Follow the Signs

15 Feb
Old lady

Old lady

As I have spent the last few weeks considering what it means to do satisfying work, I have noticed signs everywhere that seem to be pointing me in this direction. A dear friend posted the photo above on Facebook. I’ll repost the text below just in case it’s not legible from the picture:

Some day you may be as old as I am. Take my advice, and don’t waste your short life. Invest your youthful vitality in your art. Share the best of your spirit with the world. Your body will die, but you cannot die. So, don’t worry about petty things like bodies, money and possessions. They pass with the body and are meaningless. Don’t worry what anyone thinks of you. Don’t seek approval, except from yourself. Your art and ideas are signs of your spirit. Your beauty endures forever, as do you.

I’ve been back at work from the Christmas holidays (remember them?) for a month and a half, but I’ve still had a difficult time adjusting. I don’t know what happened in between December and January, but I have found it difficult to do the work. During my first four months at my new job, I dove in with enthusiasm. But recently, it’s been a struggle to get through the workday. Don’t get me wrong, I still do my job the best I can, and work as hard as I can, but I often find myself thinking, how can I spend day after day nose deep in Excel spreadsheets? I alternate between liking the work and not. But unfortunately, the days of not liking it are adding up.

I always identify as a creative person in a non-creative line of work. My best friends are creative (my closest friend in San Francisco is a writer). I tend to fall for men in creative professions (artists in particular). I acted from elementary school through college, enjoying it as a pastime but never as a serious way to make a living. I always enjoyed writing as a child. When I think back on what has been a constant in my life, writing and reading are the biggest ones. I have always been a voracious reader, and when I was little, I fearlessly thought, “I can do that”. I wrote my own stories based on The Babysitters Club (this is before fan fiction was a thing). But the older you get, the more you talk yourself out of these things. You learn to apply your interest in language into a career that allows you to live independently as a woman in the city. My current field, digital advertising, has allowed me to live comfortably first in San Francisco and now Mexico City. I am respected and known in my field, and I appreciate that aspect of my career. It’s one of those things one is not supposed to say out loud, but recognition is an important aspect of one’s professional life. It’s why people like me who have some ambition choose to pursue demanding careers and eschew helping careers like teaching.

But I’m rethinking it all. I’m rethinking what’s important. How can I work at a job where I feel that my true talents and interests are not being used? What’s it for, to watch the clock for 40+ hours a week only to come home to a nice apartment on evenings and weekends? I want to do work from Monday through Friday that fulfills me. Is it possible to do that without taking a vow of poverty? How does this vague desire to find a more fulfilling profession translate into concrete action?

I think it’s entirely possible that I could reread this post in a year and roll my eyes, at how naive it all was. Or, another result is possible. I could reread this post in a year and realize that I was onto something. That it was right for me to listen to my instincts.

One of those other signs I saw recently? Another good friend posted this song by Sade that I had never heard before. It’s all about making a living while not being an office drone. We weren’t born to sit immobile all day manipulating data points and formatting cells. Sade knows that. The old lady above knows that. And deep down, I know it too.

Goodbye to all of that: for Andrew Sullivan

28 Jan
My Dissent of the Day

My Dissent of the Day

I was saddened today when I read on The Dish that Andrew Sullivan will be retiring from the blogosphere to focus on his health and his family. Some have suggested that these are just more histrionics from a writer famous for his freakouts (Buzzfeed collected his reactions to Obama’s first debate performance. In Andrew’s mind Obama had all but lost the election there). I began reading The Dish on a very consistent basis about six years ago- I remember when because not long after I began reading the site, the Green Movement happened in Iran. I was recently unemployed and so had both the time and the inclination to follow The Dish’s liveblog of the protests in real time. It felt like this blog was doing great work, and I had to keep up. It soon became a daily habit.

Andrew Sullivan is, like me, someone with iconoclastic views, who supports gay marriage (he is the intellectual architect of it), marijuana decriminalization who vocally supports the Obama presidency and denounces the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. I don’t always agree with him, and am sometimes infuriated with his opinions. I find that he is quite insensitive to women and women’s issues, and his insistence on a connection between race and IQ is abhorrent. Nevertheless, his blog was always an excellent source of not only smartly written opinions, but curation of the best links around the web. From poetry to economic analysis to theology to those gorgeous window views, the site is thoroughly original. Also, Andrew’s commitment to not accepting an ad dollar, and his condemnation of sponsored content are further reasons that his blog will be sorely missed in this media environment.

I, for one, will always remember the feeling I got when I saw that my email to him was the dissent of the day. And I hope Andrew reconsiders. I hope that his underbloggers take up his mantle and keep dishiness alive. And if not, I am thankful that Andrew has contributed so much to my own intellectual development. I hope he enjoys his semi-retirement.

I do not care what Mark Zuckerberg is reading

8 Jan
Book Club

Book Club

It is a New Year, time to look ahead to a vast expanse of 12 months full of possibility. A natural optimist, I like the positivity that takes hold during this time of year, when people take stock of the past year and look to the New Year with hope. Last year I resolved to read 12 books in 12 months, and I came very close, completing book 11 on December 22nd. I’ve always tried to have a good book on hand for empty hours, and have always enjoyed reading both fiction and non-fiction.

