less is more

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"When packing up one's life, one thinks about stuff a lot," reads the first line I came up with for this blog post, and quickly erased in horror. So goes the process of all college students who torture themselves, hour upon endless hour, in quest of an completed essay worthy of at least a B minus. Mostly, this is how it goes as a writer. Start - anywhere. Revise, revise, revise. Contemplate the eternal mysteries of life. Continue. And so on.

Multiply by 2 for a more accurate estimate. Oh, and I'm not taking the treadmill though I probably should.

Unfortunately, this has also been true of my packing process. I'm like 85% done, which is great, because I move in one day. Yeah, is this real life? After planning out exactly what I need to pack, I finally just started with my clothes. When I finished with clothes, I realized I'm really bad at packing hangers. I then placed random hangers in random boxes because I effing hate hangers now. From there, it kind of went downhill.

Here at the tail-end, I'm at the point of hastily stashing all my odds-and-ends into the last of my boxes. I literally just taped up a box whose last item I stuffed was a blade-upward knife. That should be fun to unpack, right? All of my stuff is, for the most part, neatly organized, but on these last items I honestly want to throw them all in Hefty bags, a la Angelina on the first season of Jersey Shore. If that's good enough for the Kim Kardashian of Staten Island, then it's good enough for me!

Or, I could just not bring any of it. 

Things like, beach towels, and scrapbook crafts, and desk supplies when I don't even know if I can fit my nonexistent desk into my new room. Things that you don't really need, but kind of need. Things that if I left them, I would at some future point of time probably make my poor parents pack up and mail me. "Momma, I really need purple acrylic paint and that Pilates DVD. Don't ask, just send them. SOON."

So this is my problem. My other ones, including 3-4 separate boxes for my linens. I'm kind of a princess about my bed. Also, too many books for my bookcase, most of which I can't be parted with. 

Pretty bad example of what I just said, actually. Except for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I need something until I buy toilet paper. 

That is box one of two reasonably sized boxes, and this is nothing less than an achievement. I spent a lot of time ruthlessly going through the ridiculous amount of books I own, sorting piles into I Really Love This Book, I Really Love This Book A Little Less, I Really Love This Book A Lot But Still Less Than These Ones. It almost felt like what I imagine choosing between your many children feels like. But my Hoarder's mentality eventually shifted to that of an NFL scout leading up to the draft, and I feel confident that I'm bringing my best and most profitable? to Chicago. Best, as in, the literature that I actually like and periodically reread. And Discworld books. Obviously.

All of this has made me think about 'stuff' a lot, though. What if I did just throw away all my stuff? Well, not all of it. Everybody needs 'stuff'. But what if I threw away most of my stuff? When searching for a place to live on Craigslist (I know, I know, but I am becoming a Craigslist convert, people. A job, a nice place to live, and no murderers. Three for three, friends.), I came across a woman who had done just that. She was seeking someone to share her studio, or as she called it, her "living and breathing space that we can share". Someone to literally sleep on a cushion on the opposite corner, and join her in daily meditation. No television because it rots the mind. Nothing on the walls except a Buddha quote. Minimalism.

Then I came across this guy, who is also in on this minimalist business. His blog offers a little more explanation although none is really needed - he owns less than a hundred things, including only four clothing outfits, virtually no bathroom products past the bare necessities (look for the bear necessities), and a singularly purposed bed.

Forgive me for my girly cop-out, but when I think of all the clothes/shoes/accessories I own and the sheer amount of bathroom products I have in comparison, I'm not sure I could hang. Honestly, though, I'm really inspired by these minimalist types and not because I hate packing - like many fortunate people in the world, I have the luxury of having too many things.

Because when it comes down to it, I don't really own anything. I have some 'prized possessions' like everyone else - letters, journals, pictures, a few ordinary objects with very special meanings. But you can't ever own something that is truly important. Love, happiness, memories, relationships, joy. When you die you don't own any thing. So why is it so hard to leave behind books you've already read?

Of course it's all about how we put attachments to things. It's comfort and safety, and lets you know - hey, I own stuff, I'm not insignificant. I mean something. It's just humanity, and we're all existential Hamlets whether we like it or not. I want to have less things, and I plan on doing something about it. Donating, for one. I like the minimalists. I like the idea of being able to just leave some place and leave nothing behind, or put all my possessions in a bag and just go somewhere. And it's not just that freedom. It's having room for your self and for your thoughts. 

