Driving down Woodward towards New Center you pass under an overhead bridge. It is grey and crumbling but the center holds clear with bright white words: viral, viral, viral, viral, viral.
You swoop right under these words and they stick with you for a moment, graffiti of the mind.
I have a love / hate relationship with the word and the action of going “viral” online. It sounds like a disease - the spreading. It is something any writer should want today: millions of readers reading and sharing as their work goes viral. Yet it can be manipulated, obnoxious, the cat memes and lists, the best of our days.
Jiro dreams of greatness.
The 85 year old sushi chef has been acclaimed as Japan’s Greatest Sushi Chef. Somehow Marc and I stumbled upon Jiro’s story, the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi" and I'm completely inspired by this man.
Jiro doesn’t just dream of the food. He wakes up every day trying to be better than the day before. He works so hard to create the best sushi, and he’s received very high honors for it.
His work ethic is something anyone can develop in order to be truly great at your work. What can we all learn from him?
One interview I will never forget was with Artist Tyree Guyton. Tyree created the Heidelberg Project in Detroit, an outdoor arts project on the East Side not too far from my Grandmother’s house. Listening to him talk was a spiritually inspiring moment.
Tyree lost three brothers to the street. He saw his old neighborhood turn into rows of crack houses. Instead of letting the blight and drugs remain, he was called to do this bright, beautiful work. The images and materials he uses are recycled, colorful, and symbolic of transformation.
“Like the wheel in the automobile or the brightly colored Heidelberg dots, everything Tyree Guyton see’s is part of a circle of life.” I wrote in this interview a while back.
Now, years later, I am called again to think back to a topic he shared with us two young writers in the room. Tyree explained that he believed everything was cyclical, but in this cycle life moved in rhythms of threes. A snapshot example:
- beginning, middle, end
- morning, afternoon, evening
- life, birth, rebirth
- child, adolescent, adult
- breakfast, lunch, dinner
The circle still pops out often to me when I’m in Detroit. It’s a bright flash of this cycle, this colorful connection. It also reminded me of my own work as a writer.
My Grandmother was married by the time she turned 18.
She had five children and a husband who died after three heart attacks and one world war. She had bills to pay. She worked odds and ends to get by. She had a hard life.
My mom had a few more choices open to her. She chose to go to college. She chose to get married and to have two kids. She worked 30 years at a steady job, but she ended the marriage after 15. She took steps forward, and one back again to find her own home.
Then, a balancing act began for me. I had two parents splitting up into two families. I had to learn that money was tight, and college was the path I wanted. I had to go to school and work right afterwards to save up.
By the time I entered Freshman year I had saved $10,000 and was shocked to learn it wasn’t enough for one year. I worked and I went to school. I counted the hours, the dollars for the books, the credits I could line up. In the end it was one degree and debt from a large university. Then, I went ahead and got a graduate degree. Then I fumbled around at jobs until I choose a new journey about to years ago to create my own job.
It turns out my twenties were dedicated to this post-school fumbling, and ultimately creating. I am okay with that.
There are numbers, always, and there are choices. This past weekend I turned 26 years old. I started to feel worry, guilt, and anger at myself for not doing enough. But who's measuring?
At 26 I think more than ever creating your own happiness is about finding the balance you want. The only number we need to think about is one.