Sunday, November 21, 2010

(This is an edited and trimmed version of a piece I recently wrote at the request of a friend for a project she's working on. Her prompt was "Post-graduation life" ...just as massive and open-ended as that...)

Finding your passion, in terms of your ‘life calling’ is not always the simple result of being a passionate person. I used to think that if I had passion, strong beliefs and devoted ambition, I’d just passively realize a dream that was acutely fitted for my skills and interests and chase after it.

Sometimes though, no matter how much ambition you have, clarity and vision don’t reveal themselves simply. I've spent the greater part of the past 3 years fighting this strange tension which could be summarized as: “I will work so hard! But work for what?? I want to move forward! But in what direction?? I want to make great change in the world! But in which field??”

My subconscious response to this tension was to try to do it all; if I couldn’t narrow down my interests enough to start moving in one direction, maybe I could just move in all directions, pursue everything, lead the most eclectic and diversified life possible so as not to miss out on anything. I saw this as the best use of my twenties: to take advantage of this phase of questioning, challenging, and experimenting, with the hope of one day stumbling upon something I’d like to dedicate myself to more wholly.

To some degree, I still believe that. This should be a season of life free to be unconfined and undetermined. But as I’ve learned, there is also a level of restraint that does a body good. I built up a life as a business representative, soccer player, soccer coach, youth group leader, bartender, balloon artist, writer, social butterfly.. etc. With a schedule so full, I couldn’t help but find purpose somewhere soon, right?

Did you know that one dictionary definition of busyness is: "Lively but meaningless activity"? I embodied this definition to an unhealthy degree for quite some time. In the chaos of my hastened life, I adopted the habit of skipping through my routine engagements mindlessly. I abandoned the basic investments that kept my spirit constant when everything else was changing. My art, my health, and my relationships all took the hit; the things I supposedly cared most about were suffering because of my myriad demands. I was gradually shifting from eclectic, to empty. Somehow in the midst of trying to be everything, I ended up nothing like who I wanted to be.

This apex of exhaustion awakened me to a new challenge of balance and intention. I decided that my quality of life and impact on the world would never be measured by the length of my resume but by the substance of my experiences and my resulting character; and as obvious as that may seem, I took it to heart as enlightenment.

So not long ago, I started stripping my life down to what I knew I could do 100%. There are only so many hours in the day, so many days in the week, and so many things you can invest in. After a period of complete overload, I had to step away from the things that didn't fit with who I wanted to be, and re-comitt myself to the things that would sustain a life I could take pride in. I'm still training myself to practice the simple disciplines that keep my body and mind healthy, my creativity nourished, and my priorities in line.

Although post-grad life has felt more inconsistent and aimless than any other season I’ve been through, it’s also compelled me to take ownership of a new resiliency and strength I never before needed. After many cycles of pain and redemption, I’ve developed a great reverence for the fruit that struggle bears.

As for today, I am still learning how to wear myself, and I still put up a great fight when I look in the mirror most days. I still get frustrated that periods of immense growth often come along with lessons of loss, uncertainty, loneliness, and failure. I still have too many questions about where I am headed, but I’m starting to feel like I am entitled to more than my insecurities, and that I am indeed capable of some extraordinary things when I roll up my sleeves and put in the hard work. I’ve also come to appreciate a whole new angle of friendship. Countless times over the last few years I have sat with a friend, either saying or hearing “I know what you’re going through, I’ve been there too” or “I’m feeling the exact same thing! Will we make it through??” That state of exasperated togetherness, comrades in utmost despair, is a union of immeasurable value. No matter how maddening or trying relationships may be, I am nothing without companionship and this has never been made so clear as in the last 3 years.

I’ve realized we live the impossible garden- where it’s always planting season and always the harvest. We are constantly laying the groundwork for some piece of the future, and always reaping the fruits, or spoils, of some previous season. I can only hope that what I am planting right now is the start of a prolific period defined by a commitment to incessant creating and learning. In 10 years I hope to be able to look back and say, “Those uncomfortable years were used well- I let it all in, ignored nothing, questioned everything, acted on my beliefs, and invested in relationships.. those years validated the truth of being a part of the human community. I accepted the struggles, capitalized on the blessings, and never settled for mediocre contentment. I used my time.”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Pain, as a person, comes in and commissions great things of you, but only if you allow him to take his role center-stage and show you what he's got. I imagine he’s the type that likes a fair amount of attention, not because he’s self-centered or because he was a neglected middle child.. no, he simply needs to be acknowledged because when he’s ignored completely, he can’t do his job.

