It’s Okay to Change Your Mind (aka: Finding Your Niche)

what-color-is-your-parachute-bookMy 15-year-old daughter recently complained that she’s not sure what she wants to be when she grows up. As she’s only a sophomore in high school, I would love to tell her to just relax; she’s got a few more years to really decide. But, being a long-range planner myself, I also get the anxiety of not knowing exactly where you’re headed in life.

She needs a “thing.”

I firmly believe that everyone has a “thing,” or a niche. Some of those niches may be better than others, though, especially when it comes to career planning.

My oldest son, who is a senior this year, has several niches: playing computer games, creating music for computer games, and listening to music on the expensive wireless headphones he decided he couldn’t live without. I am really, really hoping that he finds some way to merge these niches into some kind of lucrative career. Either that or just do what I tell him and study computer science in college next year. I’m kind of hoping he’ll find a more productive niche in that direction.

My youngest son’s niches also involve computers. His, however, also include developing computer games using simple code, like Scratch, and building complicated, programmable Lego robots. He is dead-set on becoming an engineer one day (woohoo!!). His other niches include writing stories and using his gigantic vocabulary to invent new “clean” swear words, like “Oh sheep!”

future-jobs-signs

My daughter has a lot of niches. She’s a great athlete. She draws anime and comic strip characters. She writes stories, and is constantly learning new skills, like HTML code and jazz dance. She thinks she wants to become a doctor, but is getting nervous that it’s too ambitious, or that she won’t like studying medicine after all.

“No worries,” I tell her. “Just plan to go to med school and become a doctor. You can always change your mind later.”

I should know. I’m kind of the queen of drastic changes in niches.

When I was six years old, I wrote an essay on how I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. That, and a tap dancer. The tap-dancing thing never got off the ground, but I have always been a writer. When I went to college, I was clueless about careers, and had no adult guidance. So I did the only thing I knew well, thanks to countless babysitting jobs – I got a BA degree in Child Development and went on to become a teacher of young children. Eventually, I was even a site supervisor and parent educator, too.

kids-careers-jobs-costumes At the time, it was my niche. I was great at belting out Raffi tunes, finding creative ways to teach phonics, and managing a classroom. It was also kind of cool teaching other parents how to parent. But know what? It was a boring, mindless career. And it barely paid enough to buy the gas it took to drive to work each day.

So, I changed my mind.

I returned to college to add a couple more small degrees. Then I landed my true dream job, in the IT industry. I still get to use some of my old talents, like teaching and finding creative ways to problem solve. But I also get to develop and administer software systems and databases. I get to use my brain. Which is nice, because it’s a pretty great brain, so long as I get enough sleep.

Yes, I still write. That will always be my greatest niche. I also still plan to be a tap dancer. Okay, I am totally kidding. The next time I change my mind, I think I’ll go into management. It seems kind of like teaching preschool, only you have to go to a lot of meetings, and you get paid more.

Welcome to the Machine (aka: High on Tennis)

world-famous tennis player SnoopyMy kids and I decided to join a club.

It’s nothing fancy – just a local tennis and swim club, where we can spend time exercising as a family. My 14 year-old daughter is thrilled about the workout equipment and yoga classes. My 11 year-old can’t wait to use the pool. And my 16 year-old finally gets to take tennis lessons, which he’s been requesting for ages.

This weekend, however, the kids went off to visit their dad, and I headed to the club alone, racquet in hand. There was a drop-in tennis group, and tonight would be my first time joining them.

tennis loveFirst of all, I am not a newb to the tennis world. I have been an avid fan of the sport since the Williams sisters first made a splash and opened up my eyes to a sport that quickly became one of my favorite addictions (after soccer, of course). Do I play tennis? Occasionally, is what I always answer. Of course for me, occasionally meant dusting off my racket once a year or so and playing a clumsy match against other unskilled opponents. A couple of years ago, I discovered a local Meetup group and have ventured out a number of times for drop-in matches at local parks. It can be a lot of fun.

