Monthly Archives: December 2011
Yesterday at work, while I was in the middle of emailing and writing and sipping coffee and thinking and gathering and organizing, I was “interrupted” by the twitter.com and a certain New York Times article that was re-tweeted, caption: Read This.
So I did.
And since then, I haven’t really stopped thinking about it. Written by Pico Iyer, a respected travel writer, essayist, and novelist, Pico dives into many ideas that I constantly ponder and struggle with: the urgency of slowing down, technology & communication, free time we desperately want (but indeed never create), and perhaps the most important piece (for me): the positive purpose of being selfish in order to relax and rejuvenate and become our best self.
There’s a lot to take away in his article, but i’ll just highlight a few things. I highly recommend you read it for yourself, too; it’ll be better than anything I write about here (those New York Time’s writers have a thing or two on me).
In any case, Pico writes: “The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug.” And it’s true, for the most part. For me at least. It seems like we’re constantly battling with the two extremes: going forth with technology and innovation, while wanting to rewind at the same time. Maybe for our generation, it’s harder. We (sort of) remember what it was like without cellphones, with casette players and VHS’s, browsing tv guides to see what shows were on, and waiting for 15 minutes to get on dial-up internet, as long as dad wasn’t on the phone. That’s why it makes it harder; we’ve seen both sides of the story, both ways of living. I remember trips to Blockbuster to scan the “new release” section. I also know how to navigate Netflix and watch any movie without moving a muscle.
I think that many people feel secure staying plugged in. Personally, for the longest time I never wanted an iPhone. I didn’t want to become dependent on it. And, well, I just got one. And as stupid as it may seem, it was a huge step for me. Of course I had asked for it, and in ways felt like I needed it. But why? Do I actually need it? Probably not. But it could be extremely convenient, relavent, fun. Geez—it’s normal. Everyone has the thing. But…it’s just the idea of having another sort of distraction, a way to make things too easy, or even another way to speak without talking— as Pico says: “We have more and more ways to communicate… but less and less to say.”
Another important point Pico brings up is the “urgency of slowing down,” which ties into this whole “unplugging thing.” I feel like I sometimes live these two lifestyles that stand on opposite spectrums. On the one hand, I’m totally plugged in, working a lot, spending most of the day on the internet, while checking twitter, facebook, my iPhone—what have you. “Free time” is really a foreign concept, but I function well without it. I need to dive into something 1,000,000% while finding time to run and workout and write and read for myself, and somehow see my friends along the way. It’s how I work.
But I’m also the complete opposite. I need to detach completely. Some of the most important moments in my life have been by myself, usually just looking up at the sky, somewhere, anywhere. (Once on a beach in Ghana, and another on a morning walk in Colorado stick out particularly right now). Even a few days ago—I woke up knowing I had to go out and buy coffee before getting ready for work (I have a morning routine with my french press and the New York Times), yet when I walked outside, it was absolutely beautiful out. It was the first cold morning in awhile, which for some reason comforts me. So rather than quickly purchasing my coffee grounds and going home to read and shower and get ready for work…I walked. For awhile. In the beautiful, comfortable cold. I had nothing with me but keys and two dollars, which accompanied me on this beautiful, still walk around Brooklyn.
“The urgency of slowing down” is what I was unexpectedly able to find that morning. I needed the “time to do nothing at all,” and it came at just the right moment.
Still, that walk happened once, and those nights I find myself alone looking up at some star-filled sky without a single worry are few and far between. For the most part, lines are blurred, hours turn into days turn into a week, and I can barely separate one moment from the rest. In better words: “All we notice is that the distinctions that used to guide and steady us — between Sunday and Monday, public and private, here and there — are gone.”
But I’m happy. And if I was stuck in the middle of the woods, as much as part of me truly wants that, I’d go crazy. Still, everyone can find their escape depending on their surrounding environment. For Pico it is living in the middle of the woods (in Japan!). For me in Brooklyn, my time to “deplug” comes from working out, or early weekend mornings in bed with coffee and a book or my moleskin. When I first moved to the city, I thought I needed to escape to the nearest cabin or jump in my car and drive on a long stretch of road. But now that I’ve finally settled, I’ve learned that I can find peace without going anywhere.
What I especially like about Pico’s moving to the “middle of nowhere” is that his decision has nothing to do with “principle or asceticism,” but rather..selfishness. And I love how he uses that word. It’s okay to be selfish; we all need to find what makes us calm, clear-headed, and joyful. And I’m a big-believer in that: only when we can be our best selves can we in turn be a better daughter, parent, friend, co-worker, etc. Too often we’re out to please others, compromising the time and space we need for ourselves.
“But it’s only by having some distance from the world that you can see it whole, and understand what you should be doing with it.” And these words comfort me most. I battle everyday with these two extremes: working hard and learning and accepting how this new-aged world works, and wanting the complete opposite: to tear away from it all. But now I’ve seen how they both work together, that they’re not separate entities but rather complement each other… and make me whole. The quiet distance from things calms me down and lets me see clearly that the life I’m leading is the correct one, and it’s wonderful. And the real battle is finding that balance, to stay connected in this quickly moving world, yet be able to hop off that walking escalator.
