It’s hard to describe how I feel sometimes. About a year has passed since I last posted a blog, since I left my job teaching preschool to work in an office, since I turned 27. I think of writing often. I think about the writing I did as a child. I was always telling stories about historical events that fascinated me, placing myself as a character within the midst of chaos. As a child I survived the sinking of the Titanic, trudged through the trenches of war, and even made it through a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. That part of me started early: the curiosity of someone else’s shoes. How could I understand if I wasn’t there? The only way to try was to write it.
I think about the writing I did in high school. It was morose and vague. There was poetry about dead birds, rifles, and a boy that was never good for me, because what else was I to write about as a teenage girl? And then there were the snips and snaps that started to happen; the characters that I knew too well becoming the center of each new piece. An idea that perhaps, I was not just an avid reader but also someone with a voice, whatever that voice was.
I think about the writing I did in college. An 8-page analysis of one line in Heart of Darkness that was probably entirely wrong. Stories littered with my past and present. An unfulfilled need to move, move, move. That was always clear.
I always moved. From town to town; from house to house; from person to person; from thing to thing. My roots have never quite settled in one place, yet once I’ve left that place they seem to stretch back as if grasping for mossy rocks or solid ground to hold onto them. A search for something new was always at the forefront of what I wrote, yet my words were set deeply in nostalgia.
I think about how I don’t write now. I don’t write myself out of danger, or out of love, or out of the murky past. I don’t make up names and plots to faces I already know. I don’t even write the images that flitter through my brain.
You know what I write about now? I write about apartments, and how qualified I am for a job, and my five year goals. I write that we should catch up and that things are good and miss you sometimes.
I miss me.
There’s an image I still see some days. It’s of me sitting in a desk amongst classmates, my high school English teacher with my paper in his hands. He has just finished reading and it is quiet, my cheeks are flushed and I’m terrified. And then he nods, and someone else smiles, and my paper is back on my desk and someone else stands in front of the class. My cheeks cool off and I can see clearly again, and I feel good.
I miss me.
Or maybe it’s just that I miss what I used to believe me to be. I was a girl who wrote and wrote well. I was a girl with a voice and a passion for telling stories. I wanted to tell my stories. I wanted to live my stories, like Alice falling into that rabbit hole and landing in a foreign world. I still want to live stories, but I don’t tell them anymore. Not like that.
Recently my boyfriend told me that for someone as scared as I was to share my art, myself, I sure could be judgmental about other art. I suppose it goes hand in hand. Those who can’t, teach. Those who don’t, judge. It’s a viscous, jealous cycle and I don’t know where it stops.
When I started writing tonight, it was all about tips on how to have a good day back in the office after a 3-day weekend. Your typical listicle of overly obvious things you could do to have a good day. And I was bored and sad. Who am I to tell anyone how to enjoy being at work when I just had a tediously miserable day? Why would I write something so uninteresting? I’ve been writing what I think I’m supposed to in a blog. I’m supposed to be witty and snarky and offer valuable insight to your life. But I don’t have it in me today. Today, I just want to write without trying to impress anyone. Younger me didn’t want to give you advice, she just wanted to write something a little sad, and a little sweet. Because that’s me. It’s a big part of me. And it’s the me that I miss.
So here I am, sitting on my couch, sipping a G&T and daydreaming about summer afternoons laying in the park grass in Lancaster and you were there, and you were there, and I was there. We couldn’t read this post online and it probably would have been posted to my Easyjournal which ceases to exist anymore. Thoughts my teenage self put out into the world are now lost in an endless realm of coding, bad URLs and time. But here I’ll put them back out there. I wish to be more than I have been, and I’m terrified but I feel good.
You never call. You never write. At most you’ll send me an email when you’ve decided to move forward in your relationship with someone else, which, to be perfectly honest, seems a little callous when we haven’t even had the chance to discuss where things were going between us first. I know these things happen, and people just fall out of touch, but it feels like I’m putting in all the effort and you’re just playing hard to get.
Like last week, when you called and asked me what I was looking for. I told you I wanted to experience life: explore new adventures, learn new skills, meet new friends and collaborators. You asked if I thought I could do that with you and I said yes, without a doubt, with conviction and strength and bravery. You said you would call back within 48 hours and now it’s been an entire week! Every telephone ring I look for your number on the screen. Phantom cell phone vibrations haunt me in my sleep. I can’t work, I can’t focus, I can’t stop thinking about you and the way I imagined your suit and tie and your corner office with catered Friday lunches.
All my friends tell me I shouldn’t call you; that it’s a waste of time and you’re not worth it. Or worse, that you might think I’m desperate or clingy when all I want are some answers. When can I come in to meet you? What hours will I work? Is there room in that office for me? But if I call you’ll think I’m a loser, or just incapable of following instructions, but you, you are worse. You’re a liar who never called! And maybe I shouldn’t harass you with a follow up email, but I just want to make sure everything is in order and that you’re still alive and in business. My grandfather responds faster to an email than you do. I mean, are you really qualified to make this sort of administrative decision when you clearly struggle with responding to your own correspondence?
I know a lot of people are interested in you. How could they not be? You’re successful, talented, creative, and rolling in the dough. You’ve got a lot to offer a girl like me, and that doesn’t go unnoticed. So I want you to know that I’m fully aware that you’re getting a lot of other offers to consider, and you should. I’m not going to be the girl to write you a cliche letter telling you that you are the coffee to my early mornings, the champagne to my mimosas, or the Sriracha to my breakfast burrito. I just won’t. Enough is enough. I’ve told you how I feel--in fact, I’ve told you many times within the last few weeks, within the last few years--and now it’s your turn. Good or bad. I can’t not know how you feel about me any longer.
Will you hire me? (Check yes or no)
All the best,
It’s the digital world, people. We’ve got a lot of things going on, nonstop notifications, and too many things we want to do. It’s hard to get it all done. Sometimes I just want to feel like I’m making a difference without having to do anything. Fortunately, I think I’ve figured out a few ways to do just this.
1. Make a List:
Any kind of list: a grocery list, a to-do list, a list that describes a particular group’s characteristics, or even a list like this! (Hell, I already feel more productive.)
A lot of times I have really high ambitions for my day. The night before my day off, I’ll make a list about what I would like to get done the next day. It almost always begins with waking up around the regular hours between 7 and 8, doing some yoga while laundry runs downstairs in the basement. Next I’ll make coffee and clean while listening to a podcast or the news so that I can stay up to date and current. Then I’ll sit down and crank out some writing. Maybe I’ll write a blog post, or perhaps I’ll work on that play idea I’ve been trying to explore. I’m also going to eat a freshly tossed quinoa salad at lunch with dried green tea. I’ll probably apply for some new jobs and maybe take a walk for fresh air. By evening, I’ll be ready to work on the crafts I’ve been thinking about: learning to knit, making my own cards, sketching out new pottery ideas. Then I’ll surprise my boyfriend with a homemade vegetarian lasagna for dinner and go to bed early.
None of these things will happen, but I feel more productive after just writing it down! Lists make us think about all the things we need to do or get or be. Isn’t thinking where productivity starts?!
2. Instead of watching TV in bed, watch TV standing up:
It doesn’t matter what you’re into, the Daily Show and Scandal will both be enjoyed more if you’re being productive while watching. Don’t lay horizontally under those covers at 3 PM like a bum. Get up and watch those Shonda Rhimes dramas even closer up. If you’re standing, you can get as close to the screen as you want. I guess you could do squats or something while you’re watching, too, but that’s only for the most ambitious of you.
3. Refresh your Facebook newsfeed:
I know, I know! Sometimes you’re looking at your Facebook and you’re scrolling down and you’re like, “Ugh, I’ve already seen this picture!” Or maybe you’ve already commented and liked all the status updates that you relate to. Now what will you do? Just press that little arrow that’s so close to making a complete circle and voila! There’s sure to be at least one or two new pictures to be jealous of or rants to vehemently argue with the poster about. Your next two minutes are covered.
4. Talk to people about your art:
This is the easiest, and the best, way to make other people see you as an artist. Look, anyone can make something and put it out into the world. But it takes a special kind of person to convince others just how great of an artist they are without showing any of it to anyone. Besides, the more you talk about your process and the themes behind your work, the less actual work you have to do. This is productive in more ways than one:
a. Self-promotion, AKA make a name for yourself!
b. Keep your clothes clean of paint or clay or rotten tomatoes, AKA the less laundry to do.
c. Save money, AKA the less time you spend making your art, the less money you spend on materials!
d. Feel superior to others, no AKA needed. Am I right?!
Whoa! I just made a list within a list, not to get all Inception on you, but two lists equals twice the productivity for this chick over here.
5. Use broad strokes:
If you really have to get down to the nitty gritty of making something, the bigger the better. If you’re a painter, use a bigger brush. Some people say the art is in the fine details, but I like to think it’s simply a full canvas.
6. Get back in touch with old friends:
You know what will take up a lot of your time and have no real lasting effect on your life? Sending a quick text or message to that friend you haven’t talked to in like a year or so. Most likely, you’ll get sucked into a back and forth of “how have you been’s” and “pretty good’s” and then you’ll start talking about where you’re working and where you have or haven’t vacationed and how your friend’s getting married and moving to Paris or something, and you’ll remember why you stopped talking in the first place. Another double whammy! You get to catch up but you’re also reminded that you don’t really want this person in your present life. Good thing you figured that out before doing your taxes.
