A new thing

Thanks to years of coaching — starting with my mom reminding my 10-year-old self to sit up straight and maintain eye contact when I applied for my first volunteer position, to professors with years of experience offering tips to classes of soon-to-be graduates — I’ve become very good at interviews. I’ve only landed interviews for a fraction of the jobs I’ve applied for, but I have yet to interview without ultimately receiving a job offer. I’m well-trained and thoroughly practiced in the art of selling my skills, putting a positive spin on my weaknesses, asking the right questions to impress an interviewer, and in the moment, I feel nothing but confidence in my words.

After every interview, however, I find myself almost as worried about getting the job as I do about not getting it. What if I overestimated or oversold myself? What if I show up and fail miserably and they realize they made a huge mistake in hiring me? What if I have no idea what I’m doing?

Previously, after the requisite disorientation that comes with any transition job-related or otherwise, I’ve managed to ease fairly comfortably and quickly into my new roles. Today, though, starting my new job at a magazine publishing company, I found myself thrown for a bit of a loop. Within minutes of arriving, I had four considerably large projects on my plate and no idea where to start with any of them. I barely even understood the jargon flying around the office. I’m far from inexperienced, but my particular experiences were, by and large, not especially applicable to anything I was assigned, and it certainly didn’t help that I was sick. I felt more like a fish out of water than I ever have in a professional setting — funny, since magazine publishing is the setting I’ve been aspiring to since my sophomore year of college. This was exactly the experience I’ve feared.

And yet, while this sort of baptism by fire is unquestionably daunting, what I felt was not discouragement, but exhilaration. Where I expected stress, I experienced near-euphoria. I’m certainly humbled, but I have not lost faith in myself. I’m not dismayed by how little I know; I’m excited about how much I get to learn.

This difference, I suppose, comes from facing these challenges in a context I’ve been pursuing for the last several years, because it means I will find purpose in the hurdles I’ll have to overcome in the upcoming days or weeks or months.

So praise God for opportunity and difficulty alike, for the passion he has given me, and for his grace when my strength is sure to be insufficient. I can’t wait to see what he’ll continue to do in the midst of this new adventure.

Little thoughts: On people who are “worse”

Part of a series. From my Moleskine, April 6.

We talk about how Jesus spent time with the “worst of the worst,” as though that was the greatest example of his grace, of how we should be unafraid to reach out to people who are “worse” than us.

But while there’s certainly a lesson to be learned from that example, when that’s our emphasis, we gloss over that Jesus also spent time with the everyday “nice” people, who from an absolute perspective are no better than anyone else.

Maybe that’s the real example we should be following. Don’t go around talking only about how gracious it is that Jesus would spend time with “them”; talk about and be humbled by the fact that Jesus, in his holiness, would even spend time with you.

It’s not just that his grace is great enough for “even” the prostitutes and tax collectors. It’s that they are no less deserving of his grace than anyone else.

Little thoughts: On being a sci-fi/fantasy fan

The first in a series. From my Moleskine, April 1.

Love fantasy, but don’t entangle it with reality. Part of the beauty of fantasy is that it is so “other” from reality. Believe it, and believe reality, too, but believe them apart from one another.

Fantasy is possibility. It’s hope. It’s escape. It transports. It can’t be or do those things if we merge it with the already-concrete.

Something new

I have continued to struggle with writing complete posts consistently. This is mainly due to my own insecurities, the origins of which I’m still trying to figure out. Until I’m able to do that and confront whatever is making me hold myself back, I’m going to change my approach a bit, to spare myself the self-imposed guilt of not writing more regularly.

For Christmas, I got a new Moleskine that has gone with me everywhere. In it, I’ve been jotting down short notes on any and every topic that happens to pop into my head. I’m going to start posting these, in hopes that maybe I’ll inspire myself to turn them into more developed thought projects and consequently more detailed posts later. I’ll file these under a new category titled “Little thoughts.”

I will greatly welcome comments on these posts; feedback and discussion are my greatest tools when it comes to shaping my ideas.

Here’s to experiments!

In my own words

I have this strange tendency to undermine the worth of my own words. I’m aware that plenty of people are smarter and more articulate than I am, and for some reason I feel that because those people exist, they have a greater right to speak up. Surely someone else has had the same ideas I do, and surely they could express those ideas better, so it seems presumptuous for me to take that expression upon myself.

It feels selfish.

I realize this is silly. There’s space enough for all our ideas and all our articulations and interpretations of those ideas. I am not depriving someone else of their opportunity to speak if I speak myself; but if I don’t speak, I’m depriving myself of my own voice.

And now for something different!

Hey everyone! This week I had the honor of writing a guest post on the meaning of “home” for my friend Melissa Gutierrez. We were honors program classmates and coworkers on our school’s magazine. I’d love for you to check out the post — and while you’re there, take a look at Melissa’s own stuff (and how about clicking that Follow button while you’re at it?). I can honestly say she’s one of the most talented writers I’ve had the privilege of knowing, and it is similarly a privilege to steal some space on her blog.

So this happened

Tonight on my dinner break, I was wandering around downtown, as I usually do.

As I neared one of the theaters, I noticed the block in front of it had been barricaded off, and a crowd of people lined a row of gates. Inside those gates was a backdrop and a cluster of photographers.

I had completely forgotten it’s film festival week.

