Creation, Consumption and Apathy

Friday, April 18, 2014


When I first moved to North Carolina, there were a few days when I could not get out of bed. I went from running several miles every day, doing yoga, and mostly feeling at home in my skin to being unable to move. Not physically, obviously, but I could not make myself care enough to get out bed. I wasn't exactly sad. Sadness would have been welcome actually; maybe I would have spent the time crying. Instead, I just felt overwhelming apathy. Everything I might have filled my time with in the past failed to interest me anymore. I was so deeply bored, and I wished to live anywhere other than in my brain. 

In an effort to not think, I spent a lot of time watching TV. I haven't watched much TV for years because I find it difficult to concentrate, and I get depressed when I spend too much time consuming. But I kept convincing myself that I needed the background noise while I worked. Well, I didn't work. Instead, I binge watched episodes of TV series' I did not care about, while obsessively scrolling through Instagram and refreshing Facebook. By the time my boyfriend came home from work, I'd spent about ten hours doing absolutely nothing and feeling absolutely miserable. Not a great period in the land of me.

The problem with over-consuming the work of other people (or even the lives of other people) is that it robs me of the energy and motivation to create. And when I'm not actively creating something -- no matter what that something is -- I feel less like me. Elizabeth Gilbert once said, "If I'm not actively creating something, chances are I'm about to start actively destroying something." That's me, too. I think that's a lot of people.

Something magic happens to me when I write a lot. It doesn't matter what I write about or if it's any good; I'm just happy. I'm happy when I can tie together a lot of unrelated thoughts and make them form a coherent idea. I'm happy when I'm making something. There are these few precious moments (which actually turn out to be hours) where I am completely unaware of time and the outside world and anything but the thoughts in my brain and my fingertips flying across the keyboard. It energizes me to create; it gives me purpose.

Consuming isn't all bad though. Sometimes it inspires me. I have two rules for consuming that I'm trying to follow so I don't get sucked into apathy again.

1) Consume Intentionally

I'll let you know if I ever learn to do this, but what this basically means is not constantly seeking distraction through the work of others. I've found that reading blogs doesn't inspire me as much as reading books does. I think it's because I don't write books, so I don't compare myself to the author. That sometimes happens to me with blogs, and it's not pretty. The same with Instagrams and Facebook updates. It's not that I ever want the life of the sharer; I just get so sick of all the noise that I don't want to add to it anymore. Books always inspire me because they take me to another world. I get outside of myself, and all of a sudden I have brand new ideas. So, the trick is to read/watch work that inspires you to create your own work and not the kind that makes you want to crawl into bed and never leave.

2) Create All of The Time

I know that we're supposed to emphasis quality over quantity, but from experience, if I try to write one essay per week and I really slave over that essay and then no one cares about it at all, it demoralizes me. When I'm putting my stuff out there every few days or even just writing stuff I never publish, I don't get to linger too long on the response to it nor do I obsess over every sentence. I'm not creating anything that's establishing me as the voice of my generation, but I am getting out of bed. Small victories.

How do you find a balance between consuming and creating? 

On Living Under a Cloud of Perpetual Self-Delusion

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

“I think you often have that sense when you write – that if you can spot something in yourself and set it down on paper, you’re free of it. And you’re not, of course; you’ve just managed to set it down on paper, that’s all.”
 -- Heartburn, Nora Ephron

The best and worst thing about being a human is that we spend our lives in a state of perpetual delusion. Whenever I remember this, it always makes me laugh. I’m expected to do all these normal things, like paying my rent and taking out the trash and convincing people to pay me for my writing, all while having no idea who I am. I am a stranger rattling around in a stranger's body. Which seems like something only a very dramatic person would say, but it’s true.

Do you ever meet someone that seems like a perfectly normal human, only to friend them on Facebook and discover that you don’t like them at all? They’re sharing a version of themselves they like best, which includes plagiarized jokes from Twitter and anti gun control status’, but the version that you encounter in real life, who doesn’t lay all their inner thoughts on the table, is actually much more pleasant.  We all like to believe that the version of ourselves that lives in our brain, the one others cannot readily see, is the true version; but it’s most likely just the most heavily deluded one.

If someone were to go on my profile, they’d probably assume that I care about keeping animals out of captivity and that it makes me angry when religion is used to oppress people and that I blog a lot. But that stuff is like 10% of my personality. The other ninety is curse words and sarcasm and making up silly songs and mood swings and a whole host of other things that never make it onto my carefully curated online profiles. I am not who I appear and I'm also not who I believe myself to be. 