I believe Pain as a person would ask to be dignified before imparting any of his wisdom or perspective, and this could happen one of two ways: a) You resist to the point of exhaustion. Unable to keep up the resistance, Pain enters in storming fashion, crushing your comfortable avoidance. Pain as a person is a strangely recurrent yet transient member of our lives; our defenses never really keep him at bay, because his arrival is not a call to arms. He just waits at the door until we’ve tired and in weakness, finally dropped all weapons.

Not to say that it’s always got to be such a war with this character, because I think there is an alternative- b) You make a conscious and brave decision to honor the reality that Pain has come a’knockin, and recognize that he actually offers a great deal of potential.. you let him in and accept him, make him a cup of tea and sit with him, ask him questions and find out who he is, where he was born, why he’s visiting.. this discussion with him will probably be heavy and revealing, as he tends to be brutally honest when you let him. But a disclaimer about this relationship you may build with Pain: I wouldn’t bother asking him when he plans to leave; to that question he may very well give you the wrong impression, or just remain silent leaving you to your own misguided assumptions. Better to just let him exist with you as a temporary guest for as long as he deems necessary. Another disclaimer: he might trash your house. Did I forget to mention that by profession he is an interior decorator of the most extreme variety? He might come in and throw things upside down, turn the tables, uproot your garden, I mean hell- he might even demolish the foundation of your house.. he doesn’t really hold back once you’ve let him in.

If so, this will feel like a massive violation of space and peace, like a raging hurricane has swept in. But I'll say from my own experiences, when he breaks things it often becomes apparent that they were already broken beneath the surface, or on the verge of breaking anyhow; the walls he tore down had already eroded on the inside. The foundation he shattered turned out to have cracks running through its entirety. The tables he turned were actually facing the wrong way to begin with..

He’s also not great at keeping to preconceived deadlines, confessing things like “Well I know I made you think I would be done and out of here by next month, but you see when I took down that drywall I realized the structure was a lot more compromised than I expected. It’ll be an extra 3 months before I’m finished..” Give him grace though, there’s no way anyone could’ve known what would be found once the walls were torn down, or how long it would take to repair.

Ultimately though, he is one-of-a-kind. Nobody else is in the business as he is, nobody can do the same work.. and though his patterns of demolition appear destructive, be reminded that this is actually the first sign of renovation.

Pain comes because something in your internal or external world has invited him, whether or not you are conscious of it, understand it, or even want it. Whatever the reason though, he has earned your respect, hasn't he? and in the long run, he plays so much more nicely when you give it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"A man who wants something will find a way.
A man who doesn't will find an excuse."
-Stephen Dolley Jr.-

I've been judging myself by this quote lately. So- evidently I am someone who does not want to write, because I have been making excuse after excuse for why I don't have the time to just sit down and put pen to paper. But that's crazy, because I know the freedom that writing affords me and I know it's something I will 'ever desire. Now this is certainly not the first time I've realized I'm devoting excessive time to things that are not representative of who I want to be, and insufficient time to the things I really am passionate about. So, I intend on giving myself a good pep talk about this, followed by a quick kick in the ass, and then setting a daily scheduled time to get back to writing persistently and fervently. Hopefully this means there will soon be more to come.. hopefully....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

::back to basics::

I said to myself,
'Self, let's get simple. What do you want right now?'

1/ to create + contribute
2/ to rage against the dying of the light
3/ a new opportunity

'..and what do you not want?'

1/ to devalue any human
2/ to waste time
3/ to be a waste

I appreciated my honesty. I think it's good to ask simple questions when the mind is getting out of hand spinning on its axis of chaotic thought and uncertainty, and to see what your answers turn out to be..

