On Signs

I promised a post about signs a week ago and I will need to write one that is more in depth in the future. Today, I want to touch upon the concept of signs over all.

See, my second to last day in Japan, I looked up at the sky as I walked and I thought to myself the following questions:

“I wonder what will happen to all the signs that have found me during this trip?
Will they go away?
Will I look back on them as a memory, realizing that I imaged them all?
Will they appear while I continue my life journey back at home?
Will I get new signs?”

I landed in Los Angeles to one of the best welcomes EVER as well as my first sign that all was okay, a ladybug…

Ladybug luggage tag at LAX baggage claim.
Ladybug luggage tag at LAX baggage claim.

I’m not going to go back into what the ladybug signifies, but I will say that it is my guiding sign that I’m on the right track, or path, or better yet that things will be okay. That luggage tag I caught eye of as I wheeled my luggage cart out to the exit. It was a quick glance, but it stopped me in my tracks and I took a picture.

Back when I was wondering about the state of my signs, after three months of seeing them all over Japan, I ended with the decision to just take them for what they were. Signs letting me know everything would be okay, even if I never saw them again. Even if in five years they just seems like figments of my imagination.

After landing in LA and seeing the bug above,  I realized that I was where I was meant to be and that good things were on the horizon.  I should note that when I felt this same way about finding the Paper Goddess in Echizen, the woman who hosted me told me she found a problem with me saying that. I’ve since realized that she and I have different life philosophies. I by no means begrudge her for that difference. In fact, I wish her the best in life with her philosophy, but I choose to keep believing in mine. I firmly believe that sometimes you just have a feeling/sense that you are in the right place at the right time. When you feel that you have to accept it and run with it. I felt that way about Echizen and I feel the same way about my signs.

This all comes to play because the signs kept showing themselves in California. Not necessarily in the same way as they had in Japan, although some things did (ladybug), but they did appear. To say I was shocked is an understatement.

Here’s the thing about signs: I believe they appear,without rhyme or reason, when you’re on the right track. When you’re on the wrong track they appear only because you are looking for them. I say this quite confidently because I’ve been in both positions. I’ve both wanted something so badly that I sought it out intentionally and saw signs everywhere, and wanted to be rid of something so badly that I’ve gone so far to ask for guidance from above to forget it, to get over it, and the signs have shown themselves as bright as a neon-lit sign in Times Square.

I’ve always been a big fan of the Universe and our spiritual connections. I am a total horoscope lover and believer. In my youth, I believed that coincidences were every where and a sign of fate (which I still believe in), but now I believe that there are no coincidences. Every thing does happen for a reason.  In Japan, I had no choice but to dig deep into that side of me that loves philosophy and has one good existential crisis a year, to understand the world of nature and my deep connection to the signs in the natural world guiding me; the signs that touch into my heart and intuition, aka gut.

I know, it sounds like I’m talking BS again, but I’m serious here. I’m serious only because I questioned whether the signs would guide me post-Japan and I can honestly say that now, 18 days after leaving Japan, where the signs began, they are still following me.  Today, as I walked to Starbucks, I noticed one of the signs, a plant, along my way. That plant was along side my car yesterday evening when I parked at the grocery store on an errand. In the grocery store yesterday, as I walked toward the mangoes, I stopped in front of a display that had a ladybug on it.

It is important to mention that I had some thoughts in my mind that were questioning and bordered on insecure. In Japan, I learned that those moments-when doubts, insecurity, and questions prevailed-were the moments when the signs found me and found me strong; quickly correcting my thoughts and reminding me to just keep believing. To remember that all will be well as long as I keep faith and trust in myself. To remember that not everything I think is correct, real, or even true for that matter.

Today, I saw my plant, smiled, laughed, raised a cheeky fist up to the heavens, but only realized later in the day the truth in believing the signs…I received an email from Danielle LaPorte titled “55 inspirational quotes on desire & making it happen” and there in the middle was the following quote by Rumi (another sign within the signs),

“What you seek is seeking you.”

It is hard to explain this to people who don’t believe, or don’t see the magic in every day life. Not only is it hard, it can be exhausting. It’s caused me to ask myself if I’m crazy and yet, constantly my heart and intuition tell me I am not. I know not what the outcome will be, but it’s nice to feel that these signs that have found their way to me from a period of time full of confusion and uncertainty are still with me in a period filled with more peace, happiness, and security than I’ve felt in a long time.

Actually it’s the same feeling I felt back when I had that little dream that launched my stationery company. It’s important to follow the signs. Especially when they come from the heart.

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Listen to/with Your Heart

Back in the thick of November, in the cold mountains of Echizen, I was dealing with emotional baggage (I know I’ve mentioned the amount of baggage I loaded in my suitcase along with my clothes many times, before.) that I finally started to mull over thanks to a good friend.

I had a moment of spazzing and I reached out to a good friend who wrote me the most candid and honest email I’ve ever received about one of my emotional situations. To say that I was shocked is an understatement. While I definitely believe I needed to hear her words, I was hurt. And so I cried. And I cried. And I talked to another good friend about the email and then something happened; a change inside of me took place.

I went back to the home I was staying in and prepared dinner. As I thought about my reaction and feelings to both of my friend’s words, I listened to the Disney Pocahontas soundtrack and felt a sense of calm that I had yet to feel before.  The songs, “Just Around the Riverbend,” “Steady as the Beating Drum,” and “Listen to your Heart Parts 1 and 2” were the ones that really got to the heart of the matter, but even still the entire soundtrack helped quell my erratic beating heart and brain.

I then wrote back to my friend an email that was direct and sounded like the Sara that has been missing for the past few months.  The reason I could write this email was because I decided to go back to “believing” in the root of Sara.  To find in my heartbreak and my emotional waves the belief that things will be well and are well and will continue to be well as long as I move in a forward motion and keep believing.

Now, many don’t understand this. Hell, I didn’t understand this. When I left for Istanbul, Turkey, on the afternoon of October 1st, I left with tears in my eyes and a feeling in my gut that said everything is wrong, and all that you thought you knew is over.  And yet, I knew I had to get on that plane. I knew it had to happen and so I went. And I met a guy named Mami who called me his American girlfriend and who walked me to the train every night and kissed my hand. He was cute and made me smile and laugh and feel pretty; he restored my faith in mankind even though he wasn’t the man I wanted.