The marquee above the theater boldly proclaimed “Montecito Award: Daniel Day-Lewis.”

I found my way to a gap at the edge of the gates, and there, indeed, not 10 feet away, stood Danny Flynn/Daniel Plainview/Abraham Lincoln himself, looking every bit as classy-yet-slightly-edgy in person as in pictures.

Sadly, I was too taken by surprise to think to get a picture of my own before he was ushered away.

But I can now say, “Oh, I was taking a stroll on my break and happened upon Daniel Day-Lewis walking a red carpet.”

Fearing the future — and why I don’t anymore

Some things are terrifying, and you can’t imagine how you’d weather those storms if they ever came. But then they happen, and you survive — and the experience, for better or for worse, probably was very little like you expected it would be, but you survive, and then you realize you’re not afraid anymore.

I’ve been afraid of lots of things that I no longer fear. Most of them are stories for another time. Tonight, I’m thinking about the future.

I’m a planner. For years I desperately wanted to be a spontaneous free spirit, but the fact of the matter is I like to have plans. I like to have outlines. I like to be prepared. The most spontaneous thing I have ever done in my life was booking flights to England when all of 24 hours earlier the prospect of traveling abroad was just a vague possibility for sometime far down the road. It was exhilarating. But there was a solid gap of four months between when I booked the flights and when I will actually step foot on British soil, and since the moment I clicked Okay on the travel site, I have been researching, plotting, making lists, doing calculations, figuring out all the logistics down to the most meticulous detail. It makes me feel safer, somehow.

Because I am so inherently a planner, not knowing what is coming has long been unsettling at least, and terrifying at most. I had no real idea what I would be doing upon graduating from college until the day after I crossed the stage in my cap and gown, and so for my entire last semester, a ball of anxiety lived in my gut.

But I survived that transition. Exactly one year ago, after a brief Christmas break, I left the house where I spent the greater part of my childhood and began my move to my new town and new job. I have become settled here — and yet, not fully.

At some point, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, when finances and other practicalities allow, I’ll have an engagement ring on my finger, and that part of my future will almost certainly require me to live in L.A. (He wants to pursue television production, and L.A. is, of course, the most natural place for him to do that, whereas my line of work is portable.) But that plan is only a very vague one. We could be married this time next year, or maybe not for two or three more years. I’ll have to find a new job, but I haven’t the slightest idea what I’ll be doing, or where, or when.

I’ve begun, at the encouragement of several friends and mentors, to consider grad school. I’ve shocked myself already by even entertaining the possibility. I’ve also toyed with the idea of a work-away program somewhere in Europe, in which I’d volunteer on a family’s farm or in a shop or so on in exchange for room and board.

What it all comes down to, really, is that I have no idea what the next year or even the next few months of my life hold. But for the first time, rather than being petrifying, that fact is exciting, even freeing. It’s the kind of excitement you get going up the first hill of a roller coaster you’ve never been on before. You don’t know what to expect, but whatever it is, you are locked in and have no way to avoid it. And while there’s a decided element of fear to that, it’s also thrilling.

It’s unlikely that any season of my life will be more ripe with possibilities. It’s unlikely I will ever be more mobile and less tied down than I am now. Later on, my life may be more stable, certainly, but greater stability almost always necessitates greater commitment. And that will be good, in its time. But for now, I am unstable. And what peculiarly wonderful thing that is.

Antidote to melancholy

For a a number of reasons, I am in a very bad mood right now, and I have been wallowing in it for the last hour. My reasons for being in a bad mood are, I think, perfectly legitimate, but the fact of the matter is that dwelling on those things accomplishes nothing.

So to counteract myself, instead of enumerating my reasons be miserable (which I will not specify because that somewhat defeats the purpose), I’m going to name things I’m thankful for.

  1. I am thankful to be employed. I am thankful that, while it’s a crunch most of the time, my employment earns me enough to pay my bills. I am thankful that my employment is in the field that I went to school for.
  2. I am thankful for Rory, my quirky little beater of a car. By all rights he should have puttered out by now, but he just keeps on going and hasn’t given me any major trouble.
  3. I am thankful to live in a town where the ocean is never more than 10 minutes away.
  4. I am thankful for technology that makes it easy for me to keep in touch with my long-distance boyfriend and even-longer-distance friends.
  5. I am thankful I have managed to avoid every bout of the cold or flu that has gone around at work this year. (I’m sure I’ve just jinxed that.)
  6. I am thankful for chiropractors.
  7. I am thankful that all the trees downtown are decorated with lights.
  8. I am thankful for Amtrak.
  9. I am thankful for microfiber blankets.
  10. I am thankful for beautifully and thought-provokingly written words.
  11. I am thankful for sleep, especially when I remember what my life was life this time last year (in a word: hell), because I was forced to go literally days at a time without it. This season of my life has its stresses, absolutely — and arguably stresses with higher stakes than what I was dealing with at the conclusion of my college career. But I don’t feel nearly as overwhelmed now as I did then, and the simple matter of getting enough sleep might be the key difference.

Has my mood reversed completely? No, I wouldn’t say so. But I would say I’ve regained perspective, and that’s enough for tonight.

Postscript: I am very, very thankful that I suddenly seem to have broken through whatever wall was holding me back over the last year and I am able to write consistently again.