It’s a little late to start talking about New Year’s Resolutions. Christmas lights are packed away, vacation days seem nonexistent, and nobody’s baking anymore! If we’re going to be talking at all about the goals we set just before that last chime of 2014 struck midnight and our wobbly posture and slurred words set in, we’re probably supposed to discuss whether we’ve held up our end of the bargain. It’s January 28th. How’s that diet working out?
I wrote down some goals back at the end of December, too. Before I start preaching, I’ll even share the list with you for all judgy purposes.
Two years ago, my resolutions were just two: make your bed every day and drink the coffee at work instead of buying it out each morning. These are the only New Year’s Resolutions that I’ve ever kept. Probably because they were small. Also, because they helped me build better habits. And they’re now my new model for setting goals. In fact, I think my goal for every year, or better every day, will officially be: do things that make you happier, smarter, and better. Work for progress.
How did a few pressed sheets and Folgers coffee make me happier, though? I know I don’t have a whole lot of support when it comes to making the bed. To some it might seem frivolous, a waste of time, or the worst of all, boring. I am not your mom and I will not make you make your bed, but it is how I start each day. It’s the official, “I’m awake and not going back to sleep,” status. It’s also the comforting invitation to crawl back in at the end of a (hopefully) productive day. Drinking coffee is also a (obviously) long-running morning routine. I’ve simply changed the way I do it. On work days, if I make it to school on time, I’m rewarded with free coffee. On my days off, I’m rewarded with the luxury of not putting on a bra if I put that old French press to work. Both goals have helped me wake up and face my day while saving money. Habits for progress.
Don’t get me wrong, the goals that I listed earlier all have the ability to make my life better. But I think sometimes where I go wrong is by looking too much at the distant future and setting too many restrictions upon myself. A better me (and a better you!) takes more then a flip of a switch to achieve. I’m working on it.
First, and most importantly, I’ve rediscovered things that make me feel at the same time happy, productive, and rewarded. This month, after considering enrolling in a ceramics class for several years, I’ve started throwing on the wheel. Centering be damned; I will make you a giant mug! I’m also remembering how therapeutic working long, fast-moving hours while building with my hands can be.
Working with clay isn’t the only therapy I’ve been indulging in. There’s been more reading and less tv watching. I’m writing my own words down in my notebook rather than quotes spoken by someone more successful. It’s a bit like a renaissance of self, where I’m rediscovering some of the things that make me feel like me, the things that I’ve chosen to define myself by. And I’m finally working on them. Steps 1 and 2 of resolutions: identify what makes you feel good, then put your time into those things.
I stepped into a lot of emotional realms I didn’t plan on dealing with today today. Slightly hungover first. Sleepless and delirious. Sad and broke loser, later and continually. I wasn’t sure if I’d be spending my evening curled in bed watching sappy television dramas about fairytale characters in the real world (oh my god, I can’t stop watching stupid tv) while randomly tearing up at each sappy sentimental scene. Things turned around. Want to know why?
Because it’s beginning to sort of, kind of, slightly resemble Christmas in our teeny tiny apartment. My boyfriend Patrick and I bought our first Christmas tree for our first home! Sure, it’s the biggest thing in our living space at the moment, but the place smells like pine. Yes, we only have one ornament to put on the tree, but it’s a fuzzy squirrel! But once we filled the little guy with those cheap CVS lights, my mood instantly lifted.
Now that I’m feeling the quick approach of the holidays skipping nearby, and even more so the stress that I haven’t bought a single present for anyone yet, I wanted to share the new game of the season. It’s #cheesycheer(s)ing and everyone [me!] is doing it!
I’ve become friends with several people after discovering their fondness for tequila rivaled my own. #cheesycheers was spawned from one of those friendships. As we would raise our glasses, my friend would always cheers to something both simple, and lame. We’d toast to friendship, and love, and dreams. We needed to progress. We needed to cheers to the beach at sunset or candles in the wind! So we did.
I’ve been trying to get this trend going for a while now. And by trying, I mean, I hash tagged a couple of my Instagram photos back in the summertime and proceed to clink shot glasses to “dancing like no one’s watching” on a fairly regular basis. But I think now is the perfect time to bring the rest of the world into the wonder and fun of cheesy cheer(s)ing.
The way it works is simple.
Step 1: Buy someone--anyone--a shot of hard liquor. My drink of choice is tequila, because it always is, and because tequila shots are a whole fun process in themselves.
Step 2: Raise your glass and propose the cheesiest toast you can think of.
Step 3: Drink.
Step 4: Repeat as desired.
