Awesomeness in the World Melissa

Thoughts From a Concerning Curator

“The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you. You feel in control. You can add friends if you wish, you can delete them if you wish. You are in control of the important people to whom you relate. People feel a little better as a result, because loneliness, abandonment, is the great fear in our individualist age…But most people use social media not to unite, not to open their horizons wider, but on the contrary, to cut themselves a comfort zone where the only sounds they hear are the echoes of their own voice, where the only things they see are the reflections of their own face.”

 I came across Zygmunt Bauman, a Polish sociologist, and his opinion on social media triggered the question of whether I am authentic on the internet, if my social media presence is a true projection of who I am.

Here, on the Creative Community Blog, I strive to be honest, to exercise getting my thoughts into (hopefully) relatable words, and to take a better look at how I’m currently feeling. But outside of writing here, I’ve realized that I might not be authentic on the internet and I’m not too proud of that. I curate the crap out of my Instagram, and my Twitter feed only exists because I heard in a podcast that if you don’t use Twitter in the tech world you’re nobody (ugh, my brain was all “gotta get on Twitter, you’re turning 25 in a few months and what if you have a quarter-life crisis and decide to be in the tech world. You better have a Twitter handle ready in case that happens!”). I don’t use Facebook because it seems stressful to keep up appearances on four platforms as well as in person.

Being a designer makes this even harder. When someone finds me on Instagram, I want all my pictures to share an aesthetic and show that I care about colors, light, and subject matter. All too often, I take a picture of something I find funny and after applying five different filters and playing with the light levels realize that it doesn’t have a home on my feed. This constant curating makes my online presence feel like a brand. It’s taken on it’s own life, and the real parts of my life that I want to share don’t have a home there. And when I take a step back, I feel a bit vapid about the pale pink backgrounds and black and white pictures of people… that’s not showing who I am, it’s showing who I think I have to be.

So how do I navigate out of these waters? I’m one for quotes (not a surprise at this point) since they sum things up so much more succinctly and poetically than I can, so here’s one that helps me put my social media into perspective:

“Authenticity is not needing external approval to feel good about your actions.”

– Kate Arends

I should post the things that make me happy, not the things that will get me the most likes or more followers. My portfolio can be the place for aesthetics and soft lighting, my Instagram (and Twitter and Snapchat) should showcase the tiny moments that are authentic and not always beautiful.

– Melissa Grant

Inside My Head Melissa

“The mind that is not baffled is not employed.”

I took a bath last week (let me add that the bath was in addition to multiple showers). It was therapeutic in an unconventional way. I was feeling a little down and felt like I deserved an answer from the world on what’s next, and I thought a bath would help me sort things out. I try to remind myself that I don’t “deserve” things, that I need to work for them and I get that, but I think it would be nice if while I was driving down the proverbial highway of my life a sign said “Get off here.” I don’t need to know exactly what I’m doing off that exit – just that I got off at the right exit.

So back to the bath. I’m sitting there with my face inches from the water so that my hair is gently swaying below the surface. All the delicate strands crisscrossed. They made, dismantled, and remade shapes (there was a real fractal-like quality about it) and I wanted this beautiful moment–where I was so focused on the gentle movement of my hair–to reveal something about what I should do next. Spoiler alert: it did not. Looking back, it would have been bizarre if my hair spelled “humble” like Charlotte’s web…that would have been life changing because it would mean that I have lost my marbles completely and I’m not ready to deal with that kind of change.

I wonder why at times when we feel lost, we also feel a little hopeless. I don’t have the answer to that and I don’t have the answer on what my next life move should be, but I reminded myself that it’s okay – that while I’m lost, I’m not hopeless. In a few weeks or months or maybe even next year (please, world – don’t make me exercise patience for that long) I won’t feel lost, but in the meantime, I keep coming back to these words and they are very comforting:

“The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

– Wendell Berry

– Melissa Grant

Inside My Head Melissa

It’s Okay!

