Back in May, I drew up a list of 40 things I wanted to do by the time I turned 40 in August 2009. Earlier that same month I joined an online reading challenge called Reading by the Decade. I have already abandoned one of the items on the 40 by 40 list, and I am about to abandon the Reading by the Decade challenge. And I may even abandon another goal (#23) on the 40 by 40 list. What is my problem you ask? Why am I such a loser that I can't achieve these simple goals? Life, I tell you, life. Not in the sense that life is overwhelming me and I can't possibly achieve these goals. But LIFE, as in I am loving every minute of it. As in, life is too short to not enjoy every minute of it. As in, Philip Roth's American Pastoral, as award-winning as it may be, is just too damn boring for me to care about even though I am 2/3 finished. The irony is that the big things on my list (quitting my old job and starting my new one) have given me a fabulous new lease on life that makes caring about the little things on my list (reading a book I find boring just to make myself a better person) far too tedious. I still have a book in my hands every free chance I get, and I am still going to check out and enjoy the giants of the literary world. But I no longer feel the need to impress myself or anyone else by finishing "important" but ultimately unfulfilling books. The same goes for my life. I will still take a stab at the important goals and even those that aren't fun, but I won't force myself to finish something just for the sake of crossing it off of a list. I could wax rhapsodic about my new job and about how in my former life as a federal government drone finishing a list was sometimes the only sense of achievement I managed to find. But I won't. I am saving that for goal number 7 (Finish my novel).
Last weekend when we were in New York City for Thanksgiving, I sat in a diner in the East Village with Babs Cooper of The Womenfolk. As you may recall from an earlier tribute to these great ladies, I have been fascinated with The Womenfolk since 1988. It was only recently, after posting my tribute blog, that I was able to track down, and talk on the phone with, three of the remaining four Womenfolk. After more than 20 years of knowing nothing about them except for a few tidbits included on the back of their 1960s albums, I have had the honor of chatting with (and now meeting!) members of the group.
I was most excited to hear that Babs and the other three remaining Womenfolk got together recently to discuss old times and the future. It had been years, I think even decades, since some of them had seen each other. I am so happy that my efforts in tracking them down served as a catalyst in reuniting this band of talented women. Maybe something even more exciting will be the final result.
About a week and a half ago a Christmas tree popped up in the living room of one of our neighbors. In what can only be a Yuletide arms race, that person's next door neighbor soon decorated his balcony with all kinds of Christmas lights. I can understand why profit-motivated retailers push the holidays earlier and earlier every year, but what compels an individual to do so? Why, when there are still the carcasses of smashed jack-o-lanterns scattered on the streets does someone decide to decorate a Christmas tree the first week of November? And what about Thanksgiving? It is perhaps the loveliest of holidays. It is a shame to skip over it and move right on to the next one.
It could be that we have become a nation of children, unable to delay any gratification and expecting everyday to be Christmas. Or maybe we are a nation of bored, boring, individuals that need shiny objects and blinking lights to feel something. Or maybe we are a nation of Orange County Housewives, whose only goal in life seems to be to shop. Other than a supersized grocery cart, Thanksgiving doesn't really require us to buy anything. Although, it does, of course give us the day after Christmas shopping frenzy. Financial responsibility evangelist SuzeOrman has been saying for years that Americans are driving themselves to the poorhouse buying things to impress people that they don't know or don't like. I agree, but would add that our addiction to shopping is not just about impressing others, but it appears that shopping is all we know how to do.
Don't get me wrong, I can really enjoy a good shopping trip. And the other Mr. MyPorch and I don't really want for anything. But what troubles me is how so many people predicate their happiness on a daily basis on the act of consumption and a constant state of personal reward. Just like the Christmas season, why can't the joy of shopping be one of many diverse things that makes us happy throughout the year? How about a little balance? To every thing, turn, turn, turn.
