creativity. to be adept at creation. making things. ideas into reality. this, to me, is creativity.

i’ve always considered it to be an asset, to have the gift of giving ideas life through reality. doing it well, that is. there are times – usually in the shower, in the car, in the middle of a meeting – that the randomness floating around in my head suddenly converges into something almost tangible, and I am suddenly driven to create something. these are, of course, the most inconvenient times to drop everything and start anew with that precious and rare clarity that accompanies inspiration.

but why? what is it about creativity, and creation really, that so drives us? As ironic as this might seem here, on a very public blog, for example, I’m usually terrified to read something artistic that I’ve written (poetry, prose, whatever) to people I know. I feel as though I’m naked somehow, exposing my true self through my words. It’s odd, because if you know me, you’ve most likely talked to me, and if you’ve talked to me, you’ve experienced my words firsthand. What is it about premeditated words, which are probably less accurate descriptions of my personality anyway, that scare me so much? The fact that I chose them? The idea that if someone doesn’t like them they don’t like me? Though I’ve learned over the years that words can be as deceptive as they can be revealing, there’s something about them that just gets me. Song lyrics. Poems. The perfect combination that falls so effortlessly from someone’s mouth. They’re all beautiful, they’re all revealing, and they’re all terrifyingly so.

I wrote my first song about a month ago. It was an accident and not very good. Simplistic compared to musical genius that already exists, but it was mine. What drove me to do it? No idea. I’d love to write more and am determined that I will, but I’m finding it difficult to have a steady stream of inspiration, especially in the moments that I have the freedom or the means to write down what I’m thinking.

Though I haven’t yet thought about them, and actually haven’t had concrete resolutions in awhile (ie a list of specific things), I think this is something I would really like to pursue. I’m pretty sure I’ll never make a song that tops charts or even makes it far beyond the walls of my apartment, but as an exercise in creativity, for the love of music, and the obsession with words, I want to do it. I will do it. I put it here so that it’s something that’s not just in my head. I want people to ask me how it’s coming. I want to be accountable. Will I be terrified to share them, my songs, my words, with the world? Of course. Is that kind of exhilarating? Definitely.

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i’ll be the first to tell you that anger is not an emotion i experience much. i can count on one hand the number of times in my life that i’ve been truly angry, and when i say angry, i mean so emotionally heated that nothing that comes out of my mouth is censored in any way – i mean so upset that tears mix simultaneously with shouts – i mean so much in the moment that there is room for nothing else in my mind. this, for me, is anger, and it doesn’t happen often.

somewhat recently i truly experienced anger for the first time. it was scary, actually. i could almost step back from the scene and could see myself, red in the face, voice hoarse, spitting words that normally never enter my vocabulary. this is not me, and it’s my belief that anything that could drive me to this isn’t good for me either.

stepping outside of yourself is surreal in itself, and with it comes clarity. clarity can be beautiful, and people love to describe it as a state to achieve, as in “finding yourself” and things like that. to be ready for clarity, though, means that you must also be ready for change, pain, and numbness. yup, numbness. it may be the last thing you consider will happen once achieving self-awareness and understanding in a situation, but sometimes the shock of it all can either smack you into an unfeeling state or scare you into protecting yourself by not feeling at all. i was of the second, i believe. for the past month and a half, i’d felt this way – numb – defending myself. it wasn’t pretty, but it was what it was. maybe i needed it in the aftermath of a messy breakup, just enough time to not be broken anew to begin the healing process. regardless, i knew it needed to change, that i couldn’t stay numb forever.

and then, tonight, i tried meditation. i’ve done some here and there over the past couple years as part of a semi-consistent yoga practice, but i’ve been out of the loop for the past 9 months or so. i loved (and will be soon getting back into) yoga because of the peace it brought me, no matter how rough the day. it was also physically and mentally challening in a different way than anything else i’d ever done. everything seems simple and suddenly unimportant when your mind is cleared of all else. though i have yet to make it back to yoga, tonight i attended a buddhist service at a temple just north of ATL, and here i found similar peace.