Those first few weeks were the hardest. I was at my lowest point. I needed as much love the Universe was willing to throw my way. And the Universe did throw it my way. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel love in myself, nor from the amazing network of friends and family cheering for me on the sidelines, but that love wasn’t what I needed. I needed to feel love, I needed to be taken care of, I needed to wallow and feel everything I was feeling and cry and wake up sobbing and then know that someone, I didn’t know could still make me smile and feel warm inside. It was brutal and yet some of the best tonic.

I am a highly independent person. Always have been. Maybe it’s from the teasing, the racism, being the fat girl in school, etc, but in all of that, I was the Student Council President, I played Field Hockey, I made friends, I learned my value, I learned to love my crazy curly hair and the fact that I’ve always been a bit more than I should in weight, and I’ve always followed my dreams. I knew when I walked onto the campus of The George Washington University that fateful summer day in 1997 that it was where I was going to go (and it was, I graduated in 2o02). I knew I didn’t want to leave my first job, so I accepted their counter offer, but then left a year later. I knew when I moved to NYC and saw my apartment in Astoria that it was the apartment for me. I also felt in my soul that I was supposed to know my one roommate, Dan. I felt the same way when I moved into my apartment in Manhattan after Dan and I moved out of the Astoria apartment. Or one of my favorites, when I dreamt about my business and then had a few signs along the way pointing me to that path. My point is that I’ve always just known in my gut when things work and when they don’t work. I have some examples of when my gut has told me to stay, far, far away. What is more, I have examples of where my gut said, “stay far away” and I went ahead and didn’t listen. Needless to say, I’ve learned from each situation.

On my journey I had no expectations for self-discovery. Okay, wait, that’s a lie. I knew I was going to find out something about myself, but I didn’t expect it would be my inner core. I never once realized in my slow downward spiral last year that I had lost the core of Sara in the mix and that Japan would be the ticket to finding her and rebuilding.  I knew that Japan would bring a world of change, I just didn’t know the extent. I also had no idea that I’d be in the position I found myself.

So back to why Japan inspired such findings. Well, what I realized that night as I cooked and sang along to “Listen to Your Heart” was that I had stopped listening to my heart and instead started listening to friends. Don’t get me wrong here, listening to friends was helpful and several friends, I’m not sure I could have done without during that time, but listening to them and asking them for their opinions only weakened my own decisions.  I did do things my way, and I did keep things from certain friends because I didn’t want to hear their opinions or thoughts and because at those moments, I knew I was firmly acting with intention and I stood behind them. Well, there was one moment where I still question my action, but whatever, it happened. When I’m sitting in a rocking chair at 80, my best friends and I will laugh about that crazy moment, I’m sure.

See, the night before my Pocahontas listening party, I walked to the house in the rain, crying, and climbed the steps of the Shrine for the Paper Goddess and prayed while sobbing for help, guidance, and peace. I asked her to help me because I was so lost and because I believed that she had brought me to Echizen (I didn’t know Echizen had a Paper Goddess until I arrived–so much for research ahead of time!) and she could help me out of this mess. I thanked her for bringing me to where I was and for all the advances I had made in learning Japanese Washi, but that I needed more of her help. I needed her to help me break through this. I prayed for my father’s spirit watching over me to also help me. I asked for so much help in the cold, dark, rainy night.

What the Goddess gave me, I believe, was hope. That next night, cutting vegetables and signing songs, I realized that I not only had lost who I was, I had lost my inner system of belief. The reason I felt so lost was because I had in fact stop believing. I have asked other people to believe in me and in magic and yet, I was not believing myself. When you have no belief, you have nothing.  In that moment, or rather the span of an hour, I felt in my core that it was time to believe again, to figure out what I want in life, what I wanted to feel, understand why I was feeling what I was feeling, and then believe. The next morning, I woke up feeling lighter than I had felt in a long time.

It does help that when visiting Japan, you end up visiting tons of Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines making it easy to pray and practice believing, but as I went from Shrine and Temple to Shrine and Temple, I started to believe. However, it wasn’t just the Temples and Shrines, no, it was the signs along the way. I’ll post more about signs at a later date because the signs were aplenty and there every step of the way, and always appeared when I began to doubt my belief, but again more on that later.

That one decision. That one action to believe changed the course of my path. Or rather, made the path a bit more clear. I’m not sure how the path will continue and if what all I want will be what I get, but I know that I have to keep believing. If I stop believing, then I stop being because so much of my life has been on belief. Belief in my instincts, my often irrational passions, and more importantly, belief that in all of my craziness, I am living and breathing and changing the world.

This all reminded me of a guy I vaguely know through my cousin. He’s a good friend of hers and comes from a past full of darkness. You can tell of his struggles and inner pain because he carries them on his body and face. He’s a nice guy, but if you saw him on the street, you might think differently; you might almost consider crossing the street to avoid him. On my last night in Brooklyn before leaving for my trip, he was at my cousin’s apartment. As we parted ways, I turned to him and said, “I believe in you. You are loved, don’t doubt it, just know that no matter what, you are loved and people believe in you.” I went on to tell him that I had just gotten in from a farewell party where friends from different parts in my life appeared, including one that came in all the way from Chicago (that’s far!) to send me off. Needless to say, I was (and am) surrounded by love and support and I know how easy it is to believe when you’re surrounded by that, when you know that you are limitless because you have those two things. Some people may never have many people that support and love them, but just knowing that they have one person can be, and sometimes is, enough.

I bring all of this up again today because I’ve felt two things about my experiences and my beliefs: 1. that I shouldn’t share them for fear that nobody will understand, or because they will attempt to tell me that my beliefs are in my head; and 2. because thanks to the internet there is so much floating around already of other people’s experiences that they become these random quotes and beliefs that people take for true meaning rather than just a personal experience.

As you can see, I am sharing bits of this story and my beliefs with the world at large, but that’s because I’ve decided to stop actively caring about whether someone believes me or doesn’t believe me. As I explained to a friend the other day, I know what I know, or rather what I chose to believe in and that’s really all that matters. It does help that I’ve had a few people also tell me that they believe in my belief as well, which is always nice to hear, and definitely stopped me from asking myself, “are you freaking crazy?” (which the answer is yes) on several occasions, but as I learned that night of vegetables and Pocahontas, to stop believing is to discredit and question myself.

