Thursday, May 10, 2007

Soy Chicken

There’s a café here at my work. Lately I’ve been trying to bring my lunches, but today I didn’t have anything. I took a look at the menu, which rotates, and was excited to see they had a vegetarian Japanese dish. They had named it Soy Chicken with Udon Noodles. Soy Chicken! The café was branching out. Yeah, so guess who ate half her meal, thinking, “Wow, this is so real tasting it’s almost creepy!” only to hit a bone and want to vomit? That would be me. What idiot names a dish Soy Chicken and makes it with real chicken? Motherfuckers. I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 15 years and haven’t once eaten meat, at least that I was aware of. I can’t get the feeling and taste out of my mouth. The smell is on my fingers. I just ate a whole bowl of strawberries trying to mask it all and nothing is working. I’m so angry. And I’m hungry because I only had half a lunch. MOTHERFUCKERS!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

A Good Day

Work continues to dominate my thoughts, which is one of the reasons I want to like my job more. I hate that my job takes away my confidence. Is it asking too much that it make me feel good about myself and what I’m capable of? I wrote a post last week about making mistakes and how much it bothers me when I can’t be perfect. Most of the time I just feel lost in my job, like there’s no way that I can do it correctly. I feel like I’m flying blind.

The difficult thing for me is distinguishing what is real from what is not, because I don’t always perceive things correctly. Last week, on the Bad Day, I was told that the Big Boss was impressed with my work. This came as a shock to me considering she usually finds an error in whatever I’m editing. So even though I feel like I suck, other people don’t see it that way. My answer to this is that they just don’t see everything that is probably wrong and therefore don’t fully realize what a crappy employee I am. I just don’t trust myself in this job.

However, there is one element of what I do that I feel okay about. Part of my job entails design work. I find it challenging and fun. More often than not people compliment me on what I do for them, and I get really excited by that. The thing is, expectations are low for what I do and it’s not high quality work, yet I like doing it. This makes me wonder if design, not editing, is what I should be doing. I really don’t think I have the artistic talent to be a designer. And the idea of going back to school is horrifying to me, as is the idea of starting a new career now. Again. But there was a brief moment last week when adrenaline was pumping through my body as I figured out a design solution to a problem that had been vexing me. The end product resulted in hugs and cheers from the people I was making it for. Now THAT was a good day.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

We Are Family

Have I mentioned recently that work has been really busy? Well, I think things might be slowing down a little; I actually don’t feel so panicked that I’m unable to write a blog entry. I try to avoid turning on a computer when I’m home (since I’ve spent my entire day in front of one), so if I don’t write at work, I won’t write at all.

Yesterday, before I left work, I sent out an e-mail to all my friends and family asking for their help in raising money for a Cystic Fibrosis (CF) fundraiser I’m participating in in a couple of weeks. In December, close friends of SH and I had a baby. After a series of complications following the birth, they discovered that she has CF. That was devastating news. CF is a terrible genetic disease that has no cure and very few treatment options. It generally affects the lungs and digestive system. Many children with CF spend a lot of time in hospitals and most people don’t live past their 30s. It was a real kick in the gut to have close friends facing this situation and the diagnosis made everyone we know feel really helpless. The enormity of things that can go wrong with having a baby has weighed on me ever since. But I decided I needed to be proactive and wanted to do something to help. So I joined our friends’ team of walkers and am helping to raise money to fund CF research. When I came into work today and checked my e-mail four people had already donated. It actually brought tears to my eyes. My friends and family have never met my California crew, so they were just giving money out of the kindness of their hearts. I was surprised by how emotional that made me.

I have been blessed with a great family and wonderful friends. Once I left home for college (3000 miles away), I never moved back. I’ve lived in different parts of the country and the world and I’ve always managed to find really amazing people to be friends with. In each city that I’ve started over in, I’ve found a new family. Without them, I would be totally lost and unhappy. SH and I have been in LA for almost five years now and we have established a solid life with people we love.

As we get closer to getting married and having kids we are being forced to consider where we might want to spend our lives. The thought of starting over somewhere new is no longer appealing. In the past I used to love the idea of continually mixing things up by moving to a new city and starting over. I just don’t want to do that anymore. I like the security of having a support system, knowing people so well that I don’t have to explain myself over and over, seeing friends through important milestones, knowing I can call on someone to help me when I really need it. I’m at the point where I like these securities.

BUT. We live in LA and this is not an easy place to have financial security. Most likely we won’t be able to buy a house here. The public school system isn’t the best. Sometimes I get tired of big city living. Our alternative is moving back to Oregon, where I grew up. Portland is a nice city, it’s more affordable than LA, I have a network of friends there, and my family is nearby. These are appealing things, yet I like my life here and I don’t feel ready to leave. No one is pushing me to try to make a decision now, but sometimes I have to wonder whether delaying a move will hurt us in the long run. I feel like I need to plan ahead because houses are still affordable in Portland, the place where SH would most likely work is on a hiring spree, and it’s less complicated to move when we don’t have kids. But I’m not ready and I hate the idea of leaving my LA family.

Connected to all this is my desire to travel, to see the world, and to live in foreign countries. Travel is my only passion. It makes me excited. I dream about it. Travel energizes me in ways that nothing else in life can. I basically measure the success of my life on the amount that I can travel. It’s not a competition with other people, it’s more a competition with myself. I feel like so much of my life is made up of routine that the only way I can feel good about who I am is to do things that make big memories, memories that will stand above the routine, that provide excitement and good stories. I want to be able to tell my grandchild about things I did in my life and have them look at me with wonderment and excitement. “You lived in Africa?” “YOU played rugby?” “You traveled across the country with a band?” “You met the Vice President and the Secretary of State?” “That’s so cool!” I need adventure. I need to keep mixing things up. I can’t live an ordinary life. We only get one shot at this and I want to do it right.

So there’s a piece of me that really wants to try to live in other countries. SH could easily get jobs in New Zealand or Australia because of his work connections. I want to do that. It makes such a difference to live somewhere rather than just traveling there. You get to know the people and the place and have so many opportunities to see different things. Plus, it gives you a different jumping off point in the world to travel to different countries. But. I don’t really want to start over again. I don’t want to leave my family. And there’s the part of me that argues with that: You only have one shot! Just go for it!

I know I’m lucky to have so many choices and to have lived a good life so far. I shouldn’t even complain. It’s just that I want to make the right decisions. I want to plan the course of my life well. I don’t want to regret not doing something. Sometimes I just don’t know when to push myself and when to just be still and appreciate what I have for as long as I can.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

At Goal

The last two weeks at work have been ridiculously busy. Not 14-hour day busy, but the kind where you look up and realize almost the entire day has gone by and you haven’t eaten lunch yet, the kind of day that leaves you feeling sort of stunned after you’ve managed to stay on top of the constant stream of e-mails and phone calls. I’m feeling so exhausted right now. The thing is, I’ve been craving days like these for months. I’ve been so bored by my shortage of work, that I’ve dreamed of feeling so busy that I don’t even notice the clock. I thought that if I was busy I might like my job more, that the responsibility of taking care of a lot of projects would make me feel engaged and invested in my work, that I’d be energized by my job. That has not happened. I’ve had so many balls in the air that I dropped a small one today. There was no lasting impact, but I made a mistake. I don’t handle mistakes well. I react emotionally to them, I call my intelligence into question, I start believing that I don’t belong in this job at this place where everyone has a PhD. I wonder about my ability to do anything. I learned a very important check to this line of thinking at my last job, where I was overworked, overstressed, and overly emotional. I decided that any mistake that I wouldn’t remember in six months was not worth worrying about in the moment.

The problem is that I’m an editor. It is my job to find other people’s mistakes. I’m the goalie of the publishing world. I never wanted to be the goalie. There’s so much pressure. You screw up and that’s it, goal for the other team. No matter how many players one mistake went through before getting to you, you are the one that has to stop it or game over. I consider myself a perfectionist. You’d think being an editor would suit a perfectionist. It doesn’t. When it is your job to be perfect, not being perfect causes self-implosion.