i didn’t really know what to expect. per the advice of my friends i wore stretchy clothes to be able to sit on the floor for awhile and be comfortable. we sat on plush, decorative pillows with individual pillows filled with sand on top of them. each person on the floor had a small wooden table in front at the perfect height for taking notes (lots of people were) or storing shawls. the front of the room glittered in shades of gold and bright, tropical colors with a few large buddha and a portrait of the dali lama as the focal points. everything sat on intricately-carved wooden shelves. beautiful. though very different, i couldn’t help but feel at home here, like the catholic masses of my youth – the ancient tradition, the chants in forgotten languages. the message here, though, was presented a bit differently, with more meditation, and with less ritual. it was lovely.

it’s hard to accurately describe the sensation of the meditation. i learned later that it lasted 20 minutes. it felt like 2. it first it was very difficult to calm my mind, one this week wrought with frustration, sadness, and loneliness. this isn’t my normal state of mind, but hey, it happens to everyone once in awhile. after a couple of minutes, though, with the guidance of the monk, these feelings and thoughts melted together into a gray background and gray foreground with no beginning and no end. each time a thought began to approach my space, i dissolved it and imagined it flying away as sand in the wind. this worked surprisingly well. conscious, lucid dreaming. i suppose that’s the closest analogy i can think of. my brain felt empty but alive and awake while my body began to eventually feel so heavy that i became lightheaded. its weight felt like the weight of sleep, but without the mental relaxation. complete surrender. vulnerability. this is what i had been avoiding this whole time, this month and a half since a rough break up involving a lot of heartache and pain. here it was, and i could dissolve it with a silent command. my gray space remained pure. light and darkness together behind closed eyelids. for these 20 minutes, nothing save a stray cough or the start of the air conditioner encroached on my space. it was beautiful. coming out of the meditation felt like waking up on a saturday morning, with heavy eyes and confusion about time and place. luckily, the monk eased into the discussion.

it would be a bit complicated to condense the message of the almost hour-long service into a sentence or two, but at times, i felt as if the monk was speaking directly to me. about my life. right. now. he spoke of the cyclical nature of happiness, how truth is simultaneously the cause and cure of suffering, how situations are defined by reactions, and how these reactions ripple forward as a stone’s aftermath in a calm pond. all of a sudden, though he said nothing difficult to understand, everything that seemed so complicated and dramatic became so simple. and then there was peace.

we left the temple and walked into a chilly night windy with impending storms. i felt like it all fit, the peace and the fragile peace of the weather. and here i sit, windows open to the breeze, and the peace remains. it’s not a lightness exactly, more a lack of tension or drama or discomfort. in this moment, as it did in the temple glittering of gold and colors, everything has become simple, and i hope that this will stay with me as the pressures of every day life reinitiate tomorrow. i guess the only way to make sure it does is to pay this feeling forward. every day. creating loveliness.

life is so simple, really. act consciously, love fully, and create happiness by helping others to be happy. easy enough, right?

it has now been over 2 years since i visited san pedro de atacama, a town situated in the driest desert in the world, the atacama desert, in northern chile. i had an amazing time and remember the experience often, but i had never taken the time think of it in this way. a prompt at a writing group tonight asking us to write in the voice of another writer (in this case toni morrison) got me thinking about that experience but through someone else’s voice. you never know what will come out, and in this case, this is what did. enjoy!

friendly arms and shoulders

“It is a dizziness more than anything else, and she cannot be sure whether it is coming or going, rolling, swelling, subsiding into pain. Bright light intensifies it, the only relief rushing in the wind and sand as it opens up beneath the board. Rushing, turning, lurching, and finally the fall. The dizziness returns.

The sand is endless here. Bright. Blinding. Infinite, though not as much as the salt. Some would say barren, but they do not see the treasure cleverly covered in the seemingly monochromatic landscape, and they cannot decipher where one ends and the other begins. The dizziness is pervasive and infinite itself. As it rolls in, it sweeps up everything in its path, the salt, the sand, the wind, all of it, until it’s difficult to tell from where it came.

