This morning I realized that I think I have an addiction to the sun and to beautiful summer weather. I actually start getting anxious if I’ve been up for a few hours and haven’t made it outside yet. Of all things to be addicted to I don’t think this is that bad, but it shows that you can get addicted to anything. I really just can’t stay away from the warm air, the wonderful smells, and the sweet sound of the birds.
The funny thing about being a college kid or a recent grad is that nothing in your life is stable. For the past 4 years I’ve essentially packed up and moved every 4 months. In addition to the consisting moving back and forth between Connecticut and California (between school and home), I’ve spent each summer in a different city, and even spent one semester abroad. This consistent moving around makes it really hard to get into a stable routine. I know in many ways I’m lucky. The last thing I’ve suffered from these past few years is boredom. Constantly moving around and having to adjust to a new place, a new schedule, and a new way of living gets a bit cumbersome after a while though. As odd as it might sound, I’m really looking forward to settling down bit, to getting my own place (preferably relatively close to where I work), and to becoming familiar with the surrounding area. I want to become a regular at a coffee shop, join a running club to join, and hopefully (in a perfect world) volunteer at an organic farm or local garden. While I know these opportunities exist, I have never been in the same place for a long enough time to really get involved in them, or didn’t have access to the transportation I need to get there.
One of the reasons I was so excited to come back to California after grad is because I saw this as my opportunity to finally settle down in the place I loved most and to get into that routine I’ve been missing. Some people live off of adventure and enjoy constant change, I thought I was one of those people for a while, but I’ve discovered I really am more of a routine person. Granted, constantly being in a new place keeps things interesting, but I want to feel like I’m part of a community again, not just a visitor. I’m also really ready to be my own person; to stop relying on my parents for financial support, to have my own car and with it the ability to go where I want when I want, and to live the lifestyle of my choosing. Although I like to think of myself as a fairly independent person already and have definitely learned how to take advantage of the resources I have, in my mind these are just the final steps.
The exciting news is that I was just offered an internship with a PR agency in San Francisco called Allison and Partners. Wooohooo!!! I start Monday, which means that I’ll finally get to take those first steps toward creating a life of my own!! Granted, it will take a while for me to save up enough to buy my own place in the city or even to rent an apartment for that matter (housing in SF is incredibly pricy), but at least I’ll be moving in the right direction. I also plan to spend as much time as possible exploring the city. I’ll be working pretty long hours, so most of the fun I have will probably take place during the weekend. Who’s complaining though? That’s the way life works and I’m super excited for everything I’ll be learning at my new job.
So for now, I say bring it on!! Bring on another summer of exploring a new city and of unforeseen opportunities! I expect these next 3 months to be exhausting, but hopefully tons of fun. I’ll pick up yet another temporary routine, but maybe this time it will be one that can stick. Clearly it’s going to take a while for my life to be stable, so until then I’m going to keep looking forward and keep riding this wave until it sets me down, hopefully somewhere I want to be.
To give my legs a break from all the running I’ve been doing recently I decided to mix it up and go biking as a bit of cross training. It’s crazy how your body can get used to one particular sport, and no matter how in shape you are for that activity, you can feel completely inadequate when attempting something different. Needless to say, the hills of the normal loop that I ride seemed much steeper than I remembered them to be. I felt like a slug slowly crawly up the mountain of asphalt ahead of me. A few minutes into my ride though I got used to my steady pace and rather than focusing on how slowly I was going or on how much my legs burned, I started focusing on small improvements that I made throughout my ride. Actually managing to gain enough speed to create some wind became a huge success and psyched me up for the next challenge. The biggest moral booster of all was when I actually passed someone while going up a hill!! Granted it was very tiny compared to all the others, but we’re ignoring that fact. All I needed to do was switch gears, both figuratively and literally, for my workout to take on a totally different vibe. Once I shifted down and changed my focus from being the fastest to simply improving upon my own abilities, I turned my ride into something that was not only a manageable, but also enjoyable. Each incline was a new challenge and I played a game with myself every time I reached the base of a new hill; how quickly could I move my legs and what gear did I need to be in in order to get up the hill as efficiently as possible.