What do you ask?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

To live only for some future goal is shallow.
It's the sides of the mountain
that sustain life, not the top.
-Robert M. Pirsig-
Saw this quote on the website of a photographer I met once whose work I really appreciate. Being that all current distress stems from my seemingly directionless future, and directionless present for that matter, it's good to keep reminding myself that the above is true; that it's on the sides of the mountain where the action happens. It's during the hike up with friends where people get closer, inside jokes are made, injuries occur, questions are asked, answers are stumbled upon..
and the top is simply where you enjoy the view together.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

New # 8: Spanish bravery

I've been craving Spanish like nobody's business lately. The kind of crave where I sigh and give a longing smile with my brows furrowed in nostalgia every time I hear someone reference Spain or travelling or learning a language. I seldom use my Spanish these days, which has inevitably resulted in loss of fluidity and comfort; I'm much more halted and insecure in my conversational ability. I have to confess though that it's not a lack of availability that is to blame for my English-only lifestyle. It's not like I live in the backwoods of Kentucky, I live literally 2 streets away from Spanish-speaking communities, but unless I step out intentionally to find the opportunity, it's incredibly easy to stay within the daily confines of English.

So, I decided it was time to do something about it. Instead of hanging on the occasional conversation at a supermarket or at work to practice this gorgeous language, I thought it was time to try something a little different. I found out there are groups that meet all over the place on the simple basis of loving and desiring the Spanish language and culture. Despite my many initial hesitations- "It's probably just a bunch of people who need friends," or "I'm too rusty to do this" or "what if it's a bunch of creeps?!" I thought I'd give it one chance. So after a lot of searching for a group that sounded authentic, I found one that appealed. The first event I attended was a Spanish tapas party, naturally. I second guessed myself a ton beforehand, because who in their right mind goes to a party where 1. they don't know a single soul, and 2. nobody is speaking their primary language?! But I resolved that it would be my new and scary thing for that day, so I went, homemade tapas in hand. I approached feeling like a little kid at a new school, trying to make new friends with enticing snacks.

Turned out to be exhilerating, truly! There's a rush I used to get in Spain when speaking with locals, trying so hard not to sound American; it's a mix of insecurity and excitement at knowing every sentence exchanged was adding to my verbal repertoire. With the margaritas and wine flowing, cheese tasting, dancing, and some of the most colorful people I've met in a while, the night brought me back to a passion I'd let fade over time.

Lessons learned:
1) If it's scary, then there's potential for something great to come of it. If you're nervous, you should probably do it. (Note: This does not apply if you're contemplating jumping off a building)
2) I know you know this, but please don't judge people before you give them a chance.
3) Don't forget, it's your responsibility to find opportunities to practice what you're passionate about; it's your job to seek out the things that make you come alive, because they won't always fall in your lap. We can't wait for thrills to be served up on a silver platter, they must be sought with wild persistence.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

-Norman Cousins-

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Bag Lady

It’s been a strange and frustrating time. I confess, in a moment of utter discouragement and anxious uncertainty, I literally typed “Where do I go in life?” into the search box, offering up my every question of life-purpose and direction to the gods of Google.

There’s been talk lately about frustration with jobs and peoples’ souls being eaten by stagnancy and dying passion. And while I resonate with this to a lesser degree, the restlessness is indeed unsettling; but I keep remembering the look on his face when he said, “Why would anyone, EVER, make themselves so vulnerable to their job that they let it eat their soul???”

I thought that was brilliant, and also difficult to reconcile for a person like me.

All my personal anxiety in this regard came to a peak on Monday. Bubbling over with frustration, I reached a new readiness for change that exceeded anything I’ve felt in the last 2 years. I woke this morning with the weight of it all pressing my chest and head into my pillow, suggesting I shouldn’t even bother getting out of bed. But I did, and decided the only thing to do was break out the strong coffee, paper bag, and a sharpie. This Paper Bag Therapy, as I have named it, is one of the most cathartic things I’ve ever done for myself. Lying on my stomach, I uncap the marker and have at it; the Sharpie didn’t have the slightest clue what was coming.

Furiously writing every scattered thought, question, idea, conundrum, obstacle and need, I categorically spelled out everything I know and do not know about what I want in life, at this point in time. It’s worth mentioning that the header reads: “PAPER BAG THERAPY, Session #2, 3 march 2010, Age 24. >>HANG ONTO THIS, I'M SURE YOU'LL GET A KICK OUT OF IT WHEN YOU'RE 50.”

So although I’m knee-deep in the murky ambition of a twenty-something, I can still appreciate the fact that this is a stage, a necessary stage of searching and exploring, and when I’m much older with much more perspective, I’ll laugh at the adorable innocence of all my current anxiety.

I was however able to identify some things I most definitely do NOT want as I move forward in life (ehem.. marketing/sales positions). Beyond that, the list of potential career interests was somewhat vague- lacking practical knowledge of professional applications or the steps to even ‘get there.’

