Numerology: Age is Just a Number

A friend recently confessed to me that she is beginning to feel anxiety about the turn of her next birthday. I’m sure this is something many people can relate to, or at the very least, we have that one relative that wears out the (terrible) joke that she’s “Turning 29… again!” My friend admitted to feeling anxious, lost in a job that’s not ideal, a lack of creative fulfillment and a general feeling of What Am I Doing With My Life.

But here’s the twist: She’s only turning 25.

I tried to help her as much as possible – I never felt weird about turning 25, and on the contrary, I’ve heard only wonderful things about how wonderful 30+ is. However, my twenties have been a rollercoaster to say the least, and I’m really only halfway through them.

I remember when I graduated from college (the first time, ha!) and felt a deep, deadening pressure because suddenly I was supposed to: support myself, find a “good job”, maybe get married (all of my friends were!), and try to be AN ADULT while having no money, unfortunate roommate situations and mediocre self-esteem, at best.

While I was 25 I hit a plateau – In school, but working a dead-end job that sucked all the life and creativity out of me, a devastating failed relationship, concern about my worth as a person capable of making anything of myself. (Why do we seek out articles and information about people in our age group who SKY ROCKET to the top of their industry, then compare ourselves to them? Why do we tell ourselves that being anything less than THE BEST WRITER/ARTIST/MUSICIAN/BLAH BLAH BLAH makes us and our work inconsequential?)

26 – year of change. Everything. All of it. It has been needed for a long time.

And now… still 26, later though, and the future shines more bright than ever. Personal interests and passions have paved paths to career opportunities that I feel like I’d been grasping at for years. All of sudden, it felt like someone placed them kindly on my lap. “Here, Jaime, you’d be good at this.” All the hours/days/weeks agonizing because my resumes weren’t getting responses. And now look? Things fall into place. Somehow. That is what I’ve learned.

When I look onto my next milestone birthday – 30 – I don’t look at it like a fearful end to my youth. Rather, for the first time in my life it is merely a mile marker to keep me on track for what I’d have like to accomplished by then. (This coming from someone that NEVER set goals because I felt like I would end up disappointed!)

It’s not about beating yourself up if you don’t meet your goals, it’s about recognizing that cultivating greatness is a process and the end result can be a few years off, something to look forward to rather than dread. But there is room to leave things unknown, and it’s essential we do, since we don’t actually know what’s going to happen.

I have more than 3 more years until 30. I’d like to write a book. Start a business. Maybe be a mom. Give myself time to c a l m   d o w n and explore what I want, need and feel, to make adjustments both in lifestyle and mental clarity to process new beginnings and weird endings (that will happen, constantly, every day!) as they come.

Birthdays can be treated like most days – like every day – and used as a chance for a fresh start, and a moment to reflect on how far we’ve already come. Wanting more for ourselves and our lives does NOT mean all we’ve done ’til now is a failure.. And that old cliche is true, as much as we’d like to cringe or roll our eyes: all of our experiences have lead us to RIGHT NOW. Let’s be thankful for them, and use them as tools for growth.

We still have so many more chances.

Jaime in the Sky With Diamonds?

Engagement rings seem to be the topic of conversation these days. (Calm down! Just talking in general!) As much as I like glamour and flashy things, I don’t quite thing I’m a diamond sort of girl. While discussing the alternatives to diamonds, I was informed that the diamond mining industry can be a pretty horrible thing!

Before I continue, let me add this DISCLAIMER: In NO WAY is my intent to demean the value and priceless worth of anyone with a diamond engagement ring. Just posting food for thought.

Here’s an excerpt about “conflict diamonds”:

Conflict diamonds are not just a public-relations problem. About one in every ten gem diamonds, it has been estimated, is smuggled from four African nations—Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola—that feed money to a large black market. Some of the profits go to criminal gangs, some to brutal ruling regimes, some to outright terrorists. And the stones are mined under oppressive conditions for the smallest of wages, using methods that damage the countryside.

