Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Overcoming Inertia, One Step at a Time

Why is it so hard to start something new? I wrote down a whole list of ways to become involved in the Austin community. But making myself go? SO hard. The top three items on the list are joining a church, volunteering/interning at a farm, and volunteering at the local bike co-op.

Joining a church. Two weeks ago I went to the local Unitarian church; last week my husband came with me. They have an active young adults group and I am hoping to get involved that way. I do much better meeting people in a smaller group as opposed to trying to make small talk with everyone standing around after church. I know I should stay and introduce myself, but I find it terribly awkward.

Volunteering at a farm. I made excuses all of last week as to why I couldn't go (I don't have a cutting tool, I don't have a hat, I want to sleep in, I'm avoiding the awkwardness of starting new endeavors...), some of which were clearly more legitimate than others. Yesterday, I emailed the owner, told her I would be there this morning, and set my alarm for 5:50. Now I had to go; I can't back out of a commitment. Have I mentioned that it's 9.2 miles away from my apartment? And that we don't own a car? Those two facts translate into a lovely hour long bike ride each way. Who knew it was still dark at six in the morning this time of year? Not me. The distance of the ride is not a problem, but I will need to attach the rack and panniers my garage-sale extraordinaire husband found last week; carrying back all of the delicious veggies I receive as compensation in my backpack is not ideal. I have also decided that I can postpone purchasing a gym membership if I am regularly biking twenty miles a day. Right now I am hoping to volunteer four mornings a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday), but I am open to revising that if need be.

Volunteering at the bike co-op. I haven't actually gone yet, but Thursday is the day. We (my husband wants to come, too) said that we would go last week but when he got off work later than expected and after eating dinner and cleaning up it was too late (or at least that's what we told ourselves).

I always enjoy when I get out and do new things, I just hate the part at the beginning when I don't know anyone and have no idea what's going on. But I want to make friends and become a part of the Austin community. As we were waiting to hear where my husband would land a job, I just kept thinking about how this next move would be where we could put down roots. Maybe not forever, but at least for more than a year or two. I haven't lived in the same place for more than two years since high school (even undergraduate was broken up by a year of studying abroad). I keep getting to the point where I have a community of support and network of friends and then we pick up and move. I don't regret a single move I have made, but I am so looking forward to being someplace for the foreseeable future. And as much as I hate the first steps, I am making myself get off the couch and get involved, because making friends after college is harder than it seems.

I'll end with a quote that I read today from Steve Jobs' 2005 commencement speech at Stanford.*
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.  This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.  --Steve Jobs
Right now, I just really need to believe that the dots are connected in my life. I need to trust that it is all part of a bigger picture, even if I can't see it and don't know what form it will take. And sometimes? I think I do know what form it will take but I am afraid. Afraid because jumping into the unknown is terrifying. But so far all the best parts of my life have happened when I ignored conventional wisdom and followed my instincts.

* Not many people know this about me, but I am a complete quote nerd. I love reading quotes. Love it. The cheesy ones especially. I have entire word documents on my computer devoted to storing the many quotes that have moved me at one time or another.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

This is harder than I thought.

Before I started this blog I would think throughout the day, "I could write about that if I had a blog..." or "Wouldn't it be interesting to see what people thought about          ?" Now that I have a blog? Nothing. I've got nothing. I enjoy reading witty, interesting, informative, and amusing blogs. I am not sure mine will fall into any of those categories, but I'm going to write anyhow.

Earlier today I read this NY Times article. It was particularly timely in my life considering I was working two minimum wage paying jobs after receiving my master's degree. I fell into the employed category, but not into the "applying my degree" category (not that the government measures or cares about that). It's not that I believe that utilizing one's degree is key to success--it's not. But there is a problem if a large portion of recent graduates are unable to find jobs that utilize their education and skills. It's demoralizing.

