food for thought


“If you do really like what you’re doing…you can eventually become a master of it…and then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is…it’s absolutely stupid to go on doing things you don’t like…and to teach your children to follow in the same track…to bring up their children to do the same things. It’s all retch and no vomit – it never gets there.” – Alan Watts

one month in C-Ville

Yesterday marked the one month-iversary of our new life in Charlottesville. It’s incredible how quickly time has flown already. In most ways, Charlottesville already feels like home. But there are still loose ends to tie: settling into a church, unpacking and organizing the final traces of our move, finding a consistent group of friends to hang out with, and switching over my license and registration.

Jennifer (my old neighbor) and I reunited

In one month, I (and sometimes Daniel):

  • traveled over 12, stressful hours on rural streets and highways
  • visited every grocery store chain in town (and still can’t find one as delightful as Publix)
  • perused at least 7 antique shops
  • bought an armchair and a vintage mirror
  • bought a dozen or so books from local stores
  • ate at Bodo’s Bagels 4 times
  • interviewed for four jobs
  • changed my mind about my immediate career goals
  • got a job I love (for once)
  • visited UVA
  • felt consistently nauseous (it’s finally subsiding)
  • stretched fabric across a canvas and made two photo canvases and three pillow cases
  • bought pet rats (Surprise! I haven’t told very many people yet)
  • watched the meteor shower on a farm while listening to acoustic improvisation
  • assembled book cases
  • celebrated a birthday (Daniel’s)
  • saw a Bluegrass legend in concert
  • ate lots of delicious food
  • visited three churches
  • freaked out, a lot
  • revamped my vintage store
  • made some friends
  • toured the neighborhood
  • saw Obama in person
  • visited with a friend I haven’t seen since high school

I know – and fear – that as time inches along, I’ll stop caring about the little accomplishments, struggles, and tasks I experience each month; they’ll be compacted into a small blurb on the timeline of my life. But, looking over this list, I feel quite proud of how far we’ve come in one month. Moving, especially hundreds of miles away from your previous life, brings uncertainty – about identity, financial security, relationships. But I’ve reflected lately that moving away from an identity that is created for you over days and months and years creates a space for renewed liberty, a wider sphere of choice. I have a chance here to present myself and identify myself based upon who I am and what I believe and what interests me now without fear of rattling someone’s preconceived notions of who I am. I can take pride in what I have achieved. I can say to myself, “You are good enough,” for the first time in a year. The challenge will be to push toward that level of freedom and self-understanding as we scatter presuppositions and misunderstandings along our path in Charlottesville. What I’ve learned here in the last month is that we do have the power to change our lives. In fact, the daily task of life is simply making choices and living with them.

I have a 20-something brain

For the past couple of weeks, I have found myself barely able to keep food down.

I vomited, inexplicably, last Thursday. In the middle of each meal, I have to stop eating, faced with another wave of nausea. This morning, I’m pondering whether to drink my coffee and attempt to get on with my day or go back to sleep to ease the discomfort.

I know the source of my physical pain is anxiety. A big, overwhelming pile of it. About finding friends, navigating this town correctly, finances, performing well in my new job, hearing word about the other job I interviewed for, finding a lasting and meaningful career, feeling content, maintaining intellectual drive, making the most of things, staying in contact with the ones I love, learning an instrument, singing again – getting to a point where I feel like a success rather than a confused, dead-beat, disappointment.

I know that nothing is resolved by worrying. I know that my current circumstances are much more positive than they could be. I know that nothing is actually wrong. But as much as I tell myself that, as much as it has become my internal chant – my prayer – the physical signs of stress won’t leave me.

I read an article this morning about the developing, 20-something brain, which relieved my mind (to some extent), though not my stomach. The adult brain doesn’t fully develop until the mid to late 20s and there are much higher rates of anxiety, suicide, and general recklessness among early 20-somethings than in most other age groups, likely due to increased expectations to succeed as a well-formed individual in adult society while still trying to connect and disconnect synapses, take in information, and, in a cognitive sense, find oneself.

There is a scientific and social cause for anxiety at my age. But it doesn’t make it easier to bear. I face my own high expectations and negative self-talk on a daily basis. It’s time to practice being content with daily success, no matter how small. Of course, saying it and doing it are quite different things.