Archive | September, 2011

what makes life worth living

30 Sep

My 22nd birthday! Sunday was my birthday, and I have to say it was probably the best one yet. (I mean, I got sang to four times.) On Saturday night, I celebrated with friends at the Library Bar in LA (which I highly recommend, if only because the two guys I talked to when I was in the process of making my reservation were the NICEST employees at any business I have ever encountered – and at a bar!!). It was such a good time, I was so glad that the people who came did, and it was the latest I’ve stayed out ANYWHERE in a while, which made me feel a little bit less like an old fart. (22!?? Seriously!??)

On Sunday night, I went to Lucille’s with my parents, my brother, Kyle, and my two grandmas, then had cake at my parents’ house. (Happy Birthday, round #3.) When I got home that night, Janet had baked me ANOTHER cake, and she, Lauren, and Raquel surprised me with it and sang to me when I walked through the door. (#4.) I feel so blessed after this weekend. Some other things that made it so special: everyone who texted me or wrote on my Facebook wall, Melissa trying to get the whole bar to sing to me (#1 – with little success, but it was still hilarious), Julian and Taylor’s card (on which Julian drew a picture of “Leo Trollstoy” reading Goats and Sheep), getting to go to the church service on Sunday morning for the first time in more than a month, my dad telling everyone it was my birthday and being sang to again at the leadership community meeting (#2), the backpack full of goodies that Ladonynia got me, family dinner with lots of laughter and conversation (and ribs and biscuits and macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes and iced tea), a birthday cake with a baby picture of me on it!!! (“I want to feast on my own face”), making wishes, opening sweet cards and presents, lots of hugs, a yellow rose from my mom, a sweet card and gift from my nanny mom, Kyle’s insanely thoughtful and planned-out gift, Raquel singing Las Mananitas to me at the end of the day, and looking at baby pictures.

My friend Dana getting engaged! Dana is a missionary living in Ecuador who I’ve known since junior high. She just turned 27, and a while ago she started dating a guy she met in Ecuador, named Andres. I remember her telling us about him the last time she came to the States. A few weeks ago, I saw on Facebook that Andres had bought her a bulldog for her birthday, which I thought was the sweetest thing ever. And on Tuesday, she posted that he had surprised her with a trip to the beach, and when they got there he proposed. I was so blown away and happy for her when I found out. Dana is one of the funniest, most awesome people I know, and I have so much respect for her for doing what she does – being brave enough to live in a foreign country (not that it’s probably that foreign to her anymore) and give her time and energy – a LOT of energy – to God and the people of Ecuador. Even though I don’t talk to her much, I love watching her life from afar (as creepy as that sounds) and she totally deserves all the happiness in the world.

Plans for this weekend: sleeping in, getting back into my morning routine, going to yoga, starting my cleanse, catching up on homework, calling my grandmas, finally getting around to the September issue, doing my nails, watching Pretty Little Liars so I can get caught up in time for the Halloween special, reading The Innocents Abroad, catching up with some friends I don’t see enough of, adding documentaries and foreign films to my Netflix instant queue, getting my hands on some much-needed new music, planning October’s Sunday school lessons with Kirstie, cleaning out my car, and hopefully picking up Middlesex at Barnes & Noble and doing a little shopping.

