Alice came to a fork in the road. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire cat. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. ”Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” - Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Recently a friend and I met someone who asked us to describe our dreams and visions for our lives. I had to go first and was pretty confused about what to say. I just talked about my major and the field of marketing and communications in the United States. I realized after I said this that my major has absolutely nothing to do with my dream for my life; there are ten things I could have said that I’m much more passionate about than communications.
Over the past month I’ve become much more anxious about what I’m going to do after graduation. I’ve been telling myself that I really don’t know. I think that’s a lie; when I’m really honest with myself I know the general direction I want my career and life to take. I think that saying “I don’t know” and having a kind of “I’ll go where the wind takes me” attitude about life plans has been somewhat of a defense mechanism. If you never put yourself out there you never have to get rejected, right? I’m reading this book right now about stories, about how writing stories is just like living life. We all should be trying to make good stories out of our lives. The author writes about the process of turning one of his latest books (a New York Times bestseller) into a screenplay and his realization halfway through that he didn’t like the story that he was telling with his life.
“Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you are going to get excited about it, and when it comes time to do with work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books and it’s like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain… Perhaps one of the reasons I’ve avoided having a clear ambition is because the second you stand up and point toward a horizon, you realize how much there is to lose. It’s always been this way.” - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller
My ability to direct my ambitions anywhere but the horizon is really impressive. I can convince myself that “It’s okay, you didn’t really want that,” in almost any situation. I remember becoming so incredibly angry with myself this summer for not applying to an abroad program and telling myself over and over again that it didn’t matter, staying in California was better, it was meant to be. There comes a point though that you just have to say what you want. Had I been more honest with myself, that I really wanted to leave, I probably would have found a way to make it happen.
As I enter my senior year at UCSD I want to avoid making the same mistake. I’m going to let myself figure out what I want because unlike the Alice in Wonderland quote above, I think it really does matter. I think what we do with our lives matters a lot. A huge part of figuring out what we are supposed to be doing with our lives is figuring out what we want. That’s where having adventures and life experiences come into play—they help us figure out what we do (and especially do not) want out of life. As the author of that book suggests, there is so much to lose when we finally set our ambitions toward a goal, but it has to be better than being a passive passenger along for the ride. It’s better than deceiving ourselves into thinking that we don’t care about the results—“I didn’t really like him/her anyway,” “It’s not that great of a school anyway,” “I could never work 9-5:00 anyway.” What if we just said we want something, and then when we fail instead of just denying ever having wanted it in the first place, we try pursuing it again?
That hasn’t been my strategy with really anything in my life. I went to San Diego by default, ended up at CBU by chance, and am currently back at UCSD in the process of finding a career by throwing darts into the dark. Now as I consider law school I’m worried I’ll back away from it as easily as I did from so many other things. As a Christian and someone who believes that God has a plan already designed for my life, there is a huge temptation to slip into thinking that I don’t have to make any decisions. What a boring life that would be. I don’t think God made us like that. I like to think He created us and wants to see us create amazing stories with our lives.
There are so many things in life that we will never know or understand for sure. The expression “I don’t know” is a personal favorite. But not knowing how the greater mysteries of life work doesn’t mean I get to ignore what I want, or worse yet, never let myself figure out what I want.
“I’m not going to take it back and I’m not going to say I don’t mean that. You’re the target that I’m aiming at and I’ll get that message home.” A Message, Coldplay
I remember hearing, sometime during my freshman year of high school, a guy describe that moment during a really good song when the buildup of all the verses finally climaxes into the chorus as a “mental orgasm.” When you’re 13 and someone says the word orgasm you remember it for a while.
Last week I was listening to some Macklemore tracks while driving up the 5 on my way to L.A. and found myself in a complete trance. I don’t know what it is about music but I absolutely believe that it is medicine for the soul. Everyone knows that moment when a song that you once listened to on repeat during some season of your life comes on the radio or your iPod and suddenly you’re 16 again and back with your high school sweetheart. Or committing some kind of misdemeanor with your best friend. Or you’re once again 7 years old and covered in sand and Coppertone, driving home from the beach with your dad in his Bronco that’s older than time itself (this never happened in my childhood, but I like to fantasize).
