Who I Want to Be When I Grow Up

I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen Parks and Rec, Daniel. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. The characters are genuine, the humor is funny without being offensive, and somehow the story is both hilarious and deeply moving. I am not exaggerating when I say that watching this show has changed my life. This show taught me how to love myself and how to love the people around me.

It also gave me a new role model. When I grow up, I want to be just like Leslie Knope.

giphy

Leslie Knope is a wonderful woman who spends her energy trying to make the world a better place for the people around her. She’s kind, she’s supportive, she’s ambitious, and she’s always excited about her next adventure.

I know I’ll never be exactly like Leslie because I don’t have an endless reservoir of bubbliness inside me and I’m definitely not assertive enough to be a leader. But I can be generous and ambitious in my own way.

Recently, I’ve been planning out elaborate parties and making things for the people around me just because. I’ve been crocheting afghans, planning surprise parties, and buying tiny gifts for my friends because I want to see them smile. While I’m still nowhere near Leslie’s level of generosity in the show, I feel like she would be proud of me because instead of focusing on myself, I’m thinking of the people in my life. I’m showing them that I care about them without being ashamed of my love.

I’m also continuing to push myself to try new things every day. I know that I can sometimes get complacent, especially now that I have my degree and a comfortable job. It’s so easy to lose focus sometimes or forget that there are still things to work for. So everyday I remind myself that Leslie never lost focus. Everything she did, she did to reach a goal and that’s how I want to live my life.

As you know, I’m training for a half marathon right now. Lots of people have wished me luck. Others have asked me why I would do this to myself. I’m doing this because I want to be able to say I ran a half marathon. That’s it, that’s the reason I’m working so hard. Sometimes people won’t understand why you’re working for something and Leslie Knope taught me that, despite what they say, you keep going. Don’t give up.

tenorOf course, Leslie does have her faults. Except, instead of being ashamed of her faults she embraces them. Instead of stubbornly ignoring her flaws, she understands that sometimes she needs help and she reaches out to her loved ones for it rather than pretending she’s perfect. Leslie can be controlling, anxious, obsessive, and self-centered, but none of these things make her an unlovable person because she works every day to make sure they don’t define her.

Damn. Talk about #goals, am I right?

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect. I rarely challenge myself because I’m afraid of failing and I never talk about my fears with the people around me because that would mean I’m flawed. For a majority of my life, I’ve equated being flawed with being unlovable.

giphy1Watching Parks and Rec helped me realize that wasn’t the case. Seeing Leslie Knope struggle with her own flaws and still succeed helped me realize that I can still be a good person without being perfect 100 percent of the time.

Basically, what I learned from Leslie Knope is that sometimes it’s better to be remembered as a fun, generous person rather than a perfect human being who can do no wrong. I want my friends and family to think of me and smile or be inspired or just feel warm and fuzzy rather than remember how skilled or smart I am.

When I grow up, I want to be Leslie Knope.

-EMS

 

Becoming a Piece of Art

No matter how hard I try to plan out my week, I always end up writing my post at the last minute. I spent most of last night working on a birthday gift, reading American Gods, and wrangling a baby ferret.

Fijit figured out how to get into the kitchen sink last night. I definitely need that extra reflex save bonus because Fijit’s cuteness will only save her up to a point. I definitely need an extra benefit to owning this little ball of mischief.

Thankfully, I pretty much know exactly what I want to write about. I want to write about tattoos.

This past Tuesday I had work done on my Ganondorf thigh piece. I’ve been a huge fan of the Legend of Zelda series my entire life and I’ve always wanted a tattoo to reflect my love. I already have a Navi piece on my shoulder and a Majora’s Mask tribute on my other thigh, but I really wanted a massive tribute to my absolute favorite villain of all time, Ganondorf, so I sat down with my artist and we came up with a fucking massive tribute to him.

Whenever I get a new tattoo I get asked the same set of questions: How much did it cost? What does it mean? Why did you get it? How are you going to feel about it when you’re 50?

Well, I’d like to answer these question here so whenever I get these questions I can just refer them here.

How much did it cost?

Obviously I can’t create a “stock” answer for this question because every tattoo is different. My Ganondorf piece at this point has cost four times as much as my bees and it’s still in progress.