I was hoping that being busy again would make me like my job more, but it didn’t. I hate having to be perfect and never really living up to it. I’ve asked to be put onto the highest level project available to me to see if that would make a difference in my overall happiness with this kind of position. But I don’t think it will and that scares me because I’m out of ideas. I’m basically on my third career and nothing has really stuck. I’ve never felt passionate about my work, I’ve always felt underpaid, and I’ve never been motivated to try to excel beyond just being “good.” These are bad things for me, The Perfectionist. I want to excel at my career and I want to be interested in it. I’m constantly trying to push my life forward with different choices and plans. Right now I have no ideas, so I’m essentially pushing myself, but towards nothing. I know that maybe what I need to do is to try to be comfortable and relaxed with where I am in life without trying to find a way out. Maybe if I just accepted where I am, some new ideas would come to me. I just don’t have faith in that. It feels like I need to constantly be searching for what’s next or I’ll just stay where I am forever.

I know a lot of this comes from a fear of ending up like my father. He had the same career his entire life and he hated it. The job made him miserable. But he stuck with it to help support a family and then later to get his pension. I don’t want to be stuck in life, yet no matter how hard I push and pull, I just am.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Like I Was Saying

I feel like I didn't get to finish my thoughts yesterday, so here's a little more on the topic of abortion a la why can't we all just get along. Like I said, I know that there are people with opposite opinions that feel just as strongly about their viewpoint as I do about mine. What bothers me is that there appears to be no room for compromise. Everything has to be black and white. If say, we could agree on outlawing abortions after a certain point in the pregnancy, save for those cases where the fetus or mother has a fatal condition, I could probably support that. But it should be between the mother and the doctor and all abortions up to the agreed point should be legal. However, that will never happen because prolifers are determined to outlaw every type of abortion, no matter the circumstances, which makes people like me hyperventilate with rage. So we all scream and yell at each other and become terrified as soon as the opposite party comes into power because there will never be a compromise--it's all or nothin'. What bothers me most, and I'm going to try to get this out quickly because I could go on forever, is the hypocrisy. Bush claims to support a "culture of life" yet is just fine with guns and the death penalty. These things just don't line up with a "culture of life," if you ask me, especially in light of this week's events. Maybe we can all strike a compromise, no late-term abortions (unless there are fatal circumstances), I won't take away your guns if you put tighter controls on them, and we all just agree not to murder anyone in prison. Oh, and can we please end global warming, stop the war in Iraq, and improve our education and health systems? And don't forget about social security! Things are sure a mess.

I woke up early again this morning. I am not a morning person and tend to roll over as much as my schedule will allow. I usually get up feeling very groggy and unhappy. But the last few mornings I've woken up early and felt entirely awake, like it was 3 PM. I can't get my mind quiet. Yesterday it was about Virgina Tech and today it was about a friend. She and her boyfriend had asked us to go to a show with them. We basically said maybe then finally said no yesterday, two days before. We probably should have said no earlier, but didn't. We got a pretty terse reply back and now I feel horribly guilty. Guilty enough that I was lying in bed at 5 AM wide awake. Even though I was probably in the wrong, we did get back to them and I don't like the feeling of being spanked like a child. They are really good friends, but it felt weird. And now I can't decide whether to apologize, which I don't really want to do, or just let it go, which is what I want to do because I don't feel like what we did was really that bad. And who knows, maybe the e-mail was interpreted incorrectly by me. It's just that it's been a tough week in the world and it's affecting me and I just didn't have the energy to be the perfect friend this week.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

It's Personal

It’s been my busiest week of work in 2007. Every kind of project I’m involved with somehow had to be worked on and finished this week. It’s making my brain hurt and I’m tired. Normally I’m bored and have too little to do. This is different. It takes me back to jobs of yore. Why oh why can’t I find a job that has the perfect amount of work? Something that keeps me interested and engaged in what I’m doing, but doesn’t require me to work a single minute of overtime? Something that makes the day fly by but that I don’t think about when I’m at home? It’s always been feast or famine for me. My life is like “The Three Bears” and I’m ready for my “Just Right.”

Combine a heavy workload with what happened at Virginia Tech this week and it’s been my worst week of blogging (you know, since I started it way back in March). Events like Virginia Tech are tough for me to talk about, yet I feel like they should be talked about, even though I know everyone else has already said it better. I guess I fear letting it sink in too much because I ultimately end up in a pit of despair about what humans are capable of doing to each other. It starts with VT, spins to the pain we’re causing children and families in Iraq, spins to everything happening unchecked in Darfur, and then lands right on the Holocaust. I start to feel like we never learn and that the world is never going to get any better, only worse. Which then leads me to wondering why I would want to bring a kid into all this. And eventually I sit wide awake in bed, like I did this morning, thinking about what it would have been like to have been in the VT French class as the gunman walked down each row just shooting people. Bad bad bad.

So I try to keep away from the news and think about other things. Thank god for the distraction of other blogs. I know a lot of people feel strangely about writing things they might consider trivial in the face of the VT massacre, but I am so grateful to have the opportunity to read about something else.

I thought I was doing a little better until the Supreme Court went and announced their judgment in the “partial-birth” abortion case. I’ll put it out there: I’m really liberal and I’m proud to be that way. I’m also very invested in politics and find myself frequently upset by what’s happening in our country. I take things very personally. Now, I also realize that there are people on the exact opposite side of the fence from me, and that they feel exactly the same way about their politics as I do about mine. I don’t think of [all] Republicans as idiots and I don’t think the Democrats always get it right, but I do know what it feels like not have any of my interests represented by our elected officials. I vote in every election and yet for the last 6 years very little of what I consider important has been worked on, while so much of what I disagree with has been pushed through. I’m sure there were Republicans who felt like this during the Clinton years. It sucks and I get really pissed off thinking about how only half the country at a time is getting what they want. It just doesn’t seem right. I could easily go on a tirade about everything that the Bush administration has done that I disagree with, but I don’t have the energy to go there now. But I do take it VERY PERSONALLY when the government starts telling people what they can do with their own bodies, whether that be abortion, euthanasia, or medicinal pot. I find the idea of abortions in the second trimester very upsetting, but there are rare cases when it might be necessary. This is a decision for a woman and her doctor to make. I can understand why people are disturbed by the idea of abortion. The thing is, it’s their choice not to have one. Everyone should have that choice. This ruling by the Supreme Court makes it clear that John Roberts has no intention of sticking with precedent and every intention of chipping away at my rights. This is as personal as it gets.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Adult v. Superhero

Something that will always make me smile is seeing little kids out in public wearing costumes when it’s not Halloween. The other day SH and I saw a boy who was about 4 years old wearing a Batman costume, including a full face mask. The blue “underwear” probably went halfway up his ribcage. I love the idea that parents indulge their kids’ desires to dress-up and pretend they’re something else. I’m sure many of those “indulgences” started with a screaming child refusing to leave the house without their ballerina gear on, but I prefer to just believe that the parents were happy to oblige their kid’s imagination. I mean, why not? When else in life can you get away with pink tulle in the middle of a grocery store? I think there are times when we all wish we could be a superhero, so why not let kids pretend while they don’t care what other people think?

Being an “adult” means losing access to an active imagination. Now all I think about are things like meeting my deadlines at work, getting an oil change, planning a damn wedding (should I really be obsessing about place cards?), and how to plan for my financial future. Reality is an imagination killer; the fantasy world so many kids have easy access to just disappears. I know that having an imagination can lead to worrisome fears about monsters under the bed, but how awesome to think that you just saw a dinosaur in a tree, or that the toys you’re playing with have real personalities, or that the teapot in front of your bear is holding tea given to you by the Queen of England. What a wonderful world.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

When No One Is Looking

Today on the way to work I found myself in a familiar situation. I drive on a road that has two lanes each way. The turn-off to my work is on the right. At a certain point it doesn’t really make sense to pass anyone because I’m going to have to turn soon. More often than not, I end up behind someone going too slow. (Has anyone else ever wanted to honk at the person in front of them just to get them to speed up a little?) I am so impatient that I can feel my stress level skyrocket in these kinds of situations. This morning the conversation I had with myself went something like “It’s okay. La-dee-da. Just going to work. No rush. Enjoy the drive. No big deal. Doot-dee-doo.” I knew it would be ridiculous, not to mention dangerous, to navigate the traffic to get around the one car in front of me even though I was almost there. So I stayed put and suffered.

