Monday, December 30, 2013

2014: New Year, New Possibilities

It’s almost New Year’s time. That means, of course, it’s almost time for a “new you” or a “fresh start.” 

While I always kind of enjoy the thought of getting to start over, I’m taking a different approach this year, realizing that it’s not time for a new me. I’ll be entering 2014 in much the same fashion as I leave 2013, and, unfortunately, the year of baggage that I have earned will be following right behind me. Luckily, though, baggage can manifest itself into more positive things like "experience" and "wisdom." 

Not to say that I don’t appreciate the thought of starting over or of making self improvements. It’s simply that I have decided that I’m not jumping on the bandwagon of typical resolutions this year.

We might as well face it. I'm not exactly normal, so I'm not going to have normal resolutions. (I'm not knocking normal resolutions, just to be clear).

Instead of the “I want to lose 15 pounds,” “I want to work out every day,” “I want to start using coupons,” or “I want to let go of stress once and for all,” I’m adopting a looser approach—one that I might actually stick to, and one that I'm writing down so I can't conveniently forget on January 2nd. The truth of the matter is that I’m slightly rebellious, and if I tell myself I have to work out every day, I definitely won’t. (No one tells me what to do—not even my post-New Year idealistic self).

Nonetheless, I do think it’s important to set goals for the year, and since I’m in my 20s, I’ve decided mine should be about enjoying life. After all, resolutions are a lot like rules. They're more of suggestions.

Thoughts on how to make 2014 awesome:
  1. Go back to Vegas this year. I loved it, and life is too short not to have a good time!
  2. Buy fun pairs of shoes—not just the ones needed for work or working out.
  3. Learn to love a good scotch and keep it classy.
  4. Text less and enjoy the people around me more.
  5. Write at least one handwritten letter at some point in the year. I’ve got a year to figure out who gets it and what to say. (Would a post-it count? Things to ponder…)
  6. Try to take vitamins most of the time. Let’s face it, I’m kind of an overgrown child, and remembering daily is a hard task. We’ll settle for at least a few times a week at this point.
  7. Embrace the quirks of myself—and of others.
  8. Continue writing for fun and maybe for publication one day.
  9. I just realized that I never wear the color orange. Maybe I’ll give that a try. We’ll put it on the list and see. I also rarely wear purple and pink…we’ll see about those, too. Might as well branch out and buy some fun new clothes as well.
  10. Spoil my nieces and be a good aunt.
  11. Take more pictures with my parents, and remember to tell them that I appreciate them.
  12. Use the filter in my brain that says, “You probably shouldn’t say that,” at least 50% of the time, instead of my usual 15-25%.
  13. Plan ahead to make situations a little easier. For example, remember to eat before going to the grocery store in case it turns into a 2 hour excursion. That way, the mood can remain pleasant throughout said shopping excursion.
  14. Shop at more locally owned stores, because I love the unique flavor they bring to Albuquerque.
  15. Spend at least one day with no plans, doing whatever I feel like in a given moment—even if I happen to feel like having a Netflix binge.
  16. Play basketball with my brother more often. It’s our time to enjoy each other’s company, catch up on life, and have fun.
  17. Give hot yoga another try. It was equal parts glorious and disgusting the times I did it previously, and I think it deserves another shot.
  18. Don’t take turning 26 as hard as I took 25. Once the birthday was over, I realized that it really didn’t change anything about me, except that I now fearfully look for crow’s feet in the mirror each morning.
  19. Continue using the word “y’all,” and look the other way when I receive negative feedback for doing so. I worked on trying not to use it for a while, but I’m embracing it proudly. I was raised in the middle of nowhere with cattle, horses, boots, jeans, and country values. We say “y’all.” There’s no sense in fighting it.
  20. Last year, I got an expandable file folder to organize my important papers. But, after reviewing my list, I realize that I might should work on organizing my thoughts in 2014.
I think that’s about all I have planned for 2014, and even that is flexible. New Year’s shouldn’t be about criticizing ourselves and finding fault with all that we are—nor should it be about making a definite plan, mapped out with unrealistic expectations. 