Recently my brother told me that he does not believe that the "path to self-actualization will be through his career." I agree--having tunnel-vision focused on moving up the career ladder does not seem rewarding in the long term, especially if it comes at the expense of building relationships with family and friends. That said, I am filled with a youthful (naive?) optimism that it is possible to find a career that furthers you on the road to happiness. I believe that true happiness stems from relationships, but I would like to think that a career could add to, rather than detract from that happiness. I say all this, but I am not sure what a fulfilling and rewarding career looks like for me. I have to agree with my friend over at Inviting Joy that my true oeuvre will be to raise my children. Everything else? It will fall into place.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cleaning for Company

I'm an excellent cleaner. When we move out of an apartment (which is seems like we've been doing a lot of lately) I clean in such detail that it looks better than when it was new. I won't let my husband come anywhere near the kitchen or bathroom, because I know he won't meet my standards (and he's not a bad cleaner himself). Does that mean our apartment is always spotless? Not a chance. The kitchen is usually in good shape because I hate cooking in a mess. The bathroom? It's generally disgusting to the point that if someone were to stop by unexpectedly I might lie and tell them we were having a plumbing issue to prevent them from setting foot in that room. It's not that I like living in filth; it's that it sneaks up on me. One minute the toilet is perfectly clean and the next time I enter there are new life forms who have made their home in the bowl. I try and ignore the small population of bacteria, but strangely enough, they don't go away on their own. They multiply. Soon the small town becomes a city, the city develops suburbs, and there is no controlling the exponential growth from there.

Which brings me to today. We're having company over for dinner this evening. Since someone might like to use our facilities at some point this evening, I have to raze slime city. We just moved in three weeks ago (how has it gotten so disgusting in three short weeks?!) so we don't have a toilet brush yet. I spent the morning wasting time relaxing and reading other blogs; I didn't make it to the store. Brush or no brush, it needed to be cleaned. What did I do? Grabbed our dishwasher soap (we don't have regular cleaners right now either) and a rag, dumped some in the bowl, and plunged in.  With my hand. Oh my. The result? A sparkling clean toilet. I may or may not have gagged in the process. I've already washed my hands three times, and I'm not sure that's good enough. Oh, what we do for company!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Life as a Texan

I moved to Austin, TX two and a half weeks ago. Even though I have lived in Texas for two summers (one in Dallas, one in San Antonio), I never thought I would make a long term home in the Lone Star State. I know I've only been here for less than a month, but it's looking like we (me and my husband) will be here for at least the next five years. Maybe more. Maybe forever. (But hopefully not forever because I love and miss my family and eventually would like to be closer.) He found a job that is perfect for him, so here we are.

What do I do on a daily basis? Well, I'm still trying to figure that out. I spend a good portion of the day job searching, which involves going from one job site to another sending resumes and cover letters out into the ether. It's fun. Okay, not really. Then I spend some time looking up volunteer opportunities centered around gardening/farming, which I love. The rest of the time I grocery shop, cook, clean, read, go to the gym, which makes me feel a teeny-tiny bit like a housewife from the 1950s, minus the vacuuming in pearls. It's been a challenging adjustment into this new role in my marriage/life. Before the move, I was waiting tables and working at a bookstore (a good use of my graduate degree, right?) to pay the rent while my husband focused on his job search. We made a conscious decision that we would prioritize his job search since a) he knows what he wants to do with his life and I am less clear and b) he has a more specialized field while I have many interests and possible career paths. It made more sense to move across the country for his job, not mine.

I have two degrees--undergrad in religion and a master of public policy--just waiting for me to use them. The trick is to figure out how I'm going to apply those degrees in a way that brings joy to my soul, contributes to a better world, and allows me to have a balanced life. No small task. Are my expectations too high? Possibly. But I am not prepared to settle for less before I have even tried to find what I want. I think one of the many blessings of being in a marriage or partnership is that you are part of a team that supports one another. While my husband was looking for jobs, I worked so he could fully devote himself to that task. Now the tables have turned and it's my chance to focus on my career.

I have a lot more to say on this topic, but I need some time to formulate the rest of my thoughts before I post them for the entire blogosphere (really, for my two readers--love you both) to read.