It is okay if you never finish anything. Including this list. Especially this list.
You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone ever again if you don’t want to. To deal with those who believe they are owed an explanation, you may wish to carry around a handful of cards that say I DON’T OWE YOU SHIT because you don’t. The flip side is that nobody owes you anything either.
You don’t have to feel grateful for a job you hate. You have to do the work, but you don’t have to be grateful.
You don’t have to feel guilty for hating a job that pays well. You have to do the work, but you don’t have to feel guilty for hating it.
Be realistic about complaining: are you venting, or whining? Venting should make you feel better afterwards. Whining just makes you feel worse and for longer and you might not be able to stop.
When in doubt, go to the movies.
Tell your cat the truth every day. She is a good listener.
Some people are smarter than you are and it’s all right.
You’re smarter than some other people and it’s all right.
Give everyone the credit they deserve, plus ten percent.
Whenever possible, sit in the sunshine and order the bread pudding.
Listen to music every day, even if it’s just one song.
It’s okay if you like Taylor Swift, or if you don’t, but either way you need to respect the fact she's breaking records and making bank. And, honestly, it's probably time to retire the joke of Nickelback. They're doing their thang and making bank too. Or were. Maybe they've spent it all. In which case they should be mocked heartily.
Consider buying less dumb stuff like fancy bottled teas, clearance snow globes, magazines selected in a fit of temporary boredom in the checkout lane, anything selected in a fit of temporary boredom anywhere, so-so shoes whose most appealing characteristic is being available when you feel like buying shoes.
Traveling is always worth the money, though.
I've never been much of a New Year's resolutions person. I say things like, "I believe in trying to be my best self everyday." Or, "Time is a construct, so why pin so many hopes on a completely arbitrary deadline?" I am completely aware that these are boilerplate statements for the vaguely lazy and unmotivated. But for 2015, I might be ready for a big pronouncement of self-improvement, because I haven't been my best self this year.
Now, in a lot of ways, 2014 has been great. I saw a lot of new places for the first time: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, Dublin, Galway, London, Cape Cod. I had the most productive writing year on record, finishing two novels and a number of short stories. I moved to an awesome apartment in an awesome new neighborhood. Yay! But there was some not great stuff too. A massive restructuring at my day job resulted in a new role for me, one that I don't like, and I let it ruin at least a small part of every evening since March. I wasted who knows how much time staring idly at Facebook (more on that later). I still have boxes to unpack in my basement--like, a lot of boxes, not just a few. I got out of the habit of cooking at home. I got out of the habit of playing guitar every day. And all of these things just sort of formed a swirling vortex of meh around me, which I combatted with more Facebook.
I just want to be better than that. No sweeping resolutions, no rules, no dates, no qualifiers, but I want 2015 to be full of the good from this year with none of the bad.
In 2015 I want to:
make music every day
So about Facebook.
I'm in the middle of a Facebook rehab/detox/competition/I don't even know how to describe it with a friend. After realizing that basically any time I was idle for more than 5 second, I would open the app on my phone and page through post after post from people I wasn't even really friends with in high school. I got nothing whatsoever out of this, save for an occasional flash of outrage over someone's obtuse politics or a general irritation at an aggressively mundane status update, a la "Getting ready to eat a sandwich!" (Lots of people have written brilliantly about ways Facebook is terrible, so I don't need to say any more about that.) Now, to be clear, there are plenty of posts worth reading, from people I'm close with in actual life, not just the weird subset of human relationships that social media has created. But the people I like most tend to be online lurkers (as I am), so my Facebook feed is disproportionately full of updates from people I'd rather not have updates from at all. And yet, paradoxically, though I wasn't interested in it, I was checking it constantly.
I don't even want to know how much time in the 4 years of smartphone ownership I've spent using the app.
Actually, that's not true: I do want to know. I'm really curious. I want to know so I can feel incredibly self-satisfied at cutting down that usage to a mere fifteen minutes a day.
Okay, so it might be early for such smugness. But I'm working on it. My friend and I created a set of parameters, because going cold turkey seemed simultaneously too hard and also unnecessarily radical. We are allowed to use Facebook for fifteen minutes each evening. We're allowed to view updates for things we have subscribed to notifications for, and we're allowed to use the Messenger app since it is separate from the dreaded newsfeed. If we should give into temptation to look at Facebook outside of the proscribed reasons and time, we're on the hook for fifty cents per minute, which we are paying into a Paypal account with plans to use the money for a trip in the future. So far, 2 weeks in, there's roughly $30 in there between the two of us.
(Just deleting app would obviously be easier--and cheaper--but we're in it for the glory of conquering the addiction, rather than just removing the temptation. Also, it is our way to make things more complicated than necessary. It keeps things interesting.)
