About Jen

I started the "Be Nice. Project" as a way to remind people of basic social courtesies that are becoming less prevalent in our day to day interactions. Over time it has grown to consider self-improvement, and keeping a positive, purposeful attitude in even dreary situations. I hope this sort of dialogue will bring about a greater trend toward expansive social courtesy, compassion, and kindness in simple and complex ways.

The Rather Unobligatory Gratitude Post

It’s 6:30 in the morning and I am wide awake. For the first time in over three years, I have the day after Thanksgiving off work, which has created an unprecedented level of excitement for the holiday season in me this year. No, I’m not planning on the ridiculous trek through stores at midnight on Black Friday. I’d rather pay a higher price and avoid all that madness, though shopping in my jammies sounds pretty comfortable. Historically my holiday is punctuated by a mid-week day off and a hurried dinner on a Saturday. It was never as much to enjoy because I felt overly busy and had a to-do list too high. As you know, I’ve quit following my to-do lists. The lists still exist, but for the most part they are ignored.

Actually, my excitement is stemming from the real purpose of this season: gratitude. This morning I work up (when I normally would drag my butt from bed for work, but without an alarm – how unusual!) and felt motivated not just to roll out of bed, but to share my gratitude. So, here is my list of awesome things – with a few random ones thrown in.

New jobs. Since my last Thanksgiving, my husband has settled into a research role at a very amazing and exciting “green” company. It has brought him an amazing degree of happiness, often waking from bed at 5am just to go research more ideas. His company values him and supports his ideas. Then in April I began my new job. It, too, is wonderful. The people are professional and the environment is supportive and cordial. My new ideas and suggestions are valued and welcomed there; and they are acted upon. Yes, that’s right, they use my ideas! What a blessing. I feel inspired and respected by my bosses, I feel valued as a member of a team of great people. And the people I help enjoy what I can offer. Along with our new happiness has brought a degree of financial security that previously had not existed ever before. There is much to be grateful for in this department!

Home. I live in this wonderful, spacious and bright apartment on the second floor of a two-family home. My neighbor is a sweet, wonderful elderly woman for whom I have grown a tremendous degree of love and affection (though I should visit her more…). I came by this place because of my wonderful friend – my “New York sister,” I call her – and her terrific husband. My kitchen is huge, I own my very first washer and love not going to the laundry mat. We are just blocks from a bus stop and just a few miles from our jobs, making having one car continually efficient for our lifestyle. I have a couch that is so cushy my friends relish a “sleep-over” just to bunk on it. And we have been blessed with great technology, quiet neighbors, a back yard, and plenty of space.

Warm water. May sound silly, but we should all be grateful for this. So many places have limited water resources. So many don’t have clean water or even running water and septic systems in their home. But daily I am a spoiled person. I take a shower under warm running water. I use a toilet that flushes with water. I can give no thought to filling my glass and drinking an unlimited amount of water. I feel safe drinking it because my city provides it and the government regulates its levels of cleanliness. I am daily grateful for water.

Love. My life has been filled with it. I feel tremendous love for people in my life, and have been blessed with the return of love by many. I have parents who have been good to me, siblings with whom I feel an affectionate connection rather than a negative one, a husband who is supportive and kind and good-natured, friends who value me for my personality and care about what happens in my life. Indeed I am very blessed.

Family. Friends. See love. Then add about 150 aunts, uncles, cousins and their kids and spouses, grandparents, step-families, and in-laws. And all of them? They are great. Really great. Good people. Warm people. Kind people. If I needed something, I know I could call my uncles or my aunts and they would help me. As a matter of fact – sometimes I don’t even have to ask. My cousins and I all share a connection and care for one another – we all grew up together and know the value of family. And my in-laws are as special to me as my own blood relatives – terrific people with warm hearts. And my amazing, awesome friends. They are every where, they are filled with glowing enthusiasm. Overall outstanding people with marvelous talents. Having them in my life has defined my character.

