Musings on Voting Early in D.C.

I just spent my lunch hour registering to vote in Washington, DC. Yes, I recognize that DC doesn’t have full representation but it is my home. And after spending over a year back in the city, it seems silly to be registered in MD or even GA--though, I haven't decided if I will change my GA license...

I’ve heard that folks get called for jury duty almost immediately after registering to vote. Well see if that is the case for me. I hope not.

It feels nice to have exercised my right to vote—given all the folks who fought to give that right to women and people of color.

And I encourage everyone who is reading my blog to vote early or next Tuesday. This is an important election. And I'm sure you remember the lesson from the 2000 election: every vote really does count.


Journaling Does Wonders

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." (Thoreau)


Over the weekend, I did a bit of soul searching after reading a book on taking a sabbatical ("Unplugged:  How to Disconnect from the Rat Race, Have an Existential Crisis, and Find Meaning and Fulfillment").  The book really got me thinking about what I really want out of my sabbatical—and what I want out of my life.  


The most important thing that the book has done is that it has gotten me to start writing in my journal again (the author really pushes journal writing).  I used to write in my journal all the time, but over time (especially after I started this blog) my journal writing decreased.  I am trying to change that.


I've always believed that life is about love and learning lessons.  And I feel that the people and experiences that come into our lives – no matter how briefly – serve the purpose of providing you with new insight and giving you a chance to love (yourself and/or others).  If you are lucky and mindful, you'll always get both. 


In writing in my journal during the past few days I've come to several realizations – thoughts that have always been with me but that I ignored or discounted.  Here are just a few:


1)     I want to raise my children in Europe.  Most of my friends have heard me say that I want to raise my children in a household where Spanish, French, and English are spoken.  I always joke that I'll have to work two jobs to afford an educated, multilingual nanny.  But in reality, I always thought that it would be best to a) marry someone who spoke at least two of those languages; b) learn those languages myself; and c) raise my children abroad—even if for just the first 5 or 10 years.  Oddly enough, I used to talk about this  with Floyd, but over the years, I somehow "forgot" about how important those things are to me.  What that means for my career, for my love life, for everything that I've tried to build in DC, I don't know…  It is odd that I'm now talking about settling down, getting married and having children in the next 5 years—after spending most of 2008 and 2009 writing off men and babies (residual bitterness post-Floyd?). Thank you journal and thank you random French guy from Craigslist.
2)     Working on the Hill is a pit stop in my journey.  I was blinded by the excitement and the newness of political life on the Hill for about 2 years.  But now feel that this is not my true calling. It is not the sort of lifestyle I want and I don't know if it is the best way for me to be effective at "changing the world" (see #3).  For sure, it has been an once-in-a-lifetime experience.  And thankfully, it has reminded me of my love of language, of writing, and of communications.  I don't know if that means I belong with a nonprofit consumer education group, with a PR consulting firm, or perhaps, writing books (children's books!) or articles on environmental topics.

3)     The other thing that has resurfaced is the fact that I still don't know if I am meant to effect change top-down or bottom-up.  This has been my worry ever since I was in high school. I sense that my heart will always be in environmental education and helping children, so maybe it's time to explore my college dream of opening an afterschool program focused on cultural exchange and environmental education (another dream that I somehow "forgot" until recently!  That's why keeping a journal and rereading old entries is so valuable.)


The list could go on.  The bottom-line is that I've realized that the anxiety I've felt ever since I decided to take a career break is grounded in a more basic worry that I am not spending my short time on Earth "wisely."  I no longer want to live on autopilot, just floating through life.  I must seek to discover and then, consciously work toward my own personal sense of fulfillment, happiness, and peace—now. 


So, I'm going to spend the next year or two exploring what is important to me; avoiding the noise, the negativity, and the doubt (from myself and from others).  Of course, there will be distractions, setbacks, and detours, but I am optimistic that if work hard, stay focused, and sacrifice as needed, I will be able to create the life of my dreams.


Two Random Stories

During the Columbus Day weekend, I had two experiences that gave me pause.


When I was walking in my hood one afternoon, I noticed that the woman walking in front of me was providing a peepshow to the neighborhood. Somehow, her wrapdress had hooked itself on her large bag so that the entire length of her right leg was in full view. Added to that, the light breeze, and you got a clear shot of her green underwear.

After hesitating for a bit, thinking that one of the other people walking in front of me would surely alert the woman (typical bystander effect as no one did), I caught up with the woman. I tactfully told her that her dress was hitched rather high, probably because of her bag. Instead of saying thank you, this woman said something to the effect of whatever. So I continued, trying to make her understand how serious the situation was: "I can literally see everything, honey." She looked at my blankly. So I was like, fine, whatever, and walked off.

Who knows if she did readjust her dress? When I told a friend about this, she figured that the girl was doing it on purpose. I doubt that. She wasn't a particularly attractive woman, but rather a non-descript 20-something in a sundress. And she did not look like the type who was looking for attention or action. Or maybe that was her shtick.

If I was her, I would have been profusely grateful. But no, she had an attitude.

People are weird.


During that same weekend, I was walking near the Columbia Heights fountain. It was a beautiful day and everyone (and their grandma) was out eating fro-yo, chatting, and simply walking around. On my way to the metro, I noticed two gleaming quarters on the sidewalk. I paused. They were on tails and being the pseudo-superstitious person that I am I debated picking them up.

For those of you who know about my tendency of finding money ($5, $20, $100) on the ground, you might assume that I left the quarters there. I don't have a problem picking up coins—as long as they are on heads. I have a problem with claiming bills that aren't mine—as I'm freaked out by the sort of karma that may be tied to them.

So, I bent over to pick them up. But they wouldn't budge. I literally scrapped the surface of my nails on the concrete trying to pry away the first and then the second quarter. After about a minute, I shrugged it off with an embarrassed laugh and went on my way.

I imagine that someone super-glued them to the sidewalk and was sitting somewhere nearby watching fools like me try to remove the quarters in vain.

Oddly, enough, when I returned home that night, the quarters were gone. I guess someone was carrying around some acetone or a nail file to effectively pick them up. You better believe that I would have tried both if I had them.


Career Break - Still on Track

Last night, I had a heart-to-heart with my mother about my plans for a year abroad. The night before she sent me an email that included the lines: “Why are you rushing this? You have a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity that pays well and has benefits. Are you ready to handle the change in your lifestyle when you are abroad and when you return? ”

Of course, I spent the day with a stress headache thinking about my mother’s email. It was odd that she sent her words of doubt only a few weeks after giving me her blessing. It turns out that my mother didn’t quite understand my plans—that I had a plan. I think she imagined that I was going to buy a one-way ticket to France and live as a street performer. That is not the case.

The good thing about yesterday was that it refocused me. I realize now how much I value an experience abroad that is professional in nature. Sure, I've spent hours researching university language program. I have even selected my top 4 choices (3 in Lyon and 1 in Avignon). While learning French is the fundamental objective of my break, I am reaching for more. My first choice is finding a fellowship or internship program that I can provide me with professional experiences and skills that directly relate to my career goals.

Reading articles like this one in The New York Times earlier this week, reminded me that I’m not the first person (nor the last) to contemplate a career sabbatical. Floyd did it for a year. I remember how skeptical I was about his plan. He is now one of my cheerleaders.

So, I’m going to continue to scour the web and talk to people. I need to amass as much information as I can. It is all stressing me out but it’s a happy stress. A stress that is motivating me to turn my deepest dreams in to a plan.

I want to do this break right. Sure, there will be hiccups along the way but I want to be sure that I explore all of my options and put in place a sound safety net for my time outside of the rat race and particularly, for when I return.