Over the past couple of months (maybe longer) I’ll admit that I’ve been feeling a bit stuck, like writer’s block in life form unable to budge or get myself out some walled alleyway. Upon waking each morning, my bed felt like this limbo state of pillowy bliss and searing humidity. It was comfortable enough to want to stay in yet not, and I recall a weekday or two when I would unapologetically stay in for hours. The days’ schedules have seemingly become more and more monotonous comprised of the usual meetings, work sessions, workouts, grocery runs, et cetera; and the world around me — New York City, the most energetic city in the world — started feeling dull. Overcrowded morning F train, coffee at La Colombe, $13.07 tuna sandwich off of Seamless, the occasional after-work cocktail, back home for a bit more work, the same Trader Joe’s salmon and brown rice for dinner, a Netflix episode, a few pages of a book before bed, and in go my earplugs to sound sleep. Repeat. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with me doing these ordinary things (well, I could do better at packing lunches) — I have to do them! — but in their daily repetition everything was veering mundane and life’s spark felt like it needed to be relit.
One of my new favorite learnings from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson is, “… maybe [these things are] ordinary for a reason: because they are what actually matter.” I don’t know how basic and slightly outdated it is of me to recommend a 2016 New York Times bestseller with a bright orange hard-to-miss cover that says F*CK on it, but — in spirit — I don’t give a fuck: I highly recommend it; and on the topic of perspective, it certainly provides one hell of a fresh take. This learning stood out to me because in a world inundated twenty-four-seven by AI-generated best-of-the-best being pushed to our phones and, in turn, us constantly seeking out the best-of-the-best (a vicious cycle), it’s a reminder that at some point, way more often than not, things do revert back to the ordinary for everyone — the 99.9% you don’t see — and that’s okay. In fact, being on the persistent hunt for the extraordinary in our day-to-day is wearisome, overwhelming and never-ending, a solid foundation for a conversation about social media health that I’ll probably get to in a future post since I’ll admit that the same hunt’s taken a treacherous toll on me. So, here I am finally learning to accept the ordinary, but why the dullness? If ordinary is what actually matters, kindly explain the fog of life right now.
My late maternal grandmother used to say, “it’s all about perspective.” Totally, I’d think to myself and quickly nod my head in agreement, but the question remains if I actually apply what she told me on a daily basis. I’m sure you’ve heard it, too: it’s simple, pretty generic, and doesn’t leave any instruction for how to actually employ perspective; yet sticks in my head like al dente spaghetti strands thrown against a kitchen wall to test doneness. It’s just hangs there, dangling and staring back at me. I’m used to the positive perspectives we all have grown up with like:
You can either look at the glass half-full or half-empty.
When one door closes, another one opens.
When you fall down, roll over and look at the stars.
… and I’ve rightfully employed these idioms when it comes to generic things I want in my life like opportunities career-wise or romantic relationships (more like lack thereof); but am I using perspective only when it’s opportune for me to do so, rather than priming the pumps of perspective on a daily basis for everything I do, even when positivity isn’t in question? Henry David Thoreau said, “it’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” I remember being my twelve-year-old self with a friend of mine lying in the grass and looking up at the afternoon sky, which on that particular day was filled with patches of cumulus clouds. I see a vacuum cleaner over there, pointing up with my hand and excitingly hitting him in the chest with my other, and that one looks like a lion! As kids, perspective came so natural in moments when it wasn’t required, but I felt like it helped foster and strengthen creativity. Flash forward twenty years and the first topics of conversation lying on the Sheep’s Meadow grass are worries and problems, let alone being frustrated at the number of clouds in the sky blocking the sun. Albeit with a good friend who knows how to listen, I’ll gain a fresher perspective on a situation than when I did entering the park, so the semi-sunny Sunday afternoon wasn’t completely washed in complaint, but perhaps the better discovery would be understanding why the same complaints continue to persist.
