I can't concentrate.
I have plenty of time. Little man is with his Dad. Laundry is done. My little foot heater thingy is on. A warm blanket on my lap. Hummus and veggies, ice water, a big comfy pillow. My Beans on my feet (my favorite LL Bean moccasins). All the things. I have all the things. And I am re-reading the same blasted paragraph over and over and over again, thinking about monkeys and spaceships and whether I'd like those steamed bun things GHT keeps talking about in their social, and whether to make those "poop" cupcakes for my kid, and that I really, really, do want chocolate. But I have "poop" in my head now, and who the hell came up with that? Stupid. Chocolate and poop should not go together. Just stop. I don't care if 4 year old boys think it's funny, they don't know things, they're 4. It poisons my chocolate experience.
I was hungry though. So, I thought... eat. Get food. I ate the food. Back to the script... still stuck. Dipped into the social again... NO, DON'T... I know. I did though. :shrugs:
Emma Gonzalez, you have my heart in the pocket of your rad, torn and shredded jeans. I wore those in the 80s, girl. Donnie Wahlberg style, but we won't talk about that. You're a force of nature and you've got the breath of the divine in you, no doubt. I can't imagine what you're all going through, I'm not in those rooms with you. I have so much Love for you and all these kids, ALL the kids. SO much. And I wish I was there in the park with you. And here's something silly... I have #March guilt. Or, more to the point, non-march guilt. I remember back in 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, going in to protest the war in Afghanistan, with a friend from school. We were ducking helicopters so we wouldn't be caught smoking our Parliaments on TV, because... we were idiots. #priorities Whatevs. But the raw energy, the movement of that day... being a part of something, part of a collective voice, that was so much bigger and stronger than we were... it was powerful. And I wanted to support these students, I wanted to be there.
I clicked a FB event, saying that YES, I was "interested." I'd go to a march. I'd support these kids, their trembling voices, their righteous and real tears. I would go. I wanted to go. Sisters, friends, compassionate hearts gathered in Central Park... I am WITH YOU, I will bleed with you, feel with you, heal with you! LET LOVE RULE!
And the day came... and I was at the beach, ocean-side, planting grass on the south shore, with hundreds of girl and boy scouts. Huh? So, what happened?
My best friend ever, decided a few years back to go back to school. It was a crazy-proud moment for a bestie to have. I gushed like any good bestie would, support her all I can, and I buy her lunches and food and stuff sometimes cuz... students be poor. I get it, I was there. Sandwich years. It's hard to change your life. And it's been a long road for her, going back, as an adult, when she could've surrendered to her station (<---- bullshit, no such thing) and gotten a mediocre job. She's rocked it, hard. And she deserves every accolade. So, when she wanted to volunteer for the Town and plant some dune grass, cuz that's who she is... hell yeah. Let's go. Cuz that's what besties do. She needed me, and Emma Gonzalez wouldn't know if I was missing...so... it was actually very cool. I had no idea that locals did this: replanting sea-grass along the sand dunes on coastal beaches to help with land erosion. Go Gaia. <3
And the whole thing... this whole week... student protests, gun reform, college years, finishing this book, it's all got my wheels spinning all over the place. Remembering my own path... to get to right now...
To have the time (which is a resource) to create...anything... is indulgent, indeed, in a world where many can't eat or get clean drinking water and still struggle for survival. I'm always looking to improve and grow and create, create, create...because I can't not. But... I sure as hell appreciate how far I've come, and where I'm at, and what my blessings are. And we can be grateful while reaching forward for more. We can be both.
Oh, the odd jobs I picked up. Cleaning my pops' house for allowance. The babysitting. Blockbuster Video days were good times with great friends and shitty hours, and I loved it. Late nights and cheesy diners with solid people. And I remember working at a local bakery, for the female equivalent of the soup-nazi. This broad was ferocious. "DECRUMB THAT PLATE, SAVAGE! SMILE BIGGER, BIGGER, NOT THAT MUCH. No cookie for you!" I'm exaggerating. But wow, I still have nightmares, sometimes. I got my hand stuck in a gigantic, evil, fresh-orange-juice machine. It was intense. I started writing my first-ever novel there, which will never see the light of day. Ever. But the things college students put up with... Anyway. I did what I had to do... to get through school. Because I was hungry. Like Scarlett ripping down her mother's drapes and scrapping for every financial opportunity, I was just hungry.
"As God is my witness, they're not going to lick me..." - Gone With the Wind
So, I appreciate anyone who goes through it as an adult: it's degrading and humiliating and isolating and wonderful and inspiring and magical, all at once. And it was worth it, in so many ways.