And perhaps that’ll be my new year’s resolution I vowed not to make: balancing productivity and inactivity—the joy of movement and creation with, as Pico says, “The Joy of Quiet.”
I love getting e-mails from far-away, insightful, beautiful friends:
“I’m trying to let go of expectations and realize that my stability comes, always, from within– because everything else (as we both know so well) may be influenced but is absolutely never controlled by me.”
Sup. I hope everyone had a wonderful christmahanakwanza. Also, I hope everyone had a really nice day.
Anyhoo, I’ve been thinking a lot about new year’s resolutions—probably because it’s almost the new year, and everyone is talking about resolutions (funny how that works). And I’ve come to the realization that I don’t really like them for a couple of reasons. Now, by all means, if resolutions are your thing, then go for it. Try spending more time with family, or get out of debt. Exercise more, eat better, quit smoking, enjoy life, focus on yourself, see the world, or land a better job.
Yet, if I may ask, why not hit the gym a month ago? Why not eat smarter throughout the holidays, make time for yourself in the fall, quit smoking before ever lighting up, or enjoy life…today? That’s my first issue with resolutions: we’re maybe creating them to feel less anxious about our current faults (I usually vow to take a month-long break from alcohol when I’m drunk, anyone else?) rather than actually holding ourselves accountable and making a change. And sticking to it.
Okay, we often stick to resolutions. For a little while. But it’s too easy to fall back into old habits, or set ambitions too high, or generally get overwhelmed by trying to change so many things at once. In lieu of resolutions, I’ve been making a conscious effort to try to improve upon my life every morning, not just when the ball drops. And with that, I’ve discovered some things I really can change, and some things that will take more than a night (or new year) to fix. I’ve been hoping to make more time to write on this blog (check); I’ve wanted to get stronger and faster (in progress); I need to sleep and find more time to relax (maybe when I’m retired).
Change comes from within and whenever— not simply when the year is out. And because of this, I sorta feel like resolutions lack meaning. But please, if you like the concept of starting ambitiously fresh on January 1st, then write your resolutions down and knock em out. But maybe… start yesterday.
The dead of winter—
numb toes, icy faces warmed
by heaters in houses, feeding
desire for friction, irony.
Opposites never attract unless
they cancel things out, creating
space to fill with icy pools we swam in
once, hot air and hail.
We lost our breath, seizing suffocation.
Too many wrongs turned right created
contrasts, which leaves me here:
belonging with these belongings, walking
barefoot on subways. Standing
firmly on shaking streets.
Things clashed and created chords.
Collapsing into energy and
hope that glances turn to understandings,
a secret curiosity and beautiful absurdity,
shared on separate spectrums.
I’m hanging out with Danielle in my very blue room. We’re bored. So we’re both doing this on our blogs. It’s like middle school all over again!
A – Available: for what?
B – Best Friend: danielle, DUH
C – Crush: currently? giraffes
D – Dad’s Name: Jim (this is a boring question)
E – Easiest Person To Talk To: myself, or my cat
F – Favorite Band: Radiohead
G – Gummy Bears Or Worms: bears CMON
H – Hometown: Northport
I – Instrument: Trumpet/Piano
J – Job: da Greatist (writer)
K – Kids: are small?
L – Longest Car Ride: NY to Chicago
M – Milk Flavor: …vanilla?
N – Number Of Siblings: one
O – One Wish: oh ya know..world peace.
P – Phobias: planes, bees, grizzly bears
Q – Favorite Quote: Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something (HDT)
R – Reason To Smile: giraffes, long runs, wandering,
S – Song You Last Heard: rocky racoon
T – Time You Woke Up: 7:55
U – Unknown Fact About Me: I once had a SEVER planter wart on my foot and named it after my coach…
V – Vegetable: Brussel Sprouts.
W – Worst Habits: biting nails, not sleeping enough
X – X-Rays You’ve Had: FOOT, wrist?
Y – Your Favorite Food: carrot cake. or hummus. pumpkin pie! OR MEAL: steak w/ roasted aspargaus, mashed potatoes and glass of cabernet
Z- Zodiac Sign: Aries (so I’m [apparently] independent, optimistic, self-involved, and moody).
So Al and I just returned from our mini midwestern getaway. Overall, Chicago was a grand ol’ time; we experienced a nice balance of cultural, touristy stuff, social, alcoholic, and young rambunctious stuff (sort of), and absolutely nothing..stuff (took lots of naps).
Some highlights included going to the ZOO and seeing giraffes, tigers, weird birds, and christmas lights! We also went to the Chicago Art Institute which had an amazing new modern wing, along with some classic Monet and Van Gogh (beautiful) and African Art (obv the best). We dabbled in Millennium Park, waved to Lake Michigan, went to an incredible German Christmas market and drank mulled wine, frequently felt cold, played with a cat, watched Super Troopers, ate burritos the size of our heads (that’s what the restaurant was called..), saw live improv, went to a birthday party, saw a woman’s purse get stolen in Starbucks, witnessed a car accident, drank tequila, drank whiskey, spooned together in a freezing bedroom while pretending we were “camping,” lost my phone, found my phone, pretended my phone was still lost, oh—and stayed at the Pritzker household, one of the richest families in the world who owns the Hyatt. I promise (but seriously). Also, made new friends. That was the best.
