A Little Closure Never Killed Anybody.

I have to make a confession: I’ve been cheating on you.

And by you, I mean the scads of you who have been biting your nails, having a hard time sleeping, anxiously awaiting my next blog post. I’ve been cheating on you with another blog. It’s not you, it’s me. I’ve been feeling restless, wanting more. My heart has strayed.

I began this blog with a very specific mission statement. I was inspired to explore the world of thinking positively from my usual perch up on my high horse; in other words, with a sprinkling of skepticism and dash of dry humor. I wanted to try on some rose-colored glasses—the ones that are so in vogue—and see how they fit.

I just wanted to focus on the good stuff for awhile, and that belief is still there. The cynic in me hasn’t won the battle; the little angel and devil on my shoulders still duke it out every day, and the nice one totally wins sometimes. I do aim to resist the culture of snark that so many of us unknowingly subscribe to in my continued blogging, but lately I’ve started feeling a little lackluster. And the nice thing about placing limitations on yourself is that you can lift them when it’s time. Rather than snipping away at this blog’s original intent, I started rethinking what I want to write about anyway. And the answer is: whatever the hell I want.

I don’t want to be bound by my self-prescription. I had a good run, but the beauty of The Blog is that it can be transient. They live and die every day, like those of us who write them. It’s time to put this old baby to sleep, and start on the next chapter.

But I couldn’t leave without a good-bye post and a trail of breadcrumbs—there’s nothing more depressing than visiting a blog that someone just up and left one day. (Okay, there are a lot of things more depressing, but it’s got a place on the list.) It’s like pretending you’re going to the grocery store and then skipping town on your lover. A little closure never killed anybody.

If, for some reason, you’re wondering what’s going to happen to my 35 Before 35 list, it will probably come with me. You may have noticed from my last post that 35 is here, in all its ominous glory, with crows’ feet and wisps of gray hot on its tail. But the 35 Before 35 list is a little ways from complete. When I transfer it over to its new home—however—some revisions may have taken place. I promised that’s what would happen if any of the items went from being goals that I couldn’t wait to accomplish, to homework. (Sorry #22 and #31, but it turns out you’re about as fun as studying for the SATs. With an Amish person.)

The next manifestation is not far behind. It will have a different personality, to be sure, but like a twin from its mother, it will all have come from the same place. Until then, friends.

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The Little Things I’ve Gleaned From My 35 Years on Earth

I remember receiving chain emails, back when people still did that on a regular basis, about “everything a woman should know/have/do by age ___.” There was a really good one called Turning 30: Everything a Woman Should Have and Should Know, most of which is completely true. Nora Ephron’s What I Wish I’d Known was widely re-circulated after her death, and it breaks my heart and tickles me simultaneously. As I approach 35, and approach the possibility of pregnancy, I was told about A Letter to My Pregnant Childless Self. Ah, the virtues of age and the clarity of hindsight.

Well, you know how I love my lists. And I’ve been thinking: we all have those things that we’ve learned the older we get, the things we wish we could package up and pass on to our daughters (or anyone who will listen)—the wisdom we’ve gleaned by simply subsisting, surviving, and managing to not (quite) become a total basketcase. Adulthood is not an easy road and we’ve all watched even the mighty fall.

I’ve been keeping notes over the past year. I’ll jot something down as it occurs to me, when I’ve done that stupid thing I know not to do yet again, or because I managed to remember not to do it. I’ll jot it down as I’m riding the subway and I overhear someone in conversation, desperately wanting to pinch them before they say the thing they’ll regret.  I’ll jot it down after I have a heart to heart with a friend and something that sounds like a motto tumbles out of my mouth and I have that moment when I think: “Wow. I think I’ve believed that for a long time.”

My 35th birthday is in a little over 24 hours. And for my next trick, I’ll update you on the mother of all lists: my 35 Before 35.

But first, this is my list. It is not exhaustive; it’s just the beginning. What would your list look like?