Little things: animal-shaped pasta from Cost Plus World Market; tomato soup with garlic salt; living room parties; reading on the front lawn in the beautiful light of the sun setting; reheating Spanish rice on the stove (our microwave wasn’t working for a while, which was pretty annoying, but I have to say I’ve developed a new love for doing some things on the stove! It’s somewhat relaxing!); organizing the kids’ craft supplies on Sunday with Kirstie and emerging covered in glitter; getting homework done; wearing dresses and boots; my crazy friends; blueberry donuts!!! So good!!!; that final “Amen” at the end of the doxology; all the wonderful people I get to work and go to church with; getting a new picture of Maria in the mail; laughing about gluten-free Communion announcements every Sunday; being a licensed minister now, what?! (but seriously, if you need someone to do your wedding, hit me up); starting a new journal; blank notebooks, mmm; antique maps and shiny pushpins; gift cards; talking to my grandma Cynthia, she is a riot!; a fridge full of leftovers and cake; putting all my presents away when I get home; blessings, even reluctantly received ones; our microwave starting to work again!; mason jars full of #2 pencils; realizing I accidentally did this week’s reading for American lit last week!; cocoa butter; writing in my journal; coffee and chocolate cake for breakfast; deja vu; watching Lost; doing homework in a cool and quiet house; being honest about something I did wrong and apologizing; Google (happy 13th birthday!); an evening of sushi and Barnes & Noble; checking things off my to-do list; hot showers; pizza and salad; getting all my homework done at work and having the whole night ahead of me; watching Walk the Line with Kyle; climbing into bed at the end of a long day; a fingernail moon in a sunset sky; buying groceries; Sarah bringing me ibuprofen and a glass of water when I had a headache; hugs from the babykids; being taught German by a 7-year-old girl.

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today I designate a sleeping room

26 Sep

My friend Brianna, who just moved away to Boulder to go to school, told me that while she was touring campuses, she found out that at some schools there’s such a thing as a separate sleeping room for students. Basically, instead of the typical college dorm format of rooms with several beds and desks and maybe room for a couch and TV, the students’ separate dorms are just for studying and hanging out, and the designated “sleeping rooms” (or whatever they’re called, I can’t find any information or pictures on them anywhere) are big rooms full of beds that are always kept dark or dim, and they are for nothing except sleeping. No homework, no talking, just sweet, sweet sleep.

For almost my whole life, my bedroom has been my sanctuary to do everything, but in the house I moved into a month ago, there’s no room for anything in my room except for my bed, my roommates’ bunk bed, two nightstands, and a small dresser. Therefore my huge desk and all my other furniture and things are in the living room or spread around the house. So now pretty much all I do in my bedroom is get dressed, sleep, and occasionally relax while reading or doing homework. It seems like either Chloe or Sarah are always napping in there, and most days we keep the blinds closed all day long, so it’s always nice and dim and cool and peaceful in there. It’s kind of been making me be really attracted to the idea of a separate sleeping room. Especially once we get curtains, that room will be so nice and relaxing to sleep, and I rarely hang out in there anyway – there’s no room. I love the days when we don’t open the blinds and I would love it if that was all the time and we just hung out and studied in the living room all the time. It’s making me want to pour all of my time and money into making that room as dark and peaceful as possible. I’m thinking blackout curtains. I’m thinking throw pillows everywhere. I’m thinking a whole ton of blankets. I’m thinking mandatory daily naps. I’m thinking I might go to sleep now.

22 things I’ve learned in 22 years: the obligatory blog post

26 Sep

1. You can’t force friendships. Even if you think you and somebody else would really click, you have to let a relationship (any kind of relationship) mature. Like good wine. The friends who are meant to stay in your life will, no matter how hard you try to get away from them. Good friendships are undeniable and they don’t take a lot of work to make them work. Friendships are supposed to make life easier, not harder. If someone doesn’t make an effort to be a part of your life, stop striving to keep them in yours.

2. One of the secrets to happiness is to live with people who have the same taste in home furnishings as you.

3. Tall brown boots make almost every outfit better.

4. Honesty is always the best policy. Even if it’s harder in the moment, even if it stings, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Pretending, hiding things, beating around the bush, they’re all almost as bad as outright lying – because you’re still misrepresenting yourself, and the truth is probably going to come out sooner or later. And even if it doesn’t, living any kind of lie is exhausting. And whether you’re honest about yourself or dishonest, some people are going to like you, and some aren’t. Wouldn’t you rather it be the ones who agree and support who you truly are that like you, rather than what you’ve painted yourself to be?

