Redefining Your "Best Self"

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If you'd asked me to picture my "best self" in high school, the image I'd conjure could only be possible through plastic surgery, a sudden growth spurt, and the acquisition of talents not mine to possess in this lifetime. My best self wouldn't need to rest, struggle with emotions, or deal with rejection. She'd be "perfect" in the most unrealistic of ways. And she'd look nothing like me.

This is the first year where, as we approach January 1,  I don't feel like setting goals meant to transform myself into different person. I certainly want to better myself, push myself, learn and grow, but I don't feel the pressure to somehow finish 2016 as an unrecognisable version of myself.

Over the last year, I learned that we're capable of far more than we realise, but we still have to work with the limitations on our plate. I will not wake up as tall as T-Swift no matter what I do, but I can push aside fears and work through blocks to reach other goals fit for me. I won't miraculously transform into an extroverted gal or love crowds, but I can work on fostering meaningful connections that inspire and won't drain me. 

When I think of picturing my best self now, I see myself, as I am, but with healthy habits, the right dose of motivation, and the freedom to enjoy both adventures and down time. My best self would love herself enough to rest when she needs to rest, set aside time to devour books (free of guilt!), and nourish her body with a diet that still includes muffins on the regular.

My best self is simply me, awake to my dreams and priorities, with the creative dial cranked up and lots of love to give.

Good Enough to Eat: Volume I

"Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children's letters - sometimes very hastily - but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, 'Dear Jim: I loved your card.' Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, 'Jim loved your card so much he ate it.' That to me was one of the highest compliments I've ever received. He didn't care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it."  - Maurice Sendak

He saw it, he loved it, he ate it. There have been countless occasions where I've listened to a song and wished I could somehow drown in it, or witnessed a stunning work of art and could say nothing but, "Someone tattoo this on my body."* I went through a phase my senior year of university where I memorised poems I admired so that they could travel with me always. I suppose, in my own way, I tried to eat them.

This concept of feeling such a strong connection to something that you want to engulf it or be engulfed by it (these emotions are one in the same if you think about it) is essentially that which drives fandom. Something isn't just beautiful; it's powerful, it's moving, it changes you in some way. So, you can't let it go. You return to it, you recommend it to others, and you find ways to keep it on your person, literally or figuratively.

To celebrate this feeling, I'm beginning a series on my blog where I share the works that have influenced me in this indelible sort of way. Without further ado, here are five works that are, to me, good enough to eat.

1. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Of all the books I've read, this is probably the one I've recommended to others most often.** I adore Foer's creative use of language and the way he plays with the physical formatting of his text, blurring the lines between prose and poetry. This book put me in that end-of-book fog, the kind of trance that lasts for days or weeks and has you welling up in odd places, like the dentist's waiting room or the dairy aisle. When I first met my partner, I bought him this book because I felt that maybe, if he loved it too, it would somehow mean something about us. That copy currently resides on a bookshelf we share in our home.

"Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on.
I hope you never have to think about anything as much as I think about you."
- Jonathan Safran Foer

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Charlie Kaufman. "Sorry not sorry" to all the people I've forced to watch this film. I love the concept, the surreal vibe, the music, the message -- heck, I even love Jim Carrey in this (JUST this). I'm someone who dreams vividly on a nightly basis, and the film's portrayal of how memory is stored in the brain reminds me of how my subconscious works when I sleep. This movie gets me. Please watch it.

3. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I read this my freshman year of high school, and it completely changed the way I look at writing. Set in Chicago and centred on adolescent experiences of a Mexican-American girl, the book is made up of semi-autobiographical vignettes and bursting with metaphor. One vignette in particular, Red Clowns, made me shiver then and still does. It may be triggering for some, so read at your own discretion!  

4. Trouble Will Find Me by The National. This album is so solid, you guys. The National continually produces strong, melancholic albums and I'm all about those pensive vibes. I saw them perform in LA once and the lead singer swigged from a bottle of vodka throughout the show, which definitely didn't help his enunciation problem. If you're feeling down and could use some solidarity, don't hesitate to give this album a listen. 

5. The Holy Longing by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. Remember that poetry memorisation phase I spoke of earlier? This was the first I tried to "eat." It captures aspects of my spiritual beliefs in a way that blows my mind. You can read the full poem here; I hope you'll connect with it as well! The final stanza is my favourite:

Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven't experienced this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.

- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Thanks for joining me for this first instalment of Good Enough to Eat. I'd love to know what you connect with in this way; feel free to share in the comments below!

*For the record, I don't have any tattoos yet, but my mental list of designs keeps growing!
** I refuse to see the movie version. I beg you, do not watch it. If that doesn't sway you, its rating of 46% on Rotten Tomatoes should do the trick.