Saturday, October 31, 2009


OK so it turns out that I am both a much worse artist and slightly better artist than I thought. I drew 2 apples today, of which 1 bore just slight resemblance to said fruit. And then I drew myself twice. One was really chinny. The other was much better than I expected! But Jeffrey said, "I'm glad I'm not dating that person." Hey thanks, babe. And guess what: We're married.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thank you, Barcelona

Jeffrey and I were fortunate enough to spend 8 days in Barcelona. The city is amazing. It's completely full of art, without being self-conscious or fussy. It transformed me.

This trip was the first time I really enjoyed the museums we went to: the Contemporary Museum of Art, the Dali museum in Figueures, a Joan Miro museum, and a Gaudi museum. I think what really affected me so deeply is how distinctive -- and loud -- each artist's voice was. It struck me as incredibly courageous. I'd given up on art as a young child. In our family, we had a talented artist, and then a slightly less-talented artist. And neither of those spots fell to me. So I gave up. 

My sister is 2 years older than me, and very smart. But I was precocious, and maybe slightly better than her at Chinese Chess and a few other things, and no doubt shitty about it, so she sort of gave up on it. To this day she still underestimates herself and her intelligence, and I know it's my fault. It weighs on me.

So here I was surrounded by all this art, wondering if I had done the same thing to myself; abdicated any artistic inclination simply because I wouldn't be the best at it. And not even that I wouldn't be the best at it, but that I wouldn't be any good at it at all. It struck me as a remarkably cowardly way to live.

No matter how I earn a living, I have been and will always be an editor. I edit myself constantly, afraid to say or write or do the wrong thing. And long ago, I edited art right out of myself. But what I realized is that I must accept the possibility -- even the certainty -- of mediocrity. I think that until I do, it's impossible for me to fully accept who I am. My 20s were spent getting better at things I was already good at. I hope my 30s are spent doing things I'm terrible at.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Words, Part II

Last week I had a great and unexpected conversation. I was having lunch with a semi-wig from the company, someone I don't know very well. First I asked him about his life and how he got to where he is, and he told me that he basically had a blessed life. And I thought, hey, me too! I've felt that way for a very long time. I was born into a family that escaped a war-torn country, and grew up with what Roberto Benigni memorably called the gift of poverty. And because of the love and support of my family, we've all been able to get past that and are strong because of it. I've been given amazing opportunities, and the abilities to take advantage of them. I mean, things could be very different for me, or at least for a me-like character. And I got ridiculously excited about telling this person about it, because he was so excited about feeling the same way.

It was the first time I'd met anyone who had the same kind of charmed awe that I have. I mean, a lot of people feel fortunate and grateful. But there's this sort of wide-eyed feeling of specialness that I don't often see. It was an immediate connection that I didn't expect to make.

One thing he talked about that seems so obvious but felt revelatory at the time was responsibility for choices. I mean, I believe in being responsible, but he talked about being responsible for the good ones as well as the bad ones. And I was like, yes! I see! I had just never thought about it before. And he talked about choosing to be around people who lift you up. And I thought about the people in my life who lift me up, and who I lift up. It was really clarifying.

He said that everyone has a word that defines them -- THE word. If you told your friends this word, they'd all say, yes, that's about right. I'm not sure if that's true, maybe it's more like 2 or 3. At any rate, the second he said that I thought, hmm, am I more unrelenting or relentless?

Saturday, October 10, 2009


This week I've interacted with a lot of people with whom I would not ordinarily, for some reason. And that's a really good thing. It gives me a lot of opportunities for growth.

Yesterday, I was at a TJ Maxx looking for accessories for my new iPod, which they keep up in the check-out line, which is weird, but whatever. So I walked up to the display, not in front of the line, but parallel to the line, just to check out the display. And a woman sort of behind me said, "Some people, they just don't understand English." I'm pretty sure she was talking about me. It really took me aback. The very first words that popped into my head were, "I'm an editor!" I know. Not very snappy. But I didn't say anything at all. Partly because I've escalated those types of situations before and I know that there's very little satisfaction in it. And partly because I was just so shocked. And partly because I've been calmer lately and I just don't respond in the same ways I used to.

But my mind was racing and I got defensive. I thought to myself, well, if you ever wonder why I use language the way I do, this is it. And when I got to the car, swear, "Your Racist Friend" came on my iPod with no provocation from me.

But then I decided that that kind of ignorance and paucity of spirit brings with it its own misery. And then I thought, poverty of spirit or paucity of spirit? I decided on paucity but I really could go back to poverty at any moment. See what I mean about the language?

I also realized that at certain points of my life (and maybe some that have not yet unfolded) I have been/will be guilty of such ignorance and smallness. So that's that.

Earlier in the week, I'd had a funny run-in that could be related:

Scene: Walgreens. Barbie is checking out. I just came along for fun.
Checker: Como esta?
Me: Muy bien?
Checker: You're Filipino, right?
Me: Um, no. And that was Spanish.
Checker: I know, but it's the same, right? It's OK?
Me: Um, no.
Checker: Wait. Ni hao?
Me: Nope. Wrong again.

As I read it now, it sounds a little harsh, but I was pretty nice to that guy. I wasn't mad or anything. I've really grown, I think. As I was recounting the story to Jeffrey, I said, "You know, if you were my college boyfriend and I was telling you this story, it'd be a very different story."