endless salt flats

The dizziness doesn’t truly begin until she lets herself go, surrenders to relaxation, a soft bed, the murmurs of the desert. Even then it remains in obscurity. It is an invisible force for it has no concrete origin, finally coiling around her brain as a snake around its prey, slow, painful, inevitable. On a normal day, the inevitability would keep her in the soft bed among the early morning murmurs of the desert, eyes shielded from the bright sun, sand, salt. Today is not a normal day.  She fumbles in the darkness, and the pain is blinding. She considers again the comfort and the softness, but once passed today will be lost, and she cannot willingly sacrifice this opportunity. Friendly arms and shoulders, the bitter cold of the dark desert, the pervasive dizziness, and all at once she is on the bus and the engine shudders to life. The road is bumpy, each jolt a reminder of the pain. Friendly shoulders, in this moment, are not enough. For two hours the journey continues and without volition, the dizziness comes and goes, washing over her senses until she cannot remember when it began, from where it came, and how to breathe.

beautiful steam from geyser tatio at 4,000+ meters above sea level

Silence. Stillness. Arrival. The steam hangs over the “barren” landscape, it is pervasive, it is beautiful. Though she doesn’t know how they got here, the pain and dizziness are still present and more intense for the brightness and beauty of the steam. She can’t breathe. Steaming cups, floating tea leaves. The tea, intended to soothe, sits acidly in her mouth as she attempts to swallow. She feels like a stranger in this body, so debilitated by the invisible dizziness and coiling pain, and she can hardly find the strength to approach the beautiful steam. The mountains, of which she is in the center, cloud before her eyes as the steam rises, turns, and rolls out over the landscape toward the sand, the salt, the rising sun.

“Bolivia,” she hears through muffled ears. Spanish.  Gestures toward the mountains, the salt, the distant and yet not so distant sunrise. If she could break the invisible force, she would, and revel in the warming steam of the geysers , again find herself in comfort. Not today. A couple of hours, blinding sunlight, friendly arms and shoulders, and again she is on the bus. The journey begins again, downward, and the dizziness begins to subside, washing less and less over her senses, until she believes that she may have beaten the invisible force. The sun again is blinding on the “barren” landscape, an endless horizon of salt, sand, and mountains. The mountains have become volcanoes, and Bolivia seems less muffled but further toward the distance. Her breath has returned, the pain now only a dull ache, and she is suddenly in the back of a truck, bracing her arms, her legs, and the multiple wooden slats beneath her.

Silence. Stillness. Arrival. With stillness returns the dizziness, again swelling and subsiding until she can’t decipher from where it came and how. Her breath again is shallow, her eyelids heavy. Friendly backs, each covered by a board, disappear toward the edge of the horizon, the end of the sand. On a normal day, the dizziness would keep her in the back of the truck huddled uncomfortably but securely among the remaining wooden slats surrounded by stray sand and salt. Today is not a normal day. Friendly hands and shoulders, the blazing heat of the infinite sand and sun, and she is at the edge looking down over the landscape. The slope is steep, her legs are weak, and she has never felt as unsure of her balance and dexterity as in this moment. The board is stable and strong beneath her unsteady feet, and suddenly, without volition, an invisible force propels her forward, downward. For a moment she finds relief rushing in the wind and sand as it opens up beneath the board. Rushing, turning, lurching, and finally the fall. The dizziness returns.

sandboarding

It seems as endless as the desert, this invisible force. As the sand is, it is bright, blinding, and infinite. Though she cannot decipher where and when it began, it is not monochromatic nor is it barren. It is painful, yes, but suddenly it all becomes perfectly clear, and for the first time on this extraordinary day she can see the treasures cleverly covered not in the sand, the salt, the mountains, the volcanoes, or the steam, but in the experience of being outside herself. She gives into the feeling and continues down the dune, the sand rushing beneath the board, the endlessness rushing to meet her much more quickly and unexpectedly than she imagined. If she is still on her feet, it is because it hasn’t occurred to her to arrive any other way, and in her motion she is a part of the invisible and infinite force pervading, rolling, and finally subsiding.”

