How 2012 Tried to Kill Me (And What I Did About It..)

So today I got a reminder that I have been keeping this blog for one whole year. And what a terrible year it has been. Some of the personal stuff from my life has spilled onto these pages, mainly through feelings or sentiments, but most of it has been kept firmly bottled up inside of me. What I find most interesting about this blog is that a year ago I started this project feeling as though I needed to connect with myself more, and I embarked upon a journey of self discovery. Then “life” happened, and I started having to face emotions and fears that I never thought I would be facing in 2012, and for most of the year felt as though my own understanding of myself was diminishing rather than developing.

Let’s speak plainly: nothing really terrible happened inasmuch as nobody that I loved died, my marriage weathered through another year of global disappointment, and we still have our home. But I had challenges to my health (which are still largely unresolved even after 12 months), questions to my sanity at the hands of so called friends, and the threat of financial difficulty. I was made to feel like a true failure in 2012, to the point that I almost gave up faith in myself.

As a result of this terrible year, most of the time I attempted to keep this blog I felt as though I was projecting untruths, because even if my answers were truthful I felt myself becoming more and more a stranger. Most of the questions, I have also learned, are engineered to encourage self-criticism, even melancholy, and those that focus on the positive require a saccharine and sentimental reflection on the past that has been entirely too difficult for me to face. I avoided at all costs questions about home, because home really is unattainable for me right now, and dwelling on it does more harm than good.

So now I am writing this blog post without knowing whether I will try and finish “the questions”. Why? Why would I consider stopping when I have just said this year left me a stranger from myself? Surely I have an ever-more pressing need to continue? Well, not really.

You see, even though 2012 tried to kill me, I persevered. I didn’t do it very gracefully, and there were very few defiant, movie-worthy speeches (except one that I delivered in the pharmacy the other day, but let’s leave that one for the moment), but I really, honestly did find out that I could be true to myself when the moment mattered. I faced a decision that I had to make for my own good, and put all my eggs in that basket when everyone else doubted me, and I prevailed.

Today I sat down with one of my very best friends and told him the story of my year. Firstly he was shocked that he knew so little of it (I’m a marvelous actress, it comes with the territory of being an immigrant); secondly, he was proud that I was able to make the decisions that I had made and be true to myself, despite obvious pressures from people that value money and image above all things. He is facing a crisis of his own, and I told him my story to show him that, even when you are doubting yourself, you still know yourself better than anyone else. And that no-one can act in your best interests better than yourself.

So, I am going to start 2013 with a little more faith in myself. In 2012 I really did discover who I was all over again, but it wasn’t through these questions, it was through having to fight for myself. I hope I will never have to tell anyone about the agony of the last 12 months, and I am sincerely hoping to but it behind me tomorrow at mid-night, but if I do ever tell it I will use it as a demonstration that I refuse to lose who I am.

I might be a little chubby, or curse too much, or snap at people that don’t deserve it, but I am also not morally bankrupt, and I believe in the American Dream still, and I think that everyone should be treated equally and fairly and with respect. I will not let the world change me, and I will not start believing that the world is a place where only changed people can prevail.

I’m sorry if this post is a little preachy, or pointless, but I am ready to actually say to the world that I LIKE ME. I know that a lot of people probably don’t like me, but I do, and I believe in myself, and in 2013 I am going to keep moving forwards.

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What have you done in the last year that makes you proud? / What did you learn recently that changed the way you live?

It is important for me to reflect back on the last twelve months of my life. It has been almost a whole year since I sat in this same chair, wrapped in this same blanket, and created this blog. I was so full of intention.

Tonight I am actually writing this from my desktop computer, something that I rarely do, because my laptop is broken again (pretty sure Apple sold me a dud MacBook, but I’m like David over here trying to slay the giant). It’s actually very uncomfortable in our home office – my husband selected the decor, and it’s more for looking at than sitting on. However, it was this same computer that I created this blog ten months ago today, and so it takes me back to a certain time.

Last night I spent some time with a very dear friend of mine. She was a my college roommate, the very first person I met in the United States, and has been close to my heart since I stepped off of that plane over seven years ago. Last week she got engaged to a man that has been such a rock to her, and yesterday she asked me to be a part of their wedding party. Of course, I said yes.

Over the course of our evening together we talked at length about our friendship: the high points, the low points, and the things about each other that we weren’t aware we didn’t know. A few years ago my dear friend went through the biggest challenge of her life, and spent a year battling her way out of it. At the end of this year she met the love of her life, and the rest, as they say, is history. We talked about her tough times, and I shared with her my recent struggles, of which she was not yet aware.

