Motivation Monday, Projects

You don’t have to want to do it

I love my job.

Really. It’s a cool job, and I love doing it.

But there are parts of my job – mailing Quarterly 941 Tax Return to the IRS, filing sales tax reports on time, reconciling accounts, keeping track of addresses, remembering the passwords for various websites, answering the phone for telemarketers, renewing my insurance and licenses, catching up when I’ve fallen behind on some of those tasks – that I don’t particularly enjoy doing.

I like working with individuals, having conversations that help people grow, seeing people improving their flexibility, strength and coordination, engaging with people, teaching.

BUT – If I don’t do the things I don’t like doing…I won’t get to do the things I do like doing. (sorry for all the double negatives here)

Does that sound crazy?

What’s even crazier is that I love having done the things I don’t like doing. I love the feeling of relief that comes when a nagging or unpleasant task is over. I love knowing that I haven’t let some large thing slip through the cracks – or if I have let that thing slip through the cracks that I have filled the crack and things will no longer slip through it.

I think it’s useful to keep this in mind because it helps you do the things you don’t love doing. Because they have to get done whether you want to do it or not.

So – for this week – remember, whatever it is for you. You don’t have to like doing it.

 

Projects

Something Swell on Saturday

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. On Saturdays, Mary Margaret plans to post something from the week that made her smile.

I wasn’t sure what to post today. I thought, maybe I should just re-post what Maggie wrote on Wednesday, since she had incredibly wise words for an incredibly confusing and discouraging week. Not to mention, she simply stated so plainly so much of what I think and feel and believe so exquisitely. This week was…I mean…What on earth? Was this the “American carnage” the President referenced in his inaugural address? It certainly felt like American chaos, between the President embarrassing the institution of the Boy Scouts of America, the Senate voting on healthcare, the President firing off random tweets about God and policy changes for transgender individuals in the military, the resignation of the Chief of Staff…I could go on. It was a week that left me asking, where are all the adults? More than that, where are the people with genuine compassion and a commitment to caring for one another and believing the best of one another?

In the face of the wider cultural and political situation, I also know so many people this week directly dealing with moments of personal struggle and grief.  While I’ve lifted up prayers of gratitude for the many blessings in my life,  I’ve also seen my list of others to lift up in prayer grow.

On my 30th birthday, I wrote about how we go through times of darkness and times of light, and this Saturday, I simply want to reaffirm my commitment to not just experiencing and being grateful for light, but reflecting light. In as much as I am able, I want to lift up others, believe in their goodness and value, bring love and support to them. It’s not enough to bask glowingly in the light of positive things in your life, like the outpouring of love I received last week from family and friends. As described in Matthew 5 or the always-popular ditty “This Little Light of Mine,” one does not take a lamp and hide it under a basket, or bushel (although what exactly a bushel remains unclear). One takes the light, puts it on a stand, and tries to let it illumine the household.

So maybe this is less a “something swell” from the past week, and more an affirmation for the next week.

Shine on.

3:30 Thursday, Projects

The times, they are a-changin’

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. In August, we’ll be approaching the 3:30 Project a bit differently. Let us explain… 

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven”

-Ecclesiastes 3:1

The 3:30 Project has now reached its seventh month, and seen each of its three triangle members hit the anticipated Big 30! We’ve been so grateful for everyone who has read, commented on our writing (both online and in conversation), shared the blog with someone else, and been overall so supportive of our endeavors! We set out to create a habitual practice of writing and sharing ideas with one another, and we’ve seen some lovely things come out of the commitment we made. Not only has writing been a good way to process the events of the year, we’ve been in even more constant contact with one another. On top of that, I’d say we’ve all done some writing to be proud of.

Every season has its own requirements, though, and we’ve come to a moment of transition. With Jillian expecting the imminent arrival of Fox, and so much going on in life and work, we’re embracing a new format moving ahead, more reflective of what the second half of 2017 holds. Maggie and Mary Margaret will each post on a different Thursday during the month on a shared topic. We then may use the last week of the month to respond to one another’s writing or add something new to the conversation. Jillian will be free to post when and if she has time in these early days and months of motherhood. As much as we shall miss her writings, we know she will have more than enough to keep her busy! We have also chosen to go more free-form with our alternative posts like Motivation Monday and Something Swell on Saturday. You may see these, or other additional content throughout the month, but on a less formulaic basis than previously.

Thanks for reading along with us! We sincerely hope we’ve brought new voices and new ideas to you somehow and we also hope you’ll continue reading along with us as we continue in this new direction! Onward and upward, friends!

3:30 Thursday, Motivation Monday, Projects

Let’s just leave God out of this, please.

Earlier today, the President of the United States shared the following sentiment on his social media accounts:

And something in me has officially snapped.

I am done.

