April 10, 2015

Burning Daylight

I'm going to say something unpopular:

Productivity is overrated.   

And this comes from someone who is a sucker for articles on productivity and how to squeeze every little last task and to-do in. But there is this sickingly prevalent sentiment of "you aren't doing enough in the 24 hours allotted to you" which makes me extraordinarily sad.

A lot of the talk around productivity revolves around work. A traditional work week is five 8-hour days, but who actually adheres to a mere 40-hours on a flexible schedule? Most people I know go in early, stay late, and often even work at home after hours. This dredges up the popular work-life balance argument, but my displeasure with this system goes beyond that.

Deep at the root of all this lives this need to always be better and do more and prove that we can do everything. "Going beyond" has become the expectation. Which, on a lot of levels, is really neat. We aren't easily satisfied. We aren't quick to be complacent. But then, we are slow to reward, slow to be satisfied... slow to slow down.

There is always more to do. More to craft. More to code. More to clean. More to write. More to invent. More to process.

And what we lose with this attitude is actually not small. On a physical level, this causes stress which is proven to be averse to your health. It messes with your sleep because we stare at screens more, stay up later, and get up earlier. But on a bigger level, we actually lose our passion and creativity and child-like wonder of what is already around us and what already exists. We lose our stillness and appreciation of what is.

At the end of the day, I am prone to think about all the to-do list items that didn't get done, or all the to-do list items that are waiting for me on the other side of my sleep. But I want to come home, make a cup of tea, and have an agenda-less evening... And be happy with where I'm at, what I've done, and what's to come.

January 28, 2015

Never Read Comments On the Internet

That's a well-known mantra. People are stupid and callous and the veil of anonymity leads many to say things they wouldn't ordinarily say. Internet comments give soapboxes to everyone, so often they are littered with hateful, uninformed, or entirely irrelevant content.

But there is a flip side to that - two flip-sides, actually - that are often ignored.

First, anonymity gives people a voice. With a "level playing field," those without an outlet to express their feelings or opinions in traditional circumstances find a way to reach a greater audience. That in itself is a remarkable and valuable thing.

Second, and what bothers me most, is that because of this stigma, real feedback gets drowned out. When reasonable, logical, self-preserving people are trained to not read the comments, you are perpetuating dangerous mindsets. You are negating a lot of people's point of view (enforced silo-ing is a well-studied consequence of social media) by assuming what they have to say will make no difference. But further, the creators of the content being commented on don't take seriously the very real feedback from those consuming it. In a physical situation - a store, for instance - feedback is much harder to give: you must be physically present, you must have the conviction to actually speak up about it, and you have to wait for the proper channels or people to come available. This barrier of entry means that store or restaurant complaints are taken much more seriously - partly because they are rarer.

This afternoon I opened an article, my curiosity piqued due to a bold title. But I was quickly disappointed. The article was once again sensationalist, stating something grandiose but both failing to support it and slipping into the world of opinion rather than research and reporting.

My instinct was to write a comment saying so. I was disappointed, and am continually less and less trusting of any media - even supposed "news" sources. But then I realized that a) no one would read it, or b) it would get buried in over-reactive commentaries left by those way too easily offended.

As someone whose degree is centered around acknowledging error, inviting feedback, and course-correcting when the situation requires it, this situation pains me. Too often, the comments section of a page, post, or article is often the only place for consumers (be it readers, buyers, or other interested parties) to either provide praise or point out a flaw our failing. And without it, the situation will only worsen because there will be no meaningful feedback loop.

January 6, 2015

The First Snow in NYC

It's snowing! It's snowing! I - and every other person living in NYC - shout from the rooftops. Granted, this weather would have been nice in December so that singing "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" didn't garner me so many bizarre looks.

I chose not to write "I - and every other New Yorker" in the first sentence on purpose.  First of all, I've only been here for 5.5 months, but it's more than that. Jackson and Emily Ann would love that I'm about to make this reference... There is an episode of How I Met Your Mother when everyone has their own version of what Robin must do to become a "true" New Yorker. And that episode doesn't feel far off. There are many Buzzfeed articles like "You know you are from NYC when..." or "Things All New Yorkers Can't Stand." And somehow there is this perpetual barrier between "living in NYC" and "being a New Yorker." Now, I don't have this deep-seated desire to be considered a real New Yorker. But, I think that NYC sometimes feels like this weird clique that millions of people are in, but no one that I know. Which makes me wonder... Who is actually in the club?

Have I...
...cried on the subway? Shamefully, yes.
...changed trains mid-commute due to unforeseen delays? Enthusiastically, yes.
...paid $20 for a drink? Regretfully, yes.
...eaten a bagel while walking? Stubbornly, yes.
...seen a movie being filmed on my street? Casually, yes.
...paid someone to do my laundry rather than use the coin machines? Bashfully, yes.
...started saying "on line" instead of "in line"? Staunchly, no.

But, there many things that I have either done or failed to do that somehow disqualify me from being a "real New Yorker." For instance, I still look up and admire the tall buildings (and occasionally take a quick picture while pretending to take a SnapChat of my own face). I really like touristy places (with the exception of Times Square). I still can't bring myself to eat from a street cart. I smile at strangers. The promoters at the base of the Empire State Building still try to sell me tickets every time I walk by as if they can see through my practiced "focus face" and intentionally-worn headphones into the fact that I am still not "one of them."

So what am I then?

Our pastor is always talking about how the most counter-cultural thing we can do here is stay. We live in Williamsburg - the hipster capital of everything - amidst people doing everything in their power to be different. But no one stays. No one is here for long. And while staying would be counter-cultural, so would accepting new people. Even people who claim to want to be totally unique still want to feel welcomed. And New York City isn't particularly good at that. I grew up in a place that depended on tourism, so I understand the locals' mindset of "tourist disdain." Believe me, I participated. But NYC is full of people trying to take on the role of local but get lost in the shuffle - not from here, but not from anywhere else either.

I do hope to stay here a while. And one day I'll be able to say "I'm from New York" rather than my current "I just moved to NYC." Or maybe I'll be a permanent transient (how's that for an oxymoron?). Either way, I like New York City. Shocking, I know. Isn't this the love-hate relationship everyone always talks about when they talk about The Big Apple? Well, here I am, jumping on that bandwagon, too.

Have I...
... started to really like it here? You betcha.

December 30, 2014

Work-Work Balance (Where'd the life go?)

Hello. I was home last week, and my mom hollered from the other room, "So are you ever going to update your blog, or should I stop checking it?" Whoops. So hi, mama. The only real reader of this dusty corner of the internet.

I had a bit of a meltdown yesterday. I got "home" (Brooklyn) from "home" (Kansas City). Jackson was not with me, and it was my shortest Christmas visit ever, being my first year out of school. Needless to say, I got back and my body felt confused, grumpy, and resistant to adulthood. I had a bit of a pity party: I drank a glass of wine, a cup of tea, and watched Gilmore Girls. The Rory-Lorelai banter helped.

But what was weighing on me was a restlessness. I don't love my job, but it's a job - a well-paying one with nice co-workers and a great boss in the industry I want to be in. Who am I to be complaining? But there are aspects I strongly dislike, and the work itself isn't exactly important or impactful. I know, I am a recent grad wanting to "change the world" - typical. But that's not exactly what's been itching the back of my mind. I want what I do to not only be important (at least to someone), I also want it to enable me to do what I want outside of work. I want the flexibility to visit family and friends and take long walks. Now, I peel myself out of bed, leave as the sun rises, come home hours after it sets, and have just enough time for dinner before bed.

I always try to be optimistic. Just the other day I told my co-worker to calm down because (as my dad is wont to say), "The sun will come up tomorrow." But right now I'm becoming painfully aware and - frankly - crippled by the reality of the career idolatry throughout the "progressive" world. If you aren't working you're looking, and those who work long hours are viewed as "dedicated" and "driven." I want the focus to be on character: "She adores her kids" or "She always goes out of her way to help" or "He is really inquisitive." What I wish didn't happen is the translation to work more, stretch more, do more.

