In A World of Pure Imagination

Faith, hope, & love.  These three easily recognizable Christian virtues from 1 Corinthians 13:13 are also widely valued as human characteristics that benefit ourselves and our society.   All 3 require an element of imaginative thinking.  To have faith, we must believe in a God bigger than ourselves and our own limited conceptions.  We hope in a future and eternity that we do not physically see, but must imagine.  We love others best when we imagine them as God sees them–immeasurably valued and worthy of glorification through Christ.

Imagination enriches our lives in many other ways too.  Getting lost in a book, dreaming up new businesses, playing make believe with a child.  But when imagination gets misplaced into the hands of an idealist, things get messy.

Idealism sounds nice but has some fairly nasty side effects.  At it’s essence, idealism is the practice of forming expectations about the way the world should operate, especially unrealistically (the dictionary’s words, not mine).  When we start projecting our idealism on a very real world, we set ourselves up for disappointment at best and destruction at worst.

My imaginative ideas about what makes the world better might not actually be good or wise.  Or even if I do happen to strike on a good vision of what the world ought to look like, the way I go about forcing my will on reality will probably hurt others in the process.

But what happened to our hope, our faith, and our love?  Don’t those require some idealism?

Not necessarily.  We need our imaginations to develop our virtues and we need optimism to live out those virtues in this often confusing and hard life.  But idealism and optimism are not the same thing.

The optimist is full of hope for the future whereas the idealist insists that the future fit their vision.  The optimist seeks ways to make the world a kinder place while the idealist works to make the world their kind of place.

Well-intentioned optimists can easily become dangerous idealists when imagination is misplaced.  Living in a country where I don’t speak the language has taught me that the hard way.  Things never go as planned and insisting on forcing my vision inevitably leads to frustration.  I’m slowly learning to redirect my imagination and view this world with optimism instead of idealism.  It’s a process for us perfectionists but I believe it’s worth it.


The last installment of my Misplaced series will hit the blog next week!  It’s about one of my favorite topics–budgeting and personal finance.  Thanks for following along so far!

Capsule Closet Part Three | Seven Months Later

 

I started my journey towards a capsule closet 7 months ago. I’m far from the finish line, but here’s what I’ve experienced so far.

1. It’s slowed down my decision making process

Our clothing budget is $10/month.  For both Luke and I.  Luckily for me, Luke refuses to buy clothing until he literally has one grey t-shirt left with a minimally acceptable amount of holes in it so I get more than my fair share of the budget.  But still, you can do some simple math and realize that I’m not buying a whole new wardrobe at one time.

The result?  I’m very strategic about what clothing I buy.  As in, I made an entire inventory list of what I already own, wrote out a list of my “ideal capsule closet” and then created that closet on Pinterest (55 items total, excluding pajamas and t-shirts for working out), marked “Tried” on the items I already own and then added the items I’d still like to an Amazon wish list and Google shortlist.

The unintended consequence was that I also became more thoughtful about other non-clothes related buying decisions.  I’m typing this blog post out on a brand-new laptop, which took me 4 months to narrow down the options and purchase.  I went to Target to go on a mini-shopping spree and couldn’t bring myself to buy anything that I wasn’t already planning on buying.  This might sounds like a tortured existence for those who love to shop, but I’ve found it so freeing.  I’m completely in control of the purchased items that I bring into my life as well as the money going out, which feels great.

2. Easier to get ready/pack

Less clothes = less options = way easier to get ready in the morning.  Couple this with the fact that literally everything goes together (no more fashion missteps!) and I’ve gotten my morning routine down to a speedy 6 minutes.  Plus, creating a capsule closet has killed my habit to “contingency pack” where I bring 5 more outfits than necessary on a trip “just in case.”  When all of my items go together and layer perfectly, I can actually bring just what I need.

3. I love thinking about fashion

I was never into fashion growing up.  We mostly thrifted for clothes, which can be awesome, but typically just meant searching through racks to find something that looked passable in society.  I never thought much about  what styles fit me best or what colors to put together.  Now that I’ve become hyper-strategic about my closet, I’ve found myself really enjoying the process.  Instead of picking the least ugly option from a predetermined set at Goodwill, I’m dreaming up what kinds of clothes I’d love to wear and then trying to find them.

4. I’m happier in the clothes I wear

I’ve eliminated all the items that I don’t love to wear which means every shirt in my closet is my favorite shirt. Plus, since I’ve been thinking more about body types and how clothing fits, I’m narrowed my closet down to items that really fit me well, which is always a good boost for the body image self-esteem.

5. Cascading decision effect

Luke recently coined the term “cascading decisions” in our household to refer to the domino effect that some decisions can create.  In this case, my decision to create a capsule closet has led me to decide to be slower to buy  anything which means less knickknacks around the house and less coffee impulse buys on the way to work.  It means easier getting dressed decisions in the morning which means leaving earlier for work and a quicker commute to the office (also aided by less coffee stops).

I’m far from a full-blown minimalist but the benefits I’ve experienced just from minimizing my closet makes me excited for other cascading decisions to come!

Homemade Face Wash | The Recipe

As promised, I’ve copied down my recipe(s) for what I use as a face wash/astringent. When I still used a store-bought wash, I’d use this at night after washing my face before bed.  As I stopped using the store-bought variety, I would use this 1x a day to keep bacteria away and inflammation down.  Nowadays, I just use it when I feel a blemish coming on or after an extra hard work out.

The great thing about using apple cider vinegar and witch hazel (plus water) as your face wash is that you can always adjust the ratios to find what works for you.  Here’s the 3 varieties I use:

Everyday Use

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1 part apple cider vinegar + 1 part witch hazel + 1 part water

Delicate Skin

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1 part apple cider vinegar + 1 part witch hazel + 2 parts water

Removes Extra Redness

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1 part apple cider vinegar + 2 parts witch hazel + 1 part water

These are the 3 recipes I most commonly use, but half the fun in home remedies is experimenting!  Since everyone has different skin, you’ll probably need to adjust the ratios to meet your skin’s needs.

Warning: If you make a batch and use it over the course of a few weeks, be sure to keep adding water.  The water evaporates over time, leaving a higher concentration of apple cider vinegar and witch hazel which can turn your face red.  If you apply this via a cotton ball, you’ll have nice rosy streaks all over your face for an hour.  Don’t freak out. It does go away and there’s no lasting damage.  You should also mix the solution regularly to avoid separations and a higher concentration of one ingredient over the others.

Happy mixing!

P.S. Apple cider vinegar is sold everywhere (Costco has great prices on the bulk organic stuff) and you can find Witch Hazel at any drugstore.  It’s cheapest at Walmart or Target.

T of Death (1/3)

I started off my undergraduate career wide-eyed and ready to learn. I was easily indoctrinated, and when an esteemed professor told us to “be a T”, I took it to heart. He extolled us to become incredibly diverse in our skill sets, but go in-depth in one area. It was well-intentioned advice, but taken too far, you end up like the hapless college graduate that Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, describes in his book “Zero to One”

“By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse resume to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready–for nothing in particular.”

I am the proud owner of that diverse but relatively useless resume Thiel references. To be more accurate, I have curated a MASTER RESUME. A mammoth document recording everything I’ve ever done that may be of some interest to someone, some day, somewhere. When it comes time to use said novelette, I simply cherry pick the pieces that are most relevant, turning myself into a healthcare entrepreneur, selfless volunteer, social media guru, or involved and diligent student with a simple Ctrl + X.

Am I happy with the T I’ve turned out to be? I’m starting to doubt the practicality and healthiness of living a life of resume curating.

