February 12, 2013

Post #4: Home

"A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it."

-George Moore

I can't even count how many times I've looked through our wedding pictures at this point. I thought I wouldn't care about our pictures because I usually don't care much about any pictures. I also don't think I'm particularly photogenic, so I tend to avoid photos all together. I've been loving these ones, though, because I've been reliving one of the best days of my life. I feel so lucky to be able to say that about my wedding day. We were surrounded by family and friends, and I really feel like there was this amazing convergence of happiness and joy, this connection between everyone, that developed in the last few weeks leading up to our wedding. When I think about how much fun I had and how grateful I feel for everyone in my life, I literally feel overwhelmed. I usually read stuff like this on blogs and want to yak at how sappy and fake people sound when they say all this stuff, but I really, really mean it. I feel like there was this absolute perfection I caught a glimpse of, and I hope I can have that again sometime.

Unfortunately, I realize that nothing in life is perfect and that there are always loose ends on everything. There's one particular loose end that comes up in my thoughts more frequently than I would like. I don't know that this cloth was ever intact to begin with, but there were at least days I can recall when it looked much more put-together than it does now. Why do I feel my personal losses so much more intensely than my personal wins? Why do we all do that? Why do we give the negative in life so much more attention than the positive? Do we just take the positive for granted because we expect that to be a given in life?

Anyway, I want peace in my life. I want to be a good person. I want to think good thoughts and speak kind words. I want harmony. I want friends. I want family. I want time with the people whom I love. I'm thankful for the ones I love and who love me in return while simultaneously sorrowful about those friendships I have lost. I want to be focused on others and not myself. I want to be genuine. But I want my genuine self to be my ideal self. I don't know if that can ever happen, but I sure as hell am going to try.

Post #3: Figuring Things Out

"You will recognize your own path when you come upon it, because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need."

-Jerry Gillies

Working in marketing, I spend a lot of my time reading and researching blogs. I know what people are looking for...consistency, branding, your name, what your blog is about, your contact information, etc. It leaves me with a hankering to create an amazing blog that is interesting for people to read. It makes me yearn for the days back in high school when I had a blog that was so genuine and thoughtful. It was a place where friends and friends of friends could learn about me, and I could learn about them. We shared stories, ideas, experiences, wisdom, and creativity. We waxed philosophic about our dreams and aspirations, and we offered support and words of encouragement.

Today I overheard someone say, "For technical writing, I would go to Cate. She's good at that. Creative writing? I'd say [insert name other than Cate here]." Well this was certainly a punch in the gut for me. I'm the youngest child, the creative one, the one with the active imagination. I've always fancied myself a creative person. "Technical." How boring. How passionless. How...insulting. Sure, I'll take the compliment because I know it's my fastidiousness over grammar that led to this assessment of my skills in technical writing. It was just a blow to my ego to hear that someone thought I was somehow not capable of writing creatively. Are you serious? But that's always been my "thing."

This led me to face the impending quarter-life crisis that I have felt bubbling up beneath the surface of my soul for at least a year now. I've always been pretty good at a lot of things: singing, writing, problem-solving. I've just never been the best at anything. I'm interested in a million and one things, though: French, sign language, traveling, cooking, crafting, drawing, organizing, playing piano, writing songs, and the list goes on and on. I've always been okay with that, but there's this lack of follow-through that I suffer from ("from which I suffer," I know, I know).

I read these blogs day in and day out, and there are these people with extraordinary skills when it comes to crafting, sewing, cooking, writing, photography, and so on and so forth. They have so much to offer and such an abundance of knowledge and expertise in their areas of interest. I'm nothing but a jack of all trades and a master of none. I can't even come up with my own phrases to describe myself. I have to stick to worn-out cliches to describe my plight, my rut.

I just want to find something I'm passionate about and run with it. I guess that's what we're all looking to do. I suppose we all fall victim to the day-to-day of doing laundry, catching up on bills, cooking dinner, running errands. The small things in life are what take up the majority of our time. I want to change that. I want to fit in some yoga, some pleasure reading, some sketching, some video tutorials on how to play piano or learn sign language.

I want to become an interesting person. I want to have something to offer. I want to contribute. But how?

25 Things I've Learned from My Parents in 25 Years

25 Things I've Learned from My Parents in 25 Years
December 25, 2012

1. Treat others how you would like to be treated, and always pay it forward.

"If you get, give. If you learn, teach."
Maya Angelou

2. You teach people how to treat you.

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
Eleanor Roosevelt

3. The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, so don't allow yourself to be
overwhelmed by any challenge life
may present you with or any dream you may wish to follow.