I often look at the New Year as a fresh start. A time to make resolutions, and, quite frankly, get my shit together, but this year I didn’t write a single resolution down. I didn’t want to beat myself up if I didn’t work out three times a week. I didn’t want to feel like a failure if I stress cried. And I certainly didn’t want to have a piece of paper floating around reminding me that I had accomplished exactly zero things. Not this year. I cruised into the New Year with a drink in my hand and zero resolutions in my planner. And I was only momentarily bummed when I realized we were an hour behind in Chicago and people there don’t watch the ball drop in Times Square. Not going to be bummed out this year by things out of my control! Instead, I watched a deep-dish pizza be dropped out of a window and hoped it wouldn’t be a euphemism for my year.

Well, it’s mid-January and I. am. bummed. I think a more accurate description is feeling unmotivated. Can I blame it on the cold? Or perhaps the recent disappointments that seem to be hiding around every corner at a certain location in the NW corner of DC? I can definitely blame a percentage of it on my American Airlines refund being pending for the last few weeks.

Okay, so back to the resolutions…I’m not writing them down, but they swim around in my head because the New Year is as good a time as any for setting good intentions. Instead of disappointing myself, I am keeping things a little more realistic this year. I’m going to try and be more on top of my commitments, be a better friend, and have a little more self love. And if I slip on one of these, then I’m okay with that. It’s okay! This year my resolutions are to do the best I can, to ask for help, and to be okay when things go awry.

I can have all of the best intentions in the world and goals galore, but I probably will not achieve them all and I’m fine with that.

To 2016 – I hope it’s a year where we all continuously get back on the horse, even if that metaphorical horse hides all winter and is replaced by Malbec and nap time.

– Melissa Grant

Ashley Karen Libby Melissa New Friends

We’re Not Very Good at Selfies

Last night, I had a celebratory thank you dinner with most of our amazing bloggers. Libby, Ashley and Melissa joined me for an evening full of stories, laughs and advice over delicious eats and wine. Sadly, Karen wasn’t able to join us since a cross-country flight seemed a bit excessive for dinner, though we hope to all be together sometime soon.

I adore these women, and I wanted to take just a moment to thank them for sharing their time, insights and wisdom with our Good for the Soul Creative Community. They each bring diverse points of view, unique experiences and a worldview that is wholly their own. Yet, in all this, I believe they share a common core. Melissa, Ashley, Libby and Karen each approach the world with enthusiasm and a genuine interest in getting to know those around them. They want to understand their friends, family and colleagues and know what’s important to them. They want to be there to celebrate accomplishments and provide support when things go sideways. And they’re generous with their thoughts, which is incredibly valuable. They share what’s happening in their heads, which makes it each to connect with them and make it safe to share your own thoughts. I’m incredibly lucky to have them all in my life, and I value them tremendously.

And while we’re impressively good at some things, selfies clearly isn’t one of those things (I’ll take all the blame for this one). But we’re good at appreciating great company and that’s the most important thing. Thank you to these women for sharing themselves and thank you for sharing in this journey with us.

Melissa, Catherine, Ashley and Libby (and Karen in spirit!)
How to be Awesome Melissa

An Accountability Partner

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I often fall short with my follow through. I let my self slide on things I should be taking more seriously, mostly because the only person it affects is me (don’t let me get you wrong, I let others down too, and Ashley explains the feeling well here). I tell myself more often than I’d like to admit that it’s okay to push something to next week or next month seems like a fine time to finally start x. Perhaps you do it, too. If so, I’m glad I’m not alone.

There are a few items in my life that I don’t push around and these are items where people have an indirect dependency on me to be there. I go to work everyday because my team expects me to be there, and I go to German every week because I have classmates that count on me being there. But, and this is a big but, if I have to do something that isn’t a “necessary” then you can find me writing it down and putting “January 2016???” next to it. I then happily talk myself into the fact that January seems like a great time to start x, and yes Melissa, you can absolutely take a nap this afternoon and then proceed to nap in every room of the house for the rest of the evening. YIKES.

So I started thinking that I need to have more accountability in my life. I need to have check-ins on my progress, and that’s when I came across the idea of having an accountability partner. Someone to help me hold myself responsible for those important, but not necessarily urgent, items in my life.

