Could Pokémon Go be what America needs right now?

It seems a bit strange to me too that I’m writing this week’s story about Pokémon Go, the newest video game app, especially because I have been brutally mocking L for playing it for the last few days.

When my brother and I were kids, we used to walk to Sullivan’s Toy Store in DC, where he would take out all the coins he had saved in his piggy bank to buy Pokémon Discs. I never knew exactly how the game was played, but I knew it was important. I knew that discs could be traded. And that’s about it. (Update: I checked with him, and he actually said it was Pogs, but I’m leaving it in for the sake of the story. Storytellers can do that, right?) 

Now, in just a few days Pokémon Go, a video game that people play through their phones, is incredibly popular. Over 7 million people are suddenly playing it. From my limited understanding, the game fuses the 90’s game of Pokémon with local geography. Basically, the goal is to catch Pokémon’s, but unlike other video games, Pokémon Go forces players to get off the couch and out into the real world. You can catch Pokémon (apparently the plural of Pokémon is Pokémon) at your Local Park or museum, and they appear to be where you actually are. You see landmarks in your neighborhoods, and you learn about your city.

I definitely scoffed when L was trying to catch Pokémon in the apartment. But yesterday evening, when we went to a park for a stroll, we noticed a bunch of people playing. Some of them gave friendly advice, an older couple wanted to know how it was played, and it actually brought people together.  

People of all ages, genders, races, walks of life, you name it – everyone had one thing in common – trying to catch Pokémon. As absurd as it may sound, it was effective. People immediately caught each other’s eyes and smiled when it became obvious that they were on the hunt (holding their phones out in front of them awkwardly). It was really fun – so fun that I actually downloaded the game myself.  

It made me think that maybe the release of Pokémon Go was perfect timing for America. With the recent deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the police officers in Dallas, maybe we all need something silly and light to connect over. Of course, this doesn’t solve any of the systemic racism in America. Yet maybe, just maybe, it can help create community in a country that sorely needs that right now.

Of course, I know there have been all kinds of safety concerns over privacy, people getting lured to unfamiliar neighborhoods, and people injuring themselves, so if you are playing, please be careful. Yet this skeptic may just be a Pokémon convert.

Are you playing Pokémon Go? Have you ever been a skeptic about something and then changed your mind? Do you have thoughts to share about the current state of America? If so, please chime in below. I would love to hear your stories.

Tips to get back on that proverbial horse

I was ten years old, learning how to ride a horse at camp. The key difference between western and eastern style riding, I was finding out very quickly, was posting while trotting. In western riding, you kind of just held on for dear life while bouncing around. In eastern riding, I had to figure out how to rise halfway up in my seat and then go down, in rhythm with the horse. “Just don’t overthink it," the well-meaning counselor said to me. Little did she know that those words would just cause me to overthink it even more. I ended up trying so hard to sync up with the horse that I leaned too far to the side and slid right off. It all happened so fast that I was stunned. 'I was trying to do everything right,' I silently screamed inside my head, as I fought back tears. You can guess what my counselor said to me next, right? “It’s okay, Julie. You’ve just got to get back on that horse now!”

I love the feeling of setting goals and intentions. It can be around New Years, a new month, a new season, a new project, a new hobby - you name it. Whenever I start something, I feel amazing. For the first full week and a half to be precise I am on fire, and nothing can stop me.

Until life inevitably does. I get a migraine headache, or someone needs my help, or I’m just too tired, and I don’t do whatever I said I was going to do every day. Suddenly, I’m filled with self-loathing, up to my neck in guilt, and I’m wallowing in my bed, watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy. That’s alright, you won’t get any judgment from me. I know we’ve all been there. That’s why I want to offer you a few tips on how to get back on that proverbial horse when you’ve been bucked off (or you just slid off gradually like I did).

·      Eliminate the shame, self-loathing, and guilt. For me, that’s the toughest part when I don’t follow through on something I said I would do. That shame, self-loathing, and guilt keeps me panicked and pinned down, unable to move forward. Once I let go and accept the fact that things didn’t work out as well as I had hoped they would, I can move forward.

·      Write it down. Whatever you’re feeling, just write it all down. Don’t worry about how it looks, how it sounds, or how mortified you would feel if anyone read it. Just write it all down, and then crumple, rip, or burn that piece of paper (if you can do it safely). Once you’ve gotten out your emotions about your setback, you can move on.

·      Take a very small action. For me, sometimes it starts with a very small piece of whatever I wanted to accomplish. Instead of telling yourself you’re useless until you write that novel, try writing a page. Instead of saying you just need to run that marathon, try running a mile. You get it. Little actions propel you forward, and big to-do lists can be stifling.

·      Be gentle with yourself. Look, I know you really want to beat yourself up right now, but trust me (I know from experience) it won’t actually help. You already know that you didn’t reach your goal. Don’t belabor the point, alright?

Once I got over my shame and disappointment that I couldn’t trot perfectly on my first try, I did get back on that horse, with one simple goal: to stay on this time. I’m proud to say that not only did I stay on, but once I was focusing my attention elsewhere, my camp counselor called out, “Nice posting, Julie!”

