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Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Creative life

At the end of When Harry Met Sally, Harry says, "When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to begin right away." I feel that same urgency about beginning a life that's centered around work that's mine - my gift to the world, something only I can give, something that brings me tremendous joy, something I'm the boss of. If only I knew what that something was.

I know I have high standards. I know that some might counsel, "be grateful for what you have. don't strive so hard." I am grateful - my life is full of abundance. And yet, I'm restless. Restless because I know that if I find that place where "my deep gladness and the world's deep hunger" meet, it will unleash deep joy and fulfillment, will color each day of my life with clearer purpose and meaning. I could spend the rest of my days working for companies whose missions resonate with my values - but at the end of the day, no matter how much I accomplish, I am a cog in someone else's wheel.

As I try to crystallize my vision of the work I want to be doing, I find myself focused on the idea of creating spaces that inspire people. As Eve Ensler once said, "We give what we most want to get, and we teach what we most want to learn." YES. I want spaces that inspire me, and am so grateful whenever I find them. I struggled for so long in this city, falling in with those who judge it as a khaki-pants town, with no creative community. I was wrong, and finding places like Tranquil Space and organizations like Washington Improv Theater helped me discover a city full of creative people dying to express themselves, to live differently, to find a community of others with shared interests and values. All of this pulses beneath the surface in DC, and it takes a while for newcomers to find. I see others struggling, and I think, if I could create a space that was a gateway into this dimension of the city I've grown to love - a gateway, like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland - I would be giving such a gift.

What kind of space do I mean? Maybe a vegetarian cafe on 18th Street, with fresh, delicious, local food - a haven after a harried day at the office, a place to nourish yourself, a place to feel communion with others who seek out such a place. Or, an arts space - somewhere artists could rehearse, workshop ideas, perform... like the new Woolly Mammoth space, but with a feel all its own. Perhaps the cafe and the arts space are somehow attached.

Or maybe, an inn. I love to travel, and some of my happiest memories are of places I've stayed that have provided a unique and comforting experience that made my discovery of a new city or town that much more delicious. When I read travel literature about DC, it's all about monuments and museums; while these national treasures are, indeed, treasures, they cast DC as more of an object to be gazed upon, than a thriving creative city. I could see myself helping, in my own small way, facilitate travel to DC for a whole different dimension of experience: local theater, food, drink, nature -- a bike ride through Rock Creek Park, a beer at the Brickskellar, dinner at Meskerem, an evening at the Source. The inn could have space where community organizations could meet, films could be screened, artists could rehearse...

So many ideas, and yet I'm still waiting for that "aha" moment - the moment where the heavens part and the sun shines down and I know that, yes, THIS is the idea to pursue. I try to be patient - but patience is not my strong suit - and with each passing week, I fear weeks will turn into months, and I will still be stuck trying to crystallize a vision, instead of pursuing a dream. I try to savor and enjoy this process, of brainstorming, allowing myself to dream as big as I can... and I do enjoy it, to an extent. But after a while, being who I am, I want results.

One thing I do know (I think): I don't want to work at a systemic level. I don't want to sit in an office with city planners figuring out how to design DC to better showcase creative life. I don't want to issue grants to arts organizations. I don't want to be part of a marketing team. I used to believe that the more macro you were, the more of an impact you could have, but I'm ready to go micro - to make a difference through the individuals I help feed, nourish, inspire, not through strategies that inevitably relegate individuals to concepts.

Have you ever struggled with a similar process of crystallizing your vision for something? If so - any advice to share? I'd love to hear it...

Sure. One day I woke up, looked around the NY area and much of the east coast and said "Ya know, it just doesn't have to be this way."
And 9 months later, I'm in Wisconsin. :)
(Which incidentally, is a pretty kick-ass place so far.)
EVERYTHING in life is a combination of compromises and trade-offs... it's all about prioritizing what's most important to you on both a micro or macro level. Everything you do is a choice, unconscious or not, and looking at why you've made the choices you've made can go a long way into exploring what it is you want, how your brain works, and how you're unconsciously prioritizing your life. Everyday you've shown up at work for the last six years, it's been a conscious choice.
In a sense, unless you're someone completely driven towards a vision of some sort (like that high school friend who ALWAYS wanted to be a doctor or musician or whatever ), then it's always a matter of picking among the other options that sound pretty good. There is no perfect... perfect is boring. San Diego is 72 degrees and sunny all the time, but I don't want to live there, because I like Autumn and snow mixed in with my summers. Perfection stops you from evolving.
You've at least got a good idea of what you don't want to do... that's a good start. Ignore what you studied. Pick something interesting. Sell your house and buy a B&B with a theater in the basement.
Anyway, that's a lot of rambling without much point. Just remember, you're 30 now, it's all over anyway. ;)
Start bracing yourself now for Jordan's complete emotional collapse next February. :D
Amanda, there are other kindred spirits out there just like you, myself being one of them. You have captured in many words what I have failed to put into few. To try and describe these feelings to friends, family and even my boyfriend (who understands me better than anyone) is a daunting task to say the least. And the ever looming "you're not getting any younger" age factor always seems to put a sense of urgency to finding this ever elusive thing.

The best word that I've come up with so far to try and bring life to this major issue in my life is "small". I feel "small". As a child my world WAS small and manageable. I wanted to bring refreshment to the community and make a little money so I set up my lemonade stand on the front lawn. Mission accomplished! Quickly with age the world has become so big and intricate that I only feel helpless in its wake. Between the injustices of a flailing government to the destruction of the planet where is one person to begin. I'm passionate about making a difference but to have a major impact on society would be short of a God-like miracle.

I too am grateful for all the things that I have accomplished in my lifetime and for the blessings that surround me, but this feeling has yet to leave me despite my successes. In attempts to find my fulfillment I have achieved high honors through school, gone to 2 major colleges for a B.S., attended massage school, moved a bunch of times and opened my own massage business among trying out various job fields, all which I feel bored with in a matter of 1-2 years.

I want to make a difference and really change people's lives, give them that escape you talk about. And then I realize the only one who has the ability to change their life is them. I attempt to create sacred space for people in my massage sessions and have quickly come to the reality that I can create the space but if that's not what their looking for you can't force it. You would be surprise how many people don't go for the sacred space concept!

In my desire to do something tremendous I have even looked into peace corp., volunteer vacations, local volunteer experiences but it just doesn't seem enough and like you I want this experience to be my life, my legacy, my career. Like teenage girls who envy the model figures rubbed in their faces, I envy successful business people that seem to have found that one thing that they are happy to pursue in life. In San Diego, everyone successful is in business for themselves and the most common story is "well I woke up one day and just fell into this amazing job I love that provides me with all this extra leisure time and money to do the things that make me happy." Jealous - yes. Bitter - maybe. But it still doesn't answer the question of what I'm going to do with my life.

In talking to several of these business men their thoughts were to focus. Figure out what it is you really want to do and then focus on only that. But that doesn't help with the "what to do part". In telling them I have so many interests and desires for future they simply waved it off as if focus was the answer. Pick something and stick to it. Once I have my "aha" moment I'll be happy to take the focus advice.

So for now I wait to fall into some fantastic hole that will lead to success and fulfillment ever watchful that some amazing opportunity is not trying to sneak by me. As for advice I have none but what I hope I've provided is understanding.
If you're willing to shell out the cash, I've found these kinda tests (specifically this one, the Strong career assessment) to be real useful.


Sometimes it just illuminates what you know, which is pretty valuable too. I switched my major once based on the output!
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