Now please let me explain one more thing there. My belief is simply that all will be well. Or in that famous quote by Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” By the way, I purchased a card from an Etsy seller many months ago, just before the end of my internship, and the seller sent me a handful of freebies with my order that included a card with that quote.

Card by Colette on Etsy
Card by Colette on Etsy

Not really thinking about the card, I packed it as a bookmark in one of the books I took with me on my trip. And in moments where I found myself thinking too much, questioning my belief (before the signs started appearing), I grabbed this postcard and repeated the quote. At the end of the day, belief allows us to believe exactly what this quote says, “All shall be well…” which oddly enough is what a good friend said to me in an email about my situation. She wrote, “Sara, things will work out for all of us.”

It is so easy in our current socially “connected” world to listen to others, to push down our own instinct so far that we lose touch with what matters and what is important, and to stop believing, or rather to believe in the things that don’t really matter, that don’t help us in any way shape or form. I gave into this back in August and even before then, but it wasn’t until November that a provoking email from a friend and the cold mountains and running brooks of water in Echizen provided me with the blanket of solace and the strength I needed to really tackle the real loss of it all, myself.

I’m not here to tell you to stop being socially connected, to stop asking for advice from friends and family, or to start praying and believing. We all reach certain conclusions as we face issues and challenges and they bring us not just to our knees, but to what we need. I am telling you that you need to start taking yourself more seriously. You know more about yourself than anyone else. You know exactly what you need and want better than any marketing researcher, or advertiser. You know what your soul and heart are telling you, you just have to listen.

You are more than what you project to the world. What you project to the world should be what you are deep down inside. Your actions, thoughts, and feelings should be a result of what’s truly inside of you. Some will disagree with me on this and say they should be more controlled, but as a recovering control addict, I don’t believe you should push down anything for the sake of others. I believe you should always be you and stand by you. I always stand by everything I do and put out here (and there) whether it is agreed or not.

One of the hardest jobs we have in this world now is listening to ourselves and our beliefs and our heart. We often times become cynical and close our hearts because of past experiences, but that’s not going to fix anything. It took me getting away from everything I know and love to finding it, to regaining my heart and my beliefs and now, I’m not going to give them up for anything, nor am I going to allow anyone to tell me that this was all in my head. It isn’t and it never was. This belief is as logical anything that seems just as real to another person. More importantly, this belief in my heart is my North star guiding me forward.

Or as I told my good friend last night, believing is having faith in an unknown. It’s a risk. One that many are afraid to take. But you know what? I took a huge risk in going to Japan to study papermaking and it seems to have paid off in more ways than I knew. I owe it to myself to keep taking risks and to keep believing things will work out and be well regardless of the outcome.

Thanks Grandmother Willow, Paper Goddess, Universe, and a few other spirits who have been along this journey. I believe.

Echizen, Japan, Week One: Lessons From A Mountain, A Paper Goddess, A Bike, A Crow, Water, Silence, and “Let It Be”, The Song

“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be” – The Beatles

Tuesday morning (tomorrow, for me) will mark my first official week in Echizen, Fukui Prefecture, Japan. It’s been 11 days since I landed in Japan and I think I’m getting closer to feeling adapted. I’m still tired, but I think that’s from all the emotions I’m processing along with all the changes made this past year.

Tuesday is a holiday for the Museum that I’m studying/working at, so I’ll have an afternoon all to myself tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it. I have lots of writing to do and some design projects I need to work on as well. Unless I ask for a day off, I work six out of seven days a week. It’s a bit weird. Alas, I am slowly getting used to things and the way of life around the wonderfully small Echizen-City.

Now why does my title have a list of things and then I promptly share the lyrics to The Beatles, “Let It Be” song? Well, they’re all part of my first week of adapting.

The Crow. The Museum is a 10-minute walk from the house I’m staying at. The house is an old Japanese-style house that is cold in the morning and at night and is right across the street from the Paper Goddess Shrine. I’m working on a blog post (to be posted later this week) all about the Paper Goddess Shrine because it’s important not just to Echizen, but to me, too. The walk is a quiet and quick walk downhill. Except for when my friend, Mr. Crow decides to cry out and let me know that he is here and I should be aware of his existence.

Now, I know that crows don’t have a positive meaning behind them, but I have a good feeling about crows. They have never bothered me before and considering that today, Mr. Crow (maybe a different one?  I don’t know!) pooped on me as I was trying to score free wireless from outside of the cafe during my lunch break, I’m feeling quite an affection for the Crows of Echizen.  (BTW, I always feel bad that I stand outside and use the wireless connection without coming in during my lunch break, but being that I come to the cafe every night during the week to use the internet and pay (coffee is expensive in Japan!) almost $12 for a drink to sit until 7pm and use my computer, I can’t afford to come and pay twice. I know, I know. The good news is that my coming every night is good for business for the little cafe and I am forming a relationship with the owner, who is so nice and kind and sends me off almost every night with sweets.)

“Let It Be.” The song also comes from today. See, before the incident with Mr. Crow, I was sitting at the Museum peeling layers from kozo (the plant we use to make paper) when I heard “Let it Be” playing on what sounded like an organ. It could have simply been a Casio keyboard, but I heard it. It was real. I think. I didn’t ask anyone, mostly because I still can barely communicate with my Japanese Artisan friends, but as I scrapped away, where ever the organ was, played two full renditions of the song. I was shocked, but appreciative of hearing a song I know and enjoy.

Later in the afternoon, after the pooping incident with Mr. Crow, I got back to work and was sitting at the fiber checking station with my hands full immersed in water when I heard the song played again by the same organ. Not lying to you! This was around 1pm/1:30pm. I smiled and went about working knowing that there was a reason that THIS song was being played. (Signs are everywhere!)  During our ocha (tea) break at 3, we were sitting down, talking (well, they were talking, I was nodding like I understood, but didn’t) and the song came on again.

I share the lyrics with you above because they are so simple and so true. Not to mention, I haven’t been to a Catholic Church in many months now. I loosely wear my Catholicism on my sleeve because I only half believe in the organization that is Catholicism, but I was baptized and confirmed Catholic and I therefore respect that I am Catholic. I also seek out Catholicism when I’m in most need. It is my comfort zone. Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t respect or even look to other religions, because I do.

