Tag Archives: inspirational

Clay the Starbucks Guy Did Not Ruin My Life.

photo courtesy of wikipedia

photo courtesy of wikipedia

I was standing in line at Starbucks yesterday. My mental state was not good. In fact, it was poor. I hadn’t had time to put on deodorant because I was afraid of missing the train. Instead, I shoved it in my bag and then forgot about putting it on anyways. And I’d forgotten to use my ear eczema lotion. And I hadn’t had time to moisturize. So things were not good.

I was wearing uncomfortable shoes and after I caught the train I was afraid of missing, I’d ended up arriving twenty minutes early to my destination. Three miles away from me, on the floor in my room was the cup of coffee I hadn’t had time to drink. Everything was terrible so I decided to take the twenty minutes I had and walk to the Starbucks that I thought was five minutes away.

But it was not five minutes away, it was a ten minutes away. Seven minutes in to the journey, I was starting to sweat and my mental state – already fragile – nose dived (or nose doved – not sure what the correct phrase is here.) I remember speaking out loud, “Please. Please. Please,” willing the Starbucks to appear earlier to relieve my anguish. It was sad. What seemed like hours later, I arrived at the Starbucks, my neurons panting for caffeine.

There was a line. “That’s okay,” I tried to tell myself, “It’ll go fast.” Unfortunately this was not one of those uber-efficient financial district Starbucks, where employees have been choreographed to move through dozens of customers in five minutes with robot-like precision. This was a tourist Starbucks, and people had questions about the menu and time to debate over whether they wanted the pumpkin bread with cream cheese or the pumpkin scone.

There were only two people in front of me but it felt like an entire lifetime passed as they debated endlessly and pathetically over what kind of baked good they wanted to order, who they wanted to be when they grew up, how the family was doing.

Behind them a storm was gathering in my mind. I was summoning all the forces of darkness, all the black magic in the world to will them to finish their order and get their coffee, or perish. My hair grew long and wicked and floated up behind me as I grew fangs and my fingernails became yellow and razor sharp. I was ready to bring the reckoning and I knew who was at fault. It was Clay, the Starbucks employee. If he could just go a little faster then everything would be okay, but he was willfully and defiantly lethargic and the source of all terrible things in the universe and the gross black stuff that grows on my kitchen faucet.

Just as I was getting ready to be rude to him and/or cause him physical harm, I had a moment of clarity.

Wait a second, I thought. It’s not Clay’s fault that I was unprepared for today. It’s not his fault my armpits are stinking and my back is sweating. He didn’t choose the shoes I’m wearing or my career path. In fact, Clay has nothing to do with my anger or my life or my long, dark, wicked hair. He’s just here.

If I were in a better mood, nothing would be wrong. Even the colors would be brighter and the tourists’ inane conversation would be charming, possibly exciting. I am the problem.

Whoahhhhhh.

With that in mind, the voodoo winds died down, my fingernails and teeth changed back to normal, I took a deep breath and forced a smile to my face.

“Medium coffee please – could you put some hot water in the bottom of it and leave room at the top for cream?”

Everything was going to be okay.

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Somewhere Right Now, A Millennial Is Freaking Out About Life

millennial dinosaur is afraid of things she can't control millennial dinosaur is afraid of things she can't control

millennial dinosaur is afraid of things she can’t control

I was in Nashville for a reunion with some of my best friends from college for the 4th of July weekend. In the three years since we’ve graduated, we’ve all gone and gotten jobs or done Americorps or the Peace Corps or something along those lines, and now we’re trying to figure out what the heck to do with our lives and also what we’ve already done.

Sometimes I feel terrified that I’m doing everything wrong. Graduating from college was like being forced through the birth canal and leaving a tender home for a world of concrete and screaming and people slapping you to make sure you’re alive.

I miss classes and learning for the sake of learning. I miss my friends and being within a 2 mile walk of 80% of the people I care about. I miss grades and how easy it was to measure success. Sure it was all hell sometimes, but mostly it was awesome.

Not college has been different than college. In the “real world,” learning is not valued just for the sake of learning. My friends are spread out and busy. Community is difficult to build and what the heck is going on with dating nowadays? In some ways I want to write Boston University an angry letter saying “WTF? Why didn’t you prepare me for this?”

On the other hand, my real world education has been incredibly valuable. I’ve learned the value of a dollar (which is almost nothing), and how difficult but important it is to continue to invest in relationships as part of building a life worth living. I’m probably doing most things incorrectly, but so is everyone else and that’s a reassuring thought.

One of the best parts of not college has been the relationships I’ve maintained and the joy of seeing old friends. As I live more life, friendships grow richer as we experience tragedies and great joys together, and as life becomes less about us and how we stack up against arbitrary standards, and more about the kind of legacy we’re building with the people we love.

Because in the end that’s the most valuable thing we have. College couldn’t teach me about the other hard lessons in life, but I did get to build some incredible friendships. My dream is to continue growing that spiderweb of love for the next one hundred years.

I don’t know if I’m making the right career decisions, and I don’t know if my life will look like what I want it to look like in 20 years. I do know that friends are awesome, so I’m going to start there with the rest of my life and ask questions later.

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What Improv Taught Me About Life

Life lessons from improvSo I started taking improv classes. I just did it for fun, and to meet other people and find out if my humor could translate to the stage. Three months later, I’ve accomplished almost all of my improvising goals, including being told by the teacher to try “less yelling.”

Unexpectedly, I also learned things that are useful for life, lessons I believe are helping me become better at sucking out the marrow of life’s ribs.

Other people have also found improv valuable. Heck, this guy even wrote a blog with the same title as mine.  It’s valuable for writers who want to write better, for actors who want to act better, and for humans who want to human better. The really incredible thing is that I have different points to make than these other chucklenuts. Let’s get going.

1. Live in the moment

It’s impossible to improv effectively if you’re inside your head, thinking about how the act is going, what you should do next, or what you could have done better. Every moment spent inside your skull monologue-ing to yourself, is  moment your body is occupying space onstage and going nowhere. Be present. Don’t over-think it. Silence the inner critic.

The same thing applies to living. How can you live effectively if you’re always thinking of what you could do better, judging yourself, or comparing yourself to other people. Life is going on outside your skull, and it’s meant to be lived, not tiptoed around.

2. You have a body

All day long, we use this body of ours to do things like type on computers, sit in chairs, stare at powerpoint presentations, make coffee, see patients, put on clothing, digest food, pick other people’s noses, etc. But how often are we conscious of it, of the weight we support on our frame, of the way our ankle feels when the other one is resting on it, the rhythm of our own heartbeat, the blood in our veins and the juices in our stomach.

Taking a moment to consider the universe of our own being is somehow relaxing. It helps define a space for me, reaffirms my existence, and helps me connect to the essence of what I am, namely, a being made of animated atoms. Wild, isn’t it?

3. There’s no right answer

Improv is not about being funny. It doesn’t matter if you say “thumb-flavored jello snacks” instead of “a pink ruler,” so long as you say something. The reality is that everything is right and good. My partner throws out something about being in a kitchen. Awesome. Yes. Or maybe she throws out something about me as her daughter that’s recently been having trouble wetting the bed. Awesome. Yes.

In life, I get so caught up with trying to find the ‘right’ idea or the ‘best’ idea that I don’t end up trying anything at all. I’m paralyzed by indecision, and the end result is much worse than if I’d run with something and improved it along the way.

4. Nothing’s funnier than the truth

Yes, space aliens that sprout wings anytime someone says the word “kerfuffle” are interesting, but so are work crushes, parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers, churches, bars, hair salons, the whole mix and everything. Our everyday life and relationships are incredibly rich, laden with beauty, pain, and humor.

What makes improv really great, and all humor really great, is its ability to relate to the truth in a unique way or portray it in a new light. That’s the gotcha moment, when all of the sudden you’re on the floor crying from laughter because of a scene about someone eating a donut. That’s where the real magic is, it’s in the everyday, the mundane, and the banal. That’s also the title of my next improv show. I hope you come.

P.S. I’ve been taking improv with Leela and am really enjoying the classes. If you’re in the Bay Area, you should definitely check them out.

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Stop everything and think about this

cool picture(Skip to the quote if you’re short on time)

So I’ve been using the thinking part of my brain and the talking part of my mouth recently, having those kinds of conversations with older people that make me wonder why I ever thought I knew anything in the first place.

One of those was with my former professor, who I now call by her first name and that’s a little weird. I don’t remember the exact words of the conversation, but I remember coming away from it, shocked to learn that there are many stages in life, and the fact that she is a professor right now doesn’t mean she will always be a professor and in fact she hadn’t even imagined she would ever become a professor.

To me, this was mind-blowing. For some reason, probably because I’m too intelligent, I imagined popping out of college and entering “career” or “dream job,” neither of which turned out to be true, and in fact I don’t even know what my dream job looks like. Understanding this stage in my life as part of something greater is extremely relieving, because that means I still have the chance to revive 30 Rock and write for it in 10-15 years.

On the note of life stages and the illusion of permanence, I read an incredible quote today, courtesy of Literary Jukebox. The quote is from someone I’d never heard of with an equally unknown book, which gives me hope that one day my words might inspire someone even if they’ve never heard of me. Debbie Millman in Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design writes

“I discovered these common, self imposed restrictions are rather insidious, though they start out simple enough. We begin by worrying we aren’t good enough, smart enough or talented enough to get what we want, then we voluntarily live in this paralyzing mental framework, rather than confront our own role in this paralysis […]

Every once in a while — often when we least expect it — we encounter someone more courageous, someone who choose to strive for that which (to us) seemed unrealistically unattainable, even elusive. And we marvel. We swoon. We gape. Often, we are in awe. I think we look at these people as lucky, when in fact, luck has nothing to do with it […]

If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.”

When I read this, I find it extremely challenging and convicting, and it reminds me of something that Stephen Elliott of The Daily Rumpus (and other) fame said once in one of his letters.

He said that people will never be surprised at your failure if you try to do something “impossible,” like make a movie, or publish a book, or travel around the world. In fact, they expect it. They’ll say “of course you couldn’t publish your book, of course you couldn’t make your movie, of course you couldn’t change jobs” etc. etc.

But the reality is that people are doing those things every day, and the only difference between them and me is the fact they’ve been pursuing their passion with a relentless fever, making the impossible happen for themselves and not listening to the consolation of others.

What does it take to be extraordinary? I’m not completely sure, but I know that part of it is steely tenacity. Today I resolve to be more tenacious.

(By the way, if you don’t read the site Brain Pickings, you should. A side-burn of Brain Pickings is the tumblr Literary Jukebox, which is also fantastic.)

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Shame Eat With Ease!

Hi! Thank you for purchasing 8 oz. of Lynette’s “Seriously Chocolate” Homemade Fudge: Shame Eating Edition.

Through market research, we have determined that it’s highly likely you’ve considered not sharing this purchase with anyone. Right after you bought this butter and sugar brick, you may have been thinking about how much your spouse, kids, co-workers, or roommates would enjoy savoring its creamy texture and delicious chocolate taste. Then you started thinking about how much you would enjoy these same things, and how much longer you could enjoy it if you didn’t share. Hey, we’re with you there! We also think it would be lovely to sit and gobble this diabetes trap furtively like a woodland creature, discarding it before anyone you know sees you.

Just when you thought Lynette’s fudge couldn’t get any better, we’ve made it easier for you to shame eat and dispose of the evidence quickly and simply. For that reason, we’ve included a little plastic spoon right here in the container at no extra charge! By using a spoon to shame eat fudge, you can still retain some dignity and avoid a big post-fudge mess. Lynette’s recommended shame eating method is to drive to the nearest parking lot, make sure you’re mostly alone, and inhale the fudge-y goodness as soon as you park the car. If the weather is appropriate, Lynette likes to go to a different part of town and shame eat her fudge in a park while enjoying nature. We’re sure you’ll love it  too!

Currently we are developing a car-friendly way to devour fudge embarrassingly fast that doesn’t involve grubbing it with your hands and risking a stain on your work clothes or getting fudge fingers. If you’re interested in being put on our newsletter list, we can keep you updated on all the tricks we have up our sleeve to help keep you eating behind the backs of your loved ones. Just email us at eat@shame.org and we’ll put your name on our list.

Here at Lynette’s, we have always believed that you deserve complete privacy as you put away the treats you deserve. Thank you supporting our mission and happy shame eating!

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