Are We The “Slash” Generation?

Have you seen the new Toshiba laptop/tablet commercial, where they show a young woman in her 20s who they describe as a “Director/DJ/Designer/Advocate/Entrepreneur” as they show her in her various roles/jobs? The commercial was made  to sell their tablet product, and in it, they say their product is perfect for the “slash” generation. It’s been playing constantly when I watch Hulu, and it drives me nuts.

I had never heard that we’re considered the “slash” generation. Generally, since I’m 33, I don’t feel like a millennial but  demographically, I am considered one (Born in 1982 – 1996). Being part of the “slash” generation means is that your career involves being a hyphenate, as in “writer – director – actor” – that sort of thing.

If you’re interested to read more about this phenomenon, here’s a great NY Times article from last year called “The Lives of Millennial Career Jugglers.” They profile six people who have multiple careers.

Personally, I don’t want to have a multi-hyphenate career. I want to be known as an expert at one thing and have hobbies on the side. Perhaps I can become very good at these hobbies, but I wouldn’t want to consider them a money-making path. Maybe that would somehow taint them.

But while my ideal is to not be a hyphenate, I’ve realized is that it’s become harder and harder to find one job that can completely financially sustain you if you don’t work in a traditional field (corporate company, doctor, lawyer, etc.) I think we have also become desirous to find creativity and personal passion in our work – even if it’s just one of our many “jobs” – such as DJ’ing on the weekends for instance.

Do you have a “slash” career? If you do, would you prefer not to?

The Stones Are Talking To Me (or What The Heck Are Those Things??) in My Thirties

The other day my theater company, Mission to (dit)Mars, ran a meditative writing workshop called Poetry in Stone. We do Meditative Writing workshops every summer with a wonderful mindfulness meditation guide named Emily Herzlin. She’s fantastic and always extremely calming.

Now, I meditate, and really like it- but I’m pretty new to meditation– I’ve only been practicing for about a year. The way I usually practice is at home alone with a guided meditation and/or or some music. It’s fairly rare that I practice in the outside world (read: not in my bedroom), but our meditation workshop got me doing just that.

One issue that arises while in a meditation workshop that’s both outdoors and with other people -plus involves writing -is that there are a lot of distractions. I was even distracted walking to the workshop. Thoughts kept crossing my mind like “I don’t know how to do this. I’m really scattered today. Where am I? I don’t feel peaceful. Oh no, I don’t feel peaceful! It’s ok! It’s not ok! No, feel how you feel! No, feel peaceful, goddammit!!” Those were all thoughts I had before I even got to the workshop.

This particular workshop was at the Noguchi Museum in Astoria, Queens. I’d never been there before and amazingly, neither had anyone else attending our workshop, other than Emily herself.

The Noguchi Museum is kind of like being inside one of those rock gardens where you scrape around sand with a tiny rake. Only there was no sand. There were only rocks. And us. And trees. And stairs. Stairs that led up to many rooms… of more rocks.  Huge rocks seemed to grow out of the ground.

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After all of us introduced ourselves, we spent some time in the outside (yet inside) part of the museum. Emily told us to put our phones away and attempt to not look at them throughout the 3 hour duration of the workshop. I felt both relieved and afraid.

We did a standing meditation. I rarely meditate standing up (by rarely I mean never). I became very aware of how much my feet ached. I became very aware of how my necklace kept hitting my collarbone. Then we finished our standing meditation and walked through the museum in silence, guided by Emily.

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The museum is puzzling because some of it is outside, some is inside, and part of it seems to float completely in an in-between world of inside out. There’s a room that is walled-off yet open ceiling. There’s a room that’s simply an outside garden. There’s a room that seems like a concrete garage. There are rooms that are very hot. There’s a room that is very cold. And then there are middle rooms…dare I say they’re more like ‘typical’ museum rooms…whatever that means.

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The stones confused me. They’re everywhere. I went into the museum with no preconceived notions about what the stone sculptures meant or why there were big abstract rocks all over the place. I didn’t know who Noguchi was or even that he was a person (he’s a person. But I thought Noguchi might be a place that birthed a collection of different sculptures). My mind wandered. I brought it back. My mind wandered. I brought it back. I felt myself walking. I felt myself breathing. I looked at the stones. They reminded me of people. They reminded me of old memories. They reminded me of nothing.

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We went off on our own. I sat for awhile, in the very cold room, by one medium size stone…the only one I found recognizable. It was in the shape of a foot. I stared. People took dumb selfies with the foot stone. My mind wandered. I brought it back. My mind wandered. I brought it back.

I wrote. Stream of consciousness.

Spaceship stone
Foot Stone
Surface of Mars
Music
Tin
Rhinestone
Granite
Music
Metal
Lead
Cold
Music
Whispers
Metal pieces in my hair
Tin in my ear.
Breath. Air. Foootsteps. Nerves.

photo 3I stared out the window behind the foot stone. My mind wandered. I felt proud of myself for coming to the workshop. I was amazed at my meditative skills. I felt mad at myself for thinking about meditation instead of being meditative. I brought my thoughts back. People took more dumb selfies with the foot rock. I became aware of a yearning to check my phone. I didn’t. Instead I wrote.

I don’t want to move
I want to rest my stone feet
Still with the air
Frozen over with warmth inside
There’s a foot rock
Bandaged over
Stopped
Dead
But behind the glass in front of it
and me
The warm tree world waves outside

Everyone loves the foot rock
After it worked so hard
and is now dead
It’s a funny corpse
Huge and lolling

I lost my inner battle and checked my phone. There were no important messages and I felt angry at myself for lack of willpower. I stalked to a different part of the museum and sat in a warm corner by an abstract desk sculpture. I stared. The desk sculpture was the only other sculpture in the museum that had a recognizable shape. People took photos of the desk and kept asking me to move my outstretched legs. I shifted and fumed at them..then I fumed at myself. I felt like I’d lost the peacefulness I had gained during the hour without my phone. I brought my thoughts back. I felt my breath go in and out. I wrote.

My warm living skin against the preserved wood floor
I am only a small corner
The desk just a piece
Sparkled metal, dusty
I am not home
Nobody’s home
The desk is empty
And I watch- close from afar
How it stands without me

I feel better here
Open space
Square window
Living flesh against wood

Phone’s warmth disappears
As my eyes open
A sickness comes from my bag
In my corner
Others come and go
Bending, filling, waving, capturing

By the end of the workshop I felt calm and in my body. I felt this way for a long time afterwards…even now I feel the calming sensation of that workshop. Of course, my phone still distracts me. My feet still ache. I still feel tense. I still chide myself for texting while walking.

But overall, the stones stay with me. Their solid masses remain mysterious, yet somehow familiar. I feel the strange relaxation of stones growing out of the earth. I feel the strange relaxation of writing about stones growing out of the earth. I bring myself back. I feel their presence. And then I feel my own presence once again.

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Trying Something Crazy and Unexpected in Your 30s

What are your hobbies? For awhile, whenever I was asked that question (not often, admittedly), my answers would be very internal activities like reading, writing, watching movies. I realized that my hobbies are mostly ways to retreat from the world – not engage in it. There’s nothing wrong with having internal hobbies, but lately I’ve wanted hobbies that connected me to other people and the world at large.

So, after hearing from friends for years that improv is a fun way to meet people and help with my writing, I signed up for a improv 101 class at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) here in Los Angeles. I’m five classes in, and I love it so far. Since you have to come up with comedic bits and scenes on the fly, you have no choice but to be completely present and living in the moment. In a way, it’s like meditation. What’s cool about it is that you constantly surprise yourself. I love that about improv.

Since I’m a comedy screenwriter primarily, the class has helped me become more free in my own writing. The exercises we did last week were especially helpful – they were the “monologues” part of the course. We basically do 1-2 minute comedic monologues on a subject that is suggested to us by the audience. I found that I was really good at the monologues and could make people laugh. I left the class feeling somewhat elated.

More than that, the class is making me curious about adding a new component to my writing career…stand-up comedy. Is the idea of me doing stand-up comedy crazy? Maybe. Maybe not. The thing is, people don’t immediately meet me and think I’m “funny.” They’d say I’m “down to earth” and “genuine.” And I know that I’m perceived as shy – especially when I meet people in groups. In fact, my UCLA classmate and friend who I’m taking the improv class with told me after class that he was really surprised how funny I was, because he always thought of me as “shy” and “quiet.” Kind of a back-handed compliment, but hearing that kind of thing always motivates me, to essentially “show them wrong.”