The reason I am sharing this tonight is because I learned a lot about myself last night, and a lot about my friend, and a lot about the way that “most people” live their lives. We shelter the world from our emotions, often choosing to take a personal hit over risking exposing how flawed the world is, and how poorly it has treated us. My friend told me about her own dark path, and the steps she had to take to free herself from it: most of it I knew, but some of it I didn’t. At the end of our conversation I was sad that she had been in that position, angry at the world that had put her there, but mostly proud that she had come through.

When I look back on the last year of my life I am coming to a realization: I am going to be proud of the way I handled myself. I have made the active decision to disassociate myself from some people that have been harmful, and it has been a point of contention, and I really have had to question whether I have made the “right” decision. However, through my conversation with my friend last night I realized that there are people in this world that will take you at your lowest point and twist your soul, and once they have a grip on it they are impossible to shake off. I think that I shook myself free from those people in the last four weeks.

Before I sat down to write this blog post this evening I went into the bathroom to get a glass of water and stared myself straight in the eye. I found myself trying to picture my face a year ago, two years ago, ten years ago, but all I could see is the face looking back at me. Probably, I have not changed that much on the outside, but I feel that also the only person that matters in my life right now is who I am at this moment in time. And I might look tired (I really do look tired), and I might be starting to get some frown lines around my eyes (I’ve been frowning a lot recently), and I might be fifteen pounds heavier than I’d like to be, but I feel like a victor tonight.

Yesterday taught me that I have lived my life right recently. Prior to today I have doubted myself, and wondered if I would live to regret the choices I have made, but tonight I know that absolutely not. I have lived my life right recently, and I am proud of myself, and I really believe that only good things will follow.

What are you Uncertain About?

Uncertainty: the birthright of my generation. I could probably start a list of the things that I’m uncertain about, and never finish it because I’m forever adding things. I’m generation Y – as in “why does everybody seem so calm, can’t they see the sky is falling?”. We’re neurotic. I blame the fact we we raised watching 90’s TV shows where everything was colorful and everyone got along – I’m currently watching Ally McBeal on Netflix – and then we graduated into this “real world” and, frankly, it terrifies us. We’re delicate and unprepared: I mean, did anyone ever get murdered on friends? Now every time I turn on the TV there’s someone dead in a dumpster and some gravelly voiced woman muttering terrible philosophies on life.

I digress from my point. Another hazard of our generation. Digression, procrastination, and confusion. My actual subject matter today is about children, and whether or not I want children, and all of the complexities that go along with it. As most people have gathered from my blog, my “babies” are my two dogs – I don’t have any of hairless, squawking kind. But I challenge any 27 year old married woman to deny the fact that no matter how resolved you are in every aspect of your life, if you don’t have children there is an unspoken judgement from the rest of the world.

I can hear people laughing – mainly men – stop it! My husband thinks I’m crazy. That’s because when people meet him for the first time the most in depth their conversation gets is “so what car do you drive”, or on very rare and intimate moments “seen any bands lately”. When I meet someone for the first time I am immediately “scanned”. I have developed this term to define the process in which a woman views another woman. Imagine the full body scanner that caused so much panic earlier this year (FYI – been through it and it’s not a big deal, I expected them to shower me off with radioactive waste or something), only this body scanner is done with one long gaze. These women scan you for wedding rings (check), baby weight (I could be confusing in that area) and diaper bags. My small leather clutch is a ten foot billboard declaring my lack of offspring. And then come the questions, normally posed in the following way: “how long have you been married?” “Oh really, and you don’t have children yet?” (I can feel the smugness radiating from their Sherlock Holmes like deduction of my attire). And then they wait for my response.

I used to shy away from answering these questions, or at least squirm uncomfortably in my shoes. Now I say “Well, we have two dogs that are our babies, I don’t know if we’ll have children”. And I promise that the unanimous response to this question is: “well, if you have dogs then you’ll have children eventually”. Like it’s a fact. Even when I wail that I’ll probably be a terrible mother (I have actually dropped a baby in my life), my friends console me with “no you won’t, look at how much you love your dogs”.