(Some of) The Little Things I’ve Gleaned From My 35 Years on Earth

  1. It is possible to dress well without ever paying full price.
  2. Everyone should be required to learn how to read music in grade school.
  3. You will always get better results with kindness than with ferocity.
  4. You will also always be a mean drunk if it’s vodka that you drink.
  5. There is something interesting about everyone.
  6. Always tread carefully with the soy sauce packets that come with your Chinese food.
  7. There is a fine line between “Giving up” and “Changing your mind”, but they are, in fact, two different things.
  8. It’s very difficult to be happy if you don’t like where you live.
  9. You have to love your wallet.
  10. All children should have a pet at some point.
  11. Even for the non-religious, there is something very peaceful about holy places of almost any kind.
  12. Never buy expensive umbrellas. They will always find a way to disappear.
  13. Everybody does not have to want to be your friend.
  14. Acupuncture works.
  15. It is possible to tire of any food.
  16. If you think you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re probably not.
  17. If you think you’re the hottest person in the room, you probably are, but you’re also probably not the smartest person in the room.
  18. No matter how quiet you think you’re being on your cell phone in that public place, it’s not quiet enough.
  19. Never expect a white shirt and a pasta dish to play nice.
  20. Don’t subscribe to more than two magazines and also expect to ever finish books.
  21. Only order at restaurants that which you cannot make at home.
  22. Mo’ money, mo’ problems. No money, way mo’ problems.
  23. New York City becomes a great place to live when you find ways to leave it as often as possible.
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Can’t We All Just…NOT Get Along? For Like a Minute?

As the buzz of my Hawaiian New Year honeymoon completely subsides, and all the blog posts that were percolating in my head at the end of 2012 float back into my consciousness, I also begin to catch up on my magazine reading. The rags have been piling up, and I am behind, as usual, doomed never to read them all before the next one comes. In bed last night, as I flipped through New York, trying to block out what must be a Fight Club happening above me in my neighbor’s apartment (this is so not Hawaii), I came upon a piece which is the perfect continuation of an end of year post I wrote on the aftermath of Sandy.

I’d mused about the Internet’s role in the emergence of a nurturing post-disaster city  environment, about how caring we New Yorkers are to each other in times of strife, having each other’s back, even if only figuratively. That’s essentially where the article “I Really Like That You Like What I Like” starts off, with the sentence “The Internet, like your dentist’s assistant, is never kinder than when disaster strikes.” But Nathan Heller, the author, doesn’t stop there.

What follows is a chronicled lifespan of the social web, from its origination in bleak chat rooms designed for (and by) reclusive non-conformist techie types to the ubiquity of Facebook, Twitter, et al, coming to the conclusion that the web is actually becoming a lot—get this— nicer. In fact, maybe too nice. (And yes, there totally is such a thing.)

idratherbetoonicethantoomeanAh HA! Someone else has noticed this too! I knew I wasn’t imagining things. You must be sensing this a little too, friends, if you think about it. That slowly but surely, poke by poke, like by like, LOL by LOL, trolls are getting taken to task, status snippiness and Internet bitching have become plain no-no’s and the whole damn web is just so…supportive. For a recovering cynic, it’s enough to make a girl want to jump off the wagon.

“There is always sunshine to be found on the Web,” says Heller, “and usually we find it—trading compliments or loading our Twitter feeds with people whose goals, opinions, and politics mirror ours…What is that noise? It’s the sound of one hundred million backs being slapped, and it’s getting louder.”

I’d been getting a little sick of the gooeyness, starting in small doses. Say a friend’s banal status post like “worked up a great sweat in Zumba class!” receives 15 likes and comment variations on “you rock!” I’d refrain, wondering, “Why encourage needy status posting?” (Of which any status update is guilty. A status update is, in and of itself, a request for validation.) The support group atmosphere has been growing more palpable; I can almost taste the saccharine in my RSS feed.

By now we’ve all seen cyber-bullying get people into trouble. Heller brings up Karen the bus driver, the subject of ridicule whose public mockery won her a $700, 000 retirement payout, and @comfortablysmug, the troll who tweeted false alarms during Sandy and was then outed and shamed into disgrace. But it goes beyond that. The article mentions Jezebel and Buzzfeed and their new practice of flagging bigoted tweets, and snark-masters Perez Hilton and Gawker re-branding themselves into “niceness” and “depth”. Those of us in the New York theater scene watched an actress nearly ruin her own career with one snide tweet about a preview performance of Into the Woodsthe backlash of which would make you forget you live in a nation that supports free speech. We see “Facebook etiquette” articles a la Emily Post on taking care to not seem, well, like an A-hole when you update your status, lest a future employer or mother-in-law be reading. As Heller says, “The web has not just started championing the good; it has begun policing it.” Internet karma is a bitch.

The good news is that one reason behind this shift is simply that, with the majority of our world online now, the mainstream has begun to balance out all the smacktalkers and scuzzwads. What does that mean? It means there are more nice people than mean people in the world, and majority rules.

