Monday, December 22, 2008

To Mentor or Not to Mentor?

"We hate to have some people give us advice because we know how badly they need it themselves."
-Anon

That truly is the question sometimes, isn't it? We all love to have little proteges and successful mentees who can claim that one of the reasons they rose to greatness is because we helped them. We gave them the advice they needed in order to succeed! We pointed them in the right direction! We provided them with the knowledge! Everybody wants to have a positive impact on the world, and many times that positive impact is made through helping others out who don't have the wealth of information in the countless crevices of their mind that we do. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. We all need people to look up to: parents, teachers, instructors, bosses, older siblings (although that's debatable at times), etc... But where the issue comes up is this: who chooses who is the mentor and who is the mentee?

I was talking with a friend a while back telling them about my aspirations to be a novelist. They asked what I was up to, listened to about two things I said, then proceeded to give me advice on how to succeed.

Whoa. Let's take a step back.

I tuned out almost immediately. This is a person who is not in my field, has no idea about the publishing industry or current trends among readers, and they think they can start giving me advice? They've never even seen my work! (although if they did they would probably want to give me MORE advice!) I was amazed at the audacity of this person. No shame. No self-doubt about their own self-righteousness. Those are dangerous characteristics in any person. Humility...what an underrated quality.

There are times and places when it is appropriate to give advice. I did some thinking and here's what I came up with:
  • When, inherent in the relationship, it is obvious who is the wiser (teacher, parent, instructor, tutor, boss, older sibling...sometimes, etc.)
  • Among close friends who mutually respect one another
  • When someone makes one of the dumbest mistakes you've ever seen - and doesn't realize it
  • When it's asked for
Yeah, that's really all I could think of (add more in the comments section, please!) . Advising someone is a very delicate issue sometimes. I've found that it helps to ask if you can give advice before you give it. Because in situations like the aforementioned unwanted (and unwarranted) advice-giver, people can react very negatively.

I've been a mentor to a few people throughout my short life. But never have I forced my mentoring onto someone. OK, I won't lie, I have once or twice only because it was apparent the person needed some guidance and they didn't know to whom they could turn. They thanked me profusely afterward so I'm pretty sure I wasn't wrong in my judgment. If my advice went in one ear and out the other, so be it. I'm over it.

That's the conundrum of the mentor/mentee relationship, though. The mentor doesn't choose the mentee. The mentee chooses the mentor. Just because we want to mentor someone doesn't mean they want to be mentored by us. It's almost like a process of natural selection. People go for advice to those with whom they feel most comfortable, and will slowly weed out the "mentors" whose traits are not as agreeable. Mentees tend to be a lot pickier than mentors, and there's good reason for that. Because one component above all else is necessary to a successful mentor/mentee relationship: the will to listen. Not just hear, but really listen.

If someone doesn't want to listen to what someone else has to say, they won't. That's their choice, naturally inherent upon their birth, to not listen to someone. Free will is a beautiful thing, isn't it?

I've been in a couple programs where mentors have been assigned to mentees. It rarely works. Once in a great while a great relationship will come out of the woodwork, but that's too rare to say such programs are successful. Because the other 95% of the mentees who get mentors they're not so agreeable with will lose out. Thus, why I've become a staunch opponent of formal mentoring programs, as one of my friends can readily tell you.

There's too much aesthetics involved in mentoring that you can't quantify it into a formal program. Too many variables, too many personality traits that throw the equation off. In order to succeed, people have to rely on their instincts. On their gut. On their intrinsic sense of the natural combination of logos and pathos.

So don't force yourself on someone just because you want to be a mentor. If you come across an appropriate time and place to give advice (i.e. a blog!), offer it sparsely until it's requested that you give more, or you feel it's necessary to that person's, or the organization's, success...or, as stated before, when someone makes one of the dumbest mistakes you've ever seen - and doesn't realize it. You may not be anyone's mentor until you're well on in your years, and that's fine too! We weren't all born to be mentors. Or you could look at this way: maybe we are being mentors much of the time without even realizing it, only because people take lessons from us on what they DON'T want to do or how they don't want to act or who they don't want to be.

Yeah, try quantifying that.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Loyalty vs. Logic

"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul."
-Mark Twain

Loyalty, what a dangerous word. When I think of loyalty I think of blindness. I think of someone who can't see an issue from more than one angle. Or if they do see the issue from multiple angles, they only adhere to the one perspective they find to be most beneficial, for themselves or for the community.

