Category Archives: Philosophizing

On patience

Impatiens (geddit?)

They say that patience is a virtue, something that must be learned over time and applied to particularly stressful situations or occasions when want tends to overpower any logical thought. They say that good things come to those who wait, that nothing gained easily is worth it, that effort and time matter more than the result. But what authority do they have to deem what is important and what isn’t? I have no patience for proclamations of importance.

They – that ambiguously named source of wisdom – have sayings for everything. And, for the most part, their sayings have become almost dogmatic in today’s society. I have no patience for them. Or they. By means of repetition, they have ultimate authority over virtue and correct behavior. Too bad no one knows who they are. Now they can never be proved wrong. I have no patience for this. Their sayings, their wisdom, their actual existence have become cliché to the extent that children in preschool can rattle off their sayings as easily as the ABCs. Patience must be learned through experience, not rote memorization. Or so they say. I do not have the patience to wait for such experience.

But waiting for something so patiently doesn’t make finally getting that something all the more sweet, no matter what they say. Time spent waiting is time wasted, as nothing can happen during that time other than waiting. Patient people have no problem with wasting time. If time is valuable – as they say, time is money – than willingness to waste time is akin to wasting money. And not even the most patient people want to waste money. Therefore, impatience is a virtue. Or at least a good economic theory.

Impatience is a virtue that promotes selfishness. Patient people do not mind having their time wasted, because they are content to wait. Impatient people are selfish because they do not like their time wasted. Though they might argue that indulging others is the right thing to do – love thy neighbor, etc. – wasting time is something that I have absolutely no patience for. Selfishness is a virtue because it does not tolerate time wasters. And time, as they say, is the most precious gift of all.

In certain circumstances, even the most patient people succumb to selfish impatience. Previously patient patients at the doctor’s office become surly and peevish when told that they have to wait. Apparently, patience is a selective virtue, appearing only when it suits the patient person’s purposes. A virtue that comes when called and disappears once a point is made is not a virtue at all. Impatience is more consistent: an impatient patient expects to be kept waiting at the doctor’s office, and thus does not become more impatient as a result. Swinging from patience to impatience at the first aggravating circumstance is much more emotionally taxing than maintaining a constant level of impatience. Besides, such emotional fits only waste time, and I simply don’t have the patience to deal with them.

Despite what they say, patience is not as virtuous as it seems. Impatience is the new virtue, the new standard of a productive existence. Clearly, they are as outdated as their cache of so-called wise sayings. I would suggest that we spread the word about this new virtue, but frankly, I am too impatient to wait for it catch on.

(I’ve been feeling a bit impatient lately.)

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Organize this

My beloved Filofax

My attachment to my Filofax probably borders on the extreme. And in a world dominated by smart phones and Google calendar, woefully old fashioned as well. But I can’t help it. My pink Filofax has helped me organize my occasionally chaotic life and my constantly chaotic brain. It is my calendar, and it enables my list-making habit. I’d probably feel lost without it. A few times, certain friends of mine have jokingly threatened to steal it and hide it from me. I didn’t find it funny.

Maybe I am old fashioned. But I cling to this ordered, logical point in a messy world. You see, I am not the neatest person. I don’t always make my bed in the morning. My living room is strewn with books, headphones, pens and tubes of lip balm. But sometimes it feels ok to be messy at home as long as I emerge from the mess looking neat and organized. I can leave clean clothes jumbled in the laundry bin because I have my day neatly planned. It’s a balancing act.

But then I have to wonder: Does this balance actually work?

Oftentimes, appearance is everything. If I’m feeling down, dressing up a bit helps improve my mood. I look good, so I feel good. Same with my Filofax – parts of my life are organized, so it feels like everything is organized. Other times, however, my Filofax is like a plank of wood bobbing in a sea of commitments and deadlines. No matter how organized I am on paper, I feel like I’m floundering. But I still cling with all my might.

