose my curiosity. I want to investigate random shit for no reason other than I’m curious about it and want to know more. I was always a good student when I was in school and I’ve always been a solid employee, but I’m finding in my adult life that I am not great at showing up for myself and committing to personal goals and ambitions because I get tired and lazy and it’s easy to push off things I want to do because I’m not being held accountable by anyone but myself. But, no more wimpy excuses! I’m hoping that by learning new things and experimenting that I will keep growing and my journey will continue to be interesting. Plus, I don’t want to be a damn cog in someone else’s machine my whole life. I’ve got big ideas and an independent heart.

So! I’m sure this will evolve, but here’s a list of things I’d like to start with:

  • the science of baking
  • new recipes (I LOVE to play with food! and I already do this weekly, but I will continue to experiment)
  • clothing deconstruction and pattern making
  • the US mail system
  • how to use more power tools
  • Thoreau’s writings
  • Da Vinci’s inventions
  • existentialism
  • transcendentalism
  • traveling solo
  • poetry/creative writing
  • photography/videography

I may chronicle at least some of my adventures here as this space is sort of my own personal time capsule–open to the public, but not actively shared. If you’re reading, you’re welcome to join the adventure.