Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Zen Things

“One day, a long time from now you’ll cease to care anymore whom you please or what anybody has to say about you. That’s when you’ll finally produce the work you’re capable of.” — J.D. Salinger
Transitions are hard. The innate human resistance to the unknown make leaving and moving onto something else alluring yet also terrifying.

Graduating from college/moving out of the parents' home is one of the biggest transitions a young person will make. Finding a job, a place to live, and the right people to love are choices we all face. Sometimes they seem less like choices though and more like ultimatums. I don't know where I'm going to be in less than a year and that worries me.

Is following dreams just too unrealistic in today's world? As far as my major goes, I chose what I enjoy doing most, English Writing. Yet, the cold realities of unemployment prompts my uncertainty. Am I like the little kid who wants to be a fireman because he gets to drive the big red trucks with flashing lights and screaming sirens?  

These are the questions I pondered while washing dishes for hours in a grungy kitchen in the back of a restaurant.

I was soaked up to my elbows in brown dishwater and my shift wasn't even half over. As I plunged my hands into the oversized sink and loaded dishes onto a rack, I thought about happiness. I carried the loaded try over to the dishwasher and ran them through a washing cycle. As I waited, I unloaded some clean trays. I had developed a technique for stacking the trays; I could take them off the rack four at a time, which I found impressive.

As gross as the job could be at times, in a strange way I had come to appreciate it. It was physical labor. I was active and on my feet, constantly moving. I liked that. I also liked the people I worked with. I liked being an essential part of a larger enterprise.

I began rinsing the silverware, squinting so the high-pressured stream of water wouldn't gush into my eyes, although it was soaking me everywhere else. At that moment, I realized I was happy. I knew exactly what I was supposed to do, and I knew I was doing it well. It was an incredibly simple, thankless task but the rest of the cafe needed me in order to operate.

It's in these instances that I realize I'm going to be okay. Perhaps it doesn't matter what we do, so much as the attitude in which we do it.

Maybe I'll never become a writer, save for the thoughts I share here. Or, maybe I'll go on to start my own publishing company, who am I to say? Perhaps the importance lies in not valuing titles too much; as if becoming a CEO or earning a Ph. D. will bring more happiness, guaranteed. I don't plan on washing dishes for the rest of my life, but that kitchen has taught me that happiness doesn't necessarily hide in a corporate office or a perfectly furnished apartment in New York.

Being less can actually fulfill us more. You have little, but then again, you have little to lose. If people look down on you or call you lazy or inept, they simply haven't realized the value in doing less and living simply and being simple.

Monday, July 22, 2013

How to Flirt With an Introvert

DISCLAIMER: While meant to inform, this excerpt is also intended to entertain. So, while all the information is valid, please, if/when put into practice, use common sense and understand every circumstance is different.

Ladies, feel free to laugh and comment with any of your own insight. And if you're interested in a fella, much of this advice applies to you, too.

Is She an Introvert 

Okay, sir, congratulations! You're interested in a lady. You want to get to know her. Here's one of the first things you need to do: figure out if she's introverted or extraverted.
Introverts tend to enjoy quiet concentration, listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and have a more circumspect and cautious approach to risk. Introverts think more, are less reckless and focus on what really matters—relationships and meaningful work.  
Extroverts are energized by social situations and tend to be assertive, multi-taskers who think out loud and on their feet (Susan Cain). 
At first, discerning your prospective lady might be difficult, so I'll give you a guideline to follow.

You'll know she's an introvert when:

1. She's not very witty. 

If she doesn't chuck some serious sass your way after one of your sarcastic remarks, it's a strong indication. Instead, she might do a half-hearted laugh, softly punch you on the shoulder and mutter something absurd like, ""

Don't panic. She's actually not stupid.

There's a lot going on in her head. She's processing at lightning speed. Anything from the tone of your voice, your body posture, another person or other people in the room and what they're thinking, the way you're perceiving her at that moment, something she said previously, what your comment actually being analyzed. That takes a lot of brain power, thus, no comeback. Now if you gave her a couple minutes...

2. She seems quiet. 

That's rough. You want to get to know her but she's not giving you much to go on. Bro, you're dealing with the tip of her iceberg. Depending on who you are and how far you're willing/able to dive, her depth could be good or bad.

Every girl is different, but if she's highly introverted, even after knowing her for years she'll still have long lapses of quiet. She's thinking, duh.

3. She doesn't flirt back. 

Okay, okay, this is tricky. One reason for no reciprocation could actually be total disinterest; if this is the case, you really don't have a chance. Move on as soon as possible. Like an iceberg, she ain't gonna budge.

However, you might be looking for the wrong signs. Yes, I did just say "signs." By nature, she's cautious when taking risks. You're a risk. Remember that. She's not going to put herself out there, or if she does, it will be as subtle as humanly possible. For example, two seconds of outrageously bold eye-contact from across the room. Wow. That's good. And if it's any more than four seconds, she basically just screamed, "Holy [expletive], I LOVE YOU!!"

Another reason she's not flirting could be due to her inability to think on her feet (observation #1). She's not good at those light, get-to-know-you conversations (they both exhaust and bore her).

4. She takes everything you say seriously. 

Your extroverted lady friends will unashamedly bash you and compete with your most brutal sarcasm. Your prospective introvert, however, probably won't. If she tries, you'll see right away it's unnatural.

5. She's indirect. 

She's going to worry about how she presents herself, whether she likes you or not. If there's no interest, she also doesn't want to hurt your feelings. It's possible she might say one thing but mean another. The reason for this boils down to her innate desire to avoid conflict. You get to be the idiot who tries to figure out what's really being communicated.
A note: As an introvert, she probably should come out of her shell more and it sucks for you if she doesn't.

If You're an Introvert 

You might also fall into the introverted category. Assume the development of the relationship will move much slower. If you marry the girl before either of you turn forty, I congratulate you.

Also, for the sake of the relationship, be prepared (as best you can) to muster insane courage. To approach her and strike up a conversation is absolutely mad, I get it. However, vulnerability and chance of utter embarrassment are necessary.

Please, don't try to be coy and discreet. Making momentary eye contact from across the room only gets you so far. If you're interested but not sure she is, don't pretend you aren't to protect your ego (just in case she lets you down). If you do, I promise nothing is going to happen.

Don't half-heartedly throw phases out there like, "We should hang out sometime." This translates to, "I have no balls to actually ask you out."

When asking her out, watch out for replies like, "Yeah, for sure." "For sure" without specific times and dates, equals "heck no."

Other Tips to Success 

1. Location, location, location. You'll want to take her out. Avoid busy places with a lot of noise. Think quiet, minimally stimulating environments.

2. Ask her deep questions; not necessarily about herself, but her opinions on something. If you work her up to a topic she cares about, she'll forget about over-analyzing and start running her mouth.

3. Understand you're constantly being analyzed; everything from the way you part your hair, down to the brand of shoes you wear, is telling her something about you. Not only your physique, but most of what you do and say is under critical evaluation. She wants to know, are you worth her time?

4. She likes genuine, meaningful conversations. When you aren't serious, make sure that's understood.

5. Be patient. She's not about to rush into anything. Pressure her and she'll shut down and emotionally extract herself altogether.


More You Should Know

1. Many introverts hide their identity. Generally, outgoing individuals make more friends, gain more rapport, and experience more opportunities while the quiet ones are overlooked by default. In other words, you're lady could be obligated to fake it. This is not to say the above points never apply, it's just an indication that she's better at pretending they don't.

2. Getting to really know an introvert can be a lot of work. Distracted by her overpowering mental processor, an introvert will often seem superficial. It's hard for her to get into the moment. There will probably be some mental barriers to break through.

3. She might not want to "get out" much. A fun, fulfilling evening to her could consist of sitting in a room together. This is favorable since it takes a lot of pressure off you and your budget.

