Another Year, Another Journey

Well, it’s almost the end of another calendar year and time just keeps trudging on to the end of 2019. To kick off this year, I remember calling cancel culture on new year’s resolutions—after all, sometimes they’re great and other times, they’re merely excuses for things we’re going to. Even when we usually don’t.

Anyone else find that to come true this year? I know I did.

But 2020 will be different, right? We’re going to better ourselves and set goals that we can meet and live up to everything we are hoping to… Or not.

The only guaranteed thing about 2020: it’s going to happen. All of us may try to do the best with the time we’ve got left in the year, squeeze in as much time as we can with other people, and just make the most of these last few days. One way or another, the countdown has begun.

And I can’t say I’m ready. I mean, 2020 means graduation—graduation means figuring out my life plans and making a legitimate step into this whole adulting thing. It’s also an election year, a leap year, I turn 22 (whatever that means), it’s the return of a new kind of roaring 20’s, and well, it’s a new year.

All big things.

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Before moving forward, though, I’ve got to admit something: 2019 was an incredibly unexpected year. Unexpected in the way that, there were just so many things I couldn’t see coming. The real start of a new novel, a very different Orientation experience, a minor that seemed to be just what I was looking for, the beginning of the end of college for me, and so so much more. It’s hard to keep track of everything that happens in one calendar year—though you might remember that I basically keep a weekly journal about it online—what I can say is that I’ve learned a lot. 

Now, I get to share that learning with you. After all, why not start the new year on the same page.

This year brings me to 5 main areas of takeaways. It’s been a big one and a hard one for so many different reasons. But it’s another year almost done. So, let’s reflect.

Time Does Not Stop

Even when it feels like it does, or feels like it should, time is one of the few constants we have in our world and it stops for no one. On things like a quarter system where classes are hard and ridiculously fast paced, it can be great because it’ll be over soon enough. Or, it can be terrible, when you just can’t keep up. Life itself is kind of like that. While there may be no way to stop time or make it pass any slower, we can always find ways to make it pass a little easier at least. How? Just breathe. When things are hard or blurring a little too fast around you, that’s okay. There’s no way to avoid it, and we don’t have to. Find your people, hold onto the support I hope you have, and let the time pass—don’t try to stop it. You can’t. Just breathe through it instead.

Very Little is Guaranteed

I’ve made a lot of empty promises to myself over the past year, from saying “oh, I’ll start waking up earlier in the mornings” to “just one more Netflix episode.” The thing is, unless I do something about it right then and there, I can’t guarantee it will happen. No one can. Sometimes we get busy or traffic picks up or life does instead; the only things that make a difference are the actions we take right now. Earlier this year, I was planning to spend the summer in SLO, and I finally decided to take my rabbit with me. We were going to spend the whole summer together, me and my white ball of fur. Plus, Nick. Instead, she spent one night with us and I woke up to Nick telling me he had to leave for work but there was something wrong with her. Parasites—kind of like good intentions, they stick around for a while until they’ve taken up enough time and enough life to have done their job. Meanwhile, your plans never get fulfilled. So, stop planning. Start doing.

Life Happens

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There are quite a few words we can substitute here for “life” and I think we all know a good amount of them, they’re all the same. The good, the bad, the everything in between, it all can show up whether we plan for it or not. A pop quiz, a bad hair day, heart attacks, downpours, a car accident, a kind gesture, cancelled class… Nothing is off limits. Not us, our lives, the lives of those around us, and definitely not the way we see the world. I’m not sure there is any way to go into a year with the same mindset you leave it in, too much happens for that. I used to think that I was healthy, that my friends were healthy, my parents were invincible, and good things happen to good people. Well my health, jury is out on that one, a few too many young friends have been lost to be qualified as healthy anymore, my parents have their own lives beyond me or my siblings, and things—good or bad—just happen. Some of it is out of our control, however, how we react to it all will always be our choice. When we can, we handle it with grace.