5. Make and take into account your first, second and third impressions, but keep them fluid and let them change. People are complicated and layered. They will surprise you, if you let them.

6. Never pin all of your happiness onto one thing, because you never know when you’re going to lose it. This is not to say that you shouldn’t get invested – it truly is better to love something and lose it than to protect your heart too closely. Just don’t let things or individuals or pursuits become your whole world.

7. The solution to most of the problems you will have in your lifetime is trying to find a balance.

8. You will never totally find a balance, and that’s okay. The natural state of humanity is frailty. Life isn’t about clutching at stability; it’s about finding your sea legs. You will go through stages of your life. Remember that this is just a stage and roll with it.

9. That being said, sometimes you have to realize that you’re stuck and physically pull yourself out of the stage that you’re in.

10. Intention is everything. Excuses get you…nothing.

11. Dry your toothbrush off before you put it back in the cup, unless you want to clean up a moldy mess in three months.

12. Don’t ask people what you should wear, because they’ll probably give you advice you don’t like, but then you’ll have to take it anyway – otherwise you’ll feel like you’re dissing their style.

13. When you ask someone if it’s cold outside, make sure you take into account where they grew up.

14. There comes a time when you have to stop preparing, stop cramming yourself with inspiration, stop observing everybody else, and start doing something or making something. Less consuming, more producing. Just do it.

15. Just because the people you see every day aren’t homeless, or broke, or starving, or diseased, doesn’t mean they’re not hurting. Everyone has serious injuries you can’t see. Treat them accordingly. If someone you know is a selfish, narcissistic, insensitive jerk, you could treat them like the lowlife human being that they are; or you could be the first person in their life to ever show them real kindness. Your choice.

16. You know how when you first buy sweatshirts, they’re really really soft on the inside, and they get less so as time goes on? It’s depressing. So wash them gently and don’t dry them. They’ll stay softer for longer.

17. If you’re really tired, set two alarms. One louder than the other.

18. Train your dog impeccably when you first get her, or you and everyone you know will regret it. (Note: I know this because I had the best-behaved dog in the entire world and felt sorry for everyone else who were forced to constantly apologize for their pet’s shenanigans.)

19. Buy the generic brand. Check the ingredients against those of the product it says to compare it to – they’re generally the same, and you will save money. Also, generic brands usually have really nice, minimalist packaging. (Especially Up & Up from Target. I LOVE Up & Up.)

20. Don’t think life is about learning from other people’s mistakes. It’s great if you can, but you’re probably going to have to screw up on your own anyway to really learn your lesson. If you’re too into trying to avoid making the same mistakes your friends made, you’re going to start believing them every time they tell you that you won’t like something or shouldn’t do something. You shouldn’t move to New York, you’ll hate it. You shouldn’t wear that shirt with that skirt, it doesn’t go. You shouldn’t live with seven other girls, it’ll be a nightmare. You know better than anyone what you like and what you don’t – and even if you’re not sure, even if they turn out to be right, you’ll still know yourself better than if you just listened to them and avoided something because they said to.

21. Really, don’t compare yourself to other people. Just be the best person you can be. It’s not a race, even though everyone thinks it is. (I’m still working on this one).

22. There’s a difference between learning something and beginning to incorporate it into your life. Life lessons come in waves. Some of these that I just wrote might be total crap, so don’t think that just because I learned them that they’re true and you should keep them in mind, although I’m inclined to say that you should. You will always be fallible, you will always have to be learning, adjusting your perspective, shifting your worldview. Don’t ever stop. Let life teach you and let yourself change your mind.

what makes life worth living

23 Sep

My morning walk to school. Every day, and often twice a day, I walk the fifteen minutes and half a mile to school, and then back afterwards. One of my main wishes when I was looking for a place to live for this year was that it would be walking distance from school. I don’t think I would ever give up my car completely, because I need to be able to get out of town, but I like to be able to walk as many places as possible. It’s refreshing, it’s relaxing, it fits in that little bit of exercise that human beings were meant to get every day, it’s good for the environment and for me. All or at least most of my roommates walk to school too, so we often run into each other, which is fun. I also started listening to my iPod on the way, which makes it much less tedious and helps me walk quickly (a must, since I usually leave about 5 minutes too late). I also really like to daydream while I’m walking.

