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.


  1. Just found your blog on BBN and I am your newest follower now! :)
    Really like the Zen list!

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  3. Are you the author of zen things? i love it. i saw it on facebook without credit.

    1. Thank you!! I wrote the story, but I found the 12 principles.

    2. Any idea who wrote the 12 principles?