If I hear one more statement from a Christian comparing the man who currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave to a morally questionable leader/king/etc. from the Old Testament and saying that because God used so-and-so, God is also using the 45th President of the United States to bring about his will. I have a few things to say to you.

And, to you, morally superior Christian who has instead identified this man as a portent of the end times, the anti-Christ, and evil incarnate – I have some things to say to you, too.

It’s probably not the end times.

Let’s get some perspective – basically, all Christians since the year 33 A.D. have believe that they were living in the end times. And, let’s be honest, the Christians who lived through the black death in the 14th Century saw 50% or more of Europe’s population die. By 1691, 90-95% of the indigenous peoples of the Americas had died from epidemic disease, war, famine, and other side effects of the “discovery” of the New World. Even in the last few centuries, children died of malaria, small pox, diphtheria, polio and common colds due to malnutrition, lack of medical care, poor sanitation and unfortunate luck. Now, here we are in 2017, and in the United States of America we have an unqualified bully for a President.

A man who admittedly thought it was worth his time today to accuse Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska of “letting Republicans down” by not voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And who also thought it was worth his time and energy to make a statement excluding transgendered Americans from serving in our military.

But even in these dark times, we still have electricity, running water, cable television, Facebook, and an overabundance of cheap processed food available at grocery and convenience stores 24 hours a day. I’m just saying – our claim on the end times is pretty pathetic compared to basically all time before now.

I can appreciate your feeling that our President feels like a bad omen. Nevertheless, I want to challenge that idea. I think we make this mistake over and over again in our country, and in the Christian faith.

Let’s think about Jesus for a second…

The ministry of Jesus Christ was not a political revolution. He confused people constantly in his ministry. He appeared to have infinite power:

ICYMI (In cased you missed it):

  • He could heal the sick just by touching them
  • He used 5 loaves of bread to feed 5,000 people
  • He turn water into wine
  • He hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors – usually having meals with them
  • He raised a child from the dead
  • He raised his friend from the dead
  • He called out religious leaders for hypocrisy
  • Also, when faced with the prospect of death, he died. Rather than use his power against his accusers – he died. (Note the distinct contrast with the words of our current President: “When the President gets hit, he’s going to hit back 10 times harder.”) Then (we’re back to Jesus now) he came back to life.

Note some big missing elements: He never endorsed a political candidate or party (not even Ronald Regan). Also, he never mentioned the United States of America, free speech or trickle down economics. In fact, he suggested that in the Kingdom of Heaven, the first would be last and the last would be first (Matthew 20:16).

Thanks for the Sunday school lesson…why are we here again?

Here’s what I believe: Jesus Christ came to restore humanity’s relationship with its creator, not overthrow the Roman empire. I’m just going to put this out there – I don’t believe that God cares one way or another who the President of the United States is. I think God cares how we treat each other, how we treat the poor, how we treat the sick, and how we treat the planet. And, I dare say, we can do better in those areas.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t even believe that God hates Donald Trump. I think this is why Evangelical Christians have “hope” for this man – Donald Trump is not beyond the reach of God’s love…he doesn’t strike me as someone who is searching desperately for the living water that Jesus offers his followers (John 4:14), but who am I to judge another human’s innermost heart?

And that is another revolutionary idea of the Christian faith – Jesus Christ died for Donald Trump, too. I believe that Mr. Trump sees Christians in a transactional way – he likes the ones that voted for him…and that is sad for him. Because if he ever put anyone or anything above himself, he might discover the power of grace, the value of love, and the return on the investment of forgiveness and faith that leads to a truly abundant life.

I don’t believe that Donald Trump should have the power of the Presidency, and I certainly don’t want to give him the power of the antichrist. He is unworthy of both.

Is he a greedy man? Yes.
Is he a shallow man? Yes.
Is he a bully? Yes.
Is he an insult to the position that he holds and the country he represents? Yes.

And YES, he is in a position to do real harm to many people and our country, and that is why, despite my desire to pretend that he does not exist, that I choose to resist.

But please, do not give him the credit for bringing about the end times. And certainly don’t give up on the Paris accords or trying to prevent the destruction that our planet will experience due to Global Warming because you think the World is going to end anyway.

The world has seen bad leaders. evil leaders. and worse – leaders who were bad and evil, but also smart and charismatic. Mr. Trump is clumsy, inarticulate and foul. His lies are transparent and he will fall into the trap he has laid for himself.

In the mean time, let’s give God a break. Christians, can’t we please get back to the work that was important to Jesus Christ? Feeding the hungry? Healing the sick? Loving those who were rejected? Turning the other cheek? Not throwing the first stone? Following the Spirit rather than the letter of the law? Let’s do those things and stop pretending that the man in the White House represents those values right now.

 

Projects

Something Swell on Saturday

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. On Saturdays, Mary Margaret plans to post something from the week that made her smile.