My impatience can astound me. Part of it comes from the desire to be as efficient as possible, which involves making the best choices. The problem is that picking lanes can be so unpredictable that there is just no way to know if what you’re doing is going to work. The perfectionist in me hates that. At this point I’ve carefully evaluated which lanes to be in at different points along my drive so as to increase the chance that I’ll move along the most quickly. But there are times when the driving gods punish me and no matter what I do I somehow end up behind a bus that stops every 50 yards, a college student on a scooter that can’t go faster than 20 mph, or a bicyclist who doesn’t know how to ride in a straight line.

Sometimes I try to play games to trick myself into not caring about whether I'm in the best (read: fastest) lane. Recently that has involved watching people in my rearview mirror while stopped at a red light. It can be really interesting. It started when I noticed a young couple behind me. They were laughing and goofing off, pecking, and truly enjoying each other’s company. They had big grins on their faces, which made me smile. People do a lot of interesting things when they think no one is watching.

Of course this makes me wonder how I look to people who might catch me in their rearview mirror. Most of the time I don’t think about it, but when I do, I must look totally bored or angry. Is that my default way of being? Ugh, I hate the thought of that. I wish I was better at being patient and calm rather than irritated and grouchy. [insert cheesy quotation about enjoying the journey here.] I’m not that way around the people I know (i.e., when people are watching), so which version of me is the most true?

Okay! Enough introspection! Fun new car game! Assign points to what you see in the rearview mirror! Great for kids on road trips!

15 points: Seeing something sexually explicit being done to the driver (This has yet to happen, but it must be going on, right? Or is that just in the movies?)
10 points: Someone drinking coffee, smoking, and talking on their cell phone all at the same time (I saw this last week)
7 points: Someone grinning for no obvious reason (This can be a little creepy. Are they listening to something funny? Are they thinking about the affair they just had? Are they thinking about jumping out of the car and leaving it there?)
5 points: Two people arguing (trying to read lips can be entertaining)
5 points: Someone talking with their hands while on their cell phone (seriously, no one can see you gesturing!!!)
5 points: Someone picking their nose (Really? Is that necessary? You’re not invisible!)
3 points: Enthusiastic head bopping to the music on their radio and or singing along (5 bonus points if you can tune your radio to the same song they are listening to based on the rhythm of the bopping)
1 point: Just for looking

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Reality of Optimism

I think that when it comes to having kids, there is a certain amount of denial (some might call it “optimism”) that factors into the decision to start a family, because if everyone thought of all the things that might go wrong, humans would cease to exist. Like every situation in my life (grocery store trips, coloring my hair, buying a new car, writing e-mails, making career moves), I overthink the consequences of the choices so much that it often prevents me from making one. SH handles the grocery shopping in our household because it can take me twice the time it takes him. I have to look at all the options for each product, breakdown the costs, evaluate the store brand choice against the brand name, consider how things might be put together as a meal and then back track to pick up additional items…it’s ridiculous. So imagine the dialogue in my head when it comes to having kids. I’m a Gemini and though I know nothing about astrology, there is one thing that applies to me: I am divided into twins and they are constantly duking it out.

Twin #1: Oh, you loooove holding babies. They are so sweet. They make you happy.
Twin #2: Did you see the last episode of the Supernanny? Children will ruin your life!
Twin #1: But it’s a must-have life changing experience! Everyone says so!
Twin #2: Parents are stressed and sleep-deprived. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Misery loves company.
Twin #1: How sad for you if you never know what it feels like to be a parent. How sad to be old and have no family.
Twin #2: How AWESOME to save all your money and travel the world when you’re old!
Twin #1: Kids will teach you to be selfless and to know a kind of love you’ve never experienced before.
Twin #2: They will break your heart, tell you they hate you, become a fundamentalist of something you’re vehemently opposed to, and then never call you after they leave home. Ingrates!
Twin #1: Think of how full your life will be! You’ll experience so many new things in ways you can’t even imagine!
Twin #2: Children will wreck any chance of future financial stability!
Twin #1: Do what you love and the money will follow!
Twin #2: Idiot.
Twin #1: Hey!
Twin #2: Don’t blame me when your life goes to hell, you’ve forgotten what it feels like to sleep in on a Saturday, travel to foreign countries, talk about something other than poop, and have a social life.
Twin #1: THANK ME when you fall in love with your kids and can’t imagine life without your family.
Twin #2: Just wait a while longer, maybe you’ll come to your senses.
Twin #1: Hmmm, I guess it doesn’t hurt to wait a little longer, you know, to be more secure in the decision…

I could go on, but it’s pretty much more of the same (throw in some commentary on the state of the environment, global warming, and the violence that rages across the world—what kind of world will my kids grow up in!—and you get the idea). This is all complicated by the fact that SH’s nephew is severely autistic. We have witnessed the sadness, stress, and strain that has on his brother’s family and we fear experiencing it for ourselves. I know that his nephew is very, very loved, but it is also an unbelievably difficult and unending situation. I just don’t know if I could handle it. And even though we are all ultimately stronger than we realize, I still worry about it happening to us. Life should be about taking risks, but sometimes the costs are so great. Considering scientists are starting to believe there is a genetic component to autism, it feels like we are slightly more likely to have an autistic child. I think deciding to have kids will be a serious leap of faith for us, faith that it will be okay and that we will be happy. Actually making that leap is the hard part.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Slow down, you move too fast... You got to make the morning last

SH sent me an article earlier today about an experiment done by the Washington Post in collaboration with the world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell. The set-up: Have Bell play his 3.5 million dollar Stradivarius at a Metro station in Washington, D.C. Would commuters notice? Would anyone recognize his skill and the beauty of the music? Would people stop to listen or continue on to work? How much money would be thrown into his case? Read the full article here.

The article is very well written and raises so many interesting philosophical and sociological questions. I can’t tell you the last time I was that engaged and impressed by newspaper writing. The article, combined with the video clips of him playing, left me feeling grateful for reasons that are difficult for me to explain.

I played the violin for about five years until the orchestra teacher I had started to make me hate it. She was unkind and disliked teenagers, and I couldn’t help but associate the violin with her. Plus, I knew that orchestra would take up an elective class and there were so many other things I wanted to take in high school such as French, German, ceramics, and sewing. Yeah, I wasn’t a geek or anything.

I’m still amazed by the amount of things I participated in when I was young. I took piano, sang in a choir, danced ballet, and played the violin. Eventually I quit everything but choir and tried out sports like tennis and cross-country. I also got straight As. I say that not to impress, but simply out of awe. I feel like I have so little energy for things outside of my daily routine. I don't know how to work in hobbies or classes or anything else (this also connects to my fears that I won't have the energy to be a good mother). Yet, I did it when I was young. Maybe because everything was a part of my routine, not something in addition to it, if that makes any sense.

Now, as an adult, I regret giving up things like the piano, just as my mother said I would (curse her!). I miss the creative and physical outlets, making music, and being part of a team. Sometimes I feel like music is the closest means to touching the divine. It transcends so many things and takes me to a different place. When I become discouraged by the pain of the world, it’s music that makes me realize what amazing things humans are capable of. And it’s music that puts me in touch with emotions that aren’t a part of my everyday life.

In my quest to find my passions in life, sometimes I wonder if I had everything figured out when I was 12 years old. I danced, sang, and played music. My life was full and now I continue to struggle with filling it up again. The Washington Post article made me wonder how I would have reacted should I have encountered Joshua Bell on my commute to work. Would I have stopped? Probably not. And maybe that’s my biggest problem: I’m so busy trying to get somewhere that I don’t pay attention to where I am already.