New music gets you thinking and old music makes you remember, but both are absolutely cathartic.
I have a secret obsession with ancient Greek philosophy. Plato taught on anamnesis—the idea that the only eternal truths are the ones that are innate to man. In order for something to be considered knowledge, the human soul must have understood it for all of eternity. Everything else that is learned during life, either through experience or instruction, is just belief. According to ancient Greek thought, a human can experience anamnesis under certain conditions of extreme catharsis (purification) such as sex, crisis, or even music. Anamnesis describes remembrance, a return to the blissful state of eternal truth—a return to the basic truths of whatever exists before we are born and exists after we die. The Greeks believed that music can provoke this powerful state of remembrance, and I fully agree. For that moment during the chorus of a song, everything else disappears around us because our souls are experiencing a state of utter peace.
Listening to rap can be considered a spiritual experience after all.
There are girls in college who, no matter how much they have to drink, can walk into a frat party, say hi to everyone they know, have a few casual conversations, instagram some pictures, and then do whatever they’re going to do for the rest of the night. There are girls in college who walk into a frat and immediately get their heads caught in ceiling fans while trying to sit on the top bunk of a bed. Sober. I’m sadly more like the latter. Actually, sadly I am the latter.
I’ve given up on trying to be cool. It’s never going to happen. The ceiling fan thing was a low point but I have to admit that I live my day-to-day life operating in that general range of uncoolness.
College is full of really, really cool people so I’ve honed techniques for seeking out other people who function on my level of social dysfunction. One of my best friends recently walked into a party, ripped the ipod out of the audio system and proceeded to clear out the room as she yelled, “I WANT TO HEAR MIIKE SNOW” while trying to figure out how to plug her iphone into the stereo. It only took her about five minutes but five minutes of silence is really all it takes to kill a thriving frat party. If I hadn’t already been friends with this girl I would have immediately put her on my team.
I think being a walking pillar of social awkwardness is probably about 75% my fault and 25% the fact that I just attract other weird people. Together we leave the realm of “quirky” and enter the realm of “I’m embarrassed for you.” It’s fine though. It makes for good stories. I guess?
Until recently, I’ve romanticized the idea of taking a year off after college to travel the world and “find myself.” Senior year of college has forced me to sit back and look at what I’ve done these past three years of my life and evaluate how those experiences can be used to find a future career. This self-evaluation has brought me to a very liberating conclusion: there is no predestined, evolved version of myself running around somewhere out in this world that needs to be “found.” My self is what I’ve been creating these past 21 years of life. I don’t need a sign from God or fate or destiny about what I’m supposed to do with my future, because my future doesn’t yet exist; I have to create it.
I used to find comfort in the idea that we didn’t have control of the events that took place in our lives, that although it appeared as if life required choices, fate already had our ultimate journeys determined. This past year has forced me to struggle through these thoughts and has actually made me (even more) insane at times. I abandoned that ideology and took achieving my goals into my own hands when I grew tired of constantly feeling like a victim of my circumstances. I have not lost faith that there is a greater power in the universe, I’ve just realized that sitting around feeling as if “this is good enough because it’s where life/God/destiny has brought me” has allowed me to wallow in mediocrity and semi-contentment while I could be falling in love with new experiences, places and people on the road to accomplishing the dreams that I used to scoff at others for dreaming.
I’ve made a point to shed my victim ideology in other areas of my life too. It’s just as useful to evaluate the past in this light, as it is the future. Things didn’t happen to me. I did them. Whenever I catch myself thinking “I hate the way this has turned out,” I make a point to ask myself if I have done everything possible to fix the situation. I’m trying to avoid blaming hard situations on strings of crazy circumstances. No situation seems beyond repair.
This is liberating. Free will is God’s best gift to creation. I don’t have to sit around trying to figure out if I’m “supposed to” go to law school or find a job in marketing; I get to decide and then make it happen. Time to continue creating my self.
I believe that it’s important to be the kind of person that you’d like to meet.
I believe that it’s important to spend some time outside everyday.
I believe that it’s important to protect and preserve purity, because “the pure in heart shall see God.”
I believe that it’s important to see the beauty not only in every person, but even in yourself.