But despite the lack of resolute clarity, I feel a bit better. I feel honest about where I’m at, mostly joyful while searching, and certain that life can still go on colorfully in the face of aimlessness and uncertainty, if you decide so.

New #7: The Finished Product

(Done at the request of a friend; centered around a theme of homelessness)

Canvas, synthetic fabric, paper, coffee, thread, spray paint, acrylic, wetfoam, clay, glue.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A question emerges:

How come writing words feels like
but art feels like judgment?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New #6: Night Ride

Rode my bike at 10:30pm to the Pasadena City Hall building. If you've never seen it, take a look at the gem we have sitting right in the middle of our city: (and don't judge me for getting the photos from google, mine from that night didn't turn out)

It was freezing cold (freezing by a San Diegan's standards, probably picnic weather for a New Yorker).. but I rode there to sketch. I'm not a good drawer I don't believe, but it felt good to circle a couple times admiring the whole of it under moonlight and florescents, a nice contrast to the morning light I typically see it in. I settled myself on the front stoop-like stairs to take it all in.. found some great lines, interesting angles, shapes and textures. Felt like I was doing research on how to appreciate something gorgeous.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

*The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer (a Native American Elder)*

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.

I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day, and if you can source your life from God's presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes!”

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn't interest me who you are, how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

[passed on to me from a friend. too good not to post]

Friday, February 12, 2010

New #5: Swimsuit Yoga

The other day I had every intention of going to the gym, but it was raining so hard I couldn't bear the thought of bundling up just to get to my car. So inside our cozy warm house from the heater running all morning, I got in my bathing suit for some reason and found my own gym alternative. There's a website that posts a new hour-long yoga workout every week that you can watch for free and follow along. I've always meant to check it out, but until my rainy day sit-in I'd never gotten around to it. But I'm glad I finally did, because swimsuit yoga on a rainy day was just the mid-week refresher I needed

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New #4: The Woods

Went to a new bar called The Woods, it's located in Hollywood a little off the beaten path, and located in a tacky strip mall between a laundromat and a mediterranean food joint. Looks supremely trashy from the outside, but inside it fosters a surprisingly unique vibe and comfortable ambiance. Wood blocks of varying grain and depth line the north wall, and the full bar is backed by a frosted lit glass pane highlighting tree branch silhouettes. Deer antler chandeliers are the cherry on top of this mountain cabin-turned hipster locale, all glazed with a subtle 70's tinge of earthy tones and lighting. Might be worth checking out sometime if you find yourself aimless in the neighborhood..

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New #3: Starting

I started a new project, for a friend to use in a thing he's doing later this month..

{Progress updates to come!}

New #2: Home of the Fry Bread

My neighbors/housemates technically (they live on the bottom unit of the house, we live on top) are an Albanian family of 3, 2 older parents and a middle aged son who moved in last year. The parents are darling, though view of them is limited to the occasional passing in the garden or front yard, as they tend to daily routine activities. They don't speak any English, although their son Maxsim does, but they never fail to wave when we cross paths.

From time to time, my roommates and I are gifted with a plate of food. It typically consists of an unidentifiable dish that Allison has deemed "fry bread-like." Maxsim also happens to be the property manager/quasi-fix it man of the home.. so so kind and exceedingly helpful, he always does what he can to help when something breaks down on us. His accent is thick and sometimes difficult to understand, but he's so genuine and conversational it's hard not to just fake it and act like you know what he's talking about..

But despite our friendly exchanges, our interaction with the family has been limited; our picture of their life has been pieced together only by the bits of information that Maxsim offers as conversational filler space between washing machine repairing and cable installing.

The other day, I locked myself out of the house. Brilliant. I had to call the landlord to let me in, but he was tied up and couldn't make it for half an hour. Maxsim came out and tried to pick the lock, but to no avail. Assuming I'd just wait for the landlord on the stoop in front of my door, I plopped down and pretended to need to make phone calls and texts. Maxsim, standing at his front door right across the foyer left it open and said, "you come in now to wait!" I replied with a cordial but empty "oh thanks!"

With no real intention to take him up on the offer, I remained sitting and fiddled with my phone. I'm sure I subconsciously assumed there would have to be too much intentional conversation and strained formal smiles if I went in and sat awkwardly with Maxsim. But when he offered a second time, I couldn't say no.