Rearview Mirror

I work out at my carpool partner’s apartment because she has all sorts of exercise equipment, including an elliptical machine, weights, and other such torture devices. The only thing that keeps me from quitting and grabbing the nearest bag of Doritos is watching TV series while we exercise. Distraction is the key for me (kind of like with small children). Some of the recent favorites have included The State Within, Wire in the Blood, and MI5 (all British). We’ve also thoroughly enjoyed Veronica Mars, Deadwood, and Entourage. God bless Netflix. Right now we’re watching Felicity because so many people seem to love it and I don’t think I caught a single episode while it was on the air.

Ah, young love and the confusion, embarrassment, and drama of the college years. It’s so great to be reminded of that time in life. In yesterday’s episode, Felicity and Ben were robbed at gunpoint (“How New York,” she says!) and end up talking all night, like “war buddies.” Those all-night conversations are deeply familiar. You feel so excited that someone is so interested in you that they just can’t go to sleep. You see the dawn and feel like you’ve transcended into another place of profound connection. When really, if you could hear yourself at that age talking about things like Plato’s Republic, your roommate’s bizarre schedule, and how unfair it is that your history professor refuses to give anyone As, you’d pretty much want to stab yourself in the eye.

But there’s something wonderful about those kinds of moments. You feel special and alive. You want so badly for the other person to feel the same way you feel about them, and you figure they must, because they spent all night talking with you—the next day’s exam be damned. It’s all just very sweet, the revealing of one’s self to another in the middle of the night. My skin zings with energy from the emotional memory of it. I think about how I’ll probably never have that moment again and it’s okay, because I’ve ready been there. But I do marvel at universal experiences like those and wonder what is yet to come my way that I don’t know about yet. Sometimes life is just yummy.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Go Panthers

I mentioned in a previous post how I rarely notice celebrities, and how if I do, I'm never inclined to say something to them. Well, for the first time this weekend, I was a little starstruck. And by someone most people probably don't even know. Oldest Friend, SH, and I were on a hike in Runyon Canyon this Saturday. It's a nice hike that gives you great views of the city. The hike is really popular, so there are always a lot of people (and dogs) to watch. As we were coming down, I caught sight of a t-shirt with "Panther's Football" written on it. Now, that doesn't mean anything to me except Friday Night Lights, one of the best shows on television. I looked up and stared right into the eyes of Big Tim Riggins #33. I looked down (good Angeleno behavior) but couldn't help myself and looked up only to make eye contact with him again. Holy crap is that guy cute. Holy crap do I love that show (and I don't even like football). I know that no one reads this blog, but since no one else in my life listens to me, I'm sending an appeal out into the ether: Please watch Friday Night Lights. You won't regret it. The writing is some of the best on television. I'm sure it will come out on DVD this summer. WATCH IT. Then tune in because I just can't stand the idea of the show getting canceled. It's just so freakin' good. And I really want to watch more of Taylor Kitsch. Wow. I had no idea I could sound like such an immature dork. Did I mention how hot he is?

PS: Don't start watching FNL this week. It's the season finale and will ruin everything.

PPS: Instructing people that don't exist is a little creepy, like I'm talking to myself. Maybe a little Rainman: "Friday Night Lights, yeah. Friday Night Lights. Tim Riggins is hot, yeah. Number 33, yeah."

City of Angels

My oldest friend was here to visit for the weekend. She is 20-some weeks pregnant and adorable. We met when we were five, but didn't become fast friends until I enrolled at the same elementary school in the fourth grade. After that it was all about birthday parties, sleepovers, trips with our families to Central Oregon, camping, skiing, notes written in class, talking about who we did and didn’t want to go to dances with, promising that the first one of us to get a boyfriend would give the other flowers, whispering about which of the boys we knew we’d want to marry…Funny thing is, we’re actually still with those boys. And we’re both happy. Oldest Friend is married to her high school sweetheart. I’m marrying the guy that was my pen pal in high school. He and I met at summer camp. I think if you asked either of us whether we expected that, we might say, “no.” But I think secretly we would think, “yes.”

It’s amazing that she and I have grown up together and seen each other through every stage of our lives. How bizarre to know what someone was like at age 10 and then to see them pregnant with their second child. And though we’re at different stages, we’re still struggling with issues of identity and how to create the life that feels the most right to us.

It’s a little hard for me to know she’s on child #2 when I’m on child #0. I had this fantasy of our two families taking vacations together like she and I did growing up. And now that she’s farther along, our children will never be the same age and will probably have little interest in each other. This is sad to me and sometimes I regret waiting so long to move things along in the family department. But I wasn’t ready and she was, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Having her here to visit was wonderful. She’s never seen my life in Los Angeles, so it was nice to introduce her to parts of it. But I always struggle with introducing a new person to LA, a city that I really like. All I can see when I take someone new around are the ugly things and the traffic. I think I see the city through the eyes of someone looking for its faults, rather than what is great about it. I think a lot of Angelenos have self-esteem issues when it comes to our city. So many people trash talk about LA (usually either New Yorkers, San Franciscans (?), or people who have never been here) that it’s easy to become self-conscious.

LA has so many wonderful things about it: the weather, the ocean, the multi-culturalism, the wide open spaces, amazing parks, great food, shopping, and every movie made gets screened here. I love the mixture of architecture, and how the city continues to push the boundries of contemporary design. Though many people might think of Angelenos as being stuck-up, image-obsessed, and shallow, the people I know here are so normal, laid back, smart, and welcoming. As a city made of transplants, people in general are more open to meeting each other and making friends. It’s great.

But this weekend the weather was gloomy and all I could see was the ugly and that makes me sad. I don’t know why I feel like I need my choice to live here validated, but I do. I want someone to tell me that I made the right choice, that they can see why I’m happy here, that it’s okay I haven’t “settled down” yet, that I’m doin’ good and that that’s enough right now.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Shape of a Non-mother

I took a sick day yesterday. I never take sick days because I don’t get sick that often, and when I do, it somehow manages to be in the middle of something I really have to get done. So I took one yesterday, even though I wasn’t that sick. I’ve just been really tired all week, and I had a sore throat and minor cough. Really, it was the best kind of sick day because I wasn’t miserable and I didn’t feel like I was cheating by not being at work. I got all sorts of shit done while also loggin’ plenty of couch time.

Here’s the rub: I’ve been so tired this week that I haven’t been working out. I feel all kinds of guilty about that and I’m convinced I’m going to slide backwards as a result. I started getting serious about working out January of 2006 because of how terrible I felt about my body. It was squishy and giggly and it made me frown every time I looked in the mirror. Since then I’ve consistently exercised about 4 days a week (I’m trying to push it to 5, but it’s tough). The process has been discouraging for me. I wanted to lose pounds and look toned. In total, I don’t think I’ve lost more than 10 pounds. I have gone down one size, but that is all. I don’t feel or look as toned as I’d like. But I know I’m healthy. I know that is what is most important, yet I still feel really discouraged.

One of the reasons I wanted to lose weight is because I felt like it was my last chance to look the best I could. I’m going to be 31 this spring and some day I’m going to have a baby. I feel like everything gets shot to hell and that point, so this is the magic time. It’s kind of a Use It or Lose It attitude. I know this line of thinking is ridiculous, but that’s how I feel. I know the stretch marks, veins, cottage cheese, and floppy skin are likely, so why not look the best I can while I can? There’s this Web site that really, and I mean REALLY, freaked me out. It’s called The Shape of a Mother.

