It’s officially June and summer is here! I may eventually stop posting about how thrilled I am for warm weather activities but not today. Today I am so unbelievably happy to lounge on my balcony with a chilled cocktail and a good book. Today there is nothing better than soaking up the bright golden sunshine which seeps into every recess of my life and fills me up with yellow joy.
I can’t wait to sunbathe on the beach at Lake Michigan or to rediscover the magnificent alpine vistas of the Colorado Rocky Mountains during my vacation. I’m excited for shorts and sundresses and sandals. I look forward to the unavoidable farmer’s tan and to wearing out my running shoes. It is a season of ice cream and barbecue and good times with friends. I am so ready! Are you?
“Inertia is the death of creativity.” – Austin Kleon
There is no such thing as writer’s block. That was some of the most valuable advice I’ve ever received and one key takeaway from a four year engineering degree. Writer’s block does not exist. Inertia exists. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not. The trick is to keep writing when there is no guiding inertia. Make a habit of writing everyday. Practice discipline and someday everyone says it will get easier.
That’s a kind of discipline that I’ve always struggled with. There is no defined finish line. There are no bounds to what I might or might not accomplish and the only person who stands to be hurt from my failure is me. Everyday that I fail to write I only disappoint myself. I’m tired of being disappointed. I have done so much in such a short time during my first year in Indiana. I have accomplished things that I never thought I could do.
I am capable of this. I am capable of writing everyday, of finishing a blog post, of finishing a story. I can find the words. Even the wrong ones are content on paper. I need to jump in and do it wrong so that I can go back and make it right. I need to carry a notebook wherever I go and jot down any ideas that might pop into my head for fear of losing them in the sea of useless information which clutters my consciousness. I’m never going to expand my vocabulary unless I read and write every day. I need to keep a list of all the new words that I learn and I need to practice using them. I’m tired of murdering the punch line of a good story because I can’t seem to settle on exactly the right word. All the ones that come to my mind are grey and bland. They are generalizations, not a picture that someone else can see, taste, hear, smell. I want to be that good. I can be that good.
This was a frustrated pep talk that I wrote to myself a while ago when I was having trouble making the wheels of creativity turn. How do you force the pen to move when inertia fails you?
This weekend I witnessed my first adult baptism, confirmation and first communion at the Pentecost Vigil. As someone who will be completing all of these sacraments at Easter, it was exciting to be able to attend this private ceremony for two of my fellow Right of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) members. It was an opportunity to observe the process first hand before participating in it myself.
I expected to gain a little knowledge and experience from the event but what I left with was far greater. I went away filled with a new appreciation for the sacraments and even more anxious to complete them in April. It was so refreshing to watch my fellow inquirers declare their faith and be accepted fully into the Catholic church.
This bold declaration of faith often seems difficult to come by among many of my peers. No one wants to sound preachy or be judged a pious goody-goody. I’ve struggled with this myself, even after my decision to eventually complete the sacraments of initiation. I know what I believe and I’m not ashamed of that. But speaking freely about it to people my own age, knowing that many of them feel very differently, is not something that comes easy.
However, no matter what your faith, it’s as much a part of you as the color of your hair. In order to truly flourish in life, you must accept yourself in your entirety and that includes your faith. If you are completely honest with yourself and about yourself, you may be surprised at the positive reaction from others. People appreciate genuine authenticity far more than polite affirmation so be authentic. Your faith is simply a conversation between you and God and there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be a conversation among your peers as well.
I used to be a very socially cautious person. Every word and action was planned and calculated, strategically placed to minimize embarrassment. I was absolutely petrified of embarrassing myself and others. It’s one of the reasons that no one has ever described me as spontaneous, not that I was trying to be. I flitted around other people, afraid of making too much noise or stepping on anyone’s toes. I have also been known to be far too apologetic.
At the risk of sounding incredibly cliche, life is nothing more than a dance. If you ever wish to participate fully you must accept the fact that toes will be stepped on, including yours. It’s simply the nature of the thing. I’m not saying that you should go around offending people without a thought or a care. Always be kind and compassionate and do your best not to bring harm to others.
