Friday, March 10, 2017

Go Carrie! It's your birthday!

Today is my birthday! I’m now 37, and I’m pretty excited about this year. I think 37 is a very auspicious number. And it’s a prime number. And the digits add up to 10, which is my birthday numeral. It is going to be a GREAT year!
So I mentioned in January that I’m sort of doing a Happiness Project this year and trying to work on/evaluate a different part of my life each month. January was about organizing the house, February was about trying to be more proactive in my marriage, and for March, I thought I’d try to be more proactive about being a better parent.
But then I changed my mind. In light of March being my birthday month, I wanted to do something, well, more fun. And one of the fundamental rules that underlies the Happiness Project is really knowing who you are and what you truly enjoy (versus what you think you should enjoy). I think in my younger years I definitely went through a lot of time of trying to enjoy certain things that I thought I should enjoy. But with the wisdom of my 30s, I’ve let go of most of those things. Like 95 percent of music! And 99 percent of fiction! I don’t enjoy these things, and there’s no need to pretend I do.
Still, I’m someone who gets so focused on doing the stuff that just needs to get done, so I wondered if there were things I really do enjoy that I’ve let slip because of, well, just being too busy. I’m also someone who enjoys trying new things (new things that involve no risk, that is, so “yes” to making homemade marshmallows but “no” to skydiving), so sometimes I learn something, or try something, and then move on and never do it again. Such as these French-beaded flowers:

I taught myself how to make these from a book
when our company made us take unpaid leave.
But there’s something to be said about having true hobbies that you enjoy and can fall back on when you need some down time and don’t want to just totally tune out with media.
So in my journey to revisit “what do I really like?” and “what makes Carrie so Carrie?” I reached out to some old friends, especially people I don’t see on a regular basis or haven’t seen in years, and asked them these questions. It was quite an interesting experiment, and I recommend everyone do it; it is fascinating to see how others perceive you compared to how you perceive yourself.
So what did people say? The good news is no one seemed to think I’ve changed that much, at least through what they can see from my social media and blog posts. So that was good to hear. But then when I asked about something they will always remember me for, that’s where the more interesting answers came in.
One of my favorite answers is from my college friend Jordan, who I probably ate a dozen meals a week with during the two years we lived in the high rises because we both had future spouses at other colleges and we could enjoy each other’s company without any danger of romantic messiness.
Jordan said, “I recall that when you felt wronged about some kind of absurdity, you had a pointed way of venting that mixed anger, snark, and mirth. Not quite 'combustible' or really a temper, but a take-no-crap kind of attitude. Hopefully that hasn't mellowed!”
I have no idea what kind of situations he’s thinking of that cemented that perception of me in his head, but it makes me laugh. I feel like high school and college Carrie was pretty sassy, and with maturity that has, well, let’s just say it has been tempered. I feel like I take my fair share of crap these days, but then I have other friends who get walked on all the time, and I realize I probably do avoid a heck of a lot of crap coming my way, perhaps because I project that I’m not going to take it. If that makes sense.

