Gone Home

Very short post today because I stopped by my parents’ after work and stayed way later than I’d planned. Any home-cooked meal buys a lot of my time, and my mom is a great cook.

I think I’ve finally reached the point where I can go Back Home and still feel like an adult. That’s kind of a strange feeling. Like when you visit your old elementary school and everything is tiny.

(Everything is super tiny in elementary schools, too. What must it be like for adults who work at elementary schools? I’m guessing infuriating. Just hunching over all-day-every-day… tiny people in their tiny desks, tiny water fountains, tiny lunch tables, tiny sinks, tiny toilets…)

Today we learned that the word “tiny” looks/sounds very odd when overused.

Void

I discovered that I’m terrified of the ocean while on my honeymoon in Hawaii. (I like to pick the worst possible time & place for such revelations. Keeps life interesting.) I was suspended in the water, shoved around by waves, trying to keep the tip of my snorkel as high in the air as bouyancy allowed. Then I turned my head to the right and saw the sharp line where the reef dropped off into open ocean – and I panicked. It was so big, so dark, this vast navy-blue empty void… Except of course it wasn’t empty at all. I remember thinking, anything could be out there.

On the other hand, one of my favorite things is stargazing in the country. Drive far into the wilderness, find a clearing, lie down in the bed of the pickup, and marvel. In the city, the night sky is faded and homogeneous, punctuated by only the strongest stars. But when you escape the light pollution, you confront a void that is profoundly huge and black and empty but also full of light and life. Again with that thought, anything could be out there. This time it’s not shaded with dread, but with wonder and delight at the infinite possibilities. It is a different thought altogether.

I have an Ocean feeling about life, lately. I spent 22 years on the clearly-marked American Dream path: early childhood, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, degree, first job & apartment… Somehow I never gave much thought to what came after that. It’s no longer obvious. What do I want my life to look like? I can actually choose that. There are legitimately a million different lives that I could live. I’ve just now realized this and it feels like the nice big path dumped me out onto a high cliff, and I’m staring out into another void – a dark, foggy void with huge, indistinct shadows that disappear when I look hard at them. Anything could be out there. And the big path sort of continues half-heartedly down the cliff, but it’s a tough slog and what I can see of the end doesn’t look terribly inviting. And occasionally the fog will shift to reveal wonderful destinations, but I don’t know which one is the best, or how to get there. Should I take the sort-of path and hope it winds around and branches an awful lot? Should I just scuttle down the cliffside and hope for the best? Is this an Indiana-Jones-Leap-of-Faith-type scenario?

Oh yeah, and there’s a quickly-approaching time limit for my choice.

So I’m standing on this cliff with like… a pretty small flashlight. I’m cold and I’m not wearing very good shoes. This old man showed up earlier and said “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.” and gave me a kitten, which really doesn’t seem very helpful.

In case it didn't immediately pop into your head.

This is getting away from me.

My point is, I’m confronted with way too many possibilities, and I don’t really have a plan for how to proceed, and I’ve never actually had to make a plan before, and I am terrified. I’ve got an Ocean feeling about it. I think I need to flip a switch in my brain somehow and turn it into a Space feeling – excitement and curiosity about what the future could hold. I don’t know how to do that; it just seems like it should be possible.

It does help to limit the void a bit – there are things that I definitely cannot do. I’ll never be a doctor or a lawyer or anything else that requires a doctorate because no thank you. I have no desire to be an “executive” of any kind. Way past the point of no return on every professional sport. I’m limited geographically because my husband doesn’t have my sort of wanderlust. I guess I’m also limited morally from a Life of Crime?

But beyond that… I don’t know. Who knows? (*grabs you and shakes* How do you know?!?) I’m interested in pretty much everything, but I never know what will be lasting until I really get into it for a while, and I don’t have time for that sort of thing anymore. I guess that’s what college was supposed to be. Can I somehow transform into the sort of person that has like 10 hobbies outside of her day job? I barely have the energy for one as it is.