Perspective is probably the only reason why I love photography. Anyone can go to school and learn how to use a camera, excel at studio lighting, create a perfectly composed image, and edit it to look vintage or stark black and white; but photographers whose prints are worthy of an art exhibit are unique in their perspective of how they view the world coupled with a passionate conviction behind it. Not all fine art photography does this to me of course, but when I walk through a gallery or an exhibit, I’m on a quest for a work of art that subtly catches my breath, a reaction that has nothing to do with traditional beauty, notoriety or scale. I’m almost certain you’re familiar with this, too. That quick gasp will be my sign to buy at some point, but until the bank’s appended a few more digits and commas, it remains some sort of unique kaleidoscope into a moment of life that would otherwise seem ordinary to me without the lens. The kicker is that their ordinary turned extraordinary with seasoned perspective. I’ll admit that I don’t do the Chelsea art galleries enough. I don’t do the museum exhibits enough. I don’t do the plays or the Broadway shows as much as I should. They can get pretty expensive, but I could use some artistic vigor in my life not solely for inspiration, but to grease a perspective engine of mine that these artists have mastered themselves. In my opinion, the potential for perspective is a much better reason than to get cultured or inspired, but those are fine, too. I suppose this is why my good friend and mentor Freddie Leiba constantly reminds me to explore the New York City arts and remain in a perpetual state of curiosity.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”— Henry David Thoreau
There’s a scene in the new Mary Poppins film (and yes, I’m a thirty-two-year-old proudly referencing Mary Poppins to make a professional point — come at me) where Mary Poppins takes Jack and the kids to get their late mother’s porcelain bowl fixed by a woman named Topsy played by Meryl Streep. She tries to give an ETA on when she can get the bowl fixed, but warns them that she can’t work on certain days because her life literally turns upside down — “flippity flop like a turtle on its back,” she says — throwing her life completely off-track, and making her feel sad and aggravated. Sounds familiar. After a bit of singing and dancing to the corresponding musical number, Mary Poppins ends with this: “You see, when the world turns upside down, the best thing is to turn right along with it. When you change the view from where you stood, the things you view will change for good.” In a much quicker revelation than I’d typically get (but that’s the magic of Disney), Topsy gets a whole new perspective on life and fixes the bowl despite her uncontrollable world “turning turtle.” This also confirms the fact that anytime Meryl Streep’s on screen, there’s probably a damn good reason for it, hence why I woke my mom up during this part.
My first quarter of 2019 was riddled with a few back-to-back hardships, some that either directly or indirectly affected me; but either way, I was emotionally attached without consciously accepting what was happening. I can’t believe this, or this can’t be, or why me? were consistent thoughts in my head, but shortly thereafter I realized that those thoughts were actually blockers. Rather than accept the range of emotions from the roller coaster of events that were happening, I didn’t even get on the ride I was on a path for and fully equipped to go on. Thanks to apprehension, I waited by the exit sign and left the attraction with that slight melancholic disposition you get when you wonder to yourself, maybe I should have. It’s a dull feeling. You walk around in what appears to be a fog and there’s no spark to guide you. Expectation became a setback and sluggishness was the result. I’ve found that it’s the riding of the ride — whatever that means to you — strapped in and feeling all the emotions that come with every incline, drop, twist, turn and dip that breed and foster perspective. Plain and simple: ride the damn ride.
“When you change the view from where you stood, the things you view will change for good.”— Mary Poppins
I’m convinced that there are infinite extraordinaries in between the cracks our daily ordinaries. I imagine it being the birthplace of ideas and where entrepreneurship feeds. I’ve seen it for myself in some of my endeavors that have come to past and others that are still in ideation mode. I’ll admit that at times perspective isn’t so easy: it may take a discerning eye, a keen sense of smell, a sensitive taste, or some spiritual rooted awareness; where oiling that perspective engine becomes more of a rigorous process. All doable, nonetheless. Other times it can be right in front of us like dangling al dente spaghetti strands thrown against a wall, or even with a simple push of a button to rotate an image forty-five degrees.
River Island Topcoat (similar), The Kooples Leather Jacket (similar), Christian Louboutin Runners, Miansai Necklace, and Kronaby Watch
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
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