Higher ed is about so, so, so much more than that piece of paper. That's honestly the last thing it's about. Schools, in general, are a microcosm. A training ground. We learn who we are, what we're good at, we learn to form relationships, we get exposed to new writers, artists, thinkers, new ideas. We learn debate, we learn to form concise arguments based on critical thinking, not just blind repetitious rhetoric and nonsense. We learn originality over regurgitation. We learn to write, really write. To craft structure, narrative, flow, semantics, grammar, usage, and proper spelling. We learn the mechanics of language, and get real-time critique, and the motivation to improve our craft. We get exposed to philosophy, we learn that people have been pondering what we ponder since the first fool looked up at the night sky! We get exposed to new and different people and peer groups. We learn... our story. That of humanity, as much as we can, through observation, study, science, and art. We learn to discuss. We learn to form a skillset. We learn to evolve. We appreciate our minds, we honor science, we celebrate creativity and the freedom to express. It's about so much more than books and paper.
Any good college ought to teach its students how to think, debate, reconcile, come together, move forward, and solve problems. Mine did, at least. And it was a simple state school, right here, in New York. Because we get out what we put in. And when I finally went back to school, mid-late twenties? I was all in. For me, for my future, whatever it looked like.
Because I'd been so broke that I couldn't get my last 7 bucks out of an ATM. Because I ran out of that last package of Ramen and I was always run down and sick, because I was malnourished. Because I couldn't afford a doctor, and my medical issues were real and needed real care. Because I lost an uncle to cancer, then a grandmother to a broken heart, and she spoke often about the great privilege that I had as a woman... being able to get an education, how easy I could have it, and how I should soak up every scrap that I could because women before me fought hard for it. Just...for the opportunity, that I pissed away right after high school. There were so many reasons... but I'm glad that I went back.
I started at a community college. The n'er do well, the screw up, the black sheep, the class-cutter, dark and brooding, borderline/suicidal songwriter, that weird sullen kid who thought the world was against her... went back to college and got straight As and charmed her teachers, with a smile. Because I wanted to be there. It's funny, looking back... and knowing where I am now.
I wanted to be an advertising executive back then. Skirt suits and power pumps and print ads... A city girl. A loft on Madison, a weekend house in the mountains. I wanted to design a commercial, with my own slogan, for a top brand, to air during Superbowl. That was my big dream when I started college, after years in retail management. I didn't want to sell, on the floor... that was peanuts, I wanted to sell brands, I wanted to entice entire social groups and drive their customer behavior with my words and images. I wanted to find out what their problems were and find all the things that would solve them... and point out solutions, with ad messaging. Jingles and one-liners and storyboards and product placement, I was all about it. It sounds so shocking, almost, coming out of me, now. How free-spirited and artsy I've become, right? I wasn't always this way. I was cut-throat, once.
I took Marketing, PR, Sales 1 and 2, Advertising, Direct Marketing, as well as Psych classes, so I could get into people's heads. Sociology, to understand human compulsions and behaviors. Desktop Publishing, to learn about design, graphics, computers... and those lessons still stick. The programs, however, have been long-since outgrown. (Does anyone remember Quark Express? And Photoshop 1?) I remember practicing cold-calling in class, and mock sales calls, with my professor. I was selling "Doggie-Mints." I cut and pasted my magazine ads. No... I cut (with scissors) and pasted (with a glue stick.) Then made color copies of the new image. Homework was a lot of work. And I would dress up, on my presentation day, and sell my mints. I loved it. I was good at it. I was funny, snarky, and charming, my work was often an example for the class of how to do it right. I nailed the advertising spiral and could follow my simple ideas into production and distribution, theoretically. I got the concepts, they made sense. And I kept getting high As. I was blown away. Up until then, I assumed that I was stupid and lazy, a troublemaker... based on my high school experience.
Just before applying to 4 year schools, to transfer, we all (business-program classmates and I) went to see some self-made millionaire entrepreneur guy, at the Westbury Music Fair. I can't remember his name, I think he was a big deal in hospitality at the time.
And I remember the moment... I got shook. He had a hard Long Island accent. Fuggedaboutit.
"This kind of life isn't for everyone. You go after your dream, you get lonely. Not everyone wants you to get there. They'll throw you off, convince you to take a desk job, play it safe, get that 401K. You gotta want it. You gotta be okay alone, hungry, and restless... and you gotta keep going, til it hits. Til it works. It's hard work. You gotta have what it takes, and guess what... most people don't. That's the truth..." Something like that. My idealistic shimmer began to fade, at that moment. I remember the doubt oozing in, fast. Did I have it? What it takes? I didn't know... how do you... know? It's the same thing that threw me off music. Am I enough to try this? Can I do it? Can I handle how hard this might be? What if I'm not that one-in-a-million?