The question I can answer is how do I justify paying so much money for a tattoo? Why do I spend so much money on tattoos?

Well, first of all, I don’t have to justify my choices to anyone but myself and my spouse. As long as our bills are paid and our quality of life is stable, I can spend my money how I choose. Also, I bet if I add up all the money you spend on going out to each and getting fancy lattes and buying new clothing, it would be comparable to how much I shell out for a tattoo. So don’t judge!

I choose to sacrifice my ability to go out to eat and buy new clothing all the time because I want quality tattoos. I’m turning myself into a piece of art and I want to make sure it’s good art. If I have to spend a little extra cash that’s fine by me.

What does it mean?

This is another question that will have different answers depending on the tattoo. My slug tattoo is for my grandmother who used to collect banana slugs for her Master Gardeners group. My paw prints are for my beautiful babies, Bandito, Crush, Fijit, and Herman, and for all of my future ferrets.

Well, on the other hand, my bees are just because I like the phrase “bees knees.” My Zelda tattoos are because I like Zelda. Definitely not as poetic as my other tattoos, but again I don’t have to justify my decisions to other people. Getting a tattoo because it’s cute is just as valid as getting a tattoo for a deep personal reason.

Why did you get it?

Why do I get tattoos rather than, for example, investing in art that represents parts of my life? Well, first of all, I like tattoos. I love how tattoos look and how they make me feel. Second of all, there’s something very satisfying about permanently displaying a part of your personality on your skin.

Let me explain.

There are so many instances in our lives where we have to conform to other people’s expectations. When we go to work or go to family functions we have to fit this specific image and it never stops. We never get a reprieve and it’s exhausting. It’s during these moments, when I’m “playing a part,” that my tattoos are the most comforting. Yes, I have to stand up in front of these people and be this other person, but underneath my blazer or my slacks my true personality is permanently displayed on my skin. The world can’t take that away from me.

And, when I get home and change back into my comfy clothes, I get to look in the mirror and be reminded of who I really am.

Wow, I’m feeling very emo. Excuse me while I go to Hot Topic and purchase some band t-shirts and fish nets.

How are you going to feel about it when you’re 50?

Now this question is the most infuriating for me because the person is obviously assuming I didn’t think this through. I know exactly how long tattoos last, thank you very much.

Anyway, I know for a fact that I’m going to love my tattoos when I’m 50. Reason one: I’m going to be able to look back on my life and know that I did what I wanted when I wanted. Regret goes both ways, my friend. I could regret getting these tattoos or I could regret being too afraid to go out and get inked.

Reason two: Yes, maybe in 30 years I won’t be as in love with Legend of Zelda or bees or ferrets, but for right now these things are my world. These tattoos not only represent my life, they represent a time in my life that I will always look back on fondly. When I’m 50 I’ll look at my skin and remember who I was in my 20s and it will warm my heart.

Reason three: These tattoos are officially a part of my body. Yes, I might look at them and wish something was different, but after carrying them with me for 30+ years I’ll have come to accept them as part of me. Does that make sense? I guess when I think about hating my tattoos, I compare it to hating my nose or my thighs. Yes, there could be days I dislike them, but it’s important to accept the things you cannot change. I realize that I didn’t actively choose to make my nose look the way it does or to make my thighs thick, like how I chose to get a tattoo, but still I’m not going to waste energy hating parts of my body or regretting my decisions.

Sorry! This was quite a rambly post for me. Hopefully this all makes sense.

-EMS

Am I boring?

Do you ever feel like you’re a boring person?

Last night I got home from work, ran a few errands, and then spent the evening drinking incredibly cheap wine and watching West Wing. In the back of my mind I knew I had to write a blog post, but, for the life of me, I couldn’t think of anything to write about. My life felt so…boring. What on earth could I write about that would be interesting to other people?

To be honest, I wrote this post this morning before work. I just couldn’t find the motivation to write it last night so I went to bed, hoping inspiration would hit me in the morning and actually it did.

I’d like to talk about why sometimes we inexplicably feel boring. I know other people feel this way sometimes and often post about it on Tumblr and Twitter, but why do we feel this way?

Honestly, after thinking about it over coffee this morning, I think it’s another form of self-censorship, similar to the term guilty pleasure. Man, I have been on a self-censorship kick recently, haven’t I?

Anyway, what I mean is that logically no one is really boring. Everyone has something interesting to talk about, I think we as people have a tendency to downplay our own interests and achievements because we fear rejection from society. We don’t want to bring up what makes us happy or proud because we don’t want to feel rejected by our peers, so we by default reject ourselves and call ourselves boring.

I’ll use myself as an example. Earlier this week, as you remember, I was mentioned in a BigCatDerek Walk Around the Compound webcast, which to me is a huge deal. I watched the video at work and was so excited I immediately jumped up from my desk to tell someone. I wanted to share my excitement! Then I realized no one else in my office even knows who BigCatDerek is and they wouldn’t find it that interesting. In fact, they would find it boring.

See what I did there? Yes, a few of my coworkers wouldn’t understand my excitement, but they would still be excited for me. I was the one who decided it was uninteresting and boring because I didn’t want them to say it was uninteresting and boring. I discredited my own excitement because I felt like I should. How messed up is that?

I did something similar last night. I got home from work and decided my life was too boring to write about. Just to give you an idea of how unboring my evening was, I got home and immediately went to pick up mealworms for my chameleon, Togashi. Watching him eat is fascinating. Why couldn’t I write about that? Nope, I decided that was too boring.

After that, I went to Walmart to pick up snacks for a friend and ended up in the makeup aisle for twenty minutes, fawning over lipstick shades. Makeup and beauty products are definitely my vice, which I find a little ironic considering how much of a tomboy I was when I was a kid. Could I write about when my attitude changed? Nope, too boring. Daniel wouldn’t care about the new matte lip stains or how I associate them with self-care and self-love.

Do you care, Daniel?

When I finally got home, I cracked open a cheap bottle of cabernet, which ended up having a cork so obviously it wasn’t that cheap. Grumbling, I had to go to the kitchen to find one of our two corkscrews, which felt like a huge inconvenience! Could I have written about why we have two corkscrews and approximately ten thousand bottle openers? Nah, too boring. Could I write about how I for some reason only buy expensive beer, but never buy wine that’s more than ten dollars? Boring, boring, boring.

Would that have been boring, Daniel? Or am I just making things up in my head?

I finished off the night drinking my wine, crocheting a pillowcase for a friend, and watching West Wing on Netflix. I love West Wing specifically because of Allison Janney’s character, C.J. Cregg. She’s the Press Secretary for President Jed Bartlett and I always found her to be an inspiration. She’s smart, tough, feminine, and six feet tall. Watching her own the White House press corp always made me feel like I could accomplish anything and still be feminine, despite being a giant. Should I write about how she inspired me to go into communications and public relations? Nah, too boring.

Or is it?

Logically, my life is very interesting. It’s just not interesting to me because I live it and, instead of giving you the chance to decide if you’re interested, I just wrote it off. I kept thinking how could I continue the conversation about video games because I knew that’s what interested you instead of thinking about my own experiences.

I need to stop doing that. I need to stop discrediting myself and my hobbies just because I’m afraid someone will actually call me boring.

Sorry this post went up a little late.

-EMS

Found Cool Stick

Yesterday, you told me to write a post about how awful the two-party system is in American politics and why it sucks that we’re going to have to choose between Clinton and Trump. Sorry, I’m not going to do that. I’m just tired. I’m going to be honest, these last few weeks have been stressful.

Now, when I say stressful I don’t necessarily mean bad. Just busy with not a lot of “down time” for myself. In the past few weeks my ferret, Bandit, went into the hospital, I had family come to visit, I’ve had big projects on my plate at work, and I was sick with a migraine just to name a few things. It’s been busy and I just feel exhausted. I feel like I haven’t had a break since mid-May.

Anyway, that’s not what I want to talk about in this post. What I want to talk about is how I handle stress. It’s taken me a long, long time to figure out how to handle stress and anxiety in a healthy, constructive way and honestly I can sum it up in a very stupid phrase: Found cool stick.

As you know, I have this phrase tattooed on my left wrist because it reminds me to address my stress in a healthy way. What it basically means is celebrate the little things, even when you don’t feel like celebrating.

