As a sophomore in high school, I took a religion class in which the end-of-semester project was something called “My Philosophy of Life.” We spent weeks filling out surveys and writing answers to various prompts about our perspectives on a range of topics, inviting friends to answer forms about us, making collages reflecting our interests, and organizing all of these pages into a binder that we artfully decorated in styles that befit our own budding personalities. The project was fun, and it felt like fluff compared to the grueling essays and papers we were assigned in our other coursework. We all got As on it and felt wonderful about ourselves. And then those binders found their ways into the basements of family homes scattered around the Washington, D.C. area, where they have since collected dust and eye rolls from parents periodically wishing to purge their homes of clutter.
I was thinking about this project the other day and wishing I’d hung onto it (mine, sadly, did not survive one of said parental purges) because I am curious to know what 14-year-old-me thought of the world and, perhaps more intriguingly, about herself. I was thinking about this wryly, smirkingly–the idea that a fourteen year old could have a “philosophy of life” or anything approaching it seemed, at the moment, laughable. I’m now on the cusp of turning 33 and, if you ask me to articulate my philosophy of life, I think I’d stumble awkwardly into something about taking calculated risks and making space for my emotions (…?)
But, wait a minute.
I wrote two facetious posts about “adulting” recently (one on how my grocery shopping habits have changed, and the other on how, in my maturing age, I am increasingly prone to want to “give people a piece of my mind” or, alternately, take a moment to thank someone for a job well done), but when I string them together, I think they tell me something about myself. First, I’m struck by the fact that I have been reflecting–a lot–on my age. Perhaps its the proximity of my birthday (June 26th) or the recent birth of my daughter (ah! I have a daughter! what’s this?!) or the fact that — as I offhandedly mentioned to Mr. Magpie as we wove through traffic on Damen Ave on our way to Costco to pick up wipes for mini a few days ago — “we’re probably about a third of the way through our lives at this point.”
I recently watched segments of Will Ferrell’s commencement speech to the University of Southern California (delightful, truly — worth a watch) and then read through snippets of eight other commencement speeches from celebrities on the blog Cup of Jo. In aggregate, they can feel like a string of feel-good bromides, but they can also, as they did for me early one morning last week, lead to a swelling-in-the-chest, a feeling of emotional bigness and a rousing and breathless urgency to live life more fully. And, in turn, some moments of self-reflection as to what it even means for me to live life fully. Which principles and, yes, “philosophies of life” would I isolate as the most important guideposts for living a full and mindful life?
Well, here’s the thing: I had a hard time organizing a shortlist. Nearly all of the points made in those commencement speeches spoke to me, and I found myself drumming up quite the list of platitudes–“take big chances,” “improvise,” “be compassionate,” “listen,” “just get started.” As I reflected on my teens, my 20s, my 30s, the list of cliches continued to accumulate, until it was forming an unwieldy pastiche I could barely get my mind around. C’mon, Jen. You’re better than this.
And then I realized that the point of that sophomore-year project was not to come to some magically intact understanding of the world–something on the order of a commencement speech–but to seed the habit of self-exploration. To elicit out of fourteen-year-old me the boldness to take a minute and think about how I felt about myself and the world around me. The audacity to make space for my admittedly loosely-formed, imperfect, ever-changing understanding of the phenomena around me. On the brink of 33, it finally dawns on me that I have been ceaselessly engaged in this process of stitching and unstitching my philosophy of life, of trimming bits that no longer seem relevant, of tearing out the seams of some segments, of mending other parts, of adding new fabric. (How far can I take this seamstress analogy?) At any rate, the point is not to sit back and look across what I’ve formed and view it as an intact whole, as something complete that I can frame and gesture to at dinner parties (for that, I’ll take a St. Frank Textiles otomi, please and thank you), but to be endlessly engaged in its construction.
I say this because, as I look at those two posts on adulting, I see fragments of my current “philosophy of life.” I see a version of myself deeply invested in building traditions with my growing family, traditions that often center around cooking and breaking bread together (hence the grocery conveyer belt revelations), and one who has grown increasingly self-aware in her interactions with others and cognizant of her agency in navigating those interactions to get things done (hence my list of letters). But I also see that this 32-year-old Jen will soon give way to a 33-year-old Jen who will have an evolved–though not, at this point, I don’t think, entirely different–set of priorities and perspectives, and such is the way of life.
I’ll finish by pulling out two quotes from the commencement-speech-palooza that I enjoyed early one morning last week that really spoke to me and that, I think, nicely bookend this rambling blogpost:
Anna Quindlen: “Embrace a life that feels like it belongs to you, not one made up of tiny fragments of the expectations of a society that, frankly, in most of its expectations, is not worthy of you.”
Mark Zuckerburg: “Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started.”
So, heady stuff for this Monday morning (what do you think?), but also — my 10 picks for today.
Pick No. 1: The Ice Blue Nail Polish
On a whim, I recently selected Essie’s ice blue “Perfect Posture” polish at the salon and have been majorly digging it. It looks great paired with whites for summer.
Julia of Gal Meets Glam wore a similar color recently and it looked gorgeous:
Pick No. 2: The OTS Printed Dress.
Pick No. 3: The Impractical Summer Slide
But the real question is, do I not need these pearl-encrusted Miu Miu slides for summer ($750)?!?!?! I think I need them in the blush or navy…channel the look for less with these Tory Burches or these more understated Jeffrey Campbells.
Pick No. 4: The Smocked Gingham Tunic.
I was spotted in my fav Innika Choo tunic dress on Insta a weekend or two ago — absolutely LOVE this label and her on-trend styles! — and then discovered she’s now been picked up by Moda Operandi, making shopping a touch easier. I am obsessed with the gingham tunic below in tomato red ($250).
Pick No. 5: The Decorative Candle.
I am smitten with these beautifully decorated Rifle Paper candles ($35). The patterns are so charming and would liven up any old shelfie / bedsidetablie / coffeetablie (are those things?)
Pick No. 6: The Freshest Bedding.
I love all of the patterns are Biscuit Home, but this cornflower blue floral “Dorothy” print may take the cake as my all time favorite ($200 for duvet, $70 for sham), maybe mixed in with one of their gorgeous new scalloped linen shams ($155), preferably monogrammed.
Pick No. 7: The Funky Planter.
I know I’ve featured this little planter ($16) before, but it is STILL on my mind after seeing it in this adorable home tour — so cute (and so is the entire apartment!) Also, talk about living a mindful life: the occupant of this sweet apartment has really got things down. Writing three pages every day after waking up? Refusing to keep her technology on after 9 pm? Amazing.
Pick No. 8: The Asymmetric Midi.
How amazing is this lavender Mara Hoffman midi dress ($325)? Perfection with these earrings from BaubleBar ($48) — a little tone on tone action never hurt nobody. And P.S. — more asymmetric goodness here.
Pick No. 9: The Statement Necklace.
Pick No. 10: The Matchy-Matchy.