7. Tag pictures:
Look. I realize that this is starting to seem a little Facebook-centric right now, but don’t forget that you can post pictures lots of places! I mean, did you tag your girlfriend in that shot of her and that burrito mid-bite that you posted on Instagram last week? The world needs to know who is eating that colossal food porn immediately! Besides, Facebook’s facial recognition feature makes tagging photos so easy that you can get this done in no time. It’s not creepy that Facebook knows my face from the millions of other users online; it’s convenient.
Daydreams are to us like pollen is to flowers. Daydreams help us realize the things we really want in life. Plus, you’re using your imagination! If imagining that John Cusack is cooking me shrimp and grits for dinner isn’t creative, then I don’t want to be creative. Get really productive by daydreaming outside: lay in the grass and stare up at the clouds, debating internally whether that one looks more like a frog or the Grand Old Duke of York.
I’m going to veer in a direction that might make some of you uncomfortable. Crying is not only a cathartic release of emotions and stress. Tears are actually a necessary part of our lives. They lubricate our eyes and help us see in addition to functioning as germ-fighting antibacterials. So weep, baby, and detox those eyeballs. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work to do: sure you could try and make yourself cry by staring into space without blinking until tears start to cloud your vision, or you could break your own leg or break up with your significant other to spur the tears, but I suggest the easy route of chopping up a really juicy onion. Your eyes, and you, need it!
Cuddling is similar to crying. Our bodies crave the touch of another. Whether it’s a person or a cat, cuddling releases endorphins in our bodies that elevate our mood and our souls. Feed the soul to feed your work. A good cuddle session is also productive because you can do it while doing other things! Cuddle while watching a show. Cuddle while watching a movie. Cuddle while watching youtube videos of people slipping on ice. You can cuddle while watching almost anything!
11. Post a review on Yelp:
Did the server at that dive bar you went to the other night give you a disingenuous smile when you cracked a joke? Maybe the fries were cut thicker than you prefer. I can’t believe they made your margarita too strong! Tell. The. World. about this injustice! Don’t leave out a single detail. Definitely tell me what you ordered and post pictures. I will never go there to get drunk because you let me know what’s up. For real, y’all. When you post a review on Yelp you’re helping me, the consumer, and you’re helping the business. Shame them for their choice in dishware and don’t you ever look back.
It’s a little late to start talking about New Year’s Resolutions. Christmas lights are packed away, vacation days seem nonexistent, and nobody’s baking anymore! If we’re going to be talking at all about the goals we set just before that last chime of 2014 struck midnight and our wobbly posture and slurred words set in, we’re probably supposed to discuss whether we’ve held up our end of the bargain. It’s January 28th. How’s that diet working out?
I wrote down some goals back at the end of December, too. Before I start preaching, I’ll even share the list with you for all judgy purposes.
Two years ago, my resolutions were just two: make your bed every day and drink the coffee at work instead of buying it out each morning. These are the only New Year’s Resolutions that I’ve ever kept. Probably because they were small. Also, because they helped me build better habits. And they’re now my new model for setting goals. In fact, I think my goal for every year, or better every day, will officially be: do things that make you happier, smarter, and better. Work for progress.
How did a few pressed sheets and Folgers coffee make me happier, though? I know I don’t have a whole lot of support when it comes to making the bed. To some it might seem frivolous, a waste of time, or the worst of all, boring. I am not your mom and I will not make you make your bed, but it is how I start each day. It’s the official, “I’m awake and not going back to sleep,” status. It’s also the comforting invitation to crawl back in at the end of a (hopefully) productive day. Drinking coffee is also a (obviously) long-running morning routine. I’ve simply changed the way I do it. On work days, if I make it to school on time, I’m rewarded with free coffee. On my days off, I’m rewarded with the luxury of not putting on a bra if I put that old French press to work. Both goals have helped me wake up and face my day while saving money. Habits for progress.
Don’t get me wrong, the goals that I listed earlier all have the ability to make my life better. But I think sometimes where I go wrong is by looking too much at the distant future and setting too many restrictions upon myself. A better me (and a better you!) takes more then a flip of a switch to achieve. I’m working on it.
First, and most importantly, I’ve rediscovered things that make me feel at the same time happy, productive, and rewarded. This month, after considering enrolling in a ceramics class for several years, I’ve started throwing on the wheel. Centering be damned; I will make you a giant mug! I’m also remembering how therapeutic working long, fast-moving hours while building with my hands can be.
Working with clay isn’t the only therapy I’ve been indulging in. There’s been more reading and less tv watching. I’m writing my own words down in my notebook rather than quotes spoken by someone more successful. It’s a bit like a renaissance of self, where I’m rediscovering some of the things that make me feel like me, the things that I’ve chosen to define myself by. And I’m finally working on them. Steps 1 and 2 of resolutions: identify what makes you feel good, then put your time into those things.
heavy heeled when walking; heavy handed when pouring a drink