I believe that it’s important to count your blessings.
I believe that it’s important to feed your soul with the words of God that are found in the Bible.
I believe that it’s important to fall down sometimes, because it grows you and keeps your pride in check, serving as a great reminder of the fact that we need to depend on God rather than on ourselves.
I believe that it’s important to love those who are the hardest to love.
I believe that it’s important to stand strong even if it means standing on your own.
I believe that it’s important to respect yourself, because then others will learn to respect you, and out of that, people will learn to grow a deeper respect for each other.
I believe that it’s important to sometimes take a random day off.
I believe that it’s important to live each day knowing that tomorrow isn’t promised to you.
I believe that it’s important to free yourself from the standards of beauty that society places everywhere.
I believe that “dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show that you’re a lady”, because modesty is classy and classy is sexy.
I believe that women like Megan Fox and Kim Kardashian will never have anything on the timeless beauty of women like Audrey Hepburn and Debbie Reynolds.
I believe in forgiving Megan Fox and Kim Kardashian.
I believe that prayer is powerful.
I believe that miracles are real.
I believe that even children have the ability to love.
I believe that it’s important to stay optimistic even when others are giving off the most negative vibes.
I believe that it’s important to know that no one should ever be deceived into thinking that someone has a perfect life and a perfect everything based on what they put on their blog or on their Facebook.
I believe that it’s important to do the things that scare you most.
I believe in wearing short dresses with chucks, and long dresses with no shoes at all.
I believe in dreams and I believe that God gives us certain ones for certain purposes.
I believe in wearing colorful clothes even if it’s a cloudy, dismal day.
I believe in staying positive even if things don’t go your way.
I believe that it’s important to find your security in Jesus Christ, not in physical appearances and material things.
I believe that it’s important to “appreciate what you have, before time makes you appreciate what you had.”
I believe that you should never stop reading books.
I believe that every single decision and every single path we choose to take can be totally life changing, because today I was just thinking about some of the little decisions I’ve made in the past and how they have actually brought me exactly to where I am today (like choosing to cover someone’s shift on the day of Sun God 2011, which is how I met a certain someone who led me to Origins). And that’s all Abba.
I believe that the things in life that are worth it should never come easy.
I believe that it’s important to move snails to the side whenever you see them in the middle of the sidewalk.
I believe that it’s important to listen to the stories of people who are older than you.
I believe in occasionally pigging out on vanilla ice cream.
and I believe that it’s important to extend smiles and hellos to strangers, because you just never know.
Confabulation is a term used in psychology to describe a lapse or mistake in an individual’s memory. These little “slips” allow us to tell complete lies while simultaneously remaining under the impression that we are telling the truth; a synonymous phrase for this would be “honest lying.” For example, you might have made an unprotected left-hand turn into an oncoming stream of cars and thought afterward, “There were no cars coming!” No, you idiot, you totaled your car. Obviously there were cars… for the one millionth time, sorry Mom and Dad. Left hand turns are not my thing.
Confabulation usually occurs as a result of traumatic events or serious mental illness, but part of me wonders if our brains are capable of subtly building deceptive thought processes in order to help us make decisions and cope with decisions we’ve already made.
Last week I had a Legal History midterm. I spent about 5 minutes reading the book and then left the library to walk to the bookstore because I had convinced myself that the reason I couldn’t focus was because I didn’t have a highlighter. Once I got there I realized that colorful flashcards would be more effective than white ones, that I hadn’t used erasable pens in years, that I needed one of those metal paper tray things for my desk, that I should buy some new UCSD paraphernalia and that a couple more candles for my room would make it a much more effective study environment.
I lied myself right into not studying at all. As it turns out, having flashcards that look like Mentos does not help you learn cases. Studying the cases helps you learn cases.
I am now extremely curious about and afraid of how many times I’ve lied to myself. Painting your nails will not help you decide what to do about that sticky social situation. Owning new shoes will not make you feel better about the fact that you still haven’t chosen where to live after finals.
Psychology now shows that the human brain has an incredible ability to synthesize happiness. That means that even if we make a choice that might not have resulted in the maximum amount of happiness (i.e. the wrong choice), our brain is able to deceive us into thinking that it was the right choice for any number of reasons (“the timing was off,” “everything happens for a reason,” “I had to get that out of my system”). This synthetic sense of comfort helps us cope with life.
