Accomplishments

I feel like my perspective on things changed a little today. Definitely not drastically, but they did change.

Why? Because I’m starting to see things not as a waste of time, but as accomplishments.

Let’s face it: I don’t have a lot to do this summer. I don’t have a job, I don’t need to fill out applications for something, I’m not constantly travelling or babysitting or, you know, doing something “exciting” with my life. I’m taking one online summer school course. That’s about it.

But that doesn’t mean that my life is pointless. Sure, I may spend a great deal of time watching movies or playing video games or surfing the Internet, but those activities – contrary to my previous beliefs – aren’t a waste of time. I can view them as accomplishments.

I’m well-known with my family and friends for making lists; it’s something I’ve done since I was little before I even really knew what a list was. So naturally I made lists of things I want to do this summer, of books I want to read, of TV shows I want to watch, of other ways to spend my time. Since these are conscious things that I thought about and decided would make me happy, anything that gets me closer to fulfilling these goals can be seen as accomplishments. (so I made a list of those too, just to reassure myself of that when I’m feeling down) So what if I spend a few hours of one day playing Legend of Zelda? It brings me joy and – what’s that? – leads me closer to my goal of completing Ocarina of Time. The same thing goes for rewatching episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender or spending all day reading a book for fun. Sure, it’s not “productive” – it isn’t getting anything of superb importance done. But it’s making me happy and it isn’t hurting anyone else – so why not?

I want to enjoy this summer. I worked hard this year and think I deserve a break, but I do want to enjoy every day that I have off and not just waste my time. I think one of the first steps to doing that is to find accomplishment in the little things I do and to feel good in the decisions I make.

I also think it’s important to look not only at the big picture but at the individual parts of the goal. Most of my said accomplishments can’t easily be finished in one day (just like almost anything in life) so instead of getting discouraged that I “didn’t get anything done,” I want to focus on the fact that I finished a few steps and am closer to accomplishing something bigger. (This goes for to-do lists too. Even if you still have things to do at the end of the day, see that you did accomplish something, not that you didn’t finish everything.)

I challenge you with this: accomplish something every day. I think it’ll make you a happier person.

(Yes! I’ve written something post-worthy… mission accomplished!)

Little Discoveries

I’ve been at the beach for the better part of this week, which has been really fun. My grandparents have a beach house about an hour south of home, and my immediate family stayed there for three nights. The house was built in the 1940’s and really hasn’t been modified since. It doesn’t have the commodities of air conditioning or – dare I say it? – the Internet, but I think it’s almost better that way. While it was frustrating to not get online whenever I wanted, especially since I’m taking a class via the Internet, it was actually very refreshing. I didn’t have the “luxury” of being able to be plugged into a computer for the entire vacation. And when I absolutely needed something online, I could borrow my mom’s new phone and check it really quickly, then return back to whatever I was doing before. (My brothers, on the other hand, didn’t have the ability to unplug completely: the beach house does have cable television, which is not something we have at home. Needless to say they were planted in front of a box for most of the trip.)

There were a few things I noticed on this trip that I want to share (one of which I already did: how nice it is not to have Internet sometimes). Sunday was Father’s Day, and for this special occasion almost my entire family gathered at the beach house to celebrate my grandpa and the other dads that were there. My cousins and sister – each of them five years old – spent a lot of time on the beach and in the water, swimming around and just exploring life. It struck me, as they would swim near the grimy, mussel-encrusted dock, that little kids have a lot less fear than adults do (or at least, they have less fear than this adult does). The three of them would jump in the water over and over, then swim to the dock and try to hoist themselves up – regardless of what their legs and arms were touching – just so they could jump in again.

I could never do that. I didn’t go near the water at all while I was down there this week. Usually I’m the type of person you can’t keep out of the ocean, but there’s something about that bay that is a little questionable in my mind. Also, I ask so many questions, way more than they ever would. Like, is the water cold? Why’s it that color? What’s the bottom feel like if I swim to shore? Then the “what if”s start coming: What if I get tangled in the seaweed? What if I get stung by a jellyfish? What if there’s a crab lurking between the mussels on the dock, and upon brushing by it it reaches out and pinches me?

These are my legitimate fears. But what I find so neat is that little kids don’t have them. Sure, some might be hesitant. But most of them just want to jump in the water and try it for themselves. This is what I hope for: to have the courage of a child who is most interested in exploring the world. To stop asking questions sometimes and to just try something new.