So that’s that. I’m going to try stand-up comedy in the next few moments. I’ve already started writing a few jokes down. I’ll start checking out some shows and then maybe try doing an open mic.

If you had asked me in my 20s if I’d ever do stand-up comedy, I’d have said no way. I’d have told you it was way too scary and miles and miles out of my comfort zone. But now, in my 30s, I feel more fearless than ever.

Are You Working Too Hard On Your Relationship In Your Thirties?

“Relationships are hard work.”

I hear this a lot. And I think it’s kinda confusing.

Many things are hard work. Sometimes it’s hard work to drag myself out of bed when it’s really early. Or to figure out how to fix a laptop when it’s broken. There’s a good amount of work involved in completing a marathon. Or confronting someone when you’re upset with them. Or asking for a raise. Or building the Golden Gate Bridge.

I guess what I’m saying is that hard work is hard to define.

What constitutes hard work? What amount of work does it take… to build a relationship? Or to build an actual ship? To build the pyramids of Giza?

There’s a lot of different degrees of hard work. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I’ve come up with a theory. I think it’s possible you’re working too hard in your relationship.

Relationships definitely take work. Most things that need to be built take some form of work. But there’s work that fits well with you and is flowing from a place of natural strength, and there’s work that doesn’t quite fit- the work of getting that octagonal peg in that frustrating triangular hole.

Let me explain. Think of the worst possible career you can imagine having. I asked a few people this question, and got some funny answers…I heard everything from embalmer to physics teacher to construction worker. One person even said ‘heart surgeon.’ Now, heart surgeon is a pretty complex and difficult career, and I can’t imagine doing it. It wouldn’t be exciting for me to have someone’s life in my hands like that on most days. I don’t think I’d be very good at being a surgeon because I’d be too anxious. I would dread going into work every day. I’d be downright afraid.

Now, if someone put a gun to my head and said “You HAVE to be a heart surgeon for the rest of your life or I’ll KILL you and everyone you know!!” I’d make the best of it. I’d work hard to make myself into the best doctor I could be. And it would be really, really hard.

However, there are people who very much LIKE being heart surgeons. It’s a competitive field! Those doctors go into the hospital everyday and are happy to work at their chosen career.

And get this- the heart surgeons who love being heart surgeons still have to do WORK….they can’t come into the hospital and go to sleep. They can’t eat Doritos in the corner after opening up a patient’s chest cavity. They can’t say “Eh, I don’t feel like it today. No surgery for you. I’m gonna go watch the Yankee game instead.”

There’s still hard work involved for a happy heart surgeon! But the work’s much easier because it goes with who the surgeon is and the career that fits with his or her personality.

Now, that same happy heart surgeon might feel like they’d have to do a ton more hard work if they were forced into a career as a model.

Do you see what I mean?

So, although it’s totally possible that you’re not doing enough work in the relationship that’s actually the right one for you (are you the happy heart surgeon eating Doritos in the corner while someone’s heart suffers?) it’s also possible that you’re doing way too much work (are you a physics teacher working your darndest to have a career as an embalmer?) Haha, okay, that’s weird, but you get the point.

Perhaps you’re following the good advice that relationships are hard work and so you’re working hard. But are you working too hard on the wrong thing?

It’s not an easy question.

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A Great Essay on Turning 30

One of my new friends, who I have a feeling will be a lifer because she’s so damn awesome, is turning thirty this weekend. We’ve been talking about how that makes her feel and how I felt when I turned 30. I remembered back to the two birthday dinners I had, and how low-key and special they were. I just felt cozy being surrounded by a small group of people that I truly loved. By the time I hit 30, I had abandoned the idea of big blow-out bar nights in favor of quiet restaurants where I could hear everyone speak.

Anyhow, her birthday got me diving deep into an internet vortex searching for other women’s opinions on turning 30.

I found this gem of an essay, On Turning 30, by Molly Crabapple on VICE, and wanted to share it here. She tackles the idea that women lose value as they get older because they become less physically and sexually appealing. But she basically says that getting older provides women with great freedom, and that she herself felt liberated because she wasn’t constantly propositioned by men.