Even though I spend a ridiculous amount of time analyzing my own behavior, it is not always easy to reconcile the many selves that live in me. Probably because it's hard to be honest when I'm always viewing myself through a cloud of hazy self-delusion. 

It's funny that recognizing you're deluded is not enough to stop being deluded. But then again, it's not really funny at all, because recognition alone is never enough. 

I hate, hate, hate when someone tries to excuse their bad behavior by telling me that they know why they did it. 

Normally when one of my friends is dating someone terrible and they did something terrible, like cheat on them, my friend will repeat the speech of their terrible boyfriend to excuse their behavior, which goes something like this: “My parents were divorced early, I’ve never witnessed real love or healthy relationships, and I’ve never been in serious relationship before.”  They always repeat this like it’s a sign from the gods that the boyfriend isn’t so terrible because at least he recognizes why he’s terrible. To which I say: whatever.

Recognizing your not-so-great qualities is the very first step!! Alcoholics don’t get to quit after they admit they’re alcoholics. They have to stop drinking. Once you realize your motivations for doing terrible things, you have to stop doing them. It’s the moment when you say, “Hey, everything in me wants to do this terrible thing but I’m going to choose not to” that you’ve made any kind of progress. That’s when you get an award or brownie points or whatever validation it is you’re looking for. In this scenario, my friend is opting for voluntary delusion while the boyfriend is operating under a state of unconscious delusion (or he's a manipulative asshat, hard to say). 

I can't escape the logic of the terrible boyfriend though; I am the terrible boyfriend. I know that action is necessary if I want to change the things I don't like about myself, and yet I continue to believe that writing about them is enough.

It’s a never-ending inception-style delusion, because I’m aware of the bad quality enough to write about it, and then I’m aware that writing about it isn’t enough, but I continually convince myself that it is. I am always surprised when I haven’t undergone miraculous change just by simply sharing my revelations with the Internet. 

Being a human being is such a silly experience. When we want to claim our spot at the top the food chain, we tend to cite our ability to be self-aware. But when our self-awareness is always accompanied by a healthy dose of self-delusion, how useful is it really? Even the things we KNOW unequivocally to be true are actually just facts based on our own special, deluded brand of truth.  

This stuff makes my head spin. I can’t take myself seriously anymore. Which probably isn’t the worst thing.

Allow Me To Re-Introduce Myself

Monday, April 14, 2014

Like most people, I absolutely loathe writing the "about me" page of my site. Also like most people, it's the first place I check after I stumble on a blog I'm thinking about following. So, I thought I'd just write a blog post about who I am and then I can copy it over there. Seems like less pressure. This is going to be long and I know that's frowned upon in the bitesize blogging world, but I hope you'll read along anyway! 

I am not shy and I lie exactly in the middle of the introvert and extrovert spectrum. What I am is an observer. I don't ever want to be the center of attention; I'm not someone who needs a million acquaintances. I like to just take notice of the little things, I like to watch people (creepy), and I will stay quiet if it's more interesting to me to observe the conversation than it is to be part of it. This can come across as being aloof. Before my boyfriend met me, a mutual friend described me as "pretty but kind of a bitch", so that observer thing is working out great for me. 

It does help my writing though. I can remember what I was wearing on a certain day five years ago, what you said, and exactly the way the moment felt to me. I believe my greatest (and possibly only) strength as a writer is giving words to undefined but universal feelings. 

The Beginning (Kind Of) 

I was born in South Africa and lived there until I was ten and my family immigrated to England. When I was sixteen, I moved with my dad and sister to America. My sister is a professional wakeboarder, my dad is not afraid of moving, and I am.....well, I'm here, trying to figure it out. I have an American accent now, but it almost always comes up that I have dual citizenship in South Africa and England because I can't do things many Americans can – like vote or join the Peace Corps or attend online school. Occasionally my non-americanness is the bane of my existence (it's difficult to live in a country that doesn't want you) but on better days, I like to think that it's just a sign that there's a future home for me out there that I haven't imagined yet.

When I was in high school, I fell madly in love with an American boy. It was that heady, intoxicating kind of first love that convinces you that it has to last forever if it's going to mean anything. It didn't last forever, and when that relationship ended, my known universe was shattered into a kaleidoscope of heartbreaking fragments. It's amazing (and embarrassing) how long that took to get over and how much it changed me. 