Changing topics: I got really excited today because I finally bought Eat, Pray, Love. I’ve been eyeing this book for a while now, since I’ve heard that it’s supposed to be really good, and it’s on my list of books to read this summer. So when I saw it in a quaint little bookstore this afternoon, I knew I had to get it. I started as soon as I got home and just couldn’t put it down… that is, until I went to my friend Rachael’s house (whose tangent will be continued later).

There’s just something about this book that tells me that it’s going to have an impact on my life, which makes me very excited. It seems to offer hope for the future and help, but not in a self-help-book sort of way. I feel like it has the ability to open my eyes to something and to make me think differently than I already do. In the thirty-ish pages that I’ve read, I’ve already learned something: sometimes, it’s good to be selfish.

This is especially hard for me. I feel very conceited and, well, anti-humble for saying it, but I’m just the type of person that puts everyone else first. I rarely think about what I need and want, and I’m usually confused and indecisive when I do. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the book, gave an example of little things she wanted, like, “I want to buy a pencil case.” I think this is very important to do sometimes. Every once in a while I need to remember to ask myself that – what do I want? What would make me happy right now? So often the answer is, “To write,” which is something the author (obviously) does quite a bit, but I also want to make sure I get other little things in there too (like right now I want food – I haven’t eaten in over twelve hours, but that’s mostly because I haven’t been hungry until now…). On a similar note, I’m really thankful for my boyfriend’s efforts to make me selfish on occasion – he’s very good with asking me what I want, and I appreciate all of his patience when I sit there staring blankly at him because I just don’t know. So this is my second hope: to think of myself first every once in a while. Because after all, this is my life.

So, about Rachael’s. I must start out by describing my amazing friend and the relationship we’ve had. Rachael is a year younger than me, and we met during her freshman year of high school. Somewhere in between swim season that year and the beginning of the next year we became really good friends. The two of us only became closer as time went on, and now she’s definitely one of my best friends. I can’t really do our friendship justice in the lack of time I have, so let me sum it up by saying this: even though we live far away from each other, and even though we don’t talk nearly as often as we should, I love Rachael because we can start talking (after months of not saying much to each other) and pick up exactly as we left off. There’s never any awkwardness and there’s never any lag in our conversation. We understand each other completely, and we can truly be ourselves when we’re together.

So tonight at Rachael’s, nothing momentous happened. It wasn’t a sudden realization of something, a sharp smack on the back of the head or an awakening to a new idea or thought. But it was a bunch of little things. It was sitting together talking for hours about anything and everything that had been on our minds lately. We got to talk through our problems and fears and hear what the other person had to say. We laughed together and almost cried too. We shared stories and feelings and memories of things long in the past, but we also had hope for the future. I love having Rachael in my life, and with the kind of friendship we have, I’m not afraid of losing it anytime soon.

One thing I love about Rachael especially is how vividly she sees life. I like this because I feel that this is something we really connect on – we have similar experiences where we just view life as being truly good and can somehow share that feeling with each other. I can’t describe it any better than that right now – life is just so good.

I got really happy when “I Melt With You” by Modern English started playing while I was driving home from her house. There’s nothing that special about this song, but just hearing it made me happy. It reminded me of my childhood – I definitely remember listening to it back then too – and just made me smile all the way home. (If you want to hear it, here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuN6gs0AJls)

Thank you, God, for giving me this week. For giving me these opportunities, for keeping my friends safe. Thank you for blessing me with so much. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Marriage

Recently it’s become difficult for me to believe in marriage. (Please take note of the fact that I say “difficult” and not “impossible,” which will be explained later.)

I feel cynical for saying it, but I’m not so sure that it’s the “happily ever after” that I’ve always thought it would be. Ideally, this is how marriage goes: Two people meet. They become romantically interested in one another and start dating. This leads to love and total commitment to one another. They are successful at communicating with each other and, after a great deal of talking, thinking, and praying, they decide to get married. This means that they are confirming their commitment and love and promising to be with the other person forever. Through triumphs and struggles – both independent and as a couple – they support and love each other until the end of their lives.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But how often does it actually happen?

I realize couples argue. I realize they get tired of each other and need breaks. I realize jobs and children and money (along with many, many other things) can put stress on the relationship and cause both members to want to get out of it. But… do these things really have to happen to everyone?

