You’re unique…like everybody else
I get a chuckle out of hearing people complain about certain things.
Take the weather. People everywhere complain about the weather. At the very least, it gives us something to talk about (especially if we’re not sports people). So thanks for that, weather. However, I’ve noticed some patterns about people’s complaints.
People tend to think their weather is the craziest. Sure, sure, weather elsewhere might be colder or warmer, but the weather HERE is variable and crazy! I mean it was just X degrees X days ago! I’ve heard the same joke in nearly every region I’ve lived in or visited.
“Don’t like the weather in Boulder? Wait five minutes.” *Laugh laugh laugh*
“Don’t like the weather in Portland? Wait five minutes.” *Laugh laugh laugh*
“Don’t like the weather in Raleigh? Wait five minutes.” *Laugh laugh laugh*
Well, it turns out weather is crazy most places. God doesn’t have it out against your zip code. Some days it’s going to be sunny/rainy and warm/cold…then this thing called a weather front comes in and stuff changes. Nuts, right?
Same with drivers.
“Oh well you know how San Antonio drivers are!”
“D.C. drivers are the absolute worst!”
“We have the craziest drivers in L.A., bar none!”
First, I’ve been in Tokyo and Baghdad traffic, American driving is actually pretty tepid. Second, I’m coming to realize people are just terrible drivers all around.
Whether I’m at a restaurant, airport, DMV line, grocery store line or even church…I often hear someone recounting their day.
“You don’t even know how bad it is.”
“I can’t believe this is happening to me.”
“Surely this is the worst day ever.”
Well, you might be surprised. Statistically, several thousand people probably are having the exact same sort of day you are having, from spilled coffee, to recent breakup, to traffic, to baby-mama drama or whatever (and avoiding any of the normal #firstworldproblems snark). I always got a kick out of the saying “You’re one in a million. That means in China there are 1,000 people just like you.”
Sometimes I think we become enamored with our circumstance and think we’re all alone, with no one who can relate. And sometimes I think we let our perspectives reinforce that isolation and perceived lack of commonalities.
It’s crap. For all the times I’ve clung to being miserable and alone, when I do finally break down and let people in, not only do I find many have gone through similar things, but that even people who haven’t often give wise advice anyway. I find that my own mindset has been limiting how I’ve seen things. My own mindset even affects how much I can learn from the wisdom of other people.
Take dating, even.
I visit with single friends in New York City, and you know what I’ve been told? “It’s hard to find decent people to date in New York.” Geez, really? NYC? Hard to find ‘good’ people to date? That place is supposedly filled with the stuff of legends, from a single’s perspective. I lived in D.C. for a while and even I said, “It’s hard to find decent people to date in D.C.” With all the embassies, government goings on, plays, music venues and professionals…no good ones around, huh? Same when I visited L.A., “It’s hard to find decent people to date in L.A.”
On and on, even in Belgium, even as a surfing instructor, while deployed, on dating sites, wherever…apparently everyplace sucks and if only we could live in someplace else that wasn’t anywhere, then we’d have a better shot at being happy…or having better weather…or being around better drivers.
Again, all crap. Got to attend to your mindset.
In the case of drivers, we just need to calm down. In the case of weather, we just need to own a coat.
In the case of dating and relationships, we need to reexamine our patterns. Where do we go to meet people? Do we go out to meet people? Is our body language closed or open? Do we stare at the floor or do we meet others’ gazes? Would we strike up a conversation with someone in a grocery store line? How about at the movies? If we want more culture, do we seek out culture? If we want more intellectually-stimulating people, do we go to stuff like lectures? (I didn’t fully intend on this becoming a dating-advice article, but I’ll stick with it.)
The point is our mindset is the key to most of our contentment. Better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable, you know?
Those morning people, who bound out in the early hours with the enthusiasm that makes you want to choke someone? Mindset. The person who stays patient and considerate, and then you find their wife just left, their car broke down and their job evaporated? Mindset.
Don’t be a lobotomized drone. It’s good to share pain, vent and be genuine with others. But don’t count out the power of rising above the normal craziness to try and get a larger perspective on stuff, either.
My friend shared a quote from a friend of his who passed away recently: “That’s the thing about sitting in your own shit: It’s warm and it’s yours, but you gotta get out of it sometime.”
Do the work!
November is National Novel Writing Month! (Link)
I love NaNoWriMo! I’ve been participating since 2009…well, that’s a lie. I didn’t last year. I was too busy working 4,000 hours a day in 2012…whew! Glad that year is over.
For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a fun, casual writing exercise. People from all over the world pledge to write 50,000 words during the 30 days of November. That’s it. Simple.