Dear Writer

Dear Writer,

I chose to write, “dear writer”, but you’re probably having trouble calling yourself a writer. I get it. You probably think you aren’t designated a writer until you have something published, right? Or if you’ve had something published, maybe you don’t think it was very good. Or you don’t think you’re a writer until you feel like an expert in something. Or you don’t think you’re a writer because it’s been a year since you’ve written anything. You might have trouble with the writer title, but I’m here to tell you that you are a writer.

Because here’s the secret: everyone can be a writer. All you have to do is to write.  The act of writing makes you a writer. I promise. What a relief. All you have to do in order to be a writer is to write. Now, you’re thinking, if only it were that easy.

And sometimes, it’ll be just that easy. It’ll be like you hear this voice inside you that’s just urging you on, and you have to grab a pen and paper quickly to capture all of your amazing ideas as quickly as possible. You might be in the shower, yelling at your partner to bring you a notepad, quickly. You might be in the middle of the street, and you just have to capture your amazing ideas in the notes section of your phone. Or you might be in a beautiful coffee shop, and the sunlight is streaming in, and you just feel the words coursing through your bones. You’re living and breathing them, and it feels so good to get them down on paper.

Other times, you’ll be inching along. Your curser will blink, and all you’ll see is empty space. Those are times when you’ll stop calling yourself a writer, when you’ll come up with ideas like, “I’m not creative,” or “I’ve lost my ideas,” or even “I’m boring.” When that happens, please listen when I say that that voice isn’t really you. It’s your inner critic, which goes by a bunch of different names, but basically it’s there to keep you safe, and writing feels anything but safe to that critical, comfortable, limiting voice. When you’re onto something, it’ll fight back and tell you that you’re not. Those are the times to reach out to people you trust – people who can tell you just to keep going.

Because in the end, that’s what writing is – showing up. As long as you show up and begin to write, you’re fulfilling your end of the bargain. Sometimes it’ll be easy, and sometimes, it’ll be slow, but you’re always telling a story. It might be more of a page-turner one day, and it might be a bit more rambling of a story the next, but it’s all writing.

Dear, dear writer, you’re doing just fine. I promise. You're doing better than fine. It's all part of your story.

In fierce support of your stories,

Julie

 

Friday Frescade - 5/13/16

frescade: a cool walk; cool or shady place

I know, I know, it's Friday the 13th, but that doesn't mean we can't have some fun today, right?

  • I've started bullet journaling. I know, I know, it's probably on it's way out by now, but I think I'm starting to like it already! I already have about 5 different journals, so I'm trying to consolidate :). Haven't heard of the bullet journal? Check out bulletjournal.com. Mine is definitely not as neat or swanky as the examples there, but it's a start!
  • Check out Martha Cooney and StoryUp Philly - they have all sorts of wonderful improvised story performances and workshops for kids - if you have little ones in your life and you're in Philly, I know they would love it!
  • I love this article by my friend Gabrielle Bill, a career coach and consultant, because she talks about being okay if your original plan changes. Plot twist!
  • A Practical Wedding (my personal savior while planning my wedding) publishes lots of cool articles, and not always about weddings. They have a really cool article on how to write a good cover letter that I found super interesting!

And now, for your Friday tunes - a little something smooth and light to ease into your weekend:

5 Lessons I Learned From My Grandma Genie

I was sad to miss mother's day with my amazing mom, but I got to spend it with my amazing grandma this year. This 90-year old lady is one of a kind. She grew up the youngest of 10 children, snuck a horse upstairs in her house to play a trick on her dad, has an insatiable zest for adventure and life, drove countless miles across the US on her amazing road trips, and knows how to tell a good story. I've learned so much from my Grandma Genie, however, here are five of the lessons:

1) Be yourself. 

Grandma Genie is and has always been unapologetically and completely herself. She doesn't apologize for herself, and is one of the most stubborn people that I know. She doesn't let anyone's opinion influence her at all. She's always telling me that I'm amazing just the way I am, and that I should stay true to myself. 

2) Remember to laugh. 

Some of my favorite memories with my Grandma Genie are of us not being able to stop laughing. She has always liked playing silly tricks on people, telling funny stories, and reminding everyone around her to see the humor in life and not take it too seriously. It's a good reminder to lighten up!

3) Look for red birds in Arkansas.

My grandma is a perpetual optimist, who is always looking for symbols of good luck and that life is going to take a turn for the better. She always says that red birds are a symbol of good luck. While we can't always see red birds in Arkansas, one of her favorite places in the whole world, whenever I see a red bird, I feel my grandma's hopeful nature fill me up.

4) Strangers are just friends you haven't met yet. 

Every time I have ever traveled with my grandma, we would end up making friends everywhere we met. Strangers at rest stops, restaurants, flea markets, you name it, they would suddenly become close friends. Grandma Genie even used to invite her new friends to her house in Louisiana and sometimes, they would show up, much to my grandpa's chagrin! I now know that a smile goes a long way, and that everyone has the potential to become a new friend.

5) A good story changes each time it's told. 

My love of storytelling was definitely influenced by my grandma's library of stories. She doesn't have an infinite amount of stories, yet every time she tells a story, she's so energized about telling it and she adds new flair, so you forget that it's a story you've been told several times. She reminds me that it's not so much the story itself as it is the storyteller who makes the story unique.

What lessons have you learned from your loved ones?