Monthly Archives: January 2011

On Choice, Adventure, and The Best Things That Ever Happened

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I have a good friend who used to be fond of comparing life to one of those Choose-Your-Own-Adventures novels.  Remember those?  You were on some sort of adventure with your friends, exploring outer-space or different countries or simply the creepy old house down the street that you hit your baseball in the window of, and you created the story for yourself by choosing which way to turn, which door to open, or whether to fight the crocodile or turn around and go home.

I’m the kind of person who likes to believe I can choose my own adventure.  I like to believe that I’m all powerful, and even when I admit that I’m not quite that, I firmly (and vocally) believe that there are a lot of things I can control.  I truly believe in living a purposeful life – one where you are always watching, always ready for a new challenge or opportunity, and always open to the worlds other people can open up to you (whether they are the door to a building on Wall Street or a door inside your own head).  I believe that if you want an exceptional life you have to work for it – you have to surround yourself with the kinds of people who share that with you, and you have to immerse yourself in new experiences and constantly be pushing yourself.  I think you have to work and love like crazy to get back anything worth having.

When you graduate, you get to thinking it’s going to be the first time you really will get to choose your own adventure. Sure, when you’re a kid you choose some of your own adventures, but a lot of where you’re going is already laid out for you.  Finish grade school, middle school, high school.  Go to the best college you can get into and afford.  There you get a few more choices – your  major hopefully and some of the classes you get to take.  You begin to decide a little of who you might want to be and what kind of people you might like to associate with, but even then your objective is clear – do well, make some friends, graduate and get a job.  But the longer I’ve been out the more I see that “getting to choose” isn’t quite how this adventure works.  Maybe in the mid-1990s it was different, I don’t know, but there aren’t a lot of people who are choosing from 5 different and very competitive job offers in 2011.

In light of all this, I’ve cast my job-search net wide.  Executive Assistant at a prestigious Advertising firm in Portland?  Sure thing!  Meeting planner for an automotive consulting company in Massachusetts? Why not?  Public Relations Account Exec at a small firm in Chicago?  Sounds neat.  Client Service position at a marketing firm with an awesome name in Austin, TX?  Kate Spade in New York?  Procter and Gamble?  Yeah!  My dream job at my dream company in the city I never expected I’d be living in after the age of 21?  Yup, got my fingers crossed.   Each day I find new jobs to apply to, and amazingly, I’m excited about all of them.  When I close my eyes and think about it I could see myself in all those places, advancing down all those career paths, tremendously satisfied with the course of my life.  I suspect that whichever job I get will be “the best thing that ever happened to me.”

It’s funny, the last time I didn’t get a job it was “the best thing that ever happened to me.”  It was my junior year in college, and I had planned to go to Rome in the spring semester until a too-good-to-be-true opportunity fell into my lap.  It was an event planning internship at a great company where I would have done really interesting things, made great contacts, and brought home a nice paycheck.  I applied, waited, and eventually interviewed, osculating back and forth between registering for classes or visas in Italy and completing more application paperwork and corresponding about interviews.  In my final interview I was told they were incredibly impressed, and eventually in December (hardly a month before I would be leaving) I was told they had picked a candidate with more experience, but that I was a very close second.  It was a failure of sorts, but I moved on by way of a plane ride – one that proved to be nothing short of life-changing.  Because I took that plane ride, because I didn’t get that job, I saw all kinds incredible places I never would have seen.  I was almost sold for a caravan camels in Morocco.  I made new friends and got closer to incredible people I already knew (who would become my best friends). I learned about Roman funerary art. I missed the death (and community catharsis) of a my great-grandmother and a close childhood friend.  I began to let go of another childhood friend and consequentially began to find my voice.  I saw the fountains at Versailles and learned that I could love again.  When I came home for the summer I began my love affair with another boot-shaped land mass, baptizing myself in lakes and generally being guided by a person who somehow knew to ask all the questions of me that I never knew how to ask.  Over those 8 months I would have spent working at this nice accounting firm, where I would have worn cornflower blue and gone to the funeral and cried on the wrong shoulder and never been baptized again or realized that I needed to be, I got to find myself instead.  It was a glimpse, a sliver, and something that wouldn’t be truly understood until much later, but it was born then.  And somehow in the midst of all the chaos I got the job of my dreams which opened my eyes to the kind of grown up I want to be and the kind of career that I want and where I met a man who would later refer me to another agency which I had always loved which would then interview me for a position…

for which I would wait and see.  Wait to see if that adventure chooses me.

I guess sometimes you can choose your own adventure, but other times your adventure chooses you.

yours.Rachel

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Eat, Pray, (Clean), Love

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I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve actually been enjoying the in between.  In the time since I’ve graduated, survived the holiday season without ending up in a mental institution or becoming morbidly obese, and moved gracefully into the new year, I’ve been doing all the things I just haven’t had the time, energy, motivation, or perspective for in (really) the the last 5 years.  Granted, I do suffer some insomnia and anxiety about not yet being employed, and on some obsessive level I fear that I’ll be living in my parent’s house until they throw me out on the street and I set up camp in a cardboard box in an alley (funny, the voice in my head that says these things bears an uncanny resemblance to my father’s), but most of the time, I’m calm and optimistic.  And exceptionally cheerful!