"It always seems impossible until is done."
Nelson Mandela

4. You are whomever you hang out with.
(And try not to end sentences with prepositions unless absolutely necessary.)

"Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher."
Oprah Winfrey

5. Always be honest about everything, including who you are.
If you hope to be understood and accepted,
then learn to accept others for who they are as well.

“To be nobody-but-yourself -- in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you
everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight;
and never stop fighting.”
e.e. cummings

6. Always humble yourself to apologize when you've been wrong,
and always be open to forgiving others who have wronged you.

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."
Mahatma Gandhi

7. The right thing to do is not only often the hardest thing to do
but also the only thing to do.
Always take the high road, even if you're the only person
who will ever know that you did.

"The measure of a man's character is what he would do
if he knew he would never be found out."
Thomas Babington Macauley

8. Always call people back and never burn bridges.

"Live in such a way that if anyone should speak badly of you, no one would believe it."

9. Give people second chances.

"When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves."
William Arthur Ward

10. Always be willing to look at yourself to see what you can improve,
and then take whatever steps are necessary in order to do so.

"Let the refining and improving of your own life keep you so busy that you have
little time to criticize others."
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

11. Take responsibility for your own actions.

"We are what we repeatedly do."

12. Never be afraid to speak up for others.

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies
but the silence of our friends."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

13. Trust in your own abilities, and never fall into the trap of believing
that being different is the same thing as being wrong.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,
it will live its whole life believing it is stupid."
Albert Einstein

14. Follow what you love to do, and everything else will fall into place.

"Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.
It will not lead you astray."

15. True beauty comes from within.

"Everything is beautiful, but beautiful isn't everything."

16. Don't let fear of the future keep you from traveling down the right path.

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
T.S. Eliot

17. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,
so think ahead before you make a decision.

“Before you act, listen. Before you react, think. Before you spend, earn.
Before you criticize, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try.”
Ernest Hemingway

18. Always do your best to help those in need without any expectation of being repaid.

"Do small things with great love."
Mother Teresa

19. Education is not about landing a well-paying job;
it's about making you a well-rounded person.
Never stop wondering, learning, and growing.

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.
Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

20. Ask other people questions about themselves and genuinely listen to their responses.

"The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass,
it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself."
Henry Miller

21. Always do your best to make other people feel
welcome and comfortable in any situation.

"People will forget what you said; people will forget what you did;
but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Maya Angelou

22. Don't be afraid to admit if you don't know the answer.
Never stop questioning what is true.

"The universe is wider than our views of it."
Henry David Thoreau

23. The most important things in life are the experiences
you share with the people you love.
"If you want your children to turn out well,
spend twice as much time with them and half as much money."
Abigail Van Buren

24. Think of others first, but know when to stand up for yourself.

"When you say 'yes' to others, make sure you are not saying 'no' to yourself."
Paulo Coehlo

25. Lead a balanced life by alternating between the big picture and the small picture.
It may not seem entirely normal to switch from laughter to tears
and then back to laughter again within minutes,
but it keeps you honest and makes life interesting.

"So, this is my life.
And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad
and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be."
Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

November 21, 2012

Indecision City

"Endurance is frequently a form of indecision."

- Elizabeth Bibesco

I've been sick with a cold and possibly some sort of flu (and/or reaction to a medication for the cold) for about 12 days now. First of all, since when does a cold last more than four days? I'm not used to this. This is the second or third year in a row that a cold has long worn out its already unwelcome welcome. There isn't a second of all. No, wait, there is. I just remembered it.

Second of all, I've stayed home from work the last two days because my cough has historically and infamously been so over-the-top horrific that everyone around me worries I may be meeting an untimely demise due to mere nasal congestion. I swear it sounds worse than it feels. Since I could barely even move yesterday, I watched a minimum of six movies. They consisted of a cheesy romantic comedy, two indie films, a Disney movie, another cheesy romantic comedy, and...I can't remember. In fact, over the course of the weekend up until now, I'm sure I've watched at least 12 movies. Unbelievable. Some were worth it, like The Pianist. I also watched The Whistleblower, Mulholland Drive, and Tiny Furniture. All interesting. Others I could have done without, but I won't name names since they entertained me at the least. So they served their purpose.