i love my ‘hood. i like to think of it as “up and coming” with dilapidated bungalows from the early 1900’s sitting alongside modern apartment buildings boasting electronic security cards, pools, gyms, and parking decks. in the two years since i’ve moved into my apartment, the “up” of the “up and coming” title has become even more true as parks have replaced empty lots, trails have appeared that connect the ‘hood seamlessly to others, and abandoned buildings have suddenly become homes to coffee shops, bars, and boutiques. my ‘hood is arguably one of the more bicycle/pedestrian friendly of the city, and you can see it – people walking their dogs and pushing children in strollers, people zooming down the steep hills on bikes. though i’ve always been conscious that i am in a city and that it’s necessary to be aware of your surroundings, i’ve never felt unsafe here. never.

the vibrancy of the city, parade style (october 2011)

well, that was before. over the past few months, there has been a marked increase in muggings in mine and the surrounding ‘hoods, none of which have had problems of this scale in the past. i’ve seen it in the papers, i’ve seen it on neighborhood message boards, i’ve heard it from my friends – some of them know because their friends were the ones getting mugged. after the first couple of incidents, i kept my eyes open a little wider and always asked for friends to accompany me home by bike (thanks, guys!). after the next few though, it became apparent that:

1. something must have changed for the number to rise so dramatically so quickly.

2. the incidents may not have been independent of each other.

3. this isn’t going away. for now anyway.

at first it was sad, lamentable that my beautiful ‘hood with all of its new,  beautiful parks and walking trails was becoming an undesirable place to walk around and enjoy the connectivity and vibrancy that nice ‘hoods can offer in a city. i still keep my eyes wide open and enlist the help of friends sometimes, but after thinking about it more and hearing about yet another incident today involving the friend of friend, i’ve decided i’ve had enough of sadness. i still lament what’s happening, but instead of making me sad, it’s starting to make me angry.

i understand that not everyone has my financial situation or lifestyle due to factors beyond his control, but your actions and reactions to your situation are choices. the ruthlessness and selfishness of people disgusts me. maybe it’s desperation, but then where do a beautiful suit and a loaded handgun come from? yes, one of these incidents involved a well-dressed man pulling (and immediately shooting) a handgun to snatch a purse. atlanta is not the only city with this problem, i realize. a city naturally lends itself to such things since the interconnectedness and density allows people to get from place to place without being isolated in a car. of course you come in contact with more people. unfortunately, this isn’t always a positive thing.

beyond the mere environmental benefits of public transportation, urban density, and interconnectedness, it’s this social aspect of it all that attracts me to cities. i love the vibrancy, diversity, and life in every corner. i love how the cultures of ‘hoods can differ dramatically in a small space. i love how people creatively make the most of the space they have to do beautiful things. i love my bike. i love being able to travel in the midst of all of this and to feel like i’m part of it. a lot of people, especially around atlanta more than places like nyc or san francisco, don’t feel this way though. a lot of factors in atlanta’s past have influenced these attitudes and the subsequent development of the city, but incidents like these recent ocurrences are the things that reinforce our past prejudices and mistakes. i think most people would love to have faith in humanity and are slow to believe – these things don’t help. it’s on a local scale this time, yes, but how often do “a couple of rotten apples” spoil so many adventures and opportunities for the fearful around the world? i’m tired of it, and i’m tired of having to justify my optimism and hope to the skeptics.

the beltline, the newest endeavor in increasing atlanta’s connectivity

i am determined not to be a victim, or at least to do everything in my power not to become one. i want so badly for atlanta to be progressive, to be assertive, and to care more for itself than to let incidents like this ruin some of its most charming neighborhoods. we need to start taking accountability for ourselves and our city instead of lamenting the problems we’ve already recognized that we have.

victims we are not, atlanta. now let’s do something about it.

april was ridiculous, hence the delay in posting. between visits from family and friends, my birthday, and crazy weekend adventures, i hardly had time to breathe, much less write a coherent post. i’m sure you guys were very expectant…

birthday celebration with family (april 2012)

so about a week and some change ago, i turned 26. the entire weekend was a blast between my boyfriend’s visit, ATLien festivals, good friends, family, and amazing food and drinks. it was odd in that i had already felt like i was 26 and had for about 3 months prior. though actually becoming 26 didn’t feel any different, it did get me thinking about where i am and how i got here – how anyone gets “here,” really.

i’m at the age now where people fall everywhere along the spectrum – i have friends that are happily married and just as many that are happily single. i have friends that own houses (or are looking at least) and just as many that live in big houses with 3 other roomates. i have friends that love their jobs, friends that hate them, and friends so indifferent that it doesn’t even matter. i have friends that are out and about every night doing something different and friends that would love nothing better than to sit at home and chill. 26 got me thinking, as new chapters in my life always do, and i figured that i’m doing pretty ok on this spectrum; i like my job, live solita in an apartment in a neighborhood i love, have a great group of friends, an amazing family close by, and an incredible boyfriend. no complaints. i find myself, though, almost having to justify my happiness somehow to people not at the same level of contentment or happiness with their own lives. the conversations go something like this:

“but you live close enough to places to ride your bike. i can’t, i wish my neighborhood was like that.”

“you’re so lucky you like your job!”

“atlanta is boring, there’s nothing to do here.”

“where are all the cool people? i never seem to meet them.”

etc.

aquarium adventures with the boyfriend (april 2012)

i understand that sometimes we happen to situations and sometimes they happen to us, but i’m also a firm believer that you are only a victim of your circumstances if you choose to be that way. the life i lead now, for the most  part, was my choice. our lives are our own creations whether we realize it in the moment or not, and a number of my conscious choices have led me to build the life i have for myself. when i first started my apartment search, living in a pedestrian/bicycle-friendly environment was important to me, so i made it happen – i was restless so i sought out volunteer opportunities in the city and met amazing people i now call my friends – though it didn’t offer the most pay or best benefits of my offers at the time, i chose the job i did because i knew i would like it – i maintain a loving relationship with my boyfriend who lives a thousand miles away because it’s important to me – likewise, i’ve filtered negative people out of my life, because that’s also important to me. my life is just as i’ve built it, and though it hasn’t always been easy, i’ve always made the best of what i’ve had. will this always be my happiest state? probably not. but when that time comes that it isn’t, i’ll hopefully recognize it and make the necessary decisions to make it so again. we’re in flux, our lives should likewise be in flux, and envy of someone else’s situation is wasted energy and an invitation only to discontent and unhappiness.

i’m extremely thankful for what i have and the opportunities i’ve been given to make it so. though life’s not perfect and never will be, that’s all you can do, really – be thankful and follow your intuition to only make it better.

so cheers, 26, to the path ahead, wherever it may lead.

i was in 7th grade when flared jeans became stylish again. well, at the time, i didn’t really believe the “again” part, even when my mom insisted to me that she’d worn “bell bottoms” as a teenager. please. she told me that everything comes back around eventually, which if you think about it in the grand scheme of things, makes sense. seasons are cyclical, there are defined life cycles innately connected to biology, there are tides, my nails grow back when i cut them, etc. the thought at the time though, having only known such a limited time frame, seemed ridiculous. now, however, the thought of completely, 100% new ideas almost seems so.

recently i’ve wondered if that also applies to people – beyond our mere biology (which we can’t control), are we cyclical in a way as well? we’d all love to think that we’re growing and changing (hopefully for the better) all the time, and most assuredly we are – but are we really changing into something so different than what we ever were before? i talked about overcoming fears and switching your personality in accordance in the last post, and i do believe that to be possible and true – i also believe, however, that there will always be some constants present that will manifest themselves, albeit differently each time, over and over again, creating and maintaining a cycle.

case and point: brasil. if you had the patience, the time, and the desire, you could go to the first posts of this very blog in 2008 and read about my time spent in brasil. it was the reason i created a blog in the first place, and that would also explain why its name is the portuguese word for “embrace.” i spent 3 months, which at the time felt like a lifetime, living with a brasilian family and working in a brasilian engineering firm during the summer of 2008. the details of my experience can be found in the blog, but the experience itself, though short, has impacted me in ways i continue to feel today and every day, really. it’s more than the culture, it’s more than the people, it’s more than the music, the food, and the memories (of which i have lots) – it can only be expressed as a feeling, i suppose, which isn’t really much of an expression at all. in brasil i was scared, excited, overwhelmed, relaxed, challenged, out of place, fulfilled and yet not. inspired. awe-struck. happy. completely bipolar. all of these weren’t so much effects of brasil in and of itself as much as me being thrown into a completely unfamiliar place. it was terrifying. it was incredible. i wouldn’t trade it for the world.