In fact, I'm just going to give everything up. Clothes too. Nothing. Not even my own name. Okay, only joking of course, but I don't want you thinking that tomorrow I'll be living on air and happiness like I'm the newest nudist at Burning Man. I'm only inspired, as always :).  I'm probably one step (mentally) away from this though.

two weeks notice

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hello all! Well, here we are at the brink of a big step for Windy City Pretty – I finally move to Chicago, and in TWO WEEKS. Yes, in two weeks time, I will be Chicago’s newest little Texas transplant. As touched on previously, I am nervous, in both a good and bad way. Living back at home with my lovely parents for nearly a year somehow makes four (relatively) independent college years go out the window, and I have this creeping, irrational fear that I’ve forgotten how to write checks and feed myself. Secretly, well, obviously not so secretly anymore, I have loved living with my parents again – I will miss them perhaps more than when I went off to college. But such things are always bittersweet. And let me just hit it home – I am so excited for this next chapter.

But, in anticipation of big life changes I have more of a tendency than most to procrastinate. Sure, I consider myself responsible, accomplished, and mature, but I have a bad track record of living like this:

There are a lot of emotions going with this move, and naturally, I have fallen into three of my predictable ‘panic modes’.

 1. Bake all the things. It’s straight up embarrassing the variety of baked sweet goods and assorted chocolates/candies we have in our house. Our kitchen could currently double as a pâtisserie

This is probably more realistic, actually.

I’m talking, more than a typical six-year-old’s Halloween and Easter candy haul combined. For three adult people. It’s an easy formula: eat them, get a stomachache, pass off the sweets onto friends and family, beating them into diabetic submission with my love and happiness.

2.    2.  Window shop for actually stupid things online (no, Jenny, you can’t pull off lime green jeggings), have your credit card numbers memorized. Yes, this is a bad thing. Good thing? I kind of resemble an adult here, because now I don’t spend as much as I used to in college (read: cheap F21 clothes, booze, parking tickets). I’ve saved a lot living at home with very generous parents (who do this awesome thing and like, have new groceries every week.), and all I really spend my own money on is gas and the rare indulgence. Oh, and my credit card bill and student loan. I even filed my taxes today. Big girl steps, right?

3.    3. Start making important to-do lists, get distracted, stare off into a corner of my bedroom, think of something funny, laugh really loud, fade into silence, dumbly smile as eyes glaze over, curl up under a blanket, cat nap. And repeat. But this time, make lists of best places to eat in Chicago and cute, whimsical apartment décor that I can never afford.

Or a list of steps necessary to making this my bedroom. Looks pretty easy.

All hope is not lost, though. I put in my two weeks notice, finally have an apartment (with a Chicago-native for a roommate to boot) and I've registered for my classes. All I have left are a few other logistical things and the big one…packing. And how is that progressing? See number 3, above.

Thankfully, all I need for my room is a bed, dresser, and bookshelf. The rest of the townhouse is furnished, and as I've been sorting through looking at my stuff, all I basically own is books and clothes. Which pretty much sums me up, right? Surely I don't need more than that :). 

I'm still not sure if more than five people I personally know are reading this, but if anyone out there has tips on packing and making a big move, I will gladly hear them.

Until next time...

on pipe dreams

Thursday, February 09, 2012

As I mentioned in my previous post, I often end up in situations common to most liberal arts majors. Defending and specifying your life goals is old hat to us, and at some unfortunate point our explanations often turn into apologies, unwarranted dissertations.

It gets repetitive, much like people telling me I have small feet or asking where I’m from (no, where are you really from? Where are your parents from? Okay, fine, where is your nonwhite parent from?).

These things don’t bother me in the least; rather, it allows me to frequently speak on matters I find important, interests close to my heart, and things that I am proud of. I’m talking about being able to buy kid size shoes for myself, obviously.

I offer the following anecdote. I met a guy once in a favorite College Station bar. After charmingly sloshing his beer on my feet, he elbowed his way into my group of friends and introduced himself. He pretentiously name-dropped his major: Economics, but specifically of the Tulane school of thought. Only he wasn't an actual student - it was where he was "probably going to end up". 

I later learned that he wasn't even enrolled in his undergraduate degree anymore. Anyway - as I continued to make forced small talk with Econ, naturally the subject of my academic interests came up. I could tell I was in for an enlightening few minutes the second I saw the cynical grimace cross his face, and then the following interchange happened.

