Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Midnight Toast

Shortly after midnight last Thursday, in the first few minutes of my birthday, the girls and I were standing on the outdoor patio of a club downtown. Our merriment was mild, just talking and sipping wine, as we were reserving our energy for the real celebration Friday night. But the girls were still telling random strangers it was my birthday. One guy said congratulations and did a toast with us. Christen and I had been talking about how over the past couple weeks people had been consistently guessing my age to be quite a bit younger than I actually am. Despite knowing that it can be a tricky question to answer, we posed it anyway to this guy who'd just raised his glass with us.
"How old do you think she is now??" the girls asked.
He turned his eyes to me. I rolled mine, and said, "It's okay if you are off, I expect it." Answers always seems to depend on what I'm wearing or how my hair is done, or how old my friends look, or how old the guesser is... you name it.
"Look directly at me," he said.
I laughed as I did so. He stared right into my eyes. I joked, "Are you trying to tell how much wisdom I have in my eyes or something?"
He didn't say anything and kept looking for a couple more seconds. I got quiet and waited.
"26," he declared confidently.

"No way!" the girls and I shouted. We applauded his accuracy, and he bought us a round.

Obviously, I thought about that encounter later, since as you may know by now, I like thinking about age and meaning. I was impressed with the stranger's accuracy, and decided that if it were true that looking into my eyes would belie my age, I would be okay with that. I've made a lot out of every single season of my 26 years; and they've been loaded with joy, heartache, love, education, success, failure, adventure... If my eyes made that number clear, I'm proud of it. But I wouldn't want them to have seen too much yet. That my eyes haven't aged me is a blessing; I haven't had to endure the sort of trials that would make them appear older. But I also have plenty of time for them to gain in "wisdom" from even more lessons learned, goals reached, self-discovery, and family created.

I'll toast to that.

"The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Waning Hours...

of being 25.

25 is a good round number. I've enjoyed it. My last day being in the very middle of my mid-20s I've spent like any, working and running around seeing friends. But I'm going out tonight, as late as I feel like it, because tomorrow, my birthday, I don't have to work. I learned a couple years ago that birthdays are so much more enjoyable when you get the day off work...original idea, huh? Mary has given me the day off for the past couple years so I've been trying to take full advantage. Last year and again this year I'll sit in on a Rhetoric class up at Westmont. I consider this a luxury. Tomorrow I plan to do a beach stroll and maybe frame some photos and do Pilates and sit at a coffee shop... and then I'm throwing my own party downtown. With purple balloons and pool tables and beer and friends and more friends.

And that's how you do your first day of being 26.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thin-slice That.

How quickly and for what reasons did you decide who you were going to vote for in this election... or have you decided? How quickly did you decide where you were going to college? Who you would marry? What you would name your child?

The TIME Magazine I picked up the other day has an article in it titled "What Kind of Voter Are You?" It discusses the four models of how people actually pick who to vote for, as researched by political scientists. The four methods are called Rational, Passive, Frugal, and Intuitive. The descriptions of the Rational and Intuitive methods really stood out to me.

Rational: You actively seek out as much information as possible about all candidates, consider the positives and negatives and evaluate them against your personal interests.
This strategy is also the most likely to result in an incorrect choice- picking a candidate who does not reflect your views. Researchers think that many people can't process all they learn and simply become confused.

Intuitive: You seek only enough information to reach a decision. Some call this "low-information rationality", but the process appears to be almost unconscious.
This approach seeks the best possible decision with the least effort.
You use as many shortcuts as possible. For example, you learn about a candidate endorsement from a group you support, and you assume it did the evaluating for you.

These decision making models were interesting enough when applied to political candidate decisions, but as I thought about how they applied to my and others' personal life choices my mind started racing.

So you're telling me that too much information-gathering, weighing pros and cons, seeking counsel, thinking thinking thinking can lead to a decision that was probably not the right one for you, or just confusion and no decision at all?

And you go on to explain how sometimes our best and most accurate choices are based on a much shorter, knowledgeable but also intuition-based thought process?

I think I've wondered this before... why the decisions I've wrestled with for the longest amounts of time despite increasing relevant knowledge and experience seem to find no conclusion... why when I don't necessarily have a deadline for them, I just put the "yes" or "no" or "how" & "when" off and continue to analyze and gather and never come to an end.

If you know yourself and trust your judgment, sometimes your quickest (relatively) decisions can be your best. I knew I wanted to go to Westmont and that I'd love it within a couple hours of my first visit there when I was 15. I often do better in soccer when I don't hesitate and just go, relying on skill and a quick assessment of the scene. If I wait and weigh whether or not that girl will actually be faster than me, or how exactly to place my foot as I take the corner kick... or, off the field... if I'll have enough money to spend the time in New Zealand that I dreamed about, or if I will be able to take the many necessary steps to get the job I want, or if this guy will meet my biggest needs and I can meet his...

