The 7 Questions That Tell You Who You Are

Now that’s a list of questions tailor-made for deeply introspective types! I may have to use some of them as journal prompts.

Thought Catalog

Many of the answers we’re seeking are answers we already have. We just don’t know how to access them. Understanding who you are isn’t something you stumble upon one day. It’s embedded within you; you just have to be vulnerable long enough to uncover it. Your everyday actions are shouting what you may not be conscious of.

1. What would you do with your life if you didn’t have to pay the bills? If money weren’t an issue, what would you do with your days? Would you write? Read? Sing? Whatever it is, you have to do that thing. Money is an interesting phenomenon that completely controls our everyday lives without having any purpose other than sustainability in the form of purchasing from others what we could produce and create right in our own backyards. Consider that when you’re deciding between a soulless job that will make you rich versus…

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Are You a Handwriter or a Typer?

Haha, that’s a doozy of an opener! But I can identify with this. I like handwriting and typing for different reasons—the latter when I have a lot on my mind to sort through, a lot that I just want to get down on paper (or Word, as it were) and organize, and the former when I want to ponder life a bit. When I write a letter by hand, I find my thoughts slowing down to a pace where my pen can more or less keep up.

boy with a hat

Typing

Handwriting is like making love; typing, like having sex. It’s essentially the same enjoyable activity, but the approach is slightly different.

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Minnesota poetry walk

One brisk, golden day, my friend Shona and I set out to realize one of my longtime dreams: tracking down my favorite Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ever since I first read about the public-arts project years ago in the Christian Science Monitor, I’ve wanted to stroll those sidewalks myself.

Judging from the project map, we could park just about anywhere in St. Paul and find a pocket of poetry within a five-block radius, though I knew I probably wouldn’t find all of my favorites in one place.

In my head I pictured taking my time to wander and then stumbling serendipitously across the poems I wanted to see—but it was pretty chilly that day (at least for my Bay Area self), so we were on a mission! I ended up either having my eyes glued to the sidewalk immediately in front of me, shunting fallen leaves with my foot, or looking around the quiet streets with their stately trees and century-old houses while Shona stopped to point out poems I’d breezed right by.

Still, we did pretty well.

Untitled by Kevin Walker

Second Love” by Carlee Tressel

Untitled by Esmé Evans

Bad Day” by Caley Conney (this example is a bit clearer)

Let’s Talk” by Sean Fleming

If I had to choose a favorite, though, this one would be it: “Meadowlark Mending Song” by Margaret Hasse. We did spot one example of it, but I like Andrea’s shot better.

And I did mark #7 off my 2012 bucket list after all! But next time I’ll aim for spring and the cache of poems on Selby and Laurel at Western Ave.

Related:
• It’s sort of like Twitter for sidewalks, only more concrete: Each poem has to be 150 characters or less. (via Minnesota Public Radio)
• On sharing the magic of poetry. (via Twin Cities Daily Planet)
• This video brings Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk to life. (via City of St. Paul)
• A slideshow featuring some of the stamps and a few of the poets. (via Weekend America)
• A St. Paul poet’s commentary. (via Minnesota Public Radio)

Mindy Kaling

I was tickled to see Mindy Kaling’s contribution to the April 2012 Ladies’ Home Journal article “A Memo to My Younger Self” (which seems to have been inspired by Julie Orringer’sNote to Sixth-Grade Self,” a coming-of-age tale so awesome it deserves its own blog post). I always like to hear about people who spent their adolescent years feeling like dorks but went on to do some badass things with their lives.

Anyway, Mindy’s first and last points in the piece seem pretty related to each other.

“First of all, don’t let that kid in your class, Danny, who called you fat, make you self-consciously wear oversized sweatshirts for the next four years to hide your body. That kid is horrible and years from now he will be boring and bald and trying to get in touch with you to come to the set of the TV show you work on. …

“Finally: Don’t let anyone give you any crap. Mastering a balance of these last two will take you a lifetime, so you had better get started now.”

I finally got around to reading Mindy’s book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) this weekend and laughed so hard at some of her lists, I had tears. So is the Danny in the LHJ piece actually that Duante jerk in the book? Probably. I wonder how it feels to have a former classmate document your jerkiness for posterity.

The way Mindy captures certain details cracks me up as well, because they’re points of reference that I myself wasn’t even aware of having. Other asides are just plain hilarious for being so incisive. Not even 10 pages into the book and I’m giggling myself silly over observations like “Alternate Titles for This Book” being “The Book That Was Never a Blog,” “When Your Boyfriend Fits Into Your Jeans and Other Atrocities,” and “There Has Ceased to Be a Difference Between My Awake Clothes and My Asleep Clothes.”

Her self-proclaimed timid-chubster “before” pics belong on that website Before You Were Hot too, along with maybe the image of her as one of People’sMost Beautiful 2011” and an excerpt from her story “When You’re Not Skinny, This is What People Want You to Wear.” In it she links back to the “don’t let anyone give you any crap” bit of advice as she describes the People photo shoot. Totally worth multiple reads, the whole thing. I love finding a new favorite book.

Related:
Mindy Kaling Q&A (The Believer)
• “Mindy Kaling on Diets, High School and Other American Pastimes” (NPR)
• “A Long Day at ‘The Office’ With Mindy Kaling” (The New York Times)
• And more here.

(Top photo: Autumn deWilde for NPR)

Update: I was wondering why Mindy hadn’t posted on her blog for a while and then I went online and found out that her mother passed away in late January. It makes the dedication of her book and her other words in the LHJ piece all the more poignant, because she talks about spending time with and missing her parents “so much it hurts.”

Scrapbooking

In my closet sit stacks of scrapbooks stuffed with letters, articles, snapshots, ticket stubs, museum brochures, and other whatnot that I’ve kept since I was an undergrad. They’re like little time capsules I can go back to now and then, to remember what was important to me at a given time in my life. And they remind me to keep adding new experiences to blank pages.

I dig Facebook and Twitter as much as the next person, but there’s something about the tactility of scrapbooks that’s deeply satisfying to me. It’s like my playtime. I don’t bother with fancy paper cutouts or stickers or whatever; for me a scrapbook is more like the kind of personal record I wish I could find from one of my ancestors. It’s both a journal and a dreambook.

Blogging is a scrapbook too, I guess. Only much more open!

(New Yorker cover via Chance)

How I Met My Wife

No, not me personally. “How I Met My Wife” is the title of a nimble essay by Jack Winter that appeared in The New Yorker (July 25, 1994) and uses the concept of unpaired words and the opposites of common idioms to fresh effect. A copy hangs up on the editorial bulletin board where I work (okay, because I totally put it there). It’s a classic piece for word nerds.

“It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate.

“I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing sheveled, and she moved in a gainly way.

“I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I’d have to make bones about it, since I was traveling cognito. Beknownst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened.”

Read the complete essay here (if you have access to The New Yorker’s online archives; otherwise all you can access is the abstract) or here (a blogger’s retype, with British spelling and minor typos).

“To my delight, she was committal … I have given her my love, and she has requited it.”

(via The New Yorker)