The bad news is that the Internet has risen out of the shadows, and into its own as a central marketplace. And what do we do in markets? We buy and sell things. It’s a business landscape as much as it is anything else now. Why is this bad news? Because—and this is the other thing that had started to tug at me—you can see it in the way people relate to each other even in “friend-based” platforms like Facebook.

The braggadocio with which we all post about our lives is pure salesmanship, it’s branding. When mothers post gleaming picture after gleaming picture of their new babies, when actors post about the hot gig they just landed, when anyone posts about the amazing dinner they just created…we are all projecting only the images of ourselves that we want the world to see, and we are all eating each other up. Most of us do not write whiny complaints about our bad days anymore, at least without an attempt at wittiness, and if we do, it usually doesn’t pay off. How many mothers boast pictures of their kids throwing a tantrum? Or actors that they didn’t get the callback they wanted? Or the home cook of their burned chicken cacciatore? In putting only our best faces forward we are, says Heller, “all children now, hanging our crayon drawings on the wall and cooing indistinguishably over the collective effort.”

There is nothing wrong with painting a rosy picture of your life, or being proud of an accomplishment. The tug I feel is almost nostalgia for the genuine declarative statement and the honest response. Again, the article puts it like this: “Given the outpouring of praise online, one has to wonder how much of what you see is just a public put-on. ‘OMG your Cartagena vacation looks AMAZING!!!’ Is this an expression of envy, interest or dismissal? The distance between earnestness and disingenuousness is vanishingly small…” Are we all just trying to one up each other? Out-awesome our friends? I literally catch myself thinking in phrases like status updates sometimes, internally composing for a public forum. I am not a celebrity or politician, so why the hell am I doing that? The more I live in worlds like Facebook and Twitter, the more in danger I am of falling down the rabbit hole of affection from people I barely know, a congratulatory whirlpool, a mutual admiration society.

I posted a lot during the election season. I live tweeted next to my husband during the debates (a first!) and simultaneously posted on Facebook, until I finally just linked my two accounts. You know, to streamline my need to spew my thoughts into the ether. But it got boring after awhile. The only other tweets and posts I was seeing were other members of the choir, preaching away at me, just like I was at them. I had nestled myself cozily into my comfort zone, and I was almost embarrassed by it. My husband tried to provoke real discussion in some of his online posts, and was never satisfied. He just wanted a friendly debate with someone smart on the other side, to have a meaningful exchange that wasn’t spoon-fed to him by his own social network.  I don’t think he ever found that. Most of us were busy beating the dead horse that was the “binders full of women” joke parade. The sound of us slapping each others’ backs was deafening.

tantrumsI put all of this to you, friends, knowing full well that I will continue to live online, and check my social spheres at least once a day, but probably more. When something good happens to me or my husband does something sweet, I will flaunt it, and I will continue to curb my crabbiness in favor of my more personable web persona. And when my first kid is born, that precious face will be up on my page, gleaming away.

But maybe, just for the sake of argument and in homage to the sweetness that is real life, I’ll occasionally post a picture of the kid screaming his (or her) little head off.

Posted in Everyday Beauty, Musings, Other People's Stuff | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One of Those Days

Today is one of those days that you and I have all known; no matter that we should never have to. A day when a bad thing happened to a lot of people—nearby, close to home—and you didn’t know any of them. So you move through your day, because you’re still here, yet you find yourself a little broken. Because they were taken. Because there were so many of them. Because they were so young. Because.

Every email that comes in, every colleague who speaks to you, every stocking stuffer you buy, everything you see that doesn’t have to do with them, every move you make…it all seems small. Vacuous. Robotic. Not too far from you are twenty mothers who dropped their children off at school a few hours earlier. Doing things normally right now feels something like a betrayal. A pretense.

A status update might be a thing you should do to let the world know you’re thinking about it, but no words work. So you read what everyone else is thinking. You at once wish someone would say something with meaning, but no one knows how. You see some words that are vapid, everyday, irrelevant, and you wonder if the person writing them is ignoring everything on purpose. Whether you should too. Some people are rabid, some let their sentences trail off, others are just…ashamed. That this is the world we are in. That we’ve let it get this way.

You’ve heard it said: it’s a natural reaction to point fingers when tragedy strikes. If someone you love was killed, you think you’d want to kill their killer. If that killer did it for you, you might be lost. Without aim, without a receptacle for your rage. So you’d look to the ones who perhaps didn’t do it, but let it happen.

Action must be taken. Don’t just sit there. Do something. Make it worth something. Be productive. Seize the day.