There is a woman at my church from Ireland. Her husband is here is on a work visa, but she is on a spouse visa which means she literally isn't allowed to work. I tell that to people with the deep awe and (admitted) jealousy. I am constantly surprised by how many people react with "Well what does she do all day?" or "That would get so boring." Um, since when is work our source of entertainment, pleasure, and purpose? What blows me away by her is that she contentedly fills her day with bike rides, Bible reading, bakery visits, and coffee dates with numerous people from our church. She is one of the most fulfilled and kind people I've ever met. I want to be like her.

There are numerous advantages to working, and I'm quite grateful for the opportunities and stability that come with having a job. Especially in NYC. But I don't have any desire to get swept up in the mindset that work is it. I want to find a way to work while also living - exuberantly.

June 19, 2014

Friendship is the Best Ship

I’m really into friendship. Even in spite of my introversion and associated people-aversion, I really really love friendship. And this week has been particularly full of thoughts on the subject.

I visited Jackson in Brooklyn this weekend. He just moved into the apartment that is to be our first place together once I wrap up school. I was only around for the weekend, but we decided to check out a church while I was in town. I’d heard a lot of good things about a new church plant in Brooklyn and figured it was as good a time as any to make an adventurous subway excursion to check it out. In God’s typical way, the sermon was about friendship. But not in the “Friends are great, fellowship often, drink local coffee” sort of way. The pastor covered the Trinity (first of all, who does that casually in Sunday sermon? It was awesome) and explained that the Holy Spirit is the spiritual embodiment of the deep relationship and connection between God the Father and Jesus Christ, the Son. So the Holy Spirit is ultimately the deep, all-encompassing, understanding and supportive nature of ideal friendship. It would be an understatement to say the sermon blew my mind. But it also made total sense, and lent words to the powerful bonds I’ve felt with friends before, especially this past year.

The reflection on friendships extended beyond the sermon and into our wedding planning. We aren’t planning on getting married until next summer so there’s lots of time to make decisions, but some things have to be sorted out early like venue and budget. A lot of those decisions are dictated by guest list which brings me back to the friendship topic. In considering who should be invited, I found my list far exceeded what we’d loosely set as a cap in an effort to keep the budget even remotely reasonable. Like I said, I’m really into friendship. As mentioned in my last post, I tend to get attached relatively quickly and then spend a decent amount of time stressing over how to make the people in my life feel special, cared about, and important. That means my list was long in an effort to make virtually every person I’ve known who has been impactful feel included and recognized. As nice as it would be to have a reception full of every person in my life (a la the final scene of the lovely movie Big Fish), that’s not feasible or reasonable or necessary.

While we won’t have to finalize our guest list for some time, the exercise of considering my friends resulted in me mulling over types of friendships. Every friendship is not the same. Very few are persistent and lasting across years. While that thought used to sadden me, I realized that was the wrong attitude. Every interaction, every moment, is planned and ordained by my awesome and brilliant God, who has a purpose for all things. Some friendships are intense but fleeting. Others are slow and steady, taking time to develop and withstanding the tests of time, distance, and life changes. But no friendship is not worthwhile.

I’ve had “in the moment” friends who have made a difference, even briefly by comforting me, challenging me, or simply accompanying me in a snippet of time. I’ve had “transition friends” - as in those who have aided in a change in my life like being the new employee or changing locations (which I’ve been through quite a bit of). I’ve at “ebb and flow” friends who are there for me always, but their presence in my life is dynamic dependent on both of our situations. And of course there are the “always” friends, who I will be able to call in ten years, regardless of how often we’ve spoken, and know they’d help me in a heartbeat. I’ve also been blessed with friends who are even more than friends - friends with whom I share a deep bond, aided by the power of Christian love and the deep commitment to the same ideals. Those are forever friends, but within their own subcategory. People who not only understand me, but help me to be my best self. What’s particularly cool about these friends is that they impact me at all times, even when not immediately present, by being role models and examples and all-the-time carers of the world and people within it. They’re pretty amazing people.

Friends are wonderful. I’m immensely grateful for the relationships in my life, both past and present. I’m often overwhelmed with deep love towards those in my life and it has become abundantly clear that this is exactly what the pastor was talking about. That feeling is the presence of the Holy Spirit. And wow, it’s pretty awesome.