When I was young, every dream was accompanied with a proviso: Don't bother.
I switched to Liberal Arts, soon after. I fell into the humanities, where it was cozy and safe and artistic...and I would stay there, until library school. Until... now, actually. Art, literature, philosophy. And perhaps... all is as it should be. Perhaps. But.
There were times, while taking Women's Studies classes, and finding my roar, my voice, that I began to consider entrepreneurship again. Everything comes back around... I made my own soaps, lotions, sugar scrubs. Mimi's Garden, it was called. I had an 800 number, business cards, an email address, a Yahoo Business page... (they were big in the 90s-00s). I made one sale to the local 5 and dime, where I also... worked. (Yeah, she totally felt sorry for me.) And I realized how much I had to do... better labels that didn't soak through, a website, selling, phone calls, networking, craft fairs... I could do all of that, I was sociable, smart, driven, creative, but... there it was again. Was I enough? Could I follow through, could I handle how hard it would get? Could I keep investing into it? Was it worth it?
That speech, that one speech, from that one man... that was meant to inspire... was tinged with negativity and bitterness and condescension and had forever seeped into my head as a warning... that I probably wouldn't make it. Because I might not "have what it takes." Wow... funny how ideas are formed. Maybe he was right, and maybe not, but, I'll tell you this. Whoever this "big shot" was... I can't even remember his name, and I'm pretty sure he faded into obscurity as the years went on. So... there's that.
When I got my Masters, I really learned how to research, how to ask the right questions, and how to organize and access information for optimal flow and knowledge access. You'd be surprised how much learning "the reference interview" can improve your daily quality of life and cut down on bullshit and nonsense. Just getting to the core issue, to the heart of it, when folks are accustomed to dancing around topics out of habit... "what are you really looking for? What do you really want?" And solving the problem from there. It's a game-changer. Some of the relationships that I made in that program were life-changing, in small ways. The degree got me a professional certificate, to be sure, and that got me a great career, eventually. But again, the lessons I learned in those classrooms, beyond the assignments, were priceless.
And later, I went back for a professional certificate in management. And I met amazing people, some I still talk to, and my teacher... taught more about life, gut feelings, relationships, common sense, compassion, respect, and ethical behavior... than what any curriculum could tell us. His class made me a better human. And I was introduced to Leaders Eat Last, which changed my workflow dynamics, forever. Thank you, Sinek. A cared for staff, who eats first, will always go that extra mile and put in the time and effort. Morale is everything. We learned about gut instincts and intuition from Blink, thank you Gladwell. And we learned all about crisis management management styles from My Iceberg is Melting. I love this little book... we were exposed to so much great reading and so many perspectives in that class. And the greatest lessons were about life and leadership... not merely nonprofit or business management. Which is how it should be. Great ideas have legs and wings. Mediocre and narrow ones sit and get left behind.
I find myself at a crossroads, sometimes. Having spent most of my adult life working in service of... people... learning their behaviors, patterns, energy, attitudes, motivations, inclinations, moods, and all the rest. There is a very real part of me that remembers the allure and feistiness of that wannabe advertising executive: fire and sass and creative hustle; hard work and fun rewards. All-night projects, new idea butterflies, presentation jitters. There was a magic to it, an energy, a synergy, in working with a good team. Still, there's a part of me that wants to merchandise any good idea at the drop of a hat, from promo ad to shelf display. If I had the means. Because it's fun, because it's a challenge, because I'd get to employ everything I know. There is a fascinating science and thrill behind it, that used to keep me going for hours.
I get a taste of that in book displays, and PR and so forth, but it's quite different. Libraries are about people and service and information and advocacy, literacy and community, learning and growth... not bottom lines and cash flow. They should be anyway.
So. I have a stifled business woman inside of me that's been saying things, lately. And I'm listening, and I'm curious, and I'm open to where she wants to go and how that might optimize my creativity in some way.
But I also have this wild streak, the artist inside, that resists conventions and rules and anything exacting and spreadsheety. Ew, math. (Although, when I focus, I'm actually quite crafty with numbers. It's just not as fun.)