Though my need for pen and paper is old fashioned, it seems I’m not alone in my desire for proof of an organized life. I know people who go on cleaning sprees when they’re upset, certain that by organizing their apartment, they will organize, and therefore fix, whatever might be wrong. Women’s magazines have presented hundreds of tips on how to be more productive at work, plan the perfect dinner party, fix that broken heel. There is even a website now, StickK.com, where people can post their new year’s resolutions – the idea being that if other people are watching, those resolutions are more likely to stick. Virtual proof, if you will.

But proof doesn’t always mean that you are, indeed, neat and organized. It just makes it seem that way. I have a knack for talking a mile a minute, going two places at once, but I’m neat on paper. And in the end, at least to me, that’s what counts.

Maybe it’s a comfort thing. I do feel better when I make the extra effort to make the bed or organize my bookshelves, even though I know it won’t last. But for that moment, it’s enough. And you can pry my Filofax from my cold, dead fingers.

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Life in a montage

I’ll admit it, the job-hunting process is not as nearly as fun as it may seem. Lots of free time, but much of that time is waiting for prospective employers to come calling. There has to be an easier way. Like a montage, perhaps.

Granted, I’ve been watching a lot of movies. But it seems so easy: On comes a peppy song, and watch the intrepid heroine use her pluck and determination to stride through several scenes at work with ease. Why plod through the daily grind when you can just skip the monotony and focus on a few key moments? With the plot set up and background music, the montage comes with ease.

I want that. I want my own theme music. I want to change outfits multiple times while walking down the same street (showing the passage of time and my progression towards a goal). I want my pluck and wit and determination (as well as a movie’s flattering lighting) to get me where I want to go. I want my own montage.

You see, then I can skip the hours and hours of job applications. Instead, 15 seconds of me at the computer, thoughtful look on my face and fingers flying over the keyboard. Instead of endless interviews with the same questions, one shot of a witty answer that makes the interviewer laugh, followed by a handshake and a triumphant exit. Include a moment from that awkward first day at work – trying to reach something on a too-high shelf or dropping a pile of books in front of the boss – but move quickly to scenes of work actually getting done. Like not dropping those books. Finish with a bang, a nod from the boss and a shot of me at my creative but tastefully decorated desk, looking confident and at ease. Simple.

Maybe, instead of spending time applying for jobs, I should just work on making this montage happen. I can pick out the perfect song, upbeat and quirky but not saccharine. Line up a week’s worth of outfits and practice changing in and out of them really quickly. I’m already good at holding on to piles of books.

Unfortunately, my montage can’t be complete without a job and someone to film it and piece the moments together. I guess it’s back to the grind for me. Maybe I can change outfits in between applications. It would definitely help my pluck.

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I’m just fashionably late

Happy slightly belated New Year, everyone! I hope it was wonderful.

I was overseas on vacation with my family for the last week, and my iphone, usually so reliable and entertaining, turned into an ibrick. No signal; I couldn’t even get wifi. So I was offline for a week – definitely an interesting experience.

Once I got used to the idea that I couldn’t check my email several times a day, I all but forgot that I had email. That is until I was reminded of a need to get in touch with a contact for an upcoming interview, which spurred me to spend the greater part of a day finding a way online by hook or by crook (and that didn’t cost 12 euros/hour). I eventually succeeded. And was not fully satisfied until my plane touched down and my phone had signal again. Oh well – I can never make the resolution to take myself offline. I’d probably go mad.

Other resolutions, however, I am willing to make. Like finding a job. And perhaps being more punctual – though there are certain situations where it is best to be fashionably late, this included (as I have just decided based on my aforementioned situation). Also to take more pictures. And write more. Really, I think I’m using my resolutions as a means to motivate myself to spend more time doing the things I like to do. Sometimes laziness can be all-encompassing. I can easily while away a day reading in my pajamas – not necessarily a bad thing, but too many days of that and I start to feel like a crazy reclusive dog-lady (I’m allergic to cats).

So my resolution is to pull my nose out of my book or fashion magazine or newspaper a little more often. Get out and go do a bit more. Not to the detriment of this blog, certainly not. But more than I do now. And maybe I’ll occasionally be on time for it.