Pretty strange to think about, eh?
Planning a birthday party at a venue that needs weeks of advance notice can be a frustrating experience, especially if you’re obsessed with reading yuppie soccer mom professional party planner blogs (me), and your friends are a bunch of indecisive, flakey college students (everyone else—wait, they’re the normal ones?). Here’s what they really mean…
60% of the time this is the female way of saying, “Probably not.” 20% of the time we actually mean, “I might consider it if you get enough of my friends on board, if you literally beg me and if you send me an invitation on a silk pillow carried to my apartment by pigeons.” The remaining 20% of the time we’re saying, “Yes, obviously I want to do that but I don’t want to seem over eager so I’m establishing an element of uncertainty.”
This is the male way of saying either: “Yeah I’ll do it as long as it in no way inconveniences me,” or “Yes I want to appear as if I want to hang out with you because I don’t want you to dislike me, but at the same time if the opportunity of doing something better presents itself, I’m going to take it.”
And other backhanded texts translated:
“How are you feeling this morning?”
This means: “Last night you were so obliterated that I literally dragged your body cross-campus while you sang Disney songs and tried to get me to give you a piggy back ride. You probably should’ve stopped at 6 beers but I’m glad you enjoyed your 12th. If you ever drink that much again I’m publicly disowning you.”
This is effective when sent to guys. Girls should be texted something along the lines of “Hey girl last night was insane. You getting that drunk was in no way your fault…obviously. Are you okay? Do you need anything??”
One of my guy friends got the above text message from his girlfriend after he sent her a text explaining why he would have to cancel on dinner plans and he asked me if I thought she was angry. My response was, “Yup.” A one-word text followed by a period? Kiss of death.
“Wheerrrr R yoiiu ? lm; !!!”
“Hi, I’m in PB.”
Every once in a while life gives you five perfect minutes. It’s as if every five-second instance of deciding to take your walls down, to enjoy the moment, to give into that feeling that no one since the beginning of time has been able to describe—you know the one… It’s as if all these little moments have accumulated and advocated for life to throw us a bone. For five minutes the world decides to silence the worries about the future that pound at our foreheads and make us loose sleep at night, as well as the very deep regrets that we seldom acknowledge, the ones that we hide in the back of our minds and try to pretend we’ve justified and come to terms with. For five minutes that abstract concept of happiness becomes tangible. We’re swallowed up in it.
The best part of these five minutes is that they don’t come when everything in our lives is in order and perfect. They don’t come when outside circumstances provide us with no reason not to be happy. I find comfort in the fact that these five minutes have come to me at times of confusion and darkness. It’s as if life is saying, “I see you over there trying to work it out, and you’re doing something right.” I wish that I could capture all the happiness that those 5 minutes bring give it to my loved ones who are going through hard times. I wish I could bottle it up somehow and leave it on their doorstep… but I can’t. That’s the other thing about the 5 minutes—you can’t describe them and you can’t share them. Everyone gets their own 5 minutes and our only responsibility is to give in and live.
Irvine is about a 4-hour trip from San Diego for a car-less, cheapskate student like me. This means that every year when quarter breaks roll around I have 4 hours to process everything that happened over the course of the quarter and think about all the things I had avoided thinking about since August/December/etc… cool. Two things I realized on my trip home for Easter: 1) If you miss your transfer by 15 seconds, you can count on being at the station for 1.5 more hours, and 2) Despite what I may have thought for the past four months, I’m actually really absurdly awful at being vulnerable with people.
The thing that’s tricky is, you can write a blog all about your feelings and you can talk to all your close friends about all your deepest thoughts (if you’re a girl—cause I have absolutely no idea how guys communicate with each other), but at the end of the day, we know when we’re lying to ourselves. Then that moment comes on some barren part of the I-5 when you think to yourself, “Why am I constantly trying to prove how cool I am to other people who are also just trying to prove how cool they are to me?” This is a big mess. This is college. College is exceptionally bad in this department because everyone is trying to convince each other that they are rich, funny, talented and smart and that it all comes without effort. I sat there feeling like a huge loser for about 10 minutes and then a wave of relief set in and I thought, “I’m not cool… glad that cat is out of the bag.”
