Friday, May 27, 2011

Slackers, spontaneity, and responsibility

I had one of those "I wish I were still in school" moments this morning. I have had surprisingly few of those moments since I graduated, and the "moment" I had this morning had nothing to do with sitting in a classroom and enjoying an intense literary discussion.

No, the thing I missed most about school this morning was the freedom I had to skip class whenever I chose. Possibly because we have a three-day weekend coming up, every day this week has felt like at least two, and I'm not sure what is keeping me going. Maybe the Snickers bar I just consumed. Back when I was in school, I would have solved this dilemma by eliminating the problem--taking a day off from school for no reason other than that was what I felt like doing at the moment.

Granted, I do have a more flexible job than most career goers out there, but it's not that flexible. Skipping an entire day's work, even if it's for no legitimate reason, takes a lot more planning, which tends to ruin the spontaneity of being a slacker.

That's one of the bummers of entering adulthood, I've found. Despite all the wonderful freedoms and opportunities offered to you, you are more restricted by the responsibilities that come with those new benefits.

However, I think Fridays will allow us some leniency. Seeing as it's 1:00 and eerily empty and quiet around here (and I have a feeling a lot of people will not be returning from their lunch breaks), I think I'll have many opportunities to sink back into my slacker mode every now and then.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I like my stuff. I take pride in my stuff. The stuff a person accumulates is a fast, fascinating window into a person's soul.

It is for this reason that I don't like certain facets of technology. With everything going digital--from books to movies to shopping--society is quickly ridding itself of interesting stuff, to be replaced with cold, compartmentalized stuff that is stored on one small device or some untouchable cloud on the internet. These new toys are more efficient, but they are rapidly taking away from the personality and culture of society. At least, I think so.

Maybe I'm just a materialistic person. Until recently, I was never able to justify buying myself stuff--I had to rely on others to get me books, porcelain dolls, and clothes. So special stuff was a rare commodity growing up, saved for birthdays and Christmas, thus my appreciation for them increased tenfold. I took great pride in my possessions, and my possessions reflected my personality.

My room was a haven of sorts for me growing up, because, aside from the hole in the closet wall from when Tyrel was skateboarding in my room and a few trinkets my sisters donated to my elegant "display cases," everything there was mine--the stuff on the walls, the furniture, the discarded CD cases, the bedding, the fuzzy posters--it all screamed me. My individuality was very important to me as a teenager, and, while I was too insecure to show my individuality around most people, my room didn't cover anything up.

The last time I slept in that room, though, was a strange experience. I took everything with me when I moved to Midvale a month ago, including my furniture and most of my trinkets. Even my fuzzy posters were gone, along with the picture of the Italian man who was on display in my high school choir room for a month (Mr. D. somehow ended up with a calendar with pictures of Italian men all wearing the same dorky, striped shirt, and he wouldn't ever let us peak through the calendar to compare pictures; each had to be viewed for an entire month before moving on to the next weird-looking guy. He was weird that way).

It didn't feel like my bedroom anymore. A lot of people talk about how strange it feels to return home after living on your own for a while, but I never felt that way. The feeling of being in a permanent home never takes long to settle in. But this time, I was a guest sleeping in a strange room full of mismatched furniture and an ironing board. The individuality was gone.

This is the way I feel when I hear about the hit publishing has taken because of e-books, the Blockbuster stores that are going out of business because of Red Boxes and online video streaming, and the decline in CD sales because of the popularity of iTunes. There's a lot less clutter in our lives, but it comes at a high price.

Needless to say, I'm pretty sure I buy more stuff than the average Y-gen techie. I'm not necessarily a pack rat, but I do have my things. In our living room, our fireplace mantelpiece is lined with my movies, most of which are chick flicks (thank goodness for the $5 movie bin). I recently decided to invest in buying one Disney movie a month, partly so I can add "variety" to my movie collection, partly because I think Disney movies are essential to any movie library, and partly because I love having something to look forward to getting in the mail. (Despite my gripes about technology, online shopping is a wonderful thing.)

