All Hail West Texas, Pt. 2 (More Pictures)

When I left off the last post, we had just started (full) Day 2 at Big Bend. We ate breakfast and packed up the camp since it was to be our last night there and hit the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive through the park. We stopped along the way and hiked the Mule Ears Point Trail, which I found more forgiving than the Window trail, despite the lack of shade. We hiked all the way down to Mule Ears Spring, which was all dried up, despite all the rain we got the previous night and back to the car, about 3 miles round-trip. From the trailhead, it was back on the road with stops at Tuff Canyon for some pretty scenic views.

See the “mule ears” in the distance?
Tuff Canyon
Cerro Castellan as seen from Tuff Canyon

When I Grow Up

The question of what I want to do when I grow up has been looming large in my life lately. A forum that I frequent just had a discussion about quarter-life crises this morning. I had a job interview last week that asked me what my dream job was. A couple weeks ago, I took a psychology test that is supposed to overlap your skills, interests and aptitudes and suggest areas of development. As my 27th birthday approaches (June 22, for those keeping score and/or watching my Amazon wish list), I think I can’t help but feel a little anxious over here. Aren’t I supposed to know by now? Why haven’t I figured everything out? How is grownup formed?
I’ve written about it here on the blog before but I’ve had a lot of false starts in life. I’ve enrolled and dropped out and put college on pause so many times at this point, I’ve lost count. It wasn’t always like this. When I was younger, I was labeled “gifted” (just barely… I scored one point below the required score to get into the GATS program but my mom lobbied on my behalf for me to be admitted). I got good grades, my teachers were constantly impressed with my work and abilities, pretty much anything I set my mind to I did well in. The adults around me talked up my smarts and talents so much that I bought into my own hype. I was definitely going places! I was special! I survived the confidence-crushing years of middle school and high school by telling myself that by the time I got to college, I’d really have a chance to shine. But by the time I reached college, I crashed and burned spectacularly (because school had come so easy to me and I had been able to coast through K-12, I never really learned proper study skills, which, as it turns out, are pretty important on a collegiate academic level). My GPA and my confidence have never fully recovered. Despite discouragement from everyone from my mother to my boyfriend to my therapist, I will invariably compare my life and accomplishments to those of my peers in the same age group and wonder why I haven’t made it “there” yet.*

I’ve gone on to do okay for myself, mostly, regardless of my lack of degree, I was able to obtain a lot of experience on my wits and Brilliant Personality™(they’ll get you farther than you think, regardless of the economy, in my experience). Right now I’m holding down two jobs which is a lot of work but allows me to live pretty comfortably. But I’m still searching for what I like to call the Sweet Spot. It’s that overlap between what you’re good at, what you enjoy and what you can feasibly get paid a living wage to do. And I’m still figuring all that out! I know that I am satisfied by helping and educating people and empowering them to help themselves. I like and am good with writing, animals and kids. I enjoy good design and feminism and social justice, although I don’t have any particular skills in those areas. I’m a fast typist, am good at and can sometimes even enjoy “mindless” tasks data entry and filing. Is there a Sweet Spot for all of that? For that wide spectrum of interests and skills, probably not. But you know what? I think that’s okay.

This article I found (via LifeHacker) last week hit the nail on the head for me: “‘Do What You Love’ is Bad Advice.” I don’t necessarily agree with the sentiment that doing what you love is always a bad idea (if you can are going to or currently doing it, you go, Glen Coco). But I realized I see the premise of the article is something that I see everyday, all around me – people living happy, productive lives even though they’re not doing the most glamorous work or getting paid for their passions. The most prominent examples in my life are my mom and my stepdad, both of whom use their day jobs to supplement their side businesses that they truly enjoy (personal organizing/wedding planning and photography, respectively).

Only a handful of people are lucky enough to have a career that overlaps with all three criteria and fulfills all their needs. Not everyone is going to be the skills, education, ability or access to obtain and do well in their dream job (at least not without overcoming some hurdles). So we find other ways to fill the holes – we volunteer, we take on side jobs in our desired field or we simply allot as much free time as we can to our hobbies and passions, even if they don’t pay the bills. It’s like your personal relationships – you can’t expect one person in your life to give you everything you need emotionally, physically and socially, that’s why we’re closer with some family members more than others, why we cultivate different friend groups. Why should I expect the same from a job? And the more I think about it, the more I don’t want a job that I’m so into, it consumes most of my time, passion and energy. I want a job that I don’t have to bring home with me** or drains me to a point that I barely have anything left for my friends and family. Basically I want to work for a living, not the other way around.

All that said, it would still be nice to know sooner rather than later what I’m supposed to be when I grow up. I haven’t given up figuring it out but I am now making a promise to myself to try not to stress out about not being “there” as much. Maybe like… once a month instead of once a week, to start.

* DO NOT RECOMMEND: This accomplishes nothing, this is a terrible idea, I know it’s a terrible idea as I do it and yet I CAN’T STOP MYSELF KEEP DOING IT because I am clearly a masochist.