The part of this that kills me is that we dismiss a lot of our own insecurities as having game or playing hard to get. At some point either in the later years of high school or the early years of college we begin to think of ourselves as some kind of individual commodity on the collaborative social economic market. What I mean is, we subconsciously learn the economic rule of scarcity and begin to think that if we make ourselves less available and accessible, people will like us more. As supply decreases demand increases.
Here’s the thing: we’re not commodities. We’re humans.
Will he really think you’re not as cool if you text him back right away? Will people really think you just “have a lot of social obligations” if you get to the party 45 minutes late? Are you really refusing to hit the “attending” button on the facebook event because you want to wait for the best offer? … As if your social life is some kind of stock on Wall Street.
Why do we do these things?
Because we are constantly constructing walls through slight social behaviors that we have subconsciously decided will protect us from emotional harm. At the very core of every human is the desire for unconditional love; that’s simple. What makes life and relationships so difficult is that with any given action we are simultaneously trying to find love and not get hurt. Self-preservation. It’s a basic human instinct. No one wakes up and thinks, “I’m going to be vulnerable today and potentially get my heart ripped to shreds.” We have to force ourselves to be vulnerable and sometimes it is a long and painful process.
If a guy really loses interest in you because you texted him back within 10 minutes then you really don’t need him around. Texting and girl/boy relationships are only two small examples but apply it to the bigger stuff. I am just now beginning to realize that these deep insecurities explain so many issues that affect human relationships: commination, flakiness, putting things off, passive aggression (a biggie) and commitment. Are you afraid of commitment because you’re afraid to admit to yourself how much you want something? It might not work out. Vulnerability would say that that’s just fear of getting hurt.
Playing games and playing hard-to-get does not ultimately attract the kinds of people we want in our lives anyway. We want friends who are stoked to know that we don’t have plans for this Friday night. If we are truly being vulnerable we won’t be attracted to people who are emotionally unavailable. Take all the little weird social norms you’ve learned in college… all the tactics you’ve learned to try and get people to think you’re desirable… now picture breaking all of those rules. We want people in our lives who will still be there even after we break the rules. The people who love us unconditionally are the people who have seen us at our worst and still like us. That’s the best feeling in the world.
I’m learning to cut to the chase. Vulnerability = good. Games = bad.
Last week I helped a friend move into her new apartment. Kind of. We promised ourselves after we did a lot of work we would take a break to get lunch somewhere. We hung a mirror. It took a while because a) we’re girls b) symmetry isn’t my thing c) both of us have tiny little T-Rex arms and the mirror was made out of lead or something. Then we both got super emotional and tired and drove to downtown La Jolla going 15 mph in a 35 zone, during which time we talked about how much college sucked, how hard our lives were and WHY IS EVERYTHING SO COMPLICATED. Then we got lunch, took a nap, and were both totally fine. That was the day I realized that we’re just adult versions of our 4-year-old selves.
A snack and a nap completely changed our outlook on life.
Today I got home from class and was actually ravenous. I practically crawled from the shuttle stop to my apartment—only to remember that I didn’t feel like going grocery shopping yesterday. I was winning in the “how long can you go without grocery shopping” game but losing miserably at life. I texted three people to see if anyone wanted to grab food, waited 30 seconds to hear back from any of them (didn’t), and then shamefully tore into the canned food that my mom sent “in case of earthquake.” Rest at ease, everyone, in case there is an earthquake in S.D. that is so bad the power lines go down and I can’t get out of my apartment to get to the grocery store, I will at least have some canned peaches to tide me over. Actually I won’t because I just ate them. Then I ate some frozen thing that I brought over spring break. Then I found a Costco size tube of roasted almonds that my roommate bought and hasn’t touched since January and I ate some of those too. Then I found the last string cheese, grabbed it and barely made it to my bed before passing out in a pseudo-coma for an hour.
Now I’m totally fine. I actually just worked on my resumé and wrote a couple cover letters. Turns out it was just a 30 minute case of classic 4-year-old syndrome.
