Friday, May 18, 2012

Inspiration from Tiny Buddha

A few days ago, my friend Tina sent me a link to an awesome article from Tiny Buddha -- and, because sometimes life hands you just the right thing at just the right time, it was exactly what I needed.

While it's becoming increasingly clear to me what I don't want out of my career, figuring out what I do want has been a different can of worms.   This article, Six Powerful Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever (the title aims a bit high, but it's still helpful), really got me thinking.  

I found that three of the six questions largely dealt with the same thing, so I boiled it down to three key ideas and then let my imagination run wild.  

What do you absolutely love in life?
Reading, writing, food, creativity, cuddling with Hubs while watching comedy movies, all things Middle East (ok, everything but the internecine religious warfare and the Egyptian dysentery), cooking, baking, spending time with friends and loved ones, spirituality, vivid colors, trees, maternal and children's health issues in developing countries, sunlight, Chai, learning, coffee, teaching, independence, helping others, design, modern art, Islamic art, working out, Japanese gardens, cacti, comedy, thunderstorms, Colorado, blueberry muffins, yoga, beaches, fresh fruit, organizing, waking up early and watching the sunrise, stargazing, the Rocky Mountains in the summer, jazz music, Monty Python, Mel Brooks movies ("You changed your name to Latrine?"), ice cream, traveling, Texas Hill Country, Tel Aviv, Pad Thai.

What are your greatest accomplishments in life so far?
Moving to Israel: Deciding to go to Jerusalem was the scariest thing I’ve ever done.   I’d always wanted to live overseas, but I never thought I’d have the courage to take that big of a leap – especially when it involved spending a year in a country that I’d never visited before, where I knew no one, and where I didn’t speak the language.  It was terrifying -- I remember waking up on the morning of my departure and feeling like there was a Mac truck sitting on my chest -- but I did it and I thrived.  It was an amazing experience, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Learning Hebrew: I got off the plane in Tel Aviv with no knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet, and one year later I was reading, writing, and speaking with a proficiency I never imagined.  I wasn’t fluent, but I was getting there – and I was incredibly proud of the progress I’d made.

Living alone: For a long time, the idea of living alone terrified me.  I'd always had roommates, and those roommates were always close friends with whom I spent almost all my free time.  The idea of spending all that free time by myself seemed incredibly scary – what would I do without friends to keep me company?  I knew, however, that I needed to get to a point where I felt that I was in excellent company when I was alone.  I also knew that living by myself was the way to accomplish that, so I spent three years living alone.  There were times when it was lonely, but overall it was an enormously positive experience.

Leaving He Who Shall Not Be Named: When I decided to leave my ex, who I'll refer to as A, I felt like by insides were being ripped out.  (Long story short: long-distance relationship with an old flame from my college days, plans to get engaged, I move across the country to be with him, he starts binge drinking and being hostile to the point of bordering on abuse, I move out exactly six weeks after I moved in.  It was terrible.)  It was, hands down, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I never thought I’d have the conviction or strength to leave someone I loved so much, but I knew that the relationship would destroy me if I stayed.  I had to take breaks from packing up my stuff to just sit on the floor and cry, but I pushed through the pain and got myself out of a horrible situation. 

What would I do if money, time, limitations, and judgment were non-issues?   Or, phrased differently: if I had unlimited funds and opportunities, and if I knew no one would judge me for my choices, what would I choose to do?
I’d write – oh, would I write. 
I’d find a way to mix my love of the Middle East and international affairs with my love of health and science. 
I’d be an entrepreneur and would work for myself.
I’d spend my days in a fulfilling job that allows me to be intellectually stimulated, creative, and independent while making a discernible difference in peoples’ lives.  
Hubs and I would travel to as many places as humanly possible.  (We don’t just want to see the major places that people usually go – we want to see the out-of-the-way places as well.) 
I’d go on medical aid trips to help with women’s health issues in developing countries. 
I’d make people laugh as a matter of routine. 
I’d watch funny movies and shows with Hubs after cooking a delicious dinner that we both enjoy. 
I’d divide my time between a city (in an ideal world, the city in question wouldn’t be DC – but we’re here for the long haul, so DC it is), a cottage in Texas Hill Country, and a cabin in Colorado.  (It’s imperative that this cabin not be rustic, though.  I don’t do rustic.  I want a nice cabin with double-paned windows and heated tile floors.) 
I’d make artwork, and I wouldn't be terrified to show it to people. 
I’d cook with abandon.   
I’d visit the Middle East often, and I’d come back loaded with textiles, jewelry, and spices. 
I’d go to yoga more often than once every other week. 
I’d make it my mission to scatter joy.