May 13, 2014

I Think I Figured Out Why I'm Introverted

I am a self-proclaimed, undeniable introvert. I need alone time, and I need to be prepared for social interactions. I don’t dislike people – as is a common misconception – but I do use up energy rather than gain energy from being around people. All of these attributes, amongst others, point to my introverted nature.

However, I’ve always been puzzled by the fact that there are a few select people, maybe about 5-7 in total, that I would spend every waking minute with if I could. These are people who I adore being around. That’s not to say I don’t love being around other people! But there is something about this core group that draws me to their company and their love.

All of this is making the approach of graduation cause severe panic. We’ve been barreling towards this goal for four years and now that it is here, I am absolutely terrified. I’m not terrified about the next steps – in fact, I’m quite excited. What I’m so nervous about is that suddenly my group of dear friends will be disbanded suddenly and permanently. Sure, we will talk often and keep the ties maintained. But we will never again be all together, in this place, where these relationships have formed and blossomed.

Ok, so what does this have to do with my introverted epiphany? After graduation I will be moving to NYC. An introvert headed for the busiest city possible. I am beyond grateful that I will not be alone in this move, as some of my closest companions will be there with me. However, there is a constant gnawing in my stomach, a fear of the bustling metropolis that will soon be my home.

And here’s why. Once I have a friendship, especially a strong one that falls into the “I-literally-always-want-to-be-around-you” category, I pour my heart into the encouragement and growth of that relationship. But getting to that point in a friendship requires immense effort and several interactions outside my comfort zone. Those interactions require coffee dates and making plans and establishing boundaries and learning deeply. Being a new city with a new job and a new home will already be daunting enough. But those initial jumps into friendships will be even harder.

Part of what makes social situations so challenging for me is that with every interaction, I am exposed to another person that I want to love and support, even if I have known them all of three minutes. That sounds a little weird and mildly creepy - I know - but it’s in my nature. Every person I meet I want to brighten their day and learn their story in a way that will help me to support them. Thus, sudden interactions with bunches of new people can be immensely overwhelming because I have no idea where to begin. What do I say? How can I make them like me so that they’ll tell me about them and then I can be useful in their life? And I can’t turn it off. I can’t just ephemerally interact with a person under the assumption that the friendship will never extend beyond the present moment. My brain doesn’t work that way. So every new day with new people offers an opportunity for friendship but in a way that is mentally taxing.

I can’t say it’s not worth it. My favorite people in this world are ones that I’ve gone through this process with and I love them wholeheartedly. I am constantly amazed by my friends and wonder what I did right when we first met to establish these wonderful bonds. And naturally, as the overthinking, introverted, obnoxiously attentive person that I am, I am already nervous for the next journeys that will lead to new friendships with people I haven’t even met yet.
For now, I'm looking for strength to maintain my relationships, courage to jump into new ones, and faith that the right people will be placed in my life to make this next chapter incredible.

December 2, 2013


I feel like this semester has been all about sentimentality.

One of my dearest friends, Claire, is getting married in July. I was honored to be asked to be a bridesmaid. She was working on her wedding website and in her description of us (her and I) she said that our relationship could be summed up with the phrase "heavy on the life."

Martha and Claire poke fun at me regularly about my deep and open emotions. Somehow, I've always been this way, but it wasn't until this semester that I was absolutely, acutely aware of it. I feel everything. I have written before about my empathy with May in Sue Monk Kidd's "Secret Life of Bees" - she is touched by just about everything, carrying the weight of the world.

In my Jane Austen class, we talked for a few classes about "sensibility," comparing different interpretations of the word from naivety to intellect. In Austen's era, an awareness, a deep and melancholic appreciation for the world and it's complexities, was a sign of insight and intelligence.  I liked that definition. It corresponded well with my newfound appreciation for my gift of feeling.

I do live with my heart on my sleeve, but that's not necessarily bad. It makes me vulnerable, but it also makes me sure that I give and share all I have. I have also found that living in such a way encourages me to embrace joy and accept the overwhelming feeling of contentment and appreciation that I find fills me frequently. My cup runneth over!