Since that was the longest list..ever, I’ll now interrupt myself with some photos for yr viewing pleasure:
Enough of that. Last call of duty: Spirit Airlines. Well…it didn’t take us long to figure out why flights were so… reasonable? We got on the plane only to learn there was no running water in the bathrooms, and the engine that controls the AC/Heat was broken (but don’t worry, that engine has nothing to do with the ones that make the plane fly. Cool). Nothing was complimentary: we splurged on the $8 combo for two drinks, pringles, and animal crackers. We also spent a good ten minutes failing to recline our seats (probably had to pay for that, too). The ride back was unfortunately worse. The flight attendants kept saying something about no one changing seats because the plane had to stay “balanced” (or what?), and while there indeed was running water this time, there was also a shit ton of turbulence. I had luckily just ordered myself two glasses of wine right as the plane was about to (in my head) nose dive into Lake Michigan. Panic stricken, I literally…chugged my wine as my hands were shaking and tears were falling down my face (not my best moment). Thankfully, we didn’t crash (if you hadn’t guessed) and after the turbulence passed, Ali and I listened to Countdown on repeat, wrote our new years resolutions, and were, well, really drunk. Not a bad way to depart the Windy City, if you ask me.
Friend: everyone comes
and watches you?
like you have people come to share this moment
then they drop all this money on you
then ALL this attention is on you
omg the idea of walking down the aisle
everyone STARING at me
makes me want to piss my pants
and throw up
at the same time
while pissing and throwing up
but yeah. fucking weird man. i mean i guess when i get there at some point, i’ll be all excited for that or something
but my weddings gonna be cool
me: ok sub change
Friend: yea true
HOW MANY BABIES DO YOU WANT!!!!!
One Last Shag
This bar in Bedstuy is filled
with locals in a foreign place.
Music and musk, warm
whiskey and wooden beads
on windows—misplaced precisely
as I am, a Sunday night
with disrupted rhythms
to a dizzying degree, tired eyes
She strums on the
small stage. Her voice so soft
I can barely hear anything
else but phrases and breaths,
empty spaces separating sounds.
I’ve been here before, to this
bar in Bedstuy. I traveled over bridges
to these rooms that cupped the velvet
voices of angels, a black box so illuminating—
warmed by completed chords and
loose holds on wrists.
And they say these bridges connect
things that should fasten around fingers.
But I’m beginning to believe the opposite,
that I’ll run over wires to detach from
worn grass, to be here in this
foreign place, finally familiar.
No longer longing to leave.
Al and I spent all of Sunday together since we literally did not see each other once this week! We went on a dinner-date at The Lodge, which is by far my favorite restaurant in Williamsburg.
We were given this postcard, so we decided to write each other a little note…
…Sense a theme?
I genuinely enjoy connecting with others. I love having random conversations and learning life stories. I like to listen. And I, like most people, have been lucky enough to make unique and wonderful friendships throughout the 23 years, 7 months, and 30 days of my life (but who’s counting?).
And then, there is that other type of relationship: a connection we’ll have with a stranger or an acquaintance that’s short-lived. The random conversation you have with someone on a crowded bus, or on a line to buy movie tickets. The guy you buy coffee from every morning, or the old woman who lives upstairs. I find these connections just as beautiful and important as any family member or friend.
I talked about this with my friend Davey (heeey Davey!) over Ethiopian food last week. He told me about a hike he went on out West—he met up with some other backpackers and they spent the whole day traversing the red rocks. They got along excellently and could easily have turned into long-time pals. Yet when it was time to part ways…they did.
This story reminded me of a bus ride from D.C. to New York. I sat at a table with a father and his two grown children and the four of us spent the whooole northern journey playing gin-rummy and eating carrot cake cookies (i KNOW). I learned all about this quirky trio, and before we knew it, we were pulling over in midtown and set to go our separate ways. Part of me didn’t want to walk away—we just spent five hours together laughing and learning, and I knew I’d never see them again. Still, I simply remarked how great it was to meet them, and left.
I still think about this family and am reminded about how great that bus ride was. And Davey will remember that hike and those fellow backpackers. And you know what? That’s more than enough. I’ll continue to tell the bodega owner down the street “have a great day” when I purchase my coffee, and I’ll never forget to thank the woman who hands me a towel after I workout at the gym. The African laundry lady will always tell me a story when I pick up my clean clothes, and the guy who chops my salad will never stop asking what dressing I want (balsamic every time).
I’ll never spend Christmas with these people, and I may never even learn their names. Yet if I couldn’t have random conversations and quick connections with strangers, I would feel devoid of something. And…and…I wonder what would happen if everyone valued and respected strangers as much as they did family and friends. At the very least, we’d all be a little happier, don’t you think?