It’s a no-brainer this week. My birthday was on Wednesday (as you could maybe tell from the amazing post Maggie and Jillian created!)  and throughout the entire day, there was an incredible flood of love and kindness from my family, friends, coworkers, even random strangers (like the barista who gave me a free coffee!) My sisters, in coordination with my friends and cousins, created an incredible and hilarious birthday video for me, they also sent out an alert to stuff my mailbox with cards, my parents sent flowers to my workplace, our company manager at the theatre had a delicious chocolate cake (for me and my co-worker Erik, who also had a b-day yesterday!) The cast of my show signed a card for me, my friends sent texts, calls, Facebook messages…Maggie and Jillian made me cry with their words and pictures, and music.

From start to finish, it was a reminder of what makes our years worth living- the people that we have met throughout our days. The people that God has placed in our lives to love and care for, but also to be loved by and cared for by. I did not dwell on worries about age or regrets of the past on my birthday, or feelings about what I haven’t yet accomplished in my life–  which wouldn’t be completely out of character for me.

My Mom and Dad sent me a box with 30 different gifts wrapped up (how sweet and loving and creative is that? just have to brag on Mom for a minute!) which I’ve decided to open up a little at a time. The cap of my day was selecting a gift from the box to open, which I could feel was some sort of a picture frame. Inside was one of my favorite photographs of my grandfather, my sweet Papoo, and a card that said “Happy Birthday to a Marvelous Keeper of Memories.” My Mom couldn’t have planned this any better. After a day of being reminded of all the amazing people in my life now, those near and far, she was reminding me also of the love that I come from, the love that my years are founded on, the love that came before, that carries on after death, outliving our earthly walk. Birthdays can remind us of the value of a human life; this miracle that we come into the world, then we leave this world, but that undeniably the thread of love connecting one person to another spans over our individual mortal days. I do believe this–new love is born each day, existing love never dies.

Thank you, dear ones!

Projects

Mary Margaret’s Thoughts on 30

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. July 19 was Mary Margaret’s 30th birthday, so here the final member of the triangle to reach this milestone presents her thoughts on hitting three decades. 

Is it really going to happen? I asked myself that earlier this year, slogging through what I would describe as a cold, numbing, autopilot New York winter.

This will sound dramatic, but it’s also honest. Knowing that as minutes kept clicking by, I would soon reach my third decade, and in this particular season of my life, this passage of time felt exhausting. I felt my days less as gifts, more as burdens, and to top if off, I disliked myself for feeling this way. I acknowledge that I was in a deeply negative space, disheartened by the wider political and cultural context of the country and personally discouraged by uncertainty in my own work life. Moreover, this led me to withdraw from family and friends, not wishing to burden anyone else with my own sadness and worry. I’m good at faking it for the general populace, but most people close to me likely knew that I was struggling.

It seemed irrevocable, inevitable and yet impossible that I would suddenly be 30. It’s not the age itself that bothered me especially; it was the fact that it might come upon me while I was so stuck. Time ticked on, but I was mired, uncertain what I even wanted, and therefore uncertain about what direction I should even move in to try and unstuck. I’m a planner. How do you chart the course without any destinations in mind?

I’ll skip to the end of the story for a moment, which is that I’m currently unstuck. A large part of this was related to something I’ve already written about, which was my unexpected opportunity to begin a new job in late May. I’ve loved the opportunity to tackle a new show, work with amazing designer Jane Greenwood (who finally got her Tony award after 21 nominations!), meet so many lovely people, and take on wholly new responsibilities. Not only has it restored my confidence in my own capacity for new challenges, it’s reminding me how much I enjoy and value what I do working in theatre.

I’m not superstitious, but will admit I’ve almost been scared to say how happy this new position has made me. There’s a somewhat silly human trepidation that joy is so ephemeral that voicing it will cause it to vanish. In trying to talk about how hard the past winter was with my Mom the other day, she was initially hesitant, saying she didn’t want to talk about sadness, worried it would take the conversation too far away from the positive chat we’d been having. My point actually was not to dwell on the negativity, though, but to mark it’s ending—to emphasize the lifting of a cloud.

What we’re acknowledging in our sometimes fear of naming joy is a simple truth: we know that no joy, and equally, no sadness lasts forever. I wanted to voice a time of darkness to say how things have changed. Also to voice the darkness to allow that it can and will return, though it may look different. Also to voice the darkness to help me remember later that if it does return, it can go away again.

Here’s what I’m driving at; here’s what I learned in my twenties that I will now try boldly to live out in my thirties. At a certain point, I stepped off the train of academia that neatly organized my time and efforts for the first couple decades of my life. I’ve long ago entered the world of navigating my own course, since you realize pretty quickly that life is not a series of checkable boxes (argh!! frustrating for a person that loves lists!).