Game night! Sunday night I put together a game night for the tiny college and young adult group at my church and it was a raging success. There were only a few of us there, but I was struck again by how well everyone gets along and how much fun we have considering how different a lot of us are, how little we have in common. It makes me happy. Also, I like Monopoly more than I thought I did, although I wish I could actually finish a game for once.

Little things: Dave Grohl; Dustin Hoffman’s cameo in The Holiday (and The Holiday in general); getting my eyebrows threaded; thrift shopping with my mom; sleeping in and washing my face first thing in the morning; my french cade and lavender scented Voluspa candle (thanks Melissa!); iTunes Genius; really big skirts with pockets!; Honduran food thanks to my roommate Raquel; Coldplay and Regina Spektor (especially this song and this song); lazy mornings that last until 3 pm; the Jungle Cruise; running around like a chicken with my head cut off at church every Sunday morning; freshly painted nails; starting Lost again!; driving with my brother to game night; impromptu dance parties; Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger; movies like 12 Angry Men that leave you feeling like you just had a really good intellectual discussion; hanging out with Julian and Taylor; sleeping like the dead; wearing clothes every day that are so comfortable they’re almost not appropriate to wear in public; daydreaming.

Watching videos of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing; spicy pasta; jazz music; girls in class who ask me if I’m not feeling well and give me Kleenex (I never remember to bring Kleenex!); Lauren Yun and Sarah Jurkiewicz; doing homework in bed instead of at my desk (not practical for every day but it’s nice when I’m tired and feeling gloomy and need a break); lighting matches; texts from my nanny mom that say “You ROCK! Thanks for all you do” (she is the best!); helping people out with advice; old songs; honest conversations; going out for breakfast (endless coffee refills are the best); meetings; talking theology at 8:30 in the morning; the fact that even when I sleep through my alarm I always wake up with just enough time to throw some clothes on, brush my teeth and get out the door; green smoothies; playing in mud; the Pirate setting on Facebook; jacuzzi hair; cleaning the living room; choosing not to let criticism bother me; being deliberately irreverent; happy days; the last page of a good, heartbreaking book; being more health-conscious; cuddling with MinPin; wearing a huge shirt and jeans and boots; date nights; knowing I can stay up late screwing around on the Internet because I can sleep in the next morning; Danielle LaPorte; blocking people from my News Feed (not in a mean way, just that I have a lot of Facebook friends and don’t want to delete any but only want to see updates from a few!); mornings talking with Chloe and Sarah and reading Mere Christianity in the backyard; the pilot of 2 Broke Girls; The Help at the Arclight in Hollywood; productivity planning (always).

pretty

21 Sep

in defense of a day job

16 Sep

As someone who is nearing the end of college and starting to think about a “career” – and also as someone who is surrounded by people who are doing the same – I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the nature of work. Though there are a lot of things I want to do after I graduate, the only real career I want to pursue is writing – which doesn’t generally tend to put money in the bank quickly or reliably. So I’m kind of planning on being a nanny for a long time, because when I really start pursuing writing, I still need a way to pay the bills.

All this thinking has brought me to the conclusion that doing what you love and doing what pays the bills are not always the same thing. Sometimes you have to pay your dues before your passion pays. When I’ve shared this theory with others, it’s often elicited head shakes and disagreement. Maybe doing what you love and doing what pays don’t have to be the same thing, people say, but they should. 