4. Your prospective lady might not know she's an introvert. However, in a culture strongly bent toward valuing an extroverted ideal, she might feel out of place. Self-absorption and insecurity are typically mistaken for an introvert's tendency to withdrawal. On the contrary, quietude is often simply her means of escape, a short break, from a fast-pace, talkative, overwhelming world.



If you're serious about understanding the essence of introversion, read Susan Cain's Quiet. Here's a quick summary from goodreads:

Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so...Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts. more

Good luck. You may need it.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir

"What happens when we lose the things that anchor us? What if, instead of grasping at something to hold on to, we pull up our roots and walk away? Instead of trying to find the way back, we walk deeper and deeper into the woods, willing ourselves to get lost. In this place where nothing is recognizable, not the people or the language or the food, we are truly on our own. Eventually, we find ourselves unencumbered by the past or the future. Here is a fleeting glimpse of our truest self, our self in the present moment. After that, maybe we can finally go home--or maybe not."

"What I found on the road was a tiny piece of myself, the one I kept unknowingly shuttered for so long in order to play the many roles I thought were mine. It was no cyclone, but these past few years I had survived my own personal disasters and realized I was strong enough. I was on the other side. In this new place, I could hear the whispering voice inside my head growing louder, my voice--not those of my parents or teachers...--telling me to live my life without fear or worry or doubt that nothing was going according to plan, as though such a plan ever existed in the first place." 

A Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost, p. 286-287
By Rachel Friedman 
Published 2011


If you're worrying about your place in the world... 



Trust whatever He has for you. It will be better than anything you can plan for yourself.
— Francis Chan (Crazy Love)


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Perfectly Bearable Anonymity of Being

"When a society is rich, its people don't need to work with their hands; they can devote themselves to activities of the spirit. We have more and more universities and more and more students. If students are going to earn degrees, they've got to come up with dissertation topics. And since dissertations can be written about everything under the sun, the number of topics is infinite. Sheets of paper covered with words pile up in archives sadder than cemeteries, because no one ever visits them, not even on All Souls' Day. Culture is perishing in overproduction, in an avalanche of words, in the madness of quantity."

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, p. 103
By Milan Kundera
Published 1984

I haven't read this book, but it's high on the list of the many I want to. Regarding the book as a whole, I have nothing to base my opinions on besides this quotation, which will leave me either misinterpreting or simply reinventing his thoughts in my own way. 

Freedom or paralysis is inevitable when realizing the daunting "madness of quantity" in this world. For me, paralysis came first. I've been really hung up on this recently. I believe we underestimate the sheer quantity of everything out there; we know, but we don't truly believe. 

The madness of quantity keeps going on and on infinitely in all areas of life. No matter how diligently I aspire toward any specific goal, I will always be met with competition. I will always find someone farther ahead who knows more and can do better.  

Freedom, in its brilliant simplicity, was when I realized...that doesn't matter. In fact, it's better that way. 

The world became a richer place, in my opinion. It's like listening to music just to listen to it, without caring who wrote it, or who's singing it. Instead, to just take in the pleasurable ebbing and flowing of the harmonies and melodies as they collide, creating sounds that miraculously communicate meaning to me.   

Fame is the modern equivalent of immortality. To be heard, seen, or recognized--anywhere--prevents one from disappearing altogether. American society is built on a competitive culture, a culture that is spreading dangerously fast. Recognition, in whatever form, is just another part of the game. 

Yet, there is basis for wanting to be discovered. As Kundra pointed out, so much has been lost due to sheer numbers and inescapable anonymity. Not all can be famous.

I would argue there is absolute freedom in anonymity. When I can embrace my wisp-like existence, I am left content. It is true, my highly time-invested senior thesis will be buried in a cemetery of countless others after next year. There's not much I can do about it but embrace the process, learn, grow, stretch myself, and not worry about its impact on the world.  

Perhaps this is how I would define art (of life and other things): the creation of something for it's own sake, not your own or anyone else's. 

