Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Model for Living

"Comparison is the thief of joy." Somebody said that somewhere and it is meant to encourage us to, well, stop comparing ourselves others and try and be happy with our lives. Lately, I've been examining other people's lives, people I know and people I've only heard about, in an effort to look for a loose model on which to base my own. Let's face it, neither you or I are going to craft a totally original, completely off-the-wall life. We aren't all that different from the average of those around us. Right now, I feel like I'm at a standstill, having had plenty of time to reflect on my personhood. If I continue to be lazy, comfort-seeking, and dependent on preset paths, I won't do much at all in this lifetime and I'll face an unbearably crushing amount of regret on my deathbed. Definitely one of my biggest fears. Also, the existence of too many choices is crippling. I also wonder at my avoidance of risk, how it would lead to less opportunities and a less fulfilling life. So many self-help/ business articles urge you to take risks to reap huge rewards. So, who's it gonna be?

My mother. In many ways, I have missed my chance to start out like she did. An immigrant from Hong Kong, she completed her bachelors and masters degree in CS in the states early, and toiled as a test engineer my entire childhood up until I left for college. (She took 5 years off when I was born.) When she decided that she paid her dues and had provided a comfortable environment for her children, she started pursuing a masters in counseling a few years back. She loves helping people, has a heart for the suffering, and is currently amassing her practicum hours in a school talking to at-risk teens.
My father. He had a similar path to my mother, working as an engineer for a defense company for 20+ years. After a religious epiphany (also spurred by the 2000 tech bubble), he switched to a polar opposite field by attending seminary and becoming a pastor, later reverend. In my mind, seminary is no walk in the park with all the dense theological texts you have to absorb, and also learning Hebrew. So for my Dad, a non-native English speaker, this was no easy feat. He was employed at our home church for nearly a decade and cultivated quite a number of fans from the congregation, due to his humor and charisma. He recently accepted a position in the largest church in Hong Kong, citing his boredom with DFW and his desire to travel the world as reasons for the change. Better late than never, huh?
My friend B.W. A recent graduate in film, she works contract editing jobs while shooting independent projects and researching for her sometime feature film in her free time. In short, her life is all about film, a she has realized her passion since childhood. She doesn't have loads of cash and has a tight budget, but she loves what she's doing.
My friend E.W. He is currently in Afghanistan working for a NGO, learning the language, traditions, and cuisine. I have no doubt that he is having the time of his life, and he is growing in ways that I can't even imagine. In a society where college grads are expected to get good jobs and start saving for a house and family, he chose a starkly alternate path. One much less comfortable, more illuminating, more dangerous, one which promises nothing certain in the future. In reading his blog and seeing his photos, I gather that he is experiencing things and gaining a valuable perspective most Americans will never come across or adopt.
My friend T.P. She is a super-busy mother of 3. Her life consists of making sure her kids are fed, clothed, and safe, the errands run, and the house kept relatively clean. Once I asked her what her career goals were, and she paused and admitted that she had not thought about them in years. Nursing, she responded.
My friend L.G. He owns a small bike shop in East Austin and works more than 40 hours a week. This dude's life is all about bikes. He is an integral part of the community, has spent decades working on bikes, and is well-known for his excellent service.
And, some people I don't know. Keith Malloy, a badass Patagonia ambassador who surfs and tackles environmental issues. The grizzled guys at Austin Metal Authority, who hammer and shape metals into functional and ornate pieces at their East Austin studio. Trent, the author of financial blog, The Simple Dollar (that's his full-time job).
Honestly, I can't any see a hint of myself in any of these examples. Alternatively, I could just get pregnant and take on motherhood as an identity and job and relieve myself of this hard reflection. Haha nope.
[As a note, I began writing this blog post as a way of procrastinating learning about accounting basics in preparation for a phone interview tomorrow. Tsk tsk!]

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