Civil rights. As a woman in America, I get to wake every day and know I can vote, make my own decisions, wear what I please, and worship or not worship as I see fit. I can choose whether or not to have a child and when. I decide who I marry, where I live, what I do for work, what I eat, and how I would like to speak and represent myself. I was able to marry for love. I speak my mind and have my independence. I am very fortunate.

Nature. Parks, hiking trails, lots of trees, wild grass lands…. I am very grateful for Forever Wild land in NY, for state parks and conservation programs. I admire people who turn their yards into edible gardens. I am thrilled by the environmental protection movements to make this world a good place to continue to live in.

Pie. Cake. Ice cream. Seriously. I love dessert.

Sex. It’s awesome.

Color, creativity. Just about as important to me as the blood in my body and oxygen in the air. It is what gives the day its spark and what gets me excited. Those who have this intrinsic ability to generate ideas, to act on them, and to find unusual resourceful solutions to problems… they are inspirations to me.

Thumbs. Think about it. Opposable thumbs have been so important and are really useful little phalanges. I love my thumbs, fingers, and toes.

The breeze. Whether I’m shooting it, or feeling it on my skin… it’s something that life wouldn’t be complete without.

Breakfast. For all meals – it is quite possibly the best.

Scarves and stocking caps. I love me some winter wear.

Health insurance. I wish healthcare was free for all, but since it isn’t I am just happy to have insurance so I don’t have to worry about becoming hopelessly in debt if my appendix ruptures or something.

Good health. We’ve been pretty fortunate in this department – me and my husband. I’m hoping for many more years of good health and improved lifestyle changes to make that more likely.

Our Jeep. 210,000 miles and she’s still rolling. Here’s hoping we make it to 300k!

The ability to walk. Sometimes when I am sitting all day, I think about how lucky I am that I may get up and walk around (without pain, struggle, or a second thought).

Modern technology. I really like having electricity and internet and refrigerators and washing machines and computers and cell phones and cars and radios and television and medical advances and calculators and airplanes. Pretty neat stuff.

Smiling. I don’t know how the smile and the laugh came into existence, but I don’t believe there is a better sound or a nicer thing to see than a genuine smile. 🙂

You. Thanks for reading. Thanks for caring! Thank you for your ideas and comments. Thanks for being a good person. Thanks for giving me your time. Thanks for being thankful!

Happy Turkey Day, everyone.

Fight in flight

How does it feel to be between two groups of angry people in an airplane aisle who seem bound and determined to start a fist fight, you may ask? Well. Let me tell you!

Recently my husband and I made our sort-of regular trip to Iowa to see our family. The usual surprises ensued; my niece has blossomed into a sweet three-year-old with a charming smile uttering full-blown sentences, my nephew had grown a good 7 inches (they say he’ll be 6 foot 7 inches as an adult! And yes, that is pretty normal in my clan…), and my sister is about to burst with her first baby still in belly. All very pleasant surprises that don’t sink in via Skype.

In all my years flying around the country, this was the first trip my luggage was not at the carousel when I returned, the first trip I almost missed my connection, and my first I thought I would get a black eye or be tackled by airline security. The first two weren’t a big deal – they worked out. But, man, didn’t like the last one!

Our plan boarded at 5:30 in the morning after a short delay. Jake and I took our seats in row 5 across the aisle from a young woman with embroidery floss wrapped around a strand of hair (the 90’s are coming back, people!) and her son of six or seven years old. Shortly later, a young man in his early twenties paused at our row.

“This is my seat,” he stated apologetically. The young mother looked up in surprise, “Oh my goodness – they didn’t seat me with my son?! Why would they do that?” She was exasperated. “Where is his seat? I’ll take it,” the man said lightly. Off he went to row 12, and I was reminded how kind and decent people can be. Luckily after the plane was fully boarded, the young man was moved back near his buddies in row 3 for the duration of the flight.

