When people reflect on their lives, they often hop from one big moment to the next. Moving out of their childhood home segues nicely into the first day of high school followed, thereafter, by accepting their admissions letter to college.
Few people like to talk about scanning emails, picking up groceries or the monotonous walk to and from work each morning...unless, of course, it involves a surprise alien invasion.
I woke up this morning not wanting to touch a thing on my list.
We just got back from a long weekend in Michigan and the last thing on my mind was falling back into routine. I skipped my morning yoga class, shortened my meditation practice and am writing this very post wondering when it will all be over so that I can go back to doing nothing.
Because as much as I've felt inspired these past few months, my creativity gene is spent. I'd love nothing more than a mindless job that allows me to go through motions and clock out by 5.
I told myself at 16 that if I didn't write and publish my first novel by 20, I'd give it up and devote myself to a serious career, something that required a briefcase and business suit. When I was 20, I told myself that if I didn't write and publish my first novel by 25, I'd give it up and devote myself to a serious career, you know one that helped me do real adult things like pay my bills on time and treat people to meals. When I turned 25, I cried. Then I told myself if I didn't write and publish my first book by 30, I'd finally settle down and accept writing as a hobby. Oh and get a serious career, of course.
I'm 26. I still haven't finished a novel, but I'm the closest I've ever been to a first draft. I guess it only took 10 years.
The closer I get to 30, the more I've tried to grant myself the patience to reassess, retrace and begin again.
I used to hate change. The whole process was all too visceral for my taste. That itching feeling that crawls from the pit of your stomach all the way up your spine. It leaves your throat dry and your heart pounding. The very moment when where you are simply won't do, the harsh reminder that all comfort is temporary.
I've encountered it in relationships, in my career. It's put me on to and subsequently taken me off of countless diets and life projects. It inspired my brief obsession with Feng Shui and, at one point, convinced me that I might have a real shot at becoming the next Martha Stewart (well, minus that one mishap of course). Don't worry, Martha, I've got a ways to go.
It's led me to jump to conclusions as many times as it's pointed me in the direction of unparalleled clarity.
When I think back on my childhood, there were several pieces of advice that every adult in my life seemed eager to pass down:
1) Always tell the truth.
2) Hard work pays off.
3) Never Quit.
They often elaborated on the third: "We're not the kind of people who quit" or "Quitters never get anywhere."
It was always possible to rectify a lie with the truth. To push ourselves to work harder after resting periods. But quitting cut deeper. It didn't only speak to failed logic or less than stellar actions; it reflected a person's character. And worst of all, it was final. "Once a quitter always a quitter."
There's a myth going around in the creative community. That if you don't show up every single day with something incredible, the world is never going to forgive you, or worse, they're going to forget you.
With social media, blogging and a little something called product development, there's no shortage of things to show up for. But when it comes to showing up for the sake of showing up, is there really that big of a difference between showing up half baked, soul sucked and resentful & not showing up at all?
As a full time brand strategist in my past life and a part time one in my make-ends-meet life, I'm often asked by fellow creatives who it is that I'm actually talking to; who this blog is for.
Well as most writers will tell you, first, it's for me. I write to make sense of the world. Anything live? I'm mush. My thoughts come out naturally as gibberish. Seeing them on a page helps me mix and match them until they come together in something resembling a sentence. Sometimes they're worth reading. Sometimes they're not. I do my best to save you the good stuff.
Which brings me to my next point. Second, of course, this space is for you. Yes, you. It's for the commuters, the early risers, the skimmers, the curious, the confused and the deep thinkers. Who ever you are, wherever you are, if a story strikes you...it belongs to you.
I'd like to consider myself a fairly productive person. I wake up each morning, meditate for at least 30 minutes (okay, most days 10 but it feels like 30), force myself to participate in one athletic activity, and then plant myself in a coffee shop to write. This process saves me an immense amount of time.
But on days like this morning, where one factor shifts like Matthew coming home early from the gym, my yoga studio's schedule changing or attempting to get into the Fall spirit by planning to bake an impromptu cake, all hell breaks loose.
Unplanned time is not my friend. Rather than using the extra time to gain a head start or embracing the joy of adding a new twist to our daily routine, I almost inevitably reach for my phone and get lost in a sea of options.
When I was growing up, I always thought I'd be a performer. I joined every singing group I could, participated in countless plays & musicals, even became a member of an all women's a cappella group in college.
As the rise of audition based reality shows like American Idol and The Voice started to take shape, I was asked on countless occasions when I'd finally make the trek to go and audition, myself. I imagined the song I'd sing, alternating routinely between Landslide and Someone Like You. I always figured I'd have better luck with a sad song, that way could mask the awkward break in my voice around high C. It felt real. And, yet, it remained on my list of to-do's for years, untouched.
