Making Impact on my Birthday

Making Impact

Being alone for my birthday stresses me out. This realization is new, because once upon a time, I used to crave precious alone time. My family is away and my best friends are at work but I promise that your girl is not whining for a babysitter.

I look for activities that don’t involve being alone (and sad) at home watching movies.

Thinking about my dad, for example, is an activity that makes me sad in the end, but I don’t want to tell myself to not think about him. But I know if I’m alone then it will come up.

I don’t want to be dependent on anything for my own happiness, but right now, I need to be constantly focused on an activity. It’s like if you’re performing classical music onstage, and the audience is distracting. You do anything to ignore the audience because it’s irrelevant to delivering your music; you play Chopin the same way whether the audience is asleep or humming along.

“Don’t worry,” a buddy says. “We’ll do something on your birthday. So you won’t be alone.”

“If you forget,” I say, “I’ll be very sad.”

But I’m pretty sure he will forget, because that’s how he is.

 

My birthday dress has unraveled threads when it comes in the mail. The company refuses to take the dress back and pays for the ripped piece to be resewn, but I get the dress back with a hole in it and the seamstress says the hole was already there in the first place. I argue for five minutes then decide I’m too tired. When I’m not looking, she marks the paper that says I received the dress, so there’s no going back.

I try it on, and you can’t see the hole, but maybe I’m not looking at the right spot. My birthday party will begin with my friends hunting for the hole in my dress–late easter surprise! (For the record, the party is not on the day of my birthday so the possibility of spending my birthday alone is still real.)

But still, I’m not ordering from the company again, or buying dresses online again.

In music lessons, some private music teachers charge for the initial interview, and while it makes sense if you think of it as the student buying your time, you’re creating that extra barrier by asking for a no-returns commitment right off the bat.

The student is not asking for advice during the interview, but rather, to see how the student/teacher dynamic could work.

So I’d rather teachers give free interviews to prospective students then tack on an admin/sign-up fee to protect themselves. If teachers are skeptical, they can get on the phone first, and say goodbye if it doesn’t work.

The lower risk the sessions are, the smaller the barrier and the more interest they will get. It’s in a business’ best interest to minimize initial risk because it makes you look confident.

Don’t be the company that sends me a ripped dress and refuses to take it back.

 

I try anti-gravity boots and they are the most fun thing I talk about, for a week.

Anti-gravity boots are contraptions around your ankles with hooks on the front, so that you can hang upside down on a horizontal bar and do crunches. Or just hang there.

At the gym, a coworker introduces himself and I ask him to show me how to use his anti-gravity boots.

“They secure around your ankles like this,” he says. “The right clasp is a little broken. It supports 250lbs of me–it should support you.”

“I’d just dangle on one leg if that one gives,” I say.

He can reach the bar and put his feet up, but I’m not tall enough, so I wrap my arms around lower straps to hoist myself up; the boots are not adjustable and he has bigger calves than I do, which means my feet could slip out and I could break my skull at any point.

So I do crunches upside down, but I’m flexing my feet like crazy against the bar and they start hurting faster than I can get my abs hurting.

Still, I haven’t done crunches in forever because they are boring. The only way you could get me to do them, now, is if you let me hang upside down. And I love being upside down.

It reminded me of the piano stairs, where people were more likely to use the stairs than the escalator, when the stairs were a giant piano. It makes a lot of sense to me that you can convince people to do things when you make mundane tasks fun and interesting to do. Look, I’m doing crunches now.

The boots are the new best thing in the gym and when I move gyms, I am considering getting my own.

 

It’s hard to tell what I want anymore. Years ago, I wanted to be in law school. Some of my friends have applied, but who am I to decide on someone else’s life path in a case? I also thought I wanted to do cool design stuff in San Francisco, but then a recruiter said I was “too young”. I tried web development but I’m pretty sure life is more than being stuck in a room all day.

(“But Grace, a lot of people want their own offices–” Yeah, whatever. A lot of people want jobs they’re excited about in the morning.)

This summer, I’m doing project management in tech. Maybe it won’t be for me, but I’d rather know now, than wonder for years. I encourage everyone who thinks they could make it in music, to put aside a few months to really try, and this is me following my own advice.

Looking at my life, there are a lot of scattered pieces and I don’t know if that’s how it’s supposed to be.

But then, if you are only doing things that lead to a goal, wouldn’t you be missing out on possibilities and fun and excitement?

So maybe we can accept the fact that some of us are good at sharing our passions and some of us are still looking for them. If you are working on your passion it just appears as if you have your life together.

 

I do know what I want at the end of each year, though: to make an impact.

Don’t we all? We just say it differently. “I want to make a change in the world. I want to start a company. I want the best for my kids.” We just want to feel like we did stuff that matters.

It’s my birthday, and I know that I never ask for anything, but I want to make a request. It would make me very happy if you’d consider donating blood, because someone else out there probably needs it.

I’m already working towards self-improvement–I’m telling you how I feel. Birthdays are not a time to feel sad or down in the dumps. So, there, it would make me happy if you’d consider donating blood today.

2 Comments

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2 Comments

  • Reply Joey Lee April 26, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    Happy Birthday Grace. It felt weird because it didn’t feel weird (yeah that reads funny, I know), but I also spent my birthday alone earlier in April. I’ve been studying and focusing so hard on a goal and working hard to achieve it that despite my birthday coming and going without doing anything special, I didn’t feel the least bit down. I also knew that my family and loved ones back home, while not able to be there with me, still loved and cared about me. I think what you need in life to achieve eudaimonia (think happiness, but a deeper more substantial kind than the traditional Western meaning) are days filled with hard work – the work itself doesn’t inherently matter, but the right job and work culture can certainly take you from just enjoying life to thoroughly loving it – and relationships. Your recent posts convey that you have a new job you enjoy as a web developer (I have great respect for the self-teaching) as well as loving friends and a family. Web developer is a hard career, but as you’ve alluded to, women are uncommon in STEM jobs and thus highly valued at most workplaces, certainly here in the States so know that you always have options in this regard (a fellow graduate of a coding bootcamp I just attended was a former Vancouver developer and the first to find a job upon graduating). Regarding relationships, know that like with me, while schedules – work, life, or otherwise – don’t always align to allow meeting, your loved ones are always thinking about you.

    Cheers from a fellow piano-playing, weight-lifting, hopefully-soon-be-employed web developer in San Francisco.

    Joey

    • Reply Grace Lam May 10, 2017 at 9:24 pm

      Joey, this is so sweet. Thank you. :)

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