I love the idea of this Web site. It’s so encouraging and supportive and loving. And so goddamn scary. I don’t think I was prepared for everything I saw on there. Now, I’m the kind of person that researches things to death. I like to know what I’m getting into. I want to choose something with eyes wide open, which is one of the reasons I read blogs written by mothers. I want to hear and understand their experiences because it helps me know what I will face someday. I know there is no way to actually be prepared for parenthood, but I’d rather know some of the good, bad, and ugly beforehand. I don’t want to be surprised by bad things. We live in a world where motherhood is raised up as this glowing, beautiful, of the Earth type of experience. I’m sure it can be that way, but seriously folks, let’s put some reality into the picture. Birth is horrible, painful, bloody, and not pretty. Babies have diaper explosions that can take out an entire car. Toddlers can refuse to eat for days at a time.

Anyway, back to me. Oh wait, we were already there. I stare at the little runner girls outside with such envy. I feel like I put just as much effort into my body as a lot of people who look great. Why don’t I look great? Why can’t I look like an athlete? I know I could take it to another level, but it many ways I just don’t think would be healthy for me, mentally, that is. My average routine lasts about an hour to an hour and a half and involves cardio, abs, legs, and arms. I’m a vegetarian who eats healthy, decently sized portions. I don’t want working out to take over my life, but I wish the results made me happier.

I understand all the forces that create a mentality like this, and I bore myself even talking about it because I feel like it’s one topic that every woman can talk about endlessly, but my body takes up so much of my thoughts that there are times when I need to purge to make room for something else.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Why, thank you for asking, James

So I love watching Inside the Actor's Studio. I adore movies, and even though I ranted about celebrity culture in my last post, it doesn't mean I don't get excited to read the occasional People or US Weekly. For me, and maybe for a lot of people, it's fascinating to see what people are like beyond the roles they play, which is one of the reasons I like the show. It's a forum where actors seem more at ease, a little less defensive, more open and willing to share. I find the show really inspiring. Here are people who have achieved enormous success at their craft. It's so great to listen to their stories, hear about their choices and failures, soak in their advice and wisdom. I guess it just feels so real to me, and I love real.

And then there's James Lipton, the host. There are times when I actually cover my face with my hands because he is making me so uncomfortable. He is obsessed with people's tattoos (creepy man!) and getting them to dance or sing. He's pretty weird and completely self-obsessed, but the show wouldn't be the same without him or the questionnaire he asks every actor towards the end of the program (everyone answers the same questions and I find it fascinating). SH (my new pseudolicous name for the boy) and I will occasionally answer the questions for ourselves, and at times we also fight over a good answer. SH came up with a great answer for the "What's your favorite word?" question and I've told him I'm using it if I get on the show before he does (ha ha). So I'm going to answer the questions here today. And in the spirit of the show, I'm not going to think about the answers ahead of time, but rather answer them right away so as to get the most raw responses.

Q: What is your favorite word?
A: Indubitably

Q: What is your least favorite word?
A: Cunt

Q: What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?
A: Laughter

Q: What turns you off?
A: Pain (mine or anyone else's)

Q: What is your favorite curse word?
A: Motherfucker

Q: What sound or noise do you love?
A: Baby laughter

Q: What sound or noise do you hate?
A: Sirens, people making noise in the apartment below me, people vomiting, helicopters

Q: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A: Screenwriter

Q: What profession would you not like to do?
A: Anything to do with the human body

Q: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
A: You did the best job you could have and I'm proud of you.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Saturday Morning Special

I was waiting for friends at a movie theater on Sunday afternoon when a huge group of teenagers walked into the lobby. I would guess they were about 12 or 13. I watched them like an anthropologist for a long time, paying attention to the chatty leaders, the ones that stood around the periphery of the group, the props they held (skateboards, cell phones, purses, etc.), the ways they interacted with each other, the gender division and those who bridged it, the way they all looked simultaneously insecure, yet rebelliously defiant. I could see and hear a lot of the adults standing around me and the common thoughts for all of us were, “WOW” and “I’m so glad I’m not a teenager anymore.”

What struck me as I watched them was the realization that the girls that used to intimidate me with their popularity were THAT age at the time. They were THAT little and immature. Yet they held so much power over me, essentially igniting insecurities that exist today in some form or another. But on the other side of the coin, seeing those girls for what they really are (young, clueless, naïve, insecure) made me realize that those girls who used to hold all the power no longer did. That may seem ridiculous, that I let go of the teenagers that had power over me half my life ago, but it was a relief.

I switched from watching the teenagers to watching the adults coming in and out of the theater. In comparison, the adults just seemed more natural and at ease, they were relaxed and utterly themselves. I realized that people do grow up. I’m a grown-up. This really doesn’t ring true to me most of the time. I still feel like a kid, especially since I still sorta look like one. I always get carded. When I worked at a school in my mid-20s I was often mistaken for kids half my age. I could never look convincing as one of those dressed-up New York businesswomen. And it doesn’t make sense to me that I have responsibilities, that I’m getting married, that some day I might have kids, that I need to save for retirement. A lot of the time I’m not convinced that who I am today is that different from who I was at 18 years old. But I guess I am.

I think part of the reason that accepting myself as an adult is difficult is that sometimes I’m completely dismayed by how childlike adults are—one just has to look at the absurdity of our behavior, the wars, psychological games, prejudices, desire for power and control. The inhumanity and cruelty of the world gets to me. It seems like we should be wiser than that. We should me smarter than that. We should have learned these lessons and moved on, making the world a better place as we grow-up. There is just not enough growing up happening in the world.

I think part of the problem is that we hold on to the insecurities that are instilled in us as teenagers. I loathe being around the hipster scene in Los Angeles because it feels like the “popular kids” all over again. The same thing goes for celebrities, they are the nation’s popular kids. We watch and gossip about them at the lunch table. Everything is about being seen, wearing the right clothes, going to the right places, the perfect pair of sunglasses. I have no desire to follow but I also hate sticking out. This is the teenager in me. I’m perfectly happy when I can blend in, when I can avoid being seen. If I can do that, then I can avoid the judgment, the dreaded judgment.

I think so much of being a girl and a woman is finding a way to deal with the judgment of all the people that see you. Some handle it spectacularly, they embrace the attention and use if powerfully to further themselves. Others, like me, struggle to find who they are amid all the fitting in.

My whole life I’ve been unhappy with my wardrobe. I can never seem to find the clothes that fit me while also correctly reflecting my personality. It wasn’t until recently that I figured out that the reason I was having a hard time finding the right clothes was because I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be. I’ve always been so jealous of the people who look so put together—whether they are vintage clothes horses or fashionistas—I just wanted to be put together in my own way.

The same goes for jobs. I’m always jealous of the people who targeted a passion or career early on and have fought ambitiously to work their way to those goals. I’ve never known what I wanted to be and so constantly feel behind those who hit the ground running after graduation.

I think it takes confidence to be successful: you need to know who you are and where you’re heading and have complete faith in the fact that you can do whatever you set your mind on. I don’t think successful people doubt themselves very much. How does one get to that point if they didn’t start out that way? The teenager in me really, really wants to know.

I really don’t know where I’m going with all this. I can see the life experiences that form who we are as adults. I can see that in the good and bad choices we all make. I understand the urge to be liked and admired, but I don’t want to be liked and admired for anything but who I truly am and what I want for myself. I want to be able to embrace certain things about being young (the energy, desire for the future, imagination, heart, openness to the world and its experiences, love for friends, appreciation for independence) while I reject others (insecurity, self-loathing, being self-conscious). I want the world to use our collective wisdom to make grown-up choices, I want us to rise above power, greed, popularity, and expectation—to make life more free and enjoyable, to allow people to be themselves without judgment or harm. I guess I want to be a grown-up, a happy grown-up.

Check out this interesting article in the New York Times about amazing girls and the burdens they carry as they enter adulthood. I know all too well who they are and I hope they can rise above the expectations they have for themselves to discover who they truly want to be.

And here ends this slightly nauseating Saturday Morning Special. Be Yourself. Thanks for tuning in. God I wish I were better at writing funny anecdotes.

Friday, March 30, 2007

X= Career, Part II

I'm feeling the urge to continue with my last post. One of my best friends gave me the most appropriate book for my 30th birthday. It's called Flux. Like a lot of people, 30 was a big birthday for me. It felt like it was time for me to be an adult, to get my shit together, to start planning for things, to stop putting things off, to figure out what I really wanted, to make things happen. There was some freedom in starting a new decade—I could decide what I wanted my life to look like and it was somehow okay to start thinking about things like kids. I have had to work really hard on trying to figure out what I want—to sort out the expectations of my parents, society, the government (and my resulting anger with those expectations) from what was actually important to me. I'm still working on this and it's not easy. However, this book helped me. It layed things out in a way I hadn't really thought about them by profiling women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, outlining the common dilemmas of those ages, and looking at what helped and hurt them in their lives.

One thing that really stuck with me was the historical influence on women's careers. Forgive my rather obvious generalizations, as they're necessary for me to try to get to my point quickly (feel free to read the book for more specifics). Basically, when not in the home, women have often been pushed into or chosen ("chosen" being questionable in many eras) fields that are either "helpful" in one way or another or that they find interesting (or both). The "interesting" fields for most women tend to be those that pay less (don't get me started on who determined the pay scales for different jobs). So, in essence, we tend to go for things that make us feel good, that we are passionate about, that allow for creativity. Men, for better or worse, tend to go for the money. They are trained, as we are, to do that. I know there are lots of exceptions and that we can argue this in so many ways, but it really feels true to ME. By pursuing fulfillment we choose not to get paid a good wage. What then happens when we have kids and decide that someone should stay home (if that's an option) is the woman's salary is lower than the man's, so he keeps his job and progresses further in his career.

I know this is a touchy topic and I'm not interested in getting in any way involved in the Mommy War debate, particularly since I'm not a mommy, but sometimes I wonder what I would tell a daughter about choosing a major and a career. I know there are plenty of people that would say, "Do what you love, the money will follow." I'm not sure if I believe this. First of all, for some people (me included), it's difficult to know what you love and want to do. Second of all, what you love may not pay a lot. So do I tell a daughter to consider going after a field that will bring her financial security or to just go with what she's interested in, so that she can try to discover who she is and who she wants to be? I know I'll probably say the latter, because that's just who I am. I want people to pursue their dreams, to not deny themselves, to go after what they think will make them happy. But does it always work out? I know that money doesn't buy happiness, but isn't there something to be said for the choices it provides, how it can help you achieve certain goals, how it can help the future of your children? Or maybe it's just trapping and makes people miserable. If you're hungry for things, if you have to work for them, aren't the rewards greater? This is what I want to believe, considering my vantage point.

One of my biggest fears in choosing to have kids is that in taking care of someone else and trying to allow them the chance to have a great life and become whatever they want, I'm giving up on myself. I worry that I'll put so much energy into someone else that I won't have any for myself and that eventually, when the kids are in college, I will find myself empty and lost and regretful. Thus the desire to figure out as much now as possible, so that I can hold onto that which is most important to me and protect it. Money plays a big part in this. It seems like financial stability creates some breathing room, allowing for everyone to hold onto some of the things they need in life.

My boyfriend thinks we're doing fine, which I guess we are as a couple. But part of me wishes I could be fine on my own, without his salary. I think about the possibility that something tragic could happen to him and then what? Shouldn't we both be capable of sustaining our life without the other, just in case? This is one of the many issues I confront as I head towards marriage: can I be comfortable depending on him (and him depending on me)? Can I let go of my fears and try to live as a family? I don't know the answer to that.

X = Career

Sometimes I wonder which dominates my thoughts more: my general unhappiness with my body or my general unhappiness with my salary and, by default, my career. I know I’m not the only one who dreads seeing my Alumnae Quarterly in the mailbox. In the back is a listing by class of what people have been up to. At this point the people in my class are either earning their PhDs or having a baby, and I’m jealous of both. Lately I’ve been of the opinion that a bachelor’s degree isn’t worth anything anymore. I think a BA is what a high school diploma was 50 years ago. To get anywhere in a career you need a higher degree, but there’s no subject that I’m interested in enough to actually pursue. As a result, I’m one of the few people I know who doesn’t have one, which would probably explain why I make the least amount of money. This frustrates me. A lot. I’ve always had a problem with comparing myself to my friends. In some ways it’s served me by motivating me to work harder, to be smart, to finish at the top of the pack; in other ways it’s really contributed to a constant feeling of inadequacy. If I told you where I worked, you’d probably be impressed. But my job isn’t as challenging as I need it to be and there’s very little room for upward movement. My job fits my interests in a lot of ways and it’s not very stressful. I also have a lot of vacation, which I appreciate. But I have no passion for what I do. I basically do the minimum needed to appear to be doing a good job. I have no interest in being an expert in my field. I have no momentum.

I bring this up cautiously because I don't want to feel sorry for myself or neglect the number of people in this country or the world who make so little and are barely holding their heads above water. But I think it's inevitable that we want to try to progress our lives as far as we can, it's human. I'm fortunate to have had the opportunities I've been given, I just really want to make the most of them and not let them go to waste. This is something I think about all the time, but it’s at the top of my mind after a conversation with a friend last night.

She’s in her third year of her PhD program. We just found out that a friend of ours is buying a house. Any milestone like that for a friend of mine usually makes me feel jealous of their accomplishment, even though I’m happy for them. As I was talking to my PhD friend I found out she felt the same way. She’s the only one out of our group of friends who isn’t in a serious, long-term relationship. That’s one of the things she measures herself by against her friends. I was trying to make her feel better by telling her I felt the same way about her because of her PhD. And then she said, “But even when I’m done I have to do a post-doc, and that only pays [insert my salary here] a year.” So I told her what I make to make her feel better. And it just made me feel worse and now I can’t stop thinking about it. You'd be surprised by how often this happens, "God, back when I was only making [insert my salary here]..." I realize there's the danger that my friends are going to sound money-obsessed, which none of them are. They are incredible people who inspire me, who are kind and compassionate, who do so much for people. I'm the one with the problem. I feel stalled, like I haven't progressed at the right pace, like my growth is stunted.

I want to be in a career that provides some financial stability, allows me to have the choice of being the one who works while my husband stayed home with the kids, makes me feel good when I tell people what I do for a living, provides me with ambition and passion. For so long I’ve felt that I have a lot of potential, that if I really worked hard I could do something really impressive. With each day that I come to work, feel bored, and go home with a paycheck that feels completely inadequate, I feel like a failure. Did my generation grow up believing too much in ourselves? Should I just feel lucky to be in a country where I have the luxury of worrying about this kind of thing?

If only I had an idea of what I wanted to be when I grow up. Well, I know what I want to be when I grow up: an Oscar-winning screenwriter. But that’s not going to happen. Why am I such a defeatist? Why don’t I just try? Because being a screenwriter in Los Angeles is the worst cliché ever. Because I don’t think I can actually do it. Because it’s not something most people can make a living at. Because it doesn’t feel like a real career for someone like me. But I also don’t want to give up. I’m too young for giving up. I have the dream and the desire, so where’s the motivation and momentum? Why is it so hard to try to be myself?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mrs. His Name

So yeah, I’m getting married this summer. I still feel a twinge in the pit of my stomach when it’s just layed out like that. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 12 years. 12 years. That’s practically half my life at this point (I’ll be 31 this spring). Whenever I hear of someone that’s getting married to a person they’ve known since they were teenager, I question it, as if they don’t know what they’re doing or they haven’t lived enough to make a choice like that so early. Yet it makes perfect sense for me to be with the person I started dating my first year of college. Today I’m not interested in getting into the why-did-it-take-us-so-long, I’d really rather think about the whole name change thing.

I went to an all women’s college. It was one of my best choices. I loved it. Things about it still give me shivers. It informed so much of who I am today, particularly the feminist in me. It took me a long time to figure out what kind of feminist I wanted to be: one that feels okay wearing lipstick and heels, one that doesn’t judge stay-at-home moms, one that has a sense of humor, one that is aware and can speak up when necessary. It took me a long time and I felt guilty about a lot of things until I realized the most powerful thing you can do is be yourself.