All of this is true one moment. And in the next, there isn’t a single adult left on the planet. This thought makes you understand God better than in any other moment; He must be who grown-ups need to turn to when they all feel like children.

No words work. But these come close.

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A Chronicle of New York Disasters

My apologies for the serious lateness of this post, but we’ve had a heck of a month. And by ‘we’ I mean not just me, but New York, and you know…the country. Since I last wrote in, we’ve had an unprecedented natural disaster, an unprecedented national election, a totally (er) precedented national holiday and I’ve had a few random personal doozies thrown in there as well. I could blog ’til I’m blue in the face, but as I sit here with Fleetwood’s “Landslide” coming through the speakers and my bamboo and green tea writing candle burning away (trying not to salivate as I anticipate the mac n’ cheese and beer that my husband is about to hand me), instead I’ll focus on some things that Sandy got me thinking about. Hurricane Sandy, that is.

I listened to my beloved Brian Lehrer of WNYC the other day, as he interviewed a woman named Rebecca Solnit, the author of a book called A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. The book examines crises from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to 9/11 to Katrina and the intriguing social possibilities that arise out of their ashes. WNYC had already interviewed her when her book came out around three years ago, but it was a good week to do a recap.

Having been a New Yorker on 9/11, during the 2003 blackout and now for Hurricane Sandy, this is a subject I can speak to from personal experience. Not as a sociologist, but as a member of a community that has been mightily tested in the last 11 years.

As I feel like I’ve told many people over the last decade, I was just a year out of college on 9/11, and that morning I was on one of the last subway trains to run from Brooklyn under downtown Manhattan before they were shut down. Streams of people entered (rather than exited) the train, and after catching frazzled bits of conversation, it was clear that the first tower had been hit but no one knew what was happening. By the time I reached my office near Columbus Circle, the second tower had been hit as well. My crazy boss was panicking, and wouldn’t let me leave the office. My mom worked on the Mall in DC, and we thought it had been hit too, so I frantically tried to reach her but no phones were working. After connecting with my mom and dad hours later, I finally left my office against the behest of Crazyboss, and walked through uptown Manhattan to take refuge at my friend’s house. This was the first time I got a taste of what Gotham gets like in a time of chaos and need.

There was a tenderness in every pair of eyes I met. I remember noticing that cars weren’t honking, and people were being patient with each other rather than swearing and bickering. There was an eerie quiet. Restaurants and bars were bustling with people who didn’t know where else to go, and as I passed dining patios, I noticed that everyone was treating their servers kindly, acknowledging that, aside from officials and rescue workers, they may have been the only people still working in the city that day. Strangers were helping each other on the streets, and the elderly and children were being watched over by more than their caretakers. Neighbors who may never have met before that day were mingling on stoops and sharing their homes. There wasn’t a feeling of mourning yet: people were smiling, but the scenes had a faraway feeling, like inside we knew we were all very sad and scared.

The next few weeks continued like this; the anger that New Yorkers normally direct at each other began to boil toward outside forces, and we cherished a rare and special unity. There was an unspoken agreement that we’d been through enough for now, that we would put our petty grievances to rest for once. That the person you might have barked at for taking your parking place or dawdling at the ATM may have just lost a wife, child, mother or brother. Maybe we were making it easier for each other, or maybe we were trying to find something good in the horrific. Sometimes I still wish that feeling had lasted longer, but it didn’t. It dissipated slowly, and eventually receded like Sandy’s tides.

I mentioned the two-day blackout of 2003. While it wasn’t a disaster, it was a crisis, and at first this city which had just been through a major terrorist attack less than two years earlier needed convincing that this wasn’t another one. I was on the subway again. (Thankfully not one of the ones that got stuck in a tunnel.) We’d just pulled into the West 4th Street station, the doors opened and everything went black. There was a momentary  outcry of fear and then we all tried to make our way out together, holding hands as people with lighters or phones led small groups out of the dark. We heard someone fall onto the track and someone else say “Are you okay??” and an affirmative reply as a group struggled to retrieve him. Not long after we emerged into daylight did we get reassurance from those with radios and working phones that this was a simple, yet widespread, power outage. I was in a play at the time, so I walked to the theater and got confirmation that the show was not, in fact, going on. The other players and I walked to someone’s building, where their neighbor was cooking up all the meat in their fridge for a barbecue, and we spent the night on the building’s rooftop eating and singing songs to the acoustic guitars of people who had been strangers hours earlier. I remember walking to another friend’s house the next day, passing restaurants and delis handing out food on the sidewalk. I hadn’t bathed but I didn’t care. The city was having an adventure, and our lives weren’t in danger! We had no choice but to break bread with friends and get creative as we waited, and no one could watch TV or absorb themselves in anything electronic. We were free, and for those 48 hours, we all had a lot of fun together.

