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Simple Life

Fluid motion, riding the waves, and comfort. I celebrate chaos, but not the kind that causes stress.

I do what is important to me. Parts of me still worry, and I still get very nervous about it– what if I’m offending someone I love because what is important to them is not important to me? That has been the hardest fear to let go. I don’t want to hurt my friends or have them feel that I’m not respecting their needs in our connection.

I have learned to be accepting of things that are already my habits. Things that I know that I do, and that I now accept … things that I have been trying to change for a long time. It isn’t that I give up and I’m not going to take the effort for improvement anymore… it’s that I am starting to see that some things are already better the way that I naturally do them.

Recognizing the way that I work with the world– my relationship with time, space, and how I seek balance– that’s how I have gotten to acceptance.

Finding happiness mattered for so long. I was depressed, so why wouldn’t it? I won’t go into my complaints about our culture’s obsession with happiness, but I did want to document this somewhere: It doesn’t matter if I am happy. I do not need to infuse all my actions, thoughts, and ideas with the goal to find happiness. I’m not going to find happiness; happiness is not a thing that I can find.

Happiness is a moment. Some moments I will have happiness, others I will not. My life will be balanced among many emotions and often none at all.

I accept my relationship with time, space, and balance. I accept that there are some ways that I must do things, even if they go against what others (even “experts”) suggest because I recognize that forcing other habits is futile.

The first thing I had to do to get here was let go of the idealism I once held about the kind of person I could be, and to let go of the idealism I once held about the kind of person I was. Suddenly, I felt at peace with the past and the future, and suddenly I was able to stop, listen, and enjoy.

Repeat.

Next Month I’ll Be On A Train

Next month I’ll be on a train for 11 hours– 22 hours total, when you add the ride back home. I’m offering to write 10 postcards to 10 people at random times during that trip. Do you want one? Email me (michelle@busyweekends.com) your address between now and August 19 and I’ll add it to my postcard list!

5 will be written on August 20, the last day of my 20′s, and the other 5 will be written on August 22, the second day of my 30′s! All will be drawn/colored during the trip.

All postcards will be unique and offer thoughts/ideas/observations gained during the trip.

Open to all and any, friends and strangers alike!

Thoughts in the car.

May 20, 2014 | 8:29pm.
I guess in many ways I reach my social threshold at work. It was like this when I was in retail too. I put off the gym so long because I knew it would be a negative experience just for the fact that they try to pressure you into adding things and don’t listen when you set boundaries. But I also knew once I was IN I’d be fine. You don’t really have to talk to people there and I am not self conscious and don’t care if people see my body or whatever. It’s purely an interaction/confrontation based anxiety and more or less always has been. So even though I couldn’t work out today or tomorrow I wanted to go in and join, no excuses. It’s not that I have a problem saying no it’s more that I know how much it sucks to want something from someone and not get it and I don’t like that because I am usually on the side of the person not giving it. (Like with friends and hanging out and stuff for example) I don’t really have a lot of anxiety about that anymore because I think everyone is respecting my boundaries and I totally appreciate that and can be at peace in my friendships :) but I still don’t like confrontation generally in other situations for reasons. I think I am going to get my second tattoo in July. I have this temporary tattoo still on my leg from the color run that says HAPPY and I wouldn’t get that (you would) but I sort of like that something is there and I want to consider a future 3rd tattoo in that location, possibly. Just peeking out below any skirt/shorts I would wear comfortably. I sort of go back and forth on tattoos because now that I feel emotionally distanced from the things I was feeling when I got my airplane tattoo (to be clear the distance didn’t happen until the past few months) it is kind of like, eh. I don’t regret it and it is a scar of my reality and a mark of my history but at the same time it’s kind of serving no purpose and tattoos are very expensive to eventually end up being something I always forget I have. I feel like if I go inside I won’t be able to stop myself from crying.

