Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Least Favorite Word

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be on Actor's Studio one day and have a room full of people hanging on your every word as James Lipton tries to dig out the very essence of you and what you were thinking and feeling at different points in your life?

I haven't.

I have however wondered what I would say when he asks what my least favorite word is. Robin Williams picked cunt. My pick.... should. I hate that word. I spent so much of my life saying to myself I should be doing that or I should be feeling this. I never realized that by saying this I was comparing myself to the rest of society and measuring myself against their ideals of what I should be doing at said point in my life. It was a constant feeling of inadequacy. If it was a week night... I should be studying. If it was a Friday night and I was at home with the family... I should be going out. I should have more friends. I should be more outgoing. I never once said... I should be me.

The sad thing was, it wasn't just me saying it to myself, it was also people around me. On one occasion a friend's dad told me I should spend more time with people my age or I'd be a loner. When I was trying to decide on a college, it was between UC Riverside or University of Minnesota and my cousin told me I should go to Minnesota and branch out from my family.

This leads me to my next least favorite word... success. When I was a child my definition of success was simple, get an A. Not only that but I was good at achieving this, I knew exactly what I needed to do to get my A and I did it most of the time. Unfortunately as we grow up there's new things we're expected to be successful at and the road map isn't quite as well laid out. Getting A's came naturally to me, being social was and still is my biggest struggle. I saw every one of my social shortcomings and berated myself for them constantly. I suppose for some people carrying on a conversation comes naturally, for me it often takes effort. I can carry on a conversation with myself with no problems. It's basically an episode of Gilmore Girls where I play both Rory and Lorelei. However, put me in front of someone I've never met before and my mind goes blank. It's of no use at all. Miss Chatty Cathy up there goes on holiday.

How did I cope? Through high school I comforted myself with having a few close friends and telling myself that that was enough. Then there were my books. If you look back on candid pictures of me from high school half the time I have a book in my hand. Not only could I effectively shut out the rest of the world but I could live the lives of the characters on the pages for just a few hours. College was slightly better. Perhaps because I was spending so much time reading text books I had no time or desire to read any fiction. More than that though God smiled on me dropped me in a circle of four girls who would open my eyes to all the real world had to offer and I could live it instead of reading about it. Suddenly I was being forced to listen to Ludacris, Weezer, and endless Beyonce. I ate Indian food, homemade Mexican beans and rice and had Grey's Anatomy night every Thursday. I went to parties and clubs. I got drunk and danced to music I hated in ways that felt completely unnatural. It was four years of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. It was exhausting. But through it all was the constant feeling that I was growing and not letting my fears hold me back. I didn't realize there was an even greater fear was controlling my actions... the fear that if I didn't do these things then I wasn't living. I wasn't being successful.

Are you ready? Here comes the Aha moment.

I was in Prague with one of my best friends and a true kindred spirit as Miss Anne Shirley would say and we turned a corner and found ourselves in front of the Charles Bridge looking at the Mala Strana or "lesser town", which is the part of Prague that clusters around Prague Castle. It was soul shifting, that moment where the parts of my soul clicked closer to their true alignment. I have this belief that at the end of my life my soul will be in the exact shape it was meant to be because it will hold everything that makes me me. In the day that followed as we explored the Cathedral of St. Nicholas and Prague Castle I suddenly felt as though I made sense as a human being simply because this place existed where all of the things I loved and appreciated existed in abundance. I was finally done trying to be what I thought I should be and ready to appreciate who I am.

I now realize that there is a difference between change and growth. Before, I was trying to change and become all the things I thought I should. More outgoing, more social, more fun. Now I just want to grow. I want to experience new things that are going to help me become more me, that will help my soul continue to shift into it's ideal form. Nevertheless, I have to remember that that growth is not possible without balance. A tree's branches can only grow longer if it's roots are wide enough and deep enough to support that growth. Albert Einstein said, "Life is like riding a bike. You can only move forward with balance". So grow. But remember your roots, those parts of you that are as one of a kind as the stain glass windows of Prague Castle and as breathtaking as the view of the Charles Bridge at sunset.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Just Call Me Alice

I've only seen Alice in Wonderland once in my life. As a child it scared the crap out of me and I have had no desire to repeat the experience. Thank fully there exists a fantastical time wasting website called which is where I found this lovely exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat.
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?' asked Alice.
`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
`I don't much care where--' said Alice.
`Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
`--so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.
`Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.'"
Bloody brilliant cat. Like most things in life, the correct answer to our hardest questions is often the simplest. When you don't know where you want to end up then it doesn't matter what path you take to get there.
Growing up we are taught to have dreams, everyone asks what do you want to be when you grow up. I'm not so sure this is a good idea. It leads a child to believe that they have to have a destination in mind for their life and take the correct steps in order to get there. However, if you are like me and don't know what that destination is then your stuck blindfolded at the starting line afraid to take a step forward for fear that you might step in a direction that won't get you to the finish line. All you can say is to hell with the finish line, spread your arms wide and start spinning till you get too dizzy and stop. At this point your going to have to wait for the world to stop spinning too... and make no mistake your world will be spinning. This perfect world you've built for yourself up till now, always doing what was expected of you will spin right off it's axis because now all that matters is what you expect of yourself. Then you take that first step and open your eyes and take in everything this path has to offer you.
I'd like to be able to say that the first step on my path was something selfless like volunteering in a soup kitchen or reading to the blind, but alas this was not the case. I got a gym membership and a personal trainer. Andrea is a bubbly 5'4" blond trainer who takes great pleasure in kicking my ass on a weekly basis... and I love it. Anyone that knows me would attest to the fact that I'm not athletically inclined on any level, with the exception of a brief stint on a peewee roller hockey team I have never competed in any team sports and with good reason... I'm a klutz. So I was quite surprised when I found out I loved working out. I loved getting stronger, building up my endurance, and becoming altogether healthier and it turns out I influenced my family to make some healthier choices too.
So what did I learn in my first foray into the unknown? First, when the trainer asks you if it's too light never say yes. Second, go into every situation with an open mind and an open heart. I could have gone off past experiences and decided that I was just never going to be athletic. Instead I thought this time might be different and it was. No two situations are exactly the same and sometimes that one change no matter how small is enough to make all the difference. However, if it's still not right all you have to do is put the blindfold back on and start spinning. Lastly, that first path has a way of leading to another...