Feng Shui For the Blog

September 25, 2008 at 10:00 am (2008)

With a new season and new (old?) me, I think it’s time for a new design. I think of it as akin to rearranging your living room furniture — every once in awhile, you just need a new perspective.

I’ll be doing some research into getting my own domain and changing over from wordpress.com to wordpress.org for its design capabilities. Right now, I have absolutely no idea how to do this and will probably spend the next few weeks scouring the tutorials and cursing at my computer. Years ago, I had a firm grasp on basic HTML (OMG, I can bold and use italics?!) via freebies like geocities and angelfire, but as with everything else in technology, coding seems to have evolved the way of CSS (CNN? CSI?) with better presentation and sophisticated structure. And I’m at a complete loss. So, if anyone has any advice or expertise or general wisdom that they’re willing to share, I can offer a shoutout or a link back in another post and my eternal gratitude.

In the meantime, I’ve got a post brewing about my recent trip to Toys ‘R Us and the lack of a Barbie aisle (my brothers would be so disappointed to see what happened to their beloved G.I. Joes) that I’ll somehow relate to growing up. Though, honestly, I just wanted to post this picture:

Well, at least she’s wearing cute shoes.

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The Meaning in the Rhyme

September 24, 2008 at 11:59 pm (2008)

“On your way you will find the meaning in the rhyme/
I know the best thing in my life is happening now…”

– “The Moment,” Nine Days

Yesterday, I spent my birthday shopping with my mom; it was the best day I’ve had in a very, very long while. Today I’m paying for it physically, as I pushed myself farther than I should have for recovering from an illness, but it was well worth it for my change in attitude and perspective.

If you’ve been with me throughout these past few months, thanks. You’ve seen just how difficult a journey this has been for me, and you know that I never would have anticipated these challenges and setbacks. I’ve had a difficult time pursuing a career, yes, but I’ve found the greater struggle to be a bit more personal.

Back in January, I made a promise that 2008 would be different from the previous post-graduation years — I told myself that there would be a change, a transformation, a new direction. For a very long time afterwards, despite this declaration, I felt myself in a slow decline. I was going in the wrong direction, and the transformation that I so badly wanted wasn’t a positive one.

When you’re stuck in quicksand, so to speak, it’s hard to see a way out, to imagine yourself walking on solid ground. A loss of a sense of self is the worst kind of quicksand, as obstacles become brick barriers and challenges seem impossible to defy. While everyone else continues on dry, stable land, finding alternate routes to bypass those barriers, you’re slowly sinking, wondering how you’ll ever catch up.

Because I’ve spent the past year undergoing a state of limbo and uncertainty, I tried to convince myself that things would be fine once I turned 25. It would be a fresh start — I would get back on track, rediscover myself, and suddenly have a renewed motivation to continue striving towards my goals. I believe that my determination to turn things around for myself has led to a change in self-perception, for as subtle as it was, a transformation has taken place:

Yesterday my smile was genuine.

“That’s the Susan I know,” my mom said as we took a brief break from our shopping expedition and sat down to lunch.

It was the Susan I recognized as well — I laughed, I joked, I made faces at the clothes my mom picked out. I felt more positive, more me, than I had in months.

In this time, I’ve since learned that struggles in personal development and self-awareness have no age limit, and that they are, indeed, personal and individual. When I stop believing that life is a race to become successful, when I stop comparing myself to others and work with what I have, I’m able to better appreciate the lessons these past few months have taught me. Perhaps these setbacks aren’t setbacks at all — as I’m still moving forward, moving towards something. It wasn’t what I wanted or expected, but maybe there’s a lesson in that, too. The truth is, no one is exempt from facing challenges, whether internal or external, me least of all. Every path has a little patch of quicksand.

I don’t think the “real me” was ever truly gone, but, rather, buried under layers of self-doubt and insecurity that months of discouragement and uncertainty kept piling on. Bit by bit, I can feel those layers peeling away — I feel hopeful, I feel optimistic, I feel ready to find my alternate route.