Seriously, endless. You, too, could try wearing a new color. Think on it.

Above all, have a happy new year and enjoy life a little, my friends! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"My Life's Been a Country Song"

I’m always proud to assert that I’m a country girl—born and raised. Right along with that, comes the fact that country music was my first love—and although I have flings on the side with other genres, it will always have my heart. Growing up in a town without even a single stoplight, no one seemed to question my love. However, now that I live in the “big city” of Albuquerque, I catch more flack for loving country than anyone should.

So, the simple question that I always have to answer is:  “Why do you like country?” Of course, this is usually followed up by a snarky statement like:  “It’s just about drinking and sad stuff.”

Sure, there are those. Country music is definitely good if you’re depressed and need to cry it out.

Perfect example of this stereotypical thought (note—not a song I enjoy, but nonetheless):

Tear in My Beer - Hank Sr. and Hank Jr.

But, there is much more to the world of country music, and my love for it comes for many reasons.

1-We don’t hide our crazy. We know we’re crazy, and we embrace it. We name it and call it crazy. We go for it. While Rihanna may sing “that’s not fair” when someone calls her crazy, we realize that there’s no crazy like country crazy, and we own it!

Go to Hell - Casey Donahew Band

No Cure for Crazy - Kellie Pickler

Stripes - Brandy Clark

2-There’s depth to the feelings expressed. Country singers—the good ones anyway—don’t just say, “hey girl you lookin fine!” Instead, they work through the struggle of defining those feelings. In my opinion, there have never been truer expressions of genuine love than those of a good country song.

Sometimes, love lasts a lifetime
He Stopped Loving Her Today - George Jones

Carried Away - George Strait

Turn My World Around - Glorianna

I Hope You're the End of My Story - Pistol Annies

Oklahoma Sky - Miranda Lambert

Who I Am - Wade Bowen

3-Country songs can be encouraging and can remind us to chase our dreams. In fact, if you listen closely, you’ll hear this sentiment expressed by many country women singers.

I Was Here - Lady Antebellum

Pioneer - The Band Perry

Even If It Breaks Your Heart - Eli Young Band

4-They’re not afraid to sing about deeper things in life—whether that’s family, God, friends or something else.

Mother Like Mine - The Band Perry

Love Like Crazy - Lee Brice

House That Built Me - Miranda Lambert

I'm Gonna Love You Through It - Martina McBride

5-Much like the way country folks embrace their crazy, they also know how to deal with a breakup in style. What better way to do so than with a rocking song that inspires confidence?

Walking Away A Winner - Kathy Mattea

Red High Heels - Kellie Pickler

6-Most of us who lived in the country grew up learning how to hunt, ride, fight, etc. As a result, we don’t take much of a hard time from anyone. We aren’t afraid to fight back and stand up for ourselves, and country music expresses this frequently.

Gun Powder and Lead - Miranda Lambert

Independence Day - Martina McBride

We’re strong, and not afraid to tell you so
Country Strong - Gwyneth Paltrow (okay, so she's not entirely country....but I love this song)

7-Country music can be depressing. It truly can, and that’s one of the things that is so great about it. Many country artists aren’t afraid to express some really difficult emotions. Sometimes, heartaches don’t fade; sometimes we all need a good song to cry along with while we drive. That’s when these come in handy.

What Might Have Been - Little Texas

Whiskey Lullaby - Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss

8-It gave me realistic expectations of love.

Unhappily Married - Pistol Annies

9-It reminds me that I’m not alone in my screw-ups, my hard times, and my occasional bad choices.

War on a Desperate Man - Eli Young Band

10-We do have our drinking songs, our dancing songs, and some that are just perfect to turn up the radio, roll down the windows, and belt out on a happy day!

Oklahoma Breakdown - Stoney Larue

Bad Example - Pistol Annies

Perfect Day - Lady Antebellum

Friends in Low Places - Garth Brooks

I Just Wanna Dance With You - George Strait

I love country music for many reasons—because it is so complex. It’s music from a bunch of differnte types of people—many who were small town kids who have lived a life similar to the one I have. I like country, because they’re songs about my life. To quote a song I’ve always loved:

My Life’s Been A Country Song – Chris Cagle

Now I know how Merle Haggard felt when he sang the words mama tried
And I've lived those teenage
Friday nights the pyrmid of cans in the pale moon light
And that Summer Becky broke my heart
Alabama sang old flame burnin'
Well I've danced with George Strait
Drank with George Jones
My life's been a country song.

It's all about fallin' down and gettin' back up
Your good times and hard luck
True love and amazing grace
Workin' all week for a back ache
Raisin' caine, Friday nights, Sunday church to set it right
They can write it on my stone,
My life's been a country song.

Country music is about life, and perhaps my view is biased, because I grew up in boots and jeans. But, I’ll always love it and always defend my love.

To be fair, like any other genre, we have some awful songs that are devoid of anything of value—things like “Hey Girl,” and anything that involves Luke Bryan shaking anything or a Taylor Swift breakup. But, people of the world, stop being so hard on country and pigeonholing it as a simple genre of depressing drinking songs. It’s so much more than that. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Giving Thanks

We’ve all seen—or perhaps even been the ones writing—the 30 days of thankfulness posts on social media. While I can’t seem to help myself from making jokes when I see some of them (I make jokes about everything...don't get offended), it truly is nice to see people expressing gratitude for the simple things in life.

Ok, I really couldn’t help myself, but it’s just one joke:

Nonetheless, I’m thankful that so many people are thankful, and I have numerous things to be grateful for as well in my own life. However, I also am quite aware that—since I can’t even commit to dinner plans more than two days in advance—I am most likely incapable of committing to posting on the same topic of thankfulness for an entire month. Let’s face it, there will invariably come a day within the month that I would rather post something snarky, funny, or completely irrelevant.

It’s my social media, and I do what I want.

As a result, I weighed my options and decided a blog post would have to suffice.

This has been quite the up-and-down year in my life, complete with the ever-changing journey of “finding myself,” determining priorities, making changes, and growing up. People have come and gone, and I have allowed myself to go from the lives of some. At times, I have slipped from the optimistic-to-a-fault person that I have always been into someone who saw nothing but stormy skies and hard times. Yet, it has all been part of a process that has shaped me and made me stronger, and for that, I am perhaps more grateful than anything.

I am thankful for the people who never left my side—even when I turned into a Debbie Downer for a week or two. These are the friends and family members who are the most important part in my life. They are the saints who will answer the phone in the middle of the night to tell me that it’s all going to be okay—even when they had already convinced me of the same thing hours earlier. These are the people who will offer a hug when times get rough, celebrate life’s victories with you, laugh about nothing, have random dance parties in the living room, and enrich your life. I’m blessed beyond measure to have these people in my life, and I cherish them. Thank you.

I am thankful for the people who have left my side—and in some cases my life. Upon the exit of some, I felt broken. Yet, their absence taught me a great deal about the things I can overcome and the type of people I need in my life. I have since realized that there are some people whose presence in our lives is meant to be merely seasonal. They come in, they stay for a while, they may even leave their mark or change our lives in some way, and then they leave. When they leave, we have a chance to rebuild, pick up the pieces and learn our lessons. This makes us stronger, and I will always be grateful to be strong.

I am thankful for new beginnings. This year, I became an aunt and learned so much more about the beauty of life. Words cannot express how much my sweet niece blesses my life and how often I thank God for her.

Sarah Kaylee teaching me that there is always a new day—and a new generation to help inspire.

I am thankful for my family. We’re quirky, and we have our own set of flaws—but we’re always there for each other. They make me laugh, they help me when I’m struggling, and they’re always my biggest supporters. From grandparents to aunts and uncles and cousins, I have a wonderful extended family. Then, of course, I have the most supportive parents, the sweetest sister and brother-in-law, the most amazing little brother, and the most adorable niece possible. I love them all dearly.

I am thankful for life’s struggles, for hard lessons learned, and for the times when things seem to be all chaos and no clarity. These are the times in which we find what we're made of and allow us to see both previous and future times of happiness with greater respect.

I am thankful for dreams that persevere, even when there does not seem to be a clear pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

And, sometimes, we get a glimmer of the sun shining off of that far-off pot of gold. These are the little moments that keep us going, and for those, I am incredibly grateful.

I am thankful for optimism that continues to shine even into the darkness of uncertainty.

I am thankful for new friends whose presence in my life gives me a renewed hope on the connection of human hearts.

I am thankful for good music—regardless of genre—that gives me a running soundtrack throughout the day (whether it’s deep music of the heart, or a hilarious interjection into an all too serious moment).

I am thankful for the stars at night that remind me of simple beauties.

I am thankful to have a wonderful house to live in, and a phenomenal roommate with whom to share it.

Thankfully, my roommate puts up with all my silliness, and even joins in the fun!

I am thankful for my dog—and for my roommate’s dog—who always remind me that unconditional love does exist.

They also remind me that sometimes the most unlikely pair can become great friends.

I am thankful to have a sense of humor, because life is hilarious—and because life without laughter is not really worth it all.

I’m also thankful to have silly friends who share my silly sense of humor and aren’t afraid to act a little crazy with me from time to time.

I’m thankful for this crazy roller coaster ride we call life. Even with its ups and downs, it’s absolutely a beautiful mess.

And, finally, if you stuck through reading this entire post of garbled thank-you notes, you’re probably one of the people I love, and I’m thankful for you. 

Thank you!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Quarter Life Crisis....It Happens

We’ve all heard the old clich├ęs about a mid-life crisis—the stories about men getting motorcycles, women getting tummy tucks, or someone running off with a lover half their age. I’m sure middle age is a difficult transition, and mid-life crises definitely deserve the laughable attention they have been given.

However, there is a crisis that receives far less attention but is no less real—or ridiculous for that matter. It is just as much a crisis of identity and a second-guessing game that plagues the mind, keeps people from sleeping, enables those suffering to make some questionable decisions, and makes people go a little crazy.

This is the case of the quarter-life crisis, or as I have fondly started to refer to mine as the QLC. It rolls off the tongue a little sweeter, if nothing else.

I have debated on whether or not to write this now—or when I’m through said crisis, but I figured now is as good a time as any. At least, it’s all fresh right now, so there will be none of that sugar-coating stuff or stating obvious pretty lies like:  “it only gets better from here,” or “these are the best years of your life.”

What I can write right now is raw and real. Being in the mid-twenties sucks. Don’t get me wrong. It has its share of glorious moments, and for those I am quite grateful (however, this is not the blog post for fluffy, feel-good thoughts. This is my crisis post, and I’m determined to have it).

Sure, as twenty-somethings, we have a little bit of free time, we’re making good money, we’re all climbing ladders and working toward those awesome futures we’ve always wanted. If you’re like me, you have great people in your life, and most days, things are pretty good.

But, when the big 2-5 starts looming, so do a million questions, doubts, and overthinking every mistake you’ve ever made. At least, that’s what it’s been like for me—and for several friends who I have asked about similar situations in their lives.

The thing is, we spend our teenage years being told that we can be whatever we want to be, our college years being proven that that’s not exactly the case, and our twenties dealing with the harsh realities of the real world—a world that knocks us down a lot more than it picks us up.  

For most of us, we have bosses, landlords, and superiors. We have hierarchy in our lives. We’re kind of at the bottom of the totem pole, and even as we climb, there are plenty of people—and situations—that remind us of our place in the world.  

We have turmoil in the constant changing of certain friendships and relationships. The twenties are a time in which most of us are kind of floating. We aren’t tied to certain cities or to certain people—aside from a select few individuals. If we’re single and childless, we have no real responsibility to anyone, which can lead to a slight level of selfishness (although I’m not discrediting the importance of such selfishness once in a while). As a result, it’s hard to find people who stick around—regardless of the situation. Sometimes, we’re the ones running or drifting; other times, it’s someone else.

Either way, it doesn’t get less messy or less painful. Whenever someone leaves or a heart is broken, it is difficult. Still, this is just a day in the life of a normal twenty-something. We have our fair share of goodbyes and broken hearts, failed relationships and burned bridges. Yet, as we approach the ripe old age of 25 (some may hit this earlier or later, I suppose—but I’m two weeks away from being a quarter of a century old), we start to question whether or not we’ve burned bridges too soon, or if we should have given someone just one more shot. It’s not healthy. We know it’s not, and it leads to even more unhealthy behaviors—like losing sleep or an occasional night of binge drinking.

None of this helps; yet, we do it anyway. We overanalyze. We get caught up in a lot of useless “what might have been” scenarios or start to think that we’re horrible people because of the mistakes we’ve made.

Whether it’s work, relationships, friendships, self-identity, or a sudden hatred of your eyebrow shape, the mid-twenties are a heady time.

We begin to notice things like the fact that we have ugly toes, or that we talk too loudly, or that we’re actually bad drivers. We start picking apart little things we’ve always done and think, “Oh, honey, that’s why you no have.” Whatever the “no have” part may be, it’s like pouring gasoline on a bonfire when we begin to pick up on all of our little imperfections in crazed detail.

If you’re lucky like me, when you bring these things out into the open, your loving roommate will fill in the “oh honey” part for you and remind you that that’s, indeed, “why you no have.”

Much like those middle-agers, we go into an identity crisis that leads to stupid ideas. We get tattoos, go out and party until 2 a.m. on a random Tuesday night, date someone who’s totally wrong for us, and make our friends listen to forced, never-ending therapy sessions where we ask stupid questions like:  “What if this is it?” or “What if I’m doing it all wrong?” or, even worse, “Am I always going to be so screwed up in the head?”

We may even try to make a life change of some sort, but I think the most important thing we can do is to use this struggle to find out who we are, what we want from life, and what we need to do about it. Most importantly, we need to discover that we’re doing pretty damn well in the scheme of things.

Sure, there are probably some things we could have all done better and some decisions we wish we hadn’t made. But, we have two options:  1) We can dwell on those mistakes, or 2) We can look to someone older who’s made far worse decisions and validate our decisions because they weren’t that bad.

I’m kidding—at least on the second option. I firmly believe that the only real option is to learn from the past, chalk it up to experience, and move forward with a positive outlook toward all that we have done right.

Now, having said all of that, I’m sure that this would be a bit more helpful and full of good information, had I actually made it to that shining light on the other side of the QLC. But, even from inside the tunnel, I can see the light, and I realize that it’s all about making positive strides toward that place of acceptance.

To all my friends who have survived a QLC, good on you! To those who may be in one, let's grab a beer, because misery loves company. To those who have not yet had the pleasure of entering this time of insanity, gear up, buttercup. It’s coming. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why Sports?

I just had a woman inform me that "any parent who allows their child to play sports is crazy." As a former athlete--and as someone who would let my children (should I ever choose to have any) play sports--I was obviously a little upset by this sweeping judgment.

First and foremost, it is not her place to judge. However, and maybe more importantly, perhaps those without knowledge on the subject should not interject their opinions. She was quick to inform me that those playing sports would be better served to spend that time getting a job and getting into the working world so they could learn about "real life."

While there is nothing wrong with them forgoing sports to get a job, I find her implication that athletes are lazy or careless about their future to be rather insulting. I may also note that I worked during most of the time I played sports--making my days incredibly long as a student, athlete, and an employee.

I'll fully admit that I'm biased on the subject, but I will also concede that I think it's perfectly fine for a parent to keep their children from playing sports if they so choose. Nonetheless, I do think it's quite important to point out the flaws in the argument that sports serve no purpose in a child's life. I learned a great deal about the so-called "real world" during my time on the court.

Why sports?

#1 Learning how to be a part of a team
This lesson seems a little bit obvious, but it's vital to any success in life. Not only do sports allow you the opportunity to work with others, but they also teach you the value of individual strengths. More often than not, there is something unique that each person can bring to a team, and in sports you must learn to look for those skills in others and appreciate them. Additionally, it is imperative to success to make sure that others can count on you. This develops trust, teamwork, and communication.

#2 Learning to have fun while working hard
Let's face the facts:  life can be tough. There are hard days at work, and there are rough times. But, if you have a support system--much like that of an athletic team--you learn to laugh through the hard work, and there are people around to help pick you up when you fall. Some of the best times I can remember in high school are the goofy things the basketball girls and I got into before, during, or after practices. We had fun while working toward a common goal, much like you must do in many areas of life.

Hard work always warrants a little goof off time ;)

#3 Learning respect
While we might not have warmed up to R-E-S-P-E-C-T, we definitely learned the importance of respecting those around us during my years in basketball. I learned respect for coaches and how to properly interact with authority figures, while still making important decisions for the good of a group. I learned to respect my teammates, my opponents, and most of all myself.

#4 Learning that you can compete with someone and still be friends
This is probably one of the most important lessons that I learned while playing sports. I came from a small town, where we played the same girls from the same schools year in and year out. By the time I graduated, I had been playing against some of the girls for ten years. We knew our opponents on the court, but more importantly, we befriended them. Just because we were competing for a common goal, it did not mean that we had to hate the person or see them as an enemy. I am still good friends with many of my former "opponents," just as I am friends with those I compete with in my daily work. Competition does not have to create enemies.

#5 Time heals everything
Once again, it sounds cliche. However, the fact of the matter remains that if you played sports for long enough, you likely got injured. Injuries that strike during important times in your high school career or during important games are some of the hardest situations to deal with. It hurts physically, of course. But, it also hurts emotionally when you are left out of that game that you so badly wanted to play in. It's difficult. During those times, I learned the importance of prayer, of patience, and of personal growth. And, with time and rehab, you heal. Sounds a lot like "real life," huh?

All were important lessons in my life, and sure, I probably could have learned most--if not all--working some part-time job. But, I learned them on the court, in practices, on bus trips, in locker rooms. My lessons were no less significant than the kid who learned them elsewhere.

I would not trade a minute of the time I spent playing basketball. I learned valuable lessons, I made some of the best friends I have ever had, and it made me a stronger person. There are hardworking kids out there playing sports whose hard work should not be discredited just because someone doesn't understand the lifestyle.

Furthermore, those who say that sports take away from family time have obviously never visited Small Town, America, where families bond over sports.

Essentially, I don't judge your family; I don't care if you allow your children to play sports or not. So, please refrain from judging what you don't understand, and take note that sports are not mindless activities.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

5 Before 25

A Change in Perspective

Everyone always told me that I would go through a great deal of changes before I hit my mid-twenties and another round of changes before 30. I never discredited these thoughts, but with a naturally curious mind, I always wanted to know what kind of changes they might be. 

Unfortunately, most responded with something vague and cryptic, like:  “You’ll just know when it happens.”
While I firmly believe that everyone has different experiences, thus making their life and outlook changes slightly different, I think there are certain things we all experience and insights we all gain. If not, I think there are things we should learn by the time we hit our mid-twenties.

As a result of the fact that I am quickly approaching the quarter-century mark, I figured I would do a little self-reflection and make my own list. Below are the five most important lessons I’ve learned/changes I’ve made in my life as I have approached the mid-twenties:

#1 - You don’t have to have it all together.

Growing up, I was a planner and a perfectionist. I still have a lot of the perfectionist side in me, but I’ve learned to embrace the beauty of spontaneity.

Life doesn’t follow a planning notebook, and five-year plans usually end up in worse shape than the Titanic. While goals are vital to success, they’re not mapped out. Sadly, happiness is one of the few destinations to which the Google Maps car has not mapped out. Nonetheless, it can be fun.

As I’ve matured, my goal lists have transformed from the point-by-point benchmark list of my younger days to a much simpler list:  work hard, build a successful career, continue writing, be happy. In fact, when an uncle quizzed me on my five-year plan recently, my answer was:  “I just want to be fabulous.”

None of us have it all completely together. Stressing over having our lives and careers planned out, having the picture perfect family by 30, and being flawless will only take away from what is supposed to be a fun decade in our lives. Be a twenty-something and have some fun.

#2 - Selfish people suck, and they’re really not worth the battle.

This is a lesson that is usually learned the hard—and sometimes painful—way. We’ve all had those friends who call whenever they need something. Most of them can even cue the perfect whiny voice to convince us that, this time, it’s really the end of the world. They take, and take some more. They never offer help, and they won’t listen to your problems—because they’re already formulating their response in their head about a story that is WAY worse than what you’re going through.

I had a handful of these friends for a while. I blame my super-hero complex. I wanted to help everyone, and I ended up over-extended and a little bitter. As a result, I quickly learned that sometimes, it’s okay to say “no.”

I’m all for going the extra mile in friendship and helping when people need it, but friendship is a two-way street. It’s about giving and receiving, and while selfish people still have a place as acquaintances who I will hang out with on occasion, they don’t get to take up much space in my life anymore. Some call it freedom; I call it growing up.

#3 - Compete in your profession—not in your personal life.

Climb ladders and be the best. As previously mentioned, perfectionism is a hard habit to break, and a little friendly competition is healthy and fun. But, it has its place.

Friendships and relationships are not the place to compete. Sure, a game of UNO that’s serious enough to cause a yelling match is all in good fun, but when it comes to comparing lives, it’s out of place.

Well, he bought a new car, but I have a better house.

Why does my coworker always look so fabulous?

I got my degree in 3 years; it took her 5.

These are all things we may think, but they’re petty. It’s not a competition, and making life about who has more things—or even who has better things, or who has a more successful career—will only take away from the joy in personal relationships.

Don’t compete. Be happy for your friends—even if they have the dream wedding or the job you’ve always wanted. Expect them to be happy for you as well. After all, it’s give and take.

#4 - Take chances. Make purchases. Chase dreams. Live a little.

If everyone lived their twenties by the rules, no one would have fun stories to tell later in life. This is our time to still be young—and maybe even a little irresponsible every now and then.

Go on a vacation. Buy the shoes. Have that fruity umbrella drink—or 5. Hell, even eat the cupcake.

Yes, we’re responsible adults, and we have to take care of the major responsibilities in our lives—our jobs, our pets (or kids and spouses if you have them), our bills, and our day-to-day tasks. But, that doesn’t mean that life has to be all about rules and by the book. The fact of the matter is that most of us learn by making mistakes.

If we never make mistakes, chances are we’re not taking any chances—and everyone knows that most good things in life—be it finding a soul mate, moving up in our field, chasing a dream, etc.—don’t come without a little risk.

#5 - Take care of yourself.  And, love who you are.

Possibly one of the most important lessons in approaching the mid-twenties mark is that we’re not going to be young forever. The college diet of beer, pizza, microwave noodles, and whatever is under 99 cents just won’t cut it anymore.

Now that we have those awkward finding-yourself days of high school and college out of the way, it’s time to have some confidence and take pride in ourselves. Things like going to the gym, eating more foods with anti-oxidants, and even using wrinkle prevention creams start sounding like a good idea so that we don’t have to pay too heavily for the sins of our youth in days to come.

This change in perspective often comes after we learn to accept those things about ourselves we’ve always hated and to have a level of self-respect, because we know that we’re worth it. Maybe your nose is a little too big, or your thighs aren’t perfect. Maybe your hair is unruly and curly (or maybe that’s just mine). Whatever it is, we learn to embrace it. We begin to accept that we’re awesome because of these things—not in spite of them, and we love our random imperfections. And, we know that we deserve to put in the extra effort to make sure that we stay awesome. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Small Town Girl, Big Dreams

Growing up, I never really wanted to "play house." I opted for games that I deemed to be more fun, like tag, acting like PowerRangers, or just playing outside.

Who wouldn't want to play this? Am I right, 90s kids?

I always preferred to play something imaginative, instead of assuming the role of a wife or mother. Additionally, when my friends and I hit that teenage girl phase where most started dreaming of their wedding days, I rarely entertained the thought. During conversations about what we thought our weddings would be like, I always responded with some variation of, "I don't really know."

The truth of the matter is, I never held that "typical small town girl" dream of being a wife and mother. Still, many of my friends did, and I'm not here to say that's not a legitimate and fulfilling dream. It's quite the opposite, actually. I recognize the strength and beauty of their dream; I just wish that more in Small Town, America could see the beauty in other dreams.

Maybe, that's the reason for this post. I have been tossing the idea around of writing this post for some time now, and I think it's time to give voice to these thoughts. Whenever I go back to visit, I always receive countless questions from people inquiring if there's someone special in my life, or I get reassurance that "the right one is out there." That's the problem, though. I'm not looking for those dreams, and no matter how many times I say so, I still get the "bless her heart" look. I'm tired of it, and I think there are others out there who share the sentiment.

You see, I always held other dreams. I always wanted to write, to create beauty and to live somewhere exciting. My dream was to have a cirlce friends, a strong family, a successful career, and enough time and money to chase my goals and enjoy my hobbies. I have that--and so much more. I am happy, and I love my life. There is nothing missing, and there is nothing I'm searching for.

I have my dream. I am living it every day.

Yes, I have attended more weddings, wedding showers, and baby showers than some. And, yes, I am always thrilled for my friends and family members. Currently, I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of my niece. I am over the moon for my sister and her husband; however, this does not come from a place of jealousy. Instead, it comes from the happiness of watching those I love get their dreams. Over the past several months, though, I have heard numerous comments about how my day will come.

Someday, your prince will come....

The truth is that my day is here. I have all I have ever wanted, and I am blessed beyond measure. I do not wish to be a mother or a bride. Sure, I have dated, and I continue to date--because I enjoy it. Also, I have had my share of serious relationships. I have been in love. I have been the recipient of two promise rings and one scary-as-hell marriage proposal.

But, that's not my main focus, and it's not the focus for many small town girls; yet, we still get lumped into being the strange focal point for judgment. People think that maybe we're doing something wrong, or they hope that we will grow up one day. While I'm not writing off marriage and babies completely, I am saying that it will take an act of God and someone absolutely almost perfect to change my mind. Still, even when we do not want these things, it's as though they are forced upon us. When we refuse to conform, the problems mount even higher, and people assume that we are in denial.

Small Town, America, please stop trying to make those of us who do not want the white picket fence conform. We are not hethans, and we are not against marriage. It is simply not the right choice for us. And, while I cannot speak for all, I am not unhappy, I am not searching, and I am damn sure not incomplete.

I am happy, and I am happy for each of you who has found marital bliss.

For some, this may resonate. For others, you may still say that you hope one day I find someone to make me happy. (I have. It's me, and my friends, and my family, and my little dog, too). Still, others of you who did not grow up in the small town culture may not understand this at all. So, for those of you, I deflect to country music and two girls who obviously get this mindset.

Terri Clark - The One - While she's obviously still looking, she gets the idea. Get off her back.

Kacey Musgraves - Merry Go Round - She gets it!