Saturday, August 11, 2012

David Rakoff

I would first like to acknowledge that clearly I am no good at this blog thing. As anyone who knows me is probably aware, I, who likes to think that I'm excellent at everything I do, am loathe to admit this. l do it only because the glaring date stamp that will inevitably attach itself to this post seems to require it. That stupid series of numbers and letters will not let me go on without addressing the fact that I have not written a word that wasn't forced out of me by a professor or boss in more than 18 months. 

While I am an extremely creative person, I have never considered myself a very good writer. Well, that's not completely true. There was a time, during a ninth grade poetry unit, where I wrote a poem about my addiction to Sprite (my Diet Coke addiction didn't begin until the following year) and my English teacher responded so positively that I thought maybe writing was my calling, but then I went home for the day, turned on my *Nsync CD for the 147th time and, in true ADD fashion, forgot all about it. (In case you are wondering, I found that poem recently, and yes, it is just as terrible as it sounds.)

For me, writing has always been the most impressive of the creative arts. Don't get me wrong, I marvel at other artistic acts just like the next person, and even fancy myself capable of some of them, but to form a thing of beauty that is intelligent, relatable, and entertaining by stringing together 26 letters in various order has always seemed so far beyond my abilities that it is awe-inspiring. I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with the insight my tendency to gage the impressiveness of something by how quick I am to say "I could do that" gives you, but if I'm honest with myself, a lot of you are already aware of that, and so my lack of comfort is moot.

When I sit down to write, whether it is creatively or technically, I typically get writer's block so severe I give up. If that isn't an option, I procrastinate until I piece something together that I know is crap, and thus confirm my inner monologue that I am a terrible writer. I say this not to fish for compliments (really. I promise) but to ensure you understand why, when I opened this blog six months ago to write my annual "new-years-resolution-y" post, I just couldn't write a word and gave up. 

Preparing to write by re-reading my post from the previous year was a bad idea. Every single accomplishment I had so humbly chronicled was no longer true. Just two weeks before Christmas I had been "laid-off" from a job that, granted, had gone from fulfilling to torturous, but still compensated me nicely and gave me a lovely excuse to avoid pursuing what I really wanted to do. 

Because of my busy schedule and then sudden lack of income, I had stopped seeing a personal trainer and, of course, stopped going to the gym. That, coupled with an unhealthy relationship with taquitos I really don't want to get into, meant I had reverted to my doughy, pre-personal trainer self, which, even women with the healthiest of body images will tell you, does nothing for the self-esteem.

My lack of time and money had also forced me to give up piano lessons after learning how to play only one song ("Bluebird" by Sara Bareilles in case you were wondering), and thus put my secret ambition to be a mildly successful singer-songwriter so thoroughly on hold that you might as well have called it "given up." I had also moved back to Provo, partly to foster a budding friendship with two girls who seemed to like me and my obsession with Doctor Who, but also to jump start a romantic life that, despite all my touted improvements, was growing more stagnant by the minute. 

In short, it felt like I had given up all the ground I had gained in 2010, and was still stalled in the middle of the race track. You can see how, six months ago, writing about my growth as a human being and my outlook on the year ahead sounded like an activity more akin to torture than a creative and fulfilling exercise. 

So why am I writing now? I would love to say that it is because I just have to share the amazing ways I have turned it all around again and am doing so well that I am starting a Tony-Robins-esque speaking tour titled "I'm Perfect, and You Can Be Too!", but alas, that would be a lie. (I know. You're shocked) 

Things have gotten better than they were in January. I managed to find a job I really like in spite of the fact that it pays less than I was making at Kinko's and provides no access to benefits (a dilemma for another post). I went through the temple and am developing a relationship with God that feels more authentic and real than ever before. I also played "Bluebird" on the piano while singing in front of people for a ward talent show. I'm still doughier than I'd like to be and I'm still too lazy to do anything about that but, my social life in general is much improved. My romantic life is just as stagnant as ever, but that fact, while not pleasant or satisfying in any way, has become sort of comfortable, even as I prepare to watch a sibling get married for a second time this year. 