I don't know what others feel when they walk in my room, but I am usually struck by this thought: Wow, I'm a book nerd. I have 2 bookcases full of books, and I also have a bookcase-designed quilt hanging on my wall. On the walls are various cross stitch projects I have finished, and throughout the room are useless little trinkets I have held on to over the years, including the orange (the fruit)-themed tea set my grandma Pat gave me years ago, my collection of quarters, my earrings, and my spoons. I decided long ago that I was going to procure a souvenir spoon from every major place that I visited, and my collection holds a whopping 4 spoons--from Disneyland, Yellowstone, San Diego, and DC. (Vegas should be there too, but I forgot to get one while I was there and there is absolutely no way I'm going back there to get one. Once again, I love online shopping.)

It may be frivolous, it may be cumbersome, and it may not make sense, but I like stuff, whether it is mine or someone else's. "Stuff" always comes with a story, even if it is something as simple as "My cousin gave me this when we were in 7th grade."

I realize that not everything we have will become digital; for example, I don't think digital blankets and digital dishes will do us a lot of good. Whether we like it or not, some things will just have to be solid and concrete. Nevertheless, books, music, and movies are all a big part of my life, and they seem to be the things that society is slowly disposing of.

However, as long as people realize that there is still a need for concrete stuff, society can go on streaming and I'll keep on collecting.

Friday, May 20, 2011

It looks like office workers are risking their lives after all

One of my favorite things about working in an office is that no one's life is dependent upon my work skills or ability to show up at exactly 8 a.m. every day. Even better, I don't have to jump through rings of fire or perform heroic, risky deeds to fulfill my job requirements. Yeah, my work is important, but it can work around me, my schedule, and my moods most of the time. I think that's awesome.

I keep coming across this article that amuses me somewhat. The title pretty much says it all: "Don't forget! Your computer job is still killing you"--though if you don't read it, you'll be missing out on some pretty cool graphics.

The article basically says this: humans weren't built to spend less time sleeping than they do sitting, so office workers can pretty much kiss their longevity good-bye.

Now I'm a little paranoid. I'm thinking about purposely leaving my cool water bottle at home from now on so that I'll be forced to walk down the hall and through the door once every hour or so when I need a drink of water. I'm not one to get up and talk to people about, well, pretty much anything, so this may be my only hope.

In my defense though, I am a very active sitter. I am incapable of sitting still: if my chair swivels, you can be certain I will be swiveling fairly constantly; I am one of those annoying foot tappers/leg shakers; I change positions every fifteen minutes or so because staying in one position for a long time is boring and sometimes painful; and my fingers are constantly in motion, whether I'm typing, fingerspelling, playing with my hair, or plunking the imaginary keys of the piano in the air next to me. (Excellent. I have just created a legitimate precursor for an awesome movie quote follow-up: "That's a weird place to put a piano . . ."

But I'm thinking my jitteryness isn't going to save me here. I guess all jobs are life-threatening in the end. Oh well. At least I'll be well rested.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"When it's cold outside, I've got the month of May"

I love the song "My Girl," but it LIES. It's cold outside, but thinking about the month of May just makes me mad. It's been raining for 4 DAYS STRAIGHT, and I'm not seeing any end in sight. So much for cliches like "April showers bring May flowers." I'm starting to feel like the girls from 7 Brides for 7 Brothers who sing songs about the never-ending winter to alleviate their annoyance and frustration. Actually, I think they were just bored.

Then again, that particular line from "My Girl" could be stating the truth while seeming to say the opposite. It could just be saying that it's cold outside because it's the month of May. Stupid.

As much as I love the rain, I do believe that all things should come in moderation. So when the streets are flooding and rain continues to fall, that's not moderation--that's . . . the opposite of moderation, but I can't think of the word at the moment. I can't even enjoy the green grass and pretty blossoms because they are drowning in gloominess.

I just want to be able to go outside without the need for a jacket or closed-toes shoes. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, May 16, 2011

There and back again

I don't know if a trip to the nation's capital qualifies as a hobbit-worthy adventure, especially since we weren't carrying the fate of the world on our shoulders while being chased by something evil (unless you count the 400,000,000,000,000,000 middle school/junior high kids who were seeping through ever nook and cranny of the Smithsonian), but it was an adventure nonetheless.

A few of my thoughts as I try to recover from a week of walking, standing, eating, laughing, and sleeping:

  • Why did no one tell us that it was National Field Trip Week at the Smithsonian? If I never see another teenager again, I won't complain.