Japan has a combination of Buddhism and Shinto religions and I have prayed at MANY, MANY temples in the last 11 days, including the temple/shrine for the Paper Goddess that sits behind my current residence. I take my praying to her and on these grounds as sacred as attending a Catholic Church. However, as I listened to “Let It Be” and hummed the words I know, including “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me/ Speaking words of wisdom, let it be/And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me/ Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”  

In my home, Mother Mary is the Queen Bee. I haven’t been praying to Mother Mary, but she found me today and so I know her words of wisdom are “I am here, please let it be.” Thank you, messengers McCartney, Lennon, Harrison, and Starr.

A Mountain/A Paper Goddess.  As I’ve mentioned already, I reside in a town that is known for it’s Paper Village. It is a small town with paper studios that make some of the best Washi paper in all of Japan. It is a gorgeous town nestled in the mountains. It gets crazy dark here at night and I’ve been instructed only to worry about bears and wild boars, not crazy people out to kill strangers. Okay. The people are incredibly friendly and kind and have welcomed me for the most part although they all wonder what I am going to do after I learn paper making. I keep telling them that’s the million dollar question!

The woman I am staying with is a huge nature and paper lover. She’s incredibly nice and kind. Yesterday, we hiked a mountain right outside of her back door. We had to go through the Paper Goddess Shrine to reach the point of entrance to the mountain, but it connects. See, the Paper Goddess lives in the mountains and only comes down twice a year when the village holds festivals for her to celebrate her and her annual blessings.  When you get to the top of the mountain, you are in fact at another temple and shrine for the Paper Goddess. It is her mountain location.

Now, I love nature and I was looking forward to hiking, but I’m pretty sure that Mountain was out to kill me. The path is steep, extremely so that my heart never stopped beating fast the entire climb up. Additionally, it is not clean; while the path is easy to follow, there are tons of loose rocks lending to unstable terrain. It didn’t help that it started to rain as we came down (water is coming next).  Being that I don’t have insurance and I don’t want to injure myself, I did my best to take small steps and not step on rocks, but the mountain would not allow for that.

There were several occurrences where my feet slightly slipped, but nothing bad happened, I just skid and kept walking.  But then it happened. My right foot stepped on a wet rock and I came crashing down. I don’t even remember slipping, I just knew that my right hand holding my glass water container came down heavily on the rock to my right (it didn’t break!) and I was butt on the ground. I didn’t even feel a sting, I just was on the ground.

I was reminded while on the ground that the mountain has more control than I ever will. All I can do is pick myself up.
The water reminded me that it does make an impact, even when you’re trying to go slow and not make one.
I’m not sure what the Paper Goddess was saying to me with the fall, but I’d like to believe that it is something along the lines of, sometimes you fall, but you have to pick your self up again and keep on going. Doesn’t seem like something the Paper Goddess might say, but as I have struggle with making paper the past two attempts, I think that was her message. “Stay strong, keep climbing, keep falling, keep doing. You’ll get there. I’m here.”

Water and Silence.The last three months now, I’ve been dealing with a silence I’m uncomfortable with. As my best friend told me just before I left, “to some silence says everything you need to hear, and they’re right, but silence between two people means nothing. Silence is nothing.”

My response to the silence has been to find silence within. To test the ideas of silence and nothing and understanding. It’s been hard and frustrating and reminds me of adding mileage on to a marathon training schedule. In some ways though, being in Japan has helped with the silence because I am more silent then before. Being that I am unable to communicate has allowed me to appreciate non-communicative language, as well as listening. Good stuff, si?!

Anyhow. the silence has brought me more aware of water and the power of water. Water in Echizen is like gold. It is the power of every paper studio. Every day, I find myself wearing white wellies to protect my feet from the gallons/liters or water we use every day to soften and clean the kozo and to mix with the adhesive (not glue) and pulp fibers. Everything has to be cleaned down with a good rinse of water at various times during the day. Everything is about water here and I get it. I understand just how important water is not just for the product, but for the tradition of the product.

How this all ties together is that water only rounds when it is moving about rapidly, right? But even in it’s craziness, it is soothing and relaxes the human soul and can change the course of anything and everything, much like how the rain yesterday made us want to finish our hike faster and resulted in a visit to the laundromat to dry my clothes that had been put out on the line before the rain started during our hike .

Think about the way we listen to the waves at the beach and are relaxed, yet how one powerful wave can remove you from the shore. We have fish tanks and pools and when water is calm it is quiet, although just as powerful.

I have never seen myself as water and yet, many things, especially in the last week have reminded me that I am like water and like the silence. That I am powerful in ways I hadn’t imagined before.  I know this not just because of paper making and the hike yesterday, but because two Sundays ago, I was in Tokyo walking around with two good friends and we visited the Meiji Shrine. It’s a huge attraction in Tokyo and I was told I had to go see it. About 10-minutes after arriving, praying, and getting a fortune, it started to rain.

My fortune from Emperor Meiji read the following:
“Such is the force of water
That it will with gentle pressure
Shape itself to every vessel
And yet pierce the very rock.”

I’m taking all of this as good fortune and awareness. arigatou gozaimashita, Japan!

Shades of Gray, Fearlessness, and Me

Total fearlessness is impossible.

We fear. It is our nature. It is a beast.

To take a risk is terrifying. I know. I often times look at things that terrify me and decide whether they are worth it or not.

Things that terrify me are: roller coasters, heights, elevators (although, I can manage this one better), rejection, being stabbed to death, guns, violence in movies, and being stagnant. An odd mixture, right? Hmm, yeah.

Notice how things I don’t mention are failure, embarrassment, or loss. But I do mention rejection.

It’s odd how closely linked all four of things are, yet how I compartmentalize them separately. See:

  • I don’t ever think I’m going to fail, but I do know that I will and can be rejected.
  • I never think that I’m going to embarrass myself because I follow my heart, but I do know that I will and can be rejected.
  • As for loss, well I don’t fear loss because I know that loss is a part of life and can be combined with rejection, but I don’t ever tie them together. I never think oh, I’m going to lose this thing because I’m being rejected. No, I think well, I’m going to lose this because everybody loses.

Yet, I don’t have that attitude regarding rejection because I don’t want to be rejected. Loss may be part of life, but I don’t want to be rejected. I may not think I’m going to fail, and when I do fail, I accept that failure, but it’s not rejection because I’ve given it my best. At least I gave it my best and failed. And for embarrassment, it’s the same principal. If I went into something with all my heart and embarrass myself, I’ll get over it. At least I gave it my all and my heart and made something happen even if it was embarrassing. Right? Right!