And my mind goes to career stuff first, but that’s only part of life! I want to be the sort of person that sees friends and “entertains,” but also I’m a big ol’ introvert and crowds are exhausting and I’d kind of like to be a hermit instead. I should join a book club or a knitting group to meet new people, but also catch up with old friends on a regular basis (monthly? weekly? daily? what’s the standard?). I think it would be cool to have a recurring get-together to play pretty involved tabletop games; it’s a shame that our D&D group never got off the ground in college because I was excited about that. I want to have consistent quiet times, and be “active in the church,” with all the Sunday Schools and Bible Studies and the volunteering in the nursery and such. I want to read again. I want to be the weird hippy lady with a giant garden and urban chickens, or maybe have a cool industrial looking artist’s loft in the city. I want to write a novel, but I also want to write & draw a graphic novel, and I’ve got one good idea with a million character sketches and several written pages and I don’t know which format fits so I’m just sitting on it. I’ve got about 5 knitting projects on the needles that will probably never get done. I want to put together an illustration portfolio, but it would take me years of work to get to a professional level and I don’t know if I could take the stress of freelancing. I also want to just draw for fun, but every time I try I feel this weird pressure to really make it “count.” My husband is a web designer but I want to build my portfolio site myself for some reason. I have no professional “businessy” ambition and that bothers me. I should really get in shape – I’ve never really been skinny before and I’m running out of time for that. I want to get really good at a cool activity like rock climbing or yoga or something. I wish I had some friends to mess around and make funny videos with because that sounds really fun. I’d like to cook pretty regularly. I’ve got lists and lists of ideas for minicomics, or short stories, or cool crafty stuff I could sell on Etsy, or illustrations… but I want big blocks of time to work and weekends are full of laundry and cleaning and errands (and weeknights are full of collapsing on the couch). I watch too much TV but I really love figuring out why characters and stories work, and maybe that’s making me a better storyteller? I miss being into music, but I can’t work and listen to music at the same time. I want kids – I want a little house just chock full o’ kiddos playing together, but a single kid (if any) would be much more responsible. And I’d love to be a stay-at-home mom but I’d also love to eat and pay the bills, and would a Real Career be more fulfilling? Could I be part-time? Work-at-home? Which careers are friendly to taking a few years off and then starting back? Why the hell am I so worried about this when we have absolutely no plans to procreate any time soon??

There are a lot of contradictions here and I don’t know what to do about them. I want a map of different routes down the cliff to see if there’s any place where everything I want intersects. I’m sure there isn’t. And there’s definitely no way to know. That’s not how life works. I’m probably supposed to just wander down the path of least resistance and go with the flow and trust that everything will work out, but that goes against every fiber of my being because everything has to be hard all the time.

I am so incredibly neurotic. Just feed me to the sharks, man. I’m done. \angst

Internet Travel Guide: 2/21/2014

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
-Marcel Proust

Social intelligence apparently develops as a byproduct of domestication, without being selected for specifically. But ignore that. That’s not important I JUST WANT A PET FOX NOW.

Great advice on how to prioritize a crazy to-do list.

When Jesus called Christians the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world,” he was talking about really good Christians, right? The ones who have it all together, and never miss church or Sunday school or a daily quiet time? Nope; he was talking about broken people just like me.

PSA: “Before” Syndrome is a rare – but real – disease, afflicting several adults:

 

Put This in Your Ears

So we’ve got an open layout at work – no cube walls, big room with at least 30 people in it.To anyone who makes layout decisions at their place of business, I… wouldn’t recommend this. It is L O U D and distracting and super awkward. All I can do is slouch down in my seat, keep the silent pact with the three people in my eyeline to never acknowledge each other, and keep my earbuds in as much as possible.

Last strategy is problematic for me because I’ve never been one to work with music. No idea why; I love music, but I think it tells my brain it’s Fun Time or something. Most of the time I use my White Noise app (I’m sure there are free ones; that one’s $1.99. Has a lot of sounds to choose from though, and you can mix them together) 

But if I’m working on something mindless and I want a little brain stimuli to keep myself focused, I’ve started listening to podcasts! Just the right level of engagement, without being too distracting.