** I know that’s sometimes a given, depending on the job but if I have to, at least not too much.

All Hail West Texas, Pt. 1 (Picture Heavy)

I just got back from the most amazing Memorial Day Weekend, I hope all you Americans enjoyed yours, as well. And the non-Americans, I hope you enjoyed your non-Memorial Day weekend, too!

My boyfriend has been trying to get me out to Big Bend National Park in West Texas basically since we started dating a few years ago. I was a Girl Scout for ten years but with my mom being the leader, we were more Troop Beverly Hills than Red Feathers* types. I am also blessed with biology that causes me to be swarmed by mosquitos and other insects that want my blood within mere minutes of being outside, making me not a prime camping candidate. When we first got together, I wasn’t as Outdoor Afro** as I am now so he had to ease me into the idea with short hikes and picnics around Austin to longer day trips and camping overnights at state parks in our area. After a successful 3 day/2 night stay at Rocky Mountain National Park last summer during which I wasn’t eaten by any bears or cougars, I finally relented to the Big Bend trip last fall.

We left out late on Friday night so we didn’t arrive at Big Bend until after 1 a.m. As soon as we got there, we staked out an unoccupied campsite at the Chisos Basin campground and Alex quickly set up the tent while I took care of the reservation fees. The night sky was so clear you could see the Milky Way so I begged Alex to take the rain cover off the tent so we could sleep under the stars. The drive in was especially dark and creepy (no lights along the roads) but the campsite was quiet and peaceful, so I really had no idea what to expect when I woke up in the morning.

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Reason #147510751071 Why I Need a Dog

My 90s nostalgia kick has officially reached critical mass because I actually spent 99 cents in the App Store for the Hatchi app, which pretty faithfully transfers strangely addictive experience of owning Tamagotchi from cheap plastic to a $500 smartphone. Not I named my first Hatchi Joffrey I guess because for some reason I subconsciously wanted him to be the worst.

Well, mission accomplished… seriously, what kind of monster hates pizza? Pretty much up there with beheading and baby murdering.
It’s not quite a substitute for my desire having a furry buddy around (which has also reached critical mass… I actually went to a pet store & hung out with some rats today) but a fun distraction for only a little over a dollar after tax.

Recovering Musicalaholic

I am no stranger to talking about my guilty pleasures on this blog so it should come as no surprise to anyone for me to announce that I LOVE MUSICALS. Some of my fondest memories as a kid are watching and singing along with The Sound of Music (and Mary Poppins and Bedknobs & Broomsticks & The Wiz, et al.) with my mom. To this day, I still think Julie Andrews is the Queen Bee. When I got older, I joined choir and I even dabbled a bit in musical theater (chorus member in high school productions of Fiddler on the Roof and Fame, here) and even got a lead role as Lucy in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown in a community theater production. But by the time I was a sophomore in high school, my interests had shifted from performing to writing so I haven’t danced or sang for an audience since (outside of karaoke).

Despite my lack of performing within the last 12 (!) years, musicals still hold a soft spot in my heart. While I am not a big fan of say, Glee (although I can see myself being really into it if it had debuted when I was 14), when I saw the preview to NBC’s Smash after last spring’s upfronts to say that I was immediately hooked from the first few notes of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” would be an understatement. I knew that this was a guilty pleasure show right up there with True Blood (which thankfully comes back next month) for me, regardless of how bad it turned out… which as it turns out, can be pretty bad sometimes a lot of the time. So maybe Katherine McPhee isn’t a good actress and it isn’t always believable or even entirely coherent or but when Smash is good, it’s really good, which is almost entirely thanks to the original music. The songs are so well-written that I would actually pay to see “Bombshell” (the show within the show based on the life of Marilyn Monroe, for the uninitiated) if it were real. I may or may not have caught myself listening to some of the songs during a Spotify private listening sessions, that’s all I’m saying.

But regardless of my feelings about the show, what I really wanted to write about was Karen Cartwright’s (Katherine McPhee) dreamy boyfriend black handbag with gold studs that I’ve been lusting after for the past few episodes. Apparently, I’m not the only one because the first result for my Google search of “karen cartwright purse handbag” came up with a link to the blog Justified Obsession, who tracked it down.

The brand is ROMYGOLD and the Drew Stud Hobo costs $495. Karen’s version is black with rose gold studs but it comes in a few other color combinations. But really, Smash? Struggling up and coming performer, $200-a-week-workshop-salary Karen can splurge on a $500 bag? Or was it a gift from her dreamy successful boyfriend or the movie star, Rebecca Duvall? I had at least an inkling of hope it might be the kind of bag that I a girl like Karen could pick up at Macy’s or JC Penney or Forever 21, you know, somewhere where poors shop. Way to dash my dreams, television. Truly nothing in the entertainment industry is what is seems.

Anyway, Smash just wrapped up for the season so now most shows are going on summer hiatus, you can probably catch up on Hulu or NBC.com, if you’re so inclined. And what the hell, this post also gives me an excuse to post a picture of Raza Jaffery, who plays Karen’s boyfriend, Dev, on the show. I forgive him for that embarrassing Bollywood number because he looks really good a suit.