Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story. 

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. 

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism. 

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass. 

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself. 

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. 

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy. 

— Max Ehrmann, 1952

Live the questions now.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.
Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
— Rainer Maria Rilke

Father's Day.

Star Shower

"Use that sunroof as much as you can," he said, glancing skyward as the car silently shifted gears up the hill of the frontage road ahead. "Once we get near the city, you won't have a view like this." It was just after 9:30 the night of the summer soldtice — Barnaby Bright, the longest day and shortest night — and the sky had barely darkened, but kernels of bright white stars were bursting in the sky one by one. By the time we hit Route 80, wisps of cobalt cotton-candy clouds shrouded our view of that astral popcorn, but even with a partial view, I knew he was right: Only thoughts of stars appear in the Chicago sky.

He took a deep breath as we made our way to the highway, making a memory of the day through wine-worn nostrils. Taking in humidity and tall grass, livestock and distant smokestacks. "That smell reminds me of my first car, of my childhood...it doesn't always smell like shit."

 

Front page.

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So, let me just get this out of the way:OH MY GOD YOU GUYS I’M ON THE COVER OF USA TODAY.

No, really. My picture (taken by Brett Roseman) is just below the USA Today logo, front and center, above the fold. I am writer Hadley Malcolm’s lead source in a story called “The cost of financial illiteracy.

The story is about my generation — the Millennials — struggling with money. You know, basically.

First: For reasons that are beyond me, I’ve been on USA Today’s “shopper panel” e-mail list for years. (Jayne O’Donnell, one of the paper's other reporters, and I are besties.) When I got an e-mail seeking sources for this story, I actually contacted the writer and suggested they interview my sister. In part because she’s more responsible and has her shit approximately 472 percent more together than me. But unable to leave things well enough alone, I signed off and added, “For what it's worth, I am 28 and still have no idea how to manage my money.”

So she interviewed both of us.

And I’m the only one who ended up in the story, probably because I was desperate to entertain her and gave her everything she was looking for to illustrate her point that my generation is a bunch of spoiled, entitled idiots with irresponsible spending habits and no capacity for fiscal responsibility.

I spent almost an hour on the phone with her from my hotel in San Antonio, just after my second week back in a full-time job, talking about my upbringing, my work history, my moves from city to city, my hopes, my dreams, my desire to have better financial security, my efforts to learn more about budgeting and personal finance.

And in the end, we get this: Paige Worthy is a stupid yuppie. Look at her in that handmade scarf, on her iPad, looking up a recipe while she shops at a hip European grocery store. Check out this flake! She’s had six jobs in as many years, and now this idiot’s about to go off on her own again as a freelancer! Now…let’s go to our experts to find out what a disaster everyone else in her generation is.

I mean, I’m paraphrasing. I’m a journalist. I GET IT. Ultimately, many reporters use their sources to illustrate the point they always knew they wanted to arrive at. I’m not mad at you, Hadley! My picture’s on the front page of one of the most widely read newspapers in the country. Thousands of people are waking up in hotels everywhere with me juuuuust outside their doors.

But damn. As a personal blogger, I’m even more cognizant today of the luxury that comes with telling my own story day to day.

So.

I won’t argue with most of Hadley’s story.

Yes, I do believe we’re mostly screwed as a generation. We’re inheriting a country that’s positively gone to shit in almost every way. It’s hard to find work, and when we do find work, many of us are being paid so much less than we deserve that it’s practically laughable.

And despite this, many of us continue to rack up debt by spending beyond our means, taking trips, going to restaurants, and so on and so on.

But there’s a lot more going on than just some irresponsible kids that would rather play Angry Birds than learn about being fiscally responsible. A LOT.

I like to live well. I buy my cat’s food at Whole Foods. (It's $3.99 per bag.) I enjoy a good meal from time to time. And — DEAR GOD — I have an iPad. (It was a Christmas gift, for the record.)

But really, I’m one of the lucky ones. My family taught me, from a very young age, not to take things for granted. I’ve had a savings account from the moment I was born; I have an IRA now that I contribute to regularly; I pay my taxes on time; I can count the number of times I’ve overdrawn my bank account on one hand. I went to a state college and majored in a subject that, at the time, I knew would translate into a career after graduating. I’ve been employed constantly, if not consistently, since I left school. I never fell for the credit card scams in the student union. Who wants one of those oversized, crappy T-shirts anyway? I’m not in debt, from student loans or otherwise. I never have been and, barring any catastrophic future life events, I don’t intend to be.

Why yes, I am patting myself on the back. Everyone who can claim as much should pat themselves on the back, because it’s hard to do these things in a financial climate like this. And yes, I’m defending myself. Because I’m pretty offended to see my generation constantly carpet-bombed with blanket criticisms about our attention spans, our work ethic, our financial shortcomings.

My problem is, as always, with the hayseed commenters who think they have all the answers. Blaming “me” for the ills of society. Calling “me” worthless and stupid. Thinking a single photograph of a girl on a staged photo shoot in Chicago really says something compelling about an entire generation of young people still trying to figure things out in a pretty messed-up world. Sorry, guys. It’s not that easy, and it’s not that simple.

I, personally, am in a pretty good place — and I’m getting better. I gave my two weeks’ notice yesterday at a job that wasn’t fulfilling me, and I’m not sorry for that. I’m going back to freelancing and all the good and bad that comes with that.

Financially, I’m keeping track of my business expenses, paying my quarterly self-employment tax estimates, establishing a budget for the first time in my 29 years on this Earth. (Whether I stick to it is another thing, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, right?)

My efforts to improve are the part of my story that she left out. And really, that’s completely fine. Because the story wasn’t about me — it just started with me. What’s your story?

Grappling.

I read this article yesterday while I was at brunch.(Ha-ha, white girl on the North Side of Chicago out to brunch, reading about Trayvon Martin. GET OVER IT.)

And I got to thinking: America’s kind of an awful place. I’m so disheartened sometimes that I don’t even know what to say.

 The 911 calls began at least eight years ago, with Mr. Zimmerman reporting on a range of non-emergencies, including the existence of potholes or someone driving slowly through the neighborhood. By late 2011, his calls were often about black youths and men, with complaints about suspicious activity or just loitering.

By the time he went on neighborhood watch patrol with his 9-millimeter pistol and spied Trayvon Martin, Mr. Zimmerman saw not a teenager with candy, but a collection of preconceptions: the black as burglar, the black as drug addict, the black “up to no good.” And he was determined not to let this one get away.

As recently as a few years ago, this case probably would not have been noticed outside Florida, which has a long and bloody history of sacrificing black lives without consequence. The country is right to focus on this case and to look for ways to prevent it from happening again.

People who are seeking to affix blame for this tragic death do need to bear one thing in mind. Gun laws that allowed a community watch volunteer to run around armed are, of course, partly responsible. But Trayvon Martin was killed by a very old idea that will likely take generations and an enormous cultural transformation to dislodge.

My family had season tickets to Kansas City Chiefs games when I was a kid. My most vivid memories of those games have nothing to do with Arrowhead Stadium; they’re of crossing Troost Avenue on 63rd Street in my grandparents’ Mercedes-Benz and watching my grandparents’ hands fly to the automatic-lock buttons. They’re of counting the number of tree-shaped air fresheners hanging from passing cars’ rearview mirrors.

Troost was our arbitrary dividing line between Kansas City’s racial no-man’s land and what I’m sure we so lovingly referred to at some point as “the ghetto.” (Which is hilarious in that completely horrifying, not-funny-at-all way now, because I don’t think I’ve come within miles of the real ghetto in Kansas City, if it even exists.)

We passed through, hopped on the highway and made our way to Arrowhead’s parking lot, locked safely behind the parking attendant’s stations, where we tailgated and then watched the game wrapped in blankets, cheering for our team and doing the tomahawk chop.

What do these memories say about me? Have these experiences shaped who I am?

Maybe in some way. But how? I read articles like the one from the Times’ Sunday Review today, and I’m ashamed because I know the author is speaking directly to people like me. I’m not racist — never. ever. EVER. — but I know I hang on to some prejudices that will be tough to shake off.

Am I part of the problem?

I didn’t hear about Trayvon Martin until days after he was shot. I read about it on Twitter and didn’t understand why it was such a big deal; I was busy being enraged about yet another fat white man in Congress trying to take away all women’s hard-fought reproductive rights. Then I read more about it. Then, it was another few days before I saw anything about it on television. Finally, a month and a half after he was shot, George Zimmerman — who’s a year younger than me, who owns a gun and thinks he can play policeman, judge, jury and God himself — was charged with second-degree murder and taken into custody. A MONTH AND A HALF LATER.

What does that say? Really. If the situation had been reversed — if Trayvon Martin had shot George Zimmerman or anyone else, for that matter — he would’ve been locked up in the blink of an eye. I’m sure of it.

How… What. I don’t know. I don't know anything.

I don’t know whether Martin was shot out of racist hatred or singled out by Zimmerman’s prejudices and caught in the crossfire of self-defense. I don’t know what happened in Sanford that night. Until they release all those 911 tapes, the autopsy report and call every possible witness from both sides, no one will know exactly what happened except for George Zimmerman. Even then, it’ll be a neighborhood watchman’s word against a dead hoodie-wearing black boy’s. Does it really matter whether it was racism or prejudice that led to this kid's death? Because he's still dead.

I picture the outcome of this case being utter horseshit. Nothing good can come of this. This will not be a “teachable moment.” Sometimes I think we’re beyond teaching. Like it will never, ever get better. And that makes me want to throw things. Or curl up in a ball and cry. Neither would make me feel better, I’m guessing. And logic has obviously worn out its welcome.

If you’re reading about the Trayvon Martin case, trying to make sense of anything at all in this ridiculous media circus, do yourself a favor: Don’t read the comments. Ever. Whether you’re reading a blog entry or an article on Fox Nation or MSNBC, just do yourself a favor and skip the comments section. Just walk away. People are horrible and hateful and violent with their words.

Is there a way to start calling people on their racist, ignorant fuckery, beyond posting to our own Facebook feeds and trolling comment sections to lob holier-than-thou word bombs into the ether? Would there be a point beyond making us feel better about ourselves, proving to the Internet we’re above it?

I don’t know. But that’s the kind of “Stand Your Ground” I can get behind.

Spring cleaning.

Just before I moved to New York in 2006 — at least a lifetime and a half ago — my mom slipped a big, dark-blue envelope into my carry-on. I found it after I got to the airport. It was heavy and thick, filled with huge prints of her and my stepdad, my sister's senior pictures and some photos of us as a family. And a note.

Paige —

Do these things for me:

  • Always remember you are loved
  • Always remember where home is
  • Always remember you can come home anytime — no questions
  • You can call any time, day or night
  • Always remember we are all proud of you

I miss you terribly and adore you beyond your wildest imagination. Enjoy this adventure — don't forget home and us.

 

I never have. Not for a single second.

 

I'm doing some spring cleaning today: not just shuffling things around but actually throwing them out. I found her envelope today in a box of things I plan to throw out. Five and a half years after she wrote it, I smile to think that I don't need that note to know what it says is true.