Yes yes, I know, November is already Mo’vember (link), but point of fact in the US it’s also National Aviation History/Child Safety Protection/Drum/Adoption Awareness/Epilepsy/Model Railroad/Native American Heritage/Sleep Comfort Month too…so we’ve already overbooked a bit. Why not toss one more in there?
NaNoWriMo meant to be as serious as an individual wants it to be. The site and organization that promotes it is hardly serious. Even the name is goofy. Yet if individuals want their words to count toward a serious piece of literature, or instead have it be a collection of fart jokes—no matter!—so long as you hit the word quotas.
The one thing I try and encourage people to do is NOT EDIT during this month. If you don’t like the flow or arrangement of your paragraphs, or don’t think this day’s work is really that good, who cares?! Keep going. Keep writing. Hell I don’t care if you put in two or three versions of the same paragraph back to back. Hit that quota. Fix and rearrange later.
Writing is the art of addition. Editing is the art of subtraction. If you try to edit while you write, you’ll end up with nothing. You’ll spend 20 minutes on your first 10 words, get frustrated and give up.
Most of my journalism students never listened to me on this point. They’d edit while they wrote because they knew if they just fussed and tweaked this sentence a bit more, it would be…just…well…maybe?…ugh!
Sure enough, they’d end up stuck and missing deadlines because a writer must first write, finish, and stop being a writer. Take the writing hat off. Then he or she can look over the work as an editor.
Now, 50,000 words seems like a lot. It is. It boils down to about 1,667 words a day, which seems like a lot too. Yes, you would be correct, it is. Any way you slice it, it’s a lot of work.
Cranking out 1,700 words a day usually takes me about two hours—a big time commitment for our perpetually consumed lives. Lots of people give me that “I can’t do that” face when I explain it to them.
Here’s the thing, though. For me, I can’t not do this. It’s not that I absolutely love pushing myself to write more than I want. I don’t…I often get to 200 or 300 words and want to stop. But, I view this just like I view physical exercise.
Rational people don’t love going to the gym/waking up early/being sore/etc. It’s true that people love the results of going to the gym, thereby believing they love the gym itself. However, if there was a pill or gene splice to get the fit and sexy results without the gym part, trust me, people would skip the gym.
Writing is no different. People say they would love to be better at putting their thoughts into words. People would love to say, “I wrote a book.”
Well, that’s going to take work. Even in our current age of unaccountability and ease, becoming good at a skill like writing still hasn’t been app-ified. Google won’t write novels or essays on its own just yet. For me, NaNoWriMo is a chance to refine my skills and develop my sense of self expression.
Now there are plenty of people who say “Ugh! Great, NaNoWriMo, the month of terrible amateur fiction!” I’ve been surprised to see some of the backlash on Facebook and other sites as the cause continues to pick up steam and attention. I flip the bird to these people. These are the same nay sayers and critics that have hounded me all my life. They are just louder voices echoing the ones inside of me that tell me I suck and I’ll never be anything because I’m not anything.
Screw that. Most of being extraordinary is first being ordinary. How about that for some trite little quip? You can’t be spectacular at something without being terrible, so why not pump out some bad fiction now? Now, when it’s fun and no body really expects life-changing words from us?
Because maybe—just maybe, the practice now will get us ready for when it really matters. Like when I’ve got to write a review on Amazon or something.
I may have talked about this before. After two-plus years of blogging, many perspectives change, but a few stay the same. I remember realizing his particular number back in college—now some six years ago. Wow. Long time.
Do you ever get the feeling like you’re nuts? I mean, like your ideas are just way too far out there? Like you’re weird for thinking or feeling something?
I felt that way all through high school and into college. Part of it was the typical teenage angst, but I had some serious spiritual concerns and unsettling issues.
For the longest time, I just ignored the lingering questions or initial reactions to situations or circumstances—preferring to go along with the immediate group, thinking that my ideas were just crazy.
Whether it concerned sexuality or God or even friendship, I had my own flavor of things—my own faith or my own outlook on life. When it vibed with others, it was cool; but more times than naught, people would bring up points of view or political dispositions that I was flatly expected to espouse.
And I’d resist, sometimes internally, sometimes being outspoken. Whenever I did argue for a new perspective, it never ended well. I had some blow ups at church, some arguments with friends. I was different, and it was unsettling.
Then I started meeting people. One or two in high school, then a few in college, more beyond, who were wired in the exact way I was. We’d finish each others’ sentences. We’d be passionate about the same areas, approach problems in the same way, and feel the same general unease about the larger world.
I came to realize that I was not completely crazy, but that God had wired me and dozens like me for a reason. I don’t think any of us really know what that reason is. And I don’t think that it’s some sort of club or exclusive thing.
