Wednesday, January 1, 2014
(1) UNPLUG. I'm moving into my own apartment in 11 days, and I'm using this opportunity to get away from the world wide web for a while. Not setting up cable for TV or internet. I can watch DVDs if I want to. I can check my email using wifi in public places (or at my parents' home... I am still welcome, they've assured me). And I'll check it every few days instead of several times a day. I'm not becoming a Neo-Luddite. I'm just... tired. Tired of screens. Tired of the endless stream of data. They say that mankind has produced more information in the last 30 years alone than in the previous 5,000. I believe it. Every day there's some new article, video, tweet, Buzzfeed list, status update, instagram, pinterest board, tumblr gif set, etc etc etc. I crave solitude of the mind. I'm going to be a hermit for a few months. I'll surely relent in time for the World Cup this summer.
(2) BE REAL. I do this thing where I don't want to offend people, so I either (a) say things I think they'll want to hear but that I pretty much do not mean at all, or (b) completely avoid expressing my own opinion while offering a vague, carefully-worded response that neither condones nor condemns their point of view. The (a) thing happens at the library all the time. Someone will come in and say, "I just finished this book and I loved it. You really should try it." I'll look at the cover. It's Christian fiction, an Amish romance. I have nothing against Christian fiction or Amish romances, but after reading Beverly Lewis's The Shunning and one or two others of that ilk, all of them seem the same to me. There's no way I'm ever going to read this book. But instead I smile and say, "Yeah, that sounds wonderful. I'll have to check that out sometime." The (b) thing happens a lot with my friends and family. I have very opinionated friends and family. I have friends and family of all political leanings, religious backgrounds, etc. My Wiccan friend will go on a Christian-bashing rant and I will just sit there and kind of mutely nod along instead of doing what I really want to do, which is to interrupt her to say, "Hey, I'm a Christian, and you don't hate me, right? You don't think I'm a close-minded hateful bigot, do you? Have I ever done anything to you to make you feel judged or damned or despised? No? So stop generalizing and think before you speak!" Some coworkers will be discussing this Duck Dynasty thing, how A&E threatening to take Phil off the show is a violation of free speech. Someone will notice I've gone quiet and ask me what I think. I'll mumble something rambling and incoherent, when what I wish I'd have the guts to say is, "A rich man said some rude things and his boss threatened to fire him. You really think that's a violation of free speech? There are people in other parts of the world who are tortured, imprisoned, and killed for expressing their beliefs. Get a little perspective." I'm tired of tact and political correctness. That's not to say I'm tired of kindness, though. It's a balancing act, one I'll have to work at.
(3) PUT IN THE WORK. This may seem an odd one, because isn't that what I just spent this whole last year doing? Working myself weary, paying off debts, getting back on my feet again? But this is in a different context. Target and, yes, even the library to some degree, are both just things I do to make money. People at the library ask me often if I wouldn't like to "advance." Have you ever considered applying for a full-time position? and Well, wouldn't you want the benefits? or It would look great on the resume... I like what I do there right now. I like working with children and teens. If I ever had to stop doing that, I probably would not want to work there anymore. I don't know that I want to be a "career librarian," whatever that is. I like being a librarian right now. I like helping people, and I love being around people who are excited about books. But I have no goals or aspirations in this field. The only thing I care about doing, the only thing I've always wanted - well, no one else can give it to me. It's not a promotion or a position or a degree. It's a thing that only I can do. I want to write a book. Not just any book, this particular book, the one that's been lurking in my brain for ten years now. It's come out in fragments, bits and pieces, that 20 page manuscript in high school, the more recent incarnation a couple years ago, but I want to take them all and redo them and transform them and tell the story the way it needs to be told. Notice I don't say I want my book to be published. That's not the priority here. I simply want this story to exist in the world instead of just in my head. I want to tell it, and tell it well. And so I'm going to. Last November at YALLfest, Stephanie Perkins was talking about when she wrote her first book. "You have to treat it like a job," she said. "You have to carve out the time and go in there and put in the work. I would get home sometimes from working a shift at my paying job, and my husband - who is awesome - would bring me dinner and say, 'Don't stay up too late,' and I'd head to the office and spend the next five hours writing." I don't care about being a Target employee. I feel lucky to work at the library, but have no career ambitions there. I want to tell this story, and I've put it off long enough. Doorkeeper, I'm coming for you.
(4) POP THE BALLOON. I get this from my father: we're both Eeyorish by nature. Melancholy, moody, sometimes downright despairing. The feeling tends to escalate, to inflate like a balloon filling up with air. It doesn't have to though. There are ways to rid yourself of a mood instead of making it worse. Take a walk. Think of ten things you're grateful for. Smile - just the physical act of smiling. Or make yourself laugh. Meditate and breathe. Look at something beautiful. Sit in the sun. There are ways out. Pop the balloon.
(5) TAKE TIME. Take time to consider theology and philosophy. Take time to reflect and pray. Take time off work every few weeks, even if there's not a specific reason, just because you need a break. Take time for loved ones. Take some time in nature. Take the time to do the things you most enjoy. Stop and realize where you are, and that you'll never be here again, so drink it all in while you can. Time doesn't stop for anybody, but if I can do even some of these things, at least I won't regret it once it's gone.