So don’t ask me about my ten-year plan, because I’ve decided on this reality- a reality of everything changing all the time. There will be times that I want nothing and times I want everything, there will be times when I’ll strive toward a desired outcome, and times I will fumble without being even able to fathom a way ahead. I will be deeply and crushingly sad. I will be hopeful and joy-filled and optimistic. My ten year plan is to attempt to live on shifting sands, to live with the shifting swells of my own heart, to remember that this exasperating turmoil of even our own thoughts is what each of my fellow human beings is also experiencing.

When we remember this, I think it might lead us to greater compassion for those around us. For me, I also try to remember the constancy of God in spite of my inconsistencies and inconstancies, because there rests my larger hope. I’m going to change as my days tick by. Situations will change as my days tick by. And by the grace of God, I’ll be changing along the way, through whatever joy or darkness I find myself in, into more of who He created me to be.

Hello, 30.

Projects

Happy Birthday, Mary Margaret!

Mary Margaret is 30 years old today!! Maggie and Jillian each wrote a little something for this special post to honor her on this special day!


From 13 to 30: A Photo Essay by Jillian

These are some of the earliest photos I have of us, from our 8th grade field trip. Left: This photo of Maggie and Mary Margaret has been in that button frame for over 15 years. Right: Maggie, MM, our friend Rebecca, and me – barefoot 😉

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Maggie, Rebecca, me, and MM wearing our orange and blue for the homecoming game! I think this was freshman or sophomore year of high school. We had so much fun hanging out in the “Big Orange Jungle,” whether our football team was state champion or not. (But they usually were.)

High school was all about passing notes. Not during class, because we usually weren’t in the same ones! But we would write a long or fancy note during class and then pass it to each other in the hall. Left: Mary Margaret was known for making pretty and uplifting notes like this one, featuring my nickname “Chilli” and several Fiddler on the Roof jokes (everyone had Fiddler on the Roof jokes in high school, amirite?). Right: I love this note from Maggie because it contains instructions for me to pass along some information to Mary Margaret later in the day. We were a three-person pony express basically.

Mary Margaret and I spent nearly every moment of our senior year together, because we both did the musical theater class and we were in rehearsals all the time. Left: Us backstage for Brigadoon. Right: Us with our friend Lauren in costume for Fiddler on the Roof. Mary Margaret had lead roles and I was choreographer for both of these – I loved getting to work with her so closely on the choreography for the songs that featured her.

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A rare Triangle photo from the set of Brigadoon!! Usually one of us is taking the picture so there aren’t actually that many of all three of us. Also Mary Margaret’s hair was AMAZING.

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The program from our final show before graduation, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Maggie as director, me as choreographer, and Mary Margaret as costume designer. This was really the beginning of something for Mary Margaret – her ideas were so inspired, and her creations were so beautiful and innovative! She and I also performed together as fairies – I choreographed a dance for her to do with me, and she made all our costumes and did my hair and makeup (and the other fairies’) for every show. For me it was a totally magical experience, working alongside Mary Margaret to bring Maggie’s vision to life on the stage. We made a pretty great team.

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Me, our friend Wendy, and Mary Margaret wearing the costumes, hair and makeup Mary Margaret did for us as fairies in Midsummer.

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Our senior drama banquet & awards ceremony. Mary Margaret and Maggie both had more awards than I can remember, but I do remember that our peers voted to give our fairy dance from Midsummer the “best dance” award!

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Top: Our graduation party invitation. I’m so thankful Mary Margaret asked me to do a combined party with her, because I never would have had enough friends to hold one just for myself.

Bottom: Our graduation ceremony program showing the title of Mary Margaret’s commencement address, “Somewhere New.” I still remember what she talked about it, because it was so totally THE BEST. The elementary school, middle school, and high school were all next door to each other on the same street. So, as we grew up, all we had to do was “look left” to see what was lying ahead of us. Once we graduated high school, we couldn’t just look left to see the next step. But we could look all around and choose a new opportunity in any direction. That was the message of Mary Margaret’s speech. And looking back – wow, what a fitting message it was for the three of us and our friendship! We’ve each looked all around and chosen our “somewhere new.” And it’s been beautiful for all of us.

We were so proud of Mary Margaret when she went to NYU and SO EXCITED to visit her over our first college spring break. She took us to see Doubt and Avenue Q, and showed us the highlights of the city. She seemed to already know the ins and outs of New York like the back of her hand, whereas Maggie and I were just really proud of ourselves for managing our first flight without an actual grown-up. I adore the bottom right picture of MM at her desk in her dorm room on Fifth Avenue.

There are other pictures of us from the college years, on discs and drives I can’t locate at the moment. We visited all each other’s schools and saw one another at home over the summer. Mary Margaret and I helped out at Maggie’s wedding – Mary Margaret even made the wedding dress herself! We all graduated, and we all moved – Mary Margaret spent a year volunteering in East Jerusalem before returning to her beloved NYC to start her theater career. But the Triangle has stayed strong always!