May 20, 2014 | 8:53pm.
I am fine if I am anonymous, just another person who is out among people but I don’t do group settings well. I am like the opposite of all the things you read about, I don’t like to be in familiar situations when I feel this way unless I am alone. I would love to go just walk around a grocery store right now but I’m too hungry and I’d just buy food and I’m spending too much money lately. I told G I was here. I am sitting right in front if the store in my car which is running because otherwise my phone will die and I wish I had a book. I’ve been sitting in parking lots a lot lately. It’s comforting for some reason, I think because it’s like the most no pressure place in the world. I am not driving so I don’t have to pay attention to outside but I’m not at home either where there are dishes and things to clean and ugh. If I had a book I could go in. That’s so funny. Books make everything so much easier. Just get lost in the book and it doesn’t matter if I’m sitting with people I know. I don’t want to talk I just want to get lost in another world. I have bored so many people in my lifetime because sometimes I have no interest in talking, engaging, or doing anything. I think most people fill that time with TV or the internet. I just sit. And I love it. I’ve been doing it so much lately and it’s so perfect. I think it is contributing to how good my mood has been lately, honestly. It’s unfortunate for me because being in a better mood attracts more people, they think it means I am out of my “rut” and ready to hang out and do things!! But for me it’s like I am finally out of my “rut” and finally doing the things that I want to be doing with my time and sometimes that is sitting in my car for 2 hours. I don’t usually text (or email). You don’t have to respond to this. I just can’t talk to my therapist in my car because it’s a neutral place and I want it to stay that way.

May 20, 2014 | 9:15pm.
I don’t feel like I’m getting close to something really big, anymore. I feel like I’m there. Not because anything has changed or I’ve accomplished something or I’ve succeeded in some way or whatever. My perspective isn’t even all that different I still hate myself and want to die etc. But I guess I just care so much less about anything that ever held me back it’ll still try and I’m not going to confront it (or them or whatever) I’m just going to shrug and let go because who cares. It’s like I’ve ascended from the world of harsh opinions and beliefs. I don’t need to defend myself or be apologetic or feel guilty or defend myself, I think a lot of people leave guilt and go into defense because they really believe they’re cool (and they are of course) so they want to contest everything everyone says about how they’re not cool. For whatever reason. Fuck authority sort of thing. Rallies and protests and blog posts that shout “it’s okay to be me and here is why.” I’m not saying those are bad, they are absolutely necessary in this world where some people need someone else to be the leader who speaks out AGAINST. And who defends. I’m just saying that I went from 25 years (give or take, I’m sure I started after I was 4) of guilt pressed down by people and being told that my way is the wrong way… To 10 months of defense… To now, where I feel more zen I guess. I don’t really like that word but it evokes what I’m feeling pretty well. I mean I’ll still blog the way I blog and such but I don’t know. The blog is both more and less a part of who I am anymore. But this isn’t really about the blog at all that just came up since it’s where I put a lot of my creative fuel and where I had been putting a lot of my defenses. And honestly it isn’t that my perspective improved or I finally “arrived” somewhere. It’s more like I shed a lot of layers that I realized I didn’t need anymore. So the perspective has always been there, it’s just been so over crowded. So I don’t feel like I can say ‘I am finally fine to be myself and do my own thing even though that’s weird’ and be honest. I always have done that. I never stopped, and I never felt ashamed as a reflection of myself. I only felt guilty when it came to social things. So I shed that. I don’t know if any of this makes sense or even if it matters I just know that my service here is so fucking horrible that for some reason I can only text or email and this was definitely too long for text.

May 20, 2014 | 9:23pm.
I’m coming up for air

May 20, 2014 | 9:29pm.
I like sitting in parking lots. Like I view tv and internet as a waste of time but everyone has their ways of passing the hours. It’s just that one of my ways happens to be sitting in parking lots. I used to hate it so much but now that I do it because I want to do it and not because I’m waiting for someone about something, it’s fantastic. Other people think it is wrong or a waste of time. And that is the circle of life.

May 20, 2014 | 9:56pm.
I mean don’t get me wrong I have a lot to work through and improve. It’s just that I don’t care that the process of learning to like myself is going to be interpreted negatively by everyone. I just can’t keep holding back just because people I love more than anything don’t get it.

May 20, 2014 | 10:35pm.
I’m glad I documented this experience.

On That Last Post

I wrote it two years ago exactly yesterday, and I’ve answered many of those questions now. Much of it doesn’t apply any more (the degree, for example, the idea of a future). What’s important now is the impression it left: doing instead of thinking about doing. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do it. And your struggles might be worth more than you think, especially if your aim is true.

It’s astounding how much a person can change in two years, and it’s amazing to recognize that change in yourself simply by reading old words.

Carry on.

Sunday Paper: July 15, 2012.

The Reshaping of Everyday Life

I’d like to react to something for a moment here. A few things, maybe. Last Sunday, I painted the town red with my new friend Mary.

Mary found me through mail art. I think. That part is kind of unclear, but when we’re old ladies sitting on a front porch, rocking back too far and almost falling then laughing at our own stupidity, yelling at “kids these days and their newfangled” whatevers, and complaining about horrible drivers even though by then a law will have passed stating that old, cynical folks over the age of 70 can no longer drive (because, let’s face it, YOU also get annoyed by how slowly they go, and we’re doing nothing but speeding up)– I’m going to turn to Mary and say, “how did you find me, anyway?”

And she’ll have forgotten. That’s how this is going to go. I’LL JUST NEVER KNOW.

In any case, Mary sent one of those @tweets to me that DEMANDED I write her an email. We talked extensively. I stated things like, “this is the longest email ever,” even though it wasn’t, but it always feels that way when you’re writing someone new and you’re not sure if they’re receptive of your many thousands of pointless words, or if they’re just going to read them and think, “uhhhhhh, this isn’t what I signed up for.” If the hatchback didn’t do it, what really made me fall for her was her energetic replies to my wordy descriptions of life.

Mary and I walked along U St (staying within the bounds of U, 8th-16th, and T). We didn’t go thatcfar, really, and didn’t stay out that long. It was four hours in blistering, skin-melting heat, and because of the thickness it felt like forever. Our task, set forth by the gods of ancient times, was to deliver inspiration, letters, love notes, and ideas to anonymous recipients. If you don’t know who you’re giving them to, how do you know where to put them? The great philosophy of guerrilla art says that you put them EVERYWHERE.

That we did. In sunflower mailboxes in front of vintage boutiques, at record stores, on bulletin boards in small cafes, one or two left at Ben’s Chili Bowl, some posted to residential parking directions, others stuck directly onto metal sign posts. We still came home with many more to leave on a future date– and maybe it’s better that way. Maybe it’s better to spread out over time. Why, you ask? Because shortly after we left it started raining, and so it’s pretty likely that everything we put outside is utterly ruined.

But rain is inevitable. If not last Sunday, maybe this Sunday… and if the letters hadn’t been found by then, they may have met their inky discolored fate another day. Someone will still find them, even if that someone is a traffic cop, and even if that someone doesn’t really understand what the point is, because the letter has lost all its message in the rain.

These are the kinds of ideas that you have. You tuck them away for safe-keeping, but you never enact. They are just that: ideas that you have. You don’t think past the idea; there is no “past the idea.” You read about people doing this, you see blog posts of artists spreading themselves, and you even see evidence on city streets, but when you’re an amateur with no real “style” of your own and no real established “artwork,” you think: “That’s a cool idea, but probably not something I’d ever do. And even if I WOULD do it, I don’t have any friends who would do this with me. I’m a scared little girl and I have to go cry in a corner now. LEAVE ME ALONE.” Those are your thoughts, exactly, and you just don’t let those ideas fly.

Your friends think you’re cool for having those ideas. Your family doesn’t get it, but they love you anyway. Other artists? Well, you don’t know, because you’re too afraid someone will actually say, “yeah, let’s go do that!” so you never mention it to them.

Last week, I mentioned it publicly on my blog, and Mary said: “Yeah, let’s go do that!”

It’s the first time I’ve ever had a public art idea and went and did it. I’ve had a lot of them, some more involved than others– but all very ideasy and none activated. This is relevant to my life. This is amazing. This is something I never would have imagined happening because sometimes you need that extra bit of encouragement from an external partner. And it’s happened right when I needed it.

I’ve spent most of my life going back and forth not just on what I want to be, but who I want to be. I have no idea what I’m doing with my life; I thought I may have found hints in writing, bookselling, web design, and travel, but the reality is that I don’t know my style or primary interest group or where I belong. (I know most people don’t, though, and that’s comforting.)

Going out and DOING it put so much more into perspective than I realized I needed. After our day out, I pulled into a small park/trail in Clifton, VA. I’d never been, but I passed it every day while attending George Mason University for my Bachelor’s degree (in English, I’ll have you know). I pass it every day now on my way to work. I always see it and unsee it and life goes on, but last Sunday, I STOPPED. I got out, blue-and-white polka dotted dress on, shoes not made for mud slushing through the after-rain nature trail. I found a lake. I found peace. And best of all, I found a moment to reflect on all the things that changed last weekend.

On Tuesday, I played hooky and skipped most of work so I could “find a new job on the Internet.” What I found instead was a day trip to UMD, encouraging comments about a potential grad degree/PhD journey into neuropsychology, and realized how easy dreams are to attain.

In due time, we’ll finally see there’s barely time for us to breathe.

Suddenly, it all made sense. I can’t articulate it: You’re just going to have to trust me on this one. The hiking, the biking– the violin and pilot lessons. Research/school, neuropsychology, and my future. DC. Definitely DC. Suddenly, I just knew. I went out and DID, and what resulted was the understanding that, duh, this is what I have to do. I just have to DO it. Instead of sitting here wanting it all the time, I just have to DO IT.

It seems very trite writing it here. A very wise person said to me once: “We have to be proactive. Our lives aren’t going to change without input from us. The longer we wait, the longer it will take us to get to where we want to be.” She was totally right. It’s so weird to read it, agree wholeheartedly, but then go home and sit on my ass daydreaming about all the action I’ll be taking some time in the future.

On the Metro back from College Park, MD, after sitting in the cockpit of an airplane (yes, I almost hyperventilated with excitement) and thinking of myself as Dr. Swetnam of the Neuropsychology Department of some research institute, I sat in a heated car. I watched everyone’s reactions as they came in, the look of disgust or discomfort that painted their expressions five seconds after walking on board. Some left the car for another, preferring to stand in air conditioned body odor than sit in the moist warmth of my secluded train car. I stayed because I knew that there wouldn’t be enough people on the car that I’d have to give up the seat next to me, and could spread out.

It wasn’t until we passed East Falls Church and started walking hand-in-hand with I-66 that I noticed how miserable everyone who stayed looked. I was watching the cars on the highway roll backwards when someone said, “Why did we all stay on this train? It’s horrible.”

Sometimes you get up and leave when you’re unhappy. That’s a good philosophy on life: Just go. Find better conditions. Sometimes you stay, though, and gut it out, even though you hate it, and even if nothing good results. I didn’t hate it; I didn’t mind the heat because I liked having my space and I knew that when I walked out of the car, 82 degree weather would seem remarkably, irresistibly cool (it was). Someone might say that when you get to a transitional period in life, you have to take a breath and ask yourself: Are you the kind of person who stays unhappily on the train car or finds another? But now I have to wonder if it’s more complicated than that, because I like my new path– and the challenge is part of the fun.

People say to you, ‘you’ve changed’, or something like that, well, I hope, for the sake of God that you have changed, because I don’t want to be the same person all my life. I want to be growing, I want to be expanding. I want to be changing. Because animate things change, inanimate things don’t change. Dead things don’t change. And the heart should be alive, it should be changing, it should be moving, it should be growing, its knowledge should be expanding.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer’s work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader’s recognition in himself of what the book says is the proof of the book’s truth.

Marcel Proust

i am that girl who never committed

I am that girl who never committed.

Here, I’m talking about blogging. I joined the Internet a little over 15 years ago and I have kept way more than 15 blogs since then. I’ve run well over 10 domains in my life so far– active blogs, updated websites, and everything in between. I used to blog alongside a lot of people who were (I suppose) famous bloggers at the time. I won’t name names, and indeed, I can’t in most cases. Many of them no longer keep blogs.

Lifestyle blogging was big back then, not in the same way as it is now. Then, 1 out of every 100 bloggers was a choice pick. Now, 90 out of 100 bloggers have a way with words. Simply put, it’s super easy to start a blog now in ways that didn’t exist 15 years ago. Back then, if you wanted a nicely designed blog you either had to pay someone or learn web design on your own.

Sometimes I stumble upon those blogs and I feel a little forlorn that I never showed up in many “links” lists (before they were blogrolls, they were just links), even though most of my friends did. I didn’t keep any of my blogs long enough and someone once told me it was too much of a hassle to change the link every time.

I used to change my name a lot, too, but that’s something to keep in a personal journal, locked away even from interested eyes.

Here, I’m talking about passions. Web design was my thing, and then it was mythology. I took one class in mythological literature and switched my major from Web Design (an arguably lucrative field) to Folklore and Mythology in Literature (an unarguably useless degree). After college, my thing was reading. No one ever saw me without a book. Later, it was experience. Experience has always been a thing of mine, and always will be, but for a while it was my capital-T-Thing. Then it was Neuroscience, and later depression/anxiety.

We choose how to identify ourselves, they say. People still ask me now for book recommendations– even though I haven’t read more than 4 books a year since 2009. I don’t self-identify as the bookworm, and haven’t for many years. My next thing might be my job. It’s about time I focus on my career. I read blogs about afternoon classes and disapproving teachers and I get jealous. I miss school, and I want an academic life again. Luckily for me, I work in education, so even if I’m not planning on going to school full-time I still work at school full-time. I love being able to say “I can’t stay up late, it’s a school night.”

Call me old, if you want, but don’t call me boring. It’s glorious to love your evenings, even if you do go to bed at 10:30 most nights.

Here, I’m talking about relationships. I can’t comprehend loyalty or trust in a short-term time period, and I didn’t understand this about myself until very recently. Where it might take others a year to trust their partners, it takes me two. Because of that, I haven’t had many relationships that lasted more than two years. I am a passionate, loyal, giving, and loving partner, but I’m also extremely stubborn. And I have my baggage, like you do. I pack light, but even one item in a suitcase can sometimes be heavier than five or ten.

Skeptical by nature, trust doesn’t come easy, especially if you ever break it– those little mistakes you’re supposed to look over because you know that he’s not perfect (and you know that you’re not perfect). It takes a lot of personal battles to get back to a place that is open for continuing love. In the past, I gave up. This time it’s not going to be so easy for him to escape.

Here, I’m talking about format. It just occurred to me recently that perhaps much of the reason why I have been unable to keep a blog or website for very long is simply that I expected myself to want to write about all the same topics for a long period of time. I’m water. Sometimes rocks and sticks stop my flow, and often I’ll take a break in a puddle, but I’m ever changing, always moving. It would be ridiculous to expect myself to stay in the same format for too long. The Reshaping of Everyday Life suits my purpose because it lends a lot of space to changing formats. I got this blog title off of a U.S. history book that I never read. It sits on my shelf in commemoration.

Here, I’m telling you that this is how I live. I am that girl who never committed, who is learning to commit but who still may not commit the way you want her to.

Someone recently told me that she didn’t know who I was anymore (yes, it was just like a movie). I kind of shrugged. The only reply I had was: neither do I. When I said it, it wasn’t negative. I am change. I am a chameleon. I am wonder and exploration and grand ideas that never follow-through.

I am more reliable than I have been in the past, but only because I make less commitments.

It is a wonderful and rare thing to be comfortable with the person that you are, even as someone whose habits deviate from what is socially acceptable, even as someone who withdraws on purpose. I am the girl who commits less and less, who dreams more and more, and who smiles in her own reality.

What I Do

Promoting degree completion is good. It is also necessary. But it is not sufficient. Today our higher education system is facing a crisis regarding its perceived quality. The public is putting pressure on institutions to show the value of their degrees. Not only do employers complain about college graduates who lack skills, but students also question the meaning and value of a college education, no doubt because of its high cost and its potential for resulting in significant personal debt.

One model for improving quality is competency-based education, in which an institution clearly defines the specific competencies expected of its graduates. A competency framework sends a message to those outside the institution about what a college degree-holder should know and be able to do. When the institution also assesses for those competencies, the message is one of transparent rather than abstract expectations.

A competency-based degree program also has other benefits. With a defined competency framework, students understand what they are expected to learn and how they are expected to apply that learning. In addition, a focus on competency allows for better understanding of how learning translates across degree programs, from one institution to another, or from work and other life experiences to a degree or credential.

Competency-Based Degree Programs in the U.S.

Boring Update: Work Plant

My friend Megan gave me a work plant when I found out I was getting an office at my new (now not new) job. That was four months ago, almost. The plant is still alive.