4 min read
A young man came into the library today. He was looking for some books to read over the summer.
"What grade level?" I asked.
"Oh, I'm done, I graduated," he replied.
"Oh, so you were in the parade through town, celebrating..."
"Yep. Sure was..."
"OK, so let me see what I can pull up, here..." I looked up the reading lists for the school and found some AP suggestions. "Are you going to college, are you gonna work, do you have plans, yet?"
"Oh, I'm going to college, for sure. I'm not sure of my major..."
We chatted a bit more. Then he took Dubliners, by James Joyce, thanked me, and left. Great kid, polite, kind, curious. I'm excited for him. Glistening with potential.
After he left, I began to think about these graduates and the world that they are walking into, right now. As freshmen.
To the College-Bound Graduates:
I wish I knew what to tell you about all of this. About the state of the world, of the pandemic, and politics, and climate, and social injustices, and the economy. I wish I knew what to tell you to major in so that you'd soar, in these shifting times. I wish I had a clue... I don't.
And see, that's the thing. Even us, as adults, aren't sure of things day to day. We do our best. We just show up, stay kind, work hard, take care of ourselves, and do our best.
But I would tell you to try things. If you don't know what to major in, then don't. Take an assortment of classes, they're all for credit. You can major in Liberal Arts for two years and then decide. You can switch over. You can always take a class or two later to make up some credits, to round out a major. Don't feel that you have to know it all up front and then go in. Many students don't. It's okay not to know.
Some students know early on what they want to pursue. Medicine. Law. Biochemistry. Nursing. Psychiatry. Veterinarian. Political Science. Teaching. And many, many students don't have a clue, and they see college as a necessary step in their lives, that they want to take, but aren't exactly sure what courses to take. And perhaps, for them, it's the experience itself that grants them what they need...
The exchange of ideas with your peers, in a new and expanded setting. Healthy debate. New perspectives. New worlds of inspiration and reading and research. New friendships and clubs to join. Many students have the soul of an artist or philosopher and just need to try a lot of disciplines out, before they choose. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Try things.
This...is life. Not knowing, and having the mindset to just... start... despite not knowing, is what great success stories are made of. Diving in without a map shows a bit of adventure and curiosity and ambition, a desire to learn by doing, which is a wonderful, wonderful thing. It's a perspective that you can take further in to life, not just with school. This is the creative mindset and it's incredibly valuable, especially in the world that you'll be joining. Flexibility, creativity, adaptability will all be essential mindsets to hold onto.
Trust that you'll find your way and things will speak to you and teach you, as you go. You may figure it all out in college, and you may not. It's just a step, but walk ahead with enthusiasm. We are learning are whole lives through, and college is a wonderful stop along that road.
We're all fools on the road of life. Some of us didn't go to college. Some of us went out after high school and plunged into the world of business and never looked back. Some went head-first into their artistic dreams, and never looked back. It can be nice to have a passion, to know exactly what you want to do with your life. But it can also be a lifelong adventure to not know... to show up and continue to learn and grow and explore. And many of us who live in this way, become teachers, in one way or another. Life teachers. Way-showers. Leaders. Trust your choices as they come up and keep checking with yourself. And remember that you're living a story and don't get too mired down by one moment, because moments come and go that challenge us to the core.
Remember when those moments come - doubt, fear, paralysis, pain, loss, heartache, confusion - that they are temporary, and that you can get up and dust your pants off and keep going forward. And figure things out.
I know that you'll make the world a better place, in your own way. Take your time and explore yourself and how you feel about things. About life. And how you'd want to improve it or document it or enhance it or entertain it. And just start. Read voraciously. Educate yourself about what fuels your passions. Try things, over and over again. Just try things. Live your youth.
And we can't wait to hear what you have to say.
2 min read
Reflecting... from this morning's meditation:
"Walk with me
Beneath the Green
I'll show you a story
you've never seen
You will believe in
I wrote this quote back in 2015. The end - and the beginning. And I’ve come across a stack of old notes and declarations... and I’ll say that it’s probably time for some new ones. The green checkmark indicates that this goal was accomplished.
- I will quit smoking ✅
- I will understand this anxiety ✅
- I will learn to manage a new routine ✅
- I will write a novel ✅
- I will travel and see my country ✅
- I will sing some of my own songs in front of others ✅
- I will meet more and more new and inspiring people ✅
Ongoing effort...never done, but I've made progress:
- I will grow tougher and smarter
- I will learn to love and value myself as much as, if not more, than I do others
- I will trust in my own magic
- I will learn and grow and transform my mindset without spending a dime
- I will not take myself so seriously
- I will love my life, where it is now, where it’s been, and where it may be going
Do you believe in magic?