In addition to my biking adventure, today was also the first time I took my brother’s stick shift out on my own. I’ve spent the last few days learning to drive his car and today was the first time I felt comfortable enough to hit the streets solo. I spent most of my time driving up and down fairly crowded streets, which meant LOTS of gear changes. The constant speed up, slow down, and stop action forced me to practice flipping from third to second then back to third again depending on how fast traffic was moving. This was something I’d never done before, having only previously practiced shifting up then all the way down to come to a full stop. I think I managed it fairly well (not to toot my own horn or anything). I found that as long as I remained calm and focused on feeling the engine, rather than staring at the numbers, I instinctively knew what to do. I only stalled once all day!! And that was just because I was accidentally in gear 3 instead than gear 1 when starting up again after a stoplight; an easy mistake that anyone could make.
So in summary, today was definitely an example of how a slight change of gears, both physically and mentally, can be the difference between success and failure, between fun and frustration, or between ease and struggle. Sometimes all you need to do is calm down, try taking a different approach, and see what results follow.
Today I completed my 22 Acts of Kindness project. Here’s a list of all the things I set out to do.
- Give flowers to residents of the senior living center down the street from me
- Buy coffee for the homeless man, George, who always sits outside of Peete’s Coffee
- Write letters to my past teachers, thanking them for inspiring me as a student
- Give get-well-soon presents to kids at the Stanford Children’s Hospital (I bought them each a lollipop, smiley face stickers, and a keychain)
- Leave a “treasure” (a smiley face pop-up toy) hidden on the play structure in the park for a little kid to find
- For one day, pick up all the trash I see on the street
- Provide gardeners with apples and water
- Leave happy notes on the windshield of parked cars
- Help someone at the grocery store
- Surprise my dad by making dinner for him
- Give kids at the pond bread to feed the ducks
- Write inspirational quotes with chalk on the sidewalk of downtown
- Give thank you cards to the garbage men
- Leave sticky notes with inspirational quotes on the mirrors of a public bathroom
- Feed a parking meter that’s about to expire
- Give a dog at the local animal shelter some love
- Pay for the order of the person behind me in the drive-through at Starbucks
- Give a compliment to 22 people on the street
- Drop off donuts at the fire station and thank the firemen for what they do
- Give everyone in my family a coupon which they can redeem for a favor
- Give stickers to kids in the park
- Write a letter to an old friend
- (And number 23, just for good luck) Clean my mom’s car
As with any project, there were pros and cons to the way I went about completing this.
- It took me out of my comfort zone a bit
- Starting off the day with the intention of doing as many good things as possible put me in an amazing mood, especially once I actually started the project. I found myself wanting to give everyone on the street a hug and to thank everyone I passed for no reason at all.
- I met a bunch of people I otherwise wouldn’t have met and made a lot of them smile
- Creating a list of things that needed to get done within a specific timeframe made doing some of them seem like a chore. After a few hours I started getting tired and wanted to just spend the day outside enjoying the sunshine, rather than running around so that I could check things off my list. I feel like acts of kindness should really come from the goodness of one’s heart, rather than out of a competitive spirit which was the only thing that kept me going after a while. I felt I had created a mission for myself and I had to complete it. I think a better way to go about doing a project like this would be to write up a list and then post it somewhere you’ll see it every morning. This way, the list will serve as a reminder to be kind and it will be in the back of your head. I think it would be much more productive and much more interesting to let life present you with unique opportunities, rather than on creating a list of things that you think you should do. Opportunities are everywhere and as long as your eyes and your mind are open to them, you will be able to take advantage of them.
As I mentioned in my last post, one of my favorite activities is people watching. I love observing human behavior. The way people act is a representation of the way they think, and I love trying to understand how and why people think they way they do. I know what my own personal view of the world is, but how do others see it? What is life like from within another person’s shoes?
One of the reasons I love exploring the local hangouts of any given town is because I believe it gives me a more intimate look into the lives of the people living there. It provides me with hints of what the true culture is like. I’m a strong believer in the idea that you can only really understand someone once you’ve experienced, or at least observed with your own eyes, and physical and social the environment in which they grew up and/or the places they currently choose to spend their free time. Beach towns are particularly interesting to me because although they are widely acknowledged for having cutesie boutiques and peaceful atmospheres, the true nature of these towns is often missed. Beneath the surface is an entirely different town with a unique culture of its own, one that only locals and very frequent visitors experience. Because I was born and raised in a college town I cannot by any means say I understand beach culture, but I have had the opportunity to briefly observe it.