When I first started working at WSU I was having a hard time adjusting to living away from my family and being independent. I was stressed constantly and lost interest in my hobbies. I just didn’t feel happy. One day I was out walking on campus and found a free art magazine. In the magazine was a silly editorial comic called “Little Victories” or something like that. It had things like “Made a souffle that didn’t collapse” and “Pronounced hor d’oeuvres correctly.” It was obviously supposed to be a joke.

The last panel included a cute drawing of a dog holding a stick and it said “Found cool stick.” For some reason that just really resonated with me. In that moment I thought to myself “Why is that dog so happy? All it found was a stick! Oh, it’s happy because it decided to be happy.”

It was like a light finally came on in my head. I was so stressed because I was letting myself be stressed. Now stress is inevitable and I’m not saying that people who are stressed are just stupid and don’t know how to just not be stressed. What I realized was that I was letting my stress and anxiety run rampant and ruin my life without even putting up the slightest effort. That’s why it was consuming me, because I wasn’t stopping it.

The dog was excited it found a cool stick because it let itself feel happiness and pride for its small accomplishment. That’s how I should live too. I shouldn’t focus so much on what’s stressing me out. I should give myself the chance to feel happiness over little things, even if to some they don’t seem that important. Things like getting up in the morning without hitting snooze or finding matching socks. For some reason I wasn’t giving myself credit for stuff like that because it didn’t seem important. I’ve found that if I start to celebrate all of my victories, even the little ones, I felt better and happier. I was no longer dwelling on what I couldn’t do. I was focusing on what I could do.

I know, I know. I’m adding a whole lot of depth to a two inch editorial cartoon that was just supposed to get a chuckle or two, but it’s art and I’m allowed to interpret it how I want, dangit. It was so helpful in such a low part of my life that I decided to get it permanently on my body. Every day I wake up and see those words and remember life is what you make it. Making a kickass grilled cheese is just as impressive as finishing a big project at work or running a marathon if you let it be.

Sorry for switching topics on you, Dan. Maybe next time I’ll write about American politics.

-EMS

My Real Trip to Australia

I was really inspired by your last post. There are so many in-between moments in life that I love, like the gurgling noise my coffee maker makes in the morning or the golden glow of my desk lamp. I really want to make my own list of in-between moments, but first I want to talk about my trip to Australia.

And no, I’m not a group of spiders cleverly disguised as Emily, as awesome as that would be.

Anyway, I could write a novel about my trip to Australia. There were so many little things that I loved about that trip, like how the air always smelled like fresh rain or how sweet the coffee was. It was an amazing trip. It, in all honesty, changed my life for the better and that’s what I want to write about this week.

10300232_10207499472623028_5190581736642152200_nI feel like using the term “life-changing” is a bit of a cliché nowadays. It’s almost like the word “awesome” in my opinion. We use the word as just a catch-all term for when something is really good, despite the fact we came back from the trip and continued to lead the same life. My trip to Australia was a wonderful experience and it actually did change my life for the better.

Since I’ve returned from Australia I feel stronger, braver, more passionate, and more in control of my life and my destiny. I’m having difficulty finding the words describe how different I feel since my trip. Have you ever been somewhere that you used to know, but things have changed so much you don’t recognize it anymore? Remember when we drove through Tomah on our last trip to Wisconsin? Everything in the town seemed fuzzy and surreal, like we should remember the place, but we couldn’t. Now remember how it felt to turn the corner onto our childhood street? It’s like everything suddenly came into focus and I remember feeling at home.

That’s how it felt coming back from Australia. Like everything in my life suddenly came into focus and I had never realized it was fuzzy.

Going to Australia had been a lifelong dream of mine. When I was little, think elementary school age, I used to watch the Crocodile Hunter almost exclusively. I know, that’s such a silly reason to want to go to another country, but it’s the truth. I’d honestly been planning this trip since I was eleven and I finally got to go fourteen years later. I think that’s one of the reasons I feel braver and more in control. For the first time in my life I had achieved one of my dreams, a dream that no one else had for me. And I achieved it all on my own.

Don’t get me wrong, getting my college degree and finding a place of my own in this world have always been dreams, but those are everyone’s dreams. Do you know what I mean? When I was born, mom and dad never looked at me and said “I hope she gets to go to Australia one day.” No, but they probably said that about getting a college degree and creating my own life.

