When I was a tot in Texas, letter writing always represented an ancient, almost mystical practice. It was something novelists, and thinkers, and the famous participated in. You could see them sometimes in plexiglass boxes at museums, but they were not something common to daily life. People wrote letters to the child they sponsored (but I believe used the term "adopted") across the three worlds. I remember constantly checking a book out of the library that had the addresses of companies that would send you free samples and stickers if you wrote to them. Thank you letters were to be written after every birthday and Christmas but I promise you I saw no magic there. But these felt like a watered down version. Real letter writing seemed powerful like another language. And it wasn't until I moved that I really tried my hand at it.
Things change. Things stay the same. Recently I have been thinking about where I am. About progress and regression. I am thirty after all, and that's as good a year as any to wonder and wander, gathering things to your chest. Perhaps it is a good year for a transition. They say that people get more done on decade eve years (29/39/49/59). This fits with my trajectory. Last year, I really hammered my Shipwreck goals, but I'd associate that less with fear of oncoming thirtyness and more with the fact that it was a breaking point for my Shipwreck plan. I had been working on this concept for 5 years, and I hadn't done a craft show, made any sales to speak of, hadn't really met any fellow makers. And so as I returned to New York from living at home, it was really important to me to give Shipwreck a full on, heave-ho, college try and if it didn't work out, then I'd move on. SPOILER ALERT: it went really well.
"Where are you going?" the woman asks incredulously to the boy toddling around the library stacks. As with any disembodied voice, it speaks directly to me. Where am I going? A question to shadow the young, to patronize the grown. This past month I have been less than fully employed (dog sitting and dog walking do not quite ends meet make), and it has been a mess of feeling. It is a tangled path surely. This month has felt like two at least, time being an endless ribbon, long and leading over and under itself. But within this multitudinous month, I have found freedom. Though there is twice the worry when money has not been settled, whenever I have found myself in my home office without all the things that count as busy, I have begun to learn the steps of running a business full time. Its baseline melody. Its stirring of limbs.
It's 2018! I'm saying it mostly to remind myself, as I step forward, that something momentous has undergone(girl)! It occurred mostly by hand. My hand! Actually, both of them. After so many years, (I believe I first had the idea for Shipwreck in 2011) I have had a whirlwind year of being a business, instead of being a guy who has an idea about starting a business. I've even started saying "I own a stationery company" instead of "I'm starting a stationery company," because well, now it feels wrong to say I'm starting. I have passed gestation. And though I won't spend this whole article listing my accomplishments in 2017 (I'm gonna brag a little, though) it's important to bask in the reward that work can be. The work of making something from nothing. Of making a viewmaster out of stacks of paper. Of making a website out of words and clicks and minutes. Of making a flipping business from an idea I had on a phonecall with my friend Natasha two years after graduating college. Instead I'm gonna write about three things I've learned this past year.
I'm working on stillness these days. Stillness of mind and stillness of body. Boredom and stability. I recently discovered in some dark winding Instagram hallway a craft business stranger who had made the move from Brooklyn to Austin to focus on her craft business. The exact opposite of the move I made. And as she expounded up on the ways in which the simplicity of her Austin routine (in the most impactful instance, hanging out in springs and beautiful natural waterways) had fine tuned much of her life. And I felt such a wash of modern existential muck. The guilt from veering so far off the well lit passages of connection that social media delivers best. The shrinking feeling of comparing and feeling wanting. The brain fog of self doubt. The jealousy, the fear, the bargaining, the projection, the passion, the flame and the smoke from the smoldering.
As I leave behind boring day job life (well, night job life) for the slim-fitting and glamorous exploits of a crafter, I am still working on finding a few things. A routine, a schedule, and most importantly some solace from the anxiety of feeling responsible for my time and also pulled in the many directions of how to use it (learn Spanish! practice piano! yoga! home improvement! marie kondo your room! go on a trip!). All the while I must be careful not to blow through my millions, and to escape it all with a healthy brain and body. This is only my first week, but I can tell you. It's not easy. I have been talking to Bearcat about how to stay zen while being in the apartment most of the day and how to regiment my time, and she's mostly kept tight lipped about it, but I'm pretty sleuthy and have managed to squeeze a few tips out of her.
How about help? You can only help yourself if you admit that you need help. And we all need help in an roundabout way, because we need people. Even shut-ins like myself (especially shut-ins like myself). But what is it about the idea of self-help that is so elusive, so prickly, while the idea of doing better, feeling better, looking better is considered an ideal. I think a lot of the disparaging looks given towards self-help come from the quiet confidence of having simple answers. I completely get it. The real truth about being a human person in this beautiful chaotic world, is that we quite simply don't know what's going on. Every day we learn more and more about the science, the mathematics, even the social tendencies of our great smashed up globe and the fuzzy little people on it. And every day we learn how much we cannot know. And yet the upturned noses towards self-help heroes are particularly problematic when we look at the open-armed embrace of the newest, bestest diet that stigmatizes food, offers work out short cuts and promises to save you time and money. ITS SO EASY. These are two sides of the same coin it must seem. But I must beg to disagree.
A few years ago, I picked up a little project called 100 days of happy, or some such thing as one would take in a stray, with care without knowing why. I may have even written about it here before. The project consisted of taking a picture (or in my case, writing a few hundred words) of/on something that makes you happy, for 100 days. I can go on forever w/r/t the elastic nature of the word happy, but it is a good cue for writing. And as it were, I've been thinking about the word happy quite often recently. In Mike Mill's new film, 20th Century Women the mother's response when asked if she's happy is (to paraphrase) "asking if you're happy is just a great shortcut to being miserable." The punchline is sharp and wry and it says a lot about the character delivering it. But as I get older, I find myself a little more in line with that sentiment. Obsessing over happiness is not directly related to finding contentment (obsession does not tend to lead anywhere warm and safe). The hounds hunting happiness are not necessarily there to help you look down and examine what you have, and often the hunt for self approval is actually about others. To jam one more quote in here, let's hit up the father of our national parks, Teddy Roosevelt who called comparison "the thief of joy."
I had imagined looking at my 20's from a few different angles in these coming weeks, but honestly that sounds a little boring to me (and I am me). But in this very bizarre and alarming time in America, I do want to talk about one more aspect of my 20s. One that is very important to me. Learning. Not book learning precisely, but the kind of learning that comes from slowly dissolving your egoic, always-right (correct) brain. The learning to overcome my intense addiction to telling lies and exaggerating stories. My conquering of my complete know-it-all stance toward conversation, replaced with a more conciliatory, receptive, listening version of myself. Even someone who, when they know they are right, can simply let it go (this one I'm still working on). Does any of this make sense? Let's delve in.
I'm going to turn 30 this year. And every time I think of it (once I get over the initial shock) I remind myself that I've been looking forward to this age for quite some time now. Which may sound a bit odd, unless you know that I have felt 30 for the past five years. I've always been a dinner party and prep your meals for the week kind of guy. And now that I've exercised my self-care muscles for a few years, I'm awfully excited for my 30s. Though I won't be able to make the much coveted Craftactular Magazine's 30 under 30 (and not just because I just made that magazine up), my twenties will go down as a truly wonderful time of experience, experiments, friendship, love, and learning. And after my declaration of intention for this my thirtieth year on this blue-green world, I thought I'd expand for a few weeks on my roaring twenties.
A place for product updates, inspiration, behind the scenes stuff, and in general a place for mind meandering.