It’s often messy and we make mistakes and are misunderstood and we often get what we need over what we want - because we learn to create for everyone’s benefit and not just our own.
Write it down
And here I am again. At the top of the circle.
And I think that at some point, life becomes more about how many times you’ve been around the circle, and how you’ve grown through it all. What you’ve learned. Who you've met along the way. What they’ve learned. How you’ve evolved and what you need to learn next time. And it's less and less about the things and more about the people.
Learning to embrace the long-game is life changing.
A quick review...
4 min read
I was in a mood this morning. I did record a video about it for you, while I was walking, but the gods of sound weren't having it. The mic cut out, constantly. I should get a new phone, the XR has never worked right. C'est la vie. Moving on.
So, here's what happened:
I signed up to become a seller of a bath and body brand that I love. It's an MLM thing, I know you know. "Why not," I figured. I LOVE the stuff.
I read up, and all I had to do was click this and send that and I'd be good.
However, they tried something new. Relentless phone calls all week. I had to verify my identity if I wanted to proceed. I finally got around to checking my messages and they had deactivated my account.
Their customer service team would be offline the day that I wanted to correspond via email.... this was strange and unprofessional. I looked into my service rep and there was a filtered photo of a child with bear ears talking to me with typos.
Assuming I was punk'd or that this was some sort of spam racket, I bowed out. Strangest customer service experience I'd ever had.
"You have to talk with us on our terms or not at all..."
Usually, since I've been alive, service was always about the customer or client. So, as someone who's worked in the field since I was a teenager... I was disenchanted.
Also, of note, I had just received a congratulatory email for being a valued member of the team!
At this point, I am confused. This is the epitome of mixed messaging, if this were me and a fella, I'd lose his number by now. But this is a business.
Here are the things I'm thinking about:
I found the whole thing odd. I thought it was a joke, because where I come from and how I work that's not how it's done. Kindness makes sense. I'd always wanted to make everyone feel at home, like they belong, and that they should always, always come back - if they wanted to.
And today's customer service - and not in all cases, but many - falls so short. There's an air of entitlement. I'll get to it when I see fit. I'll respond when I choose to. You're just a number to hit on my form. I'm not working that hard, today. This is just a job.
And I wonder if these companies know about the level of service and how much better it could be. And I wonder if these younger generations are being trained in the ways of "the customer is always right," and "service with a smile," and "my job is to make your experience great." How as customer service workers, they are the front door, the foyer, the welcoming center for all guests and clients. They represent an entire firm, company, business, or brand.
Playing hard to get with a client is just bad business, it seems. Granted, I've been in the nonprofit sector for a long, long time now, and it's different in many ways. But at the core, it's the same. Service, in all forms, is about people. Sales is about people.
I feel like I've just left the Twilight Zone. And I'm not put-out or distressed about it, but questions come up, as they do... like how are we training these people? Your brand, your name, your reputation and success are really only as good as your customer care workers. And if they don't care about their customers, they don't really care about your business, either. Fun fact.
Consumers will build generational brand loyalty with a line of cars... if they receive great customer service with just one first purchase. Buying a car is a big deal, and if they feel safe, heard, respected, they'll come back. Their kids will often be back, too.
Kindness is not just about being nice, although it should just be inherent in people... but it's also about strategy. It just makes sense to build relationships with people that you want to come back.
Happy people stick around. Just as happy and well-trained workers...stick around and work harder for you.
Is this a generational thing? Or...did I wake up in the wrong universe again?
Going to my garden, now... xoxo
4 min read
by Stacie Hammond
A Modern Day Parable about the Magic of Communication and Relationship
"It's all happening!" She said, excitedly.
There was a woman, who - through some circumstance or other, came to live most of her days alone, on an island, in the Great Blue Sea. Sending out desperate messages in bottles about the state of the world as she imagined it - big issues, small issues, and everything in-between - in the wee small hours of the night, at the height of delirium and impending chaos and really having nowhere to be but at home. Under the moonlight, with a deafening silence and yet a heavy, forlorn, and chattering mind - a mind that wouldn't quit, devouring books, inventing and seeing potential futures and dreaming dreams that wouldn't stop - incessantly they streamed through her minds' eye... And she had only the glow of an iPhone in her hands as a true confidante - a portal - into other worlds.
Right there, at her fingertips - was the world. Anyone and anywhere and everywhere, at once - with a few words and few taps and bit of moxie and ton of faith, she sent her dreams and wishes and fears out into the void... and let go of it all...
