The world can be an overwhelming place for one person, can’t it? Most of the time we have the strength and confidence to meet the challenges of life head on, but there are some days or weeks when you just feel a little off. In fact, one set of lines which comes to mind to put some of this feeling into words comes from a Weepies song:
“I let the day go by.
I always say goodbye.
I watch the stars from my windowsill -
The whole world is moving…but I’m standing still.”
Right there. Brilliant. Music is rather amazing that way. Even in our loneliest moments a song can reach out to us, letting us know that someone else has been there with us.
At any rate, it just so happens that I’m recently regaining my footing from one such week. Insecurities about the future, some frustrating problems in a group project, sad news, and horrible weather added to the mix all contributed to getting me down. But! Despite this zap on my energy, I had a couple of things to pull me up from this slump.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “follow your bliss?” It is a philosophy that my high school English class often touched on junior and senior year, and these past couple of weeks have been reminding me of the importance of this phrase. When you do find yourself in a slump, the best thing you can do is seek out the things that make you happy and content. It doesn’t matter what it is, big or little, you just have to figure out what it is and pursue it.
My ‘saving graces’, as it were, came from a few different areas. It just so happened that there was a writing festival last week which spanned three evenings and featured some very cool and diverse writers. I forced myself to shuck the warm blankets and rise from my nest on the couch to go check out the first events of the Oxford Writing Festival. Two hours and many laughs later (the event was kicked off with a show from the student improv group, followed by the fantastic group StarKid – writers/actors behind “A Very Potter Musical”, etc.), I was incredibly glad I had gone.
The following two days didn’t disappoint, either. Travel and adventure writer Charles Scott gave a great talk about, well essentially, following your bliss. Then I listened to the inspiring journey of journalist, column writer, and NPR contributor Kathy Wilson. The final day saw me sitting down to learn about the ins and outs of writing for video games as opposed to fiction from Richard Dansky – he even made a point using Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, and the otter (no time to explain, but a high five to you if you understand how this was infinitely awesome)! Afterwards, I was introduced to the ‘what if’ writing process from young adult fiction writer Jennifer Bradbury. For the most part, all of the writers who participated in the festival are writers who aren’t classically trained to write for a profession. This was all the more encouraging and spirit lifting for this aspiring, so very green, young writer.
The Oxford Writing Festival was number one, then. The second saving grace fell on the final day of the Writing Festival as well. In Oxford, there is a place called ‘You’re Fired’. It’s one of those pick something out, paint it, they fire it and you pick it up in a week places – and I love it! Any one of my housemates, if asked, could impress upon you the incredible amount of time with which I can spend at this place.
Painting is something I’ve always enjoyed doing, but find little time to pursue. When I go to pick something out at ‘You’re Fired’, I make it count. Case in point? I began a project to create a set of plates (each ocean themed with a tailored saying and one for each member of my family) at the end of my freshman year. Today, I picked up the finished product of the final plate of the set – hooray!
Anyway, this place also has a wonderful atmosphere to it. Though a small place, you will be surrounded by a variety of people ranging from young children (possible a birthday party) to, quite literally, old friends there to catch up and try something new. Usually a tailored music playlist or station is on that sets the mood perfectly. It’s relaxing and soothing, and you might just hear some people singing along softly as they focus intently on a steady hand, and bringing an idea to life.
In a way, it’s also very intimate. People might see what you’re painting and stop to compliment you on it or ask you about it. Seeing all of the creative pieces as you move around the tight space is very cool. And while I had my Sherlock nod with one of the writer’s talks, I ended up engaging in a brief Doctor Who geek out with one of the workers and another woman inside who was painting a TARDIS themed olive oil jar!
I’ve found that painting something at You’re Fired is a breath of fresh air for me. I don’t have to focus on anything except what is right in front of me, and that in itself is rejuvenating! Now then, I’ve had the Writing Festival and painting at You’re Fired. What’s next?
Food of course! Specifically, chocolate :). We all know it’s a proven fact that chocolate can boost your mood, so what better way to get yourself out of a funk? We had some friends over Friday night, so I decided to whip out that box of brownie mix I always keep on hand. This time, though, I wanted to make them a little more special (no, not in that way). The idea came from this awesome brownie I’d had from Outsider Tart in England called the ‘Hepburn Brownie’. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 box Ghirardelli double chocolate brownie mix
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- Ghirardelli semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
- 3/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla
Yup, cinnamon is that extra, special ingredient here, and what a difference it makes! Just follow the instructions on the box and mix the first four ingredients together. My family always adds some extra chocolate chips, and we just sort of eyeball it. Throw a handful or two of chocolate chips in the batter and mix in until the ratio feels right.
Add the cinnamon in – without a recipe, I just kind of guessed how much and ended up with a little less than 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, which was perfect! I also just decided to add between 1/2 and 1 teaspoon of vanilla on the fly , so mixed that in too.
Do be mindful not to over mix the batter, however, as that will make the brownies tough. When in doubt, some gentle folding will do the trick. Pour the batter into an 8×8 or similar sized pan (spray with pam first!) and pop that in the oven for about 40 minutes. Let cool. Dig in.
While I don’t have the actual Hepburn Brownie recipe (yet), I felt I could cheat and save some time with the brownie mix (and it was Ghirardelli!). The basic principle of the cinnamon and chocolate together is spot on, though, regardless of how you get there. So if you need a pick me up from a long week and have neither the time nor energy to invest in a spectacular dessert, simply adding a little extra to this brownie mix will do the trick just as well. (The pan doesn’t lie, those brownies were a hit and boy have they gone fast!)
So if you are anything like me, just remember to take some time to do things that you really enjoy doing. You may find an event going on that piques your interest and even though you leave your comfort zone to try something new, you may be surprised when you get there! Going to the writing festival allowed me to really reconnect with a friend from freshman year and meet these fantastic authors. I took some solitary and very peaceful time to let myself focus solely on creative energy at You’re Fired and made a connection through a shared interest in a television show. I made a great discovery on turning ordinary brownies into spectacular chocolate/cinnamon-y goodness for that little something extra to indulge in and share with friends, and I ended up winning my first round of Euchre!
Remember those lessons from your high school English class, for they may just come in handy. Despite all the stress and little frustrations that can come together to make the world seem insurmountable at times, at the end of the day you just have to follow your bliss. Start with small things (could be sitting down to write a blog post) and lead up to the big things. Follow your bliss and you will take the world into your own hands. So what is it that makes you happy?
Well, readers, another day another post. I hope you are having as rejuvenating a weekend as I am, and a Happy Easter to those of you celebrating! Thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…
So about that song I mentioned way back at the beginning? Here it is for you, kind of the theme for the week. While not the official music video, this animation done to the song is thought provoking and simply stunning in its beauty and fluidity. Enjoy: