Here’s Your Sign

Here’s Your Sign

Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path.

(Author unknown)

A few days ago, I was stuck in my head. You see, I still don’t have a job. I’ve applied for about twenty jobs and not a nibble. I’m trying to be pickier than I have in the past, because I want to do something that will be interesting, challenging, and/or fun. Apparently my résumé doesn’t have the keywords for the fun, interesting jobs. My résumé only shows that I have experience at jobs I don’t want to do anymore, which makes me either over-qualified or under-qualified for all the jobs I’ve applied for.

My goal is not to dwell on the lack of job, but to do things I enjoy doing, so I’ve been working on my photography skills, remembering how to play the piano, and doing a little reading. I’m doing what makes me happy in the hope of bringing more enjoyment into my life, including a fun job. Like begets like, right?

However, sometimes my brain gets stuck in a downward spiral of fear and gloom. When that happens, I go for a hike. (I’ve been hiking a lot lately.) Luckily, hiking takes me out of my head and into my body, which, I have to say, is much more level-headed and intelligent than my brain. I should spend more time there.

I was following a moderately easy trail which begins with a long, slow, steady incline and doesn’t let up until you get to the top. I spent most of the way up talking to the universe. I explained to the universe that I know it gives us signs all the time, but I can’t see any signs, because my fear of scarcity, money in particular, blinds me to any signs the universe may give me. I told the universe it was going to have to make my signs a little more obvious, maybe a big flashing neon arrow pointing HERE’S YOUR SIGN because apparently I’m missing them all.

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When I got close to the top of the incline though, my mind started to slow and my body took over. Lack of oxygen will take you out of your head every time. As I focused on my breathing, I watched as my feet moved steadily along the trail, one step after the other, in rhythm with my breath. I noticed then that I had a bit of tunnel vision. I wasn’t seeing anything other than the trail right in front of me. So I decided to look up, when suddenly a flash of color caught my eye. It was a line of tiny yellow flowers.

 

The flowers weren’t on the main trail, but on a steep side trail. I had to scramble a little bit to get to them. As I headed up, I also noticed to my right, a tiny lavender flower growing all by itself. I’m like a kid in a candy shop when it comes to flowers. My eyes get wide and I even giggle a little with glee. (There’s a reason I’m called a plant nerd.)

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It was then that I realized that these flowers were my sign. I had been so focused on what was directly in front of me that I almost missed it. Come over this way. Look at this beauty that was right here the whole time. Go see what’s at the top of the hill. Turn around. Here’s a view you never would have seen if you hadn’t followed the signs. I reveled in the beauty and gave the universe a big cosmic hug and a thank you.

What was the sign, you say? Stop following someone else’s path.

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I’ve never been one to enjoy the well-beaten path. I’ve tried my whole life because I thought that’s what I supposed to do, but there’s a reason they call it a well-beaten path. It’s already trampled down and smoothed out. It’s been walked by billions of other people. I’ve felt like a failure my whole life, because I couldn’t stay on that damn well-beaten path, no matter how hard I tried. I’ve come to realize though, that the people who move society forward and make a difference in the world are those who create their own path. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Most of the beauty is off the beaten path. It’s where the wildflowers grow. It’s where the extraordinary view is. There may be big boulders on the path, but it’s kind of fun to figure out how to get around them. Should I go this way through the brush? Should I go that way through the water? Or should I try my hand at bouldering and just climb over?

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We all have a choice. We can choose the smooth trail with most of the obstacles worn down or removed, where we simply have to put one foot in front of the other to get where we want to go and that’s okay. Or we can choose to head off onto a side trail even though we’re not exactly sure where it’s going. Perhaps it’ll end up somewhere amazing and give us lots of fun and interesting challenges. Perhaps it will take us somewhere the world has never been. Or perhaps it will lead us back to the well-beaten path eventually, but life is an adventure and that’s what makes it fun.

I’m accepting that I actually like my little side trail. It’s helped me to heal. It’s helped me to help others to heal. It’s led me toward self-acceptance and dare I say, a wee bit of confidence in who I am. It’s led me back to who I truly am. It’s shown me my soul.

If I Hear “Everybody’s a Photographer” One More Time…

If I Hear “Everybody’s a Photographer” One More Time…

I want to be a photographer. There. I said it. I try to keep my deepest desires close to the vest, because I don’t want anyone to tell me the “reality” of trying to break into the photography biz. How “everybody’s a photographer” or how their brother has 15,000 followers on Instagram or how I’d better have a back-up plan. I’m not confident enough for that yet.

