Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Saying "Thank You"

I checked out a book from the library yesterday on the benefits of saying "thank you." Apparently this habit is declining, because apparently you can write a whole book about it.

I do have to agree with what she said in the introduction at least--being grateful and saying "thank you" are almost guaranteed to make you a happier, more productive person, and certainly more pleasant to be around.

President Henry B. Eyring, first counser to the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a talk last General Conference about the importance of taking the time to notice the gifts God has given you and your family. He suggested recording those blessings in some way as a way to remember them ourselves and as a physical sign to God that we are taking the time to notice and be thankful.

So, it's my goal to focus on the good things that happen to me today, be thankful for them, and perhaps even find a way to be thankful for the bad things that happen as well.

I'll report back.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Aisle 2

I was so proud of myself when I was old enough read the huge signs hanging from the ceiling at the grocery store: cereal, salad dressing, canned vegetables. But I was frustrated when I went to go find sun-dried tomatoes, and realized that I didn't know what category they would be in. These sun-dried tomatoes were packed in oil, so I thought they might be near the artichoke hearts and other preserved vegetables. Come to find out, they were on the tomato aisle. Go figure.

This experience brought several thoughts to mind: humans like to categorize things; they get unsettled when they don't know what category to put something (or someone); and no matter how hard people try to not be in a category, they will eventually box themselves in one for purposes of having some kind of identity or because others have put them there.

It also brought to mind my frustrations with the current presidential race and how unpolitical it is--it's all about belonging to a group. It feels like there's no winning.

If you are a republican and support John McCain, you are not being true to traditional Republican ideals. If you vote for John McCain, you're not forward-thinking enough to elect the first black man or woman.

Then it gets really messy with the "minorities." If you vote for Obama, you're only voting for him because he's black; if you don't vote for him, your anti-black president. If you vote for Clinton, you're only voting for her because she's a woman; if you don't vote for Clinton, you're a misogynist.

You have support a non-traditionally-republican white man, a black man, or a woman.

There's no voting on principles or policies, positions must be made on terms of your category, whether you put yourself there or someone else did.

Not that this is a new idea--although George Washington warned against creating parties, the next election became a battle between factions, and it's been that way ever since.

I felt duped when I grew up. When I was younger I thought you got a job based on the quality and quantity of skills and experience. Come to find out, it's all about who you know. Likewise, in politics, I used to think that the one with the best experience and ideas about government got the job, but I now know it's about money and connections.

It may seem like I'm anti-US government. This perception is not true at all. I believe that what we have is the best human-kind can create and follow. It's just the human nature in us all that gets frustrating, including the way that we visualize our own identity, but that's a rant for another day.

You never know who's listening

As I was listening to the radio the other day, I heard an ad for some sort of local easter function. But I was immediately distracted from the rest of the ad when I heard the easter-bunny-like narrator say the following:

"Special hunts will be provided for children ages 0-10, including a hunt for kids with special needs."


It just reminded me how funny the English language is, and that we all need to be careful how we write and speak. You never know who is listening, or reading.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Being content

I have a hard time enjoying where I am, thinking there's always somewhere better to be, something better to be doing.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Becoming Something

Flying through the air, I jumped to my father's arms outstretched over the water.

Flying through the air, I jumped to be beat the girl next to me in a state finals heat.

Somewhere between these two moments of airtime, I became a swimmer. A competitive swimmer. I was a sprint freestyler. Somewhere in the millions of wet yards, a transformation occurred.

Some search for it their entire lives, some find it early in life and then want to break out of it. Others like me fall into it, looking back wondering if I didn’t feel it because I was covered with water.

Oceans of literature teem with stories of characters coming-of-age, searching for their heritage, searching for stability, searching for identity. I've read a lot of books, and I've often wondered if I was searching for something. Did I have a stable identity? Should I be plagued with a sense of loss as a teenager because I needed to find myself? While these may have been important, I usually had to leave them on deck when I dove into swim practice.

Then it occurred to me: I am something; I don't just do something. I am a swimmer. Somewhere between my two weightless moments I went from being able to swim, to being a swimmer. The evolution from a verb to a noun is an important signifier of the real distance I had covered, not measurable in yards. Owning something to a point that I can't separate myself from that "thing" brings a sense of confidence and meaning to my life. While my religious beliefs obviously give life in general meaning, a tangible validation sure pushes me towards success in swimming and other areas.

While I can't remember when I wasn't a swimmer, the newest addition to my identity has attached much more recently. As I just graduated and looked back at my college education, I was granted another realization that added to my personal dimension.

I am a writer. I am a professional communicator. I am a designer.

Until that moment, I only thought I could write, could produce professional documents, could design pages.

Granted, there's no doubt that I have room to progress. Orson Scott Card said that college doesn't really teach you anything, it just teaches you how to learn. And rightly so, I have become something, not learned everything. I have become a writer, looking forward to learning to write better now that I have the confidence to do what it takes to do so.