The real reason I'm writing this post is because I started doing some research on Lena Dunham who wrote and directed Tiny Furniture. She's just barely over a year older than I am, and she already made that one film and wrote a hit series on HBO about four girlfriends in their twenties making it New York. She's also delightfully awkward and soft-spoken, and I find her so inspiring. She's just very real.

It got me thinking about what it is I really want to do. I've been working full time at a marketing agency because it's quite enjoyable as far as office jobs go and it has enabled me to pay off debt and save up money for a house hopefully. I feel lucky to work there, but it's far from personally fulfilling. I know that there's a lot of talk about how our generation needs to stop thinking they need to enjoy their jobs and that it's reflective of a feeling of self-entitlement we all have, blah blah blah. I think there is a difference between thinking you deserve to be handed the perfect job and legitimately working toward finding a career from which you gain something other than a paycheck. I just can't live like that.

Once I can't get behind the company I work for or what it is we do, etc., my morale drops significantly. (That isn't to say I feel that way about my current job. It's just a pattern I've noticed.) Then I can't manage to muster up the motivation to do my job as well as I know I should, which, in turn, makes me feel like a horrible human being. Blast you, Catholic guilt. Actually, no, thank you, Catholic guilt. You keep me from heading down a path of apathy. I like to care, even if that means I sometimes care too much.

So the dilemma is this: I applied to a graduate program for counseling, and that's the one path that has had friends and family very supportive whenever I've brought it up. I mean, they're supportive about anything I want to do, but I can tell it's what a lot of them think I ought to do. When I was talking about the prospect of it to a friend's aunt at a baby shower, she said she could see and hear my excitement as I talked about it. I think my deepest fear is that I'll follow this path and find out it doesn't fulfill me in all the ways I always imagined it would. Then again, that's a useless fear because finding that out would just get me one step closer to what I should be doing. That's why I tried acting and improv and have somewhat pursued singing before as well, though I'd still like to pursue it a bit more.

Trying those things made me vulnerable and had me crying on the drive home after class and performances almost every single time. It was so painful yet liberating to find that these things I always dreamed of doing might not be the right fit for me. I wasn't exactly the natural I hoped I would be, but that's okay. At least I know.

Like after every good break-up (because, let's face it, practically every break-up is good seeing as how they all lead you one step closer to where you're ultimately headed), I've learned a lot about myself and am prepared for the next challenge ahead.

I just realized I didn't really get to my dilemma yet. Basically, my husband is very supportive and suggested that I quit my job and just get my life organized, cut out the commute, figure out where I want to work next, and generally enjoy my life a lot more. It's not that my job is horrible; in fact, it's quite good. I drive an hour each way to get there, and that can really get to a person. Not to be dramatic, but, I mean, I spend approximately 500 hours in the car over the course of one year that I am not only not paid for but am also robbed of since I can't pay bills, pursue hobbies, or clean my house from the comfort (or lack thereof) of the driver's seat in my car. What a waste.

Oh yes, back to the dilemma. So I could quit, but then I will inevitably feel like a useless sack of a human being after it takes only a week or two to do all the errands and chores I had planned. I would like to think I'd be motivated to write or go to auditions or research my potential career path, but I just don't know if that's what would happen. I'd like to write a novel or a screenplay or invent something amazing yet obvious in hindsight, but I'm just not certain whether I would channel my energy into that or watching funny YouTube videos with penguins and/or babies. I simply can't trust myself.

Also, if I take time off and/or take a while to find a different job closer to home, then we're saving up that much more slowly for a home. My husband says he'd rather enjoy these next few years together than squander them away with my getting home late every night and being exhausted for nothing. I tend to agree with him but just can't pull the trigger. I've never left a job for nothing. Well, it wouldn't be for nothing. But it wouldn't be for a job. I just feel like I need the time to think and organize and focus and plan so I can move forward with a little more direction. It wouldn't be nothing. It would most definitely be something. So maybe I can trust myself.

Just like the slow fade by which many relationships end, I have continuously given my job one more day, one more week, one more month. Just under a year ago, I had my resignation letter typed, printed, signed, and folded, but I backed out and decided to stick it out a while longer, you know, get over the hump. Again, the job is not terrible or unbearable, but it just isn't what I want to be doing. I'm not sure exactly what I want to be doing, but this certainly isn't it. As I often tell friends who are afraid to leave relationships they know aren't the be-all-to-end-all, you have to let go and be alone in order to be open to meeting the right person. So maybe all I need is to be unemployed and vulnerable in order to push myself into my next venture. I know there's no better time to look for a job than when you have one, but that doesn't exactly work when your job doesn't leave you with enough time to search for, apply to, and interview for (and/or create) that next position.