“Is the sparkle back?” I asked her, and she nodded.

“It’s getting there.”

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Pack Light In Life

September 23, 2008 at 12:12 am (2008)

When I picked up the phone this morning, Mom’s cheerful voice greeted me on the other end. “It’s your birthday tomorrow!” she sang.

“Yeah,” I replied sullenly, and promptly started crying.

For the past few months, I had been looking forward to turning 25, naively believing that since years 23 and 24 were so rough, maybe there would be some grand transformation, that suddenly I would have direction and prospects and hope, that something would be different.

Nothing is different, I told my mom. I’m out of work because I’ve been sick, I feel physically and emotionally drained, my savings have become depleted, and the job search is hazy at best. And I’m having a difficult time juggling it all.

“Susan,” she said, “you don’t have to carry all that weight — just let it go.”

Mom’s right, of course, but that’s easier said than done.

In the grand scheme of things, when I tell myself to knock it off and stop comparing myself to other people, I know that I’m doing just fine, that I really don’t need to have my life all figured out right at this moment, and that there is room for trial and error. Sure, there have been some unexpected setbacks, but that’s life, as they say. And when I look at what’s important, I know that I have options and, most importantly, I have support. When you’re stuck in what feels like quicksand, however, it’s hard to see beyond your current circumstance, to see all of the possibilities. When you’re going through growing pains, at whatever age, it’s not easy to see the forest for the trees.

“Oh, Susan, what is going on?” Mom’s voice was soothing as she did her best to calm me down and figure out why I was suddenly singing the blues. “I don’t recognize you; you’ve become cynical, you’ve lost your sparkle. I don’t think you recognize yourself.”

Then I started sobbing.

Because that just hit the nail on the head, what’s been the hardest part of this difficult journey — I didn’t feel like myself anymore, and I wasn’t very proud of who I had become. I used to be optimistic, perpetually cheerful, bubbly. Good Lord, I was actually Pollyanna. But for all that I joke about loving puppies and rainbows and sunshine, I really liked that part of me, and I was proud of who I was. I liked being a positive force in people’s lives; I liked making people laugh and feel good about themselves. These days, however, it’s hard putting a smile on my own face, never mind someone else’s. Mom was right again — that sparkle, that shine that seemed so very much a part of me, has faded. Sometimes I can see glimmers of it; sometimes, people can draw it out of me, but it rarely lasts for long. I miss that, and I wish I knew how to get it back.

I do tend to carry the weight of the world — I let things affect me more than they should, although I really don’t mean to. Maybe that’s part of the trouble — I hold onto things, I’m afraid to let go, and I feel things so acutely but bottle them up. It’s a lesson I’m trying desperately to learn from, a part of myself I want to change.

“Susan, why do you want to go to France?” Mom asked me as soon as I stopped hyperventilating. “Aside from the experience, why do you want to go back?”

I told her that I wanted to finish my novel, that I want to begin querying publishers and network with other professionals.

“And?”

“And because it changed my life the first time, and I’m hoping it will do that again.”

As much as I hate to admit it, it’s entirely the truth. I asked my mom if she thought I was using this trip as an escape from my current circumstances — I can’t find a steady job and I have no idea where I want to relocate, so let’s hop on a plane and run away to a foreign country. Great idea!

Yes, my mom agreed, it is an escape, but it’s one that I need.

I want to go to fulfill a passion; I need to go for reasons that are so much more personal. I hold onto comfort so tightly because I’m afraid to let it go. By taking this trip, I’ll have to force myself to overcome obstacles rather than retreating back into my shell and reverting to the comfort that is always readily there. By taking this trip, I’ll be able to prove to myself that I’m capable of anything.

I need to take this opportunity to rediscover my passion and redefine myself, to recharge and step outside my comfort zone, to let go of all of the baggage I’ve been clinging to.

From now on, I need to learn to pack light.

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