You Get Out What You Put In

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This one goes exactly as it sounds—if you put in fifty percent of your energy to something, it isn’t like interest that gathers over time. You only get fifty percent back out. In WOW this past year, I gave everything I had to the program because it mattered to me. All of my time, energy, tears, and work was returned to me not through credit but rather through people. Those people mean the world to me and I am lucky to have them. I only ended up with 20 Orientation Leaders I care about endlessly because I gave each of them as much as I could. In classes, my grades were only as good (or bad) as the time and effort I put into them. Sometimes, like Spring Quarter, things are not ideal. I pulled a class load on top of work and Orientation that no one should ever do—I knew that when I went into it even when I had little choice. But I passed all my classes and pulled through some incredible, hard, life-changing experiences. I would never take any of it back. I put everything I am into this past year of my life and I’ve gotten an entirely different me out of it. To me, that’s a year well spent. 

Give Credit Where It’s Due

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I would say that this is about appreciating the people around you, but really, I’m actually talking about appreciating yourself. No matter what 2019 looked like for you, you have made it through all the way through to today. I know that I’ve worked incredibly hard, as have so many people around me, and we deserve to recognize that. Because it hadn’t been easy. As a matter of fact, this has actually been a very difficult year for so many people I love and there is no way to deny it. I don’t want to. How we get through these years make us who we are. Our reactions, understandings, musings, growth… All of it is what defines us as people regardless of class, race, gender, ethnicity, culture, aspirations, or anything in between. So, it you’ve made it this far, don’t forget that you deserve to look back and understand why. Understand how much you had to do with the you that exists in this very moment. Give yourself credit where it is due to you.

Whatever this year has been like for you, take a minute to look back at it. It’s been a long one, one that flew by in some ways and dragged on in others. But a lot has happened, for all of us. And we’ve made it through another decade, I think that warrants a retrospective appreciation.

Once you look back, sit with it, and then it’s time to move forward. Because here comes 2020.

A Different Kind of Family Reunion

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Less than a week away from Christmas, it’s the time of year when families are back in town and friends fly in from their other lives so ours can all intersect for a little while. This is one of the first years where I have friends coming back from whatever happens after undergrad, while others are married off in another state or working or caring for family etc. The list could go on.

But whether or not all the people who we wanted here can actually be present with us, it’s a pretty good time to remind loved ones of the value they have in your life.

I did that earlier this week when my old soccer team got back together. It would sound like that’s a simple thing, but this is no small feat. 

Let me explain.

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I joined that soccer team in elementary school, a team where we traveled for tournaments and went up against teams we have never heard of before. As a kid, it felt like we were spies or something, traveling the world to complete our missions (games) that no one but us got to go on.

Sounds pretty imaginative right? Well, that’s a childhood me for you. I liked to make things into a story whether or not it belonged to the situation. This story though, it’s a bigger one than I could have guessed it would be back then.

Though we had teammates cycle in and out every year, there are a lot of us who stuck as the core original members. By the end of it, we became a group that spent almost half our lives together, all constantly working towards the same goals.

I wish I could say I didn’t take it for granted. But I did.

Because then we grew up.

When life started getting more complicated and schoolwork started to mean more than it did before, we split up in high school. Looking back, I spent 7 years with them, years that I spent formulating a whole lot of who I became before college.

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It might sound odd—or maybe you know exactly what I mean—but losing touch with one another might have been one of the best things that happened to us. That space forced us to remember what we forgot to really appreciate in the first place.

So, we got together.

I can’t remember how it started, but almost every summer and winter since I was 17, we’ve seen each other. It’s funny, because we always go to the same place and hope we get the same table, ironically going through the same awkward moment that unfortunately kept happening, and we grew a whole lot closer. Because at this point, we didn’t just start knowing one another as teammates; we got the chance to know each other as friends too.

At this point, they’re a second family to me.

This week, all of us who could be in town met up on Wednesday and got dinner (yes same place, not the same table), catching up on everything that’s happened since summer. Trust me, there was a whole lot of tea to spill.

Yet, all of us were completely okay with spilling it to every person in our group. That’s something pretty special, don’t you think?

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I say all this not to share my past or reminisce or something like that. I’m saying this because there are people who could meet up and still those who weren’t there. Sitting with all of them made me realize that I really never thought we’d all be friends. Not like this.

But with a little effort and a whole lot of planning, we did.

A lot of you probably have people who are here for the holidays that you love; you also have people who are not here. Maybe they’re out of town, off at a job, caught at the wrong time, etc.

Call them.

Do any of you have coworkers or acquaintances or relationships you just don’t know how to pull a little closer in your social circle? I know I sure do, there is always something we’re not saying or not doing that we wish we were.

Do it.

In the 7 years I spent on that team, I always wished we could be friends who hung out outside of practice and without the competition stringing us together. That was something I didn’t believe would happen for us. I never realized that all I had to do was make a move to change it.

The holidays are a time for your people, the ones who you value in your life and want to grow old with. If you find that you might not have anyone like that, it could be that you just need to take that step you never saw coming in the first place. Reach out to a friend, a coworker, a boss. Volunteer at a shelter, get a dog (maybe not), go to a local Christmas tree lighting and talk to 3 other people minimum.

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What I’m saying is that the holidays are times to be surrounded by people you care about. And every one of us deserves to have someone like that. Lucky for me, I’m starting to realize that I do— I’ve got a whole team of them.

That’s a pretty happy holiday for me.

‘Tis the season, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday regardless of what it means to you or how you celebrate it. Do something nice for yourself while you’re at it.

See you next week.

Breathing Fresh Air

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Happy Friday indeed because finals are finally over. Somehow, I am officially done with all but my senior project for my major. And that fiction project I told you about, well, it’s going okay.

By “okay,” I mean that I wrote 25 pages for my fiction story in less than a week and got my portfolio turned in with a little bit of time to spare. That is pretty good for me. In the meantime, of getting that figured out, I also finished and presented my studio project, got through a 10-page theory paper, and an 8-page proposal paper.

You could say that it’s been a busy week. But now, that week is over. I get to go home tomorrow.

As the week has wound down, I’ve found my reality catching up with me—you probably know what I mean but let me explain. When you get so busy and have your hand in a couple different pots at the same time, time kinda slips away from you. They say time flies when you’re having fun; that statement should probably be amended to also include when you’re too busy to remember to eat and breathe for a moment.

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Weeks like this one, they’re can feel like you’re drowning before coming up for air only to find water in your lungs. Once that happens, what do you do?

You breathe anyway.

All of our lives are complicated, with so many moving pieces and people all changing at the same time that it can be hard to keep track of. And when you lose track of things, you can get lost in it. Whether or not things are under control, whether your head is on straight or feeling a little sideways, breathing is the only option.

Otherwise, we give up.

Life is too short to give up. Let me put this in perspective.

I had a long conversation with my studio professor after our final yesterday and some things came up that I was not expecting. As one of the two 4th years in that class, the rest being 1st years who never seem to listen or take their headphones off, she was talking to me and we got to the concept of her teaching. She might be done.

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Because she loves teaching people who want to learn about the knowledge she has to share. But when her students no longer show her that they want to learn, she doesn’t have a reason to hold onto that reason to teach. She is coming up for air and the problems, those make up the water she can’t avoid breathing in anymore.

That breath is a warning sign that there is something wrong, something that should not be ignored. And even while she was ready to drop this part of her life, she sat and talked with me for an hour afterwards anyway.

After that talk, she emailed me to say that I reminded her of why she does her job. We talked and afterwards, she breathed in. She gave herself a chance not to give up.

I say all of this to remind you to breathe in today, even if it hurts because there is water in your lungs when water should not be in your lungs. Sometimes, life just happens that way and we have to be okay with that. I have to be okay with a hard finals week because I guess I signed myself up for this. She signed up for a job that some people genuinely cannot appreciate because it is how they are, and it is not her fault. There are still people like me who chose to be in that class because I want to be.

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Every day, we are making that choice to keep going, to breathe in and take whatever comes next, prepared or not.

So, don’t forget that when the road gets a little hard to see, keep driving. Keep swimming. Keep breathing.

You deserve to. Happy Friday.

Burning Bridges

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Welcome to another Friday, one of the last ones we’ve got for a year. As the last week of classes has wrapped up, I’m ready for break. Very ready. I just have to get there. Lucky for me, a week to go and I will. It’s got me thinking.

Sometimes we start to ask ourselves why we do the things that we do. Whether it’s caring about people who do not deserve us or working hard at something that doesn’t require it, it’s just how we are as people. It could be a good or a bad thing, sometimes it’s both. I’ve just been wondering why.