We sat waiting for the plan to take off, learning the airport had not submitted the flight paperwork to the FAA. Finally after 45 minutes, we left the gate and jetted into the clouds. It was an uneventful journey; the mother fed her son cookies and a soda pop at 7 in the morning (!) and proceeded to “shhh” him louder than he spoke for the duration of the trip. I could live with that – at least he was a pretty good kid and the pilot was making up time.

At some point the empty seats behind the mother filled with a woman and her purse, which was surely a way for the lady to get out of the plane more quickly than otherwise. As the seat belt light went off at our gate everyone pounced into the aisle to get their feet off the plane swiftly as possible. Jake and I had accepted we might miss our connection, but I still popped in the line – I wasn’t losing my place either!

The young man from before approached and asked (with a smile) to get to the back of the plane. Everyone grunted and moved aside. Moments later he made his way back up the line to row three with his bag. The woman who had moved mid-flight into row 6 and an angry-looking man behind her ignored his approach.

I said politely, “I think that young man is trying to get through.”

“Too bad,” the lady scoffed.

“He can wait – not my problem,” said the man as he rolled his eyes. Shocked and angry, I turned away. How rude!

“Excuse me – can I get through please?” the young man politely asked, flashing his nice smile (dimples and all). The cranky woman and man let him pass, but as he did the angry  man scoffed, “Be more organized next time, buddy.”

“Hmph – no kidding!” said the lady.

My blood was boiling – could this be seriously happening? I glanced around the cabin – it felt smaller by the second. I could feel tension building as the young man passed me by with a dimming grin on his incredibly red face.

“Hey guys, I guess I need to be more organized next time,” the young man sarcastically joked to his buddies. They bellowed in laughter, shaking their heads and looking resentfully at the couple behind me. Little me – the only separation between Team Rude and Team Passive Aggressive. I wasn’t feeling very confident I could hold the line.

“There’s just a whole other degree of ‘stupid’ on planes these days isn’t there?” the angry man behind me remarked to his rude aisle buddy. “Gets worse every damn time,” she snidely replied, “Freaking idiots!”

I swallowed hard as I saw the young man glare back at the rude pair. More sarcastic comments erupted from his group of buddies, louder and louder as they continued. How long it would be before someone said something to begin a brawl? I watched desperately for the first person to de-board the plane.

If only Team Rude knew about the young man’s good deed which put him in this predicament that had so inconvenienced them. Would it make a difference, I wondered? My desire for peace got the better of me. “You know,” I said quietly to the woman, “The reason he had to go back there was because he had given his seat up to this little boy and then the flight attendant moved him back up front with his pals after he had stowed his bag. He didn’t plan on getting moved around I think.” I looked hopefully in her eyes.

She shrugged and looked away.

Just then the young man came toward me. “Excuse me – I need to get through again.”

“Are you sure you want to do that?” I asked with a dubious look on my face.

“I gotta.” He tilted his head apologetically, with that same sweet smile.

“Good luck buddy,” I said with a look of pity, and let him pass. Just then the front of the plane began to move and I quickly made my escape.

….

I had to wonder as I ran to my next flight, did my words have an impact on the rude woman and her cohort? Or were they so angry and impatient because of our late flight that they could not think of anything but themselves? From Team Rude’s perspective, they were the victims. From the viewpoint of Team Passive Aggressive, they were the victims. I was inclined to agree with the latter. The young man was courteous to a mother and her son, and when confronted with blatant meanness he fought back with misdirected sarcasm and humor rather than erupting in reciprocal anger. (Better to have been silent altogether, but nobody is perfect.) Team Rude only identified with their point of view and their inconvenience, without giving the young man any benefit of the doubt. To me – who had the misfortune of standing literally in the middle of the charade – Team Rude were two miserable people who had forgotten how to employ common courtesy. They had a right to be irritated I suppose, but they had an opportunity to keep it to themselves. Instead they chose to be self-indulgent and unkind. And all that seemed to accomplish was to make more people miserable.