So what happens when you get married and you have to decide whether or not to change your name? I have so many conflicting conversations happening in my head. My name is my father’s name, names are patriarchal to begin with. But it’s who I’ve been my whole life. This is my identity. But by getting married I’m forming a family, a new family, shouldn’t we have the same name? But why should it be the man’s name? Why shouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it be easier for our family and any future children to all have the same name? Would it really matter if we didn’t? It’s going to piss me off every time someone writes on an envelope: Mrs. His Name. I really, really hate that. I get annoyed when telemarketers call and ask for Mrs. His Last Name. But I also used to work at a school and it really helped clarify things when kids had the same last name as their parents. His last name is fine, it’s nothing bad, just like mine isn’t. They are really normal-sounding British names. But I hate writing the capitalized letter of his last name. I like how my signature looks. I’m really lazy and probably won’t change it anyway. Should I really allow my laziness to make my decision for me (not that it hasn’t happened that way before)? I don’t like the alternatives anymore than the main option (him taking my name, a combo of our names, sharing a middle name, hyphenating, etc.). I might just end up using my current last name as a middle name, sort of a Hillary Rodham Clinton solution. But it’s not like that lasted.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tip of the Iceberg

I think my challenge with this blog will be finding a way to keep it current and in-the-now. It’s so much easier for me to be able to recount my past than to confront the everydayness of my life. I’ve always been a really bad storyteller because I just don’t find my life interesting enough to recount. So many people out there can describe the simplest experience from their day and make it funny and meaningful. Me? I got nothin’. I see my life as a series of big events and choices that are spread out over the course of my life. If I haven’t chosen a college, or a major, or started to play a new sport, or won an award, or started a new job, or moved to a new city--I feel like I have nothing new to say. My life is routine, how interesting can routine be? I wake up (which is always painful—I hate getting out of bed), go through my morning routine, drive to my carpool partner’s house, we drive to work, get coffee, I sit down at my computer and check my e-mail and read my bloglines, and then try to force myself to work. I struggle with that all day. Then my carpool partner and I leave, go to her house to work out, I drive home, make dinner, talk to The Man (I seriously need a good nickname), we watch TV, I fall asleep on the couch, I go through my nighttime routine in the bathroom, we retreat to bed to read, and I fall asleep. That’s it. That’s how almost every workday plays out. Sometimes it’s broken up by us going to a friend’s house for dinner and TV, by out of town guests, by the rare concert event (we recently went to see a taping of This American Life—FANTASTIC), but really, that’s how it goes. The thing is, I like routine, but I’m bored wtih myself. I’ve struggled since college with my lack of hobbies. I love watching TV and being at home. Sometimes when we’re out I’ll look into other people’s apartments and see them home and feel jealous. But then I’ll get mad at myself because so often I feel like I’m wasting my life. I’m young! I should be out there! Doing things! Taking piano, making art projects, finding my bliss! But I don’t. And as The Man and I get closer to getting married this summer (WOW is THAT a long story) and thereby we get closer to having kids (holy crap), the ticking gets louder…if I don’t find a new and more satisfying career now, I never will! If I don't engage in hobbies and classes I never will! If I don’t spend more time going out and seeing concerts I never will! Because once the kiddies arrive, we will never have the time and energy to do anything ever again. It’s terrible. Kids almost feel like the default hobby. They take so much time and energy there isn’t time for anything else. I know these are all pretty typical thoughts for my age and stage, and I hear that life isn’t necessarily over when you have kids (as long as you can find and afford a baby sitter), but the thought of not figuring my shit out before I’m consumed by parenthood dominates a lot of my thoughts. And I’m not sure what to do about it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ode to Sunny Weather, or a Response to Lawyerish Part II

The Man (I have no good nickname for him yet) and I started thinking about a move to Los Angeles when things just didn't seem to be improving for us in Seattle. We weren't that happy with our jobs (I had spent three years looking for a different one without any luck), the weather was making me depressed, I was tired of being cold, and things just weren’t progressing. Seattle was in an economic slump after the burst of the dot com bubble and Boeing was shedding employees by the hundreds, creating a pretty sad job market and mood for the city. I just didn’t know how to make things better, so we started talking about moving to a warmer climate.

Both of us wanted more creativity in our lives and the film industry seemed like an option. We took a visit to LA, liked it, and then thought about the move for two years (I don’t make any major decisions without much, much research and contemplation). And then it was just time. Kind of like when you’re in your senior year of college and no matter how much you loved school and being around all your friends, come spring you suddenly start to just feel over it all. You become ready to move on. It was that time for Seattle. And I couldn’t have been happier with the choice that Labor Day weekend in 2002 as we were packing and the heavens opened, spilling rain upon the city, beginning the next nine months of wet.

There was nothing worse for me than those first fall rains, the knowledge that the happiness of summer and sun was over for longer than I felt I could stand. The especially cruel part about it is that there is no place better to be in the summer than the Pacific Northwest. That area of the country is stunningly beautiful. The weather can be hot, but there’s little humidity, few bugs, and the nights are very long. People in the PNW are actually giddy during the summer, drunk on sunshine. And then it’s over and the rain comes back and you have to steel yourself for another nine months. Growing up, we never felt in the clear until after the 4th of July. That’s just not right.

And so we left for LA and though I know I have lots of good and bad to say about the city, I’ll just focus on the weather, since that was the original reason for this post. I love the sunshine. I never get tired of it. It makes me happy every day. I’m always grateful to see a blue sky. I never feel guilty for going to a movie in the middle of a sunny Saturday afternoon like I would have in Seattle because it’s sunny almost every Saturday afternoon. I look at weather reports for different parts of the country during the winter and I feel like I live on a different planet. I love walking outside and not tensing up, getting in my car every morning without having to scrape windows or shovel snow, not feeling the rage I used to feel when I felt cold and wet, feeling motivated to exercise, eating lunch outside almost year round, seeing flowers all year long, not to mention trees that keep their leaves--I could go on and on. But let me dispel a myth instead: Los Angeles has seasons.

Okay, so it doesn’t usually snow in the city (though it did once this winter, very briefly), but there ARE seasons. It gets so cold in the winter that I often have to wear a winter coat and we use our gas heat for months. Just because it’s sunny doesn’t mean it’s warm all the time. This means winter clothes and down comforters! My wardrobe can appropriately change with the seasons! It also can get rainy in the winter, though for shorter periods of time and without a constant cloud cover. Only 2 1/2 hours away are mountains you can go skiing in. LA is one of the only places I know where you could surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon. The foliage is another clue to the seasons. I love the spring when the Jacaranda trees show off their bright purple blossoms. So yes, Los Angeles has seasons, they just happen to be milder, and that is fine by me. I never get tired of sunshine and I appreciate the energy it gives me to get through my life. That it’s guilt-free is just a bonus.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ode to Sunny Weather, or a Response to Lawyerish Part 1

I grew up in Oregon, land of rain and gloom. The weather didn't bother me that much when I was younger. I think it was because I didn't know there was an alternative (this line of thinking, by the way, is how I rationalize why people live in the Mid-West: they don't know there are other options). When I decided to go to the East Coast for college (more on how I decided to do that in a future post) I knew that I was in for weather like I'd never had to experience before, and I was right. It got cold and snowy that first winter. There was an actual blizzard! What a shock it was to run out of the dorm with wet hair one morning on my way to class and have it freeze before I got there into little dread-like icicles. THAT was a new experience, one that I avoided having twice. But I loved the snow and the seasons, especially the fall. Fall in New England is magical. One of my favorite memories was stretching on the rugby field after practice (yes I played rugby and I LOVED it), looking out at the forest of colored leaves in their reds, oranges, and yellows, and hearing a rogue bagpiper walking around the nearby lake. It was beautiful. Fall in New England also conjures up memories of apple cider, fresh donuts, and an actual hayride. The weather brought an emotion to the place that felt so fresh and real and alive, while also somehow connecting you to all the history the place possesses. I loved it.