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The career slash

Kate Moss is reportedly cutting a CD. Which will, of course, be as wildly successful as everything else she touches, including cut-off jean shorts, wellies, Topshop and that whole date-a-musician grunge glamour thing. So, Kate is now a model/designer/muse/singer – truly an impressive hybrid career moniker.

The new thing to be, at least according to Moss’ example and media outlets such as the New York Times and Vogue, is a hybrid. But not just the tired actress/model/designer combination; that’s old hat. Save, of course, for Moss, who can do anything and still be awesome. Now, the hybrid has to be a combination of intellectual achievement, artistic credibility and flat-out fabulousness that only partially stems from access to an extensive designer wardrobe. Take the examples mentioned in the January issue of Vogue: Model/graduate student who has achieved the impossible by finding time not spent in class, studying or sleeping in which to actually be a model. (Grad school is all-encompassing.) College student/DJ/fashion show front-row fixture.  Actress/photographer/model/face of Chanel.

The New York Times recently ran a piece featuring a 19 year-old (let that sink in) who is equal parts student, author, socialite/debutante, lobbyist, Gossip Girl inspiration and apparent royalty. It’s exhausting just reading about her.

Such features makes me wonder if I’m going about things all wrong. Instead of spending my college years writing papers and singing a cappella, and grad school working constantly and not sleeping enough, maybe I should have been writing my memoir. Or lobbying congress. Or crashing fashion shows. Though to be fair, I went to school in St. Louis – not quite next door to Bryant Park and Lincoln Center.

I am too short to be a model. Too boring to have a memoir (yet). Too unmotivated to lobby congress. And I don’t have an extensive designer wardrobe or family connections to royalty. My slash, if I had one, would be writer/editor/bookworm/geek/shower opera singer. None of which, I might add, would net me a mention in Vogue’s hallowed pages.

But then I wonder. I am a great bookworm/geek, thanks to the time I have spent reading, studying and depriving myself of sleep in pursuit of my degrees. If I was to also be a lobbyist/model/socialite, how good would I be? I’ve tried to be perfect before – my grade and high school years had me running around like my pants were on fire trying to be the best student, the best singer, the best field hockey player, the best at accumulating community service hours, the best insert-something-here. But a lack of time to devote to each pursuit got in the way. And math. I was never tops at math.

I envy these women’s accomplished slash careers and their seeming acquisition of a Harry Potter-esque time turner in order to be able to do it all. It would be nice to be a fixture at the fashion shows, friends with Karl Lagerfeld, known face in congress. But perhaps it’s more satisfying to take the time to fully immerse myself in something I find interesting, rather than just skimming off the top. Now all I need is for Chanel to realize that short, pale Dorothy Parker-aspirants are the next big thing. Friends, ready your slashes – our time will come.

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The not-so-new phenomenon: Slutoween

Yep, this is a slutty candy corn costume.

Halloween is my favorite holiday, hands down. Sure, I’m too much of a wuss to watch horror movies, but I love the decorations, the history*, the atmosphere. And any holiday that practically mandates eating as much candy as can fit in a plastic jack o’ lantern is good in my book.

The first few weeks of October are filled with witch hats, grinning pumpkins and bags of fun-size candy piled among supermarket shelves. But for the past several years, there has been something else tagging along with the UNICEF boxes and “Monster Mash” CDs. And it’s just a little raunchy.

Over the years, especially through out college, attitudes towards Halloween have changed drastically. During elementary school, my friends and I would start planning our costumes at the end of September. The goal was to be as creative as possible, topping both last year’s ensemble and eliciting admiring gazes from friends. The costumes, and the candy, were everything.

In college, however, Halloween takes on an entirely new meaning. Jell-o shots and crazy parties replace ghost costumes made out of sheets and funny, rather than spooky, decorations. But the biggest change is in the costumes. College students don’t seem to get into costume anymore. Well, more like they just don’t wear clothes. Somewhere between nap time and deciding on a major, Halloween has become an excuse to wear as little clothing as possible, and not get judged for it.