I have been accused numerous times of not being loyal to friends. I've been affectionately dubbed a "dream-squasher", as well as antagonistically called a "traitor" and a "backstabber". I've been told on a couple occassions that I'm not loyal to my friends, not because I talk behind their back or badmouth them, but because I don't stand behind them in certain situations.

For example: A while back my buddy and his girlfriend got in a bit of an argument...and when I say "bit" of an argument I mean a shouting match. After listening for a few minutes to both parties trying to outdo the other in waking up neighbors and inadvertently attracting the police, I came to realize that my friend was being a complete asshole. The girl wasn't exactly the most understanding person in the world, but at the core of the argument, my friend was simply wrong. I interjected a bit and didn't exactly take sides, but I also made it clearly known to my friend that I thought he was wrong, in a logical sense.

Was I wrong in doing this? Maybe it wasn't the best time to interpose myself, alcohol being involved and whatnot, but if a friend is being, to be frank, a douche bag, I'll tell him (or her). I have no problem telling a friend when I think they're acting like an idiot or being unreasonable. And I hope people can tell me, in turn, when I'm doing the same thing. I'm honest to the point of being rude, and those of you who know me best know this all too well.

My friend, in this particular situation, believed me to be wrong as well. This is where the "traitor" and "backstabber" monikers came into play. The next morning there was quite a different reaction to my "Benedict-Arnoldish" actions and motives, but that night I thought I might have lost a friend by trying to be reasonable.

I must admit, however, that loyalty, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, not by any means. When loyalty is taken to extremes is when it can be counter-productive. It has to be balanced by logic, not standing at the opposite end of the spectrum. One thing to keep in mind is that this comes from a man who questions anything and everything...so I could be wrong.

SIDENOTE: I want people to understand that I AM very loyal to my friends and family, I just happen to question actions, mindsets and motives more often than most. Devil's advocate, anyone?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hand-in-Hand - Death and No Worries

"It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything."
-Tyler Durden, Fight Club

WARNING!! This entry will come off a bit morbid, maybe even a bit suicidal, but I can assure you with the utmost sincerity that it is meant to be the polar opposite. Read the whole thing and see if you can relate (there's a LOT going on in this post)...then leave a comment - I want to hear your thoughts.

I've watched Fight Club four times in the past couple weeks. I was recently reminded of its existence and proceeded to buy it last Thursday. The reminder comes at an interesting time in my life, considering the messaging behind the movie: I've now entered the 9-5 white-collar world of public relations/marketing/advertising that the movie preaches against, sacrificing 40 hours a week to "buy shit we don't need." Makes you wonder...

Secretly I've always wanted to have a near-death experience (well, not so secretly anymore). I want to know what it's like to teeter on that precipice, ready to plummet into the darkness below, away from life, love, videogames, and everything one holds dear. I want to experience the stark relief, the utter happiness, and the settling calm that follow. I want to feel the absolute fear of death, and then perhaps the calming feeling of resignation, and then maybe the sheer elation one can only know in the seconds before death, realizing your last moments are upon you.

What would be passing through my mind in those moments that will seem to last forever and yet comprise only seconds?

Would I feel the last breath of wind on my face? Would I notice the single drop of sweat trickling down my back between the gap of a loose shirt and my skin? Would I think of a beautiful red-haired girl's smile? Would I want to call my parents and tell them I love them? Maybe I would wish I could have published a book or gone skydiving. Maybe I would have been pissed.

When I die I want to die in the vicinity of no one (notice I don't say "alone"). I want to experience the passing of life into death fully conscious. I realize that I would probably be terrified, but I feel that's the ultimate test for the living - put simply, to die well....allow me to readjust the first sentence in this paragraph..."When I die I want to die in the vicinity of no one who is also dying." In that sense I want my death to be a solitary event - like Owen Meany's death. If there are others around me dying I'll be torn between trying to savor my last few breaths of life and trying to help or comfort them. Call me selfish...

Beginning of my junior year I thought I was going to die - and soon. I was sitting at my desk writing when this feeling just came over me. It didn't have anything to do with what I was writing. I just felt something in my core that told me the sand was running out. And you know what?

It felt good.

The most supreme sense of calm swept over me for the next two weeks. I enjoyed the feeling of the warm sun on my skin for the first time in months, maybe years. I loved going to work and exploring who my co-workers really were. I literally remember walking out the door to my crappy, leaning house and onto the porch, feeling what I thought was the most comfortable temperature I've ever felt. I had a dignified ease about me that I've failed to recreate ever since.