My goal is to quietly teach myself the art of photography. I’ve been taking photos for quite a while now, but I’ve been living in my comfort zone of landscapes and macros of flowers, so I started a 365 photo challenge in the hopes of breaking out of my rut. I’m posting them on Instagram (@stefaniejones365), but I’m not pushing the hash tags. I’m doing this project for me, to challenge myself and to have a record of my progress. And it is challenging me. It’s not so much a technical challenge, but a composition challenge. My ultimate subject is people. Hopefully, somewhere along the way during this challenge, I’ll get over my fear of photographing people which I know will open an avenue to the real purpose of my photography. That, however, I will keep to myself.

I get a lot of my learnin’ from YouTube and a vlog I particularly like is Ted Forbes’ The Art of Photography. Ted is a true lover of photography and has introduced me to tons of photographers I’ve never heard of. The video I watched today was called If Ansel Adams Used Instagram, in which he spoke about being a part of one’s time. Adams was an innovator in his time. He was doing things no one else was doing and pushing the boundaries of the technology of his time. Ted says (and I would agree), Adams would surely embrace the technology we have today. He would have been one of the first to try drones and the latest camera technology and would still make amazing images. So, yes, everybody these days is a photographer, but not everybody is an innovator and making unique and interesting photos. As with any art, you have to think outside the box and more importantly in photography, you have to learn to see.

Peter McKinnon is another vlogger I enjoy. His videos are mostly concerned with teaching technique and how to do cool things with the latest technology, but today he posted a video called Stop Taking The Same Boring Photos. In this video, he encouraged people to delve a little deeper in their subject. His example was a salad. You could take a picture of the finished salad and that would be okay or you could take a photo of the prep work or the ingredients before it is all put together or present it in a wine glass or even show the empty bowl with a little dressing and tiny bits of salad leftover. Those images are far more interesting than simply a picture of a salad. In order for your work to stand out, you have to do it different. (See what I did there. Maybe I should rename this blog “Doing It Different”). You have to give your viewer or client that little something extra, so that they’ll be more likely to use you again or recommend you to their friends.

So, that’s what I’m working on right now. Learning to see more, to see differently. My challenge is definitely a challenge and sometimes I fear I won’t be able to come up with a decent image, but that’s what trying new things is all about. My photos may not always great and my ideas might flop, but it sure is fun trying.

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This photo accidentally turned out to be even more interesting than I first thought. Instagram wasn’t interested, but I love it.

I Got Triggered

I Got Triggered

 

I’ve been having a hard time lately. This whole “do it different” thing isn’t working as quickly as I wanted it to. It’s not easy to change who I’ve been for longer than I care to admit.

Yesterday, I got triggered and I reacted in the same way I always have:  with a bout of kick-me-in-the-gut, spit-in-my-face depression. I’ve been trying so hard to believe that you get what you most desire if you stop doing the things you do that stop those things from coming to you. It seems so easy for everyone else. Since I’m “doing it different”, I thought that surely I would  get at least a little bit of what I wanted. However, I’m not and someone else is and it feels as if the Universe is refusing to conspire to help me.

Disappointment is the catalyst for my depression. If I have a big desire, I expect the Universe will help me get it. Instead, the Universe gives it to someone else or at least doesn’t give it to me. Then I become deeply disappointed which leads to a big depression and then I give up. I announce to the Universe-very dramatically I might add-that I’m done trying, hoping, wishing, and expecting for anything to get better for me. I feel like I’m the cosmic joke. I want something. The Universe holds out its hand, offering me what I want. I reach out to take it, then it yanks its hand back and yells, “Psych!!” and laughs in my face. I’m pretty sure this is an accurate description of what happens.

Now, I don’t really believe this is how things work. I believe that the Universe has my best interest in mind, just as it does for all of us. I don’t believe in a vengeful Universe. I know it’s me that keeps me from getting what I want, but it seems like there are rules to life and no one gave me the rule book. And certainly no one taught me how to play the game.

I’ve found that movement, be it yoga, biking, hiking, or even weight lifting, is the only thing that helps when I am in deep despair. It helps take me out of my head for a while. Luckily, I live near the mountains and have access to some great hiking trails, so to make myself feel better, I went for a hike. I took the hardest trail the park has and walked without any plan, except to knock the edge off the sadness. I ended up taking a trail that went higher into the hills than I have gone before. I put in my earbuds and listened to Abraham for some words of wisdom. I took pictures of the pasqueflowers that were blooming along the trail. I caught whiffs of the warm pine scented air I love so much and most importantly, I breathed deep and hard.

After walking as far as I felt like going, I turned around and headed back toward the parking lot. I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention and found myself on a side trail that seemed to go nowhere. Just ten feet away, I saw the easy trail. It was flat and smooth and wide. No boulders. But I was doing the hard trail, dang it, so I backtracked a little and got back on the trail. Soon, I was off in the weeds again and there was the easy trail right in front of me. Again. This time, I started laughing. I realized that that is what I do in life. I choose to do it the hard way. I force and push. I demand that the Universe give me what I want. I cling stubbornly to how I think things are supposed to go, even though my way has never worked before. The easy path is right there for me and yet I turn away because life isn’t easy, right? It’s supposed to be hard and we’re supposed to work for everything we get.

