What's in my head right now?
Eating, drinking, breathing, cleaning, sitting on, sleeping with them.
Anyone want to join in?
What's in my head right now?
It's 5:40am, and I've been up for exactly 2 hours and 21 minutes now, thanks to jet lag from a glorious, almost-masochistic, trip to NYC. I've been vacillating between bouts of lying in my bed, wide-eyed, and fervently researching online and making phone calls to the States. In these wee hours of the morning, I've turned my office into a veritable war room, with giant sheets of paper stuck to the walls, filled with ideas and ventures, and way too many extra-sticky notes. What has become tangibly urgent in the past 24 hours, influenced by two blissful weeks in the States with B, is that there is not enough time to do everything that needs to be done. But I already knew that. And so, I am sitting here, at the crack ass of dawn, pacing and writing, and googling and tweeting, and twitching, trying to find my way through this chaotic web of "charging forward" I have so manically woven for myself.
I've recently been feeling a little off-balance. Work and workouts are great - other stuff is not. By the time I get home, I just want to zone out on the couch until the morning - hardly apropos for getting anything productive done on the off hours. And I have SO much I WANT and NEED to do in those few precious off hours I do actually have. Like send out that artist release for the children's book. And call the people who have left me messages on my mom's voicemail box in Texas (how did they get that number). And pay my TRC website bill. And work on TIP (new, ultra secret project). And meet with British Ed to crank out our freaking songs so we can perform already. And shower. And cook. And do laundry. And READ. And update you on ALL the things I am itching to write about. And. And. And. And yet, the only things I can manage to do are check my e-mails (but not respond to them), get my daily dose of NG and be a sack of shit for the rest of the evening.
So, my mind has been exploding on the inside - because it has somehow shut off in the process of all this working and working out. But lucky for me, I have alter-ego Jenny, who knows just what to do, most of the time. Knowing me best, as only me can know me, alter-ego Jenny (let's call her Benjamin) understands that I can't just go from couch lauder to productive Nancy. So, the other night, smart little Benjamin was like:
Why don't you plan a party?
And I was like: Say whaat?
(Yes, I talk to myself. Debate is the only way my better half will win)
Yeah, get your mind off your big couch potato ass.
Um, excuse you? I've been working out.
You know - give yourself something fun to think about, and the work you need to get done will just fly by.
You know I'm right.
Yeah, well, maybe I'll try that concept. Thanks, Benjamin.
No prob, Blob.
Haha. Very funny.
Great. Get the guest list together. Buy the alcohol. Make a cupcake or two. And ta-da! Extensive Game Night at Benjamin and Jenny's! Followed by dancing and guzzling at whatever bars are lucky enough to house us. So far, the guest list is 15 and counting. I think my Beijing apartment can comfortably hold 10. Oops.
And all of a sudden, my mind is breathing again, and ready to be productive. Oh, Benjamin. You are so smart. Nothing cures flat-lining better than the prospect of some good ol' ridiculous, liver-blowing, FUN.
Though it happened about a month and a half later than the rest of the world, thanks to the Mongolian skies, we were bestowed a deliciously crisp gust of soft flakes all yesterday and today. Last night, as I was shuffling back from the gym, the legs of my pants caked in muddy ice I would later rinse out in the sink, rather than fight my way through the slush, I stopped and stared. Because it was 9pm, the snow fell like millions of icy, miniscule feathers, brushing against my nose and prancing on the tips of my eyelashes. I looked up, deeply breathing in dusts of cold. The dark night sky had a pink glow, and for a very long time, I stood there, mouth wide open, catching melting crystal shards on my tongue and listening to the calm that only snow can bring. The loud traffic, my toes wriggling inside my wet socks, the taxis splashing by, the neon lights - everything fell away, and it was just me and those dots of white gently floating down, down, down, into nothingness. Then I realized that these gorgeous ice flakes were probably just polluted Beijing rain drops in disguise, and that I had better close my mouth. So I did. And even though my ears were numb and my sneakers soaked through on the walk home, it was still a glorious night.
I've got a pile of half-finished blog posts ready to be unwrapped and exposed, but there is barely enough time to finish that half-eaten sandwich that's squashed in my bag, between my day planner, cell phone and nalgene. There's also that pile of semi-washed dishes in the sink, the pile of clothes draped all over my guest bed, that pile of trash bags that desperately needs to be thrown out, and that delicious pile of books I am eager to plow through. Such has been my life recently. I've got my workout and work regime almost to a tee, but the other piles just seem to be, well, piling up. Anyway - I WILL post something that is actually worthy of your time, soon. But first, I have to go not have enough time for that pile of to-dos on my piles of to-do lists.
Last Wednesday, the storm passed.
We finally took the magazine to print.
This current company I am working for has the particular tradition of printing out the first draft in color and then laying it out on our conference table so that the entire team can scrutinize and practice their opinions. This was started by the previous Managing Editor, who didn’t know how to run a magazine anymore than his grim turtle face knew how to smile, but has since been promoted to Chief Editor, which just means he signs off on everything I do. I see him as sort of an antique decoration, maybe one of those tea-stained doilies, awful but permanent, since it was handed down by so-and-so’s great aunt Mildred, just there for the sake of tradition – shabby, stained, banal tradition. Many Chinese workplaces are this way: everything must go through a procedure, carefully guarded by the King of Procedure himself, crowned with the responsibility of reinforcing procedure because, well, it’s procedure. Keeps my head awhirl, anyway.
Two problems with this tradition: 1) the entire team likes to comment on the magazine as if they are the designers themselves. However, none of them have the expertise to make this kind of judgment call. Plus, the Art Director and I have set standards, reading systems, fonts, sizes, spaces, and things don’t just change because some staff member didn’t like the spacing in line three, 2) It wastes a LOT of time. I’m the Managing Editor and Creative Director, therefore it is my job to take the “book” and make the final editions. But in an illogical, ironic twist that seems to frequent certain facets of Chinese companies, the reviewing process has become all too democratic in this otherwise communist regime.
In order to retain some ounce of sanity, I have since given into the procedures that have laden this supposedly expat rag with a nice sharp, Chinese edge. But despite my hemming and hawing, giving in a little has made my job miles easier. Why fight the fight just to fight? A little forced inefficiency here and there can’t hurt that much; it’s certainly better than insisting on my way or the highway, then getting the boot because the cars they provided on my highway were all lemons. Needless to say – with my attitude adjustment, and finally, the print out of the first issue, Mr. Boss was tres pleased. Chief Dick didn’t say too much either, which is a good sign.
So, after months of banging my head against the wall, and weeks of blogging about pain of the anal sort, I won the war. We even closed the deal with an evening out, gorging ourselves on baijiu (Chinese tequila – bottoms up! x10) and a banquet spinning in front of us on a giant, whirling, lazy Susan holding the girth of a baby Redwood.
It’s already been five days since the passing of the storm, but it’s taken me that long to recuperate from the aftermath, a serene period of blue skies and unbelievable nothingness spouting out of bosses’ mouths.
And yet, after the rush of succeeding in something I’m good at, a moment when I felt like I could be the Managing Editor of this magazine forever, my mind was jolted with the flashback of a few weeks ago, when the very same people who praised me held my neck to the wire, fingers pointing, ready to make me the scapegoat. It isn't my bosses’ ability to blame and praise at the blink of an eye that bothers me. Rather, it is the realization this so called happiness is split in two, each with a tiny string that can be pulled until the rush is unraveled into nothing but a pile of caution and query.
What I mean is this.
It seems like a lot of people tend to mix up what they are good at with what they like doing. It might be true that one can be the other, but this is not always the case. Being a passionate artist may not get next month’s rent in on time; playing accountant may just kill the libido; whatever the excuse, there are plenty of real life reasons that have a way of subtly convincing people that success always equals what you should be doing, and therefore if you succeed at something, that something is what defines your happiness.
This happiness, split in two: each side is separate with its own characteristics, though if we’re lucky, not always separate in form. As already established before, the first kind comes from being good at something, and the second kind comes from somewhere deeper, a place where love, passion, yearning, motivation and tenacity are born. It seems like the latter type of happiness is the one that is idealized, the one we think we should all be seeking. And yet, when it comes time to choose a career path or a role in life, our happy-nometer starts to go in circles.
Take this magazine for example. After printing the first draft, happy boss=happy Jenny. My mood couldn’t have been further from several weeks ago, when I was near hyperventilation at my desk, ready to pack up and leave town. Because of the current and successful situation, my mind actually sees a future I can mold. But I am at unrest, because I can’t figure out if my happiness is due to the fact that I got a pat on the head for hard work on a product I am good at creating, or because I actually enjoy what I am doing. Too many people my age struggle to find their paths, torn between what they think they can survive on as a day job-possibly-turned-successful-career, and the love for a life that stems from the depths of their souls. This is worth thinking about because if the right choice isn’t made, one can end up bored and successful or passionate and poor – either leading to ultimate unhappiness.
Anyway, I don’t have the answer. I figure I should just use what I’m good at to catapult myself into doing what I love, and maybe somewhere along the way, I’ll end up balanced. But I’m probably babbling, at best.
It's 11:30pm and the firecrackers have been going on all day, except now they have changed to fireworks. Any planes flying over China would be greeted by a landscape of exploding bouquets of color confetti. The entire city of Beijing is aglow, bringing in the New Year - Chinese New Year, that is. This whole next week will fill the air with stagnant smoke from thousands upon thousands of mini explosives, reminding us that 2009 is the Year of the Ox. Chinese New Year is like our Western Christmas, except sans all that St. Nicholas stuff. Instead, train stations are bulging with passengers on their way home to family, banquets, and little red envelopes filled with the currency of hope. Since my own family is 8000 miles away, I'm using this week for contemplation and productivity, curious as to what this second New Year will bring.
I'm going through a syrup phase, starting two minutes ago. I have this bottle of leftover Log Cabin Country Kitchen Original, from when B was here, and I am going to pour it over everything. It's going to be great.
I have nothing insightful or even remotely interesting to say. Because anything that would fall under the latter category would require time, which I don't have. In the past two weeks, I have worked myself into an overtime tizzy. I think I have enough saved up for a week of vacation, which I'll just spend worrying about not being at work. God damn the corporate world. I TOLD you it wasn't good for me. But, Spring Festival is just around the corner. I plan on spending that week working out, eating well, drawing this good to God children's book, blogging up the wazoo, singing with my guitarist (and a possible harmonica player - more on the whole singing spiel later), and catching up - on sleep, on time, on friends, on life. But for now, here's some more blah to go with the blech.