I think we all have a choice. I could have chosen to allow the hyper child in my row to aggravate me, but I was excited to get home, so why would I sully that happiness with a futile effort to be angry at an innocent kid? Team Rude could have chosen to accept the situation for what it was and let it go. But they stewed about the lateness of the flight, and then reacted to a smiling passerby with disdain and condescension.

The whole experience made me think of how easy it is for us to judge, and how good it feels to behave as if we are the victim without blame. That kind of entitlement has an ugly face, and I am certain I have worn it in the past. Though some situations make it difficult to sort out feelings of frustration, there are many times some unwitting person becomes the whipping boy for our feelings regarding an unrelated issue. I think this is what happened on the plane that morning.

My purpose in telling this story is not to share a negative event and revel in the “Boy they were jerks!” element of its retelling. My hope is that people will realize we are all guilty of this behavior at one time or another, and that we can avoid it.

The basic philosophy that I subscribe to and believe people would benefit from is this:
1. Know what you are really frustrated with, and address the emotion constructively. If you find yourself aggravated at something which might not normally irritate you, don’t react. Rather, question what is going on to make you feel so short-fused.
2. Realize you have a choice how you respond to everything – from noisy kids on an airplane… to blatant rudeness from strangers… to kindness from others.
3. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t you want the same if you were in the unfortunate quandary you imagine them to be in right now? I’m thinking: yes.

Have a great week!

Just for fun – a picture I took back in Iowa years ago…. It was good to be home for a bit!

How to make a lucky penny

I would like to introduce my friend Catie. Vivacious, talented, incredibly fun and full of life Catie. I met her because she was best pals with my husband when we first began dating, and I am ever glad. This is a woman who is bawdier than me, hilarious, very beautiful, and a terrific person. Lucky me, she is also a writer (a great one, to boot!) and she has kindly offered her words to grace the “cover” of Be Nice. today. I hope you enjoy her refreshing perspective. I know I did!

(Reprinted below courtesy of Catie Riley-Wright.)

Image copyright Jennifer Hunold 2012

How To Make A Lucky Penny

“See a penny, pick it up; then all day, you’ll have good luck.” We’ve all probably heard some version of the saying, and I bet many of us have picked up a penny or two from time to time, heeding the superstition.

In regards to a recent purchase, my change was some bills and one penny. I know a lot of people freely give their pennies to that small dish on the counter that may or may not display some type of catchy poem about how you should leave a penny because there may be a point in time when you are the one who needs a penny.

Well, I didn’t leave my penny in the dish.

I’m kind of a penny weirdo; I always have to check the year on pennies when I come into contact with them. The reason for this dates back to an incident that occurred to me several years ago, and I suppose by checking the pennies’ years, it is sort of a confirmation to me that I didn’t conjure up some fabrication of what actually occurred. (Maybe that story can be another post.)

So, even though I saw the little red penny tray there on the counter, and even though the thought flitted through my mind to toss it in there, the penny was a bit dingy so it took some time for me to make out the year, and since I typically try not to make a spectacle of myself (hey, I said ‘typically’), I wasn’t going to eye the little slab of copper right there at the counter. Naturally, I went on my way. After exiting the store, I was finally able to decipher the year: 1994. ‘94 was an awkward year, what with being a freshman in highschool and all, and I have no real emotional ties to that one. Clearly, this was just a regular old penny.

Usually, when I get to the car bearing loose change, I plunk my change into the little space in the dash; you know, my own little “Leave a penny…” tray, just in case I ever need one. But not this time.

I held this one tight as I walked to the car, and into it, I poured love. And before I flicked it onto the pavement, I prayed a hearty prayer for whomever will be the discoverer of said penny. I prayed for any troubles they may have to dissipate, for love and compassion to encompass their life, for their life to immediately improve, and for them to learn whatever it is they are here to learn so that soul growth results. The penny clanked against the asphalt, rolled a bit, wobbled, then came to rest. I gave it one last look, sending as much positivity as I could as I walked onward.