I have been accused of being a slacker--three weeks off between jobs and I haven't posted anything since October 29th. The trouble is I need to be inspired, annoyed, or bored to really come up with anything interesting to write. I have been really inspired by my new job, but I don't really feel like waxing rhapsodic about that here. At any rate, to satisfy the appetite of those hungry for more, I will lay a few things out on the table for you all to nibble on.
My New Job Number Two on my 40 by 40 list. I really love my new job. I know that most new jobs have a honeymoon period where things seem rosy, but I have been down that path before and feel confident that I have found a fabulous fit for my skills and interests. I am working as a leisure travel consultant and I couldn't be happier. It is a great mix of being social, talking about travel, and organization. It is like the job was created for me. Not only that, but my new bosses actually appreciate my point of view and listen to me. What a weird feeling that is.
My Old Job Number One on my 40 by 40 list. I am really glad to be done with my government career. With the exception of some great co-workers and friends at the office, my old work life--the one I spent $50,000 training for at Cornell--really sucked. I am still fascinated by urban planning but trying to do that kind of work for the federal government was worse than awful. And with the feds huge presence here in DC, it is impossible not to be impacted by their bad urban planning decisions even if you work at the local level or the private sector.
DC in the Fall Everything looks better to me in the Fall. Crisp weather makes me remember the things I love about DC. Just walking down the leaf-strewn, old brick sidewalks under a clear blue sky is enough to "give me a groove" as the other Mr. MyPorch might say. Travel + Leisure just noted in their city survey, that DC ranked number 1 in Architecture (must be the old stuff, because the new stuff is as boring and as pedestrian as you can imagine), number 1 in Museums and Galleries (I can't argue with that, the pickings are wonderful and free), and number 1 in having a "Worldly" population (I guess that is true, there are people from all over the world, but it still seems a little too provincial). During the hot, disgustingly steamy summer, none of these things matters. The only thing that matters is air conditioning. DC is the furthest south I will ever live.
Book Roundup I have been reading a fair amount lately as you can see from the list at left. Ann Patchett'snew title Run did not disappoint. It might be my favorite of hers. The Ward Just was a little boring to me. I usually really like his stuff but this one I found tedious in places. Although it was written in the early 1980s, its descriptions of Vietnam-era Washington certainly have some resonance today. I've just started Emile Zola's Lourdes which is on my Reading by the Decade challenge list. So far I quite like it. I am struggling to get through Philip Roth's American Pastoral which is also on that list. The only other Roth I have read is The Plot Against America and I loved it. With AP, I don't really care about any of the characters. I have a hard time identifying with anyone who, in old age, still idolizes someone from high school. Then again I never idolized anyone from high school.
My Book Roundup While I was between jobs I did make some decent progress on my own novel. I think it may actually be worth reading at some point.
The Millenial Generation is Scary Tonight on 60 Minutes they did a piece on the Millenial Generation. I guess it is roughly those kids leaving college today. What a bunch of overly-coddled, entitlement-assuming, wimpy bastards they are. Can you imagine having your parents involved in your job searches and your job performance reviews like they were taking part in middle school parent/teacher conferences? Why aren't these 20-somethings embarrassed by this? One of these Millenial wimps who is making money describing the shortcomings of his generation said that it was because they watched their families struggle making ends meet, giving their all to their companies, and still getting laid off. Boo f'inHoo. Like they are the first generation to have to watch their parents struggle to make ends meet. No, the real difference, if there is any, is that they had to watch their parents struggle to pay for a lifestyle that they could not afford. They watched their parent's struggle to cope with crushing debt caused by their inability to say no to their precious children.
The point of the 60 Minutes piece was that in the future labor market, as Boomers retire, these Millenial adult infants will be all that employers have to choose from. One them even said that if he is doing well at work, he would appreciate a letter to that effect sent to their parents. Can you believe that?! Could the Fortune 500 companies of the world please unite today (like climate change, we don't have a moment to lose) to not allow that kind of molly-coddling to go any further. You want a six figure salary? Then you better cut the damn cord and stand on your own two feet.
I guess I found something to be outraged about after all. I probably won't sleep well now...