Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year My Life Changed

New Year's Eve is almost always the same for me.  I stay in with family watching movies in my pajamas until midnight, when we watch the ball drop.  I make a resolution that I am going to take some sort of action that will change the things in my life that make me unhappy.  Very few years have actually brought about the kind of change I sought.  Especially since graduating from college, I spent the days between New Year celebrations drifting along in haze of good intentions without a call to action.  

Last New Year's Eve was no different, expect that perhaps I was more desperate for change than ever before.  I once again promised myself that I would find what was missing and fix what was broken in my life, but I doubted that anything would come of it.  In the back of my mind, I still believed that I would remain terribly horribly the same.  Thank God, I was wrong.

The first indication that this year would be different appeared less than a week after New Years in the form of a Facebook message.  My darling friend invited me to go to Singapore with her.  That moment began a year full of so many wonderful (and bittersweet) changes and experiences.  This year I:

-saw the Pacific Ocean
-visited Asia (Singapore and Bali, to be exact)
-fed a monkey that was sitting on my shoulder
-left my first full-time job
-left the city where I lived since my second year of college
-moved back in with my parents
-watched my sister graduate with a bachelors and masters degree from UVA
-went on a Caribbean cruise
-started a business    
-worked as a semi-professional tech consultant

I won't try to fit a year's worth of emotion into a single blog post like a really bad Christmas card letter, but I would like to express my deep gratitude to everyone who had a part in making this such an amazing year.  To my all of my friends and family who helped me through the chaos, thank you for everything.  You gave me shelter when I was homeless, shared your wisdom when I didn't know what to do, supported me when I had to make difficult decisions, and encouraged me to take a leap of faith.  May 2011 return to you all of the blessings you've given to me.  Happy New Year! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Curse of the Snot-Nosed Brat: A Fable

Warning:  This entry contains frightening elements that are not for the faint of heart! 

This week, I've been visiting my little sister's third grade classroom to help with holiday crafts.  I love crafts and I love my sister, but I'm not a huge fan of kids.  It's not like I hate them and want to lock them away from the sun in some sort of Bradbury-like scenario, but I find them to be a bit loud.  And obnoxious.  And stupid since they don't get my jokes.  Nevertheless, I was excited to volunteer because that's the kind of sweet generous person that I am.

The first time I came in to volunteer, Miss Miller introduced me to the class as her sister, Miss Jamie.  I would be walking around the room to answer questions while the students worked on their projects.  Shortly after I began my patrol, a little boy called me over to his desk.  What followed is a perfect example of why I don't like children:

Boy: Are you Miss Miller's sister?
Me:  Yes, I am.
Boy:  Really?  Because when I saw you come in, I thought you were somebody's mom.
Me:  Nope, I'm not a mom.  I'm Miss Miller's sister.
Boy:  Huh.  Because I really thought you were a mom.
Me:  Still not a mom.

I didn't punch him in his stupid face nor lecture him about being rude.  I am, however, seriously considering investing in some new jeans.  I just chalked it up to his stupidity and the inability of anyone under the age of ten to accurately determine the age of anyone over 18.  I tried to forget about it.

Before I went back to volunteer again, I decided to put a little effort into my appearance.  I put on a little bit of makeup, pulled back my hair to keep it from getting to windblown, and picked out a nice festive (but not tacky) sweater to wear.  During my preparations, I found shook me to the core.  A gray hair.  

I stood in shock before the mirror.  For most of my life, people have thought that I was younger than I actually am.  How come I am aging so suddenly and dramatically?  It must be the boy!  That snot-nosed little brat cursed me!  I hurried to pluck the tell-tale hair from my head hoping that it would reverse the cursing process.  Sadly, things only got worse.  As soon as the gray talisman was destroyed, I was struck with a strange illness.  Almost instantaneously, my voice became deep and gravelly, like a grandma who spent the last seventy years smoking.  My back and joints started aching so that I hobbled along slowly.  Little whippersnappers were passing me in the hallway!  More disturbing still, my normally sunny disposition began to cloud.  I was aggravated by the hustle and bustle of holiday festivities and irritated by the hassel of decorating and wrapping presents.  If I had a walker, I would have hit people with it and started screaming about the blue invasion just to enjoy the looks of fear and confusion.  

Unfortunately, things still look grim for me.  I feel old, and it is all that stupid little brat's fault!  So, dear readers, beware this Christmas season.  If you come across a little boy who seems unreasonably tactless, run the other way before he can steal your youth!  

And to those of you who think I'm overreacting, that I just spent some time around germy children and caught the flu.....I'll think of a clever retort after my nap.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"At Least You're Not a Garbage Man" and Other Depressing Pep Talks

I am a huge sucker for pep talks and inspirational speeches.  When I hear a great speech on tv or in a movie, I get choked up and determined to right all the wrongs in the world.  It doesn't matter if it's a classic locker room pep talk in a sports flick or an impassioned speech about justice from a classic film, my reaction is largely the same.  Some examples:

Coach Boone, Remember the Titans:
     Let me tell you somthing: you don't let anyone come between us. Nothing tears us apart. In Greek mythology, the Titans were greater even than the gods. They ruled their universe with absolute power. Well that football field out there, that's our universe. Let's rule it like titans. 

Coach Taylor, Friday Night Lights (I'd soo marry him!):
     Every man at some point in his life is going to lose a battle. He is going to fight and he is going to lose. But what makes him a man is at the midst of that battle he does not lose himself. This game is not over, this battle is not over.

Clarence, It's a Wonderful Life (For serious, I cry like a baby every time):
     Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.
     (If you recall, George reads Clarence's note right after Harry flies home in a snow storm to make his toast:  "To my brother, George Bailey: the richest man in town!"  You'd have to be dead inside not to cry.)

Jefferson Smith, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
     I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don't know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for and he fought for them once. For the only reason any man ever fights for them. Because of just one plain simple rule. Love thy neighbor.... And you know that you fight harder for the lost causes than for any others. Yes, you'd even die for them...You think I'm licked. You all think I'm licked. Well I'm not licked. And I'm gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if this room gets filled with lies like these. And the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place. Somebody will listen to me.

Somehow, real life "pep talks" can't hold a candle to these tv/movie ones, and not just because they aren't delivered by professionals.   Just compare these everyday examples with their fictitious counterparts:

1.  "Just think of the poor starving children in Africa."
2.  "It could be worse."/"At least you're not a garbage man (or mime, or dog catcher or any other unappealing profession)."
3.  "It is what it is."

Far from the teary inspiration of the movie speeches, these little pearls of wisdom just make me angry.  So while I smile, grit my teeth, and nod, my internal monologue goes a little something like this:

1. Really, thinking about the starving children if Africa is going to make me feel better?  First of all, childhood starvation is depressing.  Second, you're not suggesting that I actually try to help anyone, just gloat that I have food while others are dying.  For shame.  I should punch you in your stupid face.

2.  Seriously?  This is the inspirational equivalent of saying, "The red dress makes you look less fat than the green one.  I want to punch you in your stupid face.

3.  Really, Aristotle?  I though it is what it isn't!  I find no comfort in your thought process that things suck necessarily because they do suck and so must always suck.  I want to punch you in your stupid face.

I know sometimes it's hard to give a really peppy pep talk because life can be decidedly unfun.  So for Christmas, dear readers, I've developed these special "How To Inspire" guidelines just for you!  That's right, just use this simple formula to cheer up the most determined Scrooge this holiday season!

To cheer the downtrodden, mix any three of the following elements with the person's name and a specific reference to his/her situation:

Things will get better.
The sun will come out tomorrow!  Tomorrow is another day!  Things always look darkest just before the dawn.  Better days are on the way, my friend.

Struggles have meaning.
You'll grow stronger through this experience.  You're making a difference.  You're fighting for what you believe.  This experience will teach you something important about life.

Never give up.
The battle isn't over.  You're almost to the finish line.  It isn't in you to withdraw.  They can take away your life, but they'll never take your freedom!

You're special.
You're strong enough to make it through this.  You can do whatever you set you're mind to.  You're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggonit, people like you!

--ex.  The sun will come out tomorrow, Bobby, because you're strong enough to make it through this.  They can take away your life, but they'll never take your freedom!

*Warning:  Use these guidelines with caution.  Failure to sufficiently inspire could lead to a punch in your stupid face.