However, tonight’s tennis group was all about technique. After a few of my shots went wild, one of the more experienced players explained the difference between approaching the ball with my racket open or closed. Then another player, who turned out to be a tennis instructor, pointed out that I stopped short on every hit.

“Trust your follow-through,” he said. “It should be kind of like a golf swing.” I looked at him blankly. I had never played golf. “Or like a baseball swing.” He demonstrated a two-handed backhand, not stopping short as I had, but swinging the racket all the way through. Aha! A lightbulb flicked on in my head. I had played softball for a few years as a kid. I understood how to swing something all the way through to hit a ball. I just didn’t know I could do that in tennis, too.

Then the instructor introduced me to the Best Thing Ever. AKA, the ball machine. I had never used a ball machine to practice tennis before. For the first few minutes, I swung awkwardly, forgetting all the technique tips. The ball flew wild, to the left and the right.

tennis snoopy angry

But here’s the great thing – no one else was on the court to see me fail. I could try again and again, and try different things, and there was no criticism. I got to be my own coach.

“Okay now,” I told myself, switching into auto-coach mode. “Two handed-grip. Approach with a closed racket. Trust your follow-through.” The Machine spit out another ball. And THWACK! My backhand sent the ball sailing over the net for a perfect shot. The Machine pitched me another, and THWACK! Another incredible shot.

And suddenly, I had found it. The sweet spot. That place inside me where flames ignite, and passion takes over. It was Machine and me versus our grand opponent, the Court. My mission: backhand the heck out of each ball and land them inside the lines. And I did, again and again.

THWACK! Take that, Venus and Serena! THWACK! Take that Sharapova! THWACK! Take that, Azarenka and Clijsters! THWACK! THWACK! THWACK!

tennis balls

I was in the zone. I’m pretty sure that someone else was waiting to use the ball machine, but my new-and-improved backhand and I were locked in a relentless battle. I hit the ball over and over. When I failed, my mental coach yelled at me to make the correction and get it right. When I hit a successful shot, I cheered silently. The Machine and I kept going until the club was closing and the staff begged me to quit. Okay, I’m totally kidding. When the mosquitoes came out, and the court lights flickered on, I finally decided it was time to give the Machine a break. I drifted home, high on tennis elation.

The next morning, I woke up and groaned. I could barely move. I felt like I had thwacked myself all over with my racquet. I could have rested until the soreness went away, but I had another, more intense tennis group lesson scheduled that morning. So I did what any sane person would do – popped a couple of Advil, grabbed my pretty pink racquet, and headed back to the club for another hit of one of my favorite drugs.

 

Hoarder (aka: The Pursuit of Everything)

Confession: I am a hoarder.

No, not a hoarder of junk. In fact, I can’t stand too much clutter around me. Not a hoarder of animals, or food, or anything else that could land me on a TV reality show, my secret bad habits displayed for the world to see.

However, I am a hoarder of hobbies. Is there such a thing?

I am an avid reader of all sorts of literature, from poetry to science to fiction stories great and terrible. I could read all day if not for the competition with so many other hobbies. Sports — playing and watching. Cooking, baking, exploring new recipes and cuisines from around the globe. Television shows and movies from every decade, in any language. And speaking of languages — Spanish, German, or programming languages?

And did I mention computer games? Or hiking/camping/outdoorsy stuff?

 

Life is too short

 

That covers about half of my hobbies. I think. Maybe it’s not so bad, have so many interests in so many things. It seems unfair, at times, that we only get to do this life thing one time. That’s it — one shot to get it all done; to go to all the places and do all the things. Many people have bucket lists longer than their life spans. If only there was a mod for this — an age slider like on The Sims, which we could extend until we’ve had a chance to live the full and rich life we dream of.

bucket List literally

I still haven’t learned to make a soufflé. Or surf. There are still thousands of books I would like to read, films I haven’t seen. I still haven’t finished editing my novel. It is a challenge to maintain this blog, let alone my other two.

