Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Twenty-Something Tuesdays 1.3

"If I was twenty-five again,
I would think less and feel more. Plan less and do more. Fear less and go forth with no plan, no expectation, no rumination. Just feel."
-An Amazing Woman

This amazes me
because it is so contrary to what so many of us have been told. As soon as we've learned to think for ourselves, we are expected to do it all the time. And in that thinking, we are supposed to prepare ourselves for the road ahead and err on the side of caution. Rationalize. Organize. Prioritize. If the answer for doing something was simply, "because I feel like it" it was assumed that person was being irresponsible or fresh (or both).

But so much good can come from abandoning those precepts - art for one. I've heard on more than one occasion that it is through suffering that the purest artist comes forth. Now, I'm not about to cosign that one go through her life miserable to make great art (though to each her own). Yet, imagine if we did not even indulge that anguish or any feeling at all? If we did not permit ourselves to feel whimsy, there might be no fiction. Without pain -- no great tragedies, and perhaps considerably fewer comedies. Without sarcasm -- no theater of the absurd (and no Woody Allen, for that matter). And that's only a slice of the literary and dramatic arts. How many great works would be lost to us, if artists were afraid of how their work would be perceived or judged? Furthermore, inspiration is nothing if not spontaneous creativity. That Muse everybody talks about? She's real, and in my experience she never comes when I sit around thinking about her.

Now, there is a time and place for everything. Thought, planning and fear exist, so they must be here for a reason. I'm not suggesting we throw caution to the wind with no regard for the repercussions of our actions (even if we can use the excuse of being young and foolish), but we cannot be immobilized by our right brains. We can learn a lot from Hamlet, who thought himself into inaction, though intensely passionate he was. Leave a little room for thinking, planning and fear but only an under-the-seat or overhead compartment's worth. If it's more than will fit in there, then check them at the door and quickly, lest life takes off without us.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Twenty-Something Tuesday 1.2

"If I had known at 25 that I'd still be working at age 60,
then I would have realized that my job was really the beginning of a career and would have been more purposeful in my choices."

-An Amazing Woman

This piece of advice resonates with me because I am not a big believer in "the meantime" Does this mean that every single moment of every single day has to be optimized for the sole purpose of one day ruling the world (or at least in one's industry)? No. But living life in a lull or in constant anticipation of a dream we are not actually pursuing is an exercise in futility. We all know, or will soon learn, that coming right out of school and landing your dream position is usually the stuff of fairy tales, right up there with charming princes and talking donkeys (but we do get our share of poisoned apples, how curious). Even within this advice I see some additional, implied gems: 1) have purpose 2) be conscious of time 3) be open.

Purpose is a big pill to swallow, and as 20somethings I don't think we should be especially hard-pressed to know what our purpose is right this instant. But knowing one's purpose probably helps decision-making to be way easier down the line. Some of us are blessed to know very early in life what our purpose, our calling, is (well la-dee-dah). If that's not you, cause it sure ain't me, be cool; this decade is about exploration too, so I've been told. Trying different things is great, and there's probably nothing so satisfying as finding your niche. However, I think approaching purpose as the themes of one's life makes it a little less daunting (of course I also love literature and the study of it, so perhaps this just sounds good to me).

When people began asking (more frequently, that is) during my last year of undergrad, "So what do you want to do?" The best, most nailed down answer I could muster was, "I want to write and travel and get paid to do it." I may have said perform as well; I don't remember exactly. Now that isn't as big as, say, wanting to perform the first open heart surgery in space, but those were my themes. Those are still my themes. While the traveling component of that equation is still, mostly, a self-sponsored hobby, 2 out of 3 ain't bad. And I still have time to work toward my Anthony Bourdain status.

Time-consciousness is something I still struggle with because I spend so much time in my head that when I come out, I've missed dinner -- or the boat, depending. I like speeding up & slowing down, savoring the moment & time that flies; I like to be organized, but not necessarily having a schedule. So, I guess the best way to be conscious of time, for me, is to remember that it is my greatest resource. Do I make the most of every day? Do I get enough sleep? Do I take time for myself (yes, every day)? Do I take time for God (yes, every day)? While time is not a renewable resource, it is a refreshable one, so how good I feel when I wake in the morning may foreshadow how satisfied I feel when I go to bed at night.

Being open is the greatest thing. It provides opportunities and experiences that we may completely miss if we stay too focused -- if we're wound too tight. It sounds a little airy-fairy and granola, but it means a lot of things: being willing to try new things, go to unfamiliar places, engage people who are a different Myers-Briggs type. ;+) Accept that there is more than one path to your purpose, and that a journey you never intended may still be one that you need to take. This is important for 20somethings who have preconceived notions in mind about where to live, what job to have, what someone their age should be doing, etc. Casting a wider net means a greater chance of picking up trash, it's true, but it can also mean snagging that prize-winner that would've been just outside of your reach otherwise.

**This sounds way too advice column-y. My apologies. I pretty much just write what the piece of advice brings to my mind. The truth is in the words of the women who've lived it. The rest is just my own speculation.**

**All pics courtesy of the internets.**

Saturday, June 14, 2008

this old house...

So the homeowner honeymoon is over. "Charm" and "character" and "architectural detail" are all well and good, but there's still work to be done. Operation hardwood redux has come to a successful close (mostly). We still have to put new trim on, but the downstairs floors have gone from this:

to this:

Not too shabby. Homeboy & I are happy with the finished product, but now it has jump-started a half dozen other renovation projects. Since I cannot talk about more than one home improvement project at a time for fear that my head will explode, let's start with something (that should be) simple - painting.