I've always had a fascination with the Japanese samurai and the concept of "bushido," a doctrine of living that, stripped down to its bare essence, meant to live every second of your life as if you're about to die. It sounds morbid, but it's completely and utterly refreshing if you can truly grasp the concept. You feel life with every step you take in a dirty subway tunnel, with every keystroke on your computer, with every touch of the steering wheel, with every blade of grass that bends beneath the soles of your feet. Always striving for self-realization and self-perfection. These are concepts that we as a society claim to pursue, but few really do. Very few achieve self-realization, and the most minute percentage achieve self-perfection.

This is what the concept of enlightenment is based around. I think in our society, though, very few of us will actively pursue it until we have that near-death experience. We have to feel life's tentative hold nearly slip before we can really grasp what it is to live. Yes, most people will claim they've been able to truly live based on their past experiences and pre-conceived notions of what it means to live...but have they really?

I don't know. I write this an unenlightened fool, versed in the pampered prose of Suburbia, America, not having ever really known what it's like to come within a hairsbreadth of death. I don't know what it is to be desperate, truly desperate. I've felt depression before and am better off for it, but emotions are relative by nature. For some, every feeling and emotion is "the best," "the worst," "the most awesome," "the strongest" or "the weakest." While I think it is important to feel the extremes at various points in our lives, it's even more important to find Confucius's Golden Mean, or the Buddhist "Middle Way." So I can't really say that I know what it is to feel desperate or depressed, when others have experienced much worse times than I ever will.

However, one important quality I think we must have is the ability to recognize this perception of our personal experiences for what it is - REALITY. Realize that your own experiences are merely one minute perspective in this grand scheme we call life. To be able to identify with other perspectives, you can realize that, in Carrie Underwood's words, "that mountain you've been climbing is just a grain of sand." That's why I'm so laid back - many times to the point that others perceive it as not caring, or as a weakness within me, whereas I realize the strength of it. To have the ability to see a person's problems for what they are:
- something to be laughed at
- something to be appreciated
- something from which to learn
- something to make light of
- something to not worry about because, in the end, it is what it is, making the present moment the most amazing moment in our short lives

As a good friend of mine might say, Hakuna Matata.

Oh what a wonderful phrase!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Did ya know?

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school."
-Albert Einstein

Just felt like changing it up a bit this time around. Here's some interesting facts I learned over the past couple weeks that I thought you may be interested in...

- there's a government bureau called The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives
uhhh...do we really want to be associating those things with one another?

- PB&J still tastes as good at 22 as it did when I was 7
simplicity in its finest form, eh?

- songs like "It's all for you" and bands like Green Day are on classic rock stations
...yikes

- Steve Miller sings a song called The Joker; one of the lines in the song says "Really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree."
what the hell does that mean?

- there's a city in Pennsylvania called "King of Prussia"
i wonder who they named it after?

- the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, will occur between 2010-2012
road trip, anyone?

- the name Aurora is from the Roman goddess of dawn
i know what i want my first daughter named.......or not

- one tropical storm that doesn't even reach hurricane status and only "directly" effects a few states can effect the economy more than billions of dollars of spending by the U.S. government in plans that took years to plan and spent even more of the taxpayers' money to just conjure (the Dow Jones is up 331 points..thanks for nothing Bernanke!)
Gracias, Eduoard, para la gasolina baja valora

Hope you enjoyed learning this as much as I did!

Stay sound.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Nuts and Bolts

"We rise to great heights by a winding staircase."
-Francis Bacon

What do you dream you could do with your life? Is there something you believe yourself incapable of that you wish you could do? If only you had the time, the patience or the money, right?...Everybody has a perception of fulfilling their dreams and the methods by which they will do so. But when we get down to the nuts and bolts of the operation, it's not as glamorous as it always seemed it should be.

For example: I love music. It's one of the numerous cornerstones of my life. So I decided a while back that I wanted to learn to create it, as opposed to just reaping the benefits of other people's creativity. I was so motivated my junior year of high school that I asked for a guitar for Christmas...and got it! I expected to be banging out a song or two within the month.

I lost my motivation within the week...

I let it sit in its case for a while...a while being a year. Because I learned something as I began to strum my cords and pluck my strings: learning to play the guitar was hard! Switching between cords and playing opening riffs to the "simplest" of songs wasn't all cheese and crumpets! Stairway to Heaven didn't sound so cool when I mis-plucked every string in the intro. When a guy can't get past the first riff in one of his favorite songs, it doesn't take much to get demoralized. It's those nuts and bolts that had to be assembled that took me down a couple notches that winter. Every passion or skill set should come with a disclaimer on the box reading, "Some assembly required."

