Life isn’t about being. It’s about becoming. That one was one of my own, folks. Fresh from the mind of an early-rising 28-year-old who wanted to conjure up some more inspiration early before work, mainly because my knees are hurting so I can’t work out, but also because I love this stuff. It’s oddly empowering to take the words of a great thinker and run with it. Maybe this is me, bearing my true colors as a nearly 30-year-old married lady, but I think that we live in a way too me-centric culture. Everyone wants all the credit, but no one wants to put any work in or acknowledge the genius of those that came before them. I, for one, have been an incessant attributer, to the point where I have trouble taking credit of the projects I’ve taken from conceptualization to actualization. I’ve never understood where the harm was in recognizing that no one person invented the wheel. I think it came from Skidmore’s adamant disapproval of plagiarism. (See, I can’t even get away with saying I always attribute stuff to others without attributing my need to do that to my college. Crazy? Maybe, but at least I’ll never be involved in a copyright infringement case.)
Malcolm Gladwell, a favorite contemporary mind whose brain I love to pick, wrote a controversial and mildly unflattering account of the genius of the late Steve Jobs. In the New Yorker‘s “The Tweaker,” Gladwell recognizes Jobs for the creative genius he was, but argues that much of his genius was in taking great ideas and in pushing them the rest of the way to perfection. “Jobs’s sensibility was more editorial than inventive,” writes Gladwell.
Lately, I’ve been entertaining the idea of becoming as mutable as possible. There’s a lot of value in faking it until you make it and while many may disagree and argue that true freedom is being who you feel like being all the time, I’d argue that freedom lies in the ability to shape shift, depending on what environment you’re in. I can and should be a different person for my friend with guy troubles and when I meet friends of my future in-laws and when I’m at work. That’s true control over yourself and to me, that’s true empowerment. So as I take on the great voices from the past in this blog post, I hope that you, too, will see the benefit of editing, transitioning and, well, tweaking.
So, with that attempt to justify my editorial tendencies, I’ll move into part three of my three segment series on being 28, celebrating the dawning of 2012 and preparing to transition into marriage mode. (To see the first two parts, visit Part Un and Part Deux.) These quotes have been borrowed from a book my father edited and “tweaked,” called The Hip Pocket Guide to Offbeat Wisdom.
“Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.” Albert Camus
“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.” It’s funny, the only thing I ever read by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was Faust, and while I thought the concept was interesting, I thought it tragic but also pretty short-sighted that the main character’s lust for knowledge drove him to make a deal with the devil. (Why would you one do that? The costs far outweigh the benefits. Come on now, Faust.) That being said, I wonder if I’d have a different take on it today, because Goethe has a lot of wisdom to doll out, like the aforementioned quote.
Okay, full disclosure: This next quote is actually from one of my favorite philosophical movies of all time, Waking Life. I remember first seeing it with some of my Skidmore darlings in college and then rewatching it many times over, cuddled up in a bed too small, with my one and only. One of the quotes from the movie that really resonated with me as a young person came from two middle-aged ladies having a candid but fascinating conversation over lunch. And this is actually a bit more of a back-and-forth than a traditional quote. Whatever, it’s good and you’ll like it, so here it is:
First woman: It’s such a strange paradox. I mean, while, technically, I’m closer to the end of my life than I’ve ever been, I actually feel more than ever that I have all the time in the world. When I was younger, there was a desperation, a desire for certainty, like there was an end to the path, and I had to get there.
Second woman: I know what you mean, because I can remember thinking, “Oh, someday, like in my mid-thirties maybe, everything’s going to just somehow gel and settle, just end.” It was like there was this plateau, and it was waiting for me, and I was climbing up it, and when I got to the top, all growth and change would stop. Even exhilaration. But that hasn’t happened like that, thank goodness. I think that what we don’t take into account when we’re young is our endless curiosity. That’s what’s so great about being human.
The idea that you kept changing and growing after your mid-30s, believe it or not, was a shock to me. It was exhilarating to think that I’d keep getting better, that I wouldn’t just peter off to become a boring drone. And they were right — I feel more like myself than I’ve ever been. And while I have a completely different cell make-up, several times over, I’m still essentially myself. Cool.