Remember that date we talked about, and by talked I mean me telling you and making you read all about it. Well when it comes to other people, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to leave them hanging. If I choose to bring someone into my life, there was probably a reason for it. I like having steady relationships.

At least I thought so.

You see, I went on a date with a boy two weeks ago and haven’t really talked to him since. At first I felt bad about that. I mean, if I give someone a chance and spend time with them, it almost seems rude to not follow up on that. Not to say hi or acknowledge that we spent time together. It’s not that I’m ignoring it, I’m just not saying anything about it either. 

Because ultimately, it isn’t my responsibility to make sure other people feel good about things. Not when there isn’t anything to feel good (or bad) about.

Think about that. I don’t mean it in an “it’s all about me” kinda way, I mean it in a “your life is not my priority, mine is” kinda way. There are things we can do in this life simply for other people, and that’s okay. I think about my 16 WOWies or 21 Orientation Leaders and I really would do (have done) countless things for them simply because I wanted to. Because I care about them and they deserve it.

That’s not bad, not at all. I love caring about every single one of them, I enjoy supporting my people. It’s just that sometimes that’s what makes me forget an important piece of this: caring about someone else may also mean the opposite of doing something for them. Here’s what I mean.

If I reached out to my date simply because I feel bad that we haven’t talked, knowing I’m not very interested in getting to know him more, it wouldn’t be fair. Not to him or to myself. After all, I would be leading him on at that point wouldn’t I?

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There’s no point in getting someone’s hopes up when they shouldn’t, it’s too short-term to look at it that way. Say I did talk to him and keep up conversation, giving him the idea that we should keep up with whatever we were doing in the first place. That could avoid him possibly feeling like he did something wrong or that the date didn’t go well in the first place, a short -erm avoidance of unhappiness/doubt. 

In the long run though, it could become a bigger issue if I know I’m not interested already; the longer we keep things up even when the coming end result isn’t necessarily a positive one, why keep it at all?

We are not obligated to make other people happy when it takes our time and energy to do so without any real benefit to ourselves.

I bring this up now because, well, it’s the holiday season. Some people spend more time with family, friends, or other loved ones that maybe they’ve had a rocky relationship with in the past. I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel guilty about those things because relationships take two people. If there’s something wrong, I feel that I often have something to do with it, some control over that.

But I don’t, not really. None of us do. Now, if you argue with that one super political uncle over Thanksgiving and things get heated because you all don’t agree, only to pretend things are fine to keep it cordial over Christmas, that’s fine. You’re not doing any harm in not pushing something that doesn’t need to be pushed. That’s not what I mean we don’t have control over.

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We have no say in other people’s expectations. To a certain point, we can be ourselves and let others see whatever they see in us— it isn’t up to us to make them see what they want to. In the same way, it isn’t our responsibility to make other people happy, especially if it is a detriment to ourselves in the process.

If something isn’t working, why pretend that it is just to keep up the other person’s ego. The truth isn’t something we should avoid, not when it usually comes up in the end regardless. So, why bring this up now?

Because the holidays usually mean expectations; whether it’s towards the season or family time or gifts or making sure to hug all the relatives that we don’t care to hug, there are things people want us to do. Sometimes, we don’t want to do them. And we shouldn’t have to.

Not out of reason, anyway. If it’s a holiday tradition to give people gifts and someone simply doesn’t want to do it that year, that is a bit out of reason. It wouldn’t be fair to sit out just because we don’t feel like it, knowing it takes away from everyone else’s experiences.

But when asked to hug this random person who remembers us as a child—a child young enough to not know who they are by now—it’s not too much to politely decline. When presented with an old friend in town who wants to catch up, while we have no interest in doing so, it isn’t on us to pretend we want to out of obligation. 

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Just because it’s a busier and more social time of year does not mean that we need to keep up obligations. I know I hold my own feelings towards keeping other people happy, even when at a detriment to myself. This year, I think I’m letting myself become my priority, not other people. The attachments I have to always being what other people need me to be, I’m burning those bridges and finding a better balance in it instead.

For all of our sakes, put yourself first.

You deserve that much. Enjoy the holiday season for you; if you can do that, you’ll be happier and in turn, they people around you just might be too. Think about it.

And happy Friday.