But after graduating I felt the urge to move back to the Pacific Northwest--the place that felt like me, the place where everything was familiar and normal. I missed real mountains, being close to the ocean, the people, the attitude, the history, the food--all the things that made me feel like an insider, rather than an outsider. The fact that I can feel like an outsider in my own country is one of the things I like about the US. I love that it can feel and be so different in so many places. Anyway, I moved to Seattle.

One of the things that I had not missed and slowly grew to loathe was the weather. There's a line in Sleepless in Seattle when someone is protesting the thought of Tom Hanks's character moving to Seattle. They say, "It rains nine months out of the year in Seattle!" It's something a lot of people think was exaggerated, I actually got asked a lot whether the rain was a sort of urban legend, as if it really couldn't be as bad as everyone made it out to be. Well, it's that bad and sometimes worse. There are a lot of people who love it and live no differently because of the rain. I was always baffled by the runners and bikers--they were out there no matter what, as if they didn't even notice it raining. I was never that way. The rain made me want to curl up in a ball on my couch under a blanket. I never wanted to leave my house. Driving terrified me, I was always afraid of hydroplaning into the big rigs on the freeways. I had rain rage. And it made me depressed. I lost all motivation for anything in my life because going out required me to toss off the blanket and go outside into the wet. I needed that blanket, it kept me warm. Oh how I was cold. That was maybe the worst part. There is something about a wet cold that chills you to the bone. It's really hard to get warm. Things were in a sad state for me. So my boyfriend and I discussed options and decided to move to Los Angeles (again, that's a whole other post of its own). Los Angeles is the land of sunshine and it makes me so happy. So, so happy. More on why it makes me happy to come...


Something I've put a little too much thought into is how I would react if I ever ran into one of the bloggers I read regularly. I live in Los Angeles, a city brimming with celebrities, and I barely notice them (literally and figuratively). The general rule here is that you don't stare, point, oggle, or in any way acknowledge that you see them. And only the tourists would ever consider approaching and saying something. I've actually never been tempted to say anything to a celebrity, though I've never run into someone that I'm a huge fan of. There are only two that would give me pause: Kate Winslet and Sarah Vowell. I love them, their careers, their ideas, their choices, their everything. Those are the only two people I can actually think of that I wouldn't mind being instead of me. In other words, I'm a big fan. So when it comes to the bloggers, it feels a little similar. The women whose blogs I read have moved, amused, and inspired me. I'm so impressed by their creativity and writing that I'm jealous.

One day last year I was in Target and for a brief second I could have sworn I saw Dooce, aka Heather Armstrong. A surge of adrenaline flew through my body and I instantly blushed. And then I realized it totally wasn't her and proceeded to wack myself on the side of the head until I passed out so I wouldn't be conscious of what a total idiot I am. Okay, I didn't do that--I don't think they allow that at Target--but still. I felt stupid.

Just like with film and TV celebrities, it's a strange thing to know a lot about someone and have them not know a single thing about you. I've actually run through scenarios in my head of how I could approach my top two. Do I say something like, "Ms. Winslet, sorry to bother you, but I just wanted you to know how much your work has inspired me..."? And then I realize there is just no cool way to talk to a celebrity. But I decided that if somehow in that one moment I manage to say something so witty and intelligent that they want to keep talking to me, then maybe I should quickly state a mini-bio for myself so that we're on more equal ground. You know, so they know things about me like I know things about them. God I'm a dork.

So this morning when I went to read Lawyerish, I had a bit of a start. She titled her post the same as I titled one of my first ones on Thursday: Stormy Weather. I know that it's a song and an easy title to come up with when wanting to talk about weather, but it was a little eerie. Part of me wondered if somehow she found out that I linked to her from my post and that I'm a fan. She's one of the writers that can sometimes freak me out. She writes things that are so specific to how I feel about various topics that it's uncanny. But I thank for her that because it's nice to know there are other people out there who see the world like I do at times. God I'm a dork.

Her post about Stormy Weather made me want to respond. So I'm going to do that in my next post: Ode to Sunny Weather, or a Response to Lawyerish.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

X = Anonymity and Honesty

Okay, so as my mind is racing through all the things I have to say, trying to decide on which to pick first, I've entered into the familiar blog conflict of how honest to be. Right now, not a single soul in the world knows I've started a blog. It's so freeing. I can say anything! No one will ever know! But what if the inevitable happens, what if someone does find my blog? What if they tell other people? I think I'd feel so exposed. It's not that I intend to write bad things about people I know, it's just that there are so many things I don't tell people about and I don't exactly want to start now. I'm drawn in by the idea of being apart of the blogging community, by the chance that maybe I'll write something that will catch the attention of the people I admire so much in the blogging world, and by the idea that people might be actually interested in something that I have to say. All of these things require that I publish the blog in a public way. But then, the idea of saying something that might upset someone I know or reveal me in ways that I don't want people to see, that requires me to be slightly less honest and open, which defeats the purpose. Bit of a dilemma. I know everyone has their boundries. Fake names, not mentioning close friends and family, no photos, no real-life details, etc. All I have to do is make this private and the problem is solved. But there is something so alluring about being an exhibitionist of the written word. Part of me wants to be seen naked and vulnerable. It is a little exciting. It's a risk. I'm just not sure where my line is.

Stormy weather

It's a gloomy day here in LA. The clouds are really low. I work at the top of a hill and sometimes when it's like this I can't even see the next building over from me. It feels like Cloud City. My boss is from England and just loves weather like this because she doesn't feel the burden of needing to match her mood to the beautiful sunshine. She says it's a relief. I'd never considered the weather in that way, for me it's always been the opposite--trying to not fall into the gloom, rather than embracing it for what it is (and isn't). I think there's something to be said for embracing rather than resisting.

X=How to start a blog

I've spent the last 6 months or so filling time at work by reading blogs. It started when a friend sent me a post from Mimi Smartypants. I spent the rest of the month reading her blog from start to finish. I was surprised by how much I liked reading her entries. I'd always wondered why other people would be interested in reading a stranger's journal. Her writing was witty and smart and she dealt with questions I find myself dealing with. Suddenly I saw the value of reading about other people's struggles: they make me feel a little less insane and alone. I like to see how other people have solved their problems and the new ones they encountered as they strode down new paths--paths I'm sure I'll find myself on someday. It was like having someone walk into the scary, dark cave ahead of me, leaving little lights and notes of encouragement and advice as they went along. The world suddenly felt a lot smaller and I took comfort in that. Mimi's links led me to other links and to bloggers like Dooce, Jonniker, Lawyerish, Nothing but Bonfires, Fussy, Finslippy, and so many other talented women writers. I discovered through them a new way of being creative and open and honest. Frankly, it was inspiring. It seemed pretty pointless for me to start yet another blog, these women had done it all so well, it felt like I would either be a bad imitator or sad wannabe. But maybe writing will help me sort through the thoughts that circle my mind on a daily basis. Maybe I'll write something that will make someone else feel a little more normal. Or maybe this will be another blog that just gathers dust in the ether. We'll see.

All I know is that there is something within me screaming to be a writer. I never admit it to anyone because I don't think I would ever be any good at it, but it's what I wish for myself. But the wishing and doing are two such terribly different things. I hate to be alone. I lose energy and momentum and start getting depressed. Being a writer seems like the most lonely of professions. I don't think I have any natural talent. I feel like I don't have anything new to say. I hate the empty screen because it makes me feel like a failure. But I yearn for a creative outlet. I desire to be worthy. I want to inspire and comfort and amuse people. I want to send shivers down people's spines, make them laugh out loud as they sit at work, strike so close to someone's truth that they have the urge to write to me. This is what other writers have given me--what an extraordinary thing to touch someone you've never met, to have them relate to your thoughts and experiences, no matter the distance.

This all sounds so terribly self-centered and overly self-indulgent and more serious than I intended. But I don't want to censor myself. And so, with this, I've solved for X. This is how I start a blog.