On Success

The more I see of the world, the more I understand that only about one in every one hundred people has a textbook career. You know the kind — doctor, lawyer, fireman — the ones kids are expected to answer with when asked what they want to be when they grow up. The other ninety-nine of us do something not so clearly defined or glamorous, like contractor for a fabrication plant or daycare coordinator. And we get along just fine.
     I used to really have a problem with that. I felt that if I’m not out there doing something big, changing people’s lives with every breath I take, pulling in the big money or whatnot that I was unsuccessful, that I wasn’t making the most of myself. And isn’t that what my generation has been told to do? We have been told all our lives that we could do anything we set our minds to, that we should “shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” We were encouraged to be scientists and presidents, senators and surgeons, and frankly… who needs it?
     I’m not saying any of those things are terrible things to be, but… if everyone were a lawyer, we’d all be suing each other all the time and we’d never get anything done. If everyone were a doctor no one would need one. We can’t all have one of those textbook professions. The one piece of career advice I didn’t fully understand until now was to “find something you love to do and stick with it.” I used to always think that meant find a field you enjoy, like if you like rocks, be a geologist. If you like to write, be a writer. Now I see that it means more than that.
     Something you love to do doesn’t necessarily mean the field, it means the actual job. If you work as a clerk for an auto repair shop and you make enough money to support yourself and you look forward to going to work every day, then hell, that’s what you should stick with. I’d like to help organize city events or advertise with local businesses. It’s not rocket science, but it’s something I know I’ll love to do.

Announcement

Okay, I’m done with trying to do Friday Fives during the summer. My days go so quickly that before I’ve choked out one (yes, sometimes they actually are difficult), it’s time to dredge up ideas for another, and I really despise turning out crap. Since no one is holding my foot to the fire, I think I’m going to call off summertime Friday Fives.
     I know you’re all horribly upset, that your lives are ruined, but honestly, not a whole lot goes on in my life or in my mind during the summer. I’ll take a hiatus and resume when school does. In the meantime, I’ll post whenever the muse inspires. Have a great summer!

Book Review: Wifey

At the beginning of the summer I compiled a list of books I wanted to read, and although Judy Blume’s Wifey was number two, it was the one I got my hands on first.

Source.

     I hate to say it, but Wifey was a disappointment. For me, the plot was lacking. (Spoiler alert!!) The woman realizes she’s bored with life, has men throwing themselves at her (so of course, she sleeps with them), is slapped in the face by the love of her life and, in the last few pages, realizes she didn’t have it all that bad to begin with. The whole conflict seems to be solely that the protagonist, Sandy, was being rather whiney and reacting to her aging marriage in an immature way. The profound realization that her husband really and truly does love her was lost on me because it happened so quickly I had to reread it to make sure that’s really what happened.
     It was just kind of bland. Maybe I am biased — the novel received high praise in the book I mentioned in my prior post, which, in retrospect, makes sense. Everything I Needed to Know about Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume is a collection of essays praising JB herself so I should have done myself a favor and taken its praise with a grain of salt before picking up Wifey. Maybe if I hadn’t had such high expectations I would have enjoyed the novel more. If nothing else, it was well-written, making it an easy summer read and poolside companion.

"Friday" Five: Inspiration from a Teacher

This afternoon I had to come to terms with the fact that I’m nowhere near ready to move completely out of my parents’ house just yet. The simple truth is that I have too much stuff to cart around, taking everything to school with me would just be impractical. I’ve spent several hours trying to streamline my boxes of memories, but with little success. This afternoon I whiled away the time going through these stubborn boxes once again, categorizing and piling and tossing out, and I came across a letter from my high school theater teacher to the kids in my class when we graduated.
     My graduating class was the first class she had followed through all four years of teaching, and I must admit she did leave an impact. For most of us she was the only teacher to be an active part of our lives from freshman through senior year, and although she began as a teacher eventually she became more of a friend. I wasn’t ever BFFs with her but we did get along well and had a few laughs along the way. More importantly, I grew to respect her as more than just a teacher, but as a person.
     The letter she gave us was double-sided. On the front was a few simply typed paragraphs directed solely to our class, but on the reverse was a bulleted list of pieces of advice she had given to last year’s graduates that she liked so much she wanted to make sure she shared it with us, too. I remember reading the list and laughing with everyone else (because it is very humorous), but after my first year of college is under my belt I see exactly how right she was about so many things. Here are my top five favorites for you to enjoy and pass on the wisdom.

5) “Enjoy the fact that you are not really in the ‘real world’ yet, just the semi-real one.”
To me, college feels like what I wanted high school to be. Laid back, lots of liberties, lots of friends, less drama, etc. Sure, we may be doing some adult things and living on our own, but contemporary dorm life feels more like an extension of high school than anything else. Like a boarding school. For some reasons I really dislike this, but for others, well… let’s just say I heeded my teacher’s advice!

4) “Sit in the front of the class. It will make you pay attention, which means you won’t really have to study that much. Unless you are taking something ridiculous like Organic Chemistry, in which case — best of luck.”
Paying attention in class saved me hours of studying. As in, if I paid attention in a class and actively participated in note taking or class discussions, I rarely had to study. 