But have you ever noticed how the best people are the biggest geeks? They are passionate and animated and opinionated. They don’t drift whichever direction the wind is blowing at the time. They take a stance and defend it with enthusiasm, knowing full well that there will be plenty of people who disagree.
That is what I strive for everyday, to be completely, genuinely and unapologetically myself. I hope to never sugar coat any aspect of myself to accommodate the comfort of someone else. Besides, a life without a little discomfort is hardly one worth talking about. There will always be things for which you should apologize but being yourself is not one of them. Sing it loud and proud because there’s nothing wrong with making a little noise.
“Remember to follow your dreams, but also bring along your brain.”
Those words were written in my mom’s familiar, loopy, half-cursive scrawl on a card I received for my 18th birthday. Too often, I think people only receive the first half of that message. Throughout life we’re taught to be creative and unique and to do what we’re passionate about. This is all fine and good but I do think it’s worth reminding everyone that you also need to pay the bills. I doubt your landlord will accept the lyrics to your someday hit single in lieu of rent payment.
The secret to happiness is not simply to do what you love but rather to align your passion with the lifestyle that you want. If you want to be a renowned artist but your talents haven’t yet been discovered and you can’t bear the thought of being broke, then I recommend finding another way to pursue your passion for the time being. I am by no means saying that you shouldn’t chase your dreams to their fullest potential, to the ends of the Earth even. Quite the opposite.
Your livelihood and your future do not need to ride solely on this beautiful passion of yours. People tend to assume that ‘passion’ and ‘career’ are synonymous. They’re not. If you put too much pressure on your dreams, you may soon find yourself thoroughly disenchanted with them and hunting for a new one. There are a few questions you should ask yourself before diving into the abyss of discarded dreams.
What do I love to do?
How do I want to live?
Does one support the other?
If the answer to the last question is no, don’t panic. It’s more common than you think. This is not a godly sign from the universe that you aren’t meant to do whatever it is you love to do. It just means there’s a little more work required to make it happen. This is where many people lose faith and interest. They encounter this roadblock, give up and go home rather than find a detour. So what if you have to take the scenic route? The journey is half the fun anyway. And I guarantee you’ll learn more about what you’re capable of after overcoming a few obstacles. Here are some follow up questions you might want to consider.
What am I good at that I enjoy doing?
Does this allow time/energy/resources for the pursuit of the thing I love to do?
It’s important to note that you are never stuck. What you do right out of school doesn’t have to be what you do for the rest of your life. But maybe it’s the first step toward that goal that you’ve been holding onto for years. By all means, follow your dreams. Let them take you to places you’ve never been and never thought you’d be. Just don’t forget to bring your brain.
Creative writing is a little bit like not learning the sex of your baby before giving birth. I say this with the acknowledgement that I have never given birth and cannot speak to the physical and emotional changes which occur. But, by my understanding, it’s a labor of love. You’re excited to introduce a new life to the world. You hope it is good and beautiful and unique but you don’t really know what it’s going to look like when it comes out.
It might grow up and surprise you with a sense of humor you never knew your genetics were capable of. It might have a sage, pensive side which occasionally spouts profound and undeniable truths about the universe that you had no idea you needed to hear. It came from you and is of you, but sometimes you can’t help but wonder how.
Along the earthy emerald paths near the Indiana Dunes there exists a welcoming and supportive community of outdoor runners. Who knew? Coming across other joggers traveling in the opposite direction while out on an expedition through the forest is hardly unexpected. It is an absolutely stunning place, a colorful exhibition of nature’s irresistible majesty. Of course people would go running there.
Finding other joggers on the trail is not unusual. I have however been pleasantly surprised by the team mentality they seem to have here. I grew up used to making way for faster, athletic types along many Colorado mountain trails. They were always polite and friendly but there’s so much more dialogue between the runners of Indiana. Nearly everyone I’ve come across has nodded and called ‘good job’ as we passed each other. People cheer for one another like it’s a race and we’re all on the same team. It makes me smile whenever this happens, seeing the heart of Indiana shine through before my fellow runners continue on their way.