My favorite part of the essay was the end, when she wrote:

Like many thrilling things women do—fucking or hitchhiking, being demoniacally ambitious or telling an asshole to stick a chainsaw in his eye—society tells us that growing up leads to ruin. Yes, you get older, but you can also grow tougher, kinder, braver. You can claw out the life you wanted. But as you age, the world will tell you you’re less worthy, even if you know that’s a lie. If there’s one thing society won’t stand for, it’s for a woman to be content.

So to all the birthday girls out there, here’s to not thinking we’re in any way less worthy than we were in our 20s!

Temptation in Your Thirties (Or, What About Those Times When Only Nutella Will Do?)

I remember the good ol’ days when I had no idea what the heck Nutella was. Those days are fuzzy and feel like they happened in another life.

Then I went through a period where Nutella was my kryptonite. It’s so delicious and tempting, I could eat the whole jar in just a few days if it was in my apartment (ok, maybe more like 2 days…or maybe even 1. Eek!). I used to stare longingly at the Nutella in my kitchen cabinet. I wanted it so badly. I had to use every ounce of my willpower to avoid it.

But then I discovered a funny thing- if I didn’t buy Nutella and didn’t have it in my apartment, I wouldn’t eat it. I couldn’t eat it. It wasn’t there to eat.

In my thirties, the Nutella lesson has become a life metaphor for many things. I started making it a habit to keep my phone ringer on silent while meditating first thing in the morning. That way, nothing can come up and interrupt my meditation- it’s just the first thing I do. I also blog at least twice a week- and I have an accountability agreement with Jane: she writes, then I write, then she writes, then I write. It’s good to have that kind of system set up.

I think that by your thirties, you’re really beginning to know yourself- your strengths and weaknesses, what you can tolerate and what you can’t, where you can push yourself and where you cannot. If you work with your strengths instead of against them, and you take your worst weak points out of the equation as much as you can, your life will run smoother. There are ways to really start working well with yourself in your thirties the way you never could before.

Setting up habits is super helpful, and can help remove kryptonite situations from your life. It’s hard to remove your kryptonite until you know what it is.. but once in your thirties, you know yourself better. So you can set yourself up to remove bad temptations from the equation and make way for good temptations to come in and make your life way more fun.

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A Few Thoughts on Being in Your Thirties

Going about my day, I came across two interesting observations/stories about being in your 30s that I wanted to share here. Firstly, remember how I was venting about feeling like I was sliding backwards in my 30s? I was worried about needing to find a co-signer for my lease, and how I’d probably end up in a smaller, tiny apartment with no kitchen. Well, the bright side is that only half of that came to pass. I didn’t need a co-signer (thanks to stellar credit, woot!), BUT my apartment doesn’t have a  kitchen. It has a mini-fridge – like the ones they use in hotels to stock mini bars. In time, I plan to buy a microwave and add a coffee maker, and kind of hope for the best. We’ll see. I’m sure I’ll be keeping you posted on my journey with my mini-kitchen.

But the point of that story, was to stay I am not ALONE. And if you are in your 30s living in a tiny apartment with no kitchen, or sharing a place with five roommates, YOU are not alone. Because Amy Schumer Still Rents An Apartment With A Murphy Bed. How awesome is that? Also, the author of the article, Nicole Dieker, is now my personal hero because she admitted that she too has tiny living quarters, writing:

But I’m still exactly where I am: in a microapartment with no kitchen, filling a bus tub with water from the bathroom sink every night to wash my dishes.

That’s observation number one. That a lot of us are making due with situations that may not seem “on par” with our age bracket.

UnknownMy second observation is from watching an old episode of Sex and the City tonight. In the pilot of Season 4, Carrie talks about soulmates and what they mean. Do we each have one soulmate? If that’s true, what if we don’t find him or her? Or what if we have multiple soul mates? In the episode, it’s Carrie’s 35th birthday, and she’s going through some soul searching as to why she hasn’t found her soulmate, if indeed they do exist. But then Charlotte makes a sweet observation. What if they are each other’s real soul mates and the men in their lives are merely people to have fun with? I loved how sweet that thought was. I really think that friends can be soulmates. I sure know I have them.

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