A bit like a droid that could carry a message out into the unknown... hoping that it would reach a mentor, an aid, a teacher, a friend. Someone to take her seriously, someone to listen, someone, somewhere...
"Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope..." Star Wars: A New Hope
And then, some day, years later, she feels rested. She's well, now. At ease, with far fewer worries in her pockets. And far less chatter in her mind. Refocused. And she feels so much more like a person and so much less like a seamless and shimmering orb stuck inconveniently inside a slowly healing and quite dense body on an island in the middle of the sea.
And she finds herself having moved on - onto other simpler and far more prosaic things. Grounded things. Simple joys. Flowers. Gardens. Clouds and the shapes that they resemble. Horses and treetops in the wind. Safe harbors at twilight. Yoga poses and fresh fruit and drums and dancing. Oh, dancing. She'd forgotten about dancing and music and how it rooted her in. She wished there were someone to keep rhythm on the drum, while she danced, for she found that she could not do both at the same time. And what was dancing without music? Still, she danced to the music, within.
No longer privy to the wars and worries of her imagination, she lived her days in relative ease and simple gratefulness for what was already in front of her nose: a beautiful beach, songbirds, tropical fruit, waves and moonlight and sunshine and trees to climb. And a funny sort of creature that looked a bit like a giant gerbil, that she'd named Stanley. Stanley kept his distance, but was a good listener.
It was enough. And joy could be simple.
Until she looked up, one day, to see that long-lost and forgotten bottle of dreams and fears float back in with the waves. And she saw that the messages had been read - a bit dog-eared in the corners, at the parts that were re-read more than once. There were some notes in the margins. She wasn't entirely sure who'd read them, how could she be, but there were subtle fingerprints and whispers of scent and place and time that helped her to guess where the bottle had been in those years. And how strange for it to resurface...here and now. She'd let it all go, so long ago, in a great and grand surrender to the life that she'd been living. She'd found peace, already, she thought.
And then all in a moment, holding the small bottle in her hands, somehow, in a breath - she believed in everything again. And everything meant more than it ever had, and felt more powerful than it ever had, because now, she knew... that life could be a beautiful and wild adventure and that people really cared and that hope really did matter. And she knew that all those old and lingering fears, deep down in her subconscious, now - were being healed. And she wasn't alone anymore.
And it was a joy just to be alive in a world where people listen and respond and pay attention.
And she slept that night, in a hand-strung hammock, under a sea of stars. She slept very, very well.
And when she woke, she returned to the shore, again. And in the quiet, there, in the stillness of the easy tide - she saw more bottles. There were dozens, at least. She brought them in and stored them, all in a row, on the rocky sand - far enough from shore not to be washed out, again. And one by one, as the days went on, she began to read them. And to re-read the parts that she loved. And to leave her notes in the margins. And when she was ready, she'd throw them all back out to sea...and hope for an answer.
6 min read
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." Charles Dickens' opening line in A Tale of Two Cities.
And isn't it just?
When I am able to pull myself away from the onslaught of rhetoric and political opinion and social justice warrioring and media-blitz campaigning.... and immerse into natural spaces and connect more deeply, within... I find my creative center. And it's wonderful and has become essential to my well-being.
But some days it's hard. With the world whirring around us, in such extremes, it can be hard to find a still space in the center to create. But that's exactly where the stillness is... in the eye of this storm.
The Left - while I love the more conscious conversations - is way too far left for my liking, and its statue-toppling and art censoring is starting to stink of Maoist China. :shivers: No thanks.
The Right - while I love our local police, and believe in empowering the individual and I do love tradition and nostalgia - is way too far right, and is starting to feel like a Military State run by an Administration that doesn't care about our well-being or choices, overall. Yes, this is a real virus. Yes, climate crisis is real. Please wear a mask. Please stop destroying natural spaces. And wash your hands.
We seem to be stuck in the middle, running all the way to edge to get information - here - and then having to run all the way back to the opposite edge, to absorb information - there. Constantly running across the proverbial spinning disc, hoping we don't just bottom out and collapse altogether wondering what the hell happened to us.
We seem to be collectively in Joseph Campbell's abyss. The dark tunnel. Awaiting our rise, after the fall. A rebirth, a renaissance, a reimagining into how we'll be here...after all of this.
I remember reading Travels with Charley, by Steinbeck, and noting his discontent with the politics in his day. A nation so fractured and divided... that the tension could be felt in living rooms across the country. Friends clashing, neighbors arguing, dinner table fights, political campaigns getting uglier and uglier. A nation torn apart by polar opposites and extreme ideologies - lacking a healthy and grounded middle.