Who do you admire most in the world?
Elizabeth Gilbert:  Seriously, I adore her.  Every time I read something she writes or listen to an interview of hers on the radio, I feel as if she’s talking directly to me.  Her warmth, compassion, intellect, and humor are tremendous.  Adding to which, she’s just so relatable!   I deeply admire her ability to be completely true to herself (which is quite a tall order, when you start to think about how hard and painful it can be – and was for her – to absolutely be true to yourself), follow her heart, dissect her feelings and experiences in thoughtful and insightful ways, and articulate those experiences in a way that makes her feel as if you’ve been friends forever.

Nick Kristof:  I've never loved a journalist's reporting the way I love Nick Kristof's.  His dispatches from the front lines of the developing world are eye-opening, and I deeply admire his commitment to traveling to places most people would never dream of visiting, reporting on what he sees there, and then taking action once he gets home.  He and his wife, Cheryl Wu Dunn, wrote a book about all the problems facing women in the developing world, and it's one of the most enlightening, infuriating, and captivating books I've ever read. His determination to shed light on issues such as maternal and infant mortality rates, sex trafficking, and other problems affecting women is truly inspiring.

Madeleine Albright:  I love the fact that she’s both whip-smart and down-to-earth.  She endured some massive trials in her day, not the least of which was the endemic sexism that thrived in the academic and government sectors in the 60s and 70s.  I deeply admire the fact that she earned her Ph.D. in an era where middle-age women were routinely denied the degree (my Gram was a case in point), and she then went on to work her way through a system that was inherently stacked against her to become the first woman appointed as Secretary of State.  Adding to which, in the middle of her career her husband left her, quite abruptly, for another woman after 20 years of marriage – yet despite the wrenching heartache that caused, she worked through it and clearly did quite well for herself.  They say that the best revenge is a life well-lived, and I think it’s safe to say that she got hers.

Robert Gates:  Former Secretary Gates is, by all accounts, a class act.  That's a rarity here in DC, and I immensely admire his ability to do the right thing (as opposed to what would serve his own interests) and remain above the fray of DC politics.  In a town where partisan warfare, unbridled narcissism, and general vitriol often rule, he never dipped his toes into that cesspool.  He has epitomized what public service should be.

Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Kristen Wiig:  I love that they don't hold anything back with their humor.  Tina Fey goes all-out in her nerdiness (and can I just say how endearing it is to see someone embrace her dweeby self so fully?), Amy Poehler leaves it all on the field with her bawdy, "I give exactly zero fucks what you think of me" style, and Kristen Wiig absolutely nailed it when she wrote "Bridesmaids."  All three have unique personalities, and they seem to have no qualms about really owning who -- and how -- they are.  This, in turn, creates a comedic style that personifies each person in a totally different and totally awesome way.  The result is always awesome.

My parents:  I love how happy they are together.  They've been married for 35 years, and they're sublimely happy -- in fact, they've always been my role models for what I want in a relationship.  Back in my (horrific) dating days, I relied on my parents' relationship as a compass for what I eventually wanted, and until I met Hubs, no relationship had met those standards.  However, I knew I'd rather be alone than settle for anything less than the sort of relationship my parents have.  It took a while, but that strategy paid off - I never settled, and I wound up marrying an amazing man who makes me absurdly happy.

I realized, when all was said and done, that I had a blast writing all this down.  It felt awesome to think of all the things I love and that make me happy, and thinking of my life in terms of expansion (what are the possibilities, what could make me really happy?) versus contraction (I spend 40+ hours per week feeling miserable, there are no job openings, etc.) made a huge difference.

Now, the question is...what to do with it all?

Hmmmm, thoughts to ponder.  Suggestions are welcome!

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