Fast forward nine years later, and we are faced with another crisis, but at least this one was natural (albeit the product of climate change) and foreseen to some extent. None of us lay people really expected Sandy to rough us up the way she did, especially after Irene came and left the city last year without the anticipated fuss. But here we were, without trains again, hunkering down or evacuating, and this time we had what we didn’t before…social media. A disaster in the age of Twitter and Facebook is a whole new world. Even if we didn’t feel the community coming together walking down the street (most of us couldn’t easily get to anyone else or were afraid to walk outside with all the warnings of downed power lines) we felt it online. We checked in with each other, we offered up our couches and Aerobeds and we reported our safety or needs to the world. Nearly everyone I know has given away goods or volunteered in some way. With the lengthy outages and transportation breakdowns and gas lines, for a little while we got a taste (again) of what it must feel like to live in a third world nation. And the camaraderie and “in-it-togetherness” was upon us again as we paid attention to our hardest hit brothers and sisters. That feeling is already starting to disappear again; or really, it has. We know that communities around us are still suffering, but if we can’t see it or feel it ourselves, we easily forget. We are busy people, and unless something jolts us out of our everyday routine, we need consistent reminding to take care of each other. It’s not our fault; only unusually good Samaritans always think of others. We’re just otherwise living our lives.

Last story: the other day a Marine colonel came to my office, and my-oh-my, it’s very humbling to be in the presence of someone so decorated. He talked to our board of directors about the programs he runs to assimilate soldiers when they return from tours of duty abroad. He talked of the notion of “service” from a perspective that most of us don’t think about, and gently asserted that it should be considered a value as important as self-preservation.

Between the colonel’s visit, the post-disaster community experience and the recent election, my sense of my own citizenship is all a-flutter. With Obama’s victory, I feel what true service people must feel every day: a deep sense of pride coupled with the realization of how much work there still is to do.

Okay now really the last story: As I walked around Union Square in the days after 9/11, there was a huge path of chalked quotes and drawings that people were contributing to, among candles and little shrines. That was the first time I let myself cry over what had happened, mourning no one in particular. It’s a very bizarre and intense feeling, to deeply mourn people you never knew, but for all I know I was mourning what I knew was the permanent loss of my own safety and comfort.

I bent down, and with my chalk I wrote the Anne Frank quote that I remembered from a friend’s high school yearbook page:  “…I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

The story of Sandy, as told through the lens of my photographer friend,
Nathaniel Johnston. His hurricane gallery can be seen here.

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35 Before 35: First World Problems

#25: Go Apple-Picking

This seems like a minor adventure, but it’s one of these field trips that was starting to feel like it would never happen. There are a couple of months every year when one can pick apples in the Hudson Valley, and when you are a city-dweller with a busy weekend schedule and no car, those months fly by faster than summer, and next thing you know, it’s Christmas and you still have never once picked an apple off a tree. Well this New Yorker has a car now, and a husband who is generally affable about being dragged through the maze of my ambitious activity plans.

So off to Barton Orchards we went. Apple-picking turned out to be way less wholesome, and way more of a commercial enterprise than I thought ‘twould be. Hordes of people drive up to a Lollapalooza-sized parking lot, families of all walks stream through the gates like it’s Disneyland, bands play country covers, pigs and ponies greet grubby children’s hands, cider is dispensed by surly teenagers, gathering bags are passed out at $15 a pop, and you trample through the grounds in the hopes of finding one of the trees that hasn’t been picked over (at least in late October).

We ended up finding a (semi-)secluded spot with Fujis and Staymans, and were pleasantly surprised by the rows of green beans and peppers we were also allowed to pick. It was actually a gorgeous day out, we made off with a couple bags of fruit and veggies, and by the end, we had a good day. But isn’t it funny how these long-awaited “adventures” rarely turn out to truly be what you had envisioned?

On that note, as I warned may happen, it’s come time to throw in the towel on two 35-Before-35ers. The following two are definitively not going to happen by 35 (if ever), for very different reasons.

#23: Read Infinite Jest.

