What began as a list to remind me of exercises that I enjoy turned into a really fun hour, and something I thought might make you smile too. Here’s a quick and dirty peek into my secret notebook. Let me know what you think.
Though I do think deer are lovely creatures, it’s not especially about deer in particular. Or at all, really.
I had the idea to sell my Art Outlines illustrations almost two full years ago, and with the support and encouragement of my fellow entrepreneurs, I even built a fully functional website, created a video, and got strangers from all over the web to sign up for the email list.
But then it came time to actually list something for sale. And what did I do?
I shied away from it. I let doubt creep in. I turned my back on the project, thinking it wasn’t good enough. I worked on other things.
Over a year later, deep into my 10-month travel adventure around the world writing The Eat Team, I was getting really itchy feet (and a shockingly tiny bank account). I have a massive drive (compulsion?) to create, and because you can’t take an entire print studio full of hundreds-year-old lead and machinery and boxes full of paper, I couldn’t work on Ye Olde Gangster.
So, even though I felt totally unprepared and scared and embarrassed, I just decided I’d put a few of the illustrations up for sale on Etsy. I was terrified, and I didn’t have a lot of hope, but I asked myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” And the answer was.. nobody would buy my illustrations and I’d be in the exact same place I was now. Well, that’s not so scary I thought–either I’m in the same place I am now, or perhaps maybe just maybe someone will send me some money for something I enjoyed doing.
Nothing happened for a few months. So, my “worst case scenario” was true for a few months. But of course, I wasn’t really thinking about it much and hadn’t expected anything to happen anyways.
Then, out of the blue, on July 4th, 2012, a stranger from New Zealand sent me $2 for my drawing of a deer as I prepared an American Independence Day feast for my new Australian friends in Melbourne.
“WHAT?!?!?!?” I shouted, I danced, I shoved the email in front of my friends faces. It wasn’t the money that lit my fire.. obviously $2 isn’t gonna stretch very far.. it was the cold, hard, undeniable real truth that I had a viable product. A worthy idea.
It made my heart soar.
So, why the tattoo?
I guess there’s several facets to that answer.
- Commitment to the long haul. It’s always been my dream to support myself with my creativity, and this was a moment I’ll never forget. I know there is no quick fix, no secret to making my dreams come true–it’s hard work and trust and taking risks and getting up every single day and starting all over again. It’s blood sweat and tears and I’m in it, forever. This is a commitment to myself to never give up on my creativity, to never stop growing and learning and making.
- That if I can pull this off, anyone can.
- Reminder that what I do is good enough. For a long time, I was embarrassed that my style of drawing was so childish and simplistic. At some point I decided to embrace that and run with it. It’s amazing how much love and support you get when you say “fuck it” and embrace the differences that make you you.
- Reminder to keep it simple. My whole idea with Art Outlines is to make extremely simple, elegant drawings. To eliminate what’s not necessary, and do only what’s necessary. Focus. Minimalism. Contrast.
- Reminder that imperfection is perfection. That you’ll never feel ready, you’ll never feel finished, but to say YES anyways. To figure things out as I go. Something I learned on my big adventure was that nothing is ever perfect.. but if you can embrace those imperfections, it makes it perfect. That was one of the overarching themes Hannah and I encountered every single day on our crazy trip. If we tried to make things perfect, we wouldn’t have done a single thing. If I had known that I was going to get this deer tattooed on my body forever when I drew it, I would have spent hours trying to perfect it. I love that it has tiny flaws and things I’d probably have changed if I had known.
If you look real close, there’s a little dimple on my deer’s bum–that wasn’t part of the original drawing. That was a speck created by the xerox machine that my tattoo artist thought was part of the image. When we realized it was permanent, she asked if I wanted her to try and pick it out. I considered it, then remembered.. imperfection is perfection. I love that it’s just another layer. Humans are all imperfect, and instead of getting mad or embarrassed by “hiccups”, we can just run with it and love it anyways.