What's the shame in quitting a job to give yourself time to think and refocus? Is it that it's irresponsible? Lazy even? I had someone tell me that I shouldn't create a pattern of quitting jobs after a year, but that's like saying to not quit relationships after a year once you've realized they're not for you. You can't always wait for a sure thing to come along before jumping ship. Sometimes you just take a leap and hope that you have enough time to figure it all out before you hit the water. And even if you don't have it all figured out by then, come on, it's just water. You can swim.

Even with all of this pep talking of myself, I still think it will be a while before I make any big decisions about my job. I guess that's okay, too. I don't know what happened to the days when I would get this surge of motivation to quit and move on without any fear. Perhaps I just haven't hit that point quite yet. When I do though, I won't be afraid.

I keep thinking there will be some sort of sign to tell me, "Now! Today! Do it!" But maybe the sign that now is the time is the fact that I'm begging for a sign to tell me it's right. I'll keep you posted.

June 29, 2012

Post #8: Week Two: Small Dreams

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

- Eleanor Roosevelt

I have to be honest, I've been struggling a lot with this one the past few days. This chapter says that small dreams are all too often just to-do lists, tiny goals that are easily within our grasp if we make the effort. I don't entirely disagree. For example, I would love to visit Europe again or go on another cruise. If I work hard enough and save up enough money and vacation time, those dreams can easily become a reality.

I had an ethics teacher in college who proposed that whatever decisions we ever make are always about what we most want. He said that if we skip out on going to a concert we're invited to at the last minute in order to help a friend move like we promised, then we aren't being self-sacrificing; what we truly want in that scenario is to not have our friend upset with us more than we want to attend the concert.

This makes me think about big dreams I've had in the past. Last night, my husband and I went to see Black Swan, and I was reminded of the dream I had when I was very little. I wanted so badly to be an actress. I thought I was destined to be one. However, I specifically remember one occasion when I was five years old and my parents wanted me to audition for a commercial. I was such a mama's girl that I bawled my eyes out and protested the idea because I had the notion that acting meant I would have to be away from my mom on plane rides all the time. That was a silly worry, of course, but it wasn't entirely invalid. When someone is a successful actor, he or she has to be away from their loved ones frequently. I wanted to be with my family more than I ever wanted to be an actress.

Even aside from that, breaking into the industry is so difficult. Even when I was in elementary school, I tried out for speaking parts in our Christmas play year after year and was never chosen. In high school, the theater classes took place at the all-boys high school several miles away, and the hours for rehearsal were so demanding. Not to mention, it was pretty expensive to join. I was worried that all the stress would make my grades suffer, and it was more important to me to do well in school. I think life throws obstacles in the way as you chase a dream to make sure it's what you really want. It's a good thing because it helped me realize early on that I didn't want to act badly enough to overcome those obstacles.

I've also wanted to be a singer, a writer, a guitar player, a pianist, a champion of causes. I've always had this gnawing feeling that I'm destined for greatness (all of us are, really) but am missing two key components to achieving it. One, I haven't found my life's passion. Two, I haven't worked hard enough to find it. Even when there have been times that I've felt truly moved by an event or an idea, I have become obsessed with the topics to the point that I don't even like the person I've become. The conclusion I always come to is that balance is the most important thing to me in life. Relationships and my self, work and play, time and money, dreams and reality. And the list goes on and on. It's the same for all of us. Does everyone feel that burning desire to fulfill their potential like I do? We must, right? Or else why would we keep going?

I have turned down jobs that would consume too much of my time and energy because spending time with friends and family is more important to me. I don't live to work; I definitely work to live. I didn't study abroad because I wanted to continue developing my relationship with my husband when we were dating. My life has been a lot about flexibility, compromise, diplomacy, and, yes, balance. I've always told myself that I don't have to choose between two things, between dreams and reality.

I wanted, badly wanted, to study in Paris during college. Once I started dating my husband, I just felt like it wouldn't be the right time to leave. I told myself that it would be silly to chase a dream that would last three months that might jeopardize the future I could have with someone for the rest of my life. In hindsight, of course, we probably would've been just fine. But it was the right choice for me at the time. My compromise was that my husband and I would go to Europe together later. We're planning a trip for a couple of years from now.

