Everything Changes On New Years Day

December 31, 2008 at 1:44 pm (2008)

flickr)

I told myself that I wouldn’t do an end-of-year review, if only because this blog is aimed at personal development and, as such, reflection kind of happens on a daily basis that way. But last night, for the first time in a long while, as I settled in with a book, with my dog snoring away at the foot of my bed and my cat purring loudly somewhere else nearby, I realized that I was really and truly complacent.

The feeling tends to fade as new stressors take their place and frustration once again builds, but, overall, I’m proud of where my life has led me. And when I think about what this past year has meant to me, what it’s done for me, I realized that I really have come a long, long way from where I was.

To say the very least, it has been a whirlwind. At times, it felt as if I had hit the pause button on my life. At other times, it seemed as if I’ve fast-forwarded through lessons and experiences in an attempt to play catch up. But here, in this moment, as I bid farewell to a tumultuous and inspiring year, as I look back at where I was and see everything I’ve done, it feels perfect, it feels right.

This year proved to be the greatest challenge, and learning experience, of my life thus far. Through various employment opportunities, I’ve garnered professional experience, building upon my strengths and working through my weaknesses. Through unexpected life changes, I’ve learned about myself, letting these lessons provide the change and growth I’ve sought in becoming the person I’ve always wanted. And through this blog, I’ve been able to share it all while connecting with an intelligent, savvy, and inspirational community, building a support system for which I will always be grateful.

This year has been filled with unease, uncertainty, and more than a little heartache. But it’s also been filled with excitement, anticipation, and opportunity.

And that is what makes all the former worthwhile. It’s why I can look back on all of the negative and have no regrets.

I’ve always believed that life is likened to a game of connect the dots: everything is connected in one way or another, building upon itself to form a complete picture. Everything you do, every action you take, every connection you make, has meaning. Often, it’s only in hindsight that you can see how these things connect, can you see the lessons learned. It’s true you can’t see how far you’ve come until you reflect on where you’ve been. For me, at least, that’s the key to personal development, to moving forward, to finding your own success.

I’ve learned that fear is my greatest adversary; I’ve learned that letting go doesn’t mean losing; I’ve learned that saying goodbye doesn’t have to mean forever. I’ve learned that only I have the power to hold myself back.

I’ve realized that I have all of the strength and courage I’ll ever need inside of me, sometimes forgotten, but always there.

I’ve reunited with a passion, rediscovered a dream.

I’ve remembered how to fly.

So, as I celebrate the holidays and bid farewell to 2008, as I look forward to the exciting changes that 2009 has in store, some planned, some unforeseen, I know that there will be more changes, more heartache, more challenges. But I also know that now I have the ability to weather those changes, heal from that heartache, and learn from those challenges.

If 2008 was meant to get me ready for what’s to come, then what’s to come is something incredible, something magical, something worthwhile.

I’ll leave you with a Note from the Universe that keeps me inspired:

Sometimes, when you’re feeling your lowest, the real you is summoned.

And you understand, maybe for the first time ever, how grand you are, because you discover that vulnerable doesn’t mean powerless, scared doesn’t mean lacking in beauty, and uncertainty doesn’t mean that you’re lost.

These realizations alone will set you on a journey that will take you far beyond what you used to think of as extraordinary.

There is always a bright side.

Don’t disguise your tears, don’t hide your sadness, don’t be afraid to find out who you really are. Because in those fleeting moments you’ll summon such beauty and strength that, in no time at all, you’ll fully grasp exactly why you’re so gossiped about here in the unseen.

Thoughts become things. I choose the good ones…Do you?

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Looking For A Storybook Story

December 27, 2008 at 3:58 pm (2008)

"I Love Books" by Weeping Willow (flickr)

Disclaimer: This post is going to read like a rant because that’s exactly what it is. I mean it without pretention or conceit, but purely out of frustration. There are beautiful, quality books out there, and I’m so very eager to read them.

For the past few months, every time I walk into Barnes and Noble hoping to find the Next Great Read, I walk out feeling dejected and a little bit pissed off. There are thousands upon thousands of books on those hardwood shelves — wonderful authors with original visions and poetry in their words, a book just waiting to be devoured, and me, searching eagerly, waiting to immerse myself in that other world, the world of story.

Only, I can’t seem to find it.

In the past, I would walk into a B&N hesitantly, knowing that I would walk out with an armload of books and a lot less cash in my pocket. Now, however, my arms are empty, my bank account intact.

Today, I picked up book after book, intrigued by the title or cover art, only to read the copy on the back of the book and return it to its rightful spot on the shelf. Sometimes, the copy did leave me intrigued, and I paused in my search to open the cover and read the first few paragraphs. And frustration would rise in me again. I would give it a second chance, flipping through the rest of the book, skimming lines here or there, hoping that maybe, just maybe, there would be some word or phrase to catch my attention, something that would make me reconsider, something that would tell me that it would only get better. But then I would return it, too, back to its place and continue on.

