October 20, 2013

Paddle your own canoe.

Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living
By Nick Offerman

Somehow 2013 became the year of reading memoirs. It started with Tina Fey's Bossypants, and without having some kind of memoir-reading agenda, I read seven more. I've read memoirs (mostly humorous ones) by:
- Mindy Kaling
- Anthony Bourdain (both Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw)
- Eddie Huang
- Baratunde Thurston
- Questlove
- & now, Nick Offerman

I think of all of the books I've read this year, the ones written by the above, with the exception of Mindy Kaling's, have been my favorite. (Nothing against Mindy, just didn't like hers as much as the others.) I reviewed Paddle Your Own Canoe for The Manual; in short, I thought it was excellent. This is coming from someone who hadn't watched many Parks and Recreation episodes prior to my reading. As I mention in the review, many people know & see Offerman as a funny man mostly because of his role on Parks and Rec but what I thought was really special about this book--despite some of the similarities between him and Ron Swanson--was that it offered him the ability to reveal himself as more than the character he plays. He is an awesome human being & a funny storyteller with the kind of values all people should aim for: hard work, humility, loyalty. And he is unabashedly and admirably completely in love with his wife. Highly highly recommend. It will make you laugh and also probably put a lot in perspective.

The biggest takeaway from reading these memoirs by all of the successful, funny, insightful people above is that many of them had to go through a lot of shit to get to where they are today. They all worked insanely hard and often found themselves in dark or undesirable places as younger people but they pushed through and eventually found themselves right where they needed to be. And maybe some are still striving--or all are still striving to be better. A lot has changed for me since January and I've come to the realization that life is a work in progress & every experience--regardless of what it is--matters somehow and is essential to building my character and building my life. I feel an immense amount of gratitude and optimism and comfort in knowing I have a lot to look forward to, and that a lot of how my life turns out is in my hands. And even when it's not, that it can still be OK. So these memoirs have been really wonderful complements and companions while I've had these personal realizations.

I didn't mark any excerpts specifically but here are a few gems:

– “If you think that altering the tip of your nose with surgery will make you happier…alter something much more malleable than your flesh, like your priorities or your friends. Quit looking in the mirror so much.”

 – “Choose your favorite spade and dig a small, deep hole, located deep in the forest or a desolate area of the desert or tundra. Bury your cell phone and then find a hobby.”

 – ”Bring enough wit to any given situation to lighten the load with a grin.”

 – ”No matter how you decide to spend a little more time on your gestures of giving, the point is just quite simply that you do. You don’t have to give a person a papier-mache penis vase to get a reaction, but you won’t be sorry if you do.”

But you really need to read it.

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