No, this overly-long post (I am sorry) was not inspired by my own self-improvement, but by a writer named David Rakoff. Like me, you may know David from his regular contributions to the radio show "This American Life" (see here). When I first heard a segment by him, I was thoroughly impressed by the Intelligent, yet conversational way he was able to relate his life experiences with grace, wit, and honesty, even if that honesty wasn't always flattering.  He was such a master at balancing humor and solemnity that he could have you laughing one minute and ready to cry the next. It's a testament to his talent that I related intensely to the stories he shared, despite the fact that, on paper, we had nothing in common. He had so many more challenges than I did, including a recurring battle with cancer, but I found his answer to the question "Why me?"so inspiring I wanted to share:

"Writer Melissa Bank said it best: 'The only proper answer to 'Why me?' is 'Why not you?' ... In so many other ways, I'm so far ahead of the game. ... You can't win all the contests and then lose at one contest and say, 'Why am I not winning this contest as well?' It's random. So truthfully, again, do I wish it weren't me? Absolutely. I still can't make that logistic jump to thinking there's a reason why it shouldn't be me."
David Rakoff died on Thursday, killed by the cancer that he had written so beautifully about. His death, though not at all surprising, was surprisingly heart breaking for me, and as a tribute to him I've been devouring as much of his work as I could today. Listening to his work always makes me feel verbose, and that, along with a desire to pay tribute to him compelled me to write honestly about myself, just as he always did. 

I will leave you now with my favorite and most recent piece of his for This American Life: Stiff as a Feather, Light as a Board, about losing the use of his left arm. Enjoy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Compare where you are to where you want to be and you'll get nowhere.

So... it's been a while. A year to be exact.  How time flies... it's kinda strange to think where I was in life when I wrote that last post. Life is significantly different than it was a year ago.  I was having fun, but holding on for dear life to the "college life" that had become so comfortable. I'm pretty sure my life mantra at the time was "Change is scary, so why do it?  Things are okay just as they are."  But here's the thing: they were just okay. I wasn't getting much fulfillment out of my life as a glorified shop girl in happy valley (go figure), but I had the lovely recession to blame for my lack of progression and, believe me, I milked that excuse until the cow ran dry.  (It was some what legitimate...right?)

Thank heaven July came around, and with it, a shiny new job with all the bells and whistles of a real career. People ask me how I did it, and I'll tell you right now, I didn't.  Well, I did post a resume on and applied for about half a million jobs without getting so much as an interview, and then gave up, but that's not really helpful is it?  I had resigned myself to an eternity making business cards and working retail hours when I got a call from a guy at some construction company I'd never heard of (He had found me on monster, go figure). Two interviews and a few weeks later, I was finally kissing Kinko's goodbye and saying hello to my new 8-5 job and a pay check that was almost double what it was before.  Suddenly I could afford crazy things, like... well, my bills. 

I moved into an apartment in the basement of my parent's place, which has the benefits of being closer to my work, not in Provo, and rent free.  I hired a personal trainer and started kicking the trash out of my fat butt, which is now significantly less fat than it was six months ago. I started taking piano lessons so I can finally stop giving my mom crap for never putting me in them as a child. I died my hair red, like I've always wanted to. And yeah, I'm still single (not even single again, just single), but I'm living my life. I'm not sitting around on some uncomfortable couch in some uncomfortable college apartment, waiting for prince charming to magically knock down my door, brush the Oreo crumbs off my face and kiss me soundly.  I run. I sing. I aspire. I live, and that makes my life the kind of life that "Mr. Driven-Fun-Handsome" will want to share with me... just as soon as he shows up. 

I was originally going to make this post another list of resolutions, but I think I finally understand the line from Sara Bareilles' song Uncharted: "Compare where you are to where you want to be and you'll get nowhere." I know the person I want to become, and the things I need to work on to get there.  I know that every day of my life, I don't need to waste time making a list.  So here's a new tradition: instead of making resolutions, I'm gonna take a minute and see how far I've come in the last year. It's a lot less depressing/overwhelming, and it might just get me inspired enough to actually do some of the things I was going to resolve anyway.

P.S. If you haven't heard Sara Bareilles' new album yet, I require that you check it out here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


1. Always be myself, and stop making excuses about that.
2. Cook dinner often, and make healthy meals.
3. Exercise more.
4. Improve my relationship with my Heavenly Father by:
a. Reading Scriptures Daily
b. Saying Prayers Morning and Night
c. Going to all church activities
5. Take better care of my teeth.
6. Get ready every day.
7. Keep my room and car clean, and be more organized.
8. Try hard to make new friends and be more outgoing.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Well, have you ever thought about the internet?

First of all: I go to a therapist. No, I'm not crazy, but yes, I have some issues, and working through them with someone with whom I associate with for the only purpose of sorting out my problems has been really helpful for me. He helps me realize the things I'm doing that are self destructive or self inhibiting, and he gives me someone to be accountable to as I try to change the bad habits I have. I think more people should have a therapist.