We try people in the press, rather than in courts, it seems. We're confused about schooling and disease and human rights and social change vs. malicious destruction and distrust in the media, and on and on. Confusion abounds. And it's okay not to know where you stand, from day to day.
I used to proudly call myself a Democrat and now I'm not so sure. There's plenty to disagree with, lately.
I tiptoed into the land of the Conservative for a good few months, seeing the value in tradition and home and empowering individualism and so on. But there's plenty to disagree with, in our current Administration. And I can only breathe - and try to wrangle my thoughts - in the middle.
And I crave true leadership in that place. From that place. Right down the middle, a marriage of both sides. Yes, rebuild our country, our infrastructure hurts, small businesses need help, we need responsible border control but not kids in cages... but also, a woman has a right to choose and environmental protections are essential and intelligent and foreign policy and diplomacy matter. A lot. It's both, and our politicians only pander to one set of extremes, it seems.
Where has the middle gone? The media presents us with two extremes, and neither bring comfort, and so we get frustrated and go back to watching happy clips of cats and puppies kissing babies. We can't figure out how to vote here in the US, many of us, in a world that we can no longer relate to. Baby Boomers don't want change. Gen Z wants to torch the White House. And Gen X, in the middle, well - we're the Reagan-Bush kids. We're a bit precious.
And what do we all do about all of this, really? All at once? It's like someone shook the snow-globe and we're all just showing up, trying to be nice and do the right thing, and have no idea where our country is headed which is disconcerting.
And that sort of tension can paralyze creativity.
But, yet, somewhere, in the middle of the wreckage of human emotion and uprising and frustration and defensiveness and fear and chaos and grief and loss ... is a catalyst. A glowing spark, down at the bottom of this proverbial abyss.
Still shimmering. Waiting. For Next.
It's here...in the deep dark of the unknown, that we can craft anew. Make. Create. Build. From this primordial mess that we find ourselves in. Expression is key, and conversation essential, and there are many things happening:
- in education
- in social justice
- in climate protections
- in wellness spheres
- in mental health
- in technology and engineering
- in business
- in parenting
- in medicine
- in food policy
- in legislation
It's a hot mess. But most messes find a way forward...after the fires settle down. And we seek organization, and some new meaning, from the rubble.
A way forward after our trials - like:
"Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons..." and how she emerged unscathed from the temple fire...
...though she went a bit mad in the end, there, this was still a thrilling scene. And who doesn't want pet dragons to fly them around and do their bidding?
But, moving on - in all relationships, from micro to macro, after voicing and raging, comes a calm conversation and consideration. Reform and renewal. Cooperation and intention. Compromise...
This is what's missing from the conversation. It seems to be either all this way, or all that. A healthy body politic finds a middle, a compromise, a fulfilling of some, but maybe not all. Progress here, but not over there, not yet. A step forward here, but let's keep this in tact. For now. And so on. Anything worthwhile is a slow and steady unfolding. Not an overnight revolution and suppression of culture, even if well-intentioned. Life always seeks truth and homeostasis, it's true.
Balance. Compromise brings balance. A lil Column A, a lil Column B. You're just not going to be eating everything from one column. I'm sorry. You're not getting 14 chicken dishes and you're not getting all egg rolls and rice. Balance it out.
And youthful world-rockers, I get what your classes taught you, and even the books that you may have read that lit a fire within you - in all their glorious ideals and utopias and visions, but in reality, on the ground, there are real people - here - now, with real investments and lives and families and responsibilities. Utopias inspire us and can lead along a path toward a grander vision, but cannot be forced upon a society unready for it (this would defeat the whole point of being a free and inspired people.)
Change doesn't happen overnight. Lasting social change unfolds and evolves, generation by generation, over time. It's important to see how far we've come. And still work toward what we wish to see.
It's both, always.
But flying high above, in blissful quietude, in communion with Nature, in harmony, plunging into silence - there is perspective. Of all of this. And in that perspective, in that wrangling of raw emotion into channels of meaning - comes art. Chaos can be rich and fertile soil for new ideas, stories, inventions, music, healing, and more.
Get your hands in there:
1. Identify the conflict, within.
2. Visualize a solution to the conflict, a resolution.
3. Use the emotions around the conflict, channel them into a vision.
4. Create an idea or story or image of some aspect of that vision.
5. Trust your art to convey its message through this mess.
For more on alchemizing raw emotion and paradox into art, check out:
Memorial Day Paradox: Creativity and the War Machine.