Yes, I love my dogs. I really love my dogs. I love my dogs almost too much – last night I actually slept without my required three pillows because Batman had nested on top of them and I didn’t want to wake him. But that doesn’t mean I’m mother material. I have run out in front of traffic for my dogs, I have extracted things from their bottoms, I have cleaned up literally gallons of hound-emissions. My dogs ate my favorite pair of shoes, and when I replaced them they ate the replacements, and I wasn’t even that angry. Yes, I dress them up in sweaters when it’s cold, and there may be special halloween outfits in our closet; and, yes, I let them sleep in the bed with me; and, yes, I carry them around in my arms and tell them I love them ALL of the time. This makes a crazy dog person, it’s doesn’t mean I am practicing at parenthood.

I love my dogs because they are dogs. They aren’t going to grow up and call me names and say they wished they’d never been born, or get some pregnant by some guy with a lip ring and a fake phone number. They’re definitely not going to run up a credit card bill, or get arrested trying to buy alcohol underage. I’m not going to have to endure seeing them start their own lives without me. I admire anyone that has the courage to bring another life into this world, and is strong enough to go through the rollercoaster of crazy that having children brings into your life. I especially admire people that are so certain of their decision at such a young age – but that’s not me.

The “children” debate is one that has been on the table for a long time, and I’m still not sure of the answer to it. Truthfully, I wish I had more clarity on the situation, so that I least I could start working towards that end goal, but I don’t. Some of my friends have advised me to force the issue and make a decision and try and “grow into it”, but I think it should be an organic thing.

So, other than questioning my hair color, my favorite food, the maximum justifiable amount to spend on shoes, and whether or not to paint my dining room, I would say this is the biggest uncertainty in my life at the moment. But one thing I’m certain of is this: getting asked if you’re “next” when someone get’s pregnant is actually kind of creepy – stop it, people, I’m more than a uterus. I also have really good hair.

If you could choose one book as a mandatory read for all high school students, which book would you choose?

 

So the Amazon Kindle Fire is an amazing thing, isn’t it? I feel somewhat blasphemous writing this on my macbook, knowing that the Fire was cause of much pain for iPad sales last Christmas, but since indulging myself in January I have barely passed a full day without switching it on. In fact, my addiction is such that I probably use it to check my email and facebook more that I use my laptop. However, non-literary indiscretions aside, I purchased the Kindle Fire as a means to reignite my love of reading, and it hasn’t been a disappointment.

Truthfully, I have been a little let down that some of the books I would like to read are not available in the kindle store (can I get a petition started for LOTR, please?), but for the most part I have been able to read many books that I wouldn’t have otherwise read for fear of stepping foot in a shop. It’s a sad reflection, really, that I absolutely loathe shopping as an adult. I used to adore bookshops with a passion, and would come out armed with volumes of fiction that I would read in a matter of days. Now it’s all coffee and magazines, expensive stationary and iPhone cases and teenagers loping through the aisles searching for the bathrooms.

Purchasing the Fire was a true test of “what is my favourite book”, translated, in e-form, to “which book do I want to download first”. Those that know me won’t be surprised by the fact that after a few minutes and some clumsy finger clicks, my fresh-out-of-the-box Kindle had a brand-spanking-wonderful version of Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ on it. It’s my absolute favourite, made more special by the fact that I read it whilst in high school, and it ignited a romanticism in me that I would have imagined crazy before. I even had a reading from it at my wedding.

I would dearly love to make everyone in the world read ‘Wuthering Heights’, but only if I could make them see it the way I see it, which, let’s face it, is unlikely. Any work of fiction carries the risk of personal taste and interpretation. Let’s take Joseph Keller’s modern day classic, ‘Catch 22’. I read this in high school too, and I hated it. I don’t know that I even got to the end. I thoroughly bored me – me, who read Charles Dickens’ ‘Bleak House’ when I was 10. I tossed it on my heaving bookshelf with contempt and never gave it a second thought, where it lay discarded until my sister picked it up. That very copy of ‘Catch 22’ still graces her shelf, it has travelled around the world with her, and is now bound together with electrical tape from being thumbed through and read so many times.

I think that my point on fiction has been made clear: you can’t prescribe it. Being told you have to read this book, is a sad temptation for fate to make certain you hate it.

So, back to the question, if I could make all high school students read one book, what would it be? I’m tempted to say “the dictionary” in a derisive tone, as it appears most people could benefit from the read. But I’ll give a proper response.

And here is my answer: Winnie the Pooh, by A. A. Milne.