Just as a hoarder of junk probably doesn’t really get to simply relax and fully enjoy every single thing she has collected, a hoarder of hobbies comes to realize the sad truth — that in one’s desire to pursue her every passion, she can rarely manage to pursue just one. Something will be neglected. So what shall I do? Must I apply spring cleaning to my long list of favorite activities, weeding out the many in order to focus on the few? Or shall I continue to spread my energy around, living a life full enough for two people, though within the time limits of an individual? Would cutting back increase my focus, or kindle a restlessness for more — more activities, more learning, more of life?

list of hobbies

 

A Very Musical Monday (or Whenever)

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…

sound-of-music-tour So physically, I am seated at a desk, but mentally, I am running through meadows of wildflowers somewhere in the Bavarian Alps with the Von Trapp family. Singing, of course. Loudly. Want to join me? Doe, a deer, a female deer…

I know, I know, not everyone is crazy about musicals. In fact, I have met quite a few people who would rather hop on the express train to Hell than be forced to watch a musical. As for me, I think that real life would be so much better as a Rodgers and Hammerstein production. Can you imagine? One dreary Monday morning, everyone is seated in cubicles, typing away at their computers. Then suddenly, everyone is waltzing through the office, tap-dancing on top of desks, voices raised in song about how much they hate Monday mornings. For five blockbuster minutes, there is a perfectly-coordinated whirlwind of song and dance and color. And then – work resumes as though nothing happened at all.

musical production Okay fine. That sort of thing just doesn’t happen, unless you’re lucky enough to find yourself in the midst of an Improv Everywhere flash mob. The rest of us are resigned to watching musicals on TV, or, if we can afford it, seeing them live. A couple of days ago, my daughter and I had the privilege of attending a Sound of Music sing-a-long at a large, gorgeous old theatre filled with other enthusiasts. Although I had already watched the musical countless times before, it was an entirely new experience watching it with a crowd – waving props in the air, booing and hissing at the villains, cheering for Maria and the Von Trapp family, and, of course, singing along to the familiar tunes. It was quite a treat for my daughter, too, as she had never seen the entire show before (and is now a musical-loving convert).

I hope that this musical sing-a-long thing will become a new trend. I would so love to join together with hundreds of people to sing along to other great musicals, like Into the Woods, West Side Story, Beauty and the Beast, Grease, and Mary Poppins. Maybe even Les Miserables, although I must confess that I would prefer to see a live production of Les Mis, which is among my greatest goals in life.

Les MiserablesIn the meantime, I think that I will feed my passion for musicals by going on a musical binge. After all, there are still quite a few great musicals out there that I’ve never seen (shocking, I know). Maybe I will work my way through the list of AFI’s 25 Greatest Movie Musicals of All Time. That looks like a very good place to start.

Doctor_Horrible Singalong blog

Yes, I even enjoyed Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Immensely.

Who is this Girl From Jupiter Anyway? (aka: 10 More Things About Me)

Concept image of the six most common questions and answers on a signpost.Okay, let me begin by saying that I usually never, ever participate in these blog nomination/chain-letter type games that a lot of other bloggers seem to be into. It’s just not my thing. But I am feeling a bit uninspired this week, so I guess answering these ten simple questions may make for an interesting blog post.

Second thing you should know: I have no intentions of playing by the rules. What rules, you ask? Well, apparently, I’m supposed to follow these rules:

The rules are as follows:
1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you and answer their 10 questions
2. Add the badge to your post
3. Write your own 10 questions and tag 10 bloggers to do the same

Okay, I’ll follow rule #1, because it’s only fair. I was nominated to answer these questions by Sandra G at http://datebynumb3r.com/ . So yes, by all means, click the link, check out her blog, and share a piece of life with an honest and sincere blogger who’s stumbling through the ups and downs of single life like so many of us.

As for #3, well, I have no clue whatsoever which bloggers I would nominate to answer any questions I come up with. So that’s not going to happen, either. But to be a good sport and to share a little of my cave-dwelling, clueless life with you all, I’ll answer the questions. Ready? Here we go:

10ThingsAboutMe

10 Things About Me

  1. How did you choose your blog’s name?

When I was young, other kids (and people in my family) used to tease me and call me weird, because I spoke funny (aka: English with proper grammar), read a lot of books, had a huge imagination, and was much younger than the other kids in my grade. So I laughed it off, and explained to everyone that the reason I was weird is that I was a changeling child from Jupiter. That probably didn’t help me to fit in, either.