That I’m not the only one involved–the stranger in New Zealand and my amazing tattoo artist had huge parts in it. To remember that PEOPLE are what make the world go round, and we’re all family in some way. To trust others and not try to control everything. I went in thinking I’d get the deer facing me. Alice told me that would be upside down to the rest of the world. And so I worked with her instead of trying to control it, and accepted her expertise since I was a tattoo n00b, and rolled with it, even though it’s not what I first imagined. Give and take.
Life is imperfect, and if we want to LIVE we have to remember and accept and love anyways.
Every week I take a day to myself, Melissa Monday, where I journal, organize, maintain, and do whatever the hell I want. It helps me refocus and reconnect.
This Monday I sat down and wrote out my intentions for the week. Rereading it, I have a feeling that’s how I’ll want many of my weeks to look. Sometimes I forget the big picture, and I’ve recently started physically writing down my Big Picture, be it for a day, an event, a relationship, or in this case, a week.
Without further ado:
Intenions for This Week/Big Picture:
To chip away at my Portland/life goals in an efficient, simple, minimal way. To go at an efficient but relaxed pace. To stick to original plans, but yield when doors close and remain flexible to changes and unexpected happenings–to live in the present moment and find the humor/niceties in every scenario, every moment.
To wake up grateful for the exact scenario, recounting my blessings, and never allow doubt or fear to guide my decisions.
To turn off my brain and act from my intuition.
To not fear missing out. To remember and focus only on the moment’s top priority, whatever that may be, and let all else disappear, knowing that I have enough, have always had enough, and will always have enough.
To remember that I don’t own anyone or any thing and never will, so therefore I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
To not second-guess or worry about any decisions I made. To make decisions based on love and inspiration and let my complete and unjustified faith in myself and the universe meet me halfway. To know that it always will, every time. That all I can do is the best I can do, and the universe will show me what I need to learn.
To remember that I’m not missing out on anything.
To help others when I see the opportunity and have enough to give (always.) To remember life is lived off paper.
To remember that I’m not perfect and can never be, but that I can be perfectly and unabashedly myself.
To make plans and set goals but not get angry or disappointed when (not if) I don’t get to all of them.
To release all expectations of myself and those I come in contact with. To be patient and kind to myself and others. To let doors open and close, never using force, always asserting what I feel, think, and want, but never trying to change a scenario, always yielding and facilitating the opening and closing of doors. Keeping in mind that “when one door closes, another one opens.” Not giving my power away or letting things get past my mental “mudroom”, never reacting angrily to a door closing, but rather taking a moment before speaking or acting to think about what other doors I could walk through instead. Remembering that I have enough, do enough, and am enough. That my presence is enough. That existing is enough. That everything positive that happens is merely the icing on top of my cake, and that anything “negative” that happens can never take away from the fact that I have had the best cake ever. The cake is always enough.
To use my tools for good (brain, computer, relationships, etc).
To work when it’s time to work, and to rest when it’s time to rest. To let everything breathe–to act when action is required, and to hold the pose when there’s nothing to be done.
To remain equanimous–to break the link between feeling tones & craving; to be with the pleasant without chasing it, with the unpleasant without resisting it, and with the neutral without ignoring it.
To forgive myself when I “mess up”, without delay. To appreciate challenges and “setbacks” as opportunities to use my creativity and grow, to practice these ideas. To know that its this contrast that makes life beautiful and fun and interesting and that, no matter how much I whine or complain, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a necessary part of the game.
To remember that it’s just a game, and to play for fun and not points.
To always value real, in-person connection above all else and to communicate and share ideas and goods as often as possible. Daily. Always look for opportunities to help others, dig for ways I can serve them, and not how they can help me or what I can get from them.
Laugh as often as possible.
Fuel my body with nourishing food.
Exert myself, but don’t over-exert myself.
Allow silence. Don’t try to fill every second.
To listen when others speak, and really hear them.
To address issues immediately, before they have a chance to fester and explode.