It is definitely an ideal situation when doing what you really want to do also provides for you, and people who have found that are really fortunate; but it doesn’t happen to everyone. I think that way of thinking is part of what has resulted in so many people just not doing what they love, never getting around to it, because it doesn’t pay the bills. So they get stuck working a job they don’t enjoy for their whole lives because it gives them a sense of security. Sure, it takes a lot of time and effort to do both, but it’s your life – isn’t it worth it to you to find what you love and do it? This essay by the incomparable Alain de Botton basically says what I’ve been trying to articulate, and more, way more eloquently than I probably ever could. I recommend reading it to anyone who has any sorts of dreams, life plans, or aspirations at all.

The Real Meaning of Your True Calling

One of the first questions we face when we meet new acquaintances is “What do you do?” And according to how we answer, they will either be delighted to see us or look with embarrassment at their watches and shuffle away. The fact is, we live in a world where we are defined almost entirely by our work.

This can be hugely liberating for people who are happily employed. But the problem for many of us is that we don’t know what job we’re supposed to do and, as a result, are still waiting to learn who we should be. The idea that we have missed out on our true calling—that somehow we ought to have intuited what we should be doing with our lives long before we finished our degrees, started families, and advanced through the ranks—torments us. This notion, however, can be an illusion. The term calling came into circulation in a Christian context during the medieval period to describe the abrupt imperative people might encounter to devote themselves to Jesus’ teachings. Now a secularized version has survived, which is prone to give us an expectation that the meaning of our lives might at some point be revealed in a ready-made and decisive form, rendering us permanently immune to confusion, envy, and regret. 

I prefer to borrow from psychologist Abraham Maslow, who said: It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.

To begin to find a more fulfilling vocation, it is not enough to simply ask yourself what you might like to do. Concerns about money and status long ago extinguished most people’s ability to think authentically about their options. Instead, I would suggest free-associating around clusters of concerns that delight and excite you, without attempting to settle upon anything as rigid as the frame of a career. 

In searching for their aptitudes, people should act like treasure hunters passing over the ground with metal detectors, listening out for beeps of joy. A woman might get her first intimation that her real interest lies in poetry not by hearing a holy voice as she pages through a book of verse but from the thrill she feels as she stands in a parking lot on the edge of town overlooking a misty valley. Or a politician, long before she belongs to any party or has any profound understanding of statecraft, might register a telling signal when successfully healing a rift between two members of her family. 

We should also remember that the first ingredient usually missing when people can’t choose a life direction is confidence. Whatever cerebral understanding we apply to our lives, we retain a few humblingly simple needs, among them a steady hunger for support and love. It’s therefore helpful to identify—and engage with—the internal voices that emphasize our chances of failure. Many such voices can be traced back to a critical instructor or unhelpful parent: a math teacher who berated us for poor algebra skills or a father who insisted that our sister was good at art and we should stick to the schoolbooks. The forming of an individual in the early years is as sensitive and important a task as the correct casting of a skyscraper’s foundation, and the slightest abuse introduced at this primary stage can unbalance us until our dying days.

A useful thought to bear in mind for anyone still struggling with a less than meaningful job: Work may not be where your calling resides. Indeed, for thousands of years, work was viewed as an unavoidable drudge; anything more aspiring had to happen in one’s spare time, once the money had been hauled in. Aristotle was only the first of many philosophers to state that no one could both be obliged to earn a living and remain free. The idea that a job could be pleasurable had to wait until the 18th century, the age of the great bourgeois philosophers, men like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin, who for the first time argued that one’s working life could be at the center of happiness. Curiously, at the same time, similar ideas about romance took shape. In the premodern age, it had widely been assumed that marriage was something one did for purely commercial reasons, to hand down the family farm and raise children; love was what you did with your mistress, on the side. The new philosophers now argued that one might actually aim to marry the person one was in love with. 

We are the heirs of these two very ambitious beliefs: that you can be in love and married—and in a job and having a good time. As a result, we harbor high expectations for two areas of life that may provide support but not the deep purpose we ultimately long for. To remember such history while contemplating “Who am I?” can be enormously freeing. 