When my expectations dissolved, so did the person I was "meant to be". Somehow, this mysterious presumption had adhered itself to the back of my mind like superglue. I was convicted I really needed to go out with a bang. As a result, I spent a lot of time wearing myself out and feeling disappointed, guilty, and ashamed. Inevitably, I was failing (already!). 

Accepting one's mediocrity shouldn't equate to depression and purposelessness. Quite the contrary, actually. I strive to forget about myself. When I am taken out of the picture, there is nothing left. Nothing, except a pure, translucent reflection of the real Creator Himself. He is the noun, I am the verb. 

Dear reader, I encourage you (as well as myself), to enjoy the act of doing not being; of writing, not being a writer; of running, not being a runner. When the verb becomes a noun that identifies who you are, it changes your perspective. It confuses you. It limits you. Are you a mother, or are you mothering? Do you see the difference? One confines into a subjective definition (one that should be only His), the other compels into a developing action (one that can be yours). 

Do you define your actions, or do your actions define you? 

The former is merely a perception of who you believe you are; the latter is the reality everyone else actually sees.  


Sunday, July 14, 2013

All In a Day's Run

Since coming home from Asia, running has been my escape. The art of running is challenging and (contrary to popular belief) enjoyable to me. I run to push my physical limitations. I suppose that sounds trite and romantic, I suppose it rather is.

Today I ran farther than I ever have in my collegiate career. I'm becoming an addict of longer distances. This run was a long, long stretch; plenty long for me anyway.

The route I chose took me into town. Somewhere between mile seven and eight I came upon a mother and her son biking from the library. As I was catching up to them, I noticed they stopped at an intersecting road off the main drag. There was no stop sign or approaching car in sight.  

In the state I'm in, restless, craving adventure, wanting to get away, feeling very uninspired, I thought what a shame this was, those two, stopping for invisible traffic. I looked past them at all the other intersecting roads ahead and wondered if they would stop for every single one. Really, how ridiculous.

I began to catch up to them (they were, after all, stopping at all the little intersections). As I passed them, I nodded and smiled, doing my best not to rub in the obvious fact. The little boy, upon seeing me in his periphery, exploded into vigorous pedaling. We were side by side for a couple of seconds, but not long enough for me to think of anything to say. We came upon another little intersection and without hesitation the boy breezed through it.

Yet, only seconds later, he looked over his shoulder toward his mom and slowed down. Being passed by a runner is a blow to anyone's self-esteem, especially atop a bike (with only two wheels nonetheless), but his mother hadn't picked up her speed. She might've even stopped at the intersection.

He disappeared behind me.

I felt a bit sorry for him. Yet, in a lot of ways I could relate to him.

I have (with forced patience) been complying to the expectations set for me. Go to college. Be a good student. Get a degree. And like little intersections off the highway, I can see the expectations ahead: Get a good job. Find the right husband. Have kids...then forget about the job. Be a good Christian (what does that mean, by the way?).

Like that six or seven year-old kid, I'm young. I have a lot to learn. He might have questioned the necessity of stopping, but if one's mother thought one must stop at all the crossings, then that is exactly what one must do. For all these years I've been doing the same. Still, there is a point when you can accept control over your own life, you don't need to keep stopping.

Society's pressure is like a mother with good intentions. "Do this to be safe. Protect yourself. Always be cautious. You need this." I've been questioning the validity of that message. I question the American circle of life. Many others do as well.

We might question it, but we go along with it because we can't see any other workable plan. Even though there might not be anything wrong with this cycle, I just don't think it's a one-size-fits-all type of deal. Just because I'm an American, doesn't necessarily mean I want to meet all the American expectations.