  1. Do you have any other blogs? What are they?

Yes, two other active blogs. But I prefer to keep them segregated.

  1. What’s your day job?

I am a full-time IT student and a part-time IT assistant. It’s a nice little job, and I get a cubicle and dual monitors and everything. I love working in the IT industry and am learning lots of great stuff about the OSI model and Active Directory and network architecture and other things that most of my readers could probably care less about.

  1. What has been your favorite place to live and why?

It’s a toss-up between the San Francisco Bay Area, where I grew up, and a tiny town in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where I spent my first year of college. The first, because those are my stomping grounds, and the Bay Area is just so cool, you know? (Hella cool, even). The tiny mountain town, because I used to wake up every morning to this amazing, gorgeous view of deer running across a meadow, and mountain peaks in the distance. And the smell of pine trees, and the slow, quiet pace…I loved all of that. But I missed things like Target, and movie theaters, and open-minded tolerant people.

  1. What is the last thing you baked?

Oatmeal raisin walnut cookies.

  1. Be physically perfect but feel constantly sick or be obese but feel amazing?

Hard to answer. Because when I used to be really overweight, I was healthy, but I did not feel amazing. I felt far from amazing. My knees hurt, and I felt heavy and slow and not pretty. When I lost 60 pounds, I felt amazing. I’m still healthy, but I love how my body feels now. So it is hard to imagine the reverse being true.

  1. What is one thing about dating that you know now, but wish you had known 5 years ago?

*Blushes* Umm…I still know pretty much nothing about dating. I have gone out on very few dates since becoming single again, and even those were mostly platonic, so truly, I’m kind of clueless. I did not date anyone before meeting my now ex-husband when I was 19 years old. (Well, unless you count the three sweet Christian boyfriends I held hands and giggled with during high school, but we never saw each other outside of school, never went on any actual dates, and I only lightly kissed one. Do you count that as dating?)

Five years ago, I was not thinking about dating, as I was still married. I didn’t enjoy being married at all, but in a way if felt safer than the dating scene. It was like a prison, but at least it was a low-risk, predictable prison (except during the last two nightmarish years). Now, I am single and wonderfully free for the first time in my entire adult life. But now I’m walking tentatively down a strange road, shielding my eyes and ears from the freak show that is the singles dating scene. I’ve tasted enough of it to know that it is just as scary and pointless as I once feared. No thanks. I don’t need it.

  1. What dating sites or apps have you tried (if any)? How were they?

I signed up for eHarmony and Match.com once out of curiosity. It was pointless, because without paying a bunch of money, you can’t even read any messages from men or see their complete profiles or anything. So it was a mildly entertaining waste of time. I deactivated both profiles without ever pursuing anything. Really, even the idea of using one of those sites in earnest makes me feel much more frightened than curious. Maybe it is like skydiving – some people see it as a thrilling and fun adventure. But to me, it is more like dueling with Death and hoping you’ll win. Super scary, and not at all worth the risk.

  1. What’s your favorite thing to do to relax?

Read fiction, marathon-watch TV shows on Netflix or Hulu, watch movies, play The Sims (or other computer games), bake, lie in a hammock under the trees, do handicrafts, write. Add a glass of wine or a cup of earl grey tea or chai, and ahhh…relaxation.

  1. Would you be interested in writing a guest post for my blog? (No pressure here, just curious)

Thanks, but probably not. You’re welcome to reblog whatever you like, though.

 

So Many Poppies (aka: Follow the Yellow Brick Road)

wicked witch of the west

I’d be all, “Why are you green?”

I would have made a terrible Dorothy Gale.

Let’s just say that if a giant twister had picked up me instead of her and transported me to the magical land of Oz, then we’d be looking at a whole ‘nother story.