Dan Brown copycats, sex and shopping confessionals, Mr. Darcy sagas, historical fiction galore. These are the books that line the shelves, tempting their customers with tantalizing titles and appealing covers. I was once in that grouping; I used to savor every book I could get my hands on, but now I feel like every book has been read, that nothing is new, that the book I’ve been waiting for just doesn’t exist.

And the thought is disappointing, and, admittedly, a bit melodramatic. Still, though, I had never met a book I didn’t like before, so this frustration and despondency feels a bit unnerving, if not somewhat blasphemous. And I can’t help but wonder at the cause.

Once upon a time, I would have been perfectly content to curl up in bed, letting time and the outside world slip away from me as I delved into an imaginary world and met thrilling and heroic, if not somewhat neurotic, characters. But now, I feel as if I consume information too fast to let my mind rest, to settle, to find satisfaction with the length and buildup of a novel. I read dozens of blog posts a day, engage in conversation almost hourly via twitter, catch up on the news with the simple action of a few clicks that allow me to peruse headlines and skim articles. I can’t turn off, and, what’s more, I feel I can’t settle on a quality book that allows me to do just that.

I’ll be the first to recognize that I have high expectations for the books that I read. I was an English major in college, spending most of my time analyzing text and writing critical essays, so it’s quite possible that I apply that same standard to all of the books that I read. However, I’m also a writer/editor, so I can be hyper-critical as I seek out originality and good, quality writing. I’m aware of these flaws in myself, in choosing books, and while I relish the historical fiction and Jane Austen-esque saga on occasion, the topics seem to have grown stale for me. I’m seeking something more: I want The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I want to fall in love with a book, to remember how I felt when reading it, to feel satisfied when my world comes back into focus and I finally set it down.

I walked down the aisle, passing my favorites and looking longingly at their covers: 100 Years of Solitude, Dubliners, Frankenstein, Water for Elephants, Stardust, Lamb…These were the books I wanted to read, those familiar friends that line the walls of my bookshelf at home, the ones that I can read time and time again and still forget the world around me as I am overcome by imagery and prose. The ones that affect me, that make me cry and make me laugh and make me wonder. These, among many others, are my Great Reads. When I walk into a bookstore, this is what I’m searching for.

As I wandered the aisles in the bookstore today, hope sprung as I picked up a book, disappointment grew as I set it back down, but not all seemed lost. For the first time in months, I came home with two books in hand: one, a Da Vinci Code copycat. The other, a sex and shopping confessional.

Keep that in mind when I say that recommendations are so very, very welcome.

Update: Thanks to everyone on Twitter for all of the wonderful book recommendations! With your recs, I’m creating a list that could warm any cynical reader’s soul. What other favorites do you have?

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Go Make Your Way

December 22, 2008 at 8:01 pm (2008)

Race to work again today;
From nine to five
I only strive to stay awake.
But the child inside me
Dares to believe I still can fly…
Got to catch the next train,
I’m making my way…

Tyrone Wells, “Dream Like New York”

"The Path Black and White" signejb (flickr)

Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like if I were still in college. Most of the time I think that I wouldn’t mind delving back into academia again, conversing with professors or debating amongst peers or researching criticism as I formulate my own ideas for an essay. Truly, I loved college as an undergraduate. It offered me my first taste of real independence, gave me my first glimpse of in-depth analysis, and taught me to stand by my opinions while contemplating others’ viewpoints. I love to learn and I love to read and school always came natural to me…for the most part, anyway.

I don’t yearn for my college years because life since then has brought me just as much excitement and opportunity, and I’m thrilled, if not slightly discouraged, for what I’m finding professionally.

However, if there was one reason why I wished I were back in school, it would be this: “interns wanted.” I see this pairing of words everywhere now, and it seems as if most of the entry-level position advertisements in my particular field are being aimed at students. And since I’m no longer in school, that shoe no longer fits.

Were I to pursue a master’s degree again, I’m sure I would settle back into that mold, finding it once more the perfect fit. But where I’m settled now, for the time being, anyway, is in the professional realm. I don’t necessarily regret where I’ve been these past three years, because I know that I’ve come so far. Still, though, I lament a little never having the opportunity for an internship, and not being eligible for one now, because next to that great job posting is yet another line: “academic credit only.”

From a professional standpoint, seeing it from the viewpoint of a company, I get it. I really, honestly get it. Internships are mutually beneficial for both companies and students in that those companies are able to “hire” workers for little, if any, pay, and students get connections and hands-on experience in their major-related industry. It’s a win-win situation for all involved.

However, looking at it from the standpoint of someone seeking a full-time job, trying to break into a career, it’s more than a little tough, and it makes you more than a little wistful that you were never able to pursue one of these opportunities yourself, for what it could have meant for your career in the long run.

Maybe I’ll still get there. It won’t be as easy, but maybe that’s the lesson I’ve been learning all along: determination, ambition, and passion can go a long way.

I’m wearing a different pair of shoes now; I