The Christian Scriptures talk about how followers are the body of Christ—that we are the mechanism that expresses God to the world. Love, charity, compassion, justice, truth, beauty, humility—the essence of God, is transmitted to the world through believers.
The Scriptures talk about how, like a human body, there are parts that serve different functions. The eyes do things the ears can’t. The arms and joints work in ways the feet and hands don’t. Each serves a purpose. Each supports each other.
There’s a notion I hear sometimes from people that describe a general malaise with the current times. “I was born in the wrong century,” or, “If only I lived back then.”
You and I were born to live now. Fully present. Aware. Now. Not just to dream of yesterday or what may come, but to be here.
And you and I were wired with personality and disposition to mirror our purpose. Our passions are aligned with a focused determination of the creator to minister in a specific function to a purposed segment of the sh*tstorm of life.
Alone this is hard to see. With others, especially others with whom we share a certain connection, this becomes easier to perceive.
Who am I? Why do I think or feel this way? Where are my passions? What need I create? Where should I go?
It’s terribly exciting to explore our part in the revolution—the restoration of humanity. Every second makes you and I who we are and who we will become. With the proper perspectives, every second grows us, every second pushes us closer to our purpose.
It helps to find others, to build relationships. It’s tremendously encouraging when you can find others of like minds. Helps us realize we’re not so close to crazy as we thought.
Life’s in the betweens
Controversial, I know, but I usually put schoolwork second while I was in college.
Uber peep Seth and I had traditions. We’d often head out in the evenings to a convenience store (not necessarily convenient as it was a bit far, as I recall) to get a Jones soda. Jones makes those quirky-flavored sodas with the unique photos…
Anyway, we’d put aside our schoolwork to spend some time together, talking about life, liberty, whatever.
A lot of people stopped by my room back then too. I’d make it a habit to put down my books and talk. Usually it was girl-related, sometimes God stuff. But, regardless, I’d make time to talk things through. Sometimes the talks would last well in to the night. There was still mountains of classwork to do, but I got to know a lot of people during those talks.
For me, life experience was much more important than GPAs. Not to say I didn’t do well, got a little “with honors” sticker on the ol’ diploma, thank you; but I was zealous in not letting tedium take me away from the genuine moments of humanity that grow in between the stuff we consume ourselves with.
In the West, we focus on the destination—the end state of things. College equals diploma, which equals job, which equals money, which equals stability. Religion equals beliefs, which equals salvation, which equals a ticket to paradise.
But what is missing is the journey. To the Eastern mind, the trek is far, far more important than the destination. It is much better to experience and endure the race than to simply cross the finish line.
And I agree. What’s the point of anything without the journey? Might as well skip to the credits of every movie we watch if we just want the ending. It’s the struggle—the minute by minute drama that inspires us.
For some, being rich is the end goal. They just want money and to hell with how getting there will grow or change them. For some, it’s getting married, or getting divorced, or getting a degree, or a type of car.
Often when a person runs out and gets that new car, or runs headlong into marriage, the unhappiness is still there. I think that’s because the person is in love with the idea—in love with the concept of “arriving.”
There’s a scene in Fight Club where Brad Pitt is talking to Edward Norton about a conversations he had with his father, growing up. He graduated high school and asked his dad, “Now what?” Dad said, “Go to college.” He graduated from college and asked his dad, “Now what?” Dad said, “Get a job.” He got a job and asked his dad, “Now what?” Dad said, “Get married.”
Like that’s all there was, a careful series of steps that led to fulfillment. Like happiness would just automatically come.
What’s missing was the process—the sting of life; how we are altered by each day and grown by the people we meet.
I love conversation. Each time I ever talk with anyone, I grow. Each time I ever spend any time with anyone, I grow. After 10 or 12 years of careful introspection, I’ve noticed that there’s never an end to the race. Life always has another hill to climb.
That’s what’s so tragic about people who focus on the destination—the race goes on forever. There is no finish—no magic line that makes everything perfect.
It can be discouraging and daunting if a person focuses on the distance and the unending miles; but if, instead, the company kept was the focus, the journey itself was the joy rather than the promise of some ideal destination, then the sh*t of life stepped in isn’t so bad, ’cause it’s on all of our shoes.
And that’s the secret. That’s where life is, I think. It’s in those magic in between moments that let us discover who we’re in this struggle with. That’s why I never sacrifice conversation for “productivity.” That’s why I’d much rather spend time talking than go out on “a date.”
It may seem trivial, but one is the pursuit of a goal, the other is a careful cultivation of relationship and understanding. And the latter is more meaningful, I think, more genuine.