It’s Jasmine’s Turn column: A messy yet beautiful existence

The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

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Chicken pieces, bell peppers, onions and cilantro leaves reflect in the shine of the spatula. (Jasmine Johnson / Echo Press)

Most days, I feel as though I’m bombarded by an overload of senses, only half-aware of my nudging subconscious thoughts. But when I turn off the podcasts, playlists and distractions, my brain sparks to life and makes the most bizarre connections.

As I finished preparing chicken fajitas on Sunday, I made one of these correlations between a literal thing I experienced and a concept that applied to my life.

It’s been months since I’ve referred to this particular recipe. With the precise proportions of seasonings and lengthy marination period in the refrigerator, I don’t usually carve out time for this two-hour process when I’m just cooking for myself.

However, the rare times like last weekend when I do choose to make them, I find that I enjoy chopping cilantro the most.

My sister has told me I’m crazy for this, but it’s my favorite part. Cutting such flimsy leaves is a challenge because they stick to every surface other than the edge of the knife and often end up in a clump anyway. So much for “sprinkling” them on top of the chicken mixture.


Even so, as I leaned over the cutting board and maneuvered the cilantro into smaller bits, I found that I was content no matter how the finished result turned out.

I feel this same contentment while engaging in other messy activities, too.

It’s the same reason why I appreciate the typewriter. Mistakes can’t be deleted, so as long as the written work is still decipherable, it’s not worth tossing and starting over.

It’s also what prompted me to start a different kind of scrapbooking. I keep ordinary items from moments I want to remember, such as receipts, wrappers and envelopes, and glue them in a notebook in a hodge-podge manner. When I sift back through the pages, it’s like looking through a visual journal. The small pieces draw me back to excerpts of my past in ways that words never could.

When I set aside time to paint, I usually find myself referencing a previous photo I’ve taken and recreating a simplistic interpretation of it. More often than not, I overestimate how much acrylic paint I’ll need. So once I finish the original piece, I take any extra paint left on the palette and let loose on a spare piece of sketchbook paper, no specific goal in mind.

Using a typewriter, compiling a scrapbook and painting at random all help me look beyond my natural tendencies. During those moments, I allow myself to embrace the imperfections rather than seeing how precisely things can be composed, neatly they can be organized or aesthetically pleasing they can appear.

Because I’ll admit it. There are plenty of other areas of my life where I grasp for order.

I’m the type of cleaner who organizes her drawer of T-shirts by the colors of the rainbow. I’m the kind of worker who sorts her emails and documents into color-coded folders. I’m the sort of person who writes out a list of prioritized tasks each day to make sure every hour is as personally and professionally productive as possible.


Although some of these tendencies are ingrained in me, I’m slowly learning to find value in the disheveled, in-between parts of the process.

Sometimes, odds and ends get shoved into the dresser and leave my T-shirt layout in disarray. Occasionally, I get behind on my digital categorization. And even when I make realistic lists, I can’t always get everything done that I’d like to.

But that’s the beautifully messy nature of reality. I’m trying my best to fully absorb every unpredictable bump and twist along the way, grateful for the ability to create, even in the midst of chaos.

Even with cilantro stuck everywhere.

Find those places and spaces where you can admire the process, perhaps even more than the product. We’re all on this jumbled journey together, and sometimes our humanness gets a little messy. But maybe that’s OK.

Jasmine Johnson joined the Echo Press staff in May 2020 as a general assignment reporter. She grew up in Becker, Minn., and later studied journalism and graphic design at Bethel University in Arden Hills, Minn.
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