I knew I had to practice a hell of a lot more if I was going to get as good as I hoped to be. John Mayer looked lonely on that stage all by himself! And I'll have you know, practicing can be frustrating enough, let alone not seeing a bit of improvement. But the perception was that I was going to train hard, practicing all the time until I got wicked good on the guitar! By the time I was 22 I would know every song anyone could name. I'd be able to stand on a stage and jam with the best of 'em, Phish included. And I would own six or seven guitars so everybody who came over could see my passion firsthand!

The experience was a bit different than I anticipated...

That's how it is with almost anything in life, though. Everybody always has this perception of where they want their destinies to lead and who they want to become. But when you actually walk down the road of life you realize it's more a path than a road...and it's bumpy and obstacle-filled...and it's a bit more uphill than you anticipated...

Someone dreams of getting in shape, having that coveted six-pack and buns of steel. Then, after they go to the gym for a couple weeks or a month, they start taking days off - just here and there! But watching the favorite television show they TiVo'd, or going to the bars to have a few drinks with friends begins to take more priority. One six-pack becomes a bit more important than the other, and the goal is lost. They fall off the path.

The nuts and bolts...

How many times have you started a solid workout routine and found that you'd rather be doing something else other than ellipticals and countless sets? Everybody always seems to see what's in the distance before they see what's right in front of them. They see the six-pack but not the 10,000 crunches. They see the song but not the cords and the riffs that constitute it. They see the book, but they don't see the 350 pages that need to be written first...

Perception vs. Experience - we've all seen the battle. We've experienced its effects. I don't want to sound completely pessimistic or downtrodden, though. Because many times the experiences do lead to the previously perceived goal. Dreams do come true. You hear about them all the time. A teenage boy finally catches the eye of his soon-to-be high school sweetheart. Carrie Underwood wins Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMAs. A parent sees his kids go to college and get an education. They've all braved the experience and gone on to what they initially perceived their life could be. Sometimes it meets expectations and sometimes it doesn't. But before you can find out if your dream will measure up to what it could become, you've gotta brave the nuts and bolts. You have to push yourself harder than you ever have before. Because what's an accomplishment with minimal effort? Sure, from another perspective it looks like you've accomplished something noteworthy, but you know the truth. You know what went on behind closed doors. If you put "just enough" effort into it to get by, is that really fulfilling, or are you just playing the role assigned to you?

We can't just lie in wait, stagnant, tepid. We can't wait on happiness - that's not how the often-elusive emotion works. People always tell themselves they can be happy after they've climbed that hill or after they've rounded that bend. They wait for milestones in life and decide that's when they can become happy! To be cliche, the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

"Once I've graduated from college and escaped the grip of my parents, THEN I'll be happy!"

"Once we get married and cross that threshold, I'll be so happy!"

"Once I get a job I can finally relax!"

"I'll be so happy when this is over!" (a common one)

If you live like that, half of your life will be empty. You'll be a walking shell, whether you realize it or not. Do you really know what it's like to live, to truly live, walking around like that? If you ask me (which you didn't, but I'm telling you anyway), happiness is in the nuts and bolts of life. The stuff that normally may not register with your conscious mind until you realize in your old age what you missed...

The small fights a couple has in their first years of marriage.

The mis-steps you take in pursuing your dream.

Getting back up to persevere in your endeavor.

The friendships you make that you know won't last after college.

The friendships you make that will.

An encounter with a complete stranger who treats you with respect instead of mild neglect.

A quick smile thrown your way.

You don't need to have the means of bathing in money to be happy. You don't need to be a hero to be respected. It's the day-to-day living, it's the mild memories, it's the obstacles overcome, big and small - it's the nuts and bolts. These all combine with millions of other facets of "living" that make up your life. Open your mind and don't forget about what's right in front of you. Some of us are too far-sighted for our own good. You never know...what's right in front of you may be the secret to your happiness., whether that happiness lasts 60 seconds or 60 years. Don't be afraid to open your eyes a bit more to the small wonders this life can hold...you may be surprised.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Revelations

I've decided to start each post from now on with an inspirational/quirky/insightful quote. For no good reason other than I want to, so bug off. Here's the first quote, one that I've found will help me in my profession - even in this cubicle-infested environment - and almost anybody in any profession. It sounds cliche, but you'd be surprised how many people don't live by it or take its advice - on the other hand, maybe you wouldn't be surprised.

