sitting behind me on my flight from raleigh were two men who could not be more different. one quiet, the other gregarious, the latter chatted away until the former opened up. through the course of the flight, I learned the cities in which they live, their ages, and about their families, jobs, and interests. all different. as we exited the plane, the more outgoing of the two turned to the introvert and, in his thick southern accent said, “congratulations on your baby. parenthood is so hard, and it’s good and it’s bad, but it’s mostly good, and I’m sure you’ll love it. you’re going to be a great dad. I’ll be thinking of you.”
I wiped away one tiny escaped tear.
sometimes it just takes a few words to remind us that, maybe, we’re not as alone as we feel.
“I figure I’ll be an adult in ten years. first I’ll graduate from college, then I’ll spend the next seven years figuring out who I am, then three years of depression, then I’m an adult. boom.”—as said by an almost-graduate this weekend. very exciting stuff happening here.
just wanted to take a few minutes out of studying and editing and packing to be super excited for the next few months of many, many new experiences. there are definitely moments when the balance tips toward terrified, but today it’s leaning much closer to thrilled.
got an interview for a job where I’d actually be paid to write things.
mailed in a deposit for my summer apartment, about which I couldn’t be happier. the apartment is a compromise with my parents — I’d hoped to spend the summer at a family lake cottage; my parents were worried that, because it’s at least five miles away from anything that can even remotely be considered a town, is two miles from a paved road, and has no heat, hot water, indoor shower, or neighbors, I might go crazy and murder everyone. [murder jokes aren’t funny.] instead, I choose an apartment in ithaca. [have any of you lived there/do you live there now?] I won’t know anyone and I’ll be a long bike ride or a short car ride [I have neither a bike nor car] from the cottage, but I’ll be so close to lakes, rivers, and so much nature. I can’t wait to find and run on every single unpaved trail through the woods. I can’t wait to write until my fingers fall off my body. I can’t wait to spend evenings studying on a huge front porch.
spent an hour on the phone with a friend, thinking about where I should live [freudian slip — I accidentally typed love there… both live and love apply, I suppose], relative to the various jobs for which I applied [hint: brooklyn].
As Broyles says, he will do nearly anything for a price. From his ad, here’s a list of suggestions.
Things I Will Do For $5 Stare at you for 5 minutes Give a hug to the person of your choosing Call you on the phone and seem genuinely interested for 10 minutes Draw your face on a balloon Sing Barenaked Ladies’ One Week from memory to the best of my ability 6 minutes of copywriting
Things I Will Do For $10 Spin until I throw up or you lose interest Rename your Pokémon Host a conference call with you and a person that you’ve always thought was cool but never really got the chance to hang out with, you know? 12 minutes of copywriting
Things I Will Do For $50 Break-up with your boyfriend or girlfriend Help you quit smoking (I’ll call you every day for a month and yell “HEY DON’T SMOKE”) Tell the person you like that you think they’re cute and what if you had sex together? Try my best to fly in a public place for an hour Make you a really great profile picture 1 hour of copywriting
Things I Will Do For $100 Tell your kids which one is actually your favorite, and what the others could do to improve their standings Fight someone much smaller … than me E-mail you a list of 250 things I like about you (need access to any and all social network accounts) Clean most of your house and apologize for the things I didn’t Deliver five fully cooked DiGiorno pizzas right to your door (5-mile radius from my home) 2 hours of copywriting
Things I Will Do For $1,000 Host an event (will not host anything racially insensitive, e.g. human being auction) Give a PowerPoint presentation on team building to your business and/or extended family Rename your children Build you a cardboard car and make vroom-vroom sounds while you drive it Star treatment for a month (I’ll hide in bushes and take pictures of you) 20 hours of copywriting
Things I Will Do For $100,000 Yell your name every time I wake up for the rest of my life Change my political and spiritual leanings Screen all your phone calls for five years Recreate the best day of your life (or worst, whatevs) 84 straight days of copywriting *BEST VALUE*
this weekend, while flipping through my twitter feed, I came across a comment akin to, “I really had fun doing X; I wish I could do X instead of my job.”
this bothers me in the same way it bothers me when people say they’re too old to do things.