But if this phenomenon was confined to college campuses, then it could easily be written off as an act of collegiate, first time away from home rebellion, though an uncreative one. The problem is, the skimpy outfits don’t just belong to college kids anymore. The age in which revealing or suggestive costumes are somewhat acceptable – and, it seems, ‘cool’ – has been rapidly getting younger. Pint-sized sexy witch and devil costumes line the shelves at Target, amidst a wider array of options for boys. It is a sad state when a girl is considered uncool for dressing as something other than a French maid for Halloween. And it’s a little disturbing to see a 7-year-old as a “sexy witch.”

As costumes have become more and more revealing, their purpose of costumes has all but disappeared. To be honest, I have nothing against a skimpy costume (on people old enough to presumably avoid a Lolita reference or a “what’s wrong with the children?” response). Women should have the right to dress as sexily or as primly (for lack of a better word) as they choose. But just wearing underwear and some sort of animal ears (see “Mean Girls” for reference), takes no creativity whatsoever. That’s not a costume – that’s an invitation for Hugh Hefner. And he is way too old for you.

A costume takes creativity, imagination, a desire to be funny, witty or just ridiculous. Halloween is an excuse to wear fairy wings, cover yourself with zebra stripes or tie a belt on your head, pull underwear over your shorts, and go as Quail Man. Halloween should be fun. Kids and adults should be able to exercise their creativity, not their ability to withstand 40-degree weather in a bustier and witch hat.

This year, take some time to think about your costume. If you can’t resist the siren call of a night out in your skivvies, then at least make them Rocky Horror or Tarzan themed. Make those pumpkins you spent hours carving proud.

*Halloween was originally thought of as the day of the year when the dead were able to walk among the living. The Celts (who lived in England/Scotland) would light bonfires and wear costumes to keep the spirits away. How cool is that?

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Elitism and education

The constant hurling of “elitism” as some sort of invective against liberals strikes me as a misguided effort to undermine the advantages of a good education. Conservatives are attempting to disassociate educated, liberal members of the government from the rest of the country by claiming that their education makes them unable to solve problems in a manner that would benefit the most people. They say: The educated are not like you and me. They couldn’t possibly understand what we, the (so-called) normal people, are going through.

I have to disagree.

One of the benefits of education is an awareness and understanding of the world, or at least a desire to understand the world. Sure, there is a disconnect, at least in terms of experience, between someone who went to college and someone who didn’t. But that does not mean that one cannot understand the other’s situation. Or that he/she wouldn’t want to understand. And Ivy League grads, the most maligned of all, consist of people from farms and suburbs, from cities and small towns. The pool of experience is wider than most people think.

It seems strange to tear people down for working hard and doing well in school, and then in their chosen career. Personally, I would rather have someone well educated running the country. The government needs people who fully understand the context, history and possible solutions of the problems it is currently dealing with. We need policy wonks and people who never tire of reading page after page of legalese. Education not only gives people the skills to handle this sort of minutiae, but it also teaches them how to think analytically.

Granted, I’m biased. I went to college and graduate school, and have more education experience than real-life experience. I am part of the educated, liberal “elite.” But my education has allowed me to apply what I learned in the classroom to what I see in the outside world. I’m very grateful for that.

“Elite” is used as an insult so often, and in many different circumstances, that it has lost some of its power. Just because someone has opposing political views doesn’t make him/her an elitist. And just because someone is well educated doesn’t make him/her unable to sympathize with the plight of the “common man” (another trope, along with “Joe Six-Pack” and “average American,” that is overused and was created to suit a specific need rather than accurately describe a large group of people). None of these terms seem to mean much anymore.

A normal person is simply that – a person. Funny how “normal” encompasses such wide variation in background, experience, education. I’ll probably be taken to task as an elitist defending her own. But I think hard work and education should garner pride, not shame. I want whoever is running the country to be smarter than me. It’ll help me sleep at night.

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