For starters, I would have questioned everything. Was the tornado actually a wormhole to another dimension, or am I lying in a coma and experiencing all of this in my mind? Did the Munchkins relocate to Munchkinland on their own accord, like some sort of Little People Cult Compound, or were they segregated from the rest of Oz society and banished there like Native Americans to a reservation? Also – does Glinda the so-called Good Witch really expect me to hike for miles along a brick road while wearing uncomfortable, tacky pumps that had just been on the feet of a dead woman?

magic sneakers

Still tacky, but probably a lot more comfortable than the slippers.

I’ll just walk in my bare feet, thanks.

Then there’s that little issue of people. Er…or whatever one would call the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion. Dorothy Gale was clearly not an INTJ. Would I have stopped to help the Scarecrow down from his stake or offered oil to the Tin Man? Well, maybe. But I doubt I’d start telling them all my business, the way naïve, trusting little Dorothy does. Because you never know who might be hiding beneath that friendly scarecrow mask.

True, they turn out to be good guys. And true – they discover that the four of them have a shared goal of reaching the Emerald City, and so help each other along the path. Kind of like Harry Potter and friends, supporting one another through their years at Hogwarts and beyond.

Huh. Guess that makes me like Voldemort. Only without the evil and horcruxes and megalomania.

The other problem I would have if I were in Dorothy’s place is the poppies. Those lovely poppies, blooming so innocently along the path. See, that is already an issue for me at times. The Emerald City always glows in the distance like a giant jewel. Maybe it is the goal of completing a novel and getting it published. Maybe it is finishing my second-time-around college education. Or some other huge life goal. And all I have to do is stay on the yellow brick road. See yellow bricks? Keep walking forward. Keep studying the things it will take to establish you in your new career field. Keep writing and editing your novel.

sleeping in the poppiesBut then, there are those damned poppies.

Other exciting things to study that are not related to my career. Brainless television shows and book candy. Writing countless stories and blog posts and poems that are not my novel. And okay, it’s not so bad to stop and gather a few every now and then. But sometimes, I lose sight of the bricks. Off I go, skipping across another field of poppies, until I am completely distracted and filled with the intoxicating fragrance, until yawn…I just want to take a nap and forget about responsibilities and goals and…what novel? Zzzzz…

Dorothy needed a nudge to wake her up and set her back on her path. Luckily, she had the watchful eye of Glinda the Good Witch, who sent down soft, cold snowflakes to revive her (and her apparently good-for-nothing friends, who fell asleep, too). And hooray! They were back on track, and on their way to the Emerald City.

Follow the yellow brick road

Sometimes, I need a random snowfall to shock me awake, too. Or maybe an alarm clock. Or hypnotherapy. Whatever it takes to make sure that I stop playing in the stupid poppies and get back on my merry way. Because the Emerald City awaits. And the only thing that’s going to get me there is the power of my own two feet – ruby slippers or no ruby slippers.

Life in Queue (aka: TV Binge Week)

So apparently, this is Hulu Binge Week, when Hulu is encouraging viewers to glue themselves to the sofa and veg out for a few hours with a TV show marathon. Woo-hoo! Another great excuse to slow down and play the couch potato for a while. Well, in theory, anyway. The truth is that I have been bombarded with studying, homework, and school projects, which makes it hard to find the time for marathon-viewing. And anyway, as I tweeted yesterday in honor of #HuluBingeDay:

 

Heehee. Okay, maybe not everything. But thanks to Hulu, Netflix, and too much free time (before classes began), I managed to watch every season and episode of Gray’s Anatomy, Parks and Rec, House of Cards, Scandal, Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Law & Order SVU, some telenovelas, Breaking Bad, and quite a few other shows, not to mention a few dozen excellent films from The Criterion Collection, many of which are available for instant streaming on Hulu. So at the moment, my personal queue is rather lacking. Any suggestions?

Yes, I know how this looks. If I were seeing this from an outsider’s perspective, I would be tempted to say, “Wow, you really should get a life.” My response? Okay, sure…tell me on which website I can download A Life, and I will happily add it to my queue. 😉