Chances will be that I will wait too long and misstep or become confused and be guilty of inaction.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a fabulous book called "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" that talks all about this, and now I think I should reread it. He says,

"To be a successful decision-maker, we have to edit. When we thin-slice, when we recognize patterns and make snap judgements, we do this editing unconsciously...Many believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberation. That fundamentally undermines your ability to access the best part of your instincts. So my advice to those people would be stop thinking and introspecting so much and do a little more acting.”

Cheers to more action.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hoop Earrings

Oh hi, internet.

I'd love to tell you everything. Describe each encounter in detail, and then breakdown my thoughts about each. Tell you all my secrets and crazy stories.

But I can't. I never tell anyone everything. I've never even had a journal that I've been completely forthcoming to...

And even my intention with this page is not to treat it like a journal, though sometimes I'm tempted to dish like it is. All too often I feel like I can't sort things out until I write about them. And sometimes I just have a good story to share. Sometimes I have a weekend like this last one.

I can tell you about the homeless woman who started talking to us in Northstar Coffee on Saturday, got mad when she decided we were talking bad about "bums on the floor" (which we weren't, we were discussing my broken sunglasses) and chased us out of the place and followed us for a block saying some nasty things and then came within an inch of assaulting us. We were shaken up for the next little while, and the adrenaline rush was even stronger than when I get intentionally knocked down on the soccer field.

I can admit to you how fun it was to not be the one driving all afternoon and into the evening as we went from the Seafood Festival to cocktail hour at Jodie's and then downtown... I always decide to be the driver and not be drinking that much and have the freedom to drive myself wherever I get the urge to go... it was actually freeing to just rely on other people and have one more beer. Maybe three more.

I don't think I'll tell you my whole thought process after having a friend of a friend, whom we'd hung out with for about two hours downtown late at night, tell me, "You are extremely hot... but can I give you a couple pointers?" And then basically say that I send my flirtacious energy and hot vibes to just my girl friends, and that I keep it from going out to guys and people I don't know. I will say that I know what he's talking about, but I also know some people who would beg to differ with him...guess it depends on the situation. Still figuring that out.

I'm not going to share the story of what happened when a fellow Westmont alum I vaguely remembered approached me ten minutes after the above conversation and three sentences into chatting asked me to help him out by letting him spend the night at my house. If you had asked me earlier that day how a situation like that was going to turn out, I don't think I would have predicted it accurately.

Finally, I will share that if a guy speaks Spanish and some French, has traveled a lot and takes lovely photos of his journeys AND gives me tasty orange juice late on a lazy Sunday morning, it will be the push that I need to spread said "flirtacious energy" around to someone other than my girl friends or people I only know really well.

Okay, that's enough sharing.

Monday, October 6, 2008


I am realizing that hardly anything makes you feel more lonely than being sick while actually being alone.

Being alone hardly ever equals loneliness for me. But I couldn't quite figure out why, after such a fun and super social weekend, Sunday ended and my Monday started with such an unshakable feeling of loneliness. I couldn't come up with a solid reason for feeling lonely (which I feel like I should always have for any unusual and unfavorable emotion), but then I drew the connection to how I'd been feeling physically. It was as early as Friday that I had not been feeling so hot; work had left me feeling totally beat, and I continued to have low energy all weekend which grew to a stronger fatigue as Sunday waned and I could do nothing for a couple hours but lay around, which then became a penetrating headache all day today that no medicine would dull. So whenever I was alone, my listlessness and lack of energy would weigh upon me and exacerbate any feelings of loneliness, which are usually fleeting and hardly noticeable (but which come with the territory of living alone, I would say).

And so then it all peaked this afternoon, after I'd left work hours early to lie down here at home. No one really knew I was home alone with a splitting headache. A few months ago, my roommates would have known or my boyfriend. Not so now.

After setting up a dinner with an old friend passing through town, things were started to look a little less bleak. I hoped the headache would subside just for an hour or two so I could get that social dose which seems to always do more for me than a few advil can. But what really shook me out of my funk was discovering someone had known I wasn't feeling well, and had been concerned.

I walked out of my place, down the path and across the front yard to my car. I could hear the door of the main house open. Oh, I hoped my sweet landlords didn't want to chat, that would hurt my head and make me later for dinner than I already was. I looked back as I reached my car, and there he was. I waved and smiled. He said, "How are you doing?" It was not a howsitgoing question, it was an areyouokay question. My voice was hoarse as I replied across the yard, "Well, um..."
"Not great?" he said. "Yeah..." I said and told briefly of how I'd been feeling all weekend and today. He nodded with concern and said "good" when I said I'd left work early and would see how I felt about going tomorrow. The exchange ended with him encouraging me to take it easy. It initally appeared like he had walked out of the house to get something from the car, but as I drove away, I could see him turn back to the house before even getting to the driveway. I realized he'd likely heard or seen me leaving, and came out to ask after me. It wouldn't have been the first time. They know I'm usually out and about all weekend, and at work til past 5, and my car being here for most of the afternoon and evening yesterday and today had tipped him off. So he'd pursued his concern and let me know that he'd noticed.

I drove away biting my tongue to keep my eyes from getting moist, but with, I swear, not only less ache in my head but feeling healed from my bout with loneliness.