I sat down to write today thinking that I would do a clever piece about how I have been sleeping in a bed with no sheets on it for a week, but after hitting the ‘delete’ button on my keyboard about 1,000 times I’ve finally resolved that I am not in a funny mood and I should just write about what’s been on my mind… since I have not been able to get it to shut up for a week now, and I would like to sleep well tonight.
To cut to the chase, I’m terrified that I’m going to get distracted by the radio and miss the exit on the freeway that leads me to the thing that I was put on this earth to do. My soul and spirit have been burning up inside me for so long, a burning to do something important and specific, but I still have yet to find that one specific thing. I’m beginning to worry because I’m watching other people figure their “thing” out and live it, and I’m still frantically trying to discover what I’m good at and what I want. I want to help people by making them think, but I don’t know how or through what medium I’m planning to do that. I want to tell peoples’ stories but I don’t know when and where I will find these people. I want to stretch every creative fiber in my brain to their breaking points but I still haven’t even found the outlet to force the stretch.
I’m also terrified that after missing that exit on the freeway my GPS will re-route me to some other place that is good and safe but not great. I’m worried that I will end up being a good person and live a happy life, all the while missing out on the best. Mediocrity has always been my biggest villain. After every decision I make I wonder, “I know everything will work out, but is this the best I can do?”
This year I’ve found that one of the best ways to get all these worries to temporarily disappear is to party. When you’re drunk and trying to get a guy to think you’re cool, you’re not too concerned with fulfilling your potential, you’re concerned with fulfilling momentary desires. I had a wake up call this weekend when I got upset after a guy gave me a hard time about not partying enough. Why in the world would I get upset about this? I have things to accomplish in life and none of them have to do with blacking out in a frat. I think there is a time and a place for partying (college), and I think that partying is an essential part of a lot of peoples’ journeys (hello Steve Jobs) but I think for me it can easily become a cop-out of dealing with feelings and having meaningful conversations with people, feelings and conversations that will help me grow as person and push me one step closer to achieving that “thing” and finding those people whom I was put on this earth to help.
I love the excerpt below and I think it describes my current season of life perfectly—dealing with a lot of vertigo.
“Anyone whose goal is “something higher” must expect some day to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? Then why do we feel it even when the observation tower comes equipped with a sturdy handrail? No, vertigo is something other than the fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.” - Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
I recently got a LinkedIn account, not because I want to use it to actually find a job or an internship but because it’s getting increasingly awkward to go to my career advisement appointments with zero hard evidence that I have any concern for my future… and because the last time I went in there and said, “Not really looking for a job, I’m just in Rady classes to marry an MBA and lounge around a pool all day,” my advisor didn’t laugh. People need to learn to appreciate sarcasm. Plus, I’m currently writing this post while laying out poolside in La Jolla, so obviously I don’t need marriage or college to reach my fullest potential.
People always have to ask what you want to do after college and I get it, the whole point of going to college is to hone your skills and eventually find a career. Until a couple months ago I had the benefit of being an underclassman with general education to take care of, frat parties to attend and the real world a vague two years off. Now that my second half of college is quickly dwindling away, I feel a little bit more of a pinch to find my “calling.” As I stand in line for the Arriba shuttle every day I like to brainstorm potential career options; so far my best idea has been to adopt puppies from the shelter and then sell them for profit. After doing some research, it turns out that shelters have started charging ridiculous amounts for dogs and make you go through background checks before you can adopt. Damn liberals. I guess puppy flipping (as I planned on calling it) might not be my calling. On to the next thing…
After spending about 5 minutes on LinkedIn I realized that I have no skill set. I have zero skills. I have three “contacts” on Linkedin and by “contacts” I mean people who I am friends with who I have added. Strange, but none of them have sent me little messages saying they see potential in me or that they think I’m the next Steve Jobs. I don’t get it. What I do get is that LinkedIn is a great big lie. Professional networking site? You’re not fooling me. This is a dating site for the resourceful gold-digger. You want to know every single place someone has ever worked and see a picture? Hey LinkedIn, why don’t you also ask for members’ tax returns and country club preferences. Good Lord.
My question is: when do I get skillz?