"Fortune sides with he who dares!"
-Virgil

Beginning my fourth week on the job, I can't help but be filled with a sense of accomplishment. Today definitely helped lift me to that pedestal, seeing that I was able to get more done today with one of my projects than I feel like I've been able to do for the past three weeks. Perhaps it's a misguided sense of accomplishment, seeing as though I still have three months to screw things up, but a sense of it nonetheless. Here's why:

1.) I was placed in charge of an Hispanic outreach program for one of our major clients, and today alone I solidified three contacts in Florida, Texas and California through which we will coordinate our efforts. After three weeks of zero feedback and zero contacts, this was a major breakthrough. I was ecstatic and treated myself to a Mountain Dew (not that I really need a reason to get my fix, but that's beside the point).

2.) My immediate supervisor is going out of town for a few days, leaving me in charge of another hefty project where we target those crazy Canucks up north. In three days I have to compile a mailer that we're sending to 30 fire stations in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto; this includes writing a press release, a letter to each fire station, creating a redemption code and packaging everything. This sounds incredibly boring, but you wouldn't think so when you realize how much they're entrusting me with responsibility!

That's basically the big theme of the week - more responsibility. And I love it. It shows they trust me. I must be doing something right!
Here's the agency. A nice shot from the front (left) and the receptionist's desk when you walk in (below). You can't see it, but off the left of the first picture is downtown, Columbus and Nationwide Arena. It's a prime location - we're not smack dab in the center of downtown, but we're close enough to reap its benefits of bars, eateries and the oh-so-reliable Arena District.

But the main purpose of this post is to reveal some of the revelations I've had concerning life in the real world...or rather, life in an office setting. White collar workers the country over seem to abide by similar codes of conduct and standards to which they - we - hold one another. Allow me to elaborate...

1.) When you work late, people who leave on time always tell you to go home. Something along these lines, "You work too hard! Go home!" When really they're happy that someone so dedicated is working with them. They'll never tell you to work late, but they like to see you taking time outside of the 9-5 to get some more work done. Either that or they think you're a kiss-ass who wants to be noticed...take your pick.

2.) Someone waking up in Boston is going to work at the same time as someone in Detroit. Is that really fair? People in Detroit have more daylight left at the end of their day than do people in Boston, whereas people in Boston wake up to a brighter morning. Who wins, honestly? That was random...

3.) Proficiency over Efficiency: This is something I've realized crosses all boundaries of work. What's the point of efficiency if you put out a poor product? It's better to take a little bit more time with something and get less done than it is to get more done but do a sub-par job. Think of it like golf. You take your time lining up your shot, taking in all the angles and all the hazards, and then after what seems like hours of agonizingly painful waiting to the brightly clad group waiting behind, you take your shot. That's the difference between a bogey and a birdie. (I haven't golfed since I was 11 so I hope that was a decent analogy for everybody).

4.) It pays off taking the extra time to organize. I spent an hour today alone creating an excel spreadsheet that I now use to manage all my ongoing projects and tasks, as well as writing on sticky notes and memo pads labeling everything. I now know where everything is and can locate old, completed projects, ongoing projects or newly assigned tasks within the blink of an eye, literally. Before, it would take me a couple minutes to discover the note I wrote down a week before - all the while keeping a contact waiting on the phone who becomes impatient and less apt to want to help you the longer they wait.

5.) Waiting for other people sucks...I feel like the agency world is similar to the military in this respect. It's pretty fast paced, but in the end all I do is "hurry up and wait."

6.) When you have to call people to get something and they have no idea who you are, it's better to take no more than a minute to figure out your opening spiel. If you plot out every last word you plan on saying, you'll falter. Because the person on the other end of the line is bound to either interrupt you or ask a question you didn't anticipate. Then your flow is interrupted and you lose your train of thought. Thus, you fall flat on your face. I did when I was beginning that Hispanic outreach project. I felt like I was a drunk OU sorority girl wearing heels on Court Street - for those of you who've walked those brick roads, you know what's going on with that reference. So instead of taking too much time to plot out what I'm going to say, I just call. I rely on my instincts and my knowledge of my job and the product(s) to get me through the conversation. It's worked like a charm.

Those are my revelations. Not very deep revelations, but revelations nonetheless. Hopefully some of you can apply them to your jobs, or even daily living. And just to give you a little piece of my job to take with you wherever you go, here's me at my cubicle on an exhilarating Monday morning filled with research, phone calls and Mountain Dew.

Below is me after the effect of the Mountain Dew has effectively worn off. Yeah, that's more like me on a lazy Friday afternoon...no, not really. But seriously...