I tried, man. I really did. I made it to page 200, like the blog on how to read it advised, but it was like dragging myself up a staircase with my hands. (Unlike the blog suggested, I actually didn’t mind the Wardine section.) I arrived at the oasis in the desert that turns out to be a mirage; you get there, look around and say “where the hell is all the water they said would be waiting for me?” Where was the great reveal? Nothing was delivered that explained the intellectual obstacle course I had just muddled through, nothing began tying together, and no character seemed like a real person (except, ironically, Wardine). I guess I’m just not interested in trying to dissect the mad genius of the late author; some people get off on that kind of challenge, but I have never been a patient woman. I need to comprehend the story line to some extent, and this book is not one that I looked forward to returning to after I put it down. I really wanted it to be. I’m not one to give up on a literary challenge (I mean hey, I’ve read my share of Russian novels) and I hate putting books (or anything) down before I’ve finished, but the thought of continuing for another 1,000 pages felt like a dissertation looming over me. And as I said before, the minute anything on this list starts feeling like homework, I reserve the right to cease and desist. There’s an outside chance I’ll pick this one up again later in life, like if I’m on bed rest for an extended period of time. But it’s not happening in the next few months. There are too many other books that I can’t wait to read, and I could read five of them in the time it would take me to finish this one.

#20: Go to Brazil.

This one will happen. Someday, probably not too far off. But between now and 35 I have time for one major vacation, and Brazil priced us out. Being the land of my husband’s origin, it was our first choice honeymoon destination, but at over $1,300 per round trip it rules itself out for a December getaway. Surprisingly, Hawaii is turning out to be a more affordable option, so as I predicted this one must be amended from Go To Brazil, to Go Somewhere Amazing and Otherworldly.

As a friend of mine—and most other people—would say: “First world problems.”

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Before I Die I Want To…

I’m not proud to admit it, but I’m also not ashamed (I am Woman, Hear Me Roar): at nearly every single one of my past jobs, at some point I had a moment in which I was about to cry, and—because I’ve never had my own office—would have to steal away to the back stall of the bathroom to try to silently get it together, often unsuccessfully. The sad part is that usually those moments were directly related to the job itself.

Here’s how I know I’m finally in a job that works for me: I’m in my thirties and still have those chin-quivering moments at work, but I don’t steal away anywhere, and the tears are only in reaction to some amazing piece of someone’s soul to which I have just been exposed, so I let them fall freely. My most stressful moments at work haven’t yet provoked the tears, because I am always, even in instants of high anxiety, surrounded by inspiration rather than misery.

The latest cause of my “cubicle cry” is Candy Chang, a civic activist and street artist of sorts. I came across her while researching speakers for an upcoming event. In a project called Before I Die, prompted by the loss of someone dear to her, Candy channeled her grief and the power of her designer’s brain into an abandoned property in post-Katrina New Orleans, and transformed a dilapidated street corner into a site of shared dreams. I won’t do the project justice by describing it myself, so I’ll rely on Candy’s words:

“It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you. When I lost someone I loved very much, I thought about death a lot. This helped clarify my life but I struggled to maintain perspective. I wanted to know what was important to the people around me and I wanted a daily reminder. So with help from old and new friends, I painted the side of an abandoned house in my neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with the sentence “Before I die I want to _______.” so anyone walking by can pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space.

It was all an experiment and I didn’t know what to expect. By the next day the wall was entirely filled out and it kept growing. Before I die I want to… sing for millions, see my daughter graduate, eat all the candy and sushi in the world, straddle the International Date Line, be someone’s cavalry, live off the grid, build a school, hold her one more time, abandon all insecurities, be completely myself… People’s responses made me laugh out loud, tear up, and feel consolation during my own tough times. The wall transformed a neglected space into a constructive one. It helped us understand our neighbors in new and enlightening ways. It showed us we are not alone. It provided a contemplative space to restore perspective and remember why we want to be alive in the world today.”

Watch Candy’s tear-jerking TED Talk that turned me into a follower. As someone who is interested in the sharing of private thoughts in a public space to bring people closer together, she puts her money where her mouth is and does not shy away from exposing her deepest vulnerability for her audience. (And through her site there are toolkits for making your own Before I Die wall into your neighborhood, if you are so moved.)

It’s nice to be able to say that, at least for now, my sentence wouldn’t be what it would have been once: Before I die I want to…make a living being surrounded by art, doing something I love.

We all have bucket lists, even mentally if not literally, but if you had to pick one thing to complete that sentence, what would it be? Before You Die You Want To _______?

Posted in Everyday Beauty, Love Letters, Other People's Stuff, Unicorns | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment