Tuesday, February 25, 2014

is it God's fault that I'm a late bloomer?

Growing up, I never ever would have thought of myself as a late bloomer. If thought of in strictly physical terms, the term wouldn't describe me at all. I was always taller than everyone else in my class, which made me look years older. I also caught on to things fairly quickly in school, and usually finished assignments early. If anything, I felt ahead of time and wanted it all to slow down.

But now I always feel a little bit behind. Moving to a big city didn't help this feeling, I'm sure, and neither does the internet. There is always someone doing something more, something better, something faster. I often feel like a very small fish in this enormous, very full pond.

Being so exposed to other peoples' journeys to supposed greatness has led me to realize that I have actually been quite slow. For example, I just read Mindy Kaling's book (please don't judge), and she writes about her absolute love for comedy in junior high  and high school - about watching Comedy Central on weekends and staying up late for SNL. She knew, she immersed herself, she went for it - and now, the same age as me, Mindy is hot stuff. I am not.

While Mindy was preparing herself for a great career in comedy, I was writing my best friend notes about the boy we both had a crush on, who we met at summer camp and making up dances to Janet Jackson songs. My life revolved around this best friend, her pool, youth group and summer camp. And this is where I start to get to the nagging question of this post: Is it God's fault that I'm a late bloomer? That it's taken me this long to even decide what I want to be when I grow up? Youth group and summer camp were places of safety and acceptance, and of growing spiritually, and I went all out for it. Some of my friends (Stanford alum) attended a summer academic institute at a college near where I went to school and asked me if I ever went to one. No, of course not, I was singing cheesy worship songs and giving girls piggy back rides to the pool and cooking pancakes over an open fire, all in the name of loving Jesus.

During my senior year of high school, I worked at a Christian bookstore. I loved browsing all the self-helpy inspirational Christian books about loving Jesus, desiring God, knowing Him. And I read many of these, too, while sitting at the register at night and waiting for customers to come. That year, in an interview for a full ride scholarship to my Christian college of choice, I was asked about the most influential books in my life. I clearly remember giving the answer: Redeeming Love and Desiring God. I didn't get the scholarship, and I still attribute it to that answer. What high school senior is reading John Piper? I realize now I would have been smart to answer some classic literature, but the truth was I wasn't reading that then. I'm just catching on to the value of that kind of fiction now. End result: I chose a different college because I didn't want my loans to keep me from doing missionary work. I was very practical (and the psychology behind some of these decisions could be analyzed further, I suppose, but that's another blog post).

I suppose it's not completely fair of me to blame God for the seeming uselessness of my adolescent activities. I could also blame my parents, media, my generation. But there's a deeper question to all of this, the flip side of placing fault. It's, "can God use it?" There's this verse in the psalms that says that God fulfills His purposes for us. It's in the context of the psalm writer feeling overwhelmed and like his life might as he's being pursued by an enemy. That's not quite my context, and yet the anxiety about my life coming to nothing is still there. I'm a good 20 years behind Mindy, and a lot of other people, at this point. I'd like to think that roasting marshmallows and playing capture the flag all summer for a few years will somehow be used of God for what He has for me today, but how that works isn't all that clear yet.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

dressing the part

Next week, I'm attending my first writer's conference. It's kinda snuck up on me and now I find myself trying to think of everything I need to do to prepare. Someone 10 years my junior told me I should print personal business cards (people do that kind of thing?). Blog posts by people who have attended in the past advise to bring purell (oh man, I really do not want to get sick) and to avoid risky hook-ups (that one was especially helpful for me).

Probably my main concern - being the Angeleno that I am - is my wardrobe. Everyone in LA know that it takes more effort than you'd imagine to make your look effortless. I want to pull off the right balance between intellect, humility and artistic flair. And since I'll be in Seattle and near a huge warehouse full of books for sale, I also need to think function: waterproof for rain, layers for changing temps in hotel conference rooms, bags to carry books in.

Here are the pieces I'm defining as essential:
  • Glasses: I usually wear my contacts, but glasses help just about anyone look smarter.*
  • Blazer: Warmth, a layer that's easily removed, and very writerly.*
  • Converse sneakers: Comfort for walking and dresses down the blazer perfectly.
  • Chunky knit infinity scarf: Lately, I feel like a hobo when I wear this thing, which is kinda perfect. It will keep me warm and I will look like a wandering starving artist.
  • Cross body bag: Rain proof, and will keep my journal, bible, water and wallet easily, plus an extra canvas bag to put all my loot in.
  • Bright coral umbrella: My world would be bright coral if I had my choice. The only question is whether to also bring my coat that also bright coral. I can't risk being too matchy matchy.
  • Go Overboard nails: Dark and mysterious, just in case I decide to risk the hook-up.
  • Lululemon pants: Stretchy pants for the hotel are a must. Plus, no LA girls goes anywhere without these.  
Is there anything I'm forgetting?

*My friend and I agree that glasses and blazers are the cape and stretchy pants of the writer/book nerd.
**In case you don't know me and/or my humor writing still needs some work, please know that this post contains a lot of sarcasm.