Mary Margaret had to be in Israel when I got married, but she came with me to my bridal shower and a dress fitting afterwards. I was glad we got to share those special moments together!

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The Triangle really only worked because Maggie and Mary Margaret were such good friends to my sister Laura as well. Laura and I were in the same grade and together all the time – it made my life so much easier that they welcomed her, and even though I wasn’t always keen on sharing, I’m so glad Laura got to enjoy their friendship too.

In our mid twenties, when Laura went on hospice care, Mary Margaret flew down to spend time with both of us (Maggie did too, with her baby), and that tells you everything you need to know about the Triangle, in my opinion.

As soon as little Naomi was big enough to travel, it was time for a long overdue Triangle Reunion in New York. Maggie and I had been dying to see for ourselves the life Mary Margaret had built up there, from visiting her adorable Brooklyn apartment to seeing her workplaces in Manhattan and meeting one of her new(er) BFFs, Val. (The Triangle always welcomes new BFFs, there’s plenty love to go around!)

Left: Mary Margaret showing me one of the stages where she worked. Right: We went to see Kinky Boots and then out for drinks. (In case you’re wondering, Kinky Boots was SO GOOD.)

Mary Margaret has always been THE BEST at presents – here are some of my favorites. Left: The super soft scarf she knitted me. Right: A Lady Gaga-style Christmas stocking for my dogs, which says “Nike & Clio, Little Monsters.” This is actually the best gift I’ve ever gotten tbh. It hangs on that mirror year round because it’s way too good to only come out at Christmas.

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I’ve mentioned on this blog before I’m not super into holidays. But I do get super excited to see my best friends every year at Christmas!! In spite of all the busyness and the family obligations, we always make a little time for one another, and it is truly a highlight of the whole year.

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A rare Triangle photo from our last Christmas together. Mary Margaret and I were meeting Maggie’s youngest for the first time.

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The 30th picture: Maggie’s program bio from Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2005. From 13 to 30, it’s been an incredible journey. I’m really in awe of how our friendship has helped carry us from adolescence into the full, adult lives we lead now. Mary Margaret, you are a one-of-a-kind friend – at every stage of life, through every change, you’ve always been someone Maggie and I are blessed to have in our lives.

It’s been fun, guys! Thanks! And I’m so excited to continue being a witness to the life of such an extraordinary person, and to continue being a part of such a unique friendship.

I love you, Mary Margaret! Happy birthday!


Because I knew you, I have been changed for good

by Maggie

One of my favorite pieces of writing is this short poem by W. S. Merwin

Separation

Your absence has gone through me.
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

This poem is fitting for you, given your affinity for sewing. My home (and memory) is peppered with things you’ve made – my wedding dress, a baby blanket for Naomi, a pink dachshund lovey for Bethany, a pair of knitted socks, a little bag with the letter “N” stitched on it that Naomi takes with her everywhere she goes, a big bag for me. My life is filled with evidence of you – from phrases I use (“the thing about it is…”), exercise I practice (Yoga), podcasts I listen to, books I’ve read (from The Adventures of T.S. Spivet to New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton), the way I begin projects by making a list, songs I love – so many things in my life are stitched with your influence in my life.

Or to put it to music, I have felt since the first time I heard this song, that you were certainly someone who had changed my life for good.

I know it’s corny, but it’s true. And I’ve always known it. You have changed my life both for the better and for good.

I am so excited and grateful for you today.

There are so many things I wanted to do to celebrate you today.

Including, but not limited to

  • Writing and illustrating a children’s book in your honor,
  • Learning the choreography for “Sunrise Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof and making a video with Jillian about how time passes, and how great it is that we’re passing it together
  • Creating a Star Wars themed tale about your adventures living and working in New York City,
  • A video of my kids singing “Happy Birthday, Mary Margaret.” (that one might still happen! Be prepared)
  • A list of 30 things I have in my life thanks to you

Somehow, my desire to find the perfect way to honor and celebrate you has left me here – at noon on your birthday – with none of the extravagant plans I had hoped to execute in your honor past step 2 or 3 in execution, but full of gratitude for the things you bring to my life.

Rather than listing 30 of those things, I’m going to share two that are on my heart now.

  • Making Plans. I largely credit you with teaching me how to plan. Before we were friends (and I realize that at this point in our lives we’ve been friends for more than half of our lives, so I don’t have much life to compare this to), I did not realize that I could make a plan to get something I wanted in my life, take action on it, and make it happen. Maybe that is a developmental milestone that would have happened anyway, but I kind of doubt it. You made doing homework, making scrapbooks, learning music, and basically everything else – fun. Thanks to you, I realized how much I enjoyed the feeling of being prepared to do my best. I don’t think I would have stumbled upon that knowledge without you.
  • Honoring your truth. You are one of the people in the world in the blessed and cursed position of being able to do literally anything with your life. But, one of the things I’ve noticed is that when we can do anything, we are often afraid to do just what we want. If I could be a doctor, shouldn’t I be? If I could be a famous singer or actor, shouldn’t I be? What will people say if I follow that voice inside of me and do what I want to do? Is that okay? Is that good enough? But you had the courage to be honest about that when you went to college, when you moved to New York, when you decided to work in theater work full time rather than doing it “on the side.” I’m sure it’s not always been easy, but your commitment to your passion has helped me have the courage to follow my own path.

I love you, and I wish you a wonderful, happy, joyous birthday. I hope that you continue to be a presence in my life – even though we’re separated by 1,077 miles. And I hope you continue to make plans, follow your path with courage, and always know that I will be here cheering you on wherever I am!

Motivation Monday, Projects

Wish your alternate self well

One of the things that I’ve found follows me through life is the wondering questions, “what if…”

What if I had majored in x?

What if that relationship had worked out?

What if I had made that move after all?

What if I had turned left instead of right?

I think this idea is most beautifully expressed in Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken:

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I love these two lines of the poem:
“Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back…”
It’s true. There are many decisions we never get to come back to.
In Science fiction, there’s a popular trope of the alternate universe. A parallel world where at one time, one decision was changed and everything that followed was different.
kira_and_the_intendantMy favorite example of this is the alternate universe episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space 9. I’ll be honest, I prefer the DS9 universe where people are kind, ethical, work hard, solve problems, etc. But it’s fun, about once a season, to imagine that this utopian world could have been different. darker. That things weren’t destined to turn out that way.
What does this have to do with motivation?
Sometimes, I find myself falling into the trap of regretting the roads not taken in my life: the opportunities turned down, the choices made or not made.
Then, I remember that there could be an alternate universe out there. A place where I did make that decision. There could be millions upon millions of alternate Maggie’s in the parallel universes out there living out all the dreams, hopes, and desires that I can’t fit into this one life that I am living. She’s living with the positive and negative side effects of that decision, just as I am living with the positive and negative side effects of the decisions I’ve made in my life.
parallel-universe-reality.jpg
Then, for whatever decision I’m feeling wistful about today, I wish that alternate universe Maggie well.
I hope that whatever decision she made – whether it was to choose a different job, travel the world, spend a year in silent meditation in a cave in Bangladesh, become a vegan – worked out well for her and that she’s happy. Then, I choose to wish myself well, too. Because unless we discover an anomaly in the space-time continuum, this is the only universe I get to experience. And I get to experience less of it when I’m dreaming and imaging I’m living some other version of my life.
So, I hope you enjoy our wonderful universe this week, and wish all of the alternate realities out there a great week, too!
Projects

Something Swell on Saturday

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. On Saturdays, Mary Margaret plans to post something from the week that made her smile.

There were again a number of smile-worthy moments this week. For instance, I saw three Franciscan nuns in line at the Seven-Eleven store on Tuesday (7/11) waiting for their free slurpee! This faux-holiday of frozen beverages is another one that definitely belongs on our previous post about made-up annual events! Anyway, by far the week’s smiling-est winner was that my friend Faith became engaged to her person–Shawn!  While celebrating their dating anniversary, he asked THE QUESTION (you know the one) and after agreeing, she asked him right back, which may be one of the most adorable things I’ve ever heard.

This news caused me to use a terrible, invented word mash-up to describe this situation while hanging out with Faith on Wednesday in Bryant Park.  I told her I was a joy-eur of her news! I took the word joy, then repurposed the word voyeur, (which is totally the wrong word, given its racy, salacious definition), and what I mean was that I am given joy by seeing their joy! It’s a blessing to have witnessed from the sidelines the growth of their love and relationship from its inception. I remember when Faith first told me that she was seeing this new guy, Shawn, and I could tell from the start that she was (this is the only appropriate word) smitten! Next I got the chance to meet him, hang out with him, see the two of them together, see the way they looked at one another, heard something of how they cared for one another…

Their engagement was not some out-of-the-blue surprise, and for me, that’s the best way– when you feel that it has happened  because it seemed natural and right. Probably most of us have experienced the feeling of hearing news of an engagement and trying to share the celebratory mood while feeling a tug of uncertainty. In wanting the best for people we love and care for, we may still have questions about their choices on many things, including their partner. Ours frequently then becomes the task of trusting the person we love in their choices– acknowledging that as an outsider we can never be fully privy to the complexities and depth of the couple’s relationship. Other times, like now with Faith, the joy is easy, and the news seems like the most obvious thing in the world. It’s not fairy-tales and roses from here on out;  rather, I feel like they can and will face what comes (the good, the bad, and the ugly) as partners. I love knowing that they will journey through life together, and who doesn’t want this kind of love for their friends?

I’ve long been grateful for Faith’s friendship, and now I’m so grateful that I’ve gotten to ride along a bit on their journey as a couple, and now share their joy! Congratulations and so much love to them this week!!

 

Projects

Millennials…

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. We’re all a part of the millennial generation. According to Wikipedia (which we’ll use as a source, since we’re all millennials here): Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends. Demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years.

This week, Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian will share their thoughts on how or whether they feel like the labels and stereotypes associated with millennials apply to us.


Maggie
I have seen this video shared by people on the internet so many times. Every time there’s a caption like “Simon Sinek saves the world.” “Simon Sinek on how to fix millennials.” “I blame the parents.” Blah. Blah. Blah.
If you have 20 minutes, Simon’s observations are interesting, if condescending.

 

John Christ, a comedian, has also capitalized on our cultural “truth” about millennials in a series of amusing, if condescending, youtube videos.

I hate to be a “snow flake” or a “whimp” who just can’t take a joke…but I feel like these kinds of things, while they may have their place in our conversation don’t really capture the whole story here. I’m so frustrated by the stereotype of millennials. Maybe I’m being a millennial here, but…these things don’t describe me. I don’t feel like I’ve been ruined by text messages, Facebook likes, instagram or participation trophies. I’m not traumatized by getting unfriended by someone. I don’t feel like I’m allergic to work. I don’t feel like I’m entitled to a corner office.

I do feel like I was played by the system. I believed that by working hard in school (and I worked very hard and got really good grades), I would be able to get a good job when I graduated from college. You know, the kind where you can pay off your student loans and pay the rent for an apartment that didn’t have a cockroach problem. I didn’t need a corner office, a fancy title, or free snacks.

I expected that I could find an entry level white collar opportunity in some field. Accounting. Banking. Consulting. Something. Anything. Literally anything. But that was a luxury reserved for people who graduated in another time.

I graduated from college in 2009. And, I don’t know if you know this, but the World economy nearly collapsed, the housing market went belly up, and on top of that we (the collective, United States of America, “we”) ended the shuttle program, which was kind of a big deal for Florida’s Space Coast where I happened to find myself as a freshly minted college graduate in search of a first job.

I applied for a lot of jobs, and I got several. At one point, I had three part time jobs. All paid less than $10/hour. That was not fun. But, I struggled to find a better opportunity, for every “entry level” job I found, there was this line at the bottom “minimum five years of experience.” Where was I supposed to get this experience? I thought about moving somewhere else…but how was I supposed to afford to move? What if there weren’t any jobs there either?

At one point, I thought, “I have a degree in mathematics, surely I could get a job as a math teacher.” BUT….no. Budget cuts in our local school system meant that they weren’t hiring smart, enthusiastic people without a teaching certificate. So…I thought about going to graduate school to actually get qualified to do something, but wasn’t wild about the idea of borrowing more money and still not actually having a job.

I feel more like the guy in this Zen Riddles for Millennials than the millennial getting engaged or the people being described by Simon Sinek.

Maybe I’m too bitter about this. Maybe I don’t have enough perspective to see the reality of this situation. Maybe I don’t know a diverse enough collection of millennials to really appreciate how shallow, entitled, and addicted to screens we all are. I’m just saying…I think there is more to this story.

I’m not saying I’m retroactively entitled to a job. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to figure out some things. I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for the career and business I’ve found. But I am saying that this should be a part of the conversation.


Mary Margaret

While brainstorming topics for the blog, Maggie tossed out a suggestion she’s mentioned before: Let’s write about what it means to be a Millennial. And I said…

Okayyyyy….but I’m not even really sure what that means.

Which pretty much says it all.

I’ve heard the term peppered throughout popular discourse—  disparaged by baby boomers, contrasted with Gen-Xers—without ever actually tuning in enough to define what it entails. But what I’ve learned since Maggie’s suggestion about my inclusion in this generation is rather handily contained in my response and reaction.

For one thing, I had an absolutely “millennial” solution to my problem. (Insert eye roll here) I immediately Googled the term, pulling up the Wikipedia page to skim through general definitions and subject headings. My adaptability to ever-changing technologies and information sources is undoubtedly a salient feature of my generation, and one that I’ll happily acknowledge.  I’m glad I remember when few people owned a personal cell phone or computer, when email was new, and when school research papers were drawn together using mystical elements like card catalogs, libraries, and reference books. Simultaneously, I’m glad that by the time I was in college, accessing online source material was common and expected, so I learned to be a discerning consumer of this new stream of information. Growing up with the growth of the Internet has saved our generation from the struggle faced by some of our parents in becoming literate with these new technologies. I’m grateful to have absorbed early that not everything you read on the Web is reliable, and that there’s really no such thing as privacy in that space. I like my inclusion in a demographic that straddles a recognition of what digital technology has given us, while possessing an ease of facility in its use. (Gracious, these kids today don’t even know what a pay phone is!)

