On Purpose

I’m a big fan of Upworthy (I even applied during their last round of hiring), and one video amongst their myriad, thought provoking pieces has stayed with me for a while. Stephen Fry of the British Humanist Association narrates a three minute video on what life can mean for any one of us. When I first saw it, it struck me as odd that some people live lives of contentment through simple things like gardening or watching television and talking with their loved ones. That’s it? I thought. That can’t be someone’s entire goal in life…. Can it? But, it can be.

I had a conversation about this a long time ago with a friend of mine. His goal is to “J.E.T. Life.” Just Enjoy This Life. Coming from the Christian background that I grew up with, such a notion is really difficult for me to understand. Like, for real? You don’t want to live your life for something bigger than yourself? Having time and money to spend on stuff that you like is all you care about? Really? Another friend of mine who is openly and decidedly humanist once told me that he loves it when people post whole music albums to YouTube.  He finds it useful, and he joked that maybe one day he would do the same.  I mean, it might have been only a joke and I will admit that we were having a light conversation. But I was still utterly baffled. That’s all you aspire to? Uploading one video of someone else’s work that may get a few hundred views or a few million views, and may brighten someone’s day once or twice, but which otherwise does nothing to notably change the world for the better? Are you serious?! I just don’t get it.

Despite all my efforts to be humanist, empathic, understanding etc., etc., sometimes I fail. This is one of those times. I find it very difficult to imagine a life lived only for myself. How could someone abandon the notion of service, or of living for a greater good, or constant self-improvement or of the pursuit of creativity through art or scientific innovation? How could you not want to change your family or your community or the world at large in any way? That’s just … weird.

Still, I want to try to see the other side of this discussion. Is it possible that my friends are the type of people that can have a happy life doing things that make them smile, but I am the type of person that has a preference for leaving some kind of legacy behind me? Is it possible that both of these ways of life, though very different, are each valuable and good? I think it is. …  I think. Lol. I mean, if what you do with your time on earth isn’t immoral, illegal or unjust, how bad is it really? [shrug] Maybe it’s actually a perfectly nice life. And if I choose to live my life differently, who am I to judge you for how you live yours?

What about you? Do you believe in “giving back,” forging a legacy or living for an individual purpose? Do you believe in thriving in the experiences the world has to offer while you’re here? Let me know in the comment section. Talk to you later.

~Pastiche

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Dating Advice from Unlikely Sources

I am slowly but surely developing a crush on Ramit Sethi. I mean, c’mon. An intelligent Indian American man with big beautiful eyebrows who wants to teach me to be rich like he is? It’s love.

In a recent post on his blog, he asked his numerous followers how they might use his principles of business and finance to find love. That’s right. Ramit believes that a strategic, entrepreneurial mindset can get you a date. I was skeptical at first. But as his followers came up with example after example of how they’ve adapted what they learned from his programs to their love lives, I had to admit it. This guy might be on to something.

One comment in particular stuck out to me.  A user named Jonathan wrote a detailed response critiquing the notion that everyone had a plan for how to get someone, but no one had a plan for how to keep the person they find. He explained very thoughtfully how he works out, stays focused on his goals and, most importantly, maintains a positive mindset so that he has something to bring to a relationship, whenever it eventually happens. While I was offended by one comment he made about how women don’t “jump on [his] cock,” – Really, dude? You were doing so well up until that point. – I agree with his main argument: the key to success in dating is to have something to offer.

Another cool thing is that if you apply this kind of thinking, you can rip relationship advice from anywhere. I follow Shameless Maya on YouTube and one of her latest videos features some straightforward, no nonsense networking tips. But those concepts can easily be transformed into dating advice. Be genuinely curious about the other person. Find a way to be helpful so you can sneak in some extra quality time. Offer him (or her) something of value. However, Maya’s fourth tip is my personal favorite, and I think it lends new depth and insight into our topic: Get a life.

Having a life gives you something to talk about. Having a life makes you interesting. And interesting people are very attractive. Just like cool stories about sky diving and tattoo shops can lead to better interviews and new connections, they can also make you super freakin’ hot. Now, Shameless is fortunate enough to be beautiful in the traditional sense as well. (I’m not jealous. I’m not. … ) But for the rest of us average folk, authentically upping our hotness factor is not as hard as it seems. Learn to give more than you take, get a few solid hobbies and useful skills, then meet people and trade stories. And there you have it. Easy as that. Get your sexy on, boo.

