Freedom from Expectation

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I consider myself a creative person, but of all of the jobs I’ve had, I was most content working as an artist’s assistant realizing someone else’s vision.

It was the summer of 2001, which fell between my freshman and sophomore year of college, and I was home in New York City and living with my parents. I had largely avoided looking for a job but, through a former colleague, was offered one as a studio assistant to an artist named Miriam. She did Verre Eglomise, which is the process of gilding precious metals like gold and silver on the reverse side of glass, and etching in a design. My job, basically, was to trace Miriam’s designs by erasing the excess gilding until the pattern she had designed emerged. (read more…)

Am I Ambitious?

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Last year, I said no to a big break. Someone I used to work with, and liked a great deal, wanted to me to join her growing consulting company as a part owner. It was an amazing offer. If I ever wanted to start a new company and grow it, this was a fantastic opportunity. The possibility was exciting; I felt tingles in my toes and stomach. I imagined my life as business owner: I would manage people and bring in interesting, new business. I would join a gym and have networking lunches.

But more than exciting, it was nerve-wracking. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to leave my current job, nor invest all of my time and energy in a fledgling company. My mind whirled constantly for days with dreams and nightmares about what my life would look like if I said yes. Yes, it might be incredibly stimulating. But it would also overrun my life.

I said no. In my gut, it felt like the right decision. I felt relieved afterward, but also absolutely terrible.

I felt unambitious. (read more…)

The Magic of New

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Last month, Colin and I were in Seattle for a long weekend, and we took a day trip to explore Bainbridge Island. We drove our rental car onto the ferry for a short, 25 minute ride from downtown Seattle across the Puget Sound. The ferry was a mix of tourists, like us, and regulars that found the ferry ride so routine they didn’t bother getting out of their cars.

The regulars looked bored and listless, slumped at their steering wheels. They were inured to the beauty of the Seattle skyline, the peaking waves, and the majestic view of Mt. Rainier. They didn’t bother to notice how, on this day, the sky was bluer than normal and cloudless. (read more…)

“What’s It All About?”
An Illustrated Story

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A couple of years ago, when work was slow, I started doodling at my desk. Out came drawings of owls for some reason, and I ended up creating Little Owl, as a stand in for me, really, and not always the best of me. She is the part that is anxious, discontent, and worried. She is confused by life, especially the dichotomy of being an insignificant speck in the universe while also at the center of her own world. So I created a friend for her– Sleepy Lion. He too is part of me, my inner advocate, the side that knows best, but that I rarely have the presence to follow. He guides Little Owl, usually while sprawled on the ground napping, taking seriously Anne Lamott’s advice that we should all lie down more. Here, I take some liberties– please indulge me as I take Little Owl on a search for the meaning of life.

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What I Didn’t Learn in School

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In an episode of the “Cosby Show” that sticks in my mind, Vanessa Huxtable’s class has a science fair. For her entry, Vanessa creates a static model of the planets in the solar system. The day of the fair, she is shown up by her peers and comes in 14th place. The other projects are impressive, like a robot that works at the clap of hands. Another student brags that he created a model of the solar system where the planets orbited one another several grades ago. By the end of the episode, Vanessa decides to redo her model, not for credit or even to show to her teacher, merely to show herself that she can.

This episode stuck in my memory from my childhood because not because the moral sank in, but precisely because I couldn’t relate to Vanessa. “Why bother with the extra work?” I wondered.  Instead, I had learned to work efficiently and I calibrated my effort with the results.

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