I am a paradox. A hurricane in a teacup. I just don't really make sense, do I? I spent an evening, recently, looking up MBA programs, because I wanted a challenge and I miss that side of myself, sometimes. I miss that roar. The honesty, the ambition, the hustle. The integrity in doing it right and getting results, despite the fleeting emotional hub-bub. The joy of taking an idea to notes to flow charts to storyboards to hard copy and backing it all up with a presentation. Going to battle for your idea, standing firm on how it will do good and help others in some way. And there's something to that, to... the presenting. Perhaps it's the same part of me that craves performance. An audience. And not just any old attention, but the energy of a rising and falling crowd. The vulnerability. The challenge in it. It's exciting, it's... alive. Pure potential, raw essence to be sculpted with new and emergent ideas.
Anyway. Here's what I have to say about that, if I could reach through the ether to my younger, doubting self: you just don't know what you'll excel at, what you'll love, what you'll find joy in, where your success will come from and what that success will look like. You just don't and can't know, not yet. So, go forth, and try it all! Follow your heart: try, try, try. All of it. Wear it out, with trying. You might be as good as anyone else who might try. And just as worthy. And it's not about whether you can "handle what it takes," it's about finding the right fit. If it's the right thing for you, it'll work, it'll click into place, and you'll handle it. But you won't know what works and what doesn't until you try it out. Gain experience. Try things. Hot shots and big-talkers like to make themselves sound pretty darn special. It's mostly smoke and mirrors, though. The great ones make less of a fuss, they just... get it done, and keep improving. Their work stands for itself, they don't need to pimp themselves off as a good this and a good that. They just are. i think the trick is in finding that thing... that you can do... that stands on its own. It just is. They don't tell you "I'm a great painter..." because their paintings are already great. Their art speaks for them. Right? I think it's the same with anything. Find the thing you do that cuts through everything else and communicates what you're about. And don't talk about the thing too much, just do the thing.
Maybe. What do I know? I know I'm procrastinating and I should be doing something else... so I'm off to dig in, renewed and refocused.
But try. Just go try. And try more. Keep trying. The magic, is in the trying, anyway. That's what makes a life-story worth telling, really... all of the glorious things that we... actually tried.
I read something today that shook me. Deep. Way down deep, in a big WTF sort of way... it had to do with the local school wanting to arm security guards. And then I hopscotched to an article about the psychological effect of gun violence, drills, and paranoia on young children.
I don't think I have to describe the feeling inside. I think we all feel that horror; it's a mess. The uncertainty. The rage, the confusion, the sadness.
But, here's what I noticed, as I read through the inter-webs: my father's generation grew up this way, during the Cold War. They grew up (our Baby Booming parents) hiding under their desks, wondering whether bombs would fall from the sky. It was "war time." There was the big button. And then we were into the Cold War.
I had a chat with my Dad about his childhood. And it was so different... this was a war machine, not unpredictable civilians shooting each other and kids in schools and movie theaters. So much is different, but still, there were parallels. Duck and Cover, they called it. They hid under their desks when the sirens went off. They never knew when an air raid might materialize. This generation had its share of anxiety growing up, for sure.
I read here about the fear and anxiety over current politics and threats to our safety, and how they echo the fears of the Cold War era. We are re-living those fearful childhoods, through our baby boomers. It's palpable. The tension, the air thick with the memory of it, of hiding. Are we safe, are we safe?
And on the other hand, we have the current kids. The group my son will be joining in the fall. These kids are in the beginning stages of learning "active shooter drills." The Boomers had fall-out shelters, and now we are talking about "safe rooms." The threat is very different. But the fear is real, for both. I shudder to imagine my son growing up in such fear-based, dark world. And anxiety begins to tug at me, too. But then, I stop. I breathe. I ground myself. And I remember...
My generation is a special one. And I'm definitely talking about my own privileged youth: my friends, my school experience. Of course, not everyone had a positive experience, for personal reasons. But I'm talking about the vibe of the nation. The Reagan Years. We grew up in the age of bliss, in many ways
I watched the first choreographed music video, ever, on MTV (back when they just played music videos) along with many of my Gen X counterparts who were lucky enough to have cable. (You just heard Video Killed the Radio Star in your head just now, didn't you?) Oh - ah- oh...