This trip was also incredibly relaxing. You probably already know this about me, but I tend to be a workaholic. Even when I take vacations from work, I tend to take my work with me in one form or another. I’ll answer emails or worry about upcoming projects, things like that. This trip was the first time I’ve ever let myself completely let go. I didn’t check my email, I didn’t worry about going back to work, I never thought about what I had to do next. I only thought about what I wanted to do next.

For the first time I actually had the opportunity to be honest with myself. I would wake up in the morning and think “What do I want to do now?” Instead of thinking about what I had to do at work or my other responsibilities, I could actually think about my real passions. I could get up, drink coffee, and read my book or I could go for a run. That feeling was amazing and now, despite being back in the states and at work, I’ve actually learned how to be honest with myself. I’m better at prioritizing my day and knowing when I need to take care of my own needs. I also feel more passionate about my hobbies and spend more time crocheting, reading, and writing.

1918243_10207515415581592_98216960889223726_nAs I mentioned, this trip was also wonderful because for the first time I was actually thinking about what I wanted instead of what everyone else wanted. I never had to wait for someone else to suggest something. I would just bring it up myself. The best example from my trip I can give was when I went snorkeling in the shark tank at Underwater World. No one else wanted to do it with me.

Before this trip I would have just not done it because the group didn’t want to do it. I would have worried that people had to wait on me or that, without some one with me, I wouldn’t know what to do. Does that make sense? I feel like I’m rambling. Anyway, on this trip I actually did things for me and trusted that my friends would tell me if they had a problem. I never worried about what other people wanted. I just thought about myself, which yes sounds selfish, but it was something I had never done before. Now I know I can do that and I feel stronger. I feel like I can do anything and that my friends will support me because they love me, not because I bend over backward to accommodate them.

So yes, I would honestly say that this trip to Australia was life changing. I feel like I can do anything now and that all of my dreams are attainable. I feel more worldly and loved. I love myself more to be honest. This entire post probably feels a little sappy and self-help-esque, but it’s the truth.

Sorry to chew your ear off, Daniel. Next post will probably be a list of in-between moments.

-EMS

Acting on Impulse

I’ve never thought of myself as an impulsive person.

When I was a younger I was always very organized and very meticulous about how I used my time. I always had to have at least a week to study for a test and started assignments as soon as I got them. I planned out how many pages I would need to read to finish a book by a certain day and I always had my next book lined up. I was dependent on my planner.

In a way I took pride in being level-headed. People said I was responsible and dependable, which are good traits to have. Right?

Maybe, maybe not.

After I graduated from college my life became a little scattered. I’d spent more than 15 years of my life in school and I was used to it. No more homework, no more studying, no more classes. What was I supposed to do with all this free time?

Right after college I began volunteering at the local animal shelter. I helped with the shelter’s fundraisers, including the shelter’s annual 5k walk/run. I remember I was at the shelter, sitting at my desk and listening to the other volunteers talk about walking at the event. Someone asked me if I was going to register and walk.

I said no. I was going to run.

I was never a runner. I’ve always avoided running as much as I possibly could. I have no idea what came over me that made me decide to run a 5k. I was acting on impulse. Now I run three times a week and have done five more 5ks.

If I had stuck to my “responsible” behavior, I wouldn’t have even considered a 5k unless I had a year or two to train. I couldn’t just do something, I need to prepare. But you know what, if I had waited I probably would’ve never done it and I would have never discovered the joys of running.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that sometimes being “responsible and dependent” is a terrible, terrible thing. Sometimes you just need to act on your impulse.

Today my life is back in one piece. I’m still responsible and dependable, but I listen to the little impulsive voice in the back of my head. Sometimes it has terrible ideas. Sometimes it has awesome ideas.

Some recent ideas it’s had include doing a triathlon, getting a new tattoo, and starting this blog with my brother.

I have no idea where this blog is going to go. Hell, I have no idea how this post is even going to end and that’s wonderful. Sometimes it’s okay not to plan things out completely. Sometimes you just have to do it and don’t waste time worrying.

Sometimes impulse is the way to go.

– EMS