The thing is, I've just never stubbornly wanted something in just one way. I saw the possibility that my dream of studying abroad could be altered a bit so that it could adjust to the changes that occurred in my life since thinking up the dream. Granted, some dreams should not be dropped for other people or things in life if they aren't worth it. I found my husband to be worth it. He always says he would've joined the military if he hadn't met me because he wanted the experience of serving our country. In less than a month, he'll officially be in academy for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Dreams evolve.

Sam Davidson even mentions in the introduction of this book that passions change throughout our lives and we need to be open to realizing when one passion has faded and a new one has presented itself. Maybe my dreams have changed because of fear. Maybe I feared I would fail, though I think my deepest fear was if I were to succeed. What if I became a famous actress and was never anonymous again? What if my every move were monitored by the paparazzi, exposed by the media, judged by people everywhere? What if I were a successful singer and had to be on tour constantly far away from my family? What if I were a philanthropist who was too involved in raising funds for a nonprofit to spend time with her husband and children? It's all silly, I'm sure, but I've been afraid of it. Why?

I don't think I'm merely rationalizing when I say that my small dreams of being a good wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend with a variety of somewhat undeveloped talents but a balanced life makes me content. Perhaps being content with what I have IS my big dream. After all, isn't contentment one of the most elusive things in life?

John De Paola is quoted as saying,"Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you." I've always felt that there are a lot of people out there chasing money, fame, etc., when they're really all after the same thing: happiness. Being the youngest of four and daughter to a lovable worry-wart, I've spent my life watching other people's mistakes and trying to figure out how to avoid making the same ones. I've always tried to figure out what makes me truly happy before becoming one of those people who doesn't figure out until much too late in life that what really made them happy was there all along.

But, of course, contentment is far off. I'm not so self-centered as to be content with my life when there are so many people in this world who are suffering. And, yes, I would like to help do something about it. My first step toward that is to be the best, most balanced person I can be in my own community first. My ethics teacher also posed the question about at what point we know we have given too much of ourselves. He asked, "Are we supposed to give to those who are worse off than we are to the point that we're all the same? To the point that they are then the ones who are better off than we are? When do you stop giving?" I really don't know.

What I do know is that I want to be a positive force for the people in my life because I think that's a small thing that makes a huge difference. As I said before, I have the tendency to get lost in causes that mean something to me. While that's good for the cause, it has never been very good for me or the people in my life. I'm building my foundation before I think about crusading into the world. Baby steps.

If you haven't caught on yet, I'm a somewhat conflicted person, though I'm hoping I can start seeing "conflicted" as actually being "balanced." I have this blessing/curse thing about me that makes it so I always see (or try really hard to see) both sides of things. Some people think horoscopes are bunk, but, being a Gemini to the core, I tend to think there's something to them. I have two sides to myself; no, that doesn't mean I'm two-faced. I just have this dichotomous thing inside me where I'm always pulled to thinking or feeling two ways about things, which makes it difficult to ever know who I really am. I'm always feeling like a hypocrite because my opinions change so frequently, but maybe that just means I'm open to learning and evolving. I don't know. I really just don't know. Are you beginning to see why I always wanted to be an actress?

Maybe I could've worked out all of this on stage and figured out who I was a little better. Then again, someone once said that life isn't about finding yourself but creating yourself. I could seriously debate myself for days. No, I'm not crazy. I'm just honest, searching for truth. Let's face it, most of us probably don't like labeling ourselves and calling it a day, or a lifetime.

Okay, back to the point...big dreams, big dreams, big dreams...I seriously couldn't think of any this week. I think, years ago, I started making my dreams so realistic that none of them are big anymore. Sometimes big dreams can be selfish though. Sometimes we put our big dreams ahead of the people in our lives, but sometimes there are people who are meant to do that in order to cause big, necessary changes in our world. When do you stop chasing big, unrealistic dreams though? And who's to say what's unrealistic in the first place?

I guess we're all just doing what my ethics teacher said. We're all following what we want to do the most deep down. I guess what I want most is small, attainable dreams. Big dreams make me go wild with frustration and dedication. But now that's starting to really get to me. I suppose not all of us were meant to be Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates or Martin Luther King, Jr., or Mark Zuckerberg or Michael Jordan. We can't all be the best at everything, but we can be the best versions of ourselves by fulfilling our potential. We can push ourselves further, we can challenge ourselves, but when can we stop? When is it okay to stop?

(Next week's thing my life doesn't need: Untaken risks.)

Originally posted on: 1/29/12