But wait, it’s a work of fiction, isn’t it? Well, probably (although I like to imagine Eeyore really does roam gloomily through the English woods), but it’s not fiction in the same way. The one wish I have for teenagers, as I see them teetering around in their high heels and tweeting pictures of their iPhones, is that they could reconnect with their childhoods. I would love the idea of a group of teenagers united by the beautiful illustrations by E. H. Shepherd, drawing parallels between their friends and the enthusiastic Tigger or the ever-loyal and unquestioning Piglet. Rather than focusing on lust and torment, like ‘Wuthering Heights’, or the horrors of war and politics, like ‘Catch 22’, A. A. Milne focuses only on the values of friendship, imagination, and innocence. It is a book that we could all benefit from falling in love with – a book that reminds adults that we were children once, and that could possibly, very possibly, remind our children – because teenagers are still children – that they can still believe.

If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?

I’ve had a lengthy pause from my last post. 2012 has been quite a year so far. Some of you may recall my stating that I was going to train for a half marathon earlier in the year. It’s true. The “big day” was this last saturday, the 14th April. Well, I did it. Truthfully, the experience was a little disappointing for me, and I didn’t manage the time I’d hoped to finish in, but at least I crossed the line. I was expecting to be more emotional, but I was in so much pain when I crossed the line that I was just overwhelmed by relief that it was over!

The question today is about messaging. I’m in the world of marketing, and spend a lot of my time thinking about and focussing on what the correct message is for the right situation and audience. I’m also surrounded by people who are always presenting the best image that they can of themselves, and of our company. This is a trait that I am in awe of – I am brutally honest to a fault, and can’t contain how I’m truly feeling most of the time. When piecing together localized marketing campaigns, it’s easier to decide what the message should be. I work in the southern states, and it’s a safer bet that two people in the same geographic area will respond to the same anecdote than two people from opposites sides of the country. When putting together a national piece the challenge is harder, and a lot more difficult to predict. My experience has shown me that, the larger the audience the more general the message. Therefore, I have to consider than any personal message I would want to convey would need to be general enough to have a beneficial appeal to a wide audience.

This rules out things like “visit the North West Norfolk Coast” (A place a would strongly recommend anyone to visit, but is located in rural England). I’m not very political, and even the few political items that I have decided opinions on would not be things I would want to influence people’s decisions on. I’m not eligible to vote in the United States, and mostly I am glad of it; with the election this year most people I know have gone politics mad. My husband, formerly the most liberal person I know, has joined discussion groups and is considering becoming a representative for a republican candidate, and everything from his iPhone to his facebook is a walking banner for his own political opinions. I think that over time this is something he might regret.

I think that my message would have to be hinged on something I think it plausible and relevant for any person, regardless of country, gender, education, or age. It would need to be universally important to every person.

My first thought, thanks to Richard Curtis, is the message of love. Yes, I believe it is one of the most important things we can learn to do, and also learn to accept from others.  But I think that we hear this message a lot, thanks to Church billboards and hallmark cards, it’s hard to decipher true messages from propaganda.

But, I would still like my message to incorporate elements of love, and peace, and strength. And so my message for the world would be: Know your Inspiration. Sounds strange, maybe, but I think it’s universal. My thought is that if you know why you are doing something, and what you want to achieve, then you are far more likely to a) succeed, and, b) do something worthwhile. Do YOU know why you are doing what you are doing? Or are you simply following someone else’s motions hoping it will ring true for you?

When I entered the 8th mile of my race over the weekend I lost sight of my inspiration. It was what crippled me. By the time I crossed the 11 mile mark I was walking 90 percent of the time and thinking “why on earth am I doing this, it doesn’t matter”. I ended up feeling worse about myself at the end than at the beginning, and it’s because I lost focus on my inspiration. Even now, knowing this, I still find it hard to remember what my training was in aid of, but I know that if I had kept my inspiration close to me I would have had a much better and more positive run.

My message for humanity is a dream for an inspired world, where people work with dedication and passion, with a deep rooted belief in their actions. Perhaps it’s not original and, I’m sure, people will argue that it’s not even possible, but I genuinely wish our societies allowed us more room to act on our inspirations, and to see how that new energy fuels the world that we live in.

When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?

Quote

Ah. A question about talking. Perhaps one of my specialties. I talk a lot, as I have previously disclosed; normally my talking is a sign of nervousness, or my deep rooted shyness, but can also be a tool I use to fill the silence. I hate silence, and not just because of Doctor Who (whovians unite, everyone else scratch their heads).

But seriously, silence is something that I crave and hate simultaneously – it’s one of the complex layers of my fascinating personality. I grew up in a loud household in the middle of fields. Basically, a cell of silence with a nucleus of very loud noise. Silence in my house meant one of two things: a) there has been a major fight, or b) you’re the only person within earshot of yourself. The latter was the most common, and the most terrifying. I had recurring nightmares of being alone in the house and burglars breaking in. But that’s a story for another time, another time with wine.