A Humanist’s Prayer

I finally broke down and prayed yesterday.

Maybe that’s not weird to you. Maybe you’re the type of person that prays every day. Well, I’m not. My views on life and the world around me are increasingly humanist in nature. So praying? It’s weird. It’s really weird actually.

I used to be fairly strongly Christian, at least outwardly anyway, so you would think that praying would come naturally to me. But when you know like I do that praying doesn’t actually change your situation, taking time out of your day to close your eyes and look to up to the skies (or out to nature or in to, I don’t know, something) is … odd. Intellectually, it doesn’t fit.

But mentally and emotionally? It does. It totally makes sense. Now, I’m sure there are many freethinking skeptics out there that would disagree. Out of respect to them, I will modify that statement to, “it totally made sense for me.” Praying gave me a sense of calm that I otherwise could not find. For a brief moment I was at peace because I was able to say, “I’m scared,” and “This sucks.”

On the other side of the argument I can already hear the Religious Ones yelling at me. “You felt calm and peaceful because you prayed and Christ gave you grace.”  Umm, no.  I felt peaceful because prayer and meditation are inherently peaceful practices. More specifically, it has been scientifically proven that mindfulness and meditation can help you decompress and slow down the chaos of life. My problems are not solved. My worries have not been erased. But for the moment, I am not completely stressed out to the point of distraction because I chose to be real with myself. Sometimes you just have to find your center. Sometimes you have to stop and regroup. That’s what praying is for me. It’s a moment to stop, hit the reset button, and then will myself forward.

To the humanists, atheists and agnostics out there reading this, I encourage you to try prayer or meditation if only for curiosity’s sake. This guy does it. This guy too. And they are both intellectually content. To the Religious Ones reading this, I don’t believe in your faith, but I honestly respect your need to take the time out to talk to someone, even if it is just talking to yourself.

A Snapshot of an Interesting Forty Days

Recently one of my Facebook Friends posted a link to the website fortydaysofdating.com. It’s about two New Yorkers in the same circle of friends who decide to date each other for 40 days to see if they can fix each other’s relationship issues.  She jumps in quickly and is almost instantly committed and monogamous for the long haul. He dates two or three women at a time and always leaves before it gets too serious.  In a general sense, this sounds kind of like classic male and female roles. The woman always wants more, but the man is always “needing some oxygen.” (Shout out to you, Common.) However, when you read the nuances of why they do what they do in relationships and their history together as friends, it makes for a pretty interesting past time. Honestly? The second I knew what the premise was, I was totally obsessed with this website for, like, a week.  I read every.single.post. And now I get to share my past week’s obsession with you.  You’re welcome.

Perception and Conflict (Spoiler Alert… kind of.)

It was really interesting to read what each person was thinking as they were thinking it. The two of them process things so differently. Toward the end I found myself nearly yelling at my lap top:

“No! It’s your fault this is happening, not hers.”

“Wait. Why did you say it like that? No wonder he’s upset.”

“Oh my gosh! You’re getting it all wrong! You guys just need to trade surveys.­”

When they’re in conflict, she’ll either be very calm, logical, and direct, or she’ll blow it off all together. He’ll get emotional and show that he’s deeply affected by an issue, but he won’t be willing (or able? … or both?) to say what’s really bothering him. Essentially she likes resolutions without conflict and he likes drama conflicts without resolution. Imagine the fights.

New York City

Ok. First it was movies. Now it’s the internet. Why does everyone make NYC look so stinking fabulous? The dates these people went on! My God!  Granted, they are semi rich white people and I am none of the above. But still! I was so jealous.

And Speaking of Semi-Rich (Racist Qualifier Omitted) People

Let me also point out how intimidating these two are. Jessica Walsh is the partner of a design firm. A partner! Her name is in the title! Timothy Goodman is an award winning designer/illustrator/ art director with his own design studio. And I don’t think either of them is even 30 years old. Geez. My life is an insignificant drop in the ocean compared to the waves these two have made in their field.  They are really doin’ it big. I mean, clearly I need to step my game up, right? Does anyone need an opinions columnist?