Usually when I visit Santa Cruz I head straight to their most famous and most popular beach, the one that runs just along the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It’s the easiest to get to and everyone knows where it is, making it a convenient destination when meeting up with friends. Now and then though I go exploring on my own, or am invited to a local beach by a friend. I love these little adventures for two reasons. The first is the peace and quiet of these spots is lovely. It’s so nice to get away from the crowds. The second is it provides me a unique glance into local life. Even after just a few minutes of watching the Santa Cruz locals interact, I feel like I have a much better understanding of why these people are the way they are. I’ve only met several people who were born and raised in Santa Cruz, but all of these people have something in common that makes them very special. I think it’s their laidback demeanor and just go-with-the-flow attitude. All I know is that I’ve walked away feeling incredibly refreshed after hanging out with any one of these people. I always assumed that their distinct demeanor was the result of growing up in a beach town that is renowned for being super crunchy and for being filled to the brim with hippies. Now, after having had several opportunities to observe the local culture of Santa Cruz, I think I am beginning to understand a bit more about how they have developed into the people they are today. These small glances into their lives have made me even more curious though about what living in a place like Santa Cruz would be like. This town runs at a completely different pace than most other towns in the Silicon Valley, which, by California standards, run at about 100 miles an hour. Having grown up in the fast paced, competitive environment of Palo Alto I wonder what it would be like to switch gears and step into a world where people seem to live more simply and to be satisfied with the gifts they’ve been offered, however big or small those may be.
I think there are a lot of lessons we can learn from the people of Santa Cruz. Everyone can benefit from adding a bit more simplicity into their lives. It’s always been a goal of mine to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and to find beauty in the smallest of things. As long as we have friends and/or family, food on the table, a place to sleep, and a place to bath, we are blessed. Our consumer driven society has caused us to develop insatiable appetites that always crave something new and different. Because of this I think it’s incredibly important to actively taking the time to appreciate the things we do have, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant.
I recently read an article on PR Week stating that at least 1 in every 179 words on Twitter are either misspelled or made up. It used the words “literacy” in describe the users who are making these errors. I question however, to what extent this is really a demonstration of “literacy,” the users’ ability to read and write. I will acknowledge that the development of spellcheck has decreased many people’s ability to spell and the speed with which Twitter posts are written often lends itself to typos and to carelessness. I also believe that some of these “errors” are simply a demonstration of creativity. Developing a message that is 140 characters or less requires a certain amount of innovation. Users have to be careful with their word choice and may at times choose to alter the spelling of words in order to make them shorter while still being easily readable and understood. I would even argue that social media forums have demanded people to engage in a new type of out-of-the-box thinking, and have forced them to become more creative when expressing their thoughts and ideas. I think the conversations of Twitter cannot be judged based on the rules that guide writing in standard english. Social media operates within its own rules, through which an entirely new form of slang has developed. Maybe I’m just an optimist, but I think that Twitter posts serve as proof of just how flexible people are and of how quickly they can adapt to a changing social environment.
I’ve recently come to an interesting observation, that there are 2 ways to go through life. One is through living to work and the other is through working to live. All my life I’ve been surrounded by people who live to work (although they may not admit it), with the exception of a few. These people have chosen to pursue careers. They have taken jobs that set them on a life path and have schedule the rest of their lives to revolve around their work. I have always aspired to grow up into an adult with a stable and interesting career, but recently I’ve started to think about what the alternative might be like. To be completely honest, I’ve also always admired those people who are free enough of spirit to follow their hearts to difference and interesting places; who choose to sacrifice months of their time in order to explore the Appalachian mountains, to conquer the face of Half Dome, or to hitch hike across the United States. These are the people who generally work to live. Their life doesn’t revolve around their job, but rather they pay their dues behind a desk or in a shop in order to save enough money to allow them to get outside and explore. From my experience, these people have no aspirations of having a “career.” They approach life from a totally different angle. I don’t think one path is better than the other. They are simply different and it’s interesting to think about the differences and similarities between the people who chooses one type of life over another. I still think that I want to choose the career path, to find a job that so excites me that I WANT to spend most of my time devoted to it. Having just graduated with a degree in sociology however, I’m left with the thought of had I not been socialized into a community in which all my mentors had a career, would I perhaps have different life aspirations? Would I view life’s possibilities differently? Would I view post-grad life from an alternative perspective? And what would my future play out to be?