I had the chance to speak at Team Summit in Vegas this past weekend, and I got to roam the strip a bit afterward:
I love Radiolab. What a dream job, amirite? Dive deep on a few fascinating stories, then move on.
I just listened to this episode on things. Yep, physical things. The attachments we make to objects, their significance in history, and whether or not they actually contain memories in their physical form.
I don’t quite skew toward the latter extreme, but I’ve come to terms lately with the fact that I am not a minimalist. This pains me, mostly because I wish I were. There’s something clean, calm, and put together about minimalist spaces. And yet, I get lonely without my objects.
My compromise is this: I’ll rid myself of useless, meaningful things, and only hang onto the special ones. But I won’t feel bad about surrounding myself with things.
I collect meaningful objects from different periods of my life, and they are—bear with me here—sort of my horcruxes, but in a non-evil way.
For example, this (brass?) star from Nepal was given to me by one of my first dance teachers when I was a kid. She used to tell us that we had these burning lights, like stars, inside of us, and that performing onstage was an opportunity to let out a bit of that light for people to see.
That still perfectly describes the exhilarating vulnerability of performance, to me. Hanging this star from my ceiling makes me remember both that early mentor and the addictive, truest-to-my-self feeling of dancing onstage.
One of the most intriguing excerpts from the Radiolab episode was a story of a man who loved a maple tree in the yard of his childhood home. The tree and the man faced many adversaries together. He salvaged its remains after it was chopped down and replanted them in the backyard of his adult apartment.
One night, the maple was defeated yet again, this time by the man’s landlord. The man collected the pieces of his tree for a second time and, instead of replanting them, commissioned a box. In this box, he stored other meaningful objects, which had even greater significance being housed in his beloved maple.
There’s this continuity. I find such comfort from that. So it, in turn, holds all these objects that have their own individual stories and their own meaning to me.
I get it. I really do. So as much as I wish I was the type of person who could live completely possession-free, I’m quite fulfilled and comforted by certain material objects. And I’m really ok with that, as I realize my feelings about them aren’t actually superficial at all.
If summer has a sound, this is it:
I reflected a bit this weekend on all the changes I’ve made in the past few years, and how I landed in my current spot. I tend to look at life’s sequence like a very complex Rube Goldberg machine, whirring away in the dark: my decisions trip a consequence into action, but I can’t clearly see beyond my current step.
Decisions do not come easily for me. Maybe this is because I can’t see the next steps of the machine, and I can’t know which consequence will be activated by my trigger finger. “It’s probably better and safer to do nothing,” I say. I say this because I have set fire to my machine a few times before. “Let’s see what someone else thinks, and follow their advice. If I fail, it will be their fault.”
So it’s a minor miracle that I’ve propelled myself here, in this spot that I feel really good about. And in looking backwards to the part of the machine I can see, there’s a weak spot that almost sent me on some different path.
A few years ago, an authority figure told me that the choice I was making was wrong. They told me that they knew what my future should look like, and they’d be happy to accept money to coach me along my way. When I declined, they told me “sometimes you have to make a big mistake to realize that you’re not living your own life.”
That’s a heavy load to throw at a 23 year old woman looking for some direction. Self-doubt prodded and nagged, as it is wont to do, but I said no.
I realize now that I was right. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Later on, I said no again. And once more. Now, I can see the direct path from each “no” to my current step. And I’m learning to trust that feeling of heaviness at the base of my spine, that feeling of knowing that I might be right.