June 4, 2010

The perfect balance.

The "perfect" balance. Is this even possible?

I recently reconnected with a friend who I had long since fallen out of touch with. She offered the following by means of explanation, "I have allowed myself to spend the past several months wrapped up in a new relationship - it has been fantastic, and new. I am still working on how to balance him with needing my own time, time with my friends, and time with my family. To be honest, I feel I have not done the greatest job at making sure that I am as connected as I normally prefer to be with all of my friends. I am hoping that as I seek to reconnect and rebalance in the upcoming months that my friends understand." Surely I understand. In fact, isn't a sense of balance the essence of what we are all seeking in life? Perhaps it is easier said than done.

I recently discovered Elements of Style - an inspirational blog written by Erin Gates, an interior and fashion stylist based in Boston.
She is cute as a button. Her blog is even better. She introduces topics related to fashion, interior design and pop culture, with a sense of charm and sophistication, but perhaps more importantly, with a welcome sense of humor, making these often high end topics highly accessible to everyone. I am not alone in my praise for her, she received accolades from the Washington Post, as one of the “Top Ten Design Blogs of 2008." She admittedly has a fabulous job, designing homes, being her own boss, writing her blog, penning a column in a local Boston magazine and doing some fashion styling on the side.

Despite all of this, she writes, "I know I have it pretty good. Yet, there are days when it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Or that its right. Or that there might be more for me - more depth, more meaning, more something. I think constantly about all the things I want to try and do and be and it’s dizzying to say the least. I don’t feel cursed by the urge to expand my horizons, but I do feel pressure and the head spinning speed of passing time as I hurdle into my thirties. I wonder about doing other things with my life; other things that interest me greatly like writing a book, focusing on painting again, opening a store, opening a bakery, teaching yoga, teaching art or giving into the rumored bliss of motherhood. The thing is, I know in my heart I can try all these things, and some of them might be failures. Failure is something I historically feared more intensely than anything else in this world and I’m starting to find I am less and less afraid of it. But it is hard to let go of old habits. My worst one is trying to be what everyone else wants me to be (or what I think everyone else wants me to be). Being yourself and owning it - the good and the bad - is a really tough thing to do, but so worth the fight. I have accepted that I will never be (and probably shouldn’t be) a doctor (despite my penchant for self-diagnosing on WebMD), a business exec, a talk show host, a lawyer, a shrink, a “save the world” type, a vegetarian, an actress, a blonde.  Other people were born to be those things, I wasn’t. Following your passion and bliss won’t always bring you fame and fortune, but it might just bring you a little peace of mind."

A self-described, "grass is greener type of person", she concludes, "Now, back to the shallow stuff…. :)"

As some of you may have noticed, I have spent a great deal of blog space focused on home design and fashion, all the while sharing stories on the realities and challenges of living in what is one of the poorest countries in the world. Perhaps my musings on home design and fashion are entirely at odds with my current environment, or perhaps I am subconsciously yearning for these things, otherwise unavailable to me here? But maybe at the end of the day, these seemingly disconnected streams of thought represent a balanced picture of my wide ranging interests. Yes, seeking meaningful, worthwhile work is important to me, and I have squarely placed myself on a career track dedicated to advancing the interests and realities of some of the world's poorest, but my interests admittedly delve far beyond that. 

While Erin was quick to call her design-focused profession "shallow," I on the other hand do not believe that design and aesthetics are mutually incompatible with helping the world's poor. In fact there is a growing movement of designers dedicating their talent and energy to developing low-cost solutions for those not traditionally served by professional designers. Design for the Other 90% represents a collection of entrepreneurs, engineers, students, professors, and architects from around the globe coming together to devise cost-effective ways to improve access to basic services, including water, food, energy, education, healthcare, revenue-generating activities, and affordable transportation. This movement demonstrates how design can be a dynamic force in saving and transforming lives, at home and around the world. And so it seems, someone in the higher end fashion and design world can unknowingly provide the inspiration to bring life saving design and technologies to the world's poor and traditionally underserved.

For those of you in the DC area with an interest in balancing "form" and "function," I highly recommend checking out the Design for the Other 90% exhibit at the National Geographic Museum at 1145 17th Street NW. This exhibit will be up through September 6th of this year. For others not in the DC area, the book is available for purchase here.




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