In the past I had done searches on engagement rings (just lookin!) and found websites for “conflict-free diamond rings”, though I admit I didn’t understand what it meant. Brilliant Earth is at the forefront of conflict-free diamond jewelry, or they at least have the best marketing. They make a promise to socially and environmentally responsible mining – Diamonds have a guarantee to be carefully tracked to ensure no (or little) environmental devastation and that citizens and workers are treated fairly.

In the other side, you have economies boosted by the sales of diamonds. But at what price?

This is a new topic for me – I am sharing the tiny bit of information I’ve researched, and hope if you have any information about the diamond industry, for or against, you’ll supply it in the comments!


The Nest Magazine – For those of you still in mourning over the death of the long-gone Budget Living magazine and the more recently, hard to comprehend demise of Domino magazine (R.I.P. forever!), be sure to seek out The Nest. Okay, it’s a younger sister to The Knot wedding magazine, and if there’s anything can be called a flaw, it’s that The Nest assumes you are fresh in the beginnings of a heterosexual marriage… BUT. It’s full of tips about home decor and design (everything, even the stuff that’s not my particular taste, is still NICE), easy but impressive recipes (not all vegan, of course, but there are ways to veganize most things!), and a general cheeriness targeted and hip, young people. But not in a pretentious way. It’s filling the void that has been left for a wonderful, creative lifestyle magazine since many are sinking due to the rise of, uh… internet blogs. Ahem.

Colleen / Vegan Treats Hook-up – Upon picking up some  extra work at my old bookstore job (health insurance for only $14/week!), I met my new pal Colleen. We realized that our circles of friends from years past were, in fact, the same circles, and we have likely met 8 years ago and just don’t recall. Anyhow, aside from the fact that she’s a clever graphic designer and a smart, refreshingly spunky lady, her sister just got a job at VEGAN TREATS. That means Colleen is constantly hooked up with donuts, caramel walnut brownies, and goodies like this huge T-rex-sized coconut glazed treat. I feel like she’s a drug supplier, but the drugs are coated in pink sprinkles.

Onion Goggles – I was introduced to these when I was cooking with my client Christa. She looked around the room, tucked her hand into a kitchen drawer, and said with hesitance, “Don’t think I’m crazy… These look stupid but they really work….” and pulled out a pair of these bad boys. WOW. Revolutionary. They do make you look like a mad scientist crossed with a scuba diver, but I say EMBRACE it!!! I can’t wait to get a pair so I don’t run away from the food processor, mascara dripping and burning my eyeballs. Like, I just want to make some salsa, not impair my vision.

Bumble Bars – These were recently on sale at the health food store, so I picked up one in the chai flavor. I was expecting a hard, teeth-hurting bar akin to the honey and sesame seed candies usually found in bulk bins. But au contraire. Instead I got a soft, chewy and wonderfully delicious snack. And gluten-free, vegan and organic means food makes tasty treats for everybody! The chai flavor was awesome, as I’m sure you can imagine. Watch out for other flavors like lemon, cherry chocolate and pineapple coconut.

FREE TRIP TO FLORIDA! – No, I’m not kidding! My boyfriend went to a networking event for work and seriously won the GRAND PRIZE which is a trip to Florida!!! You know what this means? MERMAIDS. Weeki Wachee Springs, you are a beautiful place of nostalgic kitsch and I am going to sneak into the water, turn into a mermaid once and for all, then frolic with manatees and eat cabbages with them.  Oh my gosh.

I went here when I was about 10 years old, and it was a dreamland. I’m beyond excited that I get to go back. I can still recite the ENTIRE “Little Mermaid” show, word for word, because we bought the cassette tape and I played it over and over on the drive home (oh yes, drive – Florida to Pennsylvania, my friends). Sorry, Mom!  I’m going to absolutely freak out and hopefully make a little video of me having sea turtle induced heart attacks and trying on fins.

When Things Fall Apart.