every so often i feel like this again, though not in such extremes. and when i do, i get nostalgic (com saudades as they say in portuguese), and have incredible urges to listen to music in portuguese, read articles, and look at pictures. it often inspires me to write also, and until today i’d never put my finger on exactly why. i think i’m getting closer anyway… i do miss brasil, yes – i still have my brasilian family there and numerous friends – i plan on making it back for a visit next year, actually, but this isn’t the point. it will be different than when i lived there, and that’s ok. the point is that when i start to feel in my life here as i did there a bit – unsettled yet settled, overwhelmed, challenged, etc – i start to feel as if i’m there again, back in my 22 year-old body, painstakingly attempting to read “the little prince,” a child’s book, in portuguese. i can almost feel the constant humidity of the morning downpours through my window, i can see the blue of the ocean from the bus window on my way to work, i can feel the pride and insult at the reactions to my attempts to do things by myself, like go to the store or ride the bus. and maybe because i’m feeling a little like that but not to such extremes, i think i miss it. thinking in a different language gives you a different perspective that i feel at the tip of my tongue most days but can’t quite grasp because everything is eerily familiar and, well, easy here. i miss that too.

Image

salvador, brasil - may 2008

so today i’ve listened to vanessa da mata, forró, and other random brasilian music. all. day. i’ve felt the humidity of the morning rains in the humidity of impending storms here in atlanta. again i’m in a position of missing someone who lives thousands of miles away. again i’m fulfilled but not quite so. it’s on the tip of my tongue, and i guess i’m just hoping the music will coax it out. and so the cycle continues.

so you can have more than one love, it seems. just as i thought that biking had come to define a huge part of me (and it does, granted) and that another hobby could never come as close, i found, in spite of my fear of heights and inherent upper body weakness, rock climbing.

my first adventure to stone summit

let’s keep in mind that i’m only 5 feet tall. let’s also keep in mind that i’m terrified of the sensation of falling, which loosely translates to a fear of heights. in spite of these things, i agreed to go climbing with my boyfriend who has been doing it since college. i’m pretty open-minded and like trying new things, so why not? it was hard. very hard. my upper body was sore for 5 days after the fact. but. i had a BLAST.

probably most of you don’t care that i now have a new hobby, and if you see me on a regular basis, you’ve probably been dragged along to the gym or have heard about it way more than you’d like. the thing about this, though, is that its quick introduction and subsequent integration into my routine and lifestyle reflects some parts of my personality that weren’t ever so clear before…

1. i fall fast, not literally (i hope). when i find someone i like, i go all in. when i find something i like, likewise. i tend to trust people before making them earn it, which isn’t always a great thing, but it’s usually how it goes. climbing had nothing to prove to me but one amazing time and i was smitten. it probably helped that i went with people i trusted and that i always have fun with my boyfriend anyway, but it was enough. subsequent trips with friends and family have further proven that i’ve gone all in, and i’m totally cool with that.

2. when i decide, i make it happen. as soon as i realized/decided that i had fallen for climbing, i made it become a part of my life. i talked/wrote to people i knew who climbed – i started hitting up some gyms at least once a week – i recruited climbing partners – i invested in some gear. so now? the tradition is 3 weeks strong at a local gym to which i can bike, i’ve made weekend efforts to check out further, different places, and my upper body weakness isn’t quite as stark anymore. go figure. it gives me a bit of faith in myself in terms of career and other life decisions, which at times can seem overwhelming. time and time again, life has proven to me that the right answer always becomes apparent somehow on its own, and it’s good to know that when it does, i’ll act and go for it. i guess this is the part of me that took learning spanish/spending a year abroad and turned it into the concrete action of applying for the mc in southern cone. this is also the part that decided engineering would be challenging and graduated 5 years later with 2 degrees. it’s easy to lose it when you’re in a stable, comfortable position and can get away without being challenged every day – apparently it’s not all lost yet…

3. i like being challenged. i can’t help but wonder if part of the appeal of the whole thing is that it takes me COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone – with heights and failure looming in the distance, it’s a perfect recipe. just as engineering and living abroad were challenges, so is climbing in a way that biking never could be. i realize that riding a bike on the street is that for some people, but i’ve grown so confident with it that it’s become second nature, and climbing has now come to fill that void. funny thing is, if you stick with the thing that scares you long enough, it becomes part of you in the opposite way that it was before – whereas before it defined your “negative space” as a personality, it comes to define parts of the personality itself.

my new, beautiful shoes and flannel chalk bag await the adventures of tomorrow, and i can’t wait. and every time i arrive at the top, i’ll look down only to see both sides – how far i’ve come yet how much further i can go.