This is why my best friend calls me fearless.

And why I tell countless people that I don’t believe in the area call gray that we allow ourselves to live in.

Back when I was seeing my therapist, she used to tell me that gray does exist. That not everything in life is black or white. I fought her every time. I told her no, I don’t agree.

Yet, the last two weeks, I’ve spent countless hours crying and trying to figure out, understand, tolerate, care for and appreciate the gray.

In other words, at 31.75 years old, I realized I’m going through a mid-life crisis. Maybe it’s my quarter life crisis, just six years late.

See, back in July, I had a friend tell me that everything with me is one way or another. My friend telling me this, made me reconsider my thoughts on this. He doesn’t know that, but it did. It made me wonder why I categorize things as black or white and not heed the gray in between.

I realized that my lack of tolerance for the gray is a result of my perfectionism. The horrible world of perfectionism that I have battled since a small girl. My favorite story about said perfectionism is of me at five-years-old trying to color in the lines and not being able. I jumped up from the floor, threw the sheet of paper I was coloring on the ground along with the crayons and threw a tantrum, complete with stomping on the sheet of paper. Yeah.

That is how I was and still am now. Let me stress that I try to practice patience, every day. I meditate, or attempt to, daily. I have been practicing breathing and appreciation for every small detail in my day, whether it is good or bad. I even made the decision that I will walk behind every slow person as a challenge to myself – to see that sometimes patience and slow is the way to be – to see if I can be more compassionate to that person, their cause, and respect the time that it takes to walk in their path, rather than rush on to get to whatever I deem is more important. We’ll see how this goes. I’m doing it from now until the morning of the day I leave, October 1st.

Which brings me to a key thing about me –  I barely have patience, sometimes even for myself. It’s not my favorite flaw. In fact, it is the flaw that I know needs the most work and reflection. It is the flaw that I’m most impatient to fix. Funny, isn’t it how that works?

What I’ve realized is that I’ve lost a certain compassion not just for myself, but for the outside world. In my head, people walking down the street are going to do something stupid and it’s going to anger me and so I put my armor up to avoid dealing with their inability to live up to my standards.  I’ve put them in the one column that means they aren’t worthy of my compassion. Isn’t that horrible?! Not to mention, it’s painful to admit honestly because you’d never guess that I think this way from my mannerisms and how I treat people, unless you really know me.

The big difference in my tantrums from childhood to now, is that I am still reactionary, except that I don’t throw things and jump around, instead I react with words. Lots and lots of words. I may be speaking the truth, but it is a truth to me based on my lack of compassion for the gray. Of course, I don’t say anything that I regret, because I stand by everything I do and everything I say. If I am wrong, or insult, or hurt someone I care for,  I will apologize. My reactions are really my reaction to the emotion, to the confusion, to the uncertainty.

But readers, see, this is not just a result of being a Type-A personality, it is also a result of being a doer. I’m a doer. I don’t believe in gray because I believe we have to be decisive and we have to act fast. Another good friend of mine has asked me if I feel this way more since losing my Dad three years ago. At the time, he stopped me in my tracks because I hadn’t considered that as a possibility, but then I realized that I am in fact trying to make sure I accomplish my goals and dreams in the case that I die at the age of 52. Life is full of downsides and yet, I owe it to myself and to the people I love to make things happen, to do and to become better.

I know that sometimes reactive behavior isn’t the best. It leads to frustration and anger and hurt feelings, but I have always felt that if you owned up to those feelings when you felt them (trusted your gut) and didn’t dwell on the thinking then you’d live a more honest and forwarding moving life.  I realize that doesn’t always happen, because you can make the decisions necessary to move forward, but if the other parties don’t then you’re stuck in gray.

I spent almost two years in therapy and hours talking to a good friend about patience, my lack of patience, my dislike for the gray, my this way or that way choice making, and the concept of controlling my emotions. In each conversation, I have gotten frustrated and angry, often times feeling like they just don’t understand. To them, being able to control how you react is all that we have in this world and we should know how to use it and use it often.  While I agree, I also disagree. (Of course!)

See, I disagree because I am overly passionate. Some might call it difficult. Some might say that my high expectations and my deep feelings of hurt and anger and reactions are unnecessary and if I learned to control my emotions, then things would turn out differently. Except I find that when we focus on controlling our emotions we are only focusing on ourselves. We are remaining “cool”. We are picking and choosing and deliberating on what is right and what is wrong and how we want to appear. In other words, we are not being vulnerable. We are not being open. We are in essence attempting to control something inside ourselves.

As a recovering -who fails often- control freak, I find that controlling my emotions doesn’t help me. Yes, there is something to be said for being cool headed and composed. Yes, I know we live in a world where we can’t control things and so the only thing we can control is our emotions. Yet, I believe, thanks to Brené Brown, wholeheartedly, the quote from the film Almost Famous, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.” What does that mean? It means that when put down our guard and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open, we are the most honest. We are uncool and we let things fly, things that when we’re busy keeping a tight control on our emotions we would not. These are things that might stay bottled up inside us and we channel into shame and begin to doubt ourselves and turn to our gray area that incapacitates us, our choices, our actions and our beliefs.

Now, I’m not a doctor. I have no training in therapy or psychology and I know that I am prone to getting stuck in my head and overthinking things. But I know this much, for the past few months been in a place of gray. A horrible place of gray. I have had quite a few shake ups from choices I have made. Decisions I boldly considered, taken, and have absolutely no regrets about. Yet, with those actions, the freedom loving side of me has been happy, but the control freak side of me, that has had to deal with credit card companies calling me about bills I can’t pay, has suffered. That side of me has at times punished my freedom loving side, by pushing us into the gray. My freedom loving side has been strong and has been trying to teach my control freak side that this is okay, temporary, and doesn’t shame me and also fights back with the whole, “you want to be free, this is getting you there!” However it still is hard.

In the midst of all the changes, I also experienced a hiccup in an intimate relationship. I’m not going to give all the gory details here, because they are unimportant for a business specific blog, but I went a little “crazy” (as a friend called it) on Facebook a few weeks back. In talking to my friend, I felt shame. A deep shame for the relationship, for my behavior, and for how I was perceived. The interesting thing there is that I had received a few emails from friends telling me they appreciated my raw passion and honesty on such a public space.