I also admit to accompanying many of my peers in a trend of “delayed rites of passage” compared to early generations. While I moved away from home, got my degree and became financially independent not long after University, I haven’t married, bought a house, had kids… frequently pointed to as milestones of “adulting.” I also check other Millennial boxes like my career flexibility and desire to follow personal interests and passions in my job. Other points ring false for me, though, (such as the idea that Millennials are less religious, since my faith is critical to me and my worldview), and it is this rejection of the label that is perhaps most telling.

From Wikipedia, I learned my favorite thing about being a Millennial, which is that only a minority of us actually identifies as being Millennial!  So I thought, oh yes, I’m a Millennial (but not really, don’t put try and box me in and think you’ve understood me!) What I garner from this point is something I see reflected in the entire article–  constant references to our make-up as the most diverse generation, as well as the most educated. For better or worse, perhaps this awareness of our variations, paired with our knowledge of diversity in the larger world, makes us rail against identifying as groups. I mentioned briefly in our feminism post that I push back against self-identifying with labels, this slivering up of societal segments. Perhaps its’ my Millennial narcissism (cue second eye roll) that leads me to see myself (but also others!) as incredibly complex creatures that resist defining. Perhaps it’s my Millennial social liberalism that desires to see less fragmentation in our society and this pitting ourselves into different camps with different goals and motivations. Maybe it’s my Millennial positivism (umm, not totally sure this is me, actually) that hopes for this!

I dislike like the idea of belonging to the ME generation in many ways; I may in fact believe the selfie stick is what’s wrong with society at large. But if my Baby Boomer parents sought to instill in me a sense of self-esteem and specialness, the effect might actually have been that that while I often struggle to see ME this way, I very much believe this about YOU. The fundamental uniqueness and value of the individual is elemental to me, and it’s how I’d like to approach all my interactions with others, as much as I may fail practically at this.

If I’m important, so are you, so are we all. Millennial enough for you?


Jillian

I’m a millennial and I love it and I love millennials. I love our selfies and our internet slang and our memes. I love our technology obsessions and our new expectations about what our lives should look like.

If you belong to an older generation and you dislike millennials, I have some difficult news for you. It isn’t millennials you hate. It’s change.

For centuries, the invention of the printing press was considered the most pivotal moment in the history of civilization. Suddenly information could be mass produced. Knowledge could be handed out and passed around. Ideas could be shipped across borders in boxes.

Before, the world’s intellect was contained in small collections of rare, hand-written manuscripts. Only scholars and priests could read – no one else had any reason to. Suddenly, with the printing press, everyone had a reason to learn to read. Knowledge was diffused among the people, and with that, power was likewise diffused. Lay people could read the Bible for the first time in history, and Protestantism could be born. News could be disseminated and political pamphlets spread around – that’s how a revolution was begun and the world’s first modern democracy was born. And once people had a reason to read, people could also write. People could maintain relationships with loved ones across long distances through letters, giving them greater freedom to leave home and pursue new and better opportunities.

Once the printing press was invented, the world caught fire with intellectual growth and unimaginable possibilities. Everything changed.

Now, think about the invention of the internet.

No more is the printing press the most pivotal moment in the history of civilization. Now, the entire world’s catalog of knowledge and ideas is accessible via my smart phone or your Apple watch. I not only can talk to my friends anywhere in the world at any time – I can meet entirely new people anywhere in the world on social media. I can pay bills, consult with a doctor, get a degree and petition my government all online. I can broadcast my own ideas to the world, and if they resonate with other people, I might be heard by millions.

The most pivotal moment in the history of the world is this one, right now.

The power and possibilities of the internet have expanded so rapidly and are still expanding so rapidly that we have no idea where they will lead, what new responsibilities will come, what new problems, or how we will face them. That’s scary, but it’s unstoppable. The future is exploding. And we are alive to see where it all goes and even to participate.

I think about all this wildness, all this excitement, all this danger, all this newness, all this profundity… And then I hear people talking about how the young people today should be more like the young people of yesterday.

It’s like a record scratch. What? Do you not see what’s happening? How could my generation possibly be like your generation? And how would we survive this cultural explosion if we were?

Your generation, your youth, were great. And so are ours. It’s not better, it’s different.

The march of progress is inevitable. And when something like the invention of the internet happens, that march becomes a tidal wave. So, you can disdain these developments and most of all the way they’ve changed people. Or you can appreciate the extraordinary magnitude of this moment and marvel at the unprecedented ways in which humankind is adapting to this radically new environment.

I’m a millennial but I’m an old millennial. The kids my husband teaches are young millennials, and they’re much different than me. I hope I never grow to look on their habits, attitudes or values with disgust – they were born into a different world than I was, though our births were only 15 years apart. I hope I always maintain a joyful curiosity about the perspectives of the young and an openness to the wondrous complexities of progress.

For now, I’ll proudly wear the millennial label in honor of this spectacular moment in time.

In the words of every millennial’s favorite Broadway musical, “Look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now.”