3) “If you start (or continue) smoking cigarettes, figure out how to stop before you graduate college so you don’t become a gross smoker forever. Somehow it’s not as gross in college. But it still is, really, so nevermind.”
I’ve heard rumors that my campus is the smokiest college campus in the U.S. I don’t like to admit it, but I have to say it’s true.

2) “When something bad happens, ask yourself how much it will bother you ten years from now. If the answer is ‘not at all’, then it’s probably not that important.”
I’m kind of a catastrophist. When something bad happens (especially if it deals with money), I immediately catastrophize and lose my head. I have to calm myself, and several times I found myself doing as my teacher said, asking myself if it will matter in 10 years. Generally, the answer is that it won’t, and I can move on with my life.

And last but not least…

1) “Wear sunscreen.”
 My teacher is a pale redhead, and I’m a pale blonde, so I’m pretty sure her words didn’t ring truer with anyone else in the class!

Eating from the Heart

After reading two books by Michael Pollan, reading several articles by various authors from various sources and observing my own actions and impulses, I have come to the conclusion that the major missing nutrient in our Western diet is gratitude. We seek out antioxidants at the farmer’s market, buy extra milk for our kids and eat whole grain bread all in the name of health, but we fail to embrace food as a culture and the primary pillar which supports our lives.
     It’s so American of us to be unconcerned with food because we have so much of it. Who cares about dinner? You could make double, or triple the recipe with a credit card and a grocery store. In a society with such a plethora of food (or foodlike substances), we get so caught up with living life that we forget what sustains life. We eat food because we are hungry. We aren’t going to run out. What’s there to worry about?
     One of Pollan’s main points about the unhealthiness of the Western diet is our poor excuse for a food “culture.” We grab our food and eat on the go without stopping to ponder what exactly we are putting in our bodies. It only makes sense to a success-centered culture. Why should we slow down to enjoy a meal if there’s another one coming in five hours? We have much more important things to worry about than nurturing our bodies. It sometimes seems we believe our bodies are only temporary instruments for our actions. We couldn’t care less as long as it makes our stomach stop grumbling and tastes decent. Did I mention that it should be cheap?
     Because our society is constantly on the go, we don’t spend as much time preparing food as we should. We don’t have a reason to be grateful for our meal because a sixteen-year-old with a license and a  minimum wage job could pay for it after one hour of work. If we put more of ourselves into our food (instead of more food into ourselves), we might find that there is almost an art to feeding ourselves, that there is actually work involved, and we might come to appreciate and feel grateful for what we consume.

Growing an herb garden, family grocery shopping, dinnertime conversation, couples’ cooking classes, I don’t care what it takes, just find someway to connect yourself with food and with all the people involved. Enjoying food should be a primary stress reliever in lieu of typical Western snacking, meeting friends for dinner should take more than a half hour, scarfing food should be considered impolite again, and saying grace before the meal should be frequent and sincere. Whether you’re thanking a deity or simply reflecting on the work put into the food before you, it’s important to take a step back and remember why you are eating and who made the meal possible. The depth gratitude adds to a meal is a safeguard against relapsing to Happy Meals (whose backgrounds are less than happy) and is another dimension to life, one we’ve all but pushed aside, that calms, enriches, and nourishes not just our bodies, but our souls.

Friday Five: The Prophet

A week or so ago one of my good friends recommended I read a book called The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. I had never heard of it before, but that doesn’t surprise me, I haven’t heard of a great many things.

Source.

 
Gibran was an author, painter, and philosopher who was born in Lebanon and spent much of his life in the U.S. and traveling abroad. According to a 2008 article from The New Yorker, Gibran is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao-tzu, and he owes this popularity entirely to The Prophet.

“The Prophet” started fast—it sold out its first printing in a month—and then it got faster, until, in the nineteen-sixties, its sales sometimes reached five thousand copies a week. It was the Bible of that decade.

And I can see why it was. After reading it twice (it’s a very short book), I thought I would share my five favorite quotes from this collection of essays with a bit of commentary apiece.

1) “When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.”
Frankly, love hurts, and there will always be difficulties. No relationship (whether between lovers or friends or parents) will ever be entirely easy, and if it is it’s not worth it. When you love someone else and they love you in return, go for it, and don’t let your fear of getting hurt get in the way.

2) “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
Gibran goes on to say that parents aren’t the ones who aim the arrows, that is God. Parents are only the tools God uses to mold children, and parents need to remember that ultimately it is not they who decide who their children will grow up to be.

3)  “You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.”
I particularly like this philosophy because I hate being idle. I need to be actively involved in a project and moving forward in order to feel like I am living my life to the fullest, and Gibran’s ideas only concrete this characteristic in me.

4) “When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
How true. When someone is upset, it is always connected to the loss of or the hindrance of what has made them happy, and when someone is happy it is always related to what once upset them. Joy and sorrow are never far apart.

5) “And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”
Enough said.