I don’t read one book at a time. Every day my mind is balancing a dozen bundles of characters, plots, and faraway lands. Some books I devour with urgency. I am ravenous as I flip through pages as fast as my eyes can take me, my mind carried by gusts of wild curiosity.
Other books are gentler. I read, floating through sentences and sifting through words. There is a sweetness and slowness to this type of reading. Sometimes I stop, deep within a fairytale and bound to characters that only exist within the boundaries of the page. I uncap my pen and write down a few lovely bits of language or wit, and sail back into the story.
As humans, our minds crave novelty. Sometimes we drown in the monotonous rhythm of everyday life. Sometimes we want life through another lens—a chance to be whom we never will. My natural limitations prevent me from ever being a princess, an engineer, or the president. I am not of royal blood; I have no interest in engineering, and have very little knowledge about politics. Everything is possible, and yet it is not. I can do most anything, but I can’t do everything; I can chose what I do, but I can’t chose what I like to do (a point Gretchen Rubin makes throughout her works). Despite the limitations and preferences of my innermost self, my mind is quenched by tales of what would be, had I been someone else.
I am not particularly an adventurous soul. I have no restless desire to hike Mount Everest, skydive, or free-climb in canyons. To be quite plain, I am not envious of the adrenaline junkies, nor do I devalue their interests. I prefer to read of their lives while sipping coffee in a tiny shop in a quaint little town. To me, that is adventure. A picnic. Climbing gangly trees with thick branches and lime foliage. The sunshine on my cheeks and nose while bodysurfing, and the ice-cold spray of salt water. Picking apples or pumpkins or strawberries on the side of the road. Reading.
Understanding that you can’t help what you like to do, regardless of all the things you physically can do, is powerful. You might want to like traveling to foreign countries. You might want to like chemistry. But if you’d rather be riding a beach cruiser down the Santa Monica boardwalk than hitting the bars, or doing the extra statistics problems from the back of the book than reading Twilight, embrace it. One of my best friends loves cognitive science, and the other happily geeks over biology. My brother’s schooling and job revolves around finance. My dad’s eyes light up if you say entrepreneurship, and my mom is an editor that studied biochemistry. We all have our niche. We all have that subject that ignites us with passion and motivation. It’s intrinsic and special and sometimes weird.
While mulling this over (and finishing Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin’s newest book), I decided to make a list of things I like to do. It took most of the day indirectly. A few minutes here and there meant a few bullet points or words at a time. I forced myself to be unconcerned with the potential (and imagined) snarky comments of peers—while writing my list, I wasn’t to be bothered with wondering if the things I liked to do were fun enough, mature enough, spontaneous enough. Here are the first few...
- Practice my handwriting
- Listen to the Anna Karenina soundtrack / nature sounds / celtic flutes
- Be in the ocean (all day, if possible)
- Eat pancakes
- Paint, draw, glue, sew, cut stitch...
- Nap in a little cocoon nest of blankets and pillows. Preferably with a breezy window or lazy ceiling fan, and an ice cold glass of lemonade at the bedside table for mid-snoozing thirst-quenching
- Watch Christmas movies
- Swim, hike, run in the rain (simply being outside)
- Walk in pretty neighborhoods
I had to be real for these bits of introspection to help me better understand myself. We all do—need to be real, that is. I had dinner Wednesday night with one of my close friends who is a year younger than me. We were talking about parties, and how to us they are fun for a bit, but then we just want to watch movies or bake or eat. And you know what? That’s fine. Sometimes I feel like as much as parties are glorified on college campuses, and “everyone” seems to think they’re fun, there must be a few people who have been pretending (+ vice versa). Like author Gretchen Rubin realizing in the midst of her law career that she really wanted to write—and not about law—being genuine and truthful with yourself is essential to happiness.
Make your own list. Be 100% open with yourself and dig deep. If you could plan the perfect day for yourself, dawn to dusk, what would be on the agenda? If we take this step to be truthful with ourselves and really be introspective, I think this just might lead to deeper friendships, more explorative and inquisitive minds, and happier hearts. The key is to stop worrying about being cool or prestigious or smart. You owe it to yourself to be honest, and to prioritize what it is that makes your eyes light up and heart overflow.
One last thought: remember to push yourself to try something brand spanking new once in a while. Whatever it is—Zumba or camping or hot air balloon rides—might just make it on your future list, too. (And potentially stitch itself close to your heart, broaden your horizons, draw you closer to others, and gift you with a new perspective.) Saying "yes" can change your world.