I imagine that my accountability partner and I would check in weekly at a designated time to share our successes (as well as any setbacks). The hope is that when I feel myself slipping during the week I would remember to not make little compromises and then rationalize them, but to think of my weekly report, to remind myself to keep up with my goals, and to keep morale up for her so she also stays accountable.

A few items I’m thinking of including on my future accountability list include: monitoring how much I spend on clothing each month, how much progress I’ve made in my currently secret small-batch craft company, and perhaps parlaying accountability into work items, like purposefully checking emails at certain times throughout the day versus whenever my Outlook app pings me. Other items I think would be nice to add later on (and I imagine they can change monthly) include me time, hobbies, and even reading 50+ pages from a book each week.

Has anyone else tried this? If so, let me know your process, how you keep each other accountable, and what makes a great accountability partnership.

– Melissa Grant

Inside My Head Melissa

The Importance of Routine

By definition, routine is a series of actions that we repeat daily and without much thought. These repetitive tasks are often the most mundane moments of life, but for some, routine is sacred – a ritual that keeps life glued together.

I love the idea of having routines, of having a moment that is the same today as it was 10 weeks ago; there’s comfort in that, there’s solace in it’s simplicity. But I don’t have any. Every day is different, every morning and every evening are new terrain for me. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I gave up on any semblance of structure (I don’t even set an alarm), but now I’m sitting here waving my white flag because I desperately need to create routines. I need to spend less energy wishing my life had order and more energy into creating order.

I googled “how to set routines” and the first result was “1. Wake at 4:30 a.m.” Well, that routine seems like it would require too much energy (how would I ever make it to noon, let alone dinner). I need to start smaller, but first, a confession: it is a rare occurrence that I wash my face before bed. It sounds downright glamorous to carve out 20 minutes at night where I light a candle, wash my face, brush my teeth, and then stretch. But goodness, how does one make themselves do that every night? Are routines something you have to force for awhile? Albeit uncomfortable, and possibly annoying?

I’m going to try a little experiment for the next week and do my best to hold myself to a nighttime routine. Routines are not created in a day, but for the next week I’m going to introduce a consistent pattern to my evenings in hopes that a little structure will leave me feeling calmer and more appreciate of the art of slowing down.

Here’s to hoping it sticks and to little victories.

– Melissa Grant

Awesomeness in the World Melissa

Are You Having a Good Time?

From a New York Times essay titled “The Myth of Quality Time” by Frank Bruni:

“People tend not to operate on cue,” Bruni writes. “At least our moods and emotions don’t. We reach out for help at odd points; we bloom at unpredictable ones.”

This line was referenced on the NYTimes homepage as a lead to the greater essay. It resonated with me instantly. I get along wonderfully with my parents and siblings. I’m always a little shocked when I find out friends don’t communicate with a sibling who is only a few years older or younger. However, when scheduled family times approach on the calendar for upcoming weekends, or worse, holidays, I find myself dreading this time. I panic a little. I wonder where we are going to eat, will the restaurant have food my mother likes (she’s vegan), will they have beer that my stepdad likes (only stouts these days), what will I put on the itinerary (what if they hate it), and how many times will we be insincere. We’re tough on each other, but we all bruise easily. The phrase “you can dish it, but you can’t take it” should be our family motto. I certainly heard it enough growing up.

I love the suggestion that “…our moods and emotions [don’t work on cue].” I’m persistently anxious when my parents are in town. I ask them if they are having a good time upwards of 5 times a day. And I know that must be obnoxious, but I just want to make sure they are happy, when, in reality, I’m making everyone stand on their tiptoes to force a good time.

I need to think of ways that are more spontaneous to show them how much I love them – more than mundane texts, and more than the weekly phone call. I need to ask them about their days, their passions, and what they want to accomplish in the next year. I need to surprise visit them on a weekend that is very much unplanned. I need to finally ask my sister why her nickname for me is Regina.

Back to Bruni. I wrote the above paragraphs before reading the essay. Now, having read it, I encourage you to read it as well but if you’re short on time below is my favorite excerpt:

“With a more expansive stretch, there’s a better chance that I’ll be around at the precise, random moment when one of my nephews drops his guard and solicits my advice about something private. Or when one of my nieces will need someone other than her parents to tell her that she’s smart and beautiful. Or when one of my siblings will flash back on an incident from our childhood that makes us laugh uncontrollably, and suddenly the cozy, happy chain of our love is cinched that much tighter.”

– Melissa Grant

Inside My Head Melissa

Being Present

I wanted my first post to be good, honest, and something you’d like to read, but last week held a lot of events that even when written down and made flashy with em dashes and explanation points ended up being not very good at all. The phrase “Should I write about this?” has been said multiple times over the past week, but my mind has been elsewhere, too foggy to concentrate on that question. I’ve been constantly going over the to-do list in my head and adding new bullets and pushing other “to-dos” further into the future.

“Why don’t you write about that?” The “that” in that question is the list I made late last week, which was not a to-do list or not intended to be a to-do list, but a things-I-absolutely-need-to-be-happier list. This list included everything from “I need to be more self-confident” to “I need to buy a vacuum” (really opening up to myself on that last one, I know).

Perhaps it’s the endlessness of summer heat, but I am having a hard time staying present and it’s wearing on me. I am overwhelmed, I have a pinch of sadness, and I am desperately looking forward to October – a month that currently has few to-dos.

There’s something about the DC humidity that causes me, in very real and very inconvenient ways, to lose my mind. I find it hard to focus. I get easily upset about minor things. I cram too much into every day, or I do nothing at all. It’s a challenge to stay present – to hear stories, to remember conversations, to appreciate sensations: sights and touches, the heat of a September afternoon.

My roommate, Ben, came home last week to find me mid list making and close to tears. He had work to do and I had a to-do list that felt miles long, but instead, we went for a walk. We left the apartment with no destination and ended up getting ice cream.

“Can you believe,” I said “with everything we have to do tonight, we’re doing this?”

I took a spoonful. It was a flavor made with spices and the man behind the counter had informed me that despite being cold, it would taste scalded.

I ate for a moment, and thought. I closed my eyes. I lost myself in the act of tasting, which, for only a moment, seemed to require my full attention.

“Are you getting it?” Ben asked.

I looked up. Yes, I said, I was.

– Melissa Grant

Melissa New Friends

Introducing Melissa Grant

I’m so impressed by this woman. Melissa is the definition of wise beyond her years. Like most of us, she’s figuring out her way in the world, but is doing so in a way that makes me think there’s an amazing soundtrack playing in her head. She’s caring, positive and taking in everything around her. She has an amazing ability to prioritize the million things coming at her and get her business handled – and I mean handled. If you ask her to do it, it’s done, and that seems to be an increasingly rare quality these days. I met Melissa a little more than a year ago, and one of the things that first drew me to her was her desire to help people. She and I share a passion for outstanding customer service and delight in the ability to meet a need and go the extra mile. Whether it’s a design client or someone looking for that perfect outfit, Melissa will make sure you are well taken care of. I’m thrilled she’s open to sharing her musings with us here in our Creative Community, and I can’t wait for us to get a glimpse into her world.

Melissa Grant (Malbec and ukulele not pictured)

Hi! I’m Melissa, nice to meet you. I am delighted to be here and to get a chance to share a few of things that cross my consciousness every week.

I’m a designer at The American Institute of Architects (where I met Catherine and Ashley!) and I’m a part-time sales associate at Anthropologie. Since moving to DC in 2013, I’ve found new homes and new friends, eaten my weight in happy hour appetizers, watched friends fall, (and have fallen myself). I’ve teetered and tottered, failed, and taken flight. I’ve learned (and am still learning) to embrace the discomfort and uncertainty of growing up. I’ve gotten better at learning my character flaws and not so much better at fixing them but I’m trying! Overall, it’s been an exciting, albeit-scary-but-mostly-happy journey.

I’m looking forward to telling stories here, posting a little about art and other curiosities, but mostly, I’m looking forward to being honest, to getting things out of my head, and to sharing.

On a personal note:

Star sign / Taurus

Personality characteristics / Optimistic, superstitious, silly

Current hobbies / Playing the ukulele and taking German I at George Washington University

Drink of choice / Malbec (in the evening of course)

I’m so glad I’m here. Thank you for reading.

– Melissa Grant