Well, this time, I gave up and took the easy trail for a while. When I came upon a crossroads, I knew that I didn’t have to choose to go the hard way. I knew it was okay to keep taking the easy way, but I also knew that sometimes the challenging way is more fun. Knowing that I could choose which path I wanted to take, I decided to take the more challenging trail, not because I needed to prove something, but because it was more fun.

I don’t know what taking the easy path in life is supposed to look like, but I do know that when I give up the struggle, things tend to go smoother. I’m going to take the pressure off myself, not try so damn hard all the time, and quit trying to tell the Universe how to do its job. The Universe knows what I want and it knows the easiest, most fun way to get it. I think I’ll try that for a while.

 

Now What?

Now What?

“Wherever you go, there you are.”

Some people attribute this quote to Confucius. Others say it came from the movie Buckaroo Banzai. It is also the title of a Jon Kabat-Zinn book on mindfulness, but I’ll always attribute it to my grandmother. I’m not sure where she got it and I can only assume she said it because I was telling her about yet another of my plans to move somewhere new to start over. As great as I thought the saying was, I was disappointed because I knew it was true. You can’t run away from yourself.

I moved to Colorado three weeks ago and for the first time, I was not running away from anything, I was running toward the new life I wanted to create.

I love it here. I have a view of Pike’s Peak from my front yard. The sun shines most of the time and there are hiking trails within a couple of miles from my house. We live in a part of town that was obviously built in the sixties and seventies at the tail end of the Midcentury Modern trend. There’s a mix of ranch and split level ranch houses-which is what ours it-and contemporary houses with their flat or slightly slanted roofs, exposed supporting beams, integrated landscapes, and a mix of various building materials to provide textural interest. It is so different from where I came from, which is exactly what I wanted.

I came here for a new start. I felt as if I had gone as far as I could in Nebraska and I definitely needed a change of scenery. I’ve got everything I want, externally. So why am I sitting in my room, scrolling through Facebook, watching YouTube videos, and writing in my journal for hours on end? Why am I not embracing all the new that this place has to offer? Why am I right were I was a few months ago, before I decided to move?

It’s because when I moved, I brought myself with me. I’m the same person that I was just a few months ago. I thought that a new environment would make me happy and when I got happy, all that old emotional baggage would just disappear, but I guess it’s not that simple.

I saw this as an opportunity to be whoever I wanted to be and I can still do that, but it’s not going to happen overnight. As David Foster Wallace said, “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.” I still very much expect to be a different person here. It’s just that the Old Me is not going to go without a fight.

Everything was going fine until I started looking for jobs. Just the thought of having yet another horrible job makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t want a job. I want fulfilling, exciting, interesting, creative work. I don’t want another job that means nothing more to me than a paycheck. There is so much more to life than a paycheck.

I have a general idea of what I want to do for work and I know what I want my life to look like, but what can I do right now, when I’m not ready? I don’t want a regular old job, but I need money to live. I want to work in a creative field like doing logo design or branding or photography or even writing. I enjoy them all but haven’t given myself enough time to explore which one I want to focus on first. And I don’t have any marketable skills or experience in anything yet, so I couldn’t get a job doing any of it if I wanted to. The only option I see is to get an unfulfilling job to make do, but my only marketable skills are lab work and retail and I don’t want to do either. I feel like if I get a job like that, I’ll be right back where I started and I don’t want to go back there.

All my life, jobs and money have been my biggest stumbling blocks and being a believer in the Law of Attraction, I know that the more I focus on this huge block on my path, the more blockage I’ll get. I know my only option is to take my focus off of the obstacle, so today, I gave up that part of my life to the Universe.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but I’m not going to look for a job. I’m going to let the job come to me. The Universe knows what I want and knows where it is. I do not. Instead, I’m going to turn my focus to things I enjoy. I’m going to design the logo for my company that I will have very soon. I’m going to read, and draw, and work on my vision board. I’m going to go hiking and do a little weight lifting. I’m going to take lots of photos as I explore my new home. I’m going to practice my hand lettering, because I love hand lettering. I’m going to finish my online class in copy writing, so that hopefully I’ll be able to build a bigger following on my blog. I’m going to watch my favorite TV shows when I need to zone out and love on the cat and dog because they’re awesome. In other words, I’m going to allow myself to have some fun.

Not long ago, I was given a quote from Rumi, which I intend to make my new mantra.

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.

It can be no other way.