Anyway, I thought it was a highly intriguing project with equally interesting people.  And since they’re both designers, the visuals (created by friends and colleagues) were thought provoking as well. Now, I don’t recommend reading every post like I did – Please. Have a life. Seriously. – but it’s definitely worth checking out. More opinions someday soon. Ciao for now.

On Doing Something (Anything!) via cracked.com

Last week I read the realest article I have read in a long time. Maybe ever.  If you want to check it out, head over to Cracked.com.  I mean, I am going to summarize it here, but it’s definitely worth the read.

Can You Stinkin’ Operate?

At some point in the recent past I came to the following conclusion which is also the author’s main argument: I am only worth what I can do.  It doesn’t matter if I almost never miss a graduation/birthday/wedding/ baby shower, etc. I doesn’t matter how good I am at paying my bills. (I am a pro at that if anybody’s wondering.)  All the world wants to know is, “Can you do the d*** job that I need you to do?”  That’s. It.  As I’ve been mentioned before, I have a Cushy Corporate Job at a call center, and, honestly, I’m a little embarrassed by that fact.  Answering phones is not a highly skilled skill, so I do not feel like I’m worth much.  And I have a bachelor’s degree.  I have a bachelor’s degree and I answer phones for a living. Without making a grand statement on the state of the economy, that’s a pretty depressing reality.  Also, aside from the fact that the author of this article and I came up with the same conclusion, he:

a)     said it first, so he gets the credit.

b)    said it in a tangible way on the website he co-created.  And,

c)     probably got paid to do it too.

At the present moment, all I’m really doing is responding to work he’s already done.  And though I am happy to write (because I love writing), the ideas that I’m presenting to you aren’t entirely new. And that, my dear friends, is exactly the point. What is unique about you?  What new thing can you offer to the world? Can you be honest, philosophical, and funny all at the same time? (I’m so impressed by David Wong’s tone in that article.) Can you consistently provide entertaining content that will make people want to return to the same website over and over again to read your work? Can you do anything of value at all??? It’s a tough question. And I hope that you can answer it confidently on your own terms. Personally, I have struggled with this issue for a long time and this blog is one of the ways I’m starting to answer that question. But in the past, I used to fall back on the fact that (most of the time) I’m an extremely nice, highly loyal person. Here’s the thing about that….

Nobody Cares How Nice You Are

At least not if you can’t do the job. The world needs closers. (Again, read the Cracked article.) If you can close really well and you’re an a$$hole. That’s fine. We’ll take it. If you can close really well and you’re a genuinely nice/thoughtful/funny/exciting person, awesome! That is highly desirable and almost rare. But if you’re a great person and you can’t close? Well…. Thanks (sort of), but you are a non f%&@ing factor. This is one of those life principles that totally sucks. I’ve been on both sides of the situation (being able to close and not being able to), and I’d like to say that the nice guy always wins out just for being nice. But it really doesn’t work that way. There is, however, some good news.

You Don’t Have to Be Good at Everything

All you really need is a niche.  In the article the author makes an interesting point I had never thought about before. He says, “How much of your time is spent consuming things other people made ?” When I first read that line, I felt teeeeeerrible. Almost all my time goes to consuming other people’s creations. (YouTube, Hulu, Netflix. Hell, the entire freaking internet!) And in the case of my job, all my time there goes toward building someone else’s empire rather than my own. (I hate you, Corporate America.)  But the bigger picture is that the world we live in is so highly specialized that consuming other people’s creations is perfectly acceptable as long as you have a talent or skill to give back to society. That’s right. If you’re really good at something valuable that people need, the world will allow you to be mediocre, even bad, at literally everything else. Plus you get bonus points if the one thing you’re really good at is also meaningful to you or makes you happy. But that’s another post for another day.

Last Thoughts

This is a can do world that needs can do people. Stop hiding behind what you don’t do (I don’t lie. I don’t kill people. I don’t steal stuff. I’m never late to work and I never miss a day.) and start living by what you accomplish. Because remember:

  1. Nobody cares how nice you are.  Not lying/killing/stealing/being late are minimum requirements.
  2. Thinking about all the things you don’t do is a little bit negative. Whether you realize it or not, it’s screwing with your self-esteem because even you don’t fully know what you’re worth.  You don’t know what you can achieve.

Now, to the latter fact about self-esteem I’m sure the author would say, “Wanna feel better about yourself? Learn to f&%!ing do something!”

Touché, Mr. Wong. Touché.

I would, however, like to offer a small modification to that statement.

Michael Jordan (I don’t know if you’ve heard of him. But he was, like, kinda good at basketball.) was once quoted as saying, “You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”  Many sources have cited that Michael Jordan was passed over on his high school’s varsity basketball team as a sophomore and that moment was the fuel that helped him focus better, train harder, and make the team the next year. The rest, as they say, is history.

But he had to believe that he could do it first. If Michael Jordan hadn’t believed he was better than another guy who got chosen before he did, he never would have put in the extra effort to get on the varsity roster the next season.  And then the rest of us never would have experienced the amazing talent that is Michael Jordan.  That’s almost a tragedy if you look at it that way.  So, I totally agree that doing something (anything!) will get you out of the I-hate-myself funk. But you have to first believe that you can get out of it. You have to believe that you’re worth more than the junior varsity status the world has incorrectly labeled you with. You have to believe that if you aren’t a success already, you should be. And you will be. If –ENORMOUS if- you actually act on that belief, build your skills, and prove to yourself that you’re worth it every single day. And in the process of proving it to yourself, you will prove it to everyone else too.  Who knows? If you work hard enough and you have that spark, you might even change the course of history.  So Git Up, Git Out and get something, Big Boi. Time to find out what you’re made of.

I’m Back. And I’ve Got Lots to Say

Hello, friends. I don’t know who’s reading this, and maybe no one ever will. But I don’t care. It is my mission to write. My voice was meant to be heard and I have always known this. So, I’m back to blogging, and I intend to stick with it this time. Any and everything will happen here at wildflowerpastiche. I hope you’ll stay around.

First thing on deck is my response to one Ms. Susan Patton.  In case you missed it, last week a Princeton alum wrote a piece entitled “Advice for the young women of Princeton” that got such an overwhelming response on the Daily Princetonian that it crashed their site. In her article, which broke to the public on April 1, Ms. Patton told this generation of Princeton women to find their husbands while still in school. If they don’t, she suggests that they probably aren’t going to have a good relationship with a man on their level. Ever. (If you’d like more details on what Ms. Patton actually said, you can read some of her thoughts on Madame Noire here or follow the link to the original CNN Money article here.) Well. That’s pretty disparaging advice. And while I can see where she’s coming from, I think there are some strong points she missed about the world of dating during and after college.

The POSITIVE of Post Grad Dating

I think Ms. Patton is forgetting a very large, modern exception to the rule: Online Dating. I have a female friend who is recently engaged to a man she met using an online dating site while in grad school. She is over-the-moon happy; they’re going to be great together ‘cause he’s a comparable, suitable match for her on every level; and her search barely interrupted her studies and career goals.  Call that dumb luck if you want, but let’s not completely overlook online dating as an answer to the question of how to expand the limited post grad dating pool.  And that’s to say nothing of finding people through things like shared hobbies, mutual friends, work, religious groups, or other community settings centered on common values.  Yes, the game is way different after graduation.  But if you are amazing, single, and looking with degree in hand, who’s to say your match isn’t out there doing the same?

The NEGATIVE of Post Grad Dating (from the female perspective)

On the flip side, I do have to agree with the author that it probably would be easier to find a like-minded partner with similar interests while still in school. I mean, that’s kind of a “duh” point, but still.  A lot of my female counterparts aged 24-34 like myself are smart, self-sufficient, and pretty happy with where they are and what they’re doing. A lot of us are also more than a little anxious about our continued singleness.  It is a truly bewildering experience to find a mature, well rounded, “manly man” who gets your personality and whose values and idiosyncrasies mesh with yours.  For me the toughest case in this regard is a friend of mine who I frequently refer to as The Strongest Woman I Know.  And she is.  She is uncommonly intelligent, hardworking, tough as nails, wise, exciting to be around, strong in faith, loved by everyone she meets, a great mom, sexy, successful, focused on her goals, open and ready to love and to settle down … and still looking.  She is the quintessential, Maya Angelou “Phenomenal Woman” and I can’t understand for the life of me why someone hasn’t snatched her up yet.  Had she dated more in college, would she be married by now? There’s no guarantee on that. But maybe she would be.

On Men with College Degrees

It’s a piece of paper.