“English – literature, specifically, with a history minor.”

“So you want to be a teacher?”

“You know, no one has ever asked me that! No, I want to be a writer. I plan on going to graduate school as well.”

“Ha ha. Wait, really? Oh, uh, okay, that’s cool. Really? A writer? Do you really need to go to graduate school for that? I mean, I like history too, but I don’t want to be a historical fiction writer or something. What’s the point, you know? But for real, what are you actually doing to do an English degree anyway?”

At this point I was going through some elaborate and athletic eyebrow athletics, in a desperate attempt to convey MAYDAY to my friends. But we were surrounded. If only there was a college bar equivalent of calling in air support. The fascinating, inoffensive banter continued:

“Well, there’s a lot I could do with my degree. Law school, I mean even medical school if I really wanted it…but I’m also someone who believes it’s not so much the subject of your degree unless you have really specific intentions, but rather what you choose to do with it.”

“But like, what exactly do you want to do?”

“Write. Be a writer. Work in publishing.”

“But like, what are you going to write?”

“Fiction, hopefully novels and short stories. Some book editing on the side, maybe something journalistic.”

“But like, what are you going to write? If you write about history, what’s the point since it’s all in the past? What kind of impact is that even going to have?”

“About as much as you saying Tulane has the only significant economic approach of any school in the world, and you refuse to support any other plausible economic theories.”

“What did you say? It’s kind of loud in here.”

“Nothing. Listen, it was really fantastic meeting you, and yes, I actually do know the difference between saltwater and freshwater economics, but I’m going to take a few steps left and never speak to you again. Bye!”

Oh, how easy it is to shoot down a stranger's dreams and belittle someone's passion. I admit I've been guilty of this -- if I heard someone say their major was Ag-related, I mockingly laughed and assumed they were A) on the football team and therefore dumb as hay B) hoping to some day run for political office, nationally embarrass themselves, and generally screw shit up guns a'blazing (laser-sighted pistols, specifically). I had the same attitude toward any business major, or the rarer philosophy major.

But no longer, because it doesn’t matter to me. I’m not saying I don’t care – I’m saying that I would much rather hear your interests, passion, and goals than berate you for choosing an ‘impractical’ major. Let’s talk about how you want to fulfill your life, not how many zeroes your intended salary consists of or the tax bracket you anticipate filling. Hell, how about having a real desire and doing no matter what it takes to get there? No?

I’m ambitious, I’m smart, and I’ve seen that in the majority of students I went to college with. That is, if you ignore the statistics on yearly jager bomb consumption between the second and fourth undergrad year. When you tell me I'm wasting my intelligence or my money on what I want to do with my life, what do you really know about me then? As an English major, I’m not devoting four years of time, (mostly) diligent study, and (importantly) a significant amount of money so I can bring up Chaucer in everyday conversation and spend my weekends rolling my eyes in a dark corner of an open mic-amateur-beat-poet night. That’s why I’m going to graduate school.

But seriously, when did it get so easy to cross the line of small-talk inquiry about personal goals into openly disdainful, condescending judgment-land? I stated at the beginning that I have no qualms sharing my plans or even defending myself if necessary, but I can’t tolerate those who have a knee-jerk, inflammatory reaction to anything creative or unusual like Tulane Hopeful did. Yes, I can still take an English-major-living-in-a-cardboard-box joke, and I will probably rib you for majoring in Sports Information, but all in good humor. Gentleness, folks.

I very much understand the logic of such naysayers. Consider me an idealist, then. If you can be pigeon-holed by what you chose to major in, then so be it. Call me a romantic for seeing that people aren’t wholly represented by their degrees or their subsequent careers, and believing in the possibility of having external skills and intelligence. Apologies abound for refusing to see college as vocational school. Please, continue to shoot down all us pipe-dreamers and our obvious dislike of money and security. We are really, painfully unaware of such things.

So, to finally reach something bearing semblance to a conclusion, an idea for us, from someone like me. Someone who believes in ambition and dreams and not living a commonplace life. Naive, yes, but hell, I believe anyway. Let's not care about statistics on your college major or how much money you are supposed to make according to your parents, gender, or ethnicity. Here's to the rest of your life, and happiness, and understanding that it's long and short and that everyone struggles, but, as Marshall Mathers so eloquently relates, "you only get one shot". Whether it was full of regret or a valiant pursuit of your wild dreams, you have some say in it. Do whatever the hell you want with it, and let the killjoys talk.

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