Some of the cheer is coming from the feeling of checking things off my to do list.  No matter how much of a free spirited flower child I become in my old age, I will always love the feeling of writing a To Do list on sorority stationary in pink marker and crossing off each item as I complete.  Go to Whole Foods for Organic Turkey BreastReturn pie pan to Crate and Barrel.  Work out! These first couple weeks of the year have been great for crossing things off the list – and crossing off the big things I’ve wanted to do for quite some time.  I scrapbooked my summer in California and one of its accompanying road trips – hundreds of pictures are now cropped and compiled into two beautiful albums.  I’ve gone through much of my wardrobe, inventorying superfluous pieces and identifying what will need to be purchased once I am gainfully employed.  I’ve even taken on the big beast… Cleaning my room.  Now I don’t just mean picking the clothes up off the floor and throwing them in the hamper or putting the shoes back on their racks.  I’m talking the big guns – pulling the bags and boxes and piles out from closet shelves and under the desk and everywhere else – taking them apart, discarding most of their contents, and sorting and packaging the rest away in colorful tubs and crates.

It was actually a rather emotional experience – I suppose I should have expected as much, but I confess even I forget that the things that have been scrapbooked can fill me with feeling again.  It was surreal going back and reading notes written by friends and lovers, teachers and family members, and finding scraps that used to mean the world and now you can’t remember what they ever meant.  I laughed remembering the good times I’d forgotten (or at points, wondered if ever even existed), teared up at the foreshadowing of the futures of certain relationships, and had my heart fill with hope when I saw the artifacts that reminded me that I was once a woman bubbling over with joy and selfless devotion.

I threw away a lot of things, and probably most importantly took apart what was once a very important box.  It was something between a Hope Chest and the box that Cher helps Tai burn in Cluesless (the one with a romantic mix tape, a towel, and a number of other tremendously meaningful meaningless things about a boy).  I was taking it off the top shelf of the closet not to be burned but certainly to be repurposed.  I threw out paper napkins, ribbons, feathers, and then kind of things you wouldn’t want a future lover or your grandmother finding.  I saved the prom pictures and letters, figuring one day when I have a 13 year old daughter who asks me about my first love I may want them, and following the sage advice of that stupid word song about Sunscreen we all loved in the 90’s.  (OK Baz, I will keep my old love letters and throw away my old bank statements.)

In one of my favorite entries from my old blog, I remember writing about cleaning my closet.   It was in undergrad circa sophomore year when my head was akin Vietnam circa 1969.  Struggling to keep myself afloat, I remarked on the importance of cleaning the clothes off the floor before you go digging through the closet.   I have, infact, spent the last several years at most cleaning up the clothes off the floor (sometimes not even managing that – apologies to roommates and friends).  But now that I’ve finished the marathon of education and have a second to breathe, I’ve got time to venture into the closet.

I realized the significance of this when I mentioned a few things to a friend of mine.  I had already told her about the purging of excess and fairly inconsequencial memoribilia, of  dissecting “the” box that was long overdue, and other things about my monumentous cleaning endeavors.  I also mentioned a thought I had while looking at America’s favorite place for news and anything that matters – Facebook Newsfeed.  Tangentally it is funny, isn’t it, how a person can see the wall exchanges between two other people? Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg we can all be intimately involved in eachother’s relationships without even trying.  I mentioned this as she was somewhat drunkenly acting as my GPS (“GAHHHH turn LEFT here NOW! Sorry!”), and said a friend of mine (whom I might once have called a flame of sorts) seemed to be very much involved with someone else.  And happily I suspected.  She quieted.  I’d been thinking recently about this and was positive, and resolved.

See, I’ve been praying a lot over the last several months.  I pray for a lot of people, different people who I love that need it at different times, but there are two people in particular I’ve been praying for consistently and often.  They’re two people who, like me, I perceive looking hard for something and never quite finding it.  People whom contentment alludes, as a result of their own actions or simply the peculiarity of the universe.  And often I’ve prayed, fumbling over my own words, for their happiness.  I confessed I couldn’t begin to know what that would look like or mean or who would be there or what they would be doing and where (if anywhere) I would be (a rare admittance of my own lack of omnipotence), but I hope they got there and that they weren’t alone.  I prayed for the one I used to keep in the box and I prayed for the one I only know now from the Newsfeed box.

The truth is, I think my prayers were answered.  From what I can gather through all the normal channels of communication (brief exchanges, hearsay, Zuckerberg, deductive reasoning) they seem to be happy.  Really, that’s exactly what I wanted with the utmost sincerity.  And what could possibly be better than knowing that two people who you have cared so deeply about are happy.

What she said stuck with me.  She was silent at first and then responded that I sounded healthy.  She then blurted an abrupt LEFT HERE!!!, but even after we turned the corner the word was still hanging there.  Healthy. I haven’t been worthy of being called healthy in a long time, but in fact, that’s exactly what I feel.  That’s the reason I’m cheerful and optimistic, energetic and hopeful, and that I can’t help but smile every single day (and some days all day) even as an unemployed 23 year old living in my parent’s house in a foot of snow in January in Michigan.   I’m thrilled that so many of the people I care about are happy and am almost equally excited by the amount of happiness this brings me.  Finally what’s inside of me is healthy enough that I can do what I love about all things – to give it away. 

“He who has health, has hope. And he who has hope, has everything.” – Proverb

yours.Rachel