Thursday, February 17, 2011

Logic, linguistics, and long distance running: A professional vision

Warning: Really meandering blog entry. Proceed with caution.

One month ago, I wrote about the concept of urgency, on feeling a deep sense of it in my own life and everything I want to accomplish.

Sometimes my enthusiasm and big thoughts tip that scale from a healthy, productive sense of urgency into full blown panic. That's kind of where I've been today...or maybe this week altogether. I've run-commuted (vs. walk-commuted) nearly everywhere because I've just felt excited about going places, about this idea of movement, of a life lived in motion.

Motion is powerful.

As some of you know (but probably most of you don't), I am part of a networking group in Seattle of professional women working in the outdoors industry. It is precisely my kind of networking group - i.e. the kind that I can show up to in jeans and running shoes, and where conversations center on the relationship between business and our natural environment, rather than the soulless crushing of one by the other. Tonight, we had an event that focused on creating Vision Boards, a fancy term for homemade inspiration collages. Yup, scissors and gluesticks and magazine cutouts were all included this evening (with blueberries and candied pecans and fancy cheeses to boot!)...definitely my kind of networking group.

I have probably made at least a dozen of these so-called Vision Boards in my life thus far. I made them in high school. I made mini-ones for my high school graduation announcements to get myself psyched up for college. Seyeon and I made one together for our door when we first roomed together at Oberlin.

It was really interesting making one again (photo forthcoming in a future entry, when I can get my camera and the giant poster board collage in the same place at once...), this time with a "professional" vision for myself, rather than just a personal one. Are they really so different, after all? Do they have to be?

Me atop Mt. Si yesterday, again, just a couple hours before class. It was snowy and wonderful!

The Vision Board I made tonight, predictably, had a lot of mountain and running imagery. The dominant word that others used to describe when looking at my finished collage was "calm". In contrast, the woman sitting next to me had phrases on hers about multitasking and squeezing into skinny jeans; I judge not, for I very nearly glued the phrase "tea-sipping hippie" on my own poster, so certainly, to each her own! We are all individuals, and appreciating the strength in our differences is what keeps this world turning.

So, while my current jobs do not pay me to run in the mountains (yet :P ), they do so indirectly; I get to talk to customers at REI about that passion when they're shopping for footwear to help them get out in the mountains more, and I get to turn around and write about it all, as well as my enduring love for the Pacific Northwest, for Outdoors NW. That's why, I suppose, when enrolling in school forced me to drop one of my three jobs, SAT tutoring (despite being the best-paying of all!) had to be the one to go. I've just met too many burnt-out, regret-ridden middle-aged folks to consider selling myself short in this life when it comes to choosing my career path.

Orcas Island: Foggy and beautiful as ever!

The trail work party and 25K run on Orcas Island earlier this month revved up my soul again in much-needed ways. Perhaps I'm adjusting to the Northwesterner-hibernation cycle, and thus am feeling especially motivated to get moving again after a long dreary winter (and yes, the cherry blossom trees are already blooming here!)...but truly, there are no more inspiring people to be around than trail runners. They're down-to-Earth, fun-loving people who appreciate the value of hard work, of giving their all for the sake of a greater goal...people with a hint of masochism in their determination to pull off what once seemed impossible, people who like to spend hours on end in the mountains, people who have come from all over the globe to be in the Pacific Northwest because a great trail run is never more than a few miles' dash from your doorstep. Friends I made at last year's race have run 100-milers in the meantime - while holding down full time jobs! There are no excuses in this life to not start getting to work on your dreams tomorrow - and not the Ephemeral Tomorrow, but the real life, starting-in-a-few-more-hours Tomorrow.

Anyway. Ultimately, no, my "professional" vision is not that different from my personal one. I keep going back to the Howard Thurman quote I included on my blog a few months ago: "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

You know what's crazy? Of all the classes I've been taking for my web design program, my absolute favorite, hands down, has been my Javascript programming class. I love it. Like really, really, really LOVE it. Way, way more than my artsy design-based courses, and - well, that was unexpected. Seriously, you couldn't pay me enough right now to work on my upcoming "visual design studies" assignment - essentially, a layout design in Photoshop or Illustrator with color, images, typography, etc. Stuff I thought I'd really enjoy, but instead, have felt myself surprisingly bored and restless with. But you know what I just might do when I'm done writing this blog entry? Put on a pot of tea, turn up some Alexi Murdoch, and get cracking on my programming homework from class just a few hours ago. Why? Because I'm still riding out the feverish high I get twice a week from the learning and discovery that happens in that classroom. I love it.

Last month, I officially completed (and was paid for, woohoo!) my first web development project - a small contract project for someone I met in school, to code a website for a small business analytics company, for whom visual design prototypes had already been created. Essentially, I was given a PDF file with 10 pages or so to turn into a working website. I had a blast with the nitty-gritty of troubleshooting code, and not having to worry about visual design at all.

Hence the panic. Here I have invested five months already in school, on track in a program I'm no longer confident is the perfect one for me. Earlier today, I was drooling over curriculum descriptions in both the Web Development (more back-end programming for the web) and the Computer Programming certificate programs. Five months, of course, is only a drop in the hat of a lifetime - and 23 is still plenty young enough to be "figuring out what I want to do with my life." I know, I know; people are still doing this at 30, 40, 65...and I probably still will be then, too!