To be detached but warmly engaged with the world. To appreciate but to know I don’t NEED anything or any body.
To give only when I want to give, never to seek or need a response or reaction, and know that what I gave is enough. To remember that whatever anyone else gives or does is enough. To be confident yet vulnerable. Taking healthy risks.
To treat friends as family; to remember that an argument, disagreement or bump in the road doesn’t mean you break up; to move on with positive forward facing momentum and keep my eye on the big picture of what’s good for the whole team. To remember that a discussion never has to be an argument–that an issue never has to be a problem, that differences in opinion can be discussed in a relaxed, honest way and then moved on from.
To re-read “in the flow” days if (when) I feel disconnected, or talk with someone who gets me, or read my “balance” list and get back on track when I fall off.
To create every day. To find inspiration around me.
Five years after iPhone was first released, I’m finally joining the club today.
The reasons I didn’t get one until now ranged from the fact that they were unnecessary– that all I needed on a phone was to call and text, that I didn’t need the bells and whistles, especially at the extra price tag. But the biggest reason of all was that I didn’t feel I could trust myself to use it efficiently.
Now that the cell phone companies have eliminated the excuse of a high price (they make it just about the same price and sometimes even more expensive to buy a new “basic” phone as they do to buy a smart phone), and realizing how handy some of the apps would be on the road and in navigating daily life, I had only one reason left that could get in the way. My mindset.
“Technology alone is not enough. It’s tecnology married with the liberal arts, the humanities, that gives us the result that makes our hearts sing.” – Steve Jobs
I always knew that if I were to get one, I’d have to have reached a level of maturity that I could wield my iPhone for good and not evil. iPhones are extemely powerful, and we all know that with great power comes great responsibility. Pirates had swords to do their bidding, and we have smart phones.
Since having an iphone is a great responsibility, I must treat it accordingly. As a young college kid addicted to constantly refreshing facebook in 2007, I knew that I was not ready.
Maybe you’re thinking that’s a little dramatic–it’s just a phone, right? Well, really, it’s a tool. And no tool is inherently good or evil. But you can use it proactively, or you can use it against people and against yourself. You can use it to enhance life, or you can use it to distract you. To connect, or to disconnect. The choice is yours, whether you want it or not.
Before I took on this responsibility, I wanted to make sure I could handle it. I wanted to make sure I had outgrown my other technologies, and truly lived my life fully knowing that I could live without it.
Now I know that I can live without it, because I have done my whole life.
But I now feel ready to wield my power responsibly. But before I dive in, I want to set some guidelines for what is “good” and “evil” in my iPhone usage. Because, after all, I am human, and we do tend to make a butt load of mistakes ;)
GOOD iPHONE USES
- Note taking: I use sticky notes on my computer and a TextEdit document to compile my notes and to-do list. So unless I’m at my computer, I’m always writing stuff down in a ton of locations. In draft text messages on my phone, taking photos of things to remind me, scribbling on notes here and there, writing them all over my physical notebook. I’ll be eliminating at least two gathering points by jotting down most of my notes on my iPhone, which I’ll be doing since it will be near me more often than the other items.
- Instagram & Camera: I’ve been photographing for 10 years now, studied it, loved it, and continue to do it every single day. I have a bulky digital SLR which I use for events and travel, but I’m looking forward to putting away/selling/donating my point-and-shoot, which is less powerful than the iPhone camera and using it means I carry a phone and a camera at all times. I’ll be saving space and upgrading the actual camera technology, while being able to share photos more rapidly and efficiently.
- Youtube/video: The camera upgrade is already massive, and as I am just getting into youtubing my adventures, I’m looking forward to capturing these moments in higher quality and sharing them more efficiently.
- Not having to bring my computer everywhere: I like having the option of working when I get a burst of inspiration, and also being able to use internet when I want to. I’ve been known to lug around my 6-year-old hulk of a macbook through big cities, and having a computer for a phone means I can give my back some much needed rest and get up and go more quickly.