So all in all, the summer's going fantastically well. I've had no social life due to working Wed-Sat nights at the dirty bird, but that's OK with me (for now). Making some cash money, catching up on some much-needed reading - I've read eight books since graduation, no lie. And, more importantly, I have officially learned the value of silence!

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Circle of Life

Friday I got a call from my dad telling me that my grandma had gone into hospice. With fluid continuing to fill her lungs, she wasn't expected to last much longer.

Sunday morning I got another call from my dad telling me she had passed away. I found myself strangely unaffected by the news and fell back asleep after I got off the phone. I mean, I knew that it was coming soon - had actually expected the call. But I didn't feel much of an emotional pull. My grandma and I were never terribly close - outside of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter I never saw her. If anything, I felt bad for not feeling bad. I know I'll feel more when I see her lifeless form in the casket on Tuesday, but for now what I'm feeling isn't sadness. I have not yet begun to mourn the loss of my grandma. What I'm feeling right now...can only be described as "drive". Allow me to explain...

The death of my grandma has thus far helped to give me a new perspective on death - not completely life-altering, but a unique mindset about it. It has also brought into perspective the unequivocal, and yet so elusive a concept as the circle of life: the never-ending, ever-repeating circle of life to which we are all bound, no matter what god, deity or universal energy you may believe to govern the world.

My new perspective on death is this: yes, mourn the fallen and feel the loss the lack of their presence inherently brings; but let the qualities of the fallen be imbued unto the living, the successors who helped bring meaning to that person's life, the successors who will ultimately become predecessors, themselves. And let that drive them! Let that become a reason for pushing beyond the normal limits of life, for transgressing the boundaries by which so many of us feel trapped! For example:

My grandma's most notable quality (to me, at least) was her indomitable will, her strength of mind. She was a very strong-willed person, unable to be kept down by anyone who had the mind to try. I remember two instances when my grandma most affected me. The first: my mom had told me to take my pillow from the staircase up to my room - I don't remember her saying this because I apparently didn't hear it. Grandma did, though. I was probably 6, and my grandpa was suffering from Alzheimer's, so they had moved in with us for a time. When Grandma took me into the living room and grabbed me by the shoulders, she forced her iron will upon me, sternly berating me for ignoring my mother's wishes. Looking back on that now, I realize her own children must have been too terrified to ignore their mother's wishes! As a youth barely into my first years of elementary school, I couldn't help but break down and cry at my grandmother's old-fashioned form of discipline. I'm surprised she didn't have Grandpa's belt or a 2x4 in her hand.

The second instance: instead of my mom telling me to take my pillow upstairs, she told me at dinner to finish what I had on my plate. I either wasn't hungry or didn't like it - probably a combination of both - but I still didn't finish it. Mom didn't notice, but Grandma did. She took me into the living room, much to the same effect as the first encounter.

While these two instances show a side of my grandma that could be a bit overwhelming, it also shows her raw spirit. Even as a 70-year-old grandmother, she was doing her best to instill her principles - and the 4th commandment - into me. These two stories are not the only instances of her showing her strength. Many more exist that I cannot name. So much spirit. So much raw strength in her core. I cannot let that die with her. Her strength and her spirit will persevere in this all-too-often unprincipled world, if not through her children, then through her children's children...although I can readily assure anyone reading this that her strength has already been imbued into her children more than she could have hoped. No, I do not think my grandma's strength will die with her her. Not a chance.

My grandma's death has also helped me realize the reality of the circle of life. Life doesn't end when one passes away. Many times it begins for others. Case in point: me. I graduated from OU not a month ago and started my first job two weeks ago. My life, in a certain retrospective light, is just beginning. I have officially begun to make my way into the professional world. It's not the beginning. But it is a beginning. And my grandma's death is not the end. But it is an end.

Survivors of death cannot let that void go on unfilled, though. We must fill it with our own passion. With our own indomitable will. Hence, why I say that I feel driven because of my grandma's death. I feel driven to fulfill my own dreams and aspirations with my grandma's strength to help me along. I wish I could have known her better, though. I wish I would have taken more time to get to know this incredible woman. That sounds completely cliche, but true emotions sometimes are.

As I write this another memory comes to me. Two years ago at Christmas my grandma had not been faring so well, having trouble breathing on her own - she carried a small oxygen tank around with her. It was time to leave and she wasn't able to walk out the door unaided. Some of us attempted to carry her in a chair. She would have none of it, though. She made us put her down. Standing up, she proceeded to the door unaided, unwilling to let her spirit falter. An independent woman, her amazing strength carried the day and she made it out to the car with only partial assistance, tank and all.

An incredible woman to say the least. That act inspires me now. I only pitied her at the time, but I realize she wouldn't want that - would in fact despise my pity. Now, though, I admire her for it. Her refusal to relinquish control over the course of her own life...some may say that is weakness. I call it strength.

I will use the strength she has given me through the actions of her life. I will use the beratement I received as a child to toughen my skin and straighten my backbone. I will use the independence she displayed that Christmas night to fuel my own drive for independence, to be able to accomplish it so well and so visibly as she. I will persevere.

Here's one thing I wanted to add on but couldn't find a place for it...I know, awkward segue.

I do not know if there is such a thing as God, such a thing that is ever-present and all-knowing, deciding whether we will spend our eternity past St. Peter's pearly gates or eternally tormented, paying the cost of our sins throughout our mortal life. I couldn't tell you the validity or falsehood of these claims, not knowing enough about it and not having the faith, or lack thereof, to verify any perspective. I do feel, though, that the spirit, even beyond death, finds a way to endure. Whether through reincarnation or some celestial form, I feel that the spirit does not die, cannot die, especially a spirit like my grandma's. Hence, why I feel my grandma's strength and drive in me, coursing through my veins and throwing another log on the fire that is my dreams.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Perfection of Imperfection

Life really is an interesting rollercoaster ride, isn't it? Yesterday I slept in till 1 p.m., watched a movie until 3, then proceeded to wile away the rest of my hours reading, writing and playing videogames. Not such a bad day! I was content with what I was doing, knowing that I was doing what I loved (the reading and writing part, anyway).

I walk into the office today and my computer's fried. Hmm...interesting start to the day. I have days of work assigned to me at the moment and I know my day's going to be filled completing the tasks at hand. I failed to realize at that point that my day, rather than completing the tasks at hand, would be filled with trying to complete the tasks at hand. I had two big projects I was working on. I made zero headway on one and very very limited headway on the other. I billed seven-and-a-half hours to work that I didn't even complete!

It's ironic. During training for intramurals one quarter we had this activity called "True Colors." Four colors - orange, green, yellow and blue - represented four different personality types. I can't remember what the other colors were, but I was a green. One of the traits of the greens was that we hated incompetence in our co-workers. It sounds high-ended, but I felt I could relate to that characteristic more than anything else on the board. I can't stand when people I work with don't know how to do their jobs when they should know. Now if the person's learning or in training, that's a different story. But when the person is in the position where they should know what they're doing and don't - whether out of laziness or sheer incompetence - I can't stand working with the person.

And so today, I was the incompetent one. At least I felt like it. More than I hate incompetence in those around me, I despise incompetence in myself. But as much as today sucked and I feel like I got nothing accomplished, this was actually probably one of the most productive days I've had at SBC. I learned a lot about my position and what my responsibilities entailed. And I learned a lot about what I was researching. I never realized how many fire stations were in one city alone! I also realized that I've been living a pretty easy life for a while and I need days like this to try me. For what kind of person am I if I go through my life without trials? If I walked on cake all my life, as many people do, I would be a pampered, ignorant, inexperienced buffoon (what a great word). But because I've faced trials in life, however relatively trying they may have been compared to others, I've turned into the person I am today.

I once told a friend when they were going through a rough spot, "Just remember that the tough times are what really temper the spirit and make you into a stronger and better person, getting you ready for those good times that will inevitably roll around." That's the thing, really. If life was filled only with good and favorable times, we wouldn't know the value of them. We wouldn't really appreciate what they meant. I mean, did we really appreciate when gas rose above $2.00? I know I was pretty pissed, myself. But hell, I'd give anything to get gas down to even $3.00! Well, not anything...maybe one of my testicles - you really only need one - but you get my drift.

It helps you to realize what you have right in front of you. While it may not be perfect, it can be perfect so long as you learn to appreciate it. The perfection of imperfection...an interesting concept. I first noticed this concept when it came to women - should I still refer to them as girls? I mean, I'm 22 now so I feel that my peers are women now....how about ladies? Yeah...ladies. So let's start that over...I first noticed this concept when it came to ladies. OK, now it just sounds like I'm a chauvinist.

ANYWAY! I first noticed the perfection of imperfection in my first serious girlfriend. She was, and still is, an amazing person. She was beautiful, full of vigor and just excited to live life every day. She had a few "character flaws" - I use that phrase loosely - that would normally drive me crazy in other people. But for some reason, her flaws only made me more attracted to her. They enticed me more, knowing that she wasn't perfect, yet knowing that this fact made her perfect. She farted. She burped (louder than I could). She was too shy much of the time. She was blunt to the point of being rude - a quality that I pride myself on now. In short, she was amazing. She had a few physical imperfections that served the same purpose as her personality ones - they only made me more attracted to her.