But! Meeting him was absolutely "meant to be" if such a thing exists, because through him, I found a much more fulfilling, life-changing relationship that will last forever. Growing up, my life was kind of chaotic. Though my parents offered us a lot of opportunities for adventure, there wasn't a lot of stability. When my HS boyfriend went off to college (we did long distance for a while), he asked his mom to take check in on me. She reluctantly took me to lunch, and we instantly became friends. Friends doesn't seem like a strong enough description, actually. We were and are kindred spirits

When I graduated High School and couldn't afford college but didn't want to return to England, she invited me to live with her, paid for all four years of my schooling and supported me in a myriad of other important ways. Mostly she taught me about selfless love and that I was worthy of love. I have never done anything to deserve that kind of generosity, and I am grateful for it every single day. Also, when my relationship with her son ended and I had to keep living in her home for another painful year, she loved me through it. If there are angels on this planet, she is one of them

The Right Now

That was a big defining period in my life, and now I've graduated college and am wading through a transitional period. I landed a job as a copywriter right out of college, but then a few months later the company encountered some trouble and I got laid off. I started freelance writing, and as I was finally able to work from anywhere and support myself, I decided to move to California. I had always wanted to live there, and when my sister said she'd move with me, it felt way more doable. My sister is my favorite person to ever be born, and I miss her now that I'm not sharing most of my days with her. 

We made the decision at the end of November and booked tickets for the first week in January. I thought California was my future, but clearly I know absolutely nothing about my future. I couldn't have imagined an American woman adopting me into her family and I also couldn't have imagined my current life. 

After I got my heart broken and long after it had healed, I was very into being independent. I didn't want to get married, I wasn't that interested in falling in love, and I found committed relationships limited and boring. Well! I didn't know shit, because committed relationships are fantastic and that's why people who are in them are always posting those nauseating Facebook posts.  I was just settling for relationships with people who weren't right for me. 

Right before I moved, my friend Brooke told me she'd met my soul mate. Of course, I laughed at this, because soul mates are silly. But she gave the guy my number anyway, and he started texting me a bunch of gobbledygook, which I had to struggle to interpret. He is German, and although he speaks pretty great english, he also uses some made up words. (He kept asking me if I was "upsad" when he thought that he'd upset me (which he had, because apparently Germans will volunteer their opinions unasked all.the.time.) Still, I liked him. He was in Germany at the time, and when he asked me if I'd meet him in New York for New Years, I said yes immediately. I also fell in love pretty instantaneously  which I wrote about here. (I know I'm becoming one of those people who talks about their relationship nauseating amounts; love is an embarrassing alien that's taken up permanent residence in my body, apologies.) 

Although he also lived in Orlando like I did, he was set to move to North Carolina around the same time that I was moving to California. I invited myself to move in with him, and now I'm here! I still went to California first, and it was every bit as wonderful as I imagined it would be.  Durham is an unexpected gem though, and I feel content right down to my bones, which I haven't felt in a place for a long while. 

I started Awash with Wonder two years ago because I wanted to share my observations. A lot of my posts have been inspirational, and while I did sometimes touch on truths in those, my favorite posts to write are personal essays. I'm trying to become intentional about my life, and I like to talk with other people who are doing the same thing. 

Phew! And that's the rough outline of how I got to this point in my life. Now tell me about you in the comments. Or maybe write a super long autobiographical post and leave the link? I'm so interested to read. 

A Collection of Good Reads

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Months and months ago, I decided to start a new series collecting the best links I'd read that week (inspired by Yes and Yes, like we all are). I think I managed two posts before I abandoned it. But now I'm back! I keep trying to share these links on Facebook, but then I remember that no one there cares and no one wants to talk about them, so here's hoping you do. 

Do you guys read the Modern Love column in the New York times? I loved this one about an English teacher who fell in love with a man who used terrible spelling and grammar in his texts. 

A reminder that artists have day jobs 

I read this website, Full Grown People, which features essays from people in later life stages (40's, 50's etc). I can't relate to most of their life experiences, but the writing is just so great that I'm happy every time a new one pops up on my reader. This one is about a cooking mishap and loss and pain:

"On the way back up from the basement, I pass the shelf where we store our less-used cooking contraptions. My eyes pass over the standing mixer, the apple peeler, the cherry pitter, and I shudder. I realize that I have now renamed this shelf in my head “Things That Can Hurt Me Really Badly.”
What is getting older but a yawing, a slipping and widening, of that shelf to hold more and more things? Pots. Pans. The stairs. My ankles. Ice. My blood pressure. My brain." 

I return to this essay all the time about how you don't owe it to anyone to be pretty

Rebekah encourages us to plan for joy 

This essay is fantastic

"It was then that I realized that I needed somehow to always be outside myself. My mind had become uninhabitable."

These Craigslist housing horror stories are hilarious.

What did you read this week? 

The Illusive Work-Life Balance

Friday, April 11, 2014

I hope you're not expecting me to offer advice on how to find the perfect work-life balance, because I have no earthly clue how to do that. My current work-life balance is 90% life and 10% work. It's unsustainable and I know I won't be able to live like this forever, but I'm happy. I think that's important. 

There are a lot of think pieces about how millenials are entitled, which is, of course, a broad, inaccurate generalization about millions of people. I will say this about my generation: many of us don't want to work ourselves to death like our parents did. When I have to work a lot, I am very, very unhappy. I don't believe happiness is the ultimate purpose of our lives (that sounds boring), but I think genuinely enjoying the small moments of our days is. 

Even when I'm working hard, I want the unpleasant tasks to be part of a bigger picture that I enjoy creating. I have yet to find that sense of well-being in a job, so I don't want to dedicate 90% of my time to it. That sounds lazy, doesn't it? And it partly is. But I also support myself financially, don't have crazy debt, and I don't "live off" anyone -- not the government and not my parents. I also don't have health insurance, a car, or considerable savings, which are the parts that make this lifestyle unsustainable. 

I'm in an interesting time in my life where time feels suspended. I am in limbo. I have graduated college with a degree that did not, objectively, prepare me for any kind of job, and I'm also on a one year work visa that expires in August. The past few months and the ones that lay ahead of me feel like preparatory time, and I know that's a dangerous trap to fall into -- feeling like you're always preparing for real life to begin -- but it's also freeing. 

I'm not sure what it is I have to say yet. I don't know what meaningful contribution I want to give to the world. So I'm staying quiet. I'm doing small freelance jobs that feed me and still allow me plenty of time to live. This may be interpreted as "playing small", which does not serve the world, but it doesn't feel that way. It feels like I'm giving myself the time to become bigger in my own life.  

We need time to be curious, to explore what we love and what matters and what we could feasibly see ourselves doing for significant portions of time on this planet. College is supposed to facilitate that, but I spent most of my time there consumed with thoughts about what I would become and not paying much attention to the becoming. I didn't consider if I liked the life I was creating. When I landed in my first 'real' job out of college, which all of my decisions had led me to, I realized that I certainly did not like it.

I follow a lot of entrepreneurs online, and while some of them do great work and are obviously fueled by the burning desire to share their purpose, a lot of them also seem exhausted. I don't want the romantic idea of working for myself and being location independent and in control of my destiny to blind me to the reality of the work that path actually requires. Is it how I want to spend my time? 

While I know I will always want to do creative work, I don't believe that work has to be my sole job. I know artists have day jobs. I have no qualms with working in a coffee shop or doing a myriad of other jobs that aren't typically defined as purposeful or passionate work. I don't think our job has to be the purpose-giver in our lives; it's silly to imagine that it would be for all of us, because someone has to make coffee and prepare taxes and collect garbage -- why shouldn't that someone be me? 

I want to discover what my creative contribution is going to be. Having the time to blog and take hour long walks around town and build things with my hands are what helps me discover that. I've watched my parents come home exhausted from their day jobs, and spending the evening diving into creative work was probably unthinkable for them. Not undoable, but certainly not particularly appealing. I know that they had to do that because their lives weren't just about them; they had us kids to feed and clothe and house.  I don't have those responsibilities right now, so there's no reason for me to live like I do. 

When I have a better idea of what my creative voice is, what it is I unequivocally love, I will be happy to work whatever job I have to in order to facilitate that creation. But I don't want to exhaust and depress myself with meaningless work before I get to that point. I'm not very prepared for the future right now, financially or otherwise, but I am creating a present that I enjoy living -- and if I were to die tomorrow that simple fact would be enough to convince me that I spent my days well. 

How do you feel about finding work-life balance? 

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