I grew up with Dolly Pops and He-Man cartoons and Voltron and Smurfs. US in the 80s... in the middle class neighborhoods... there were TVs everywhere. Abundance. Too much, I think. We had it good. New Wave vibes and Boy George and John Hughes films. Lisa Lisa. Janet. Blondie. Bon Jovi. The Rubick's Cube. Watchu talkin' 'bout Willis? Different Strokes. Beepers and pagers. Madonna. Atari... Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger. The arcade. Neon shirts. Webster. Asymmetrical skirts. Princess Di. Skorts. Tina Turner. Scrunchies. Keds. Miami Vice. Knight Rider. Human League. Wham! Bowie. <3 The Go-Gos. Mr. T. FAME! Flashdance. Shoulder pads. PRINCE. Garbage Pail Kids. Whitney Houston. Mr. Wizard's World. Mall bangs. Mr. Rogers. Peak Michael Jackson. We Are the World. Hands Across America. Farm Aid. U2, The Police, Sting. Debbie Gibson. Selena. BRUUUUCE. Weird Al. COMING TO AMERICA. Roller rinks. New Kids and Tiffany... we crossed into the nineties and the Seattle grunge exploded! Kurt Cobain and the Nevermind album, oh my God! Chris Cornell. <3 We met John Mayer. Dial-up internet entered the home.
I could reminisce for hours. There was pretention, to be sure, but I remember the freedom, the bliss, the culture, the abstract art, the vibe... like it were yesterday. I think a lot of us do. TURBO AND OZONE! Sorry, that just slipped out. So, we sort of packed it up inside, and carried it along with us. Many of my counterparts still quote their favorite childhood shows and nostalgia. it was so much a part of us, and it was the beginning of an addiction to technology and instant satisfaction, as well.
For a lot of us, our parents worked outside the home. Latch-key kids. Oh, yes... who else had keys around their necks and walked home from school to empty houses? And usually, that was perfectly safe. Not a care. Our biggest threat was the potential weirdo in a van with candy. We had more TV time and we were a spoiled bunch... What we didn't grow up with...was a looming fear of danger and imminent death. We thought we'd live forever, we were invincible. Our battlefield was Love. <3
And for so many of us, it still is. We are Hippie 2.0, streamlined for greater efficiency. Hyper-Connected. Love x Love X Infinity. Nothing is impossible. Stubborn as all get-out. We will survive. Win. Achieve our dreams. Because better days are possible. We've seen them. Great things happen and dreams come true. And good guys win.
i mean, we wanted to solve our problems with dance-offs...
My point here... is that our kids have an amazing gift, to help them navigate through their childhoods.
They have us. The 80s kids. The Gen Xers. The hope-and-dreamers. The big Lovers. The idealists. We were in a magical sort of bubble, as far as violence went. Sure, skirmishes existed, but not in our backyards. Not at home, not in America. We didn't know about any of that, we were safe. We were eating Fun Dip and Razzles and learning about Aids and safe sex. We were saying no to drugs (well, some of us said yes. No, not me. I was a drama queen, but straight as an arrow.) We learned about global warming for the first time. We were learning joy and empathy, indulgence and moderation, not fear and paranoia.
Granted we still had socio-economic division and racial conflict and all the rest. We had the good ol' haves and have-nots. But we weren't living in a constant fear of destruction. As our parents did, and as our kids are. We're in that blessed middle. It's a sacred space, because we've known innocence. We know hope. We know Light and goodness and abundance and harmony. Believers.
We saw the end of the Cold War. We saw the Berlin Wall opened and then destroyed, joining the east and west. We saw resolution. Handshakes. We saw eruptions of joy, celebration, and community. Acceptance. Understanding between diverse groups. We've seen moments of peace and wonder. We've also seen riots and disruptions and worked to resolve them. And with so many social injustices, there is always more work to do. But we're doing it. Tables are turning, grounds are shaking, and ways are changing. Step by step. We've been taking down walls since the eighties.
Why are we unique? Because we are in the middle. And not in a holier-than-thou-super-special-snowflake way.... but, meaning that we are the balance. We can raise children with tools to dream and believe and hope, and to do the work. To imagine. To create. To manage anxiety and emotional eruptions. We can tell them that human beings can love each other, work together, trust each other, and succeed, together. We can instill them with beliefs that are empowering, because we've been there. We've seen bright times, and we know, they'll come again. We can infuse them with Love, in a time of fear. With our feet on steady ground, filled up with hope and that glimmer of Light and peace-time goodness... we can hold space for our parents and keep them grounded. We can comfort our children and guide them through. And we can continue to dream, hope, and imagine a better and safer world. We've seen glimpses of it. We're the ones. We're those people. We're that generation that guides the ship. That lifts and inspires and motivates and makes.
Change happens. Reform happens. Tragedies happen, but we rise from the ashes and demand change. We rip down walls that separate us, we celebrate each other, we Love.
We Love. And we'll keep on...