 

 

though it’s become so commonplace you probably don’t think twice about it, we now live in a disposable society, one that values the new above the old. think about it – how often do you get a new cell phone? new car? new clothes? shoes? it even seems that products are manufactured with this in mind – if it’s made to be disposable, you almost have no choice.

with this in mind, consider my shoe-buying habits. i can probably attribute this to my grandfather being a shoemaker back in the day when individual people made shoes and subsequently repaired them for years afterward, but shoe-buying is probably my only snobby buying habit. yes, i am a self-proclaimed “shoe snob.” this doesn’t mean that i pay $200 for each pair of shoes that i buy. this doesn’t mean that i only buy name brand shoes. this simply means that (like when i buy anything) i read the little printed words on the inside of each pair of shoes i buy to see what they’re made of, and if they’re supposed to look like leather and i’m going to pay more than $35 for them, they’d better actually be leather.

why does it matter? well, here’s the thing – i’m hard on my shoes. i bike with them, i drag my heels a bit sometimes, and i have terrible balance. i trip, i fall, i get caught in the rain, i walk through the mud, etc. not to say that leather is the only thing that lasts (i do also have plenty of canvas and fabric shoes), but it definitely gets the job done. i bought one perfect pair of boots for all of these purposes and more – they were even passable to wear to work. after walking on a wet sidewalk a couple of weeks ago though, i noticed my heels were wet. i then noticed the gaping holes in the soles of my shoes. oops.

if these had been running shoes or something like that, admittedly, there’d be nothing much you could do except buy a new pair (there’s the disposable consumptions and manufacturing right there). luckily for me, though, my shoe snobbery had forced me to buy a pair of boots that could be fixed – and have them fixed i did.

i find that shoe repair shops are usually scattered about in cities, hiding in unsuspecting strip malls, in small brick buildings behind other small brick buildings. they aren’t shiny, large, glamorous places. they don’t generally advertise on tv or on big billboards. you have to go look for them, and maybe that’s why it isn’t everyone’s first thought. it’s one example of how reducing waste by fixing what you already have may not be the most glamorous or prominent option, but it is there, you just have to be aware and conscious.

new heels, new life for my favorite boots

so here are my new/old shoes. the new heels don’t match, but who’s going to see them anyway? and $15 to fix them is a lot cheaper (and greener) than just up and buying a whole new pair.

i think a lot when i drive. today i drove a lot (to columbia, sc and back to be exact) and subsequently thought a lot.

i’ve missed writing lately. it’s a part of me that persists no matter how tired, uninspired, and generally overwhelmed i feel sometimes. as a kid i always wanted to be a writer, and though i eventually followed a different path as an environmental engineer (which i also happen to love), i can’t let this part of me get away – not yet anyway. i decided recently that i wanted to start writing again. not necessarily the literary reactions i wrote in high school for ap english, not the 10-page scientific reports i wrote in college for my various lab classes. not even with correct grammar, apparently. i decided that i wanted to write about something for which i was passionate, something i knew a little about, something i could draw on for inspiration week after week. after 7 solitary hours in the car today, i came up with an idea (took long enough) – going green.

for those of you who know me and my lifestyle on a day-to-day basis, you know that i do make efforts to reduce my carbon footprint, the waste i produce, etc. you also know i’m far from perfect. i’m not a hippie in the stereotypical sense (ie i live in a normal apartment, shower every day, wear semi-professional clothes to work at my corporate job every day), but that mindset of living simply and naturally definitely has its merit.

i can’t imagine that our current consumption patterns aren’t having any effect on the environment as much as some people oppose the idea – i also can’t imagine that technology alone can fix it. Though we’ve made great progress with our technologies (scrubbers, energy-efficient appliances, renewable energy extraction), technology alone won’t reverse the damange we’ve already done or prevent the inevitable damage of the future if we continue as we are – it’s all in attitude.