The next quote comes from the great poet, who I’m not nearly as familiar with as I’d like to admit. “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are,” wrote e.e. cummings. It’s not easy to get up at the crack of dawn and workout, since I know I’ll be pretty stagnant during the workday. But then I remember who I want to be and in the end, that’s someone who doesn’t make excuses for myself. I hate it when people say, “I was going to do this, but…” Just do it. Maybe as I’m raising the bar for myself, I’m becoming too hard on others, but seriously — people who make too many excuses, get it together. Have you ever seen “Deadliest Catch”? Well I have. A lot. (Thanks, Future Husband :) ) The show is more an amazing chronicle of the true lives of fishermen than it is a reality TV show and let me tell you, those guys won’t take, “I’m too tired” from nobody.
“Life is like a voyage that is homeward bound.” (Herman Melville) In the great epic journeys of heroes of the sea like Melville’s Captain Ahab and Homer’s Odysseus, home is always the final destination. At the end of the day, after a long day a work, I share that dream that I too will make it to the place where I belong– in my house, with my fiance and big furry pup to rest, recoup and just plain be. In reality, Future Husband is my true home, but Rochester comes in as a close second. My family and friends live far away from Rochester. Many of them grew up here and have since spread their wings elsewhere and for some, this will be their first encounter with the Flour City. Our wedding, then, is a sort of homecoming for those who like us, were borne and bred in this great city I’ve come to love, and I hope to give my out-of-town guest who haven’t yet visited the best darn welcoming I can to the place I’m so vehemently proud of. (I have many posts on how much I’m obsessed with this place, including this one, with a link to our engagement photos in Highland Park, just up the road, during the Lilac Festival.)
“Art is the objectification of feeling.” (Suzanne K. Lange) I feel so lucky sometimes that my soul could burst. Our wedding planner Kelli Berg, of Simply Beautiful Events, can attest that I’ve probably inundated her with enough ideas for three weddings. That’s because I want to show our guests how much I love them and how much everything they’re doing means to me, to us. I usually wear my heart on my sleeve and while I doubt that everyone will soak in every last detail from our special day, I love the idea of using artistic expression to enhance our ability to put our joy out there, on display, for the ones we loves so much.
“Art is uncompromising, and life is full of compromises.” (Gunther Grass) Yet another advantage to an artistic endeavor — that creative energy that’s always bubbling up within me is an outlet. I don’t follow directions super well, at least when it comes to projects, because I like to play. I like to pick a medium and gets my hands in there, to see what happens. I realize that we’ll have to scale back for the big day. It’s like Malcolm Gladwell was talking about — there’s a subtle power in tweaking. Writing too, is about editing and refining. But art gives us that unique chance to throw it all out there and see what sticks. It’s liberating and exhilarating and most of all, fun. (For links to some projects, check out posts on these silver centerpieces, flower arrangements, bunting flags, pinwheels, table runners, kissing balls and paper blooms.)
Just about four months left until the big day and here I am, up earlier than usual with daunting to-do list banging around in my brain and a dizzying array of images of possible flower arrangements and ceremony decorations that got me up and out of bed much too early this morning. I need to get away from this visualization business. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of the lovely novella The Little Prince, wrote “As for the Future, your task is not to foresee, but to enable it.” This is wise advice, which I must try to heed to, especially as we’re refining ideas and making decisions. Enough with the envisioning. It’s all about taking action now.
There seems to be something cyclical going on here. I’m finding that while I’ve grown and changed, I’m returning to some ideas from my younger years, like songs (post on our song here), wedding colors (navy — Mercy High School, any one?) and literature. So it’s only fitting then, that I end my set of 28 quotes with the one that lay beneath my senior photo in my high school yearbook. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson) When all is said and done, it’s about inner strength, resilience, growth and evolution. I do hope this wedding experience transforms me, into a better, more authentic, honest and true picture of myself. Here’s to hoping.
What are your favorite quotes? Feel free to post them as comments. I’d love to hear them.
- Big Things on the Horizon…Being 28 in 2012 – Part Deux (bridefied.wordpress.com)
- Top 28 Reasons I’m Glad I’m 28 – Part Une (bridefied.wordpress.com)