So, anyway, the other day in my therapy session, I was talking about how frustrated I was with my social life, primarily my romantic social life. I don't know about you, but two dates in as many years is just not really satisfying to me. I've been able to blame it lately on my horrid work schedule, and was explaining that, even though I don't like where I'm at now, I don't really see how I can change anything, when eight terrifying words escaped my therapist's mouth:

"Well, have you thought about the internet?"

The honest answer to this question was... yes! I'm a relatively tech savvy 22 year old single girl, who uses the internet for 60-70% of her social interactions, of course I've considered internet dating. I've even "reviewed my matches for free!" a time or two on a long lonely Valentines Day weekend. But I never seriously considered actually paying the money and going on dates with these complete strangers that I know little to nothing about. So to have someone I respect seriously suggest internet dating as a solution to my lack of social life was kind of mind blowing.

Internet dating is a bit ridiculed, but he did have some interesting arguments in support of it. The most striking of these is this: Guys that are looking for a shallow relationship are not going to spend an hour + on a personality profile to find out who they are most emotionally compatible with. So the kind of guys I'm looking for, the guys looking for someone to have a real, emotional and intellectual connection with, are gonna be the kind of guys who have profiles of websites like eHarmony. He also reminded me that, now I'm out of school, the likelyhood that I'll just "fall into" a relationship has vastly decreased. When you aren't going to school every day with the same people, there is a lot less opportunity to build relationships with new people, and singles wards are all well and good, but they are no guarantee. "It is better if you take a more proactive approach to this part of your life, just like all the rest. It's time to get in the driver's seat, and internet dating is a good way to do that."

But there are a couple of cons to internet dating. First, there's the fact that meeting complete strangers online makes me a bit nervous. I mean, I only know what these people want me to know about them! They could be thoroughly creepy and I would have no way of knowing. Second, internet dating is expensive!!! If you only sign up for one month at a time, it's $50 bucks or more! It goes down the more months you sign up for at a time, but they want you to pay it in lump sums, and I'm sorry, I don't have $300 for a years membership to eHarmony.

So what am I gonna do? I dunno. Any advice or experience would be highly appreciated.


Wait, what am I doing?

So I've been pressing along on the new job path, craving the joys of a day shift and a social life, and I do think that it's the right route to take, the "grown up" route to take for sure.

But there is a huge part of me that is starving for a creative environment. I think I really want to go to art school. I mean really. And here are some reasons why:

I want to be around people who enjoy arguing the pros and cons of the Pepsi redesign, or which font reigns supreme.

I want to learn from people who know more than I do, and receive praise from professors for my "stunning natural aesthetic."

I want to wear something so trendy it's almost ugly, and get looks of approval instead of scorn from my classmates.

I want to meet some fabulously attractive, complex, and creative guy, with whom I have boatloads in common and fall madly in love.

I want to build a portfolio that is so amazing, design firms will beg for me to join their team, and I'll never not get an interview for a graphic design job again.

But is this really what art school is like? Or have I been duped by Hollywood's idealism? If someone out there knows, please, let me know.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"You've successfully applied for 37 jobs!" One of them's gotta stick right?

Step one on my journey into adulthood (because, you know, the first five years don't count...) find a job that pays at least $15.00 and has me working normal, business hours. It's time for me to move on from the FedEx Office/Kinko's universe. It seems that much of what I am dissatisfied with in my life has a direct connection to my job and it's crappy hours! Who knew?!?! (I really wish sarcasm was easier to portray in print...)

It's been years since I've actually actively pursued employment. Jobs usually just seem to fall in my lap. So this is kinda scary. I went to and applied for pretty much every job I was even remotely qualified for. Same at So now... I guess it's just time to sit and wait! Eek! Please let me at least get some interviews!

If anyone has any advice as I dive into this scary job market, please comment!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Welcome to the Crossroads (completely free of Britney Spears... thank goodness!)

I woke up this morning, an extremely stressed out college student in the midst of finals hell. Tonight, I go to bed a college graduate. I’ve got to say… this is a moment I’ve dreamed about for years. But even though I’m thrilled to be free of endless reading assignments, pointless lectures, and impossible tests, here marks the end of my concrete plans. I stand upon the threshold of the rest of my life (oy that sounds like something from a bad graduation card) looking out on path that isn’t quite as clear as the one behind me. That is why I decided to begin this blog. Now, more than ever, I am going to be making decisions that will change the route my life takes. I think the best way to navigate this vast unknown is to sort it all out in writing and send that writing out into the world and see what comes back to me. I hope that those of you who take the time to read this blog will feel free to comment and share your opinions or advice. So come along with me as I jump into a nice gooey vat of unknown. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, but above all we’ll LIVE! (and I promise, it won't always be so self-help-y and serious ;) )

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