She helped me to realize that I don't want life to be perfect. I always want something to throw me off and help me realize the stark beauty in the rest of the world around me, and even in the one thing that's throwing me off. When I'm driving in a car, windows down, feeling the wind rush past my forearm and slap the side of my face, I want to get sunburned on my left arm. I want to miss a phone call (I hate missing phone calls). I want to have pools of sweat soak my back and give me swamp ass. Who really wants to use the air conditioner anyway? All the imperfections make life more fun. It becomes a guessing game, one that "Clue" and "Guess Who" couldn't hope to replicate.

So next time your computer's fried in the morning and you lose hours of precious time you could be doing work...next time you stick that stiletto heel in between the cracks of Court Street and bite the bricks...next time you wake up after a night out with the boys and realize you crapped in your desk drawer and notice a strange smell of urine in your laundry basket...learn to appreciate it. It helps you appreciate when everything is in order and on the "right track." Appreciate the small imperfections - because that's what makes life beautiful.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Here I Stand

Here I stand, a college graduate; a blurry past, a promising future - or so they tell me. Finally, after four long years I've escaped. I've broken free of my bonds and cast them down as I walked across the bright stage with the cameras flashing, the families cheering and the announcers rapid-firing every name in the most monotonous tone one can imagine. I was just another name on a list without an asterisk next to it.

Here I stand, grateful to have finished my four years. Grateful to my parents for lending such a helping hand, enabling my experience at OU. Grateful to the friends who supported me throughout the college experience and who helped me remember the nights I couldn't. Grateful to my mentors who guided me the best they could and told me it would all be worth it in the end. The end...what an interesting and contradicting phrase. I have so much to be thankful for I don't think I could even attempt to write it down - in a blog post, a journal, a book, anywhere. But I am grateful to everyone who has played a role in my life thus far, for good or for ill, because I am who I am today thanks to you.

Here I stand, wobbling on the precipice over the great chasm they call reality. I knew after I walked off that stage that nothing was guaranteed anymore. Yes, I have a "job" lined up - a three- to four-month stint, anyway. But what about after that? After four months is up I have nothing but Red Robin - yes, I'll be working at one in Columbus again. Although this time it's on my own terms, finally. But essentially my life is my own now. A bit scary, I can't lie. For four years I've wanted nothing more than to be on my own, supporting myself and not having to financially rely on anybody. For four years I've wanted to escape the system of college, making my own path without having to pay $60,000 for a piece of paper that says I'm qualified to do a job I could have learned on my own. Well, four years are up. Now what? Less than a month ago I assumed I was going to graduate jobless. I became resigned to the fact, accepted it, and then for some reason got really excited about it! I was going to take two weeks off for no one but myself, then go back to Red Robin and work 30-40 hours, taking it easy and pursuing my passion of becoming a writer. I convinced myself that was going to be the life I wanted to live - at least until I got published. I was happy with what my future held for the first time in a long time. Then I get a phone call Monday, June 2, telling me I've been offered a temporary full-time position with SBC Advertising in Columbus. At first I was ecstatic. I had gotten an offer! What every college kid dreams of getting before they graduate so they can call home and tell their friends and family that it was worth it! That their education was paying off! I was sure I was going to take it. Later that afternoon I came to the slow realization that this might not be what I want.

I would have to take on another job to pay the bills - SBC was only going to pay me hourly. I would be away from my family and best friends with whom I saw myself spending a relaxing summer. Granted, I have friends in Columbus who will be here this summer. But they pale in comparison to what I have back in Cleveland - no offense :). I wasn't going to be able to pursue my passion as much as I had hoped to do after graduation. I wasn't going to be able to get back into the martial arts as soon as I had hoped. And I wasn't going to have as much free time as I had hoped. All signs pointed to declining the offer.

On June 4 I accepted the position. It was my only hope at the time to stay in the field and make a decent living for myself until my writing career takes off. It was a rational decision. I do enjoy the agency and the work I do, but I had to sacrifice much to do it. Will it be worth it? Call me in September and I'll let you know.

Here I stand, my first day of the rest of my life, even though I hate that phrase. The beginning of the end is more like it, haha. 22 years down. ?? more to go. Should be a good ride.

I'm going to try to put up a post a week. Hopefully I can get another one up tomorrow with some pictures and updates about the new job and the new place.

Be sure to keep checkin it out!