- Maps/directions: I travel regularly, and when I’m not traveling, I live in Los Angeles. In both scenarios, I’m going to new places on a regular basis. Having an iPhone means I no longer have to google map before I leave and take a photograph of it on my point-and-shoot camera and zoom in to scrutinize the blurry little map while I’m on the freeway.
- Emergencies: I imagine it’s going to be pretty damn handy in a stitch. As my friend Hannah pointed out though, there’s a fine line between convenience and laziness.
- Update twitter/facebook: Not having to remember what I want to say until I get back to a computer means I can free up mental space. Especially useful for my entrepreneurial projects and pages. Think it, type it, publish.
BEFORE I DIVE IN
Before I even start using it properly, I want to make a pact to myself that this iPhone will be birthed into an organized environment.
After 6 years of inconsistent file naming on my home computer, totally disorganized folders, photos this way and that, documents here and there, 3 hard drives, music in all the wrong places, and a digital clutter of the worst degree, I realized that I really should have taken those extra 20 seconds now and then to create some consistency on my hunk-a-hunk-a burning love macbook.
I’ve slowly been working through the mess and bringing it back to a clean, simple, organized environment, but how much easier would it all have been if I had just started it right? This is my public vow, to myself and to the world, that I will organize from the beginning, taking care to learn and instate processes which will clarify and enhance usability.
BAD iPHONE USES
- Mindless facebook: This was the big one. In younger years I spent a truly embarrassing amount of time refreshing facebook, waiting for notifications, riding on the highs of attention, wallowing in the lows of nothing-new-to-see. Somehow I finally stopped that bad habit, and use it consciously to stay connected with friends and family. However, history always has a chance of repeating itself and I want to make sure I’m aware of that so that I don’t slip back into old ways.
- Constant email: What was once a facebook addiction in college gradually grew into an email addiction after graduation. With real work and clients and meeting people and new friends, it’s a constant barrage of information and people awaiting your reply. You can just as easily get sucked into email as facebook, and I let myself drown in it for a while. But, I learned my lesson again and, for the most part, am good at respecting the line between keeping in touch and drowning in my inbox. I don’t want to be constantly updated, I don’t want to know who’s written to me, and I definitely don’t want my phone to make a noise or pop up every time I get a new message. What I don’t know can’t affect me, and I intend to keep my mental clarity and sanity in tact by keeping up my “once a week email-a-thon” and intermittent checking. I say when it’s time to email, not my phone. Step back, biotch.
- Using it in social situations instead of participating in real life conversations and connections: One of my biggest pet peeves is when you’re talking with someone and they whip out their phone and multitask. I won’t lie, my feelings get a little hurt. If we’re hanging out, let’s be together. I don’t like to be multitasked on, and I will do my damndest not to multitask on you.
Sometimes I feel lost. Coming back home after 6.5 months of constant travel in places I’d never been to before was one of those times. I felt relieved, confused, helpless, weak, scared, and worried.
Shouldn’t I have been bursting with glee to brag about my cool trip? Climbing volcanoes in New Zealand, riding an elephant in Thailand, trekking rainforests in Malaysia, and working with some of my best friends on a farm in Australia are some of my most incredible, unforgettable, and priceless experiences to date. I met some of the most inspiring people, tasted the most savory dishes, and saw the most breathtaking views.
And yet, after filling up with all these new adventures, I felt somehow deflated. Disconnected. Lost.
What was missing, I found out, was me. I had just about stretched myself too thin, too many new adventures, too little familiarity.
I had lost sight of myself, a bit. So, I searched. And at home, surrounded by my parents, my friends, my belongings, my bed, my clothes, my city, my friends, my bike, my city, my photos, my art, and so on.. it was easy to find reminders of who I was. I seemed to have forgotten my sense of self, what I wanted, and what I was doing. But for the last two weeks that I’ve been home, I took the time to immerse myself in all of that.