I've had lots of feelings about it so far:
1. Amazement at the sheer amount of time contained in a single day
2. Frustration because I want to scroll through that damn boring newsfeed but I'm not allowed
3. Embarrassment at being so addicted to something so pointless
4. Lonely, because even though lurking in acquaintances' online lives doesn't actually count as social interaction, it feels like it does
5. Excited, because there is hope.
The trick, though, is to create a life that does not rely on petty distraction, not just a life that doesn't involve Facebook. That means no stupid games (TwoDots, OMFG), no binge-reading advice columns, or looking at those dog-telling-Anna-Kendrick-a-joke memes on Imgur. Not replacing Facebook with those things, anyway.
There is no set time frame for this experiment. I guess we'll either become cured, give up, or take a trip so fabulous with all of the money that we forget Facebook existed in the first place.
"You can fix almost anything by authentically communicating."
--Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking
I'm going to Chicago tomorrow--no, not to stalk the cast of Chicago Fire and make them play the drinking game with me, though I am quite proud of it, but rather to visit a friend and go see Amanda Palmer's book tour appearance at Thalia Hall. The Art of Asking came out on Tuesday, was in my hot little hands on Wednesday, and I finished it just now, afterward, note from the author, acknowledgments and all. I loved this book, as I knew I would. It's not a self-help book in the sense of teaching a person how to practice the art of asking, but rather a deeply personal account of how Amanda learned to do it. Which is so much better than a how-to book, since we all know you can't really learn how-to from something easy like reading instructions anyway. I'm not going to write a proper review, because I only know how to review fiction. But it's a wonderfully frank account of her start in the music industry, getting signed to a label, escaping from said label, her now-famous Kickstarter, writing the book itself, and all the people who touched her life along the way. If you're familiar with her work, you'll love the book automatically. If you're not, you should be, so reading it wlll be an Education.
What I really want to write about is how much Amanda Palmer means to me, but I'm not really sure how to do that, either. I should really just stick to writing drinking games. Okay, how about a story. The summer of last year, my friend and I went to see Amanda perform at the Milwaukee pride festival. We got there wildly early and spent a while drifting around and eating the only vegan food in the entire place (corn on the cob) and being generally impatient and not in the moment. At one point my friend left our front row seats for some reason (to get more corn? Make a phone call? I don't remember) and was gone for kind of a really long time, and I was just sitting there, watching God Des & She perform and feeling like a weird, awkward loner, by myself in a strange city, hungry and tired of corn, and generally being a pathetic sulk-monster and not even enjoying the performance in front of me, even though it was energetic and fun and everyone else seemed to be having a good time. I was feeling all kinds of conflicted--about being at a pride festival with my straight friend while my GF was two states away, about being introverted, about having resting bitch face, about hating my outfit. Insufferable. It was not my finest moment.
Flash forward a few hours, and the crowd had filled in, my friend had returned, and we were packed against the stage. When Amanda came out, one of the first things she did was tell a story about how she'd been dancing in the front row during God Des & She and she dropped her wallet. But I had been in the front row, too. Not dancing, though, rather, sitting and scowling and writing an email on my phone. I could have been dancing joyfully with Amanda Palmer to "Lick it"!! I could have rescued her wallet! But instead, I was being the insufferable sulk monster. Amanda's music often makes me feel emotional, and this night was no exception, especially since I was in A Mood. But then she played a new song, "Bigger on the Inside," and it was like a bomb going off in my head. I cried so hard during this song that I was actually afraid I might not ever be able to stop and it would turn into A Thing and I would just be the sobbing, snotting sulk monster of Milwaukee for all time. Fortunately, that didn't happen--I rallied, we were able to join Amanda and the crush of fans outside the Milwaukee Fairgrounds for a brief ninja gig before security ran us all off, and I didn't have anything for her to sign but we waited in the signing line and I asked for a hug and got one.
The next day, emotionally hung over at the airport, this happened on the Twitter:
(I apparently need to charge my phone.)
But I think my point is this: honesty is hard for me. Not honesty as in being truthful, but being open. Midwestern stoicism, residual guilt from Catholic school, call it what you will, but being free and open is my biggest challenge. I couldn't even admit to myself at that show that I was sad and lonely--maybe I had been for days at that point, who knows. I also couldn't let it all go, let loose, and just be in the moment. But Amanda Palmer's gorgeous, haunting, honest song unlocked something in my bitter, sulking heart and even now, I still can't quite explain it. But no other music has ever made me feel quite like that before. And I try to remember the experience sometimes when I feel the sulk monster coming on--Kristen. Look up from your damn phone. Your musical/spiritual hero might be dancing right in front of you.
It doesn't always work, obviously. But I think it helps, especially knowing that my musical/spiritual hero is a real person who responds to tweets and gets lonely in airports and who snots when she cries too.
In conclusion, The Art of Asking is available wherever books are sold, but here's a link to it on Amanda's site. Also, good news, now that the Amazon/Hachette staring contest is over, you can get it there too. Also also, in conclusion, an appropriate soundtrack for a blog post about feeling trapped in your head.
"You cannot hold your own heart hostage. You do not have the strength to gag yourself in every closet."
--Amanda Palmer, "Olly Olly Oxen Free"