Online perfection and appearances

I’m laughing at myself as I do a few updates on the backend of this site – my last posts have had one-word titles, and the design is attempting that minimal/hipster flare that’s so popular (or was last year, or two years ago? I’m out of touch). But the backend is so ridiculously complex and messy – likely the result of the many renditions of this site that have been published throughout the years.

I think it’s suggestive, and more than a little ironic, that all my attempts for a “minimalist” design and style have created a behind the scenes that is such the opposite of that. As I uninstall plugins that are no longer used or useful, I’m convinced that my blog should be used more often and perhaps more openly to reflect who I am instead of who I’d like to be. I’ve seen this complaint with the growing popularity of Instagram – we ‘grammers tend to put up pictures of the most perfect or enviable parts of our lives. (To be fair, these are the ones that get the most likes.)

But sometimes the mess behind is bigger than the perfection on top… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I began thinking about this while making breakfast this morning. I was making pancakes, which were beautiful (and delicious).

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But sadly, the making of them was far messier than this picture betrays. See?

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I don’t think it’s fair to discount the beauty and tastiness of a gorgeous plate of pancakes just because the chef is messy. But it’s also not fair to lead you on and make you think that these pancakes sprang into being with no effort or mess.

So there. That is my new blogging manifesto – probably influenced by the 1+ year that I’ve spent working in marketing and communications… researching, crafting strategies, and publishing for the purpose of engagement. While that’s absolutely important, I don’t feel the need to be that person as an individual online.

Perhaps we’d all be much happier online if we freed ourselves from the chains of perfectly represented lives and personal branding…

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Predictability

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I recently read a few posts about the new slow blogging movement that’s been going around (here & here), and obviously, I’ve been on that bandwagon for quite a while now, since my last post was over a month ago.

Ahem.

Slow as my blogging is, I’m afraid that my life has not slowed down for one instant. It, is, of course, a bit less busy than during the school year, but work has kept me busy. Now that I’m a bit more into the routine of the 9-5(s) that aren’t really adequately described as 9-5(s) (they’re both very different jobs and environments doing some of the same things), it’s time to make a move back towards academia.

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I have a paper that has been both put off and forgotten about for too long, thesis research to get back into. I got a stack of Sherlock adaptations out of the library this evening, wistfully thinking that maybe I would be able to watch them (perhaps I’m yearning to do another Sherlock project?). And there’s the non-academic stuff – Honors orientation schedule to think about (someone elected me president, help!) and a theatre event to work on.

Maybe this is just me writing out my to-do list (it is), but it’s also a reflection on how my summer is about to change. And if God has anything to do with it, I suspect this summer (and this year) will not be as predictable as that list in the paragraph above.

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I’m not sure if I value predictability, or if I’m just unnerved enough by it that I sit there dazed in the corner while it swirls round and round my head. Given my familiarity with the latter description, I suspect that predictability does, in fact, unnerve me. Perhaps that’s why I love academia – because there’s never really boredom in the day-to-day.

Funny story though.

Once upon a time (not too long ago), I thought my life would roll along on the familiar tread of a path trod by many-a-graduating-senior before me. Not too long ago, I was sure of my biggest challenge in life, and knew exactly what lay ahead.

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But not too long after that, God decided to knock me upside the head and remind me that He’s not a huge fan of predictability either (not a tame lion, after all). So for the first time in my life, I’m sitting at a place where I know the next thing I need to do – the next conversation I need to have, or the next thing I need to fill out – but that’s it. That’s literally all I know about my future right now and it’s scary. And exciting, but definitely not predictable. So while I have one more year of undergrad to go, the rest of it is up in the air, as unpredictable as life sometimes should be.

So, friend, I may not be able to tell you what those conversations are or what my next step is. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that God delights in unpredictability because it is where I am most vulnerable, and that is where He has the opportunity to be visibly powerful.

And that’s okay. And perhaps a godsend.

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Focus

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Now that I work throughout the week, my days often consist of projects upon projects upon projects. Plus technology issues come my way (I was called the tech guru today!), which is awesome because I love problem-solving. However, it also means that my brain is going 20 places at one time, not allowing me to concentrate on anything for a long period of time. I think it was a relief at the end of my day to trace some of the drawings done by kids for next week’s church bulletin (youth sunday!), because I was able to sit down and focus on something as simple as tracing a pencil drawing with a sharpie pen.

Focus. That’s always been difficult for me in the short-term. In the long-term, I like to think that I’m focused. I know what I’m doing, and I know what I want to do in the future (up to a point of like, 2 years, okay? I don’t exactly have my life planned out because no one has their life realistically planned out at 20). Anyways. The short-term is harder though. This week. This month. This semester. I’m really good at doing way too much, and taking on too many projects at once, which means that I can’t give adequate focus to all of them. For instance, my thesis proposal this past semester turned out pretty good, but it could have been great had I actually focused on it a month earlier (when I was at conferences).

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Perhaps my summer spiritual practice will need to concentrate on this particular shortcoming. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been able to unplug when I come home in the evenings, and focus on doing something with my hands. Lately, that’s been cooking and putting together jigsaw puzzles on the dining room table. Just something as simple as following a recipe requires focus and thought. I tend to just toss ingredients into pans and go from there, but this evening, I actually followed a recipe. I knew it was going to be good as soon as I dumped the spice while sautéing the garlic and peppers. This smells right. It’s going to be good. But I had to slow down long enough in order to get there.

I’ve also been trying to establish a Bible-reading routine, which again, requires me to focus. I’m enjoying being interested in reading the book that I profess faith with, because it was never something that appealed to me before. But a new translation and attempting to disturb my gendered mental image of God has been helping. Bible reading and prayer are tenets of Christian practice, and yet I have never been able to consistently do either of them. I’m attempting contemplative prayer a few days each week, which is really hard. If you’ve never tried it, it’s essentially the Christian meditative form of prayer – and sitting there trying to focus on God is hard when you have twenty things running through your head and God seems like the least exciting of all of them. Focus is hard.

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So I’m curious. If you’re reading this, and empathizing with me, or nodding along because this sounds so familiar – what are some of the practices you partake in that help you focus? I want to hear them!

p.s. perhaps ironically, the pictures accompanying this post are all visually centered on focus itself. That was not intentional, but is certainly suggestive.