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Tag Archives: New Year’s Resolution

3 Lessons I’ve Learned in 2015

26 Dec

2015 New Year celebration

I’ve always been a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve figured that the key to good resolutions is in the specifics. You can’t say “Be healthier.” It needs to be something trackable like “Eat a salad once a week” or “Work out twice a week.” I’m not one to lecture on these things, though, since I only went one-for-five on my resolutions this year. But I made significant progress toward the other four, so that’s a start!

I read somewhere on the inter webs this week an article a girl had written about her lessons learned over the year. I can’t for the life of me find it, but the idea of it stuck with me. It’s not enough to set goals moving forward, we also have to look back and choose what lessons we take with us.

I’m surprised at how hard I had to stew in my thoughts to figure out what are the things I’ve learned this year. Of course, there were a million mini-revelations like finding the right shade of lipstick for my pale skin tone and just how much money I save by packing lunch (so much money!). But I turned to my diary to recap the year and see if there were any grander life lessons to be gleaned.

LESSON #1: TRUST THAT GUT FEELING

In the relationships of my past, I spent a lot of time trying to make things work, hoping things fell into place. I’d make excuses about timing and how things can develop. But as I get older, I realize that voice inside of me that quietly whispers, “This ain’t going to work” shouldn’t be ignored. I’ve always been open to giving someone a chance, but at some point, you know. You know in your heart of hearts that this person isn’t YOUR person. This was the year I decided I was done with settling for anything less than amazing. It saved me time and heartbreak and saved the lovely people I dated time and heartbreak to accept that moving forward wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t a set of deal-breakers or standards that I set. It was trusting my heart when it told me to move on.

LESSON #2: A NIGHT IN IS A VALID AND ACCEPTABLE OPTION

I love going out with my friends. I love trying new things and meeting new people. But for a long time I measured my life by how amazing my nights out were. And if I found myself home without plans on a Friday or Saturday night, I almost felt like I was in a panic. What did that say about my life? I’m in my twenties, shouldn’t I be out on the town having adventures? Is my life as exciting as those I see on Instagram?

When I was a senior in high school, I had an odd falling out with my best friend at the time. We stopped talking, and I was ostracized from my social circle. I spent months with nothing to do on my weekends. So I started going to music shops and book shops alone and buying NME magazine, the New Yorker, Harper’s. I’d spend my evenings listening to Brit Pop, the Velvet Underground, David Bowie. I’d read my dorky literary magazines and write for hours in my diary and other notebooks. I eventually made new friends who have remained some of my closest friends to this day. The point is, I used the time alone on my own to grow, to give time to things that I loved and was interested in. I brooded on existential questions about what I wanted out of life and I made collages of cool bands from the magazines I read.

I loved those nights, and I’ve brought them back. I treasure my nights in reading, writing, cooking, studying. I learned to stop caring about whether my life is as glamorous as it could be.

LESSON #3: INVEST IN SMALL KINDNESS

Here’s a key to instant happiness: do something nice for someone else. It doesn’t have to be big. I got paper valentines for my girlfriends in February. I bought my friend who was having anxiety issues a small book about breathing and introductory meditation. I tried to smile and be as nice as possible to cashiers and waiters. No matter what. Even on my worst days when I curse the city, the subway, the weather, the smells, the everything. In fact, those are the days when I needed it the most. By smiling and making a genuine effort to be kind, I found that the kindness was mirrored right back to me. It didn’t take much to make my forced smile become a natural one. If I made a stranger’s day better, so be it. If I reminded friends and family that I love them and appreciate them, that’s great! Being kind to people is never a bad idea.

 

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Finding Poetry

2 Jun

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New Year’s Resolution #5 this year (right after “Drink Less”) was “Find My Poetry.” By that I didn’t mean write more poetry, read more poetry, or even go to more poetry events, although all those are lacking in my life. I meant to find the poetry that used to infuse my life, that used to be the core of who I was. Six years ago, it meant everything to me, and somewhere along the way I lost it.

As with most resolutions, I started out strong. I volunteered at the Poetry Project‘s annual New Year’s Day Reading Marathon. After serving chilli to the masses for a couple of hours, chatting with poets, volunteers, fellow verse enthusiasts, I was allowed free admission to the reading. The Poetry Project is housed in a church in the Lower East Side and this reading took place in the nave. Some of the poems were beautiful, some were hilarious, some were stirring. More than anything it felt good to be hearing it again.

As I was leaving to go feed a pug in Midtown, I ran into an old friend/writing partner. I recognized his shock of white hair, and we hugged, whispering together. We used to get together once a week in Seattle to read poetry and write it, to drink whiskey and talk about our futures. He’s currently getting his MFA in Alabama. He was in town to spend time with his boyfriend who lives in Brooklyn.

“Oh, I knew Chrissy Wilson would be here!” he said to me. “I’ll be moving here in June. Let’s have poetry dates again.”

We were shushed by people around us, so I agreed, hugged him, and left. Six months later, it’s June. He emailed me that he’ll be here in a couple of weeks. But I haven’t done a single thing to find my poetry since that blustery New Years day. Time has done nothing but slip through my fingers.

But the other night, I was reading an interview with Cheryl Strayed where she mentioned one of her favorite Emily Dickinson quotes, the one in the art above: “If your Nerve, deny you-/Go above your Nerve.” And I couldn’t get it out of my head. I couldn’t get Emily Dickinson out of my head. I found myself pulling my dusty Parini Poetry Anthology (which could also function as a bludgeoning weapon) off the shelf and started reading the poems of hers I found there. And not just her. I felt as though I was looking through an old yearbook as I sighed over the names of poets long forgotten. Marianne Moore, Robert Frost, Louise Gluck, Theodore Roethke. I read Anthony Hecht’s “The Dover Bitch” over and over again, feeling just as enamored with its perfection as I did when I first read it for a class in 2007.

“…To have been brought
All the way down from London, and then be addressed
As a sort of mournful cosmic last resort
Is really tough on a girl…”

Then I moved on to my old notebooks. The ones I carried with me everywhere. Full of mini-poems, thoughts, quotes, drawings. Nothing spectacular, just the things I heard and saw that stirred something in me, that felt destined to become a poem or a story or anything.

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This page with lyrics from a Gwen Stefani song, from a Blur song, a quote from the beginning of an episode of Planet Earth, a drawing of my legs in capri jeans. The notebook was full of nonsense like this. Recipes, directions, notes to self, doodles, schedules. It reminded me what I was missing when I lost my poetry. It’s about the observation, the curiosity of life, the ability to try and turn things askew and look at them in a new way. This isn’t to say I’ve found my poetry but those old notebooks that are full of embarrassing things and a couple of poignant things reminded me to observe and to note. That is the purpose of writing after all. Not to just publish or write successful how-tos. It’s to be a correspondent to the unique experience we each have.

I said that I hadn’t found my poetry, but on second thought, maybe I have.

Jealousy

10 Jan

Two types of veterinary technicians exist. There are the ones like me that enjoy the career as is, possibly want to do it their whole lives and bask in the freedom of much less responsibility. Then there are veterinary technicians who are earning an income and gaining experience on the road to becoming a veterinarian. I work with three of this second type of technician, and in this last week, two of them were accepted to Cornell University’s Vet School.

I SHOULD be happy for them. It’s an amazing accomplishment, and they are both hard-working and deserving girls. They’re going to make wonderful veterinarians one day, and I know that. But that wasn’t my internal reaction when I found out about their news. I was jealous, angry, spiteful. I found myself thinking that maybe they’d fail out of school eventually. And I felt disgust with myself soon after.

I carried around this ugly, jealous feeling for most of the day, ashamed of it, and trying to decide exactly what to do with it. I don’t even like to think that I’m capable of those thoughts.

I decided two things. One, I will be happy for them. I will find a way. I will smile and ask all about it and support them until I make myself believe it. Not sure if it is possible to kill those jealousy feelings in there, but succumbing to that kind of resentment is the first step on the road to bitterness. Two, I have to focus those feelings on myself and change them into something else.

I don’t want to be a veterinarian. I know that. I’ve thought long and hard about it, and the medical/science field is not for me. My creative spirit pulls me elsewhere. But the jealousy comes from their accomplishment. Those two lovely ladies worked hard, for years, and will have to work hard for years to come. And while I don’t want to follow the path they’re on, I have dreams and aspirations that require hard work, perhaps years of it, perhaps a lifetime of it. The last week I have brainstormed a good New Year’s Resolution for this brave and glorious year ahead. I tend to pick many specific commitments, but this year I have decided to pick one that is vague and noncommital.

Work Harder.

If I want things to happen for me. If I want those big accomplishments, I need to make some changes. When I think of the hours spent playing Candy Crush or the hours watching the same youtube videos over and over again or the dozens of times a day when I refresh my news feed on Facebook, such a waste of time! This isn’t to say that there won’t be any of that. I love relaxing and unwinding. There just needs to be less of it. I need to work harder, and I need to start now.