2019: Two Buckets and a Pile of Stones

Temping at a custom Christmas card company clicking through pictures of smiling children in scarves and babies sobbing next to Santa Claus really makes you think: Everyone is someone’s kid. Those two yellow headed parents in puffy Patagonia vests got freaky and made those five little Franken-thems.

I help with quality control making sure customers are satisfied with their order, handling complaints, issuing refunds and reprints, that sort of thing. And I see a lot of creepy kids. On one card today this girl maybe seven years old with silky brown hair and wide eyes, had this Cheshire cat grin like she was up to something, like she had just skinned a live rabbit with the razor she found in the bathroom wastebasket. Standing backlit by a twinkling tree twice her size, she clasped her hands together and looked at the camera as if to say, “It was easy, mama. It stopped wiggling after long.” 

I have been temping as a Customer Care Specialist at this card company for almost a month now and I can’t tell you enough how grateful I was to find this gig in the dead of winter and earn while I look for more permanent work. I moved out here about—gosh, three months ago—and it was hard as most transitions are. Moving from Chicago, a city I loved so deeply, and from the people who had made it home was a sucker-punch, an all time low. The kind that makes you feel like listening to Simple Plan. But I did not listen to Simple Plan because it’s all about Blink, baby.

It was tough but what’s that Childish line? “It was a sadness I chose” for growth’s sake. And I did grow. This new year rolled in and I started it with my mom and her childhood friend drinking hot toddies and applying to jobs. I paused only to dance with my headphones in to A Boogie Wit da Hoodie’s “Look Back at It,” a profound gentle reminder to pause and reflect on the past. I wiggled away 2018 in my mother’s kitchen feeling sure of my power to start again.

This is where we talk about resolutions. A resolution is a promise to yourself. It is a chance to hold yourself accountable, to prove to your worth to you and you alone. It provides the opportunity to love yourself and to believe in yourself a little more. I’m reminded of something I learned at the Welles Park pool my last month in Chicago. The teacher had seen me swimming alone during class time and invited me to join and practice my kicks, which I’d had trouble with over the years. 

So about six adults maybe 25-50 in swim caps and goggles, one-pieces and crumpled trunks sat on the lip of the pool with our feet in the deep end while our instructor (who looked like a stockier Trevor Noah) made this analogy. He said, “When you make time for your swim practice, it is important that you spend that time swimming with the right technique. Let’s say you have two buckets and a pile of stones. Most days you come in and you figure, ‘I’m just going to swim, get my workout in and not worry about technique,’ and you practice incorrectly, you put a stone in the bad technique bucket. Now let’s say every once in a while, you come in and decide, ‘today, I’ll get my work out in, but I’m going to focus on technique. I’m going to choose to do this right because I want to improve.’ Then you put a stone in the good technique bucket. Over time, which bucket’s going to weigh more?”

Splashes from the elderly class in the shallow end echoed through the gymnasium. We in the deep end were quiet, hanging on our teacher’s words. Obviously, the bad technique bucket gets heavier and that’s how you end up swimming, not improving each time but holding yourself back from getting better.

I learned how to kick correctly that day and I bring that practice with me whenever I get into the pool. This year, I am bringing that sort of intentional practice to my writing with the goal of becoming more accomplished and making this my career. We are always capable of changing our habits, of learning through loss, of beginning again. I’m holding myself accountable for writing at least 200 words a day for the next 365 days and sharing it. To be a writer, I’ve got to write.

Here’s to 2019. More possibilities, more kicks, and more words!