first, you’re probably not too old to do that thing you say you’re too old to do. you might have responsibilities, which can come at any age, that require you to adhere to a schedule such that you wake up at some unreasonably early hour, and in order to follow said schedule you go to bed early. but if you didn’t have to wake up early, you wouldn’t be too old for a certain bedtime. similarly, the other things you’re too old for are likely things you don’t want to do or are barred by your responsibilities.
things you’re too old for: infant bottles and exclusively pureed food (unless it’s doctor-prescribed), crying when you don’t get your way, making exceptionally poor decisions as a result of a frontal cortex that isn’t fully formed, being unable to understand the complex mental states of others (e.g., failure to understand that your actions affect others) unless you have an actual developmental disorder.
things you’re not too old for: committing to activities on a week night, making bad decisions occasionally, staying up late, sleeping in late, naps, rompers (for the ladies, and I’m not fully committed to this), sometimes drinking too much alcohol.
if you’re reading this, you’re not so old that you must go directly from [your job or whatever it is you do during the day] to your couch to your bed, need not exercise, may not have sex on a regular basis, shouldn’t participate in activities on weeknights. if you believe you’re too old for these things, you’ve bought into social and cultural constructs that simply do not apply today. if you don’t exercise, if you move from work to couch/tv to bed, if you’re available only on weekend nights, you’re going to die by the time you’re forty-five, and it’s going to be a result of massive heart failure.
of course we undergo changes as we age. I’m not going to link the graph that depicts your declining brain function, which begins around twenty-five, because it’s really just sad. I’m sure my knees are not as beautifully cartilaginous (is that a word?) as they were when I was fifteen. I’m sure there were weeks between eighteen and twenty-three years old when I slept under thirty-five hours, and I’ll murder you now if you make me do that.
fine. but trust me, your body was designed to do a lot more than arrive home after work and sit still for six hours. your brain was designed to engage in activity more stimulating than six hours of american idol/pintrest/people magazine every night. do not tell me that you’re too old because, if your age now corresponds to sitting still for every hour of the day that you’re not moving between work, couch, bed, and the food you eat, what will your life be like in ten years?
if you’re reading this, you’re probably under thirty-five. if you’re under thirty-five, eat vegetables sometimes, and understand that cholesterol is located in fat-containing animal products and that it isn’t great for you and that exercise is a good way to stay healthy, you probably have seventy to eighty years left.
do you really want to begin being too old for things now?
second, why isn’t your job X?
I know what you’re going to say: “that’s totally unrealistic. I love playing basketball, but I’m five feet tall and I could never make a living doing it. moreover, I actually kind of like my job, even though I sometimes make off-handed remarks about wishing I was a professional athlete.” (that’s just an example; I’m neither coordinated enough to actually participate in sports where throwing and catching are components nor am I merely five feet tall… I’m nearly three inches taller). fine, you’re absolutely right. you’re not really the intended audience.
I guess the group to which I’m really directing this completely unsolicited and undesired rant is composed of individuals who wish they were athletes but who never leave the couch, people who would love to play a musical instrument but who have never even searched craigslist to determine the cost of music lessons, especially those who would love to study art or philosophy or anthropology or cooking but who are instead accountants.
look, I totally understand the cost and time barriers here. but those are hills, not infinitely tall impenetrable walls. yes, you’ll need to work hard, and the thing you love might even require a financial investment, so you’ll have to cut spending somewhere else, but those are costs you can (probably) bear. very few musicians, professors, writers, fashion designers began their crafts with all the money and skill required to “make it big.” in fact, lots of musicians began playing at children’s birthday parties; lots of writers did this thing I’m doing right now (hurling words at the internet or magazines or into books and hoping that some of them stick somewhere); lots of artists began by painting walls white or drawing on napkins while working at a diner or teaching first grade art class.
even if that financial barrier seems insurmountable, entirely discarding the thing about which you are passionate simply is not an option. no, you may not make it rich doing that thing, but won’t you be happier if you try, or at least just do it sometimes? won’t it make the other things you do to get rich worthwhile? (hint: you’re probably not rich now, so isn’t this the time to try, e.g., designing video games for a few hours each weekend?)
this small tirade (as much of a tirade as one can have while sitting alone in bed at 2am) is really a result of my own insecurities; parents who wish I’d have gone to business school and worked in finance or some equally lucrative profession; personal concern that perhaps I should have followed the plan my ten year old self made to attend an ivy league university and get dual degrees in medicine and law; my friends, who consider me “the smart one” and whose parents expect me to succeed in the conventional sense.