While earning a degree shows a certain level of follow through and ambition, it does not guarantee a man who is relationship ready at graduation. I’ve seen that first hand. College degrees don’t guarantee higher intelligence either.  Two of the smartest men I know do not have degrees at all.  They are self-taught, highly principled men who did not require formal education to be knowledgeable and cultured.  Of the two of them, one is currently pursuing a bachelor’s, but he’s really only in it for the increased earning potential.  What he’s studying isn’t as important to him as having the paper.  And for the record, he and I met on a dating site online.  And while we are good friends and I have my reasons for not dating him, I’m fairly confident that one of the reasons he is not dating me is that I – the one of the two of us with a degree – am not smart enough for HIM and I don’t have enough to offer HIM intellectually.  How ‘bout them uneducated apples?

What I Believe at the End of the Day

You attract what you are.  It’s a law of life.  And the fact of the matter is that many of us, at 22, don’t know who we are and what we want. At least not completely. Because we’re not mature enough yet. So, yes, one could choose to leave college with a lifelong mate in tow.  And it works well for some people.  But it certainly isn’t for everyone.  And let’s not forget that in 5 years at age 27, your wants and needs may be totally different.  They could be even more different 5 years later at 32.  As I grow, I believe more and more that personality brings people together, but character keeps them together.  So while I agree with Ms. Patton that networking, dating, and finding a mate in college is easier than the post grad alternative, I wish she had been able to see that the easy way is not necessarily the best way.  I wish she had told today’s graduates not to just arbitrarily make relationships, but rather to learn how to make good relationships work. And how to spot a person with strong character who knows how to do the same.  That is the real skill.  That is the real goal.  Healthy relationships that balance healthy ambition are the real triumph. And if you can’t master that while you’re in college, fine.  It’s really not a big deal at all. Live your life. Work on you. Have fun. Learn stuff. And, of course, keep going on dates. Your shelf life is longer than you think.

Wildflower Pastiche Brings New Voice to Blogoshpere, Seeks Readers

When you begin blogging on WordPress.com, the site gifts you a with a complimentary first post entitled “Hello, World!” How, clever! I thought when I read it. And how appropriate. In my 30 minutes of pre–research into blogging – yes, geek that I am, I looked up who blogs, how to blog, etc…don’t judge me – one blogger stated confidently that the first post is paramount, as it establishes your audience and your point of view. Really? Seriously? I thought I was just writing some stuff about my life like everybody else. Thanks for the pressure.

In any case, I have to admit to myself that creating some kind of image of my online presence was a fairly good idea. So here I am, doing exactly that.

Let’s begin with my blog’s name. Wildflower Pastiche.  I have been told that I march to the beat of my own drum and have been called a free spirit many times. But my favorite variation on this theme came from a dear friend of mine who once spontaneously nicknamed me, “Wildflower.” I kind of look up to this particular friend because she’s naturally graceful and wise, so to be blessed with such a beautiful and accurate moniker made my day. In fact, it’s pretty much the best nickname I’ve ever had, so henceforth I shall claim it proudly. Lol. Pastiche is the artsy fartsy word for “collage.” (Like, instead of jamming a bunch of pictures together to make bigger picture, pastiche is when you take different literary works or genres and cram them together to make a new genre, or when you take different pieces of music and  put them together to make a new musical work. Hmm is that crookery or creativity?… Depends on how good the pastiche turns out, I guess. Maybe we should ask the current hip hop generation.) I think of my life as a collage, a hodge-podge of a few random things here and there. And at this particular point in my life as I enter *ahem* my bigger twenties – I refuse to say, “late” –  I am acutely aware of how each thing I choose creates the picture of me. But I am so, so very excited to be creating that picture. This power to choose is the upside of adulthood. The door is finally wide open, and we are free to do whatever we want. That’s actually kinda cool when you think about it. Who knew?

As for the rest of my blog? Well, I would say expect a little more of the same. A little philosophy, a little humor (Maybe? Yes? I hope you at least smiled), maybe some social commentary, and some unnecessary and possibly pretentious teaching funneled through the lens of some sort of topic of the day… or week… or….something. Also I’m single, and it’s been driving me crazy of late-an unfortunate by product of the la…I mean big twenties- so there’ll be a lot of theorizing about relationships. Some whining too. Lol. My hope is that you will read along with me as I sculpt my adult life and reinvent myself, comment, and encourage a friend or two to click through. Thanks for reading. See you again soon.

~Wildflower Pastiche