It was the craziest thing I'd ever done. Stomach full of cheap booze, my conscientious best friend carrying a towel close behind. I streaked through my college campus in nothing but cowboy boots the night Mayans predicted the world was going to end.
I spent most of the experience running away from campus police with an snow scraped bum, picking ice salt out of places I never could have imagined, my body jiggling in ways I never thought it could.
The truth is, that most things aren't as amazing as we think they're going to be. Even with a little liquid courage on our side, weddings have hiccups, dream clients have bad days, campus police are in surprisingly good shape.
Fear is a fickle pain in the ass if ever there was one. She's not dependable, rarely sticks to facts and is as quick to interject herself into a conversation as she is to throw her hands up in the air and walk away from one. As if to say, "it's not my problem!"
And the sad part is, I think she really does care. She's been around since the beginning of time to help us avoid nonsensical actions like sticking our hands in fire or eating spoiled food. But her efficiency ends there: with life or death.
The messy stuff in between like leaping into love, going for the dream job, finally standing up for what you believe in or, better yet, acknowledging how you really feel—it's just not her forte.
I've started over...alot. I've left many jobs. I've had to call it quits on many a side project. I've failed almost 10 times as much as I've succeeded. In fact, given my track record, I'm probably be better off just finding a halfway decent gig, sitting in the chair and cashing in on raises as they come.
I'd like to tell you it's been worth it. But I don't know that it all has. Some of those experiences? Yes. As for the others, you couldn't pay me enough money to repeat my mistakes a second time around.
Recently, I've felt failure more than I'd like to admit. I went from a stable corporate job to relying almost solely on my partner, in pursuit of becoming a writer. I've asked myself on more than one occasion why I made the choice that I did. Endlessly contemplating when regret ends and the payoff begins.
It's what we're told when things go wrong—when jobs suck and break ups take longer to heal than the world thinks they should. It's what doting parent's say to angsty teens who can't get past their best friend's betrayal. They are the words of wisdom we use to mindlessly console others whose problems seem to be raining on our own happy parades.
In theory, yes, happiness is a choice. You can't be happy if you're unable to identify, and therefore seek out, what makes you happy. But the phrase, in and of itself, implies that by choosing happiness, the problems currently taking up space in our lives will magically disappear. That happiness, is as simple as putting on a pair of pants—either you've got your crotch in a seam or you don't.
Today wasn't an exceptionally bad day. It wasn't extraordinary either. I was particularly sluggish getting out of bed this morning and, among other things, made the mistake of buying old pork...yea it smells as bad as you might think. To top it all off, it's 90 degrees on a September afternoon. And unlike many of my peers, my capacity for dealing with heat is synonymous with that of an overweight English Bulldog. With the pork kaput and already severely dehydrated, I still had a visit to the local farmer's market on my list and a dinner to remake.
It could have been better. It also could have been worse.
I had a yoga instructor who once opened the practice with these words of wisdom: "Whatever you are experiencing right now is preparing you for exactly what you asked for."
Admittedly, in the moment, I found it trite. Yea right. I asked for no job security and the most stubborn muffin top known to man.
As a creative, I have ideas all of the time. Some of them spark conversations, some of them are better suited for my imagination, and the rarest (but arguably most important) of them all are worth acting on.
As a kid and even well into my college years, I used to imagine every single idea as a gift. In many ways they are. But just as not all gifts carry the same weight in sentimental value and meaning, I'm finding that not every idea is worth my time, resources or brain power.
The truth is that if we really acted on every single idea that came our way, frankly, we'd run out of time. Our world would be filled with half assed projects, all of which, "seemed wonderful at the beginning" but left far more destruction in their wake than opened doors.
Elbow pasta, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, spicy salami, olive oil and just a dash of garlic. It's the same pasta recipe I've been making for almost two years. We eat it at least once a week. It costs anywhere between $18.75 and $20.84 at our local grocery store (depending on our current stock of ingredients) and yields exactly two leftover lunches—one for me, one for Matthew.
It isn't fancy, but it's dependable.
Growing up, I was queen of the rom-coms. I'd spend hours in front of the television watching leading ladies like Kate Winslet and Julie Roberts get swept off of their feet by unexpected but charming suitors. These romances were filled with obstacles, dramatic arguments and passionate love scenes. In short, the parties involved were either ecstatic or miserably unhappy.
When I first left the corporate world to pursue a creative career, I felt nothing but warmth and optimism. Most people in my life sent me encouraging texts and letters. Many of them felt inspired by my journey. In return, I felt honored and filled with purpose.
I wanted to do them proud.
Now approaching the one year mark of my "never, ever going back" day, the texts have stopped. The words of encouragement are rarer and rarer. Not because everyone stopped caring, but because I am no longer an exception. My "big leap" is now just my job.