It’s so difficult to believe in marriage because I don’t really see it working. Everywhere I look couples are falling apart and just aren’t happy because they’re married. I just found out that one of my favorite couples is separating, after being married for twenty-some years, after going through literally everything together. They always seemed so happy, and what they had was something that I could aspire to and hope to have in my life. But… I guess it wasn’t all it appeared to be. So is marriage not what it appears to be too, then?

I feel like if you agree to marriage you agree to the unhappiness that comes with it. My feeling is, though, that that isn’t what marriage is supposed to be about. Marriage is supposed to bring you happiness. It’s supposed to bring you love and peace of mind because you’re with the one other person in the world who knows you almost better than you know yourself. Marriage allows you to say, “I want to spend my entire life with you by my side and to be with you always.” Sure, it’s not always going to be easy, and it’s not always going to be happy either. But it should bring happiness most of the time.

So is marriage going to be doomed for all eternity? Or is it something that actually does work?

Even with its failings, I very much want to believe in marriage. I think it’s dumb to try and fight something that may actually be, well, doomed, just to say that you’re better than it is, but I do want to give marriage a try. Not right now, but later in my life. It’s an institution that’s held up for thousands of years, and while it might not work for everyone, maybe it will work for me. The most important thing to me is that it brings not fear or anger or exasperation, but happiness, and I think that’s something I can strive for.

But the real reason I think marriage may work is because of the relationship I have now. I can’t find hope in others, so I’ve started finding it in myself. I feel so blessed to be able to be so incredibly happy in my relationship. My boyfriend and I have been together for 16 months and as crazy as it is to say, we haven’t had any problems in that time. (pardon me for gushing about it… I feel really weird when I do.) Our relationship is so strong and we are so grateful for what we have. I realize that 16 months is like a second in the lifetime that is marriage, but I do think it’s something to celebrate and take note of. These feelings haven’t left us yet – maybe they won’t if we do end up being together forever.

In any case I’m not in any rush to get married. I’ve still got my life ahead of me – no need to make big decisions right now. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about recently and needed to get off my chest.

But I do hope things like love and happiness can last forever. I believe they can. I just wish the rest of the world did.

Unpacking

Boxes.

My room is full of them.

Boxes with pictures, letters from home, school books. Bags of shampoo, suitcases of towels, totes full with shoes and potholders. My life is sitting here in this room around me, but it’s semi-organized into mini disaster areas that are going to take days to unpack.

But all of that doesn’t matter, because I’m finally home.

The Beginning of A Search

I’m starting to feel the need for God in my life.

As a bit of background: I was raised Catholic. By-the-book, never-miss-Mass-on-Sunday Catholic. Rain or shine, you’d find my family walking into our local church at approximately 8:06am every Sunday morning without fail. I could (and still can) say all the prayers in my sleep. I know the names and miracles of some of the patron saints and can explain to you the significance of most Catholic holy days. I was an alter server for five years or so, and I still could do it, if need be. Other than college, I’ve been in private Catholic school all my life (well, except preschool… which was Presbyterian).

All during elementary and middle school, my faith never wavered, but during high school I started really questioning my beliefs. Since then everything about religion in my mind has been rattled. I know I believe in God, but after that, I don’t have any idea of what I believe. Jesus as Son of God? That’s what I’ve been told all my life, but I can’t say I actually believe that for myself.

Since coming to college I go to church on and off. I’ll go to Catholic Mass with my family, but I can’t say that I relate to the priests very much. The sermons and rituals don’t do much for me. While at school I sometimes go with my boyfriend to a local nondenominational church, but recently we’ve gotten busy and don’t always get up to go (a common excuse, I know). I can tell you I connect with the messages there a lot more than I do with those at Catholic Mass, but it still isn’t exactly what I’m looking for.

Between losing most of my faith in high school and now, there have only been a handful of times that I’ve really enjoyed and actually looked forward to going to church. The services I’ve liked the most are the ones that my boyfriend’s family goes to, the ones he was raised on. Both times I’ve gone up to visit them I’ve gotten to go to church with them, and it was unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. It was so real. I felt like their messages were pertinent and relatable. The people there were so open and nice. And they had amazing music, which is something that all the Catholic Masses I’ve been to have been lacking. I find that I feel closest to God through music, so this is a definite plus. I’m so incredibly excited when I get to go to church with them, which has never happened to me before.

I want to find something like that here. I want an opportunity to really find a God that I can love and know, and get to know Jesus as well. I want to truly believe in something and have a concrete idea of what that “something” is.

I’ve never been someone that’s open about my religion. The way I was raised was that religion was something that was assumed of a person but never actually talked about. When it comes to finding out more and learning about worship, I ask more questions than a five-year-old. I always want to know why, why, why. I’m so shaky in my beliefs now that I just need to open up my mind and heart and give religion a chance. I’ve never had “church friends” – again, we’d go, we’d sit for an hour, we’d leave and continue with our day. To me, church always felt like a chore, something that had to be crossed off the weekly to-do list, not a choice. I want religion and church to be a choice. I want to truly choose to go to a service each Sunday, not feel like I have to. And I want to have friends who have similar beliefs to me, so that I can turn to them when and truly reassure me when I have doubts. I need a support system; I can’t do this alone.

So how do I find something like this?

I’m thinking about listening to the sermons that my boyfriend’s church back home puts online. I want to see if it’s something I really like and to try to learn something from it.

I also want to experience God through music. I’m definitely not a “Christian music”-type of person – I really don’t like sappy songs about how wonderful God is. Instead, I like seeing God in music – something upbeat and really eye-opening. I’m going to see if I can find something like this too, to somehow help me in my search.

I’m not sure how to go about trying to find a church, especially when I’m back home. I think I’ll work on that…

I’m hoping to write to discover what I do think and feel. Writing always helps me, so hopefully it will here too.

Lastly, I want to pray. Sometimes I feel weird when I pray – a lot of the fears I have about religion are about what others will think of me, but I have a feeling that praying will help. I’ve often felt judged by my religion, and I think that played a big part in me losing it in high school. I want to get over this fear, because my religion and my God is something that’s just between He and I.

So to whoever is reading this: please pray for me along my journey and let me know if you have any suggestions. I’m always open to new ideas and could definitely use help and advice.

Check-Out

I can’t believe people are moving out already.

I’ve got four check-outs today and fourteen hours’ worth the rest of this weekend. Moving almost a thousand people out and checking 230 different apartments to make sure they’re identically arranged and spotless is time-consuming and a lot of work!

It’s a little overwhelming to think that the desk I’m sitting at right now isn’t going to be mine come next week. After Monday night I’m never again going to sleep in my bed, cook on my stove, sit on my couch. No, they’ll easily become someone else’s.

We’re so easily movable. We can throw all of our possessions in boxes and have the contents of our lives in a car, driving away to never come back. My life right now is so real, as is everything around it. My fridge, my shower, my room. But soon it won’t be mine anymore.

A couple times this year I’ve gone past the apartment I lived in last year. Walking between my old door and the one next to it just brings back so many memories. So much took place in those tiny rooms. I fell in love there. I’d think of the breakfasts and dinners my friends and I made each other, the Brawl matches, the nights where Davis and I sat on the kitchen floor for hours spilling our souls. That was my apartment, my home, my life.

But now they’re just rooms, inhabited by other people with other lives and other stories.

I’ve been tempted to ring their doorbells and talk to them. I wonder if their lives are anything like mine was last year. Do they hang out with their neighbors? Do they like to cook? What are their majors? What do they do for fun? And then I remind myself that that would be kind of creepy, that they probably wouldn’t care that my life changed behind those very doors.

I should probably start packing too. I just got some more Lady GaGa, which will take Katy Perry’s job of motivating me to clean and pack my life away. As a heads-up the next few posts might just be ramblings and musings of moving out and moving on… the next few days will be exciting and interesting.

Two Views

You know what’s kind of fun?

Putting your head against the side of a door so that you can see both sides of it at the same time but each with only one eye.

It’s like, you’re seeing two sides of the same world, but individually. You can feel your focus alternating from one eye to the other, and you start noticing the little things a bit more. It’s like the opposite of tunnel vision: your world opens up a little.

It’s also kind of cool to do something similar with sliding doors. We have a pair of sliding doors in my house that separates the family room from the dining room. Sometimes when my brothers are playing video games or watching TV I like to stick my head in between the doors but leave my ears out. It’s kind of cool, because you see what’s happening, but you can’t really hear it. You can feel yourself talk, but it actually sounds much different.

Try it sometime. I dunno, I think it’s kind of cool.