Ah, yes. The easy interior face-lift. We opted for a mustard yellow in the living room (and by "we" I mean "I" because this whole design thing is not Homeboy's bag; he'll humor me but that's about it). When we first applied the color to the walls, I had an uncontrollable urge for Nathan's hot dogs, but once the furniture came back into the room, I felt much better about the choice.

So now that the living room is empty again (thanks to the refinishing project), we can tackle the painting once more. Now the question is the trim and fireplace. Keep it light, or go darker? I'm keeping in mind that the LR opens into the DR, so whatever trim color I chose has to complement the palettes of both rooms. Here's the color scheme in the LR:

(above pics: 1) LR with furniture in it 2) curtain closeup -- both stripes and floral pattern are in the room 3) microfiber dark brown additional seating - dusty chocolate brown)

Here's what we have in the DR so far:

(pay no attention to the green & white tragedy in the background.)

I know for sure that orange will be the accent color in the DR -- what shade I don't know. Other colors I'm digging for this room include cream, taupe, chocolate, powder blue or mauve (to accent the accent). My inspiration was this pot holder I picked up in a quirky little shop:

You've seen all the evidence, ladies and gentlemen. On the question of trim color, what's the verdict? So far, the jury's still out on this one...

edited (6/15) to include:  Oh yes, I am definitely painting the DR.  So I'm open for wall color suggestions as well as trim color suggestions. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

birthday booty... (as in loot!)

Alhamdulillah, I had a beautiful birthday. Hugs, smiles, cards, gifts, well-wishes -- an all around lovely day. In addition to calls, emails, ecards, text messages, shout-outs & various and sundry outpourings of love here are the spoils:

Entertainment. Courtesy of one of my lovely sisters.

Crocheted companions (yet to be named).
Courtesy of my lovely colleague and sister-friend.

The coolest little paperweight I ever saw. Courtesy of a colleague.

A beautiful scarf. Courtesy of my sister-friend, the actor.

Many lovely cards, but we knew that was coming.

Wisdom for the ages.
Courtesy of the many amazing women I happen to know.

I am very pleased with the last item on this list because it is a gift that i initiated. (aside: And I am not very good at asking people for things; I usually get it myself or go without. But we have not because we ask not, you say? I know; dumb way to live. Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny? I know; I'm growing.) About a week or so before my birthday, I began pondering the significance (if any) of this milestone -- this quarter century. I'd found myself over the past several months reading books about and seeking out blogs written by twenty-somethings. As I talked with my peers and realized that we were having similar experiences, I decided it was time for me to stop living beyond my age & get in on the conversation. But I didn't want to come empty-handed. So I reached out to some truly amazing women in my life: family, friends, colleagues, etc., and asked the following:

I would like to create a keepsake of wonderful words to carry with me into the next quarter. So if you have the time, please complete any or all of the following & send this back to me:

If I was twenty-five again, ___________
The best thing about life in your twenties is __________
If I had known at twenty-five that _______, then __________
I wish somebody would have told me __________ when I was twenty-five

Et cetera, et cetera, some other niceties. The results of this little project have blown my mind, and I haven't even gotten all of the responses back yet. The women range from those who have recently exited their twenties (or are currently being escorted to the door) to those rounding out their third quarter. The answers are funny, poignant, hopeful and some baring a little regret. Some of these women replied straight away, while others sat with these prompts for days (some sit with them still) -- taking the time for deep introspection & a pleasant stroll down memory lane.

Though these words were given directly to me, I see fit to share the wealth. So I am hereby inaugurating Twenty-Something Tuesdays, and each week I will share an excerpt from one of the responses. I will protect the identities of these awesome women, but the wisdom -- like so much of it -- is available for the taking. I will not be posting by order of preference or anything like that; all of these words are equally important to me. I won't keep you in suspense any longer; here's the first gem:

I wish somebody would have told me
that 'love your neighbor as yourself'
can't work

when you don't even love yourself
when I was twenty-five.

*(Oh, & I joined a blog network. The nerve of me!)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

on the eve of my D.O.B.

This day feels more momentous than December 31. The day to come seems heavier than any January 1 in my recent personal history, and it is not so much the culmination of the twenty-five years behind me as it is the weight of the twenty-five before me (insha-Allah). It feels ripe with possibility and change -- full of learning and discovery. I don't even know what I have to say this evening; I just feel more compelled to write this post now rather than tomorrow.

I am much more comfortable on the verge. Perhaps that's why I like moving so much, why I like Thursdays better than Fridays, why I always want to rearrange the furniture. I like the anticipation of what's next; I crave the future. But this is not at the expense of my present. I appreciate the here&now very much; after all, it's all we ever really have.

So what do I have to say for myself? I'm not prepared to do a lengthy introspection, but I do feel a theme coming on. I've sought out birthday themes in the past, but not this time. This time it's come to me. My theme is simply what I'm feeling, and I feel on the verge. I'm anxious and excited about what's to come. I'm grateful for life and eager to fulfill my place in it.

Sometimes when I communicate with folks (email or otherwise), I ask them, "How's life treating you? How are you treating life?" I just thought it was a clever thing to say, but the latter is a question worth answering. I have been so very blessed that sometimes, well many times, I cannot figure out for the life of me what I've done so good to deserve it. Life is treating me like one of her favorites. So I'm resolved to treat her much better.

(artwork by Richard Bromley. Giclee Print. available at art.com)