“going green” is the hip thing these days and seems to mean different things to different people. it can be overwhelming to think of the interconnectedness of technology, lifestyle, pereception, and the science behind it all, but the engineering side of me persists on this one. how can they all be integrated, and once integrated with one another, how can all of these elements be applied to our daily lives to truly create a significant impact? there will be only incremental environmental progress until people, especially here in the united states, change their perceptions, habits, and lifestyles – so what can we do?

i’ve decided to challenge myself to reduce my own environmental impact by changing something (for the better hopefully) each week. i’ve decided to document it, hopefully offering some entertainment, but more importantly, inspiration. i’m open to ideas for new things to try and even debates about the things i do try. and keep in mind, through it all, that the idea isn’t to spend more money, stop showering, or give up things that i love – it’s a change in perspective, which is never a bad thing. so i guess it won’t be a “guide” so much as a collection of experiments, perceptions, and results. take from it what you will, as long as you take something.

step back and re-evaluate – figure out what your impact is now (you can’t start if you don’t know where you’re starting), see what can be tweaked, and go for it. what do you have to lose?

lately, i’ve finally come to terms with things about myself that have always been there, but for some reason i either never saw or never wanted to admit. and once i did it, i realized that people do it all the time – sometimes it comes out as a way to help us relate to a certain groups of people, sometimes it’s a way to impress other people, sometimes it’s simply the disconnect from who we think we are (or rather, wish we were) and who we really are.

it’s idealism i guess, self-idealism. if i love the idea of being spontaneous, for example, i might start believing that i actually am, just because i feel that i should be since i respect or admire that trait. it’s hard to admit that you don’t embody traits that you value so much. in my case, spontanaeity is a perfect example. semi-recently, a friend asked me if i was a planner. naturally, i laughed and said no. how could i possibly be a planner when i embraced the spirit of spontanaeity so much? i love bright colors, energy, vivacity, upbeat music, dancing like a lunatic, laugh attacks, etc. planners don’t love all these things, right? planners are boring, structured, like gray, and never have fun. of course. well.

though i laughed at the time, the question did make start to think. i started paying more attention to my habits, my inclinations, my reactions to different situations. and wouldn’t you know that i figured out that – wait for it – i’m completely and irrevocably a planner. i love to be prepared to be spontaneous, as odd as that sounds. random weekend trip? sure, as long as i have a chance to pack a few things i might need. last minute party? give me chance to pick up something to bring. oh, it’s a costume party? let me make sure i have something sufficiently odd to wear. it turns out that not all planners are boring, completely structured, like gray (though i do), and never have fun. none of these things make a planner, just as predispositions toward bright colors and dancing like a lunatic don’t make a spontaneous person. go figure.

some of the most fun people i've ever met (who happen to be great planners) 😉

i guess i was so in love with the idea of being spontaneous that after awhile, i began to believe that i was in fact spontaneous. after all, why should i be anyone other than my ideal self? well, there are lots of reasons for that, actually – the hardest part is 1. recognizing them and 2. accepting them. probably the one that rose above them all in this case was the disconnect between my idealized self and my real self. would i love to be spontaneous? of course. am i spontaneous by nature? definitely not. is that ok? yes.

part of truly accepting yourself is learning to recognize yourself for who you really are, not just who you’d like to be. it’s great to value certain traits and identify with certain ideas, but valuing and identifying don’t make a personality. you’re always changing, yes, but there are parts of you that are what they are just because they are, and the sooner you come to terms with it, the sooner you’ll find yourself in situations and with people that make you truly comfortable and happy.

the base of my support system, my family (boston, november 2011

in my case, i’m slowly but surely getting there, but it’s always a struggle. seeing this identical disconnect all around me doesn’t help either. we all do it, and i’m super thankful to have an amazing support system of family and friends that accepts these disconnects in me as i seek to recognize and accept them myself. and once accepted, why not work toward positive change? you have to know where you’re starting to both figure out and appreciate where you’re going.

 

 

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