In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite podcasts… Give ’em a try if you’ve got a similar work situation, or a long commute (or a lot of this Free Time I’ve heard legends of). All of these are on iTunes, and I’ve also linked to their own websites, below.

  • Welcome to Night Vale – If you try only one of the podcasts on this list, be sure to tune in to the community radio station of this sleepy (and fictional) desert town, where nothing is as it seems. Best to start from the beginning of this one, since there are a lot of callbacks and recurring characters. You can probably tell if you’ll like it or not from the pilot ep. Welcome to Night Vale is hard to categorize… It’s like if H.P. Lovecraft and Douglas Adams collaborated on a podcast. I’d maybe call it Bizarre Horror-Comedy? You really just have to hear it.
    Radio host Cecil Baldwin (the most soothing voice in the world) will keep you up-to-date on such community news items as:

    • The opening of a lovely new Dog Park (please note: neither dogs nor citizens are allowed to enter, look at, or think about the Dog Park)
    • Important announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police
    • The tense mayoral race between The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, and Hiram McDaniels (who is literally a five-headed dragon)
  • Nerdist Podcast– Nerdist is the Internet empire of comedian & perennial host Chris Hardwick (who you may recognize from Talking Dead, @midnight, the Nerdist TV show on BBCA, or some thing on MTV when I was like 7, apparently). There’s a lot of great content on the Nerdist network, but my favorite is the titular podcast. Chris sits down and chats with a guest for an hour… often a comedian, sometimes actors or musical artists. Co-hosts Matt Mira and Jonah Ray join when possible. I say “chats” because it never feels like listening to an interview – it’s more like eavesdropping on a conversation between friends. It always seems like everyone involved is having a good time, and you end up hearing huge celebrities (huge as in: Harrison Ford, Joan Rivers, Billy Crystal…) get into some really genuine, personal stuff. Lots of interesting insider perspectives on the industry, too. This one you can just jump in wherever – pick a guest that you like.
    • The Indoor Kids – Also on the Nerdist Network: Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon talk about video games (and things tangentially related to video games) with a guest. I’m not even a huge gamer but they’re pleasant conversations. Kumail and Emily are married, so they have a cute dynamic.
  • The Dork Forest – A treasure trove of fascinating stuff, this one: Jackie Kashian talks with (seemingly pretty random) guests about their “dorkdoms” – the (definitely very random) subjects that they’re obsessed with. I’ve learned about monitor lizards, traffic court, and Vonnegut, among other things. It’s cool how someone really dorking out can make even obscure/boring subjects interesting. Sometimes it doesn’t do it for me and I skip an episode… sometimes I end up paying complete attention to international tournament regulations for the rubber on table tennis paddles. Completely unpredictable, and awesome.

The Layabout’s Guide to: Beauty

Welcome to The Layabout’s Guide to Life! Learn how to expend just enough effort to fool a casual observer into thinking that you have your shit together! This time we’re focusing on the ladies… Here’s some tips for gettin’ pretty-ish after you’ve slept through your alarm:

  1. Did you know it’s actually better for your hair if you shampoo less often? As in, ideally like twice a week. I can’t go more than a day before I start looking like Kristen Stewart on the red carpet. (If I sleep in, dry shampoo and tight ponytails are my friends) But if you’ve got better luck than I do and you’re just shampooing daily because you feel like you should… Guess what, you’re off the hook!

  2. One lazy hair hack I have been able to employ: it’s also better for your hair to brush it less often! I was always an obsessive brusher, but I’ve decided to embrace the natural messy-wavy look as much as my limp ol’ locks allow, and traded constant brushing for only post-shower detangling with a wide-toothed comb. Drove me crazy for a while, but once my hair started growing out under this treatment, I discovered to my delight that it was WAAAAAY healthier! My fine hair is delicate, so less pulling means less breakage & frizz. (Stopped pulling my hair ties so tight too, which has also made a difference)

  3. Know how to prioritize your makeup. When you’ve got limited time and can’t do your whole routine, which components have the most impact for your face? My musts are foundation/coverup (bad skin; I doubt I’ve left the house with a clean face since I was 12), eyeliner or mascara, and eyebrow pencil. I just recently discovered the miracle of done-up eyebrows… They do wonders on my face, since my brows are really prominent.