As I got into my car and started it up, I visualized a person finding it and taking a moment to stoop down to pick it up, and I imaged in my mind that person, eyes closed, sending an intention, a wish into the Universe after having discovered their lucky penny. And for those few seconds, I imagined their life being truly blessed.

Now, I’ve come across a lot of pennies on the ground in my day: shiny ones, dull ones, corroded ones, bent ones, ones with significant years, ones with years I’d rather forget. But today it occurred to me the possibility that any one of those pennies that I have discovered on the ground during this lifetime may not have been accidentally dropped (or placed there by a guide or angel or deceased loved one)… the possibility that somewhere along the line, there may have been another individual in the world who had the same instinct as I did and blessed a penny and sent it off with well wishes… the possibility that my life is such a beautiful one due to a stranger sending out a random prayer and positive intention.

Maybe, just maybe, the previous owner of one of my metal treasures sent a similar intention:

“That thou mayest have pleasure in everything,
seek pleasure in nothing.
That thou mayest know everything,
seek to know nothing.
That thou mayest possess all things,
seek to possess nothing.
That thou mayest be everything,
seek to be nothing.”

(-St. John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel)

About Catie Riley-Wright: Catie’s passion for writing began to blossom at an early age. Writing stories, poems, and keeping journals continues to be a part of her everyday life. She is the youngest of seven children and is a true “youngest child” at heart. A lover of travel, she has visited many foreign countries in her adult life, and has spent a bulk of time living and teaching in Asia.

Upon graduating from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Elementary Education, Catie relocated to Texas to be near her immediate family. She has since continued her studies, mostly informally, in the field of writing. She currently serves as a teacher and freelance writer.

Not guilty about poopy

Just waking up this morning, and I discovered a cool blog from Kripalu. If you haven’t heard of Kripalu, it is this amazing yoga center in western Massachussetts. I went there with my good friend Raeanne and had one of the most relaxing, pleasant days of my year. You can read Raeanne’s experience about Kripalu here. A quick synopsis of my experience there: yummy food, sauna, outdoors, relaxation, free classes. In the mountains. Super friendly people. Amazing.

Having “liked” their page on Facebook, I spotted a nice little post on positive thinking on the Kripalu blog. This article argues that blindly positive thinking is not necessarily good. I have to agree. If something is not great, it’s important to let yourself feel not great. Just don’t feel that way forever, the article says. You have to move past those feelings to something better.

Let’s be honest – doesn’t it feel ‘good’ to feel like crap sometimes? There are moments where I am on a roll with the crying, or in a really awesome angry moment, and someone comes in ruins it. My sister tells me I’m cute when I cry. Dammit! Now I’m laughing. My husband tells me my face turns into the most extreme cartoon versions of angry when I’m mad. Seriously?! Now I am smiling. Ug. They ruin my good angry and sad moments – just when I am really getting into it, coddling my little whiny ego, and really letting loose on the inner dialogue that blames everyone for my frustrations. But of course deep down I’m grateful. Staying angry, hateful, or sad for too long is a total downer. I’m no fun to be around, and I really find myself annoying after a while. But it doesn’t change the fact that feeling those emotions is essential to releasing them for good.

I’d recommend reading this article “Think… Negative?” – takes just a few minutes – by Alyssa Giacobbe. The next time you feel poopy, you might not feel so guilty about it.

🙂

 

My best moments happen in bathrooms

I’ve always had my best ideas, solved my biggest problems, and experienced some of my greatest emotional highs and lows in the bathroom. Heck, even my favorite room to clean as a kid was the bathroom (I loved making things shiny). I’m sort of, oddly, proud of this fact. Not exercising. Not church. Nope. The bathroom. Was it fate I’d make the Guide to Farting and Pooping?…?

