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To plan or not to plan, that is the question. When I fill in my calendar with events, meetings, obligations, and activities I feel a sense of importance and urgency. I find myself prioritizing and making difficult scheduling decisions. Can I possibly squeeze in a yoga class there? Would that be enough time to meet my friend for coffee? What time will I have to wake up to make sure I get that 5 mile run in? It feels a lot like putting together a puzzle; fitting together the people, places, and things that help define who I am. It is always amazing to me how much I can do when I take the time to plan out my week. I like having a reason to get up early in the morning and I like feeling tired at the end of a long day. Those are some of the pros to scheduling.

Unfortunately, when every day is filled up and I always have somewhere to be, I find myself having to say no to many spontaneous activities and opportunities. I sometimes feel stuck in the plans I have made and then I do not enjoy myself fully. I might be wishing I was somewhere else, or with someone else. I miss out on some of life’s biggest and best surprises. Also, with little to no down time, I find it harder to justify sleeping in, wearing pajamas all day, or even going for a long walk. There is joy in simple relaxation and availability. I suppose it comes back to balance. The balance between plans and spontaneity, productivity and laziness, society and solitude, adventure and comfort.

I encountered this need for balance recently when my life went from 5 mph to 60 mph in less than a week’s time. For months I was unemployed, unencumbered, and unplanned. There was so little for me to do that there was no need to schedule anything at all. I woke up every day and said yes to every opportunity that arose. If someone wanted to have lunch, sure, I could do that. If it was a sunny day then I might decide to drive out to Mt. Hood National Forest and go for a hike. Heck, I could even decide to do a spontaneous backpacking trip if I wanted. It probably sounds great to most, but I was bored and I longed for structure and plans. Everything changed when I got hired at my new job a couple weeks ago. Now, with limited availability, I can’t do everything and be everywhere. I have to make choices about how I want to spend my precious time. And so I have begun to plan. This is something I can spend hours doing. Looking up events, activities, etc. and then plugging them into my calendar. Calling friends and scheduling time to get together. “I can do Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, or between noon and 3 on Sunday.” Even penciling in chores and phone calls: “Vacuum Thursday morning after yoga and before work.”

It did not take long to recognize that by eliminating spontaneity, I was eliminating a major source of joy and comfort. I want to be free to take advantage of nice weather, to say yes to a friend who is going on an adventure, and to feel peace when I decide to spend 5 hours immersed in a good book instead of always going places and doing things. Recognition of limitations is really as far as I have come in my own planning experience. I hope to find a healthy balance between making plans (so that I get to do the things that matter to me) and having a flexible, open schedule (so that I can take advantage of opportunities as they arise).

Today I read a book by Anne Lamott called Imperfect Birds and I came across two different quotes that stood out to me. In their own way, they each relate perfectly to this topic. The first is from the poet Rilke. He says, “I know there is room in me for a huge and timeless life.” Wow. This gives me hope and reminds me that the time I have is sufficient for everything I need and want to do. Later in the book a character states, “There is wilderness inside you, and a banquet. Both.” Life cannot be all banquet or all wilderness. I must leave room for the different parts of me, and patiently learn how to embrace all of my needs.

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What I really want to do is share my bucket list. I actually have multiple bucket lists…there are some things that I hope to check off within the year, some that I think I can do within 2, 5 or 10 years, and others that I hope to accomplish within my lifetime. I also have a bucket list of things I don’t actually expect to get to, and another one of things I’ve already accomplished. Normally, I would have posted my bucket lists by now and then spent multiple posts describing my various goals in more detail. The only reason I haven’t yet is because of one little 3-minute-long video called “Keep Your Goals to Yourself” that I can’t get out of my head.

It all started a few weeks ago when I went to a website called TED.com that a friend of mine had told me about when I was in Alaska. TED is a non-profit devoted to “ideas worth spreading.” Basically it is a site full of presentations and lectures that people have given covering a huge range of topics. I spent a couple hours browsing through videos and learning about everything from the sources of our drinking water to ancient Japanese musical styles. Some of the videos were interesting and some were simply a waste of time (like the one that taught be how to tie my shoes “the right way”). But there was one video that inspired, concerned, and intrigued me more than the others. Take a minute to watch it for yourself before I go on.

I can think of multiple instances in my past when I had a goal, I shared it with many people (usually within hours of setting the goal and always with much passion and enthusiasm), and then I moved on or gave up before taking further steps to reach my goal. I know what Derek Sivers means when he talks about the feeling of accomplishment that comes from just sharing my goal out loud. And this is why I’m hesitant to share my bucket lists. I don’t want to put everything down “on paper”, spend time composing long posts romanticizing many of my goals, feel like people have heard me out and that I have done a good job of explaining why I want to do this or that, and then never actually get out and do it! Truthfully, I don’t actually think that including my bucket lists in my blog means that I will never cross any of the items off, but this video did make me think about how I can share my goals in the most deliberate way possible.

There is one other thing that comes to mind when I think about sharing my bucket lists with others. Recently a friend of mine stated “I feel like sometimes people do things just so they can take pictures and then brag about doing them to everyone they meet.” This comment struck a chord in me because I do take a lot of pictures, especially when I am accomplishing a goal that I had set for myself, and then I usually post my pictures on Facebook to share my experience with others. I know this is a very normal practice, but it still made me think harder about the motivation behind my bucket lists. I want my goals to be for myself, and not for everyone else. In my opinion, a bucket list should consist of activities and goals that a person feels will enrich their life, bring them joy, and help them grow. I look forward to sharing the beauty and joy that results from doing many of the things on my bucket lists, but that is not my primary reason for doing them.

