Career, Health, Life, Uncategorized

A Type A Control Freak’s Path to Serenity

Before I begin, there are a few things you should probably know about me:

  1. I organize my underwear drawer. After removing my clothes from the dryer, each pair is carefully folded before being placed in the appropriate pile based on style, fabric, and color.  Yes. My underwear is organized by color.
  2. My bathroom trash can is for aesthetic purposes only. Should you choose to use it for actual garbage, it will be emptied almost immediately.
  3. I have five email addresses, each containing a minimum of 50 labels into which I organize the multitude of messages I receive throughout the day (for those of you who don’t use Gmail, think of labels as folders).

The reason I share these points is to attempt to illustrate the plethora of systems I have built in an effort to organize my everyday existence, systems that should be regarded as observable manifestations of my larger obsession with stability. Yes, it might sound a bit neurotic (because it is), but I have been operating this way since I was six years old and searching for the perfect way to display my stuffed animals.

Recently, I made the decision to venture out on my own – a choice that is riddled with instability. Bi-weekly paychecks? Health insurance? A 401k? With this one decision, they instantly became things of the past. Hours became varied and unpredictable (likely to fluctuate in tandem with my emotional state), and it’s no longer possible to define myself by my job title or salary range.

You would think that my Type A personality would be vehemently protesting, that every atom of my being would be screaming for me to create order out of the chaos – but it’s not. Yes, my aforementioned systems are still in place, but for the first time in a long time, I feel genuinely at peace. I’m enjoying the quiet that comes to my neighborhood after 9:30am. I’m reveling in the freedom to choose my own projects, to partner with innovative minds from other industries. In a strange twist, these seemingly inconsequential options have overrode my need for control – enough, at least, that I know how important it is for me to explore it further.

So here I am. I am bound to encounter a multitude of threats to this newfound independence, but I have made the decision to prioritize my own happiness, and through any means necessary, I will preserve this state of serenity.


The Many Ways to Say Goodbye and Other Lessons to Learn

Yesterday morning, I attended my uncle’s funeral.

Walter D. Long was only 66 years old upon his death, but no one would argue the fact that the years he did live were full of life. A graduate of Pingry School and Wesleyan University, he was intelligent and driven. He served as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1966-73; and as the owner of a travel agency, he had the opportunity to see the world early on in his life. He was an incredibly devoted husband who, together with his wife, raised two loving, kind-hearted, and intelligent sons, sons who went on to give him five beautiful grandchildren with two wonderful daughters-in-law. And perhaps what he is most well-known for, he dedicated eight years to serving as mayor of Summit, New Jersey, a period during which he rebuilt downtown Summit and secured a reputation as an unbelievable leader of the community.

I didn’t really know my Uncle Walt, although I had always wanted to. Family drama, the nature of which I never really understood, caused him to keep his family life separate from ours; and because I had always dreamed of the quintessential loving extended family, I resented him as a teenager for not wanting to be a part of my life. As I grew older, I moved on, choosing to place my focus on those who were present, and we never did get the chance to know one another as adults.

In attending his funeral yesterday and listening to his family and friends describe their loved one, I feel I finally got the opportunity to know him a little, to learn from him, and to see the beauty of his accomplishments, both personal and professional. I have a great deal of respect for the person he was to the people and things he cared about most and I loved hearing their stories… About his handwritten personal letters that he never stopped writing, even after his illness took away the use of his right hand and he had to learn to write with his left… About his close friend subsequently teasing him by calling him “lefty,” a nickname that was especially amusing since my uncle was a Conservative Republican.

My Uncle Walt advised a great many people during the course of his time here on Earth, and yesterday, I heard a few of his choice sayings. It’s obvious that many people will carry his energy with them for the rest of their lives…

“People don’t care how much you know unless, and until, they know how much you care.”

“If you think you can, you will; and if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

“Confidence is the Electricity of Life.”

“Perception is reality.”

And my personal favorite:

“It’s not how high you fly; instead, it’s how high you bounce.”

You couldn’t have known, but I still carry my childhood memories of you. I always have, and I always will love you. And I look forward to the chance to see you again one day. ‘Til we meet again…   Rest in peace.

Career, Life

Where do I belong?

How many responsible and driven young adults are out there, just looking for a place where they can work, receive some guidance, and enjoy life? What I mean is, in an ideal world, our parents and teachers are supposed to provide us with emotional support and guidance, help us realize our personal dreams, and ultimately become the adults we want to be; and yet, too often, they can’t fulfill these responsibilities. Sometimes they’re not invested enough. Sometimes they just don’t know what else is out there… And other times, their hearts are really in the right place, but out of fear or just plain unwillingness to look outside the box, they fail in this role. Isn’t there someone or something out there that can fill in for them when this happens? If there’s not, shouldn’t we put it in place? Guidance for young adults? An impartial network  of life coaches, career counselors, and psychologists throughout the nation, perhaps the world, who can talk us through our individual goals, the steps we might take to reach these goals, places we can live, jobs we can do, etc. etc. in the hopes that we can each build a life to be proud of and ultimately, carry these lessons on to equip the younger generations in building a collaborative and self-sustaining community?

Take me, for example. I’m creative, empathetic, hard-working, and I love a challenge. I’ve just left my job of two years and I’m looking for my place. Do I want a steady job or do I want freelance gigs to pay the bills and take each day as it comes? Do I want to stay in New York, or do I want to move? And if I want to move, is it to the West Coast, or is it internationally? Do I want to go back to school? I think I want to go back to school… And if so, do I want to study web design and technology or something that directly pertains to establishing and running a nonprofit? I’m going to have to make these decisions for myself, but what if there were a network – individuals to weigh in on the cost of living in Santa Barbara, alternative locations that might fit my geographical preferences, the best way to travel with a large dog AND a cat, the pros and cons of going back to school, ways to make freelancing work for me…

I guess I’m suggesting a collective of some sort, where we, as caring and invested individuals, take responsibility for guiding and exposing one another to things outside our norm.

  • People willing to share what they know
  • Community houses where one might try living before fully committing to moving somewhere
  • Apprenticeships where we can try our hand at a career before taking out tens of thousands of dollars in loans… only to find that it’s not quite what we thought

Yes, I sound idealistic.

But don’t you think your experiences might help someone else? Don’t you know incredible people from whom others might also be able to learn? Aren’t you eager to learn? Experience new things? Wouldn’t that be easier with a community of supporters and mentors at your fingertips?