My friend, and I love her and her want for me to mature and grow, told me that I had allowed this guy to see how he made me crazy. And she’s right. I did. And I stand behind those actions. Those words that I used, because none of them were insulting or bad. Those words were simply a reflection of my feelings and my experience and my sharing them had everything to do with me.

See, I use Facebook and this blog, as a way to discuss issues I care about, to connect to my friends, customers, potential clients, and to those out there that are looking for something, but don’t know what.  I share my mistakes both professionally and personally, and I do it always with vulnerability and honesty from the onset. I realize that that may lose some people and win others, but that’s not what this is about. Whenever I care enough to share my story, openly and honestly, then that means I’m being true to myself.

I once had a friend tell me that he thought I didn’t care about him because I didn’t ask questions about his life. I sat confused because I had thought we had good communication. He went on to explain that asking questions meant that I wanted him to share more about himself with me. My response to him was, “no, no, no. I operate on the grounds that if you are my real friend, if you are truly comfortable with me, then you’ll share with me what you want, when you want, as you want.” I went on to explain to him that I’m an open book for the most part. In fact, that’s when I know that I connect with you, when I want to tell you everything in my life. If I don’t, then we’re not going to go very far, in fact we may only know each other for a few minutes before parting. If we’re solid, I will tell you everything I can about you in five minutes without taking a breathe because I want you to know and I want you to confide in me. That is my sign to you to hit me with your best shots. That I won’t judge you, or purposely hurt you; that in fact, I will do everything in my power to be there for you all the time. The key though is if you let me or want me to be. My relationships are all based on a deep feeling. I may not contact you all the time, but I’m there if you need me, and I’m always genuine. I want you to feel as comfortable with me as I am with you.

Which brings me back to my recent gray area and my shame and my crying after seeing my friend the other night – I knew what she was trying to get at – that I need to be more honest with what I want in life. My response to her, though not at the moment, is that I don’t know what I want in life. I just know that I’m secure in my ability to make decisions and follow through on them. That may not be the best way for most people, but that is the best way for me. It is what I know. It is what I am comfortable with. It is what makes me approachable (when I’m not in the shade of gray), what makes me fun and lovable, what makes me powerful, and what makes me dependable. I do what I say I am going to do and that makes me all the more authentic. It is what inspires my relationships and my friendships. It is what makes me passionate and a little crazy. I bring all of this to my life every day. Everyone I come into contact with sees this and I believe it draws them to me and vice versa.

Again, I’m not getting into the particulars of my romantic life, but I can tell you this, my current situation was never anticipated. I thought it would be short-term and tie me over until I made my next move. That ended up not happening and I ended up with a surprise emotional connection and gray space that made me crazy. Yet, I’d rather feel that and move forward and maybe just end up with a bulldog that dotes on me and drools on me  than act like I wasn’t in a vulnerable place and too cool for anything.

I know that I have a long way to go, and I don’t know what is going to happen, but I do know that I will keep throwing myself into the arena every day; for things small and  large (upcoming travels to study paper making). I more than likely will end up bloodied, upset, heartbroken, and potentially will over-share, but I’m not being anything other than Sara.  More importantly, I am choosing to not wear the protective masks and gears that we all put on every day to go outside and face whatever the universe and my choices are sharing.

I do hope at some point, I learn more patience, stop aiming for perfection in myself, develop more compassion for those (and myself) struggling with the unknown, the gray, but I also hope I never feel shame again for being passionately me. It is the one thing I know and it is the one thing I definitely love about myself. If that is what fearlessness is, then I will gladly wear it out on my sleeve for the whole world to see regardless of how many times it gets punched and strangled.

 

Ladybugs

I wrote this blog title the other day and all of a sudden remembered the Rodney Dangerfield movie by the same name. Hahaha. Rodney Dangerfield. That just goes to show you how much comedy is infused in my life and why I support the amazing and incredibly talented Erin Conroy, friend and comedian extraordinaire!

I’ve digressed, forgive me. I have been seeing ladybugs the past couple of weeks. I even bought a ladybug backpack as a gift for a friend that recently had a baby girl.

When I was a kid, I remember being told that ladybugs mean good luck. They were the only bug I allowed myself to like as a child. Although, I was fascinated by worms, but I still disliked them as a whole. I think it had something to do with growing up in NYC with roaches. ICK!

Anyway, ladybugs and snow took on completely different meanings in February 1992.  My paternal grandmother, Germaine, also known as Frenchy, passed away that year. I was 11, not yet 12 and whereas I had spent very little time that I can remember with her as a small child, I spent the last six months of her life with her living in my room. She passed away in the hospital, but prior to that she slept in my room. I remember talking to her before and after school. I remember the spider she killed with her bare finger-the spot remaining on that wall until we moved out. I remember talking to her about my French studies in school and about how much I loved the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast” (it is my favorite Disney movie).  I remember her commenting on how many times I had seen the movie (5!).  And most importantly, I remember her enjoying her final days while staying in my room. It really taught me the importance of compassion.

I wish I had asked her so many questions- about why she never wanted to go back to France, or about her brother and father and mother-all individuals I know nothing about. I wish I had asked her to help me get to France, because I’ve always wanted to live there. I wish I had asked her a million questions and yet, I was 11, I didn’t know. We had just moved to Cleveland Heights, Ohio from Brooklyn, NY and I was busy dealing with the change of being an awkward pre-teen in a new city and school.

It’s been 20 years since she passed, which is incredible to think about. It’s funny how things change over time. For example, I don’t remember thinking much about her as a teenager or young adult. I mean, I did and we always had pictures of her up in our home and we talked about her, but as time goes on, the pain of death lessens. It never goes away, and I think children handle it differently, but I never grew up pained by my grandmother(s) deaths (they died the same year, two months apart from cancer). I knew they were in pain and it was their time to leave. I definitely missed seeing them and being held by them, but it wasn’t the way I feel now as I deal with my father’s death.

So this is where the ladybugs come in. Apparently, ladybugs were my grandmother’s favorite. It became a thing in our family to say that whenever a ladybug appears, it’s really grandma giving us a sign that things are okay. I know some of you may be thinking, “this is nothing but mysticism hogwash, “but as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to realize just how real this connection is.

