Tuesday, April 8, 2014

In Defense of Sharing the Good Stuff

Last fall I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while at an event. “I’ve been following your exciting life on line!” she exclaimed as we hugged hello.

“Thanks!” I responded, then laughed, “I only put the good stuff up there.”

Which, like most of us is true. My instagram, twitter, and facebook feeds are filled with photos and musings of good times, fun adventures, food that was divine, and flattering pictures of myself and my friends.

There are a lot of articles complaining about the lack of realness in the way we curate the information we share publicly. How our lives all look shinier and more put together then they actually are, and how we shouldn’t feel bad when we see our friends doing amazing things, because they’re only posting the good stuff. How going on Facebook makes us depressed, because as humans we can't help but compare, and if you're comparing your life to a hand picked feed of only good times, how can you not feel depressed that your life doesn't measure up?

And I want to say that I support us sharing the good. If you want to share the personal, bad, and/or everything else in between, that’s your decision and good on you for doing what you want. But, I’m sick of us vilifying the sharing of good stuff.

Personally, I think it’s a very pessimistic view to say the photo streams we have aren’t real because  they’re capturing happy, exciting, or accomplished events. They are obviously real life. We took them during our real lives. And yes, bad stuff, confusing stuff, sad, awful stuff has happened to all of us and was just as much real life, but I don’t think the good should be discounted based on the fact that it’s what we may want to remember or share in public setting.

Similarly, the feeds of my friends: creating, celebrating, having fun, falling in love, exploring new places and kicking ass at their jobs don’t fill me with despair. They’re god damn inspiring! I’m friends with these amazing people, building lives they want and working hard to make that happen. They are talented, beautiful people and I love having insight into the parts of their lives they are proud enough to share.

I’ve been posting more to instagram while in Paris than usual, because, well, everything is foreign and more catches my attention and curiosity. Being more aware of my surroundings in Pittsburgh is something I hope to take home with me in a couple of weeks. Anyway, one of my friends posted a comment under a picture I took from a morning run through the Jardin de Tuilleries which said, So thrilled to see you enjoy the magic of Paris and to share it with us. Hooray for living dreams!

Which, is a remark very true to her personality, but also struck me as such a pleasant and wonderful way of looking at the noise that is social media. How it’s thrilling to see someone you care about enjoy him or her self and share that enjoyment.


So, I defend the re-touched wedding pictures, the creatively posed engagement and pregnancy announcement photos, the look at me having this awesome adventure profile pic, and the photos where your kids look angelic and are getting along. I’ll even stand up for cat pictures, food porn, and selfies with your significant other.  Life is too short to not find the beauty in it, to share that, and to revel in how we all interpret and experience that beauty differently.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An American in Paris

I'm sitting in my small and charming apartment in le Marais. Slightly buzzed on côtes-du-rhône, and très contente.

It's hard to write anything other than PARIS IS AMAZING AND I LOVE IT HERE for this post, and while that is true that's rather boring.

Paris is amazing and I do love it here. Everything is beautiful, everything is delicious, and the children (not to mention the rest of the population) are so well dressed.  I can walk 15 minutes from my apartment and be at the Palais du Louvre, which is incredible. I skip home with a freshly baked baguette that requires no butter, or jam, or nutella, or anything it already tastes so good on it's own. I spent Sunday afternoon wandering around the left bank with a gentleman who told me my eyes are brilliant. Life is pretty great here.

A lot of my life feels the same. I work, I see my Thread team every day for huddle, I grocery shop and cook myself food. I wake up and do yoga, and go running. At the same time, everything is scary. Every time I leave my flat it requires concentration and learning and the probability of making a fool of myself, and that is thrilling and fun and nerve-wracking.

I am very much alone here. But I don't feel lonely.

Having this space (literally an ocean's worth of space from real life) with time to think, and walk, and write, and draw, and eat, and read, and sip espresso, and people watch is wonderful.

Maybe one day I'll reach a point in my normal life where I can build real time for all of those things in my day to day. Maybe I'll get better at treating my beloved Pittsburgh like a tourist and forcing myself to go, and see, and appreciate the things I take for granted as a local. Maybe I'll learn to really get out of my comfort zone without having to go half way around the world.

Until then, I'm seeking asylum in Paris.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dirty Dishes

There is a certain satisfaction waking up the morning after you've had a party, and your furniture is still slightly askew, and there is a pile of dishes in your sink, and you're finding glasses set down in corners and on top of bookshelves.

I love it. I love the evidence that there was a bunch of people hanging out in my space. Cleaning up doesn't even phase me because I am so happy that it happened.

In college, at the Polyhouse, after big parties on Saturdays we would spend Sunday mornings drinking pots of coffee and eating waffles, and then the 6 of us would clean all afternoon, trying to get the spilled beer smell out of the living room carpet, and would eventually make dinner. Is it weird that some of my most nostalgic memories from college come from cleaning up after parties with my roommates as opposed to the parties themselves?