I was really excited to hear what my brother Dan would have to say too, because he’s 7 years younger than me and quotes things back to me that I’ve said and have no recollection of, but are hilarious. (“If Dippin’ Dots is the ‘ice cream of the future,’ the future sucks.”) I think both my brother and my mom take everything I say as gospel when I unintentionally speak in proclamations. I once asked my mom why she never put cucumber in salads anymore, and she said it was because I had declared that “winter cucumbers aren’t worth a crap.” To which I responded, “yeah, but I still want some cucumber.”
Anyway, this is one thing Dan had to say about me: “Another thing that you have done is just slide into places where you don't necessarily belong, but you act so confidently that no one questions it. For instance, I remember you came to my 8th grade dance to pick me up and you just walked in even though they weren't supposed to let older kids in. You just came in and blended. In retrospect, I guess it's not that surprising. Middle school dances are not really known for tight security. For whatever reason though, this memory always stands out to me.”
I have no memory of this. But if my brother was in the eighth grade, I would have been 21, and being 5’0” I probably did blend in. Heck, I might have been one of the shortest people there, the way kids are growing these days. I do remember once going to a Halloween party to pick Dan up and he was just getting ready to go on a hayride, so I joined in, and one of the fellow party-goers started hitting on me and I had to tell him I was in college and just there to pick up my brother. Awkward. Because of my height, people always thought Dan and I were just a couple of years apart, which is kind of ridiculous, and wonderfully flattering.
But back to slipping into places I don’t belong and doing it confidently—that kind of describes what a journalist has to do. Go under that yellow caution tape and find the person in charge? Yup, part of the job. I wouldn’t have thought I was good at that when I was younger, because I remember I really had to develop my “Reporter Carrie” persona during my internships and then my early years as a journalist because I really am quite a shy person.
But on the other hand, I generally always was pretty confident in myself too. Which apparently showed! As my high school friend Morgan wrote me back: “I remember feeling like you were always doing what was best for you and not what everyone else wanted to do. You introduced new people and ideas to all of us and you were true to yourself. I don't want it to feel like you didn't care about what people thought, because I think you did…You had the skill of being true to yourself and respectful of others.”
I think Morgan really hit it on the head, because sometimes I think I might come across as someone who doesn’t care at all what others think, but what I’m really doing is trying to evaluate things objectively and then not let other people’s opinions carry more weight than my own, especially when they probably have less information on the subject (if the subject is me) than I do. I feel like I’m getting preachy—I hope this isn’t coming across that way.
My friend Pat has been a friend since high school, then we went to the same college and work in the same field, and have continued to get together every few months through adulthood. Pat, I think you are my longest-running, never-on-hold friendship! My favorite comment from Pat: “Carrie is that laugh. That great, glorious, genuine, beautiful, comforting, totally-in-on-the-joke laugh.” I know that laugh he’s talking about, and it doesn’t come out every time, or every day, but if you know what he’s talking about, then you really have seen a quintessential part of Carrie.
Pat also thought a trademark part of me was how I painted my car’s interior in high school. I had my mom’s 12-year-old Civic and I spray painted the carpet green and painted the ceiling light blue, I believe with clouds. An essential part of Carrie as a mom: “An acknowledged willingness to redistribute her kid's Kit Kats and Milky Ways at Halloween into her own candy stash.” True. Rye does not need that much chocolate. I do.
Pat also remembered how I used to go to the race track and bet on horseracing with my father, and said he would be sad if I didn’t do that anymore. I don’t do it every year, but the spirit of that is still in me. In many ways, I am my father’s daughter.
And then the most common answer that came from multiple friends—a quintessential part of Carrie is my mad rapping skills and passion for old school hip hop. This facet of me has been surprising people since I was young. I remember going to college and people being shocked that I knew all the words to “Jump Around” or “Intergalactic” or “Bust a Move” — and they didn’t even know I grew up in rural Harford County. My rapping skills only seem to make an appearance when alcoholic beverages have been imbibed, which is a bit of a shame because I’ve realized I can’t always keep up with the tempo in those circumstances, but I suppose chances to rap along with “Shoop” generally only come up in party-like atmosphere.
When I turned 30, I came up with an epic mix cd called “Don’t Be a Menace to Society…Unless Carrie Is” to commemorate the occasion, and this year, in trying to celebrate “being true to Carrie,” I’ve created this playlist, “DJ Cat Spins it Old School,” on Spotify so you can take part in also celebrating classic hip hop with me this year. (Classic means 2002 and earlier, in my opinion.) I try to keep it mostly clean, but that’s kind of hard, so just know I tried my best. If you’re wondering where some of the more standard classics are, like the aforementioned hits or “Baby Got Back”, “Ice, Ice Baby” or "Let me Clear My Throat," it’s because this is not my first hip hop mix cd, okay? Those are all on Volumes I, II and II 1/2.
Other parts of Carrie that I plan to celebrate/revive after thinking about “what makes Carrie so Carrie:” watching less TV and reading more nonfiction, specifically travel writing; continuing to cook new recipes every week; crocheting more; spending time outdoors!; celebrating color; wearing elaborate and ridiculous accessories (feathers, anyone?); and trying to get together with more friends face-to-face instead of settling for correspondence friendships.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to everyone who messaged me back about what’s quintessential Carrie but that I didn’t get to name! You all are great!