I caught up with old friends, dressed up in my favorite clothes that didn’t come in my travel bag, went to my favorite eateries with my parents, rode my bike down my favorite trails, and sorted through years of old art. The most awakening and inspiring parts of it all was reading all of my old journals, from childhood through to university and up to the present day. It is extremely powerful to see and read your own story, to see how you overcame past challenges, epiphanies you had that still ring true today, and gain new insights by shedding light on old writings. It’s fascinating to see your own evolution, and doing so helps you appreciate everything your past self has done for you to get you right where you are today.
When you’re feeling lost and stuck, sometimes it’s hard to motivate to do a lot, but it’s just like exercise–you whine and complain and procrastinate but once you’ve actually done it, you feel on top of the world. You’re proud of yourself and it gives you a boost to do other things. I forced myself to do all these things that my subconscious knew would make me feel proud and give me a boost.
It’s all about showing up, and in this case, it’s about showing up for yourself.
Do you ever save the best tasting bites of your meal for last, or postpone wearing your favorite outfit for that “big day” next week, or wait for a REALLY special occasion to drink that fancy wine?
Me too.. I used to do it all the time. And after years of doing it I see the effects. I was always too full to enjoy those last bites at maximum potential, my favorite clothes are in perfect condition because I never wore them but so much time has passed I don’t even like them any more, and the wine went sour long ago.
Why’s that? Because TODAY is the big day. Today is the special occasion. If today is the day you want to wear that fancy dress even though there’s no party, or if today is the day you pop that bottle of champagne at a small spontaneous gathering of friends with no birthday to celebrate.. fucking do it.
Don’t wait for that ultimate special moment–a better moment is never going to come, and if it does, you’ll probably be disappointed that it didn’t live up to your huge expectations. Who knows if you’ll even want it later? Don’t wait. Don’t save the best for last. Use the best first. There will probably be more bests that pop up along the way–you probably won’t run out of bests to try, and even if you do, run through the exciting possibilities first before resorting to less appealing options.
Imagine a huge plate of food–let’s say its a big fresh salad brimming with cherry tomatoes, spinach, candied walnuts, chickpeas, grilled chicken, the works.. as a whole that salad is great. The chicken is average but your favorite is the candied walnuts.
You have two paths you could take on your salad-eating journey.
You eat the chicken first–you want to get it out of the way so you don’t have to think about it while enjoying those tasty walnuts. You scarf it down, thinking about how boring it is and how you can’t wait till you reach the end and get to eat the walnut. By the time you have those few prized morsels left at the end, your stomach is gurgling with fullness. You don’t really even want to eat any more but you’ve GOT to now, because those delicious walnuts still remain. Finally after working so hard to get to the walnuts, you pop ‘em in your mouth. Munch munch. Hmm those really weren’t as good as you remember on the first bite.
Or.. you could scoop up your favorite bites in the first part of your meal, when you’re hungriest and most appreciative and conscious of the flavor and texture of the sweet crunchy nuts. You savor each bite slowly and work to make a good well-rounded bite each time: a few leaves of spinach, perfect amount of dressing, maybe a piece of feta topped off with the glorious shining walnut. You’re feeling really satisfied now as you reach the end of your meal and realize you don’t really want or need to eat the last few bites of boring chicken because you’re content.
The same works with bigger life choices too.
You have two options. Save the best for later, or enjoy it now while you’ve got it. Don’t save the best for last in your life–if you’ve been dreaming of climbing mount everest, don’t save it till after you’ve slaved away for 40 years wishing all the while that you were up on that mountain. Maybe in 40 years your joints will be too stiff, maybe you’ll die in a freak accident in 10 years, maybe mount everest will be off-limits to the public.
Yes there are going to be 1 million reasons why you shouldn’t do it. Yes it will make you uncomfortable. Yes there will be hardships. Yes there will be unknowns.
But the alternative is never climbing the mountain. It’s never living that crazy idea that popped into your head. Its regret and coulda, woulda, shoulda looking back.
So for the sake of your own contentment, save the best for first. Go out and thrive. And make no apologies when you enjoy the hell out of it.