I will share my bucket lists in posts to come. But when I do, I will make a conscious effort to take myself seriously, remind myself of the most sincere reasons for wanting to accomplish my goals, and find ways to keep working toward my goals so that one day I can check them off my lists. Derek Sivers, I accept the challenge.

I made a comment similar to this on Facebook once and my friend’s reaction really got me thinking. I actually stated, word for word, “Everyone is just trying to do the best they can” and my friend responded “I think that’s giving people too much credit.” I remember being surprised by my quick emotional reaction to his response. I felt like I needed to defend the human race. Without giving it much thought I wrote back “I don’t think so. I think everyone, at their core, wants to do well and be good…some people just have a harder time getting there,” and that’s where our short conversation ended.

I was reminded of this interaction again tonight while watching, for the second time, the movie “Our Idiot Brother.” At one point the protagonist of the film, Ned, states ,”I like to think that if you put your trust out there, that if you really give people the benefit of the doubt, see their best intentions, people will rise to the occasion.” I felt like saying “Amen brother” out loud in the theatre. I really feel like I resonate with what Ned is saying. I too believe in peoples’ inherent goodness. In my opinion, everyone wants to feel loved, accepted, important, and good. Even the most cynical, cruel, and selfish humans have within themselves a longing for love and goodness. I believe when people do bad things, they always have a reason. Maybe they feel trapped, or hopeless, or desperate. Or maybe they are imitating survival techniques that they have seen others use in their past.

It seems like to be a teacher, or any sort of counselor, or a parent even, a person would have to agree that people can and will “rise to the occasion.” This is one reason why I like working with a more “challenging” population of young adults. I like to be the person who sees the good in even the most rebellious and angry teens, and then helps them find other ways to meet their needs than whatever they are doing. Without exception, every person whom I have met, when I really peel away the layers, is good. No human truly delights in doing wrong or causing others pain just because they can.

I think it also helps that I believe in karma. I think a lot of people would agree with Ned and I that humans are inherently good, but I’m sure most people would not go so far as to say that they are really willing to trust everyone. Many would argue that with that mentality you are asking to be taken advantage of. And they are probably right. Just because people are inherently good does not mean that they will always act like it. Obviously, people are capable of horrible acts. People steal, lie, cheat, and kill. But that is not really my problem. I feel like my role is simply to give people the “benefit of the doubt” and hope that people will “rise to occasion.” When people don’t, I leave it up to karma to make things right. All I can do is love others, trust others, and provide others with opportunities to do the right thing.

If you haven’t seen “Our Idiot Brother” yet I highly recommend it. It is a sweet story about one man who reaps the benefits of living a life that is honest, trusting, and full of optimism.

How is it that I had never heard of meetup.com?? To be honest, I can’t remember exactly how I happened upon the website last night, but I do know that I proceeded to waste about 3 of my last 24 hours joining groups, browsing upcoming events, and reading about peoples’ experiences at past events. Turns out both my best friend and my mother have known about the site for years, but had never thought to mention it to me. So am I the only one who was in the dark? I love the concept of this website, and it fits for where I am in life. A place to make friends, invite yourself to cool events, and explore more of Portland.

This evening I had the unique pleasure of bouldering at a gym and then drinking beer with about 10 strangers from all different walks of life. It was an enjoyable night; great to get bouldering tips and have a group cheering me on at every problem, and nice to feel a part of a group at a local hip bar. However, I must confess that the realities of this unique social scene set in pretty quickly. First of all, it was almost all men at the meetup. I’m not complaining, but I was surprised and a bit intimidated at first. Second, these people didn’t know me so I felt I had to have my gameface on the whole time. The night was full of small talk, introductions, and polite nods. It was a great group of people…but friendship takes time, and tonight it was all pleasantries. Finally, it occured to me about halfway through the night that I had not completely thought through the types of people who might show up for a “meetup”. I mean, I was really excited about going to this event, and somehow I had assumed that if anything I would feel intimidated by all the cool people who meet up with strangers to rock climb, hike, camp, etc. I had failed to make the somewhat obvious comparison between “meetups” and online dating. I guess it makes sense that many people who show up to social “meetups” would be single like me, and potentially “on the prowl”. Again, not a deal breaker or anything, just something I had failed to think through. In the end, meetups retain a unique quality because anyone can, and will, show up; whereas we usually choose our friends and invite only those we know we like when we make plans to hangout. I still think they are a great idea, and I look forward to trying out more in the months to come.

Meetup.com was not the only website that I discovered between my last post and now. I let myself finally take a peek at pinterest.com this afternoon (I had been told it was addictive), and a friend’s blog led me to check out shelfari.com too. Mostly though I discovered that if I wanted to, I could fill every day by just reading other people’s blogs. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything the internet has to offer. On a daily basis, I try to imagine what my life would be like if the internet (and cell phones) did not exist. I literally can’t imagine it. It frightens me to think about how dependent I have become on something inanimate and how much it has altered the way I spend my time and view my world. This could be a very depressing thought, but I’ll try to stay positive. I want to appreciate the knowledge, art, and opportunities that I do experience through the internet, and not just bemoan that fact that I’ll never know or see it all. All this to say that I look forward to discovering and sharing even more than I had imagined through this blog.

Now for some related lists! (The firsts of many)

Websites I Visit Often                     
Gmail
Facebook
Wells Fargo
TED
Netflix
Hulu
Goodreads
Craigslist
Wikipedia
Groupon
Living Social
Yelp
Wordpress
Pandora
YouTube
Running in the USA

Websites I Want to Visit More Often
Friends’ blogs
PDX Pipeline
Meetup
Pinterest
StumbleUpon

Please suggest other worthy, interesting websites that you visit regularly! But please nothing news/politics/economics/recipe related 🙂 Thank you!

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About Me

- 26 years old
- Pacific Northwest
- Educator, adventurer, friend

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