Whatever it is that will finally set me over the edge, I hope I'll have enough conviction of mind to keep going with it, to keep breaking societies rules (when the time is right), and not slow down.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Glass Castle: Memoir of A Woman Much Stronger Than Glass

It's now the dead of summer. With summer follows a bit of space in our schedules (we hope, anyway). If you're looking for a good summer read, consider The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

For me, the book provided more than mere entertainment. Jeannette's is a story we could all learn from. Growing up far below the poverty line, she learned how to become self-efficient, smart, and resilient to whatever life threw her way; and let me tell you, life chucked her some pretty nasty dirt.

Here's a short summary from Goodreads, you can find the rest at: Glass Castle
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever. More
While turning through the memories of Jeannette's childhood, I couldn't help my jealous thoughts. Perhaps, never having lived in poverty, I'm like the anxious house cat trying to sneak its way out the back door, oblivious to the harsh realities of the wild.

Nevertheless, the pages of Jeannette's story stirred me deeply, as all good books should. Her memoir led me to a simple fact: security isn't everything.

Security is favorable, it's what we are conditioned to desire. It's practical, too. Nobody likes falling out of a car zooming down the highway and waiting for hours with a bloody nose and gravel-torn skin, debating whether daddy will actually stop and turn around for you (one of Jeannette's memories).

Yet, with too much security, something within our human soul suffers, I'm convicted of it. People become bored, and as a result, boring.

With that being said, life is not a matter of what we do, but how we think. Living is entirely a mindset.

You can be as poor as dirt, never have a real place to call home, or new clothes, or consistent meals, or reliable parents, or friends, and still feel content and okay about life. That might seem like a stretch, but it's Jeannette's story.

Her childhood goes to show that some of the richest, most brilliant experiences of life can still came from a life in complete poverty.

We all need to remember that.

As we work hours and hours at our nine to five jobs, remember. Remember that happiness and fulfillment have little connection to the zeros behind our paychecks. As we save and save for that new car, bigger house, better school, remember. Providing for a family consists of more than a roof and a weekly grocery list and the latest technology.

More importantly, providing for a family means investing in their souls. It means taking your children outside and looking up at the stars together, explaining the names and stories behind the constellations and asking each one of those excited little faces to pick out their favorite, because Christmas presents will come and go but stars will last for lightyears.

Providing for a family means showing your children they don't need the weight of possessions, the confirmation of other's approval, or the comfort of a really nice home. Instead, providing for them means showing (not just telling) them life has a lot more to offer. It means challenging their thinking, inspiring them with the way you choose to live, and truly believing in the potential that they can only reach on their own; this is the rutty, more authentic beauty of provision.

I wouldn't suggest becoming an alcoholic, or losing yourself in your own dreams, or refusing to work, or neglecting to feed your children. I wouldn't suggest running from the police, or laying in bed for days, or stealing your kid's grocery money, or leaving and never saying when or if you'll come back.

Rather, I would suggest, no matter who you are, what you do, or the stage of life your family is in, to intentionally be aware of the way you think. The truest forms of joy and fulfillment lie just above your shoulders, a little behind your eyes, and squarely between your ears. Dear Reader, it's the simple, little things in life that produce life's fullness; things like intimacy, love, and peace. All things, I will modestly point out, that have nothing to do with your social or financial status, or the quality of your lawn.


Jeannette Walls

Jeanette Walls - BIOGRAPHY

Jeannette Walls was born in Phoenix, Arizona. Her parents moved the family around the southwest before settling for a time in Welch, West Virginia. It was in West Virginia, as she entered her teens, that she was often mistreated. At age 17 she moved to New York City. With the help of part-time jobs, she eventually entered Columbia University’s Barnard College, where she graduated with honors.
She had come to love journalism while working on her high school newspaper so she tried working as a gopher for New York Magazine while she attended college. She eventually moved to the business section and ended up a news reporter for USA Today. Her first gossip column was written once again at New York Magazine. She moved on to Esquire Magazine’s gossip column and worked at MSNBC as an online columnist and television segment reporter for eight years (leaving in 2007), before deciding to turn her full attention to writing books. She now lives in Virginia and is married to another writer, John Taylor. 

“We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.” 
― Immanuel Kant