So imagine my surprise when I saw that Mark Zuckerberg, so ably portrayed onscreen by Jesse Eisenberg, decided to start a book club. He has said that he would like to pick a new book every other week and discuss it through a forum on Facebook. I appreciate that he can encourage people to read something they would otherwise never read. But because it is not Oprah Winfrey, but rather the founder of the world’s biggest social network who is starting this initiative, I am a bit suspicious. Is this about encouraging reading, or mining user data (I suspect the latter is the motive for any move by Facebook)?

One reason I don’t consider myself to be a Millennial (although technically I’m on the older side of this generation) is that the way that I relate to the digital world is so different from the way people just a few years younger than I am do. I’m still wary. I don’t want to publish too much. Also, as someone who works in digital media, I am familiar with the glee with which digital advertising types discuss mining user data to sell users more and better stuff. The more highly targeted, the better. As a marketer, I think it makes perfect sense. As a consumer, I don’t like feeling so trailed. And so I think that, while it’s entirely possible that Mark Zuckerberg has the purest of intentions and wants to turn Facebook into an intellectual hub, I think it’s more likely that this is a further attempt to turn our reading habits (and our comments on said reading habits) into something that can be monetized.

So thank you, Zuck, but I’ll keep my book reading offline.

And why are YOU still single?

3 Jan

In order to put in motion my New Year’s resolution to simply write more, I thought a good way to accomplish this would be to do the 30 day blogging challenge put forth by The Single Woman. I’m normally not inclined to write posts that are too personal, but I crossed that line last year when writing about my experience moving abroad. So I hope I can do this in an honest way without being too self-indulgent.

Why am I still single? As someone who had her first kiss when I was 20 years old, I always knew my life was never going to go along with others’ schedules. If other people married at 26, or 28, or 30, I knew I was still going to be tip-toeing into the deep end. I’ve not had many relationships in my life, so perhaps I just haven’t kissed enough frogs. In any case, I’m not surprised that I am single in my 30’s. I always expected this. I also am someone who never settled into long relationships because, whether right or wrong, I often sensed when there was little to sustain a relationship after the initial two dates. So in the past I used to feel sorry for myself for being the two date wonder. But in retrospect, I think it’s because I just don’t force things. I won’t push forward into a relationship just out of fear of being alone. Either you hit it off with someone, or you don’t.

So that is the long version of why I’m still single at almost 34 years of age. The short answer, of course, is that I just haven’t met the right guy. Which is true. On my own schedule, and of my own accord, I will happily leave my single status behind. But not quite yet.

A Sabiendas

3 Jan

Saber estar a solas

Saber estar con los demás

Saber estar

2014 in review

29 Dec

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Top 5 Movies of 2014

15 Dec
La Dictadura Perfecta

La Dictadura Perfecta

It’s my favorite time of the year: yes, in addition to the holidays being in full swing, it’s also time to play Roger Ebert (R.I.P.), and list my favorite movies of the year. It’s a subjective list: these are movies that I thoroughly enjoyed. Why? I explore why below. Also, take a stroll down memory lane and recall my favorite movies from 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. I’ve been doing this for five years now!

The Other Woman. This is the comedy I enjoyed the most this year. It was a revelation to see Cameron Diaz, after Bad Teacher, prove herself once again to be a talented comedienne. And speaking of revelations, Nicki Minaj! Who knew she could be so convincing as a sassy New Yorker?? The plot took twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, so it really wasn’t your typical romantic comedy. The ending was unexpected and satisfying, and all throughout, there were plenty of laughs.

Begin Again. I’ve already written about how this movie, about a young musician who partners with a grizzled music industry vet to produce a record on the fly, dovetailed nicely with my life this summer. So there is a personal reason why it finds a place on my best-of list this year. But beyond the personal, it is a good movie for anyone who enjoys good music but may not think of themselves as a fan of movie musicals. Like the movie above, this one has a feminist angle about striking out on your own. A lovely little gem of a movie.

Boyhood. This movie is currently ending up on many critics’ top ten lists. Will a backlash be inevitable? I think there already has been a bit of a backlash. Yes, the movie is innovative, but what makes it great is not just the way it was filmed- a few days each year for 12 years, chronicling one boy’s physical maturation- although that is certainly part of its charm. I found the first half of Boyhood to be more moving than the second half. The bits and pieces we see from each year of Mason’s life are the moments that anyone remembers from childhood, whether it be a memorable trip to the ballpark with Dad, or the first day at a new school. Boyhood strings together moments that together make up one young man’s youth, and the movie is made much better by the participation of the under-rated Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette.

Gone Girl. This is the rare movie that is just as good, if not better than, the very good book it was based on. David Fincher was the perfect choice to direct the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s page turner. It’s got his trademark somber color palette, a moody soundtrack by Trent Reznor, and an amazing performance by Rosamund Pike in the title role. The movie is expertly paced, and even if you know what’s coming, you’ll be on the edge of your seat.

La Dictadura Perfecta. If you’re outside of Mexico, I’m not sure if you’ll be able to see this subtitled in your local arthouse theater. It may be available soon on Netflix; I saw El Infierno, by the same director, on Netflix last year. It’s a very Mexican film about a very Mexican subject: corruption. The plot is ripped from the headlines- a small-time governor uses the help of a certain major television company to boost his image. The audience here in Mexico chuckled along at the all-too-familiar plot lines, and the movie was well-plotted and well-acted. I also appreciated seeing telenovela staple Saul Lisazo as a smarmy TV news presenter. There’s a reason the movie was such a hit with Mexican audiences. It strikes a nerve.



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