  4. Pick out your outfit for the next day before you go to bed. I know it feels a little bit First Day of School, and it seems like it should take the same amount of time whenever you do it, so what does it matter? Trust me, Evening Amy can pick out an outfit in like a minute, but Morning Amy takes foooorrreeeeevvver to decide. (Not a beauty tip… But same goes for gathering anything you need for the day, packing a lunch, and prepping breakfast if possible)

  5. SLEEP. (This is taking the Layabout thing pretty literally) There is a reason why it’s called “beauty sleep,” and that reason is neither Sarcasm nor Opposite Day.

Internet Travel Guide: 2/14/2014

We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.
– Dr. Seuss

I’m so excited that Yuzuru Hanyu won the gold!!! I adore this kid; he is a freakin rock star! I’ve never seen anyone skate like that – so loose and free, like he’s just messing around out there. And so much personality!  This performance broke the world record for highest men’s short program score. Previous record holder? Yuzuru Hanyu. He is CRUSHING IT and I am a huge fan. Even if you think you’re not into figure skating, seriously, take 6 minutes and watch the linked video (HERE IS ANOTHER LINK – YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE) because it is insanely entertaining.

Presh.

  • This is a cool piece: Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators. (Applies to non-writers as well.) The idea is that people who have learned to rely on their innate intelligence & talent are often very afraid of failure because they see it as a fundamental personal insufficiency – this is a “fixed mindset.” They tend to avoid challenges and even sabotage themselves (by procrastinating, for example) rather than trying their hardest and falling short. It’s much better  to have a “growth mindset,” and believe that you can nourish talent by practicing stuff that you find difficult.
  • Closely related to the previous: this psychologist says that the most distinctive quality of high achievers is “grittiness.” She defines “grit” as “the disposition to pursue very long-term goals with passion and perseverance, sustained over time.” Talent will only take you so far; grit is what makes things happen.
  • Closely related to the previous two: always praise kids for their efforts, not their abilities. If kids are told they are smart when they succeed, they are more likely to view failure as evidence of stupidity and avoid challenges. On the other hand, kids praised for working hard are more likely to seek out challenges and figure out new strategies for success, and were less concerned about how they performed relative to other kids. Also, praise specific things, (“that’s a very good drawing”) instead of general skills (“you are a good drawer”), so that one failure doesn’t affect other successes.
  • Completely unrelated to the previous three: my (theoretical, future) children will have a vine teepee playhouse. (We will build it together and I will praise them for working so hard.) In fact, if I had a backyard right now I might make one for myself. Perfect reading spot!
Child Amy would FREAK OUT about this.

Source: Gingham Baby

That’s all I’ve got for the week. If you need me, I’ll be trying to develop Grit.

*Mutters to self* “Good job Amy, that was a good Internet Travel Guide. You collected a lot of links that were closely related to each other.”

Good Grief

Wore a new striped sweater to work today, and this conversation occurred as I left.

John: You look cute today; I like that sweater.
Me:      Thanks!
John:  You look like a Peanuts character. Like Marcie.*
Me:      What?
John:  Marcie. She was the best girl Peanut. Lucy was a jerk.
Me:      Well that’s true. What with the football.
John:  Every dang time.

Wasn’t sure how to feel about that comparison until I took a selfie** of myself in that outfit. Side-by-side with an image of Marcie, the resemblance is truly uncanny.

Clipart marcieSchulzie***

 

* I showed him a picture of the Peanuts cast and asked if he was maybe thinking of Peppermint Patty? He wasn’t. He thinks I look most like the black-haired bespectacled girl.

** I propose that Schulz-style self-portraits be known from this day forward as: “Schulzies.”

*** The pic of Marcie is from the Peanuts Wiki, which is apparently a thing that exists.