Since my own father passed away in 2009, I have been seeing ladybugs when my life is a huge crux-when I have decisions to make, or plans to change. For example, in 2009, after walking around the city of Naples, Italy, I went to Castel Nuovo, a castle and started taking pictures of the water and sites in the distance. As I wandered around the top, I came to a glass map and discovered three ladybugs all together.

I cried for about 30 minutes. I took pictures of them, or tried to, I could really only get one at a time, but the entire time I kept thinking, “You’re happy I’m here. This is where I am supposed to be.”

It would be a few days later, almost five, where I would have the dream that planted the seed for S2 Stationery and Design and well, now the rest is history.

A year later, the ladybugs would take over my kitchen in Astoria, New York, as I got ready to move out of my apartment of 3.5 years and away from the guy who had been one of my best friends and roommate at the time into an apartment in Manhattan. I was stressed and frantic with worry because I was also in route to Cape Town, South Africa for an environmental volunteer research expedition through the Earthwatch Institute and was going to come home and have to move.   I was nervous about leaving the dog, who I had fallen in love with and about the change that was about to take place. It was huge and frightening.

Yet, in all that fear, ladybugs started taking over my kitchen. There were five total on certain days. For two weeks, until I moved out of the apartment completely, they were there. I’d see either all five, or one. As soon as they appeared, I knew that I was making the right choice; that this change was not anything to fear and that much like in Naples, Italy that day, I was being surrounded by love and light from my ancestors.

As I move back into today, Tuesday, 2012, nearly two years later, I’m getting ready to make a big decision and some moves and so the ladybug backpack that I’ve bought aside, I’m taking all the signs of ladybugs I’ve been seeing, like the guy on the train last Friday who wore a bejeweled ladybug hat, that I’m moving in the right direction.

So yeah. Whatever you believe in as your luck, believe it wholeheartedly. You never know when it will appear, but when it appears, never doubt that it means something good is on it’s way.

Thank you, Frenchy, for believing in me now; I need it, as you already know.

Black, White, and Gray Mistakes

This post is going to take on quite a personal flair. It’s going to be as personal as say one of my old school posts from the days when I first started blogging. You may wonder why I’m sharing such personal information on my business blog, but well, I’ve learned that I am the type of person who has no line between personal and professional. I have always stayed true to my core in my dealings and whether you agree or disagree with me and my handling of experiences and life lessons, the obvious is that those decisions and actions directly impact our entire being and how we handle things in the future.

I have for the longest time been a black-or-white person. I don’t mean this in the race/Michael Jackson way, I mean it in the things are either one way or the other way.  This philosophy of mine has caused my therapist countless headaches, I’m sure. As much as I staunchly remain this way, she calmly tries to get me to acknowledge and appreciate the gray area of life.

Funnily enough, I learned my lesson last week with a situation that neither involved a therapy session, my 9-to-5 job, or my dad’s death. No, it involved a boy and my anger and rash reaction – my need for things to be one way or the other.

I’ll get back to emotional in a minute. I want to quickly mention how this lesson both hindered and provided opportunities for my business.  I’ve spent every minute since the moment I opened my mouth and voiced my feelings feeling sick.  I know, that’s personal, but not really. See feeling sick has made me appreciate the gray, or more correctly, the moment.  Friday night, instead of working, I went to spend time with my aunt and cousins and ended up being entertained by my cousins for a good three or four hours.  Saturday, I was a panelist in a workshop about using social media to communicate with members and farmers in a CSA for the Just Food Conference. While that most definitely was work on a volunteer basis and it meant that I was occupied, I was in fact, not really working. Then that evening, I went to my friend’s apartment and we watched movies, ate dinner, gossiped, talked about my feelings, and I did some knitting. When I got home, it was late and I went to bed. Another day, another dollar not made.  Although, I will say I made connections and talked to new people at the event and so that was worth the non-work.

And then yesterday came. Yesterday, Sunday, was quite a day. I couldn’t sleep past 6:30 am and so I woke up, did some reading, baked buttermilk biscuits from scratch, went back to sleep, woke up at noon, showered, worked on my taxes, did some more reading, worked on some business projects, did some more reading, created new listings for my Etsy shop, went outside and took photos to use in my new listings, did some more reading, ate, and then read some more. Busy, day no? Not the most crazy productive day either, but for the first time, I wallowed in the gray and because I found myself just letting the gray flow and lead me, I was productive. If I had not appreciated the gray, I might not have done anything at all;  instead I might have chosen to ignore it and burn out on trying to cover up my emotions by doing work.  I’ll never know, but what I do know is that yesterday proved to be both an incredible relaxing and motivating day and it was worth ever minute of emotional chaos and business development.

The communications woman was pondering how to communicate my feelings. I never quite figured it out as I sat on my bed reading about Emma Bovary, possibly one of the  worst female characters ever written about (Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert), but I did figure out that I have to follow my heart and listen to my heart and move as my heart wants me to. In other words, I need to take the courage that is in my heart and move forward. That’s it.

And that my friends is something, the golden nugget, to take into my business-always follow your heart, regardless of what friends and loved ones say, I see in examples of other successful or failed individuals, or even read.

I have always been adamant about sticking to my heart as I create and develop this business, but I haven’t always done that personally. As a matter of fact, I realized in my shady gray corner this weekend that I allowed myself to get caught up in my rigid mindset of this way or that (black or white); I allowed myself to get this mess and now, well, have to move forward, in a positive light, but that addresses my aching heart and gut feeling that keeps screaming, “THIS IS WRONG!!!”

Last Wednesday, before everything went to mush, I was already feeling angst. I tried to prepare myself for what I knew was going to happen, and I felt fairly confident with my decision, but then after it all happened on Thursday, I didn’t feel well. My hunger has been mixed since that day, my heart has these moments where it both hurts and then beats so fast, I don’t know how to stop it, I wake up from sleep more than I’d like, my mind can not stop thinking about it and how the other person may, or may not feel (I don’t know because he won’t respond), and lastly, my gut keeps screaming “THIS IS WRONG!”.

So what is a girl to do?

Some would say, leave it be, or, If he isn’t fighting for you than don’t fight back.

But as I learned, it is gray. It’s gray because the black side says, walk away, the white side says, don’t walk away, and the gray part says let’s get all crazy here and my heart and my mind agree, even though my mind sometimes stops and ponders whether I’m being rational or logical, but my heart overrides those thoughts, so I’m left with following my heart.