The loyal Lion that I am (and remain to be, thank you very much!), I still plan to finish the web design program - but it doesn't mean I'm not sneaking chapters at night in the PHP book I bought on the side for my own personal interest, or considering extending my current educational plan to encompass more programming. I feel as though I've been blind to the fact that in addition to my obvious love for words, I also have a powerful affinity for math and logic. The fact that when I was still tutoring for Kaplan, I enjoyed teaching the math sections more than the verbal should have been a tip-off, I suppose.

Mmm, warm fuzzies...

Our society draws this huge line between math and creative writing, like they're polar opposites, but...they're not. They're both left-brained pursuits. They're both problem-solving, in their own ways; either I'm staring at my mess of code on Aptana, trying to find the solution to make my webpage act the way I want it to, or I'm staring at my mess of words on WriteRoom, trying to find the solution to make an article or blog entry convey the meaning and emotions the way I want them to. Either way, I'm working on a jigsaw puzzle of words and characters, trying to arrange them in some meaningful way. Both are languages, to which you can devote a lifetime trying to harness and master the power of; both involve the translation of an idea or image in my head into something tangible to present to the world.

I can even still retain my Grammar Nazi ways in the world of fact, the importance of differentiating between semicolons and commas, between capital letters and lowercase ones, is 10X more important in code than it is in creative writing! At least in English, people still understand the gist of what you were trying to communicate; computers do not. Browsers crash completely on you, sometimes, if you forget a semicolon. It's beautiful.

Of course, I have other passions, too, that must be fed, must someday be combined in an ultimately fulfilling mix of work and hobby:
(...and on that note, why that phrase "work/life balance"? Must those two be at odds with one another? I should hope not...)
- Creative nonfiction
- New media journalism
- Photography
- Meeting new people
- Trail running
- Snowboarding
- Endurance sports
- Clean eating
- Holistic health
- Yoga
- Universalizing financial education
- Leadership
- Coaching and empowerment
- Entrepreneurship
- Web app development
- Business psychology
- World travel
- Macroeconomics
- Small scale agriculture
- Helping others
- Changing the world

Haven't quite stumbled on all those lumped together in one job description yet, but I'll keep my eye out... ;) *

*Obligatory footnote to my bosses: Jamie, Carolyn, Greg...the wink is for y'all. Don't worry; if it wasn't already clear from the rest of this entry, I am content with my current work situation!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Who needs a car to get around anyway?

A life in the day (a.k.a. evidence of the Crazy.)

6:00 a.m. Alarm clock
6:15 a.m. Cook/enjoy breakfast (blueberry/banana oatmeal on the stove, yummy)
7:00 -7:20 a.m. Run 1.5 miles to work
7:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Princess shift at work
12:30 - 12:45 p.m. Speed shopping, REI clearance
12:45 - 1:15 p.m. Walk 2 miles to meet Seyeon for soulful lunch
1:15-3:00 p.m. Amazing catch up lunch!
3:00 p.m. Run 1 mile home
3:15-4:00 p.m. Do homework for evening class
4:00-5:20 p.m. Sweet urban sunset 6ish mile run with Jenica and Lauren
5:20 -7:00 p.m. Cook/enjoy dinner with Lauren
7:10 - 7:30 p.m. Walk 1 mile to class, talk to Alan
7:30-9:00 p.m. Programming class
9:00 p.m. Run 2 miles into downtown
9:30 - midnight - Sweet Luc & the Lovingtons concert at the Crocodile with Zoe
midnight - 12:20 p.m. Dishes, apartment pick up
12:40 a.m. Drinking hot roiboos tea with milk and honey, listening to beautiful folk, blogging, feeling quite content

Total human-powered miles: 13.5

Yesterday, I did all my errands on my bike - library, post office, and grocery shopping. Loaded up the paniers with tons of fruits and vegetables and grains, and soaked up every drop of sunshine that Seattle had to offer yesterday...delightful. One of the things I loved about Amsterdam was how easy it was to navigate by bike or foot...and it's one of the big draws Seattle had for me as well. Having my car here makes me lazier (and poorer...gas here is at $3.37/gallon, oof), sometimes, than I'd like. (Thanks, Seyeon, for being a huge inspiration of late in the ways of human-powered urban transportation!) Getting around Seattle on foot or bike is one of my February projects...expect forthcoming blog entries on such.

That, and a report on my past two glorious weekends up on Orcas Island! But for now...

G'night, good world.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Midday mountain fix

My day yesterday:

6 hour work shift
2 hours running up and down a mountain
4 hours of school
Late night grocery shopping

Heaven. It was a tightly scheduled day, and I was ten minutes late to class. Ten minutes is, without coincidence, also how long I saw at the top of Mount Si, basking in the sun and solitude and fresh air, looking out over epic views of Rainier and the valley 4,000 feet below me.

Even for my punctuality-driven self, this moment was worth my tardiness to school.

Still can't get over it...sitting on a mountain peak at 3:30 p.m., sitting in a classroom back in Seattle an hour and a half later. I love this state.

And I'd forgotten how much I love running up and down mountains. I'll find the time to write more about my past weekend at Orcas Island, which prompted me to recall the extent of that love, but the time is not tonight...must sleep.