TO BE CONTINUED…

THE GREAT DEPRESSION, ENTREPRENEURSHIP, AND CITY TRAFFIC

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Ever wonder why the Great Depression was so Great?  It wasn’t just the Mild Blues or Mediocre Melancholy.  According to Robert Higgs, the Great Depression lasted so long and hit so hard because everyone freaked out.  The government started all these taxes and programs and businesses weren’t having it so they just froze for a decade or so.  It wasn’t until stability was restored that people could move on.

If you aren’t one of the 17 Austrian economists out there, you might have your own theory about the country’s worst economic downturn.  But I see the regime of uncertainty taking dominion everywhere.  It explains why someone on the highway sees an empty egg carton on the side of the road and suddenly the eight-lane freeway stops to a dead halt for .25 miles. It explains why life after college seems SO SCARY and I find myself wishing for those “worry-free” days of 24/7 studying.

A co-worker recently told me that an entrepreneur is someone who can live in ambiguity.  Actually live.  Not just do the same rote routine everyday and turn into bed each night shell-shocked from the uncertainty that is everywhere.  But someone who sees opportunities in the uncertainty and is willing to find that clarity, brush the dirt off, and polish it up so everyone can see it shine.

I think artists have this knack too.  Their world is always full of motion and they understand better than most that beautiful things emerge from the chaos, not just from the concrete and collected.

Some days, the ambiguity seems paralyzing.  But today, I refuse to sink into a Great Depression.  Today I am an entrepreneur and an artist and tomorrow, I’ll be putting my diamonds on display.


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“Make your strengths extraordinary rather than making your weaknesses adequate”

I recently heard this quote in the context of leadership development.  It is the mantra of StrengthsQuest, an asset-based personality test.  As a two time veteran of the test and the training program, I appreciate the sentiment.  And I’ve largely followed that advice in my own life.  I fine tune what I’m already good at, and ignore the parts of me that I have deemed hopeless.

But hearing the strengths leadership methodology stated so simply made me think.  Have we killed the Renaissance Man?  Is the world so specialized now that there is no value in being decently good at everything?

I’ve been told to be a T person.  Choose one thing to excel in and stay shallow in other skills.  It is the hallmark of the marketable college grad and the individualized American.

What do you think?  Is the focus on strengths to the exclusion of areas of development destroying the well-rounded person?  Comment below and share your thoughts!

Rising and Falling

I’ve been sitting in the Student Union for a while now.  When I got here it was perfectly empty at first.  It was perfect in quietness, perfect in solitude, perfect in loneliness to match my mood.  Now, there are a few dozen people here from some robotics convention.  It’s still perfectly lonely but now that desolate feeling has been personified in the faces of people I don’t recognize and never will.

I wrote once on how hard it was for me to connect with music.  I’d like to retract that statement.  As I’m sitting here, reviewing my notes on the Greek influence on Renaissance art, a familiar melody started playing though my headphones.  Except it wasn’t playing through my headphones, or in my ears, or even across my brain waves, but it started playing directly on my heart.  It isn’t even that great of a song yet all of a sudden I felt like smiling or crying or both (you might be correct in attributing this conflict of feeling in the fact that I’ve spent the last two days on a relatively deserted campus).  Either way, I decided to write.

As soon as I felt the melody and notes on my heart, my brain turned into some sort of antiquated projector.  Fuzzy black and white images started to come into focus.  I’m sitting in my old bedroom before it was redone, staring at walls the color of a grape slushy and playing with little key chains and trinkets that unlocked my imagination to a world all my own.  I’m sitting in the old Lumina mini-van with the worn upholstery and fabric falling from the roof, on my way to Florida listening to this CD and halfway between the conscious and dreamworld.  Looking back, I think I spent most of my childhood in that transitory state where nothing was real enough to be boring and reality was augmented by an imagination that was always on in full force.

My heart is rising and falling to the beat of the violin and drum.  Finally, I am moved.

Until next time,
Chloe

P.S. Although this post may insinuate that I am in some way not enjoying this weekend, that is completely false.  If you didn’t know this already, I don’t consider lonliness and quiet and solitude to be negative things and my experiences with them these last few days have been minimal yet fulfilling.