The point of my digression is simply to punctuate the point that I am not a quiet person. As the result of being “a talker”, I am positively irritated by the stereotype that people that chatter are ignorant, or that ignorant people chatter. I have found neither of these things to be true. I actually think educated people find it impossible to not express their opinion, often taking many extra minutes of everyone’s time to ensure that their entire audience is sufficiently informed. This takes a lot of speaking. I find that, mid conversation, most people that don’t understand what is being discussed just sit there baffled. Verbal diarrhea is the curse of the educated, not the uneducated.

So, moving swiftly one from that, probably pointless, assertion, the question remains: what is wrong, or right, about talking?

Today’s question seems to indicate that saying, rather than doing, is the lesser action. This actually really pisses me off (excuse my language), as a lover of literature and history. Our world has been thought out, assembled, destroyed, and salvaged by the tongues of great public speakers. Cicero, Shakespeare, Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King, Jr are men whose words have changed the fabric of the modern world.

Shakespeare, it has controversially been alleged, was actually illiterate, and dictated all of his plays to actors in his troupe. In fact, many of his plays were not written down for several years. The same is true for the ever-enigmatic Homer, of Odyssey and Iliad fame, whose epic poems were sung from generation to generation, and whose very existence has been questioned. Pause and imagine it, especially if you have ever read those marvellous texts out loud: these songs were powerful enough to last thousands of years, influence almost every famous work of literature since, and even maybe give life to a man that never existed.

When Adolf Hitler took to the stage, he would wait in silence for up to an hour before speaking on some occasions. The mere anticipation of his speeches created uncontrollable frenzy in the crowds, causing people to faint even before he uttered a word. The effects of his ability to influence through his words has left a scar on society that seventy years of actions has been unable to remedy.

When Winston Churchill told the world that we will fight them on the beaches, fight them in the streets, never surrender, he projected the words with such a sense of magnificence and gravitas that everyone who heard him agreed. By that point, the prime minister was at an age where being able to physically fight on behalf of his country was not an option, but by talking to his population he was able to salvage a massively diminished and terrified army. This is not to discredit his military service in the first world war, which was also a huge testament to his character, I just personally believe that the words he spoke in the 1940s killed more enemy soldiers than the bullets he fired in the 1920s.

Finally, Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the history of the world with his incredibly famous speech. Even in the future, when I hope we have reached a point where his gender, race, or creed do not distinguish him, he will be remembered for his words. His speech, although directed to a specific group during a specific sociopolitical time, has transcended that moment and become universal. Before I even knew that much about the civil rights movement in north America, I knew Dr. King’s speech. The actions of the movement I learned about over a decade later: the protests, the riots, the tenacity and the very real fear. Even though these moments are important, and should be remembered, the movement had a voice, and it’s words went “I have a dream”.

By now I’m sure my point in clear. I want to be remembered for my words. I want to be a writer, I want for children to read my books aloud to their siblings or in their classrooms. Although I feel as though today’s question is meant to be a call to action for lazy protesters or people already remorseful that their New Years Eve diet is kaput, I think my answer is: Yes, I hope I will have said more than I have done. I want my words to matter.

In the words of the ever-poignant Belle and Sebastian:

Said the hero in the story:
“it is mightier than swords
I could kill you, sure,
but I could only make you cry with these words”

What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?

Sometimes it’s really hard to actually sit down and reflect upon all the things that I’ve done and achieved in my life. We live in a world where we always want more, always feel as though we should be more, or have more, or do more. It’s a race against ourselves, and normally a pursuit of pointless or meaningless things.

I am (nearly) 27 years old, and in my life I have been a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student, an employee, a girlfriend, a fiancée, an immigrant, a wife, a daughter-in-law, a hound-momma, and a home owner.

In my life I have travelled the world, got a college degree, written a thesis, been published in a book, stayed close with my family and friends, bought my own home, married a fantastic man, planned a wedding, survived the immigration process, met several famous people, raised a bratty dog, got and kept a good job in a poor economy, learned how to style my impossibly curly hair, and read thousands of books.

In my life I have had the opportunity to do many wonderful things, meet many wonderful people, I have had the chance to own my own property, work for a living; I have had encouraging friends, a loving family, and good employers. I have 1400 square feet of Missouri to fill with things I bought new, and to allow my dog to run around in.

I have done, been, and had plenty of things in my life – it’s really hard for me to consider wanting more.