Tag Archives: 30-day challenge

Advice For the 16-Year-Old Blair

Choosing five things to tell my sixteen-year-old self is an odd exercise at the moment.  I have a sixteen-year-old son, so I can’t help but conflate this with what I want to impart to him.  Also, my late teen/early adult years have been much on my mind as I consider where I am in life now, and where I want to be in ten years.

So some of these are serious and some are more fun, but all are true.

Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Blair,

You are not, at this time, deciding the course of your life.  Yes, I know everyone is telling you things about choosing colleges and majors, building foundations for the future, and thinking about financial stability.  Stop listening.  You’re not the type of person to walk one path from now until eternity.  Stop trying to make yourself into one.  Try all those things that make other people raise their eyebrows.  Be willing to fail because–and here’s the secret truth–beginning again isn’t such a bad deal.  You’ll be much, much happier if you cease trying to cast yourself into a preset mold.  Flow instead.

Along with that, I order you to travel more as soon as you turn eighteen.  Take that trip to Turkey rather than worry about “not knowing how” to travel to Turkey.  Go to all those places you want to see and experience.  Israel, Australia, Italy, Madagascar, Alaska, South Africa.  Just go.  It’ll be a long, long time before you can again make such trips without coordinating career and family schedules.  You’ll never again be able to travel at will.  The only thing standing in your way is fear.

Ask more questions of smart people.  You’ll recognize them by the fact they know more than you do, and are doing what they want to do.  A couple decades from now, you’ll be able to request information on just about anything by typing a string of words on a computer screen.  (Don’t ask me how this works.  Just trust me that is does.)  But right now, you have to ask questions of real people.  Most times you won’t even know you ought to ask.  So when you think you know everything about the topic, ask the knowledgeable person things like, “If you were me, what else would you want to know?” and “If you had a question about this, who would you ask?”  Bottom line: never assume that what you know is all there is to know.

Creativity is the main dish of life.  Too many people are trying to tell you it’s nothing but a side dish, or a dessert, or a garnish that adds a pop of color but no true substance.  They don’t intend their advice to be cruel.  They’re telling you this because they fear you’ll end up jobless, homeless and penniless in pursuit of your dream.  They might be right about that part.  (I wouldn’t know because I chose to believe them for too many years.)  But they are dead wrong about the role of creativity in your life.  At worst, if you fail at your creative dreams, you’ll have to take a job you hate in order to keep a roof over your head.  Guess what: that happens anyway, so you might as well have a fling with your creative dreams because those well-meaning people just might be wrong about the outcome.

Lastly, Don’t sell the Mustang.  That’s a 289 engine in that ’66, my dear.  You’ll never love another car more.  Sure, it’s a pain in the ass to keep in good running order, but you do know how it’s done.  So upgrade the tires, drop a 329 under the hood, and have a fucking blast.

Love, Forty-Two Year Old Blair

P.S.  Quit worrying about your hips.  They’ll stop hurting so much after a couple years in karate.  Yes, karate.  You’ll be teaching it one day.

P.P.S.  Pick your jaw up off the floor.  You know you’ll love karate.

P.P.P.S.  Wear a bikini more often.  It’s fun.

3 Fears

Considering the last few years, I’ve had my fill of thinking about, analyzing, and experiencing my own fears.  So instead, I’m going to give you three fears of one of my favorite characters from Sand of Bone.

Shella is a Blade in her early fifties.  Her entire identity is enwrapped in her work: the training and guidance of young Blade-hopefuls.  Her most apparent fears change over the course of the novel, just as the day-to-day fears we wrestle with shift from year to year depending upon outer circumstances.  But, as with most of us, it’s the underlying (sometimes unacknowledged) fears that drive our decisions in the midst of crisis  These are the fears that motivate us when there is little externally to fear, that quietly alter our choices when we think we’re making logic-based determinations.

Shella fears letting people down.  This comes out as taking on an unreasonable level of responsibility for the Blade-hopefuls under her watch.  Who have ever been under her watch.  If one of her hopefuls is killed in a skirmish ten years after leaving her training arena, Shella will try to figure out what she failed to teach or what she taught incorrectly.  This fear drives her so strongly, she’d rather place herself in deadly danger than face life with that sort of failure in her memory.

Shella fears being a fool.  Despite her accomplishments and outward confidence, she has said and done very stupid things in front of a great many people—things that prevent her from being fully respected despite her skill level.  Now she’s constantly on alert for anything that might mislead her, that might be intended as an insult, that might be setting her up for failure.

Shella fears being irrelevant.  She didn’t become a Blade for the sole reason of serving SheyKhala.  She wanted to be acknowledged and recognized for her skills, and Blade-training was one of the best means available to her.  Even so, she wasn’t satisfied to be the best fighter.  She made it a point to follow a path that made her increasingly valuable, and one that ensured her name would be remembered through the hopefuls she taught.  She surrounded herself with the best–people who would push her and challenge her to be better.  Her lover first caught her attention because others started speaking of him as one day becoming an outstanding commander.  (He kept her attention, though, by being a remarkable man.)

Ten Random Facts (sans Penguins)

When I was ten years old, three of my bedroom walls were painted bright pink.  The fourth wall was wallpapered with something meant to look like a patchwork quilt of pink, blue, yellow and green patterned squares bordered with white rick-rack.  I thought it was the most beautiful bedroom ever.

My favorite scent is night-blooming jasmine, followed closely by fresh lilac, followed closely by the dusty scent of pine trees in high, dry summer.

I don’t collect tea cup sets, but my grandmother did.  Thus I have about two dozen lovely tea cups and saucers.

Sometimes I crave stuffed mushrooms of the sort made by a restaurant outside San Luis Obispo that’s changed too many times to have the same menu.  The mushrooms were stuffed with cream cheese and green chilies, broiled in butter, and served surrounded with cubes of warm, soft sourdough bread.  I’ve tried to recreate it home—it sounds so simple!—but it’s not quite the same.

I performed with a show choir my freshman year of high school.

I much prefer hardwood or tile floors over carpeting, though nice rugs are certainly nice on a winter’s morning.

My father used to call me Baby Flamingo and carry me through the house on “flamingo rides” before bed.  To this day, my little sister picks up the odd flamingo gift for me now and then, the most recent being a Christmas stocking bearing a flamingo in a Santa hat.

I do not like to swim.

The first year I lived on the farm, I had to help fight a sudden brush fire on the property.  It was enough of a crisis that I ran out of my house to help while still wearing slippers.  I couldn’t find a shovel, so grabbed a plastic rake.  It was a relatively small and slow-moving fire, but determined to take the hill from us.  By the time we stopped it, my rake had melted down to a nub and my charred slippers were falling off my feet.

I once had to see a doctor because I’d badly sprained my wrist during a scene in Antigone.  I had been wearing handcuffs at the time of injury.  That was fun to explain to the nursing staff.