Just as I would get all crazy with my business, I am known for this after all with some of my custom designs, I’m about to get all crazy following my heart on the personal side. This could be bad. This could be good. But more importantly, it shows courage and if I have courage to put my art out there for all to see and buy and appreciate, I can do the same with my heart. We’ll see how this goes.

Should it not go as I want it, at least I had courage and made the necessary steps to free myself from my black or white limiting mindset.  I think my therapist will be proud;  I know I’m proud.

 

What Nine Years of Blogging Has Taught Me

I am an “old dog” when it comes to blogging.

Yep. (I use this a lot, don’t I?) I have been blogging since 2004/5. I’m not exactly sure why I started blogging, but I did and well, I’ve never looked back.

When I started blogging, there were not as many blogs as there are now and the whole concept of making money off of your blog was not as prominent. I don’t know the true history of the blog and I find that the internet while providing data can not give you the end-all-be-all history of internet usage. I mean think about how many blogs there are now on how many different platforms? My first blog from 2004 is nothing compared to now.

Yet blogging has evolved and has given way to all sorts of personal sharing developments.  Look at pinterest. Sure you still need to find pretty photos from somewhere, but once you pin the photo to your board, you no longer need to bookmark that page on your comp, nor do you need to put together a blog of you “new favorite” items. It’s done immediately.

But that’s not why I am writing today’s blog. While I enjoyed trailing off for a bit there on the changes of blogging and the internet, the real reason I’m writing this post is because of a project I’m working on for the 9-to-5.  I am drafting a “social media policy” and as I work on it, I find myself considering the many ways in which I am and have been an active social media user and abuser.  These memories that are stirred with each suggested policy point reminds me of all the blunders I’ve made and well, I consider them valuable lessons for me and I hope for you, too.

My first foray into the world of social media always started with the sound of the modem connecting me to the internet world and the sound of “You’ve Got Mail!”. Yes, it was the AOL dial up days and I spent countless hours chatting my life away as a young teen. As a matter of fact, I met a still current friend in a chat room on AOL. It turns out that he was attending GWU as a freshman my sophomore year. It was a good connection, but what about the addiction it gave way to?

Once I moved on from AOL to the world of ethernet connections and owning a laptop and instant messaging from morning to night, sharing online became instinctive.  In 2004, when I started to blog it just seemed natural to do and thus a nine year addiction came to be.

1. My first blog is no longer with us. Sure it’s carcass remains on a server somewhere, but the chances of you landing on it are never. I had to disable that blog because well, I made the first and worst mistake of blogging- talking about what I didn’t like about my roommate.

I don’t think I just discussed how much I didn’t like and the reasons why, but called her names and made fun of her.  I was naive enough to think that she’d never find my blog and therefore didn’t need to remove incriminating details and maybe make it private.  As I type this right now, I think about how young I was at the time, 23 going on 24, but the reality is youth does not make the mistake better. I was a horrible person. I had no respect for her and our bond (because we were friends) and it resulted in her moving out and us not speaking for a long time. In the last three years we’ve rekindled our relationship, but I apologized and she accepted.

Lesson: Don’t think you’re not being watched, or can’t be found. Respect other people and their business and never share stories or details that will hurt and/or offend (although your opinion will inevitably offend someone) people, or destroy relationships.  It is not worth it. 

2. My addiction with social media is strong and waning at the same time.  When I say waning, I mean my personal social media use. When I first started on Facebook, I posted every thing – pictures, thoughts, what I was doing, etc. Now, not so much. I’ve created a filter of sorts. Also, there’s so much going on on Facebook that I often find myself with a glazed uninterested feeling.

But, I used Facebook for my business, and I blog, and I tweet (I was reluctant at first), and I use Pinterest, and I am on Etsy, and I have a website for my business.  So indeed, I’m everywhere, and yet, I’m no where at the same time. As the person behind my business, I control the information on all of these venues and I keep it real and honest, but I also filter what I want to share and what I don’t want to share. I practice this not just on these venues, but also on my personal Facebook profile. It is the way I’d want anyone to see it.

For example, one of my first blog posts on the blog that no longer exists was about how I would stare at my camel toe during my Bikhram Yoga classes. Yep. I kid you not. My friends, who were the audience found it hilarious! One friend even still quotes that blog from years ago (your thoughts are remembered), but I would never assume that you fine reader, on this blog that is about writing, stationery, design and being an entrepreneur a. want to read a tale on that topic, or b. want you to create an image of me based on that one posting. Now, I do realize that I’ve just shared this with you, but I did it so you would have a point of reference.  Don’t begin to think you know every thing about me based on that one sentence above.

Lesson:  People are reading, watching, and following you, so don’t share just to share.  Time is valuable and readers want information that helps them or makes them think as much as they want to engage. They will do all of this with people who are sharing honest and real content.  Think of it this way, do you really want to be remembered for some off-the-cuff comment you said without thinking? Probably not. 

3.  I have always been a bit crazy. I mean that in a good way. Because of this crazy, I’ve always been me. I’ve never shied away from my unique voice. And it helps. It really helps. It means that the people who do like my voice and my posts will like them and come back for more and the people who don’t will not. It has allowed me to become a better __________ (everything!) – writer, thinker, designer, artist, and experiencer of life.

What I’m really getting at is that I haven’t and I won’t change my writing for any reason. My writing skills have definitely tightened up, but my voice is still my voice. While I practice the act of filter, I don’t filter too much. I will never sound like a NY Times writer, nor do I want to. In other words, I’m embracing my talent without being a fool.

Lesson: Don’t try to be something your not.  It’ll come across as insincere and fake and nobody wants to read or follow someone who isn’t honest and real. 

On the blog that took over in 2006 after my first blog ended, I took most of those lessons to heart. I posted a picture of my real self, I started using my name in posts, and I dropped talking about people who were/are near and dear to me. I did write a few posts about dates and people who had hurt my feelings, but I left out incriminating details. Not so shockingly, my friends and other readers found these blogs and responded to them. They enjoyed the escapades of me on my travels and my very open accounts of dealing with my father’s passing.

See, I managed to find a way of writing about my life and sharing my stories without the casualties. I made myself accountable and responsible for the image I presented.  Every one using the internet should do the same. Not just for the professional implications, but for your own sense of worth and benefit.