coloring outside the lines

The universe is full of boxes. But I’m beginning to wonder if I fit into any of them anymore.

Northern Ireland

a view of the world from the top — quite literally, at the very top of Northern Ireland

Lately I have been trying to shove my apparently non-conventional life into a lot of boxes — online forms, job applications, recruiting websites and the like. Who are you? What do you do? What do you want to be when you grow up? The final scene from The Breakfast Club comes to mind every time I attempt to do this… I’m a student and a teacher, a writer and an editor, a baker and a content strategist, a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a friend and a yogi and and and…

My yoga teacher said to us today to be careful not to think too much about who we are because our thoughts (and I’ll add to that our doubts) can become reality. I am definitely guilty of that. But it is very hard not to do that when you’re trying to carve out a new career path for yourself, one that doesn’t neatly fit into the universe’s boxes.

My wise yoga teacher also says, “Sometimes you need to disconnect to reconnect.” I’ve done quite a bit of that this year, living on a farm in Ireland, traveling around France without a wallet, doing yoga in a jungle in Mexico. What a wonderful year this has been, but also a crazy, stressful, confusing one. I’m learning that those things are not mutually exclusive. I’m starting to feel as though the more I leave to find answers, I just come home with more questions.

I treated myself to a real cup of coffee from a real coffee shop today. That’s not a luxury I afford myself very much any more, partly because it gets expensive quickly and mostly because that used to be how I escaped work when it got really bad. Somehow leaving the office to cross the street, spend a few dollars on a hot, frothy, steamy cup of caffeinated goodness could turn even some of the worst days around. Or at least remind me to breathe. Those real cups of coffee became my mediation. Today I found myself fixated on another women in line at the coffee shop. She was wearing real work clothes and makeup and trendy San Francisco hipster glasses, and I started to feel envious. Her colorful silk blouse and perfectly-applied eyeshadow were things I have lost touch with. Work clothes to me this year have either been chefs’ whites or baking whites, fugly supportive black shoes and aprons adorned with dish towels. For everything else, yoga clothes fit the bill. A friend of mine said to me early on in the journey of my new life, “Let me know how long you go without wearing anything that buttons.” That pretty much sums it up. To me, the woman in the coffee shop represented security, stability, and maybe a little bit of conformity. All things I’ve been craving lately. She looked like she fits into a box. It’s hard to live outside the box. It’s hard to not live in a box at all. Life would be awesome if we didn’t need to “make a living.”

I have been volunteering a lot lately, teaching little kids how to cook and helping the non-profit organization that puts the classes together. There is nothing more rewarding or fulfilling than doing something for the sole reason that you want to, and that other people want you to. No money exchanged, no “what’s in it for me” expectations. It’s simply awesome. One of the founders said to me after our class on Saturday, “When we get all the money in the world, can we hire you?” But here’s the thing, I don’t want all the money in the world. Crazy to say that, especially in this tech money-hungry IPO-crazed city that I live in, but it’s true. Through a series of events, most of which didn’t make much sense to me at the time but are starting to now, I find myself living in one of, if not the, most expensive cities in the country. And all I really want to do is be happy and pay my rent. Easier said than done when you don’t fit neatly into those boxes anymore.

So why am I writing all of this here? I have no f–ing clue. Maybe writing has replaced  expensive real coffee as my meditation. Maybe I thought I would have an answer by the time I was finished. Maybe I just needed a break from all those online boxes. Maybe this “real” coffee is just messing with my head.

hotel quote

someone left this on my pillow 3 1/2 years ago, but it resonates now more than ever

I recently came across an old photo that resonated with me now more than ever. It was of a tiny little quote card that was left on my hotel pillow three and a half years ago when I used to come to San Francisco on business trips before I moved here. It said, “We all have two choices. We can make a living or a design a life.” At the time I probably took it as a sign confirming my decision to move out west and try something new. Now, it actually gives me pause. Is it trying to say that life is really so black and white? What if the life you design doesn’t pay the rent? Am I just naive in searching for a happy medium in between those two definitives? I hope not. Those who know me know that I’m quite a perfectionist. I blame my German blood. And as such, I guess I almost always fit into one of the universe’s boxes. I probably never thought too much about it because I like neat and tidy things, and am most content when everything is organized. But my new life is not easily organized into neat little boxes anymore. In the new year, I hope I can become better at learning how to color outside of the lines.

3 thoughts on “coloring outside the lines

  1. I too love this post. As someone who left a hard-shell case box life to try and find a more soft cloth bag life, I understand. And I’m here for you, even if its just to hang out and enjoy a cup of coffee (and maybe a dynamo donut). xo


  2. Pingback: flying solo | What's in My Purse

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