  • I am definitely not a fan of the humidity. Yech. I don't like walking around in soupy air that's almost thick enough to drink. However, I'm a bit disappointed that my hair was too short to fully experience the ramifications of humidity on frizzy, wavy hair. I'll admit, I was a little curious to see what that would look like on me.

  • Easterners are a lot more dignified than Westerners.

  • They also seem to be in a huge hurry all the time. It took us a couple of days to get used to people trying to surge past us on the escalators. I thought the whole point of those was to save you the trouble of walking down the stairs?

  • The metro provides excellent people-watching entertainment.

  • Using our "Muggle cards" to get through the metro gate things was quite fun.

  • The prettiest view from the plane was when we were flying over the Rocky Mountains.

  • These historic monuments and documents are a lot more glamorous on TV. But much more powerful in person. Even better, I've already had 2 "I've been there!" moments that I couldn't boast of a week ago.

  • I'm not sure the large amount of walking we did made up for the large amount of food we consumed.

  • The church really is true no matter where you go. It was amazing the peaceful going-home feeling we all felt as we drove into the DC temple parking lot.

  • The DC temple is absolutely stunning from the outside, although I would have to say that the inside of the Provo wins in my book.

  • It's awesome going on a vacation when the baby of the family is 15. We all had our ornery hours (except perhaps my mom), but there were very few selfish moments.

  • And I thought traffic in Salt Lake was bad.

  • It's a good thing there were so many gorgeous trees surrounding us in DC, because otherwise I might have fallen off the face of the earth without my mountains to hold me in.

  • Chinatown was lame. And so was all the construction.

  • From a distance, the mysterious man in the Jefferson Memorial looks like a scary monster.

  • DC birds are much less annoying than seagulls.

The return home was even less hobbit-esque than our adventure was, but it was something we all looked forward to. I would have looked forward to it less if I knew what was waiting for me though:

  • Apparently Mother Nature didn't get the message I sent her, politely requesting that the weather be fixed by the time I got back.

  • I returned home to an empty apartment. A bit depressing, and really weird, after spending every second of the last week with my family.

  • The next day I discovered that my car wouldn't start. It was nice to see you, too, stupid car.

  • I got a new calling at church. You know, sometimes I really don't mind being forgotten about . . .

  • My first attempt to jumpstart my car didn't go so well. Pretty much a waste of effort, actually.

  • I didn't get to stay up late last night because I actually had responsibilities to see to the next day. Harsh reality check.

  • I had to get up early today so I could jumpstart my car before Danielle left for work. This time, my car managed to live through the experience. I hope it's still strong enough to face many more days.

  • I got to work to see 140 emails cluttering my 2 work email addresses, many of which contained links to many articles. Catching up on my reading is going to be awesome.

  • Why am I still so tired? The two-hour time difference totally works in my favor here.

So now I am on to my next adventure: recovering from vacation. It was exciting and educational seeing a different part of the world and being 3,000 miles away from home. I bring with me lots of pictures and wonderful memories, but I think I've had enough of public bathrooms and planning my life around a train schedule. As excited as we were to take this vacation, it didn't quite match the excitement we felt when we stepped off the plane in Salt Lake City.

I guess that qualifies as a hobbit-esque ending.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Change = not always bad

Usually when I think of change, I think of that heart-wrenching feeling you get when you realize that things will never be the same again. I think of the good-byes, the leap into the unfamiliar, and departure from normalcy. I have always considered change a necessary evil in life; it helps us grow, but that doesn't mean that I have to like it.

To some extent, it seems odd that I dreaded change so much when for most of my life, I lived for the changes that took place every 4 months--new classes, new work schedule, new people to interact with. Also thrown in the mix were holidays and breaks from school. Those breaks in routine were what kept me going, yet, especially toward the end of college, I couldn't wait for long-term stability.

Now that the novelty of of being a salaried employee has worn off a bit, I find myself looking for a change in my long-sought-for routine. The uprooting of my routine on a regular basis is ingrained into my system. A few weeks ago, when everyone was talking about finals and graduation, I was still stuck at work, a little envious that my life wasn't going to change much in the near future. That was also the week I had moved into my new apartment, and between not wanting to work and not wanting to unpack and put stuff together, I may have experienced just a tad of insanity.