Over the duration of the past week, I have witnessed many of my close friends and coworkers express deep pain, sadness and depression. From a selfish perspective, this is a hard thing to witness. I want to be able to help them, to fix them, to tie everything up in a bow and say “Look, all better!” I hate the helplessness that comes with knowing you can’t do anything to directly ease the minds and hearts of loved ones. You can be there for them (which is always greatly appreciated and maybe in the end, the most important and generous act), but this doesn’t take away the immediate hurt.

(“The Telephone is Ringing” – photo by Marty Desilets)

I know what it is to be so far away from feeling like a worthwhile person, able of doing any good and instead seeming to only cause destruction and inflict hurt on others. I think this especially hard because we are inherently good people. (How can someone “good” do something so “bad”? What kind of monster am I!?) This makes it hard to want to reach out to people because if we are already feeling so miserable about ourselves, or have acted in ways that have caused others to think and feel badly of us, we don’t want to add more people to that mix.

(Photo by Marty Desilets, Hotel Bethlehem)

I remember on the night after one of my worst moments, a friend agreed to meet me for coffee and she said with so much sincerity “Please, please call me if that happens again.” We dubbed that moment and those feelings “going to the roof” (for reasons that are self-explanitory, I’m sure). While my friend couldn’t reach into my heart and mind and pull out the sick parts, her kindness and reassurance that someone is there if I ever need to “go to the roof” meant the world. It gave me a sense of belonging, and reminded me that even when time passes and those people we mutually care about are people we haven’t talked to in a while, we have huge impacts on the lives of others – and they want to be there to remind us of that in our darkest hours.

If you have a friend who needs your help, reach out. Even if it’s just to tell them “You are important to me and I am here for you no matter what.” You can’t imagine what those words mean when you have nothing else to grasp onto.

And if you are someone who feels sad and feels alone, please believe me – you aren’t. You touch the lives of people in positive ways you can’t comprehend. So many people’s lives are better simply because you are in them. Please believe me.

I’m an avid reader, and in searching for books to help me heal and understand my pain, I came across When Things Fall Apart by buddhist monk Pema Chodron. No matter your beliefs or religion (or lack thereof), I believe her compassionate wisdom rings true for all hearts that need healing, or even just a reminder that “things come together and things fall apart”.

Below I have included some passages of that book that have been particularly helpful:

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen; room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

Letting there be room for not-knowing is the most important thing of all.”

“Disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, anger jealousy and fear… They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck.”

“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”

“Whatever occurs is neither the beginning or the end. The painful thing is that when we buy into disapproval, we are practicing disapproval. When we buy into harshness, we are practicing harshness. The more we do it, the stronger these qualities become. How sad it is that we become so expert at causing harm to ourselves and others.

We can learn to meet whatever arises with curiosity and not make it such a big deal. Clarity is always there. In the middle of the worst scenario of the worst person in the world, in the midst of all the heavy dialogue with ourselves, open space is always there.

Our personal demons come in many guises. We experience them as shame, as jealousy, as abandonment, as rage. We do the big escape: we act out, say something, slam a door, or throw a pot as a way of not facing whats happening in our hearts. Or we shove the feelings under and somehow deaden the pain. The way to dissolve our resistance to life is to meet it face-to-face.”

“Now is the only time. How we relate to it creates the future. What we do accumulates: the future is the result of what we do right now.”

“The first noble truth is that when we feel suffering , it doesn’t mean that something is wrong. What a relief. Finally somebody told the truth. Suffering is part of life, and we don’t have to feel it’s happening because we personally made the wrong move.

We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We can drop the fundamental hope that there is a better ‘me’ who will one day emerge.  We can’t just jump over ourselves as if we’re not there. It’s better to take a straight look at our hopes and fears. Then some kind of confidence on our basic sanity arises.”

“We can use everything that happens to us as the means for waking up.”

“We can make ourselves miserable or we can make ourselves strong. The amount of effort is the same.”