I think someone once said, in a movie or something, that it was the only place they were ever truly alone. I would say it’s because not only am I alone, but I am in a pause. Whether I’m doing my hair, showering, or doing my business, in that spaced out, restful moment my brain takes a break from running its little motor and lulls. Pop! Solution!Ding! Awesome idea!Ug! Finally! I can let my feelings out!

As I wrote recently, I’m trying to create more “idleness” in my life by being less busy with my multitude of self-imposed unimportant tasks. It’s my attempt to add some value into the parts of my life that matter most to me, so that I’m happier and stuff. So imagine my delight when my lovely friend Raeanne shared a great article about that very sort of issue on her Facebook page! Good timing, huh? Somewhere in there, I was reminded about my love of the bathroom for great mental epiphanies. I wonder if you will know where?

Oh, and let me know if your best moments happen in bathrooms, too. I know you’re out there!

🙂

Here’s the story. Worth the read.

Being happy doing nothing

As you know, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted (5 weeks, 6 weeks?). I have no good “excuse” really. I simply wasn’t inclined to write. I have spent lots of time with friends, made art intermittently and for one whole glorious weekend, gone for long walks in the woods with my husband, went shopping but bought nothing, exercised irregularly in the mornings, slept well… but I have done nothing earth-shattering. I’m starting to really like it.

But I am inclined to feel guilty. I have usually operated as if any moment spent should not be wasted, because in my odd sense of reality I am constantly reminded any moment may be my last. Perhaps it is time to redefine what types of moments are a “waste.” I have also operated in the “make everyone else happy first” mindset, and only in my “impulsive” moments do I manage to do what it right for me in that dilemma. It went sort of like this: “If you are capable of doing it, you should do it and do it well, and if you don’t do it you are a worthless sack of sh!t.” In my old perspective, how I’ve spent this summer would be considered a “waste” and would imply that I am a “bad” person. I didn’t bust my butt showing my art or even finishing a single art work. I haven’t dedicated myself solely to one cause or any cause. I haven’t beaten myself up for not being excellent at whatever I’ve set out to do. Instead I’ve gone through my days experiencing life, and enjoying my time without my lists. I’ve done what needed to be done and that’s it. I’ve accomplished things, but I haven’t expected the impossible (which usually only results in making me stressed, anxious, irritable, and resentful).

I’ve taken a different approach this summer. I call it being a “normal person.” Which is not a real concept, but an operational principal of my day-to-day plans. Historically I have tried to do great at everything I attempt. I set huge goals that are typically insurmountable and feel worthless when I don’t reach them. But these last four months, I’ve just been what I am. It’s been nice.

My friend Heather took this picture on a walk out in nature one evening. It’s serene days like these I enjoy most. Being out with friends, just enjoying each others’ company. This has been my best summer I can remember.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have set goals. They go like this:

  1. Do something every day to feel good in my body. This could be anything from exercising, to intimacy, to eating a cupcake.
  2. Focus on doing well at my job. I started a new job (love it!) earlier this year. I am putting my best energy there, making sure I learn the job as quickly and thoroughly as possible. It has paid off.
  3. Be more realistic. I’m tired of setting myself up for failure by expecting myself to do everything extremely. For example, it has never been “I’m going to try to be more active.” It’s always been, “I’m going to exercise for XX minutes XX times a week, doing XX exercises on varying days to tone XX muscles to lose XX pounds by XX date and here is my chart that I’ve spent hours making to do this very thing!” Seriously. I’d make the chart, do it for a week, life would get in the way, and I would abandon the plan feeling like a failure in the process. So now my efforts sound more like goal #1 – general guidelines, effort, and awareness. More fluidity. More living with the moment.
  4. Stop spending time on activities I don’t enjoy because I feel like I should or people expect me to do it. Yes, I still pay my bills and do house work. But my time on other non-essential activities has been reduced to something I can feel good about rather than dread.
  5. Focus on making art instead of showing it. My portfolio needs new work. Trying to show my work is time consuming. I am putting that on the back burner so I can make new work I am excited to show.