I’m sitting here in bed, a number of degrees under my belt, tracked into a career that is, by most accounts, lucrative and stable and conventionally successful, and all I can think about is that I’m not entirely sure I know what I want to be when I grow up.
so instead of jumping into the traditional pants suit and heels, I’m locating my passions. maybe I’m too old for this (see, I’m wrapping this up nicely for you), but I honestly don’t think I can afford, emotionally and financially, to discard those things that drive me in favor of the path that is simplest and most obvious.
of course I won’t be buying an apartment very soon. I’ll probably be eating frozen veggies and tofu while my friends are out to incredible dinners. I’m sure my apartment won’t be located on central park west and will not feature a rooftop helipad (I’ll just have to use the 34th street helipad like the rest of the poor people). I might even have to live in brooklyn.
I’ll sleep less and buy less and work my tush off. I’ll be on a path that is not free of resistance and is often bereft of signposts. but when you ask me what I do, my eyes will light up, my voice will spark, you will feel my passion.
this is all to say, you’re probably not too old to follow your passion, and you probably have almost no excuse not to.
the last time I had my eyebrows threaded, the woman asserted that I’d also like my upper lip threaded. when I declined, she asked, “are you sure?” at least I know I’m not the only one being bullied at my threading salon.
I love connecting science to decidedly unscientific fields. today: using physics to tune instruments. speaking of music, the Atlantic addresses the origins of music.
connecting artists to consumers and facilitating exchanges that are more akin to barter than purchase, Art Barter brings art acquisition to a wider audience. “Picasso and Modigliani were famous for trading paintings for meals, the Chelsea Hotel accepted art as rent, and Andy Warhol traded his talent for a video camera.”
while chatting about job hunting with my mom, she slipped this little piece of business etiquette advice into my inbox. we may be contemporary, forgoing stockings and the like, but we should still observe the five rules that still matter.
days spent on blankets in the sun, hoping to bronze or vitamin D-starved skin may be the norm, but for those days that are bluer than they are luminous, ten things to do when you’re feeling hopeless. my favorite tip — “Listen to kids talk about what they care about: Kids are hopeless. By that I mean that, until their parents, peers and the education system brainwash them to start planning and hoping for their future, and living inside their heads, they live in the present, without hope. By listening to them we can relearn what it means to live without the need to hope, to just accept and be.”
can you increase your intelligence by training your brain? there is some evidence to indicate that, yes, you can, at least when it comes to fluid intelligence — problem solving, learning, reasoning, etc. hint: games of the sort discussed in this article, called n-back games, are available on your iphones!
I have a habit of giggling at exactly the wrong moment and that this trait has helped me to avoid several traffic tickets. instead of inappropriate reactions, this physicist used a mathematical proof to escape the penalty for his ticket.
“one day you fall for this boy. he touches you with his fingers and he burns you with his mouth. it hurts when you look at him and it hurts when you don’t. and it feels like someone’s cut you open with a jagged piece of glass.”—The Tracey Fragments
…I applied for around twenty jobs. Most were not in my primary field of training. As I climbed into bed, still buzzing with excitement at nearly 5am, I began worrying that maybe I’m supposed to fight through this feeling that I don’t actually want to work in this area. Maybe that’s the grown-up thing to do.
This morning, though, as I was waking up, my first thought was not concern that I may be fickle or flighty for looking outside the strict pathway of my academic training. I realized that the thing I’ve been writing in these cover letters, that my unique academic background will make an asset in a position that is otherwise not directly linked to that background, is exactly the thing for which I’ve been looking.
I don’t want to set this experience down and move along. I never intended to do that. I want to take these pieces I’ve collected along the way and create something new, incorporating them into something better than the things they are individually, something that fits me.
I’m not moving on, I’m building up. And that’s pretty exciting.
“Carving out a space for yourself online, somewhere where you can express yourself and share your work, is still one of the best possible investments you can make with your time. It’s why, after ten years, my first response to anyone just getting started online is to start, and maintain, a blog.”—Andy Baio