You might be wondering why is this perfect for the holidays. Simple! This is that time of year where you’re going to be expected to go out: holiday work parties, family dinners, cookie exchanges, parties in one of your high school friend’s parent’s basement, and the dreaded New Year’s Eve. A lot of these events are going to be dull. But not if you engage in some good cheerful imbibing!
Oh, you’re also probably going to be expected to start exchanging gifts with some folks, right? Fear not, friends! #cheesycheers are the perfect gift! You buy the shot! You cheers some cheesy words of praise to your buddy! If you’re feeling really ambitious, get someone else to snap a picture of you pre-/post-shot and let’s get this hashtag moving up the ranks online. Wahlah! Cheap and sweet in a snap. Don’t be afraid of seeming like the broke friend (If you’re cheer(s)ing, you know you’re the broke friend!) The greatest gifts aren’t the ones we can literally wrap our fingers around. But presents that you can wrap your stomach around rarely go to waste. Here’s to Christmas trees, sugar cookies, and home is where the heart is! Don’t spend this holiday season sober.
I’ve been saying a lot of goodbyes lately. Not see-ya laters, really, but farewells--the probably won’t see you agains. To people I’ve known for more than three years now. That’s longer than I’ve known my current roommates, my boyfriend, some of my close friends; that’s also more than half of the people I’m saying my goodbyes to’s lives. Yes, I’m talking about kids. Yes, they’re going to kindergarten! And yes, it’s time.
Some of us have been over each other for a while. They’ve outgrown me and our school and the younger kids to follow. I’ve gotten to my wit’s end with their newly found love of sarcasm and know-it-all-ness. But these goodbyes are different than ones you would have with people you’ve had relationships with for three years. They’re going to forget me.
This year is the toughest of the three I’ve been teaching at this school, because these little nuggets were my first group, the only ones I’ve seen the whole way through school. In three years they’ve grown out of diapers, learned how to draw superheroes and ninjas versus scribbles, and finally understand the difference between a question and a statement. I’ve learned their habits and characteristics, their flaws and shining moments, just like they know me and my habits, and my likes and dislikes. They know my moods and the things that really tick me off as well as many of my family and friends. They know I don’t like peanut butter and that I like to sit in the blue chair at lunch. They remember when and how I broke my foot almost two years ago, and they harass me about having a boyfriend regularly. They know that singing “Party rockin’ in the house tonight...” is the fastest way to drive me insane. We have inside jokes and rituals together. All of those things they’ll forget.
I’m not saying I won’t forget, too. I will. And then I’ll hear a name I haven’t in a while, and I might think of one of them. I’ll think of Cars 2 and remember Graham’s frustration that someone had Cars-themed diapers and he did not (the injustice!). I’ll give someone the “I’m watching you” gaze and think of Caleb. A text message full of emotions will flash me back to naptime with Pirjo, and summer barbecues will remind me, always, about how Lorena called me Jayne Watermelon.
These little people spend more time with me than almost anyone else in my life. Forty hours a week, every week, for three years adds up to 6,240 hours. 6,240 hours of tantrums, hugs, and whys. 374,400 minutes of drawing, dancing, and singing. 22,464,000 seconds of love, frustration, and laughter that they have given.
Our goodbyes are for good. And I’m proud of them: they’re so old! They’ll visit, for a while, but you never have quite the same bond when they come back--catching up with six and seven year olds is a relatively one-sided conversation, and the familiarity of spending every day with each other fades quickly. They replace you with new friends and teachers and activities and knowing how to read, and you replace them with new kids in diapers. So it goes.
A weekend away from Philadelphia is kind of a necessity after dealing with the so- called charm of the city for any significant amount of time, but a weekend in the suburbs is way different than a visit to NYC or a trek "down the shore" (which don't even get me started about that saying). A weekend in the suburbs makes me simultaneously feel two ways:
A weekend in the suburbs is staying at a B&B where you make your own breakfast and don't make the bed. It's nostalgia wrapped up in Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. Poke my belly and tell me it's real. It's the cheesy filling of a Tostito's Pizza Roll. It's the whipped coolness of a Starbucks Mocha Frappucino. It's the ethnic diversity you find at Trader Joe's/Giotto's/Jose's. Have I given you enough commercial metaphors yet to get where I'm going with this? I’m not really going anywhere.
It's the kind of good you feel bad about, or the kind of safe that makes you restless. It's what I'm always writing about and can't get away from.
But mostly, it's two things again: it's me and it's not me. It's where I come from, what I grew up with, and what I ran away from. There's strip after strip filled with tanning salons, Smoothie Kings, and Pizza Huts, betwixt big open yards with clean non-city grass and roads without potholes! I made tacos with a seasoning packet rather than trying to get the right mix of spices on my own and I ate prepackaged guacamole rather than mashing up fresh avocados and it felt just fine. Because, really, I ate tacos which is the same thing I would have been doing in Philadelphia, or in New York, or pretty much anywhere I could have gone.
The point is I love tacos? Absolutely! And maybe that regardless of the location, or the ingredients, the company (and the air conditioning) makes all the difference. And I guess also that vacations are always about food. That’s not it.
There's a characteristic of suburban sprawl that can make every town seem just like every town you've been to before. It's the boring version of Invisible Cities, lacking the mystery and charm of ancient cities and landscapes that most people only see on each month's calendar image. And I think that's what strikes me the most when I step away from my city footprints and revisit any town similar to the ones I grew up in: the wanderlust, the dichotomy of needing to feel safe yet wanting to explore beyond myself and the places I know so well. Going "home" only makes me want to see more.
On my commute into work the other morning, a Pandora ad for some new movie started playing in my headphones. “I will never be good enough for you,” said the actor stud, “but I will spend the rest of my life proving to you that I am.”
When did romance become an unbearably cheesy portrayal of a man or woman sacrificing their entire life to make the other happy? When did it become romantic to prove yourself to another person? Isn’t the sappy, fulfilling purpose of love to accept one as they are? If someone is going to tell me they’re not good enough for me, I’m probably going to believe them. It’s a stupid thing to say. And if you follow up that point by saying you will prove to me that you are good enough, well now you’re just contradicting yourself.
Romance is not blockbuster quality. I don’t want flowers on Valentine’s Day because someone told you to buy them for me. I don’t want you to say your whole life is based on whether I am happy or not, because then what are you doing to make yourself happy? Romance could be mailing your vegetarian girlfriend a new flavored Cliff bar because you were at the corner store and thought of her. Romance sometimes is a single rose you found outside the cafe, left on the front stoop because you knew she was having a rough day. Romance is often holding someone until they fall asleep as their nose drips a puddle of snot onto the pillow. Romance is a sad song sung simply because you know the person you’re singing to still loves Ryan Adams. #notembarassed
Sometimes it is cliche, but it is not defined. Still, if you know how I like my eggs made, I’ll be way more fond of you than if you tell me I’m the one you can’t live without. Because you can. I’m sick of advertising and pop culture and outdated social norms defining relationships for us. I’m sick of Cosmo articles “reflecting” upon the worst dates we’ve ever had, because half of them sound like a relatively typical night. (See for yourself.) I’m sick of the rules and games we’re supposed to play, and the timelines we’re supposed to set up. But really, I’m just sick of fucking “romantic dramas” continually warping the minds of too many people into believing that if someone you love is unwilling to sacrifice EVERYTHING ELSE in their life, they must not love you. Because love, romance, none of it is about sacrificing the person you are to please someone else.
It’s not just in movies though. Every day we are trying to prove something: to our bosses, our coworkers, our parents, our friends, most especially to ourselves. My Facebook feed was a barrage of happy wishes and bitter memes yesterday. You can almost smell the roses you’re not going to get? Why can’t you find a nice guy/gal? Valentine’s Day is set up to make one either feel incredibly lucky and special to be with “the one” or to make us feel bad and lonely because there’s no one we’re sharing the commercialism with. Is it really necessary to have one specific day where we either feel the ultimate bliss of coupledom, or the unbearable loneliness of being single? Comparisons like this start to take hold of our lives; we find ourselves online stalking where someone we haven’t spoken to since high school last vacationed to, a childhood friend who is already pregnant with her second child, the promotion our ex got and the number of people that make more money, are more “successful,” are “happier” than us. It’s built into our society to compete, to feel the need to show our self worth, rather than allowing ourselves to falter and flail along the way. Most of us don’t display those moments where we’re just barely treading water to the world; we show the successes.
Some days I am happy and in love. Some days I am sad and in love. Some days I am scared, or anxious, or tired, or excited, but all of those days, I am still in love. I’m in love with sleeping late. I’m in love with burritos. I’m in love with coffee and cigarettes and tequila, even when they’re bad for me. I love people, even if they fart in front of me. (Seriously, I had a middle school teacher tell me once that if a guy farts in front of you, he doesn’t respect you. Seriously.) And I don’t need one predetermined day to prove that I love those things, or to devour that burrito.
Happy Not Valentine’s Day. And a happy 363 more.
heavy heeled when walking; heavy handed when pouring a drink