And I’ve done things, too. Rebuilt my art website, made headway on a piece and planned a few others, planned a baby shower, been a friend, made exercising a rough part of my routine, explored parks and cooking, volunteered, curated a show, organized my studio, visited relatives…. But only things I wanted to do. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And that is kind of my point for this post. What are you doing that you don’t enjoy? Can you exclude it from your life? Obviously there are things each of us don’t enjoy that we do because of what it brings us in the long run. You might not love disciplining your kids when they misbehave, but it makes them more respectable as adults. I don’t love paying bills or cleaning, but in the long run they ensure a comfortable lifestyle.

How can you streamline your life to be most full of things that make your day-to-day better (without hurting others unnecessarily – always this caveat…)? How can you make room for what really matters? I suggest stop looking at others’ lives and look only at your own. (Ever heard of “keeping up with the Jones-es?” It’s a load of crap.) For years the competitor in me had something to prove. I would see what others were doing and think, “I can do that.” I would try to do it, and sometimes I might succeed. But what that created was a list of “to do’s” that only fulfilled a quota of comparative self-worth, rather than a self-guided assessment of purpose and value. It didn’t bring me happiness. It just crossed something off a never-ending checklist (there’s always someone or something to live up to in this mode of operating).

I don’t know where this new mindset is taking me. I know I don’t want it to lead me to a life of couch-potato-dom, or to mindless consumerism and apathy. I’d like it to bring new energy to my heartfelt interests. We’ll see what happens, but I like the way this road feels. Pretty great. So great, it is almost scary!

Women cannot have it all

Oh, yeah. You heard me.

In 2007, one of my wonderful professors, Mark, said to me “You can’t have it all.” It pissed me off that a man was telling me I couldn’t be a mom, professor, artist, wife, healthy, and overall awesome women at once. And Mark always had a way of hitting a nerve (to my benefit it turned out – I never forget what he said, and it shaped me in ways I won’t soon forget). Hotly, (okay, arrogantly,) I remarked, “Maybe you can’t. But I will.”

Five years later… I’m not so sure. And now I wonder – do I really want it “all?” What parts of “all” do I really desire to place into my future? I feel fortunate to be able to ask this question. Not all people can.

The last six years I so desperately was working toward one career goal that I neglected numerous parts of my life and health. After all, I had gone “all in.” I was playing the biggest game of my life in a win or lose outcome that had to go my way. It didn’t go the way planned, but what if what came to be was better? I didn’t win or lose – the game got longer and the rules changed. Now, with jobs that are good, solid and worth sticking to, my husband and I can think of something else other than getting a better job (THE job).

Naturally, being in my thirties now, I wonder next: do I want kids? Well, God knows our student debt may make that impossible (please spare me the “you can make it work” speech. I’ve heard it). But I like the idea of getting to a place financially where I could consider that choice from a heartfelt place, instead of how it feels now: like the choice has been made for me by a number of factors.

So comes the realization that, no – given my personal, economic, and professional circumstances – I most likely will never have it all. And I am wondering – is that so bad? Was the idea of having it all ever “real?” Or was it simply a dream I clung to in order to motivate me to a higher goal? Good questions. I don’t have answers.

What I do have is a really amazing, thorough, thought-provoking (and LONG) article by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the Atlantic called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” I urge you to take the time and read this essay. I am glad I did. I may not have gotten done what I had planned for my evening, but I wouldn’t give back the time it took to read Slaughter’s story. It is relevant to all genders, all ages. And I have to agree with Slaughter – improving the lives of parent-workers and non-parent workers alike will only happen with a massive paradigm shift in and out of the work place. (I would love for all employers to have “family” leave like Princeton! Or paternity/maternity leave come standard for six months? What a dream!) I think it is about time this change happened – for real. What do you think?