Listen to me reading my poem, “Doors”

From my new book, Wanderer.

 

Doors

There’s so many windows
And so many doors
That will lead you anywhere and everywhere
All you have to do is move

Don’t stay stuck in the hallway
Don’t go looking for the key
To a door that’s been locked
This hope only brings misery

And don’t think your path
Has to look like another’s
Just keep the right doors open
Just keep moving forward

And one day you’ll find yourself
In a place you’ve never been
And you’ll find it’s so lovely
You’ll never look back again.

 

Sock Full of Coins

A little boy walked into a toy shop,  the bell above the door chiming when he opened it. He had a mop of brown hair, big, green eyes, and wore a little red coat with light brown buttons. He carried a sock that was filled with coins, clutching it in both hands. Wandering through the vast isles, he looked around at life-sized dolls, bins filled with colorful bouncy balls, remote-controlled robots, stacks of red and blue building blocks, and toy kitchens. After a few moments of walking in his little blue rain boots, he saw it– a shiny, red and green toy train on display in a plastic box.

Holding the handle of his sock bag between his teeth, he reached up and grabbed the large box with his tiny hands. As he pulled it down, he wobbled a bit, almost losing his balance. But before long, he was marching down the isle with the toy train in hand. He went up to the cashier and hoisted the box onto the counter. The shopkeeper had to peer over the counter to greet his small customer. He scanned the box and said that the train was $9.50, and the boy handed him the gray sock filled with quarters, smiling wide enough to reveal a missing tooth. The shopkeeper counted the quarters and handed the boy a plastic bag with his new treasure inside. He even included a free set of stickers!

“Thank you vewy much,” the boy said, and he went on his way. The bell rang when he opened the door and went back out into the world. He went out to his mother who waited by the car, proud to show her his new toy he bought all by himself.

Career Reflections

I think the myth of the overnight success leads a lot of people to feel depressed. There’s this idea that we should have our ideal jobs right after we graduate college, but that’s just not the reality for most people. And that sucks, doesn’t it? We work so hard in school, and somehow four years of studying, writing essays, taking exams, and having a meltdown (or twenty) gets deduced to one small piece of our resume. We get lost in a sea of people who have qualifications and skills that are similar to ours.

Humanities grads are often made to feel like they chose the wrong area of study, and that they’ll never get a good job. People will judge us and say we’ll never get a job outside of retail or food service. The thing is, lots of people start there careers working in a minimum wage job. Is it ideal, especially when you have student loans to pay off? Of course not, but just because a person starts small, it doesn’t mean that’s where they will be for the rest of their lives.

It’s like people think your first job after you graduate will be what you do forever. We know this isn’t true, but if your path isn’t neat and predictable, people think you have no path at all. I’m sure it’s hard for some people who study accounting or nursing to understand people who don’t have a degree that leads to a specific career, and if someone in a STEM field judges humanities majors, it’s probably more a reflection on them than it is on the people who studied English or History.

Choosing a major that leads to a specific job may work for some people, but I know people who studied accounting, computer science, or medicine, only to realize later that they didn’t enjoy the work. Not only that, but that the career wasn’t a good match for their personality to the point that they were unhappy everyday, then quit. I know education grads who have spent months trying to find a proper teaching job.

None of these people are failures, even though others may see their paths as hopeless. Maybe they feel that way themselves. The problem is that the most important aspect of a career is never taught to us: these things take time.

For some people, having their ideal career means going to university for ten years. For others, it might mean being a bartender or a sales associate for a couple years while they gain experience interning or volunteering in what they really want. This path may not be cool or shiny and sparkly from the outside, but it sure as hell is realistic. Sometimes building a career requires a shit ton of grunt work.

Some of the most successful people I admire are those who spent up to seven years waiting tables, bartending, or working in banks before they were able to run their own businesses full time. Some people start small and work their way up in a company, then continue their education when they get a better feel for the work they want to do. I know some people who worked in retail for a long time, and then got promoted until they worked their way up to being a manager.

For some people, a specific degree is needed for a specific job. And that works for some people. But for me, education is about enrichment. Most jobs I apply for don’t really care what you studied. But they do care about your skills, and even more about your work experience. So, I’m doing what I can to gain experience. It’s not a shiny, sparkly overnight success. It will take time, and I’m okay with that.

 

 

On Happiness

I’m curious about happiness. About joy, inner peace, and how it works. What does it really mean to live a happy life? Society tells us about all the things we should want to have. A job, a spouse, a family, a house, a car. Most of us aspire to have those things in some shape or form, and many of us feel depressed or inadequate if we have none or only a few of those things. Maybe we have a good job, but feel incomplete if we are single. Or maybe we have a good relationship, but feel like failures because we don’t have our careers figured out.

Some people have all of these things, and they are still not happy. They achieve all the things that society approves of, but they still find they are not satisfied. Why is that? And what does that mean for those of us who are still working toward being “successful” adults? I know that you can have everything and still not be happy, but I still feel miserable over all the things I don’t have yet.

This kind of unhappiness stems from constantly being in a state of pursuing something, and feeling unsatisfied because it feels so out of reach. But how can you pursue goals, especially those you need to achieve (like getting a job) without feeling depressed about not having one? I guess the answer is to focus on the process and not the outcome, and to appreciate the things you have that are within your control. I think most spiritual ideas are also verbs. Love is a verb. It requires action. Happiness does, too.

If I think of people who I look up to who seem to live joyous lives, not many people genuinely come to mind. I think of people like Ellen DeGeneres, who dedicates her life to inspiring others. She eats healthy, exercises, meditates, and practices kindness. I think of Oprah, who continues to give back and inspire people through her many platforms. In many ways I think of Miley Cyrus, who also devotes much of her time to helping others, and loving animals, eats healthy, and practices yoga. Marie Forleo, who inspires others through her TV show. Evanna Lynch who inspires others, eats healthy, and loves animals.

Rachel Platten who inspires others through her music. The common theme here seems to be people who spend their time being kind to others, and also being kind to themselves. And those who are able to incorporate that into their life’s work. I think these are also people who don’t worry about the status quo. They don’t care what others think of them, but they do care about where they are on a spiritual level.

So maybe it’s not my purpose to get a job, get married, get a house, and have a car, even if those are things I try to pursue. But maybe it’s my purpose to be kind to others, and to myself. I also think you can’t help others unless you are connecting to your own source of light and inspiration, and I think for many people that comes from connecting to God, a higher power, nature, or the universe. And there are many things, many windows and doors through which we can connect with that.

Whether it’s through music, books, film, conversations, prayer, nature, or stillness. Like Audrey Hepburn says, “we have one hand for helping others and another hand for helping ourselves.” I do think it has to start with us though. I think the idea is that if you get inspired and find your source of light, peace, and joy, you’ll be able to share that with others. Because you’ll shine.

So maybe life is really about pursuing not things, but moments. Moments where we pause and enjoy nature, or just take the time to smile or drink tea. Moments of peace.

While I do think that people who help others is a common theme for a joyous life, it is also possible to do this only to be burnt out. Sometimes people forget to be kind to themselves. I think one reason children tend to be so happy is because they are given so much joy by the caring people around them. We make sure the messages they receive are positive and affirming.

The world is not always so kind, the older you get. You have to find that support for yourself. And I think we need to support each other.

I certainly don’t have the secrets to a joyous or peaceful life. They say you should spend your money or experiences, not things. Maybe life is like that, too. We should be pursuing experiences, not things.

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#MyThoughts