Sitting in their living room, I saw his mother peek her small face around the corner of their tiny hallway, smiling briefly and deliberately. His father was watching the Maury show, and I can't deny how intrigued I was at this elderly man who speaks not a single word of English, intently watching Maury administer paternity tests and mediate the slapping and screaming fights between women and their illegitimate "baby-daddys."

I took in the peculiar scent wafting from the kitchen, and chatted with Maxsim about, oh ya know.. the usual stuff. Like how hard it is to meet "good American woman in bar." Despite the empty moments of slightly uncomfortable silence, I learned a great deal during those 20 minutes. I saw pictures of Maxsim's new wife he 'acquired' while visiting his home country, of his young son, and of his extended family. I learned how different the basis for marriage is in Albania, and what the appropriate grounds are for forming that union.

So it was nothing big. I simply sat with my neighbor for a short while, looked through his photo albums, and chatted. But it was new for me to extend more energy than just a quick hand wave or "hello" in effort to connect. I stepped outside the ease of faking phone calls to evade social interaction (don't hate, you know you've done it before) and chose to sit with another human instead, learning some things I didn't know before.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's been far too long.. Time for a comeback (!)

All this New Year's Resolution business is funny. I used to be a mega-resolution maker with lengthy, elaborate lists of things to change or improve, ranging from superficial physicalities, to deeply-rooted character adjustments, to habit changes in daily living. Then I became anti-all of that because I just wasn’t real impressed efforts to change that were initiated solely because it was time to buy new calendars. Don't get me wrong, I'll be the first to say there are things I'd like to change about my life, and I also think the end of year/holiday season is a natural time to reflect and reassess. But I also think that if I truly desire to change, I should be pro-active regardless of convenient societal phases of 'newness.'

To reach goals, some like to establish tight parameters boxing in their behavior, keeping the path to success on the straight and narrow. But ultimately, perfect adherence to stringent rules and schedules is not necessarily life-enriching in itself, nor is it change-yielding. Like a kid in a school class- perfect attendance would matter very little if not accompanied by participation and engaging the curriculum.

It's funny because 'attendace' in the context of life would probably just refer to being physically present, simply breathing, heart beating... real inspiring huh? So while showing up for the job consistently is commendable, it won't necessarily incite growth.


So as I contemplated setting a new year's resolution for 2010, January 1st came and went with little inspiration, and I still wasn't sure if I wanted to sign up for some lofty goal. Then late-night January 5th came, my 24th birthday-eve. That night I lay on my floor, a little perplexed and mildly overwhelmed about the thought of entering what I suppose to be my ‘mid-twenties.’ Mind unclear, I naturally took out a fat marker and a disassembled Trader Joe's paper bag and I wrote, and wrote furiously. Quick blurbs of thought lightened up some deep personal analyses; the overarching theme of it all seemed to be born of some lavish desire for newness.

So I responded to the evident urge of this 24th year- I made a ‘New Life-Year’s Resolution:’


It’s just so frighteningly easy to pass through an entire day lazily, carrying on as steady as possible to accommodate comfort and ease above all. How many times have I gone from sun up to sundown without stepping once outside my daily muscle memory long enough to realize how many opportunities there were to move through time uniquely? I think most of the time we have a choice, an equal opportunity- either to slip through a moment passively, ineffectually, OR to participate in your own life affectively, and open to being affected.
So this little endeavor of mine could entail making something I've never made before- creating of any kind (because creating inherently ushers newness), trying a new recipe or restaurant, changing a habitual routine, taking part in a new activity... etc etc etc. Sounds easy enough, right? At the inception of this whole thing, I was flooded with ideas of things to try.. but as a realist I know it's difficult to label anything consistent these days. So even the smallest of tasks could present quite a challenge to keep up.

What’s most important in all this though, is that my commitment lies in trying, not in perfection.

Because I will inevitably fail some days, and the self-deprecation and discouragement that would typically ensue won’t be of any use. So when I miss a day of newness- I’ll simply acknowledge my imperfection, yet recognize I’m still worth enough to keep trying.

So New #1 for me was snowboarding @ Snow Summit with family, a huge log cabin, late night poker, junk food... Who could ask for more? And yes, my tailbone was bruised for over a week, but through all the falling I found it fun enough to want to go again :)

From here on, I'll try to check back in regularly to share my New’s, as I'll call them. I've no idea what will come of all this, maybe great things maybe not.. but I feel good about finding out..