And although that question is one of life’s toughest, we should allow ourselves to relish it as we think about our aptitudes, and to open ourselves to all the many sources we can derive meaning and mission from—whether it’s writing poetry, leading a neighborhood cleanup, raising children, or daring gravity while flying down an icy slope on a pair of skis. We should also consider that, in the end, the answer to “Who are you meant to be?” is perhaps this: the person who keeps asking the question.

-Alain de Botton

what makes life worth living

16 Sep

Lazy and productive weekends. On both Friday and Saturday last weekend, I did the exact same thing: lazed around the house all day watching instant Netflix, blogging, and getting organized (aka streamlining my absolute mountain of lists); then showered and drove to Disneyland – Kyle’s parents came down for the weekend, bought passes, and invited me to join them. So much fun. Saturday morning was the best because I woke up at 7:45 am, jumped out of bed to a foggy morning, put on a sweater and thick socks(!), and headed outside to my new backyard work station (aka the desk I found by the dumpster at my old apartment complex), where I worked on my laptop to the sound of rain and thunder while the whole house was still quiet. Perfection. Then my roommates started to wake up and we all lounged around the house together. Also, Bridgette and her boyfriend Brian went on a donut run and brought me back the chocolate-covered custard donut I requested. Mmmm.

On that note, Disneyland. I don’t think I will ever get tired of it. I love having a pass because you can just go for an evening and not feel guilty if you only go on one ride and get coffee from the place on Main Street that has free refills. On Friday night we were about to get on Indiana Jones when a woman approached us and offered us two Fastpasses she wasn’t going to use. SCORE. Some of my favorite things about Disneyland: the place with the free refills, New Orleans Square and mint juleps, the lobby of the Animation building at California Adventure (I could sit in there for hours), walking down Main Street, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (which I simply refer to as the Pretty Pretty Princess store) on the Fantasyland side of the castle, watching old Mickey Mouse cartoons in the Main Street cinema, Pizza Port, chili cheese fries in the Golden Horseshoe, watching Fantasmic, eating at the Blue Bayou, Mickey Mouse pancakes for breakfast at the River Belle Terrace, and the door room on the Monster’s Inc. ride.

Little things: the sound of trains; my huge and wonderful bed and the feeling of getting into it after a long day (which is every day, these days!); tofu, sauteed mushrooms, brown rice and stir fry sauce for lunch; Kate Winslet; waffle sandwiches at Bruxie (the smoked salmon and dill cream cheese is AMAZING – I want to go back to try all of them); glass bottles; dad jokes (we saw Contagion with Kyle’s parents and as soon as it was over his dad started coughing really loudly – so funny); making a fall checklist of fun things to do; my mom and dad searching forever to find me a shirt at Disney World and coming back with the cutest sparkly Minnie Mouse one; holographic princess postcards; panini, peasant soup, mac & cheese, chocolate hazelnut gelato & good conversations with my mom after not seeing her for three weeks; Sunday productivity and getting organized; finishing Mad Men and starting where I left off on Arrested Development (her?); holding my hair up with a pencil; staying late at McClain’s; drive-through ATMs (seriously the best); curry chicken wraps from the Talon; Googling pictures of sloths; Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme; drinking water out of wine glasses; the fact that I can now choose not to go to class when I’m sick instead of the whole “call me if you throw up” thing that was going on up until high school (love you Mom…really); button-downs; manzanilla con miel tea (the only thing that soothes my sore throat); Nine Year Old realizing I was sick and running to get me medicine; Kyle risking getting sick and coming over to give me ice cream and a back rub; giving advice; actually getting my homework for the day done; The Amateur Marriage; wearing high heels; being silly; when the cast comes out to take a bow at the end of a play; sleeping in; WILD PARROTS; ice cream for breakfast.