Sunday, April 22, 2012

Finding the silver lining

So, I moved into a new apartment. And it was awesome for like a day . . . until I figured out what that odd smell was that the overpowering lemony Pine Sol scent was covering up: cigarette smoke. And possibly the previous owner's dog.

Unfortunately, that is no small thing. It's not like the ugly, shaggy, multi-colored carpet at Miller that we learned to ignore, and it's not like the linen-closet-sized bathroom at Southridge that we learned to not stretch our limbs in; those things could be dealt with without drastically affecting life's comforts.

This stale cigarette smoke, however, is impossible to ignore, especially when the slightest off-kilter whiff is offensive to your nostrils. It's bad enough that I can smell my brother's feet from two rooms away while everyone else is happily oblivious to the fumes, but when you have to live in a stench that causes even the dullest of noses to crinkle in distaste, you know you've got a problem.

So I did everything I could to eliminate that problem. I attacked the walls, counters, cupboards--every surface in the apartment--with vinegar and baking soda, sprinkled the carpet with baking soda and then vacuumed, inserted little bowls of vinegar into every room, kept the windows open almost 24/7, bought air fresheners and Febreeze, and somewhat rationally asked management to caulk the pipes and do something else to the carpet.

The result of my efforts: I still dread going home. The smell isn't as potent as it was, and I don't think I'll die of cancer tomorrow, but my home is not the place of refuge I crave.

Eventually, though, I got tired of complaining about the situation. So last week, I decided to look for the silver lining in my life and focus on that. Here's what I found.


I learned that just because the apartment managers at BYU are unfeeling Nazis doesn't mean that all apartment managers are unfeeling Nazis. I explained my plight to the managers and basically said I needed a new apartment--and they complied. Just two more weeks of this and the air--my air--will be fresh again.

In an effort to avoid my apartment, I went to FHE, even though it required dressing up. The fireside was not only inspiring, but it gave me the jump start I needed to get in the habit of going to more ward activities so I don't turn into a blissfully unaware hermit.


Fresh air has never smelt so good. I love rainy days even more now.

I cooked a meal in my crock pot and for the first time since I moved in, my apartment actually smelled good for a few hours. That was heaven. The food was rather tasty, too, and just might feed me for the rest of eternity.

I went on a lovely walk and saw lots of tulips and blossoming lilac trees--a wonderful reminder of both of my grandmothers. I also passed some kids playing kickball. Ah, spring.


My duties at work just doubled--and trust me, that's a good thing.

I went on a longer walk and spent the whole time thinking about how blessed I am to have a salary, insurance, my own apartment full of my own things, and a car. People twice my age are still working toward some of these things, but I was given these things very early in life.


I went on an even longer walk, this time thinking about all the wonderful people I have in my life. The best family in the universe, co-workers that are becoming good friends, ward members who are in the same walk of life that I am.


I didn't have to go home to The Stinkhole (I hid at the parents' house for the weekend).


Was the most beautiful day of the year so far.

At times the silver lining seemed more smoky grey (ha ha, I'm so clever) than shiny, but I was surprised how easy it was so see the good things I still had in life, even when I had a hugely annoying problem on my hands. I took almost every excuse I could to not sit around in my apartment, which only did good things for me.

Hopefully I can keep this up for two more weeks . . .

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Run toward the sound of the guns

If you ever get a chance to hear Dan Clark speak, don't pass it up. I've heard him speak twice now and he's been fantastic both times. And I don't even like firesides.

Er, well, the firesides themselves aren't bad, but the Sunday best dress requirement and the awkward mingling afterward are.

Bishop Clark threw out a bunch of catch phrases that will probably be discussed in greater detail on this blog eventually. He began by talking about the beloved catch phrases made famous by general authorities, such as "Stop It," "Good, Better, Best," and "Tender Mercies," and then he offered one of his own: "Run toward the sound of the guns."

Eh? What happened to the warm-fuzzy catch phrases?

We've all heard the story of Joseph and Potipher's wife. We've been taught since we were young to run from temptation. It's a good mantra to live by, except for one thing: you'll never stop running. And when you finally run out of steam, you won't be strong enough to withstand temptation.

Avoiding temptation isn't always enough; sometimes it must be fought.

Soldiers understand this. They leave behind their families, their homes, and their comforts to enter a blisteringly hot desert, strap on 80 pounds of gear, and run toward the sound of the guns. Instinct tells them to run away, but duty propels them forward.

Running toward danger isn't something to be taken lightly, but we can't spend our lives avoiding situations that might compromise us.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why Superman didn't have gray hairs

Sometimes I feel like Nynaeve from Wheel of Time. She is given authority early on in life, but she longs for her first gray hair so people will finally start taking her seriously.

Such is the dilemma faced by many young people. It doesn't matter how talented, smart, or connected you are; until you've truly lived life (and no one tells you how long that may be), you will simply be someone with little experience but big potential. You can't overcome that in one day.

Believe me, I've tried. Multiple times.

As frustrating as it is to not know everything, however, I guess it's part of what makes being young so exciting: the whole reckless stupidity combined with grand schemes to change the world and all that.

And when people finally label you "experienced," it's time to pass the reins on to someone else.

Ah, well. You can't have everything.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cover letter for my next job

For my next job, I think I'll use some version of this letter for my cover letter:
Dear Sir:
I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave "V" words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land's-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.
I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.
I have just returned and I still like words.
May I have a few with you?
(Taken from this website. You should check it out. It's cool.)

I have no desire to find a new job right now, but this letter makes me wish I had done my networking a little differently. And that I had a bigger vocabulary.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When failure = win

When I was in 2nd grade, I was that annoying goodie-goodie every class has at least one of. I finished all of my assignments early, my teacher regularly used my achievements to demonstrate excellence to the class, I never broke the rules, and I was good at everything.

Over time, my inner devil overruled my A+ student mentality, allowing me to slink around the rules a bit without drawing attention to myself. I learned to not take myself so seriously and to enjoy life a little more.

But, until college, one thing remained the same: I was still good at everything I tried. Part of this was due to my competitive nature and desire to master everything in my path, but it was mainly my talent to avoid all situations in which failure was possible that kept my track record clean.

Needless to say, entering the gilded halls of BYU was a bit of a shock. For the first time in my academic life, I was average. There was nothing that set me apart from the thousands of other piano-playing, 3.9 GPA-averaging students.

Little did I know that my launch into the adult world would also bring me face to face with something I had managed to avoid most of my life: failure.

Even though my little failures over the last five years have humbled, humiliated, and frustrated me, I've come to realize something that most people probably already know: failure isn't my enemy. Sometimes, the only way to learn something is the hard way.

Recently, I secured a freelance gig on Elance. It started off great; I only had to work 5-7 extra hours a week, I was making a little bit of extra money during my free time, and the work wasn't that difficult. But the bright beginning plummeted downward as the projects got harder, my client demanded more effort, and I started running out of writer's steam. Finally, after a tumultuous month and a half, we parted ways respectfully.

A few years ago, I would have regretted the experience ever happened and labeled it a big, fat Failure that would serve as a warning for future freelance projects. Today, however, I am able to see it as a win-win-win situation. I (1) earned a little bit of extra money that will cover most of my moving expenses, (2) learned a lot about how to improve my writing and work ethic, and (3) realized that I should be spending my spare time less selfishly, i.e., in pursuit of the doing good rather than cushioning my savings account. I wouldn't have gotten any of these wins without this "failure."

It's still hard to accept, but I'm learning that sometimes I simply have to unproductively bumble through something in order to learn something more valuable than the experience itself was. Failure is one of those tricky tools God uses to help guide us and make us stronger.