So I'm going to have to change my opinion about change a little bit: change is not just a necessary evil; it is also a necessary good. I am taking my first trip east of Utah next week and won't have to think about work or responsibility for 9 days, and while that has me a bit distracted at the moment, I'm relying on that small change in routine to empower me to be more happy and productive when I get back.

So when the big changes come, I'm going to try not to complain too much.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A small-town girl in a big-town world

I'm starting to understand why people made fun of me for thinking that Provo was a big city.

When I was a kid, I envied my cousins because they lived within walking distance of grocery stories, movie theaters, swimming pools, and restaurants (or at least within seeing distance). They could actually run to the store in between commercial breaks and not miss much of whatever they were watching. They could go to the swimming pool even if their moms couldn't drive them there. There was so much more freedom and opportunity in a big city like Payson.

If I wanted to see a public building other than the "city hall" or an LDS church building from my house, I had to pull out my dad's binoculars and climb up on the roof. And believe me, I did; it was the height of all excitement when I could pick out landmarks--and in some cases, people--all from the "safety" of my own roof. If I wanted to go swimming, I would have to content myself with buckets of water and water balloons. And believe me, I did that too.

So while some kids dreamed of living in a place full of shopping malls, parks, gaming centers, and rec halls, I wondered what it would be like to have sidewalks, flashing neon signs, or a gas station next to where someone actually lived. It still seems wrong to me to go to church on Sunday and be able to see the Walgreens across the street.

I guess you could say that my small-town upbringing stinted my imagination a bit. Growing up, I never would have considered that there were places that had a Wendy's and a Smith's down the street--and three more in the surrounding blocks. I never would have considered having every possible form of entertainment within a 5-mile radius of where I lived. I mean, come on--sometimes half the fun of going somewhere means that you spend a half hour on the freeway to get there.

But apparently big cities are all about giving you everything you want right away. It's going to take me years to visit all the shopping centers and restaurants within 5 miles of my new apartment, and I'm not even technically in Salt Lake--I'm in Midvale, one of the "small" surrounding communities. My grand plans to save money might halt at times because some shiny new sign or wonderful smell caught my attention.

The other day, Danielle and I went to a church meeting in the Conference Center. While she and Keith were concerned with finding somewhere to park, I was craning my neck trying to see the tops of all the buildings, amazed by the size and quantity. You would think that I had never seen a city before.

Which isn't far from the truth. I have been to downtown SLC a few times for Jazz games, general conference, concerts, and job interviews, but the rest of the time I avoided the place. All the noise, traffic, and pollution overwhelmed me. The constant stream of people and really tall buildings daunted me. It was safer to return to my slow-paced hometown where I could see the stars at night and drink decent water.

But at the same time, there is something exciting about cities. There's a lot to be said for having all of your whims satisfied without the added cost of traveling. The constant motion and variety of cultures is enough to keep me interested for hours on end. Cities have a lot to offer, whether you like people or buying things.

That is, if you don't mind wearing earplugs at night to block out the sounds and investing in heavy curtains that will block out the annoying city lights when you're trying to sleep. Not to mention the greater risk for crime and creepy people wandering about.

But despite its drawbacks, I think I could get used to living in a city. Saturday nights would be a lot easier; if you find that you are down to just 3 gallons of milk (yes, that is cause for concern in the Carter household), running to the store to pick up more would be no big deal at all. You don't run the risk of driving a half hour to go to your favorite ice-cream parlor only to find out that it is closed. There is nothing bad about having a bookshop just around the corner. Not to mention the commute to work is usually a lot shorter.

But I forget about all of that when I return to a small town, especially my small town. A place where people can go on late-night summer walks without having to worry about being accosted (unless you count the passing neighbors who had the same idea you did), where people aren't rushing to get to their next destination, where the loudest sounds are the shrieks of children laughing, and where the small dogs are allowed to roam free and rule the road without bringing the cops down on them. I like being able to go outside without the whole world knowing what I'm doing (maybe my small-town upbringing has something to do with my stubborn desire to do all things in secret). I don't think I could ever truly relax in a city, but in the country I could sit for hours on end, listening to the wind rustling through the trees.

So while I may be a little more educated on the ins and outs of cities, I will always be a small-town girl at heart. Cities will always be at least slightly evil, while the quiet countryside is a small piece of heaven. What can I say--I'm in love with my brand of paradise.