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Posts Tagged ‘challenge’

When I talked about being on the panels at ConFusion, I mentioned I had another challenge coming up. And now it’s almost here.

The challenge: hosting my own party.

What’s the big deal, you might be asking. My local friends in particular know that I’ve thrown many parties. I’ve even thrown custom-written mystery parties, in addition to all kinds of theme parties and barbecues. I arrange board game gatherings on a regular basis. I convince people it would be fun to dress up to go see the James Bond movie. Event planning is something I’ve had some experience doing.

But when it comes to parties, I never host by myself. I have, in fact, never thrown a party of greater than six or seven people without a co-host. I discovered the amazing reassurance of having a co-host fairly early on, when it turned out a good friend’s birthday was three days after mine. It was only natural that we’d throw a birthday party together. And from there, a tradition was born. Since then, I’ve always found a co-host with whom to collaborate.

But that changes now. I’m hosting a party this weekend. By myself. I’ve been trying to keep it on the small side because of space constraints, but it’s definitely a party. And a themed “narrative entertainment” party, at that.

My biggest fear about hosting a party is always that no one will show up. That’s why having a co-host is so great–you’re guaranteed their presence, at the very least, plus they’ll be inviting all their friends too. It was a great way for me to get experience throwing parties. However, at this point I am 99% certain this fear is ridiculous and completely unfounded in reality. So by throwing a party, I’ll be putting that last one percent to rest.

I recently read an article about a study showing that when you’re experiencing performance anxiety, it’s better to get excited than it is to try to calm down. This makes complete sense to me because it’s helpful to have somewhere to put that nervous energy. I think back to the times I’ve been the most nervous, and in general it was for events that I was not excited about. Auditions mostly, which for me are just not as thrilling as performances.

Happily for me, I’m very excited about this party, which means whenever I start to feel nervous, I think about that excitement instead. I really like experimenting with parties that are a little different from the standard barbecue or “Apples to Apples” type affair, and trying new ideas to see what works in a party atmosphere and what doesn’t. This time I’m using a party game mechanic I’ve never tried before, and it was really fun to do the creative prep work for the game. I’ve had stickers custom printed, a friend has agreed to take photographs, and if all goes according to plan, by the end of the party there should be a physical book with records of my guests’ creative fancies. I expect it to be a memorable evening.

The teaser I've given my party guests...

The teaser I’ve given my party guests…

I’ll report back here next week to tell you how it went!

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A Happy Life:

I have few or no worries and low stress. I am healthy and pain-free. I don’t have to deal with change very often. I spend time doing pleasant activities: reading books, playing games, watching movies, eating good food, making music, doing fun work, hanging out with friends. I go on fun outings on the weekends. I have enough money to do what I want to do.

A Meaningful Life:

I don’t walk away from something only because it is difficult. I embrace change when it is necessary. I enjoy challenges. I prioritize time for the things that matter to me: building close connections with others, helping others, working towards artistic mastery, creating things, doing work I’m invested in, learning more about the world and about myself, feeling gratitude and appreciation for the little things, evoking emotions and uncovering truth. While I still search for a balance in order to take care of myself, I make trade-offs in order to live in line with my priorities.

*****

I don’t think these two lives are necessarily mutually exclusive, but they do sometimes come into conflict with each other. And when I’m being honest with myself, I know that the happy life, while sometimes tempting, also sounds…empty. I’d enjoy it for a while, sure, but if that was all there was for me, I’d get restless.

When I think back on my life so far, what gives me the most personal satisfaction are not the pleasant activities I’ve done. I can hardly remember most of them. Most of the things I’m actively glad I did were challenging and not always comfortable. I’m glad I moved to London for a year. I’m glad I studied music. I’m glad I got to travel. I’m glad for the relationships I formed, with students, family, friends, romantic partners. I’m glad I taught. I’m glad I wrote a musical, and short stories, and novels. I’m glad I got a dog. None of those things were easy, and none of them were unadulterated happiness (although the dog was close!). But they are what matter to me.

I was struck by something in the Atlantic article “There’s more to life than being happy:”

“Having negative events happen to you, the study found, decreases your happiness but increases the amount of meaning you have in life.”

Now there’s a silver lining if ever I’ve heard one. Right after reading the above article, I happened across my friend Myke Cole’s essay on PTSD, and he also talks about finding meaning in the face of adversity:

“We have to find a way to construct significance, to help a changed person forge a path in a world that hasn’t changed along with them.”

This is how we move forward in the world, through the meaning we create, through the choices we make. The more I think about this idea, the more clarity I find. Buddhism talks a lot about the inevitability of suffering. But the suffering can give birth to meaning, and that meaning? It’s a truly beautiful thing.

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