I hosted a pot-luck on Friday to welcome home my boss, Ian, from the desert, and as a house-warming for myself. It was crowded and loud and fun and I loved it. This new living situation of mine is wonderful for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that I can entertain again.

I was in the kitchen, getting drinks and helping people find serving spoons for their dishes.

"Kelsey, do you want help putting out the salsa?" asked Heather.

"Sure," I said. "Here are some bowls to put them in," and handed her bowls.

"You can just send them out," said Aunt Janet* "they're ok in the containers they're in."

"Oh no," I said. "I mean, I know no one cares, but they need to be put in pretty dishes."

"I understand," said Heather, scooping the salsa into the bowls.

"My Mom and Aunties would be relieved to know this happened," I explained.

So presentation resulted in some extra dirty dishes. It made the women who raised me proud, even if they don't know it, and it made me happy to see them stacked in the sink the following morning.



*Aunt Janet is technically Ian's Aunt, but everyone calls her Aunt Janet, and I've adopted her as an aunt here in Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

It Must Be Nice

Today I quit my gym.

I do this every year when it starts to warm up and running outside doesn't make me want break down into a sobbing mess. I did it early this year, because in 2 weeks I am moving to Paris until the end of April, and when I get back it should be spring in Pittsburgh.

(If we're still experiencing polar vortexes in April, I am convincing the EU to grant me a visa and am not coming back.)

Anyway, the gym manager of course asked me why I was ending my membership, and I told him about Paris, and how I have a job that allows me to work from where I want, so I was taking advantage of that.

"Must be nice," he replied. He said this twice in our brief conversation actually.

To which I smiled and said, "It is. I'm really excited."

Because it is nice. In fact, it is thrilling. I can't quite believe that this is my life right now, because this kind of thing - picking up and moving to Paris for funsies - is something I thought about, and read about, but didn't think would actually happen to me.

Much of my life now consists of things that for a while I didn't think would happen to me.

And it didn't just happen. I didn't just wake up one morning with a job that required travel and therefor gave me airline mileage points so that I could accrue a free flight to France. I didn't suddenly have a job structured in a way with colleagues who trust me enough for me to leave the continent for 5 weeks and still operate business as usual. I didn't suddenly have a job I find invigorating and fulfilling and that challenges me.

All of this took time and effort and sacrifice and the trust and support of a lot of people. And it could all go away very quickly.

It is worth it though. So worth it. Building a life you really want is worth every moment of fear and stress. It is worth every breakdown, every panic attack, every time you question 'what did I get myself into?'

Things like moving to Paris, or landing your dream job, or running 150 miles in the desert don't just happen. The people who do those things rarely just get lucky and find themselves in the midst of that kind of situation. Those experiences are hard to get to. So hard, that they seem impossible until it's happening. So hard, that even when you are experiencing so much joy from doing that impossible thing, there will still be fear and doubt and uncertainty.

If you want it though, it's worth it. Or at least worth what you learn in the process of trying.

Life is too short for "must be nice"'s.

Do the work. Make the time. Save the money. Experience what must be nice.

Monday, February 24, 2014

SWAG

I am not a good dancer. 

And after years of never feeling more self-conscious than when on the dance floor, I have reached a more adult stage of life where I don’t care, because dancing isn’t about how you look (unless dancing is your job, in which case, look good), dancing is about having fun. And I am not about to let my inner critic stop me from having fun.

That didn't keep me from being extremely nervous before my first SWAG class last fall however. SWAG, stands for Sweating With A Goal, and is basically an hour of pretending to be a back-up dancer in a dance studio in Bloomfield. Not only had it been ages since I had attempted to follow any kind of choreographed dance, but I can’t tell you the last time I tried such a thing in front of floor to ceiling mirrors and a large group of strangers.

Still, my friends raved about it – and I needed to break up the monotony of running with something, so I finally forced myself to go. I was pretty awful. I bumped into the people next to me lunging left instead of right. I had to stop and watch and try to jump back in every song. I avoided glimpsing my reflection moving stiffly and awkwardly. I had so much fun.

SWAG has quickly become a weekly tradition that I look forward to. I wouldn’t say I’ve improved much, except that some of the routines have become more familiar, and I don’t bump into other people as often. So on Monday nights, I trek over to Bloomfield and spend an hour bending-and-snapping and looking ridiculous, but having a blast doing it.

Usually we like things we're good at.


But sometimes it’s real good to just do something you’re bad at.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Responsibility and Personal Growth

In March, I was at my favorite coffee shop when my computer crashed.

Now, last winter was not exactly my best season. Winters are hard in Pittsburgh, I was broke, I was stressed, and I took this fairly common technology hick-up as a very personal affront from the universe.

My laptop died, and I started crying. In the coffee shop. In front of people.

Because, I had work to do and needed a computer to do it. We are a new company, it's not like we have extra laptops to use if one crashes - we all rely on our personal laptops. I didn't have extra money to spend on computer repairs. And, perhaps the most inexcusable thing of all is that I had nothing backed up - meaning 4 years of my digital life may have just disappeared.

Most of my Thread work was backed up in Google docs and email. But my personal stuff; photos, and music, and the journal I keep to save all of the stories I don't want to share publicly - gone.

Jenna was with me, and told me to pack up my stuff, took me to lunch, then dropped me off at the Apple store. Where, it was determined that my hard drive was ok, the repair would be a minimal charge, and I would have a working computer again in 24 hours. I bought an external hard drive on the spot, and sat there for 2 hours while they backed up everything.

Sometimes we do live and learn.

So yesterday at 4:30 pm, when my laptop crashed on me 14 hours before I was going to be on a flight to San Francisco for a week, I wasn't even phased.

I made an appointment at the genius bar and planned out a worst-case-contigency-plan, which involved buying an ipad in case they couldn't fix the problem that night so that I could get work done from San Francisco. Not only was I now a responsible adult with her laptop backed up, I was a responsible adult with an emergency fund. And I know, I know, emergency funds shouldn't really be spent on ipads, but if that's the solution that was necessary, I was ready for it.

I didn't have to buy an ipad. They rushed the fix so I had a working machine again in 2 hours. I've found the Apple Geniuses to be incredibly accommodating people, and wish that more customer-service interactions involved them.

6 months and everything about my response to the same situation had changed.

And obviously, this whole story is nothing but a first world problem. But I also feel it's symbolic of my response to my life in the past 6 months, which is to say that the stuff causing me to burst into tears last March are such fixable and manageable problems now. That's nice to know. Even if it also means there are a whole host of new seemingly personal affronts from the universe to deal with.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Marathons, Montreal, and Marriage

The past 2 weeks, since returning to Pittsburgh after my most recent trip to Haiti have been kind of a blur. A blur in which I haven't spent much time at home or sleeping, but have been having a lot of fun.

Marathons/Montreal

So we'll start with Montreal. Back in January I made the resolve to make running in cool places a focus for 2013, and signed up for the Montreal Marathon. Because I had never been there, because it was a fall race, because I love Poutine and everything French and so how could I not love this city?

In a power of persuasion I didn't know I was capable of, I somehow convinced the owners of Franktuary to sign up with me. None of them had completed a half or full marathon before. Somehow, despite them running a restaurant, and my failing at any real training program due to working at said restaurant and traveling back and forth to Haiti once a month, we decided it was still a good idea to go and try, and run this race and see what happens. The majority of us, myself included, having decided that the half was enough of a challenge, planned to stop at the 21 k mark.

It was cold and rainy and we started the race on the bridge, which felt like being at home, and was miserable. Our coral finally got to cross the start line, and I took off, quickly losing my friends in the crowd, determined to get myself warm and to end this race as soon as possible.  It took a couple of miles, but then I hit my stride, and a fast one (for me) at that, which carried me all the way through till mile 11 when I had to walk a couple of blocks due to a charlie-horse, and then ran the rest of the way home.  I did not complete the full marathon as planned, but I did manage a PR on the half, shaving a full 7 minutes of my best half marathon time, and making a sub-2 hour marathon seem less like a distant dream and more like a real possibility if I put some focus on it.

Everyone finished the race - Tim finished the full - and that night we all hobbled out to a great restaurant where we ate our weight in moules et frites, and toasted to running farther and faster than we ever had.

Starting line bridge, new PR, Prosecco.

Montreal was a great town, and I was reminded of how much I love exploring a new city. Megan and I did some thrifting at some great vintage stores on Saint-Laurent boulevard, we ate poutine every day, and ordered pastries in french fresh from the boulangerie in the morning.  

Marriage

Last weekend, one of my closest friends and former poly-house roommates got married, which is one of the most grown-up sentences I've ever typed on this blog.  Kurt is one of the most genuine, kind, and fun people I have the privilege to know and to celebrate the fact that he's chosen to spend his life with a woman who is as kind and genuine and fun was a joy.

Everything was beautiful, the bride was gorgeous, the food was delicious, and we all camped out after the reception. Then, woke the next morning to waffles and mimosas in the barn, which quite frankly is my dream come true.  We also had a roommate reunion, and it's so good to see and spend time with that group - my first chosen family - and see us grow up and into ourselves and hear about the adventures everyone is on. Also, I had the best dates ever. Chris and Alyssa, let's just go to all the weddings together.

The mother-son butterfly kisses dance and the best wedding dates ever.

The highlight though, was that 6 years ago, while living together, we made the bet that the first in the group to get married would have to dance to butterfly kisses at their wedding for the mother/son or father/daughter dance. I didn't really expect that I'd be the first married out of this group, but can I just tell you what a relief it is to know it's not me? IT'S A HUGE RELIEF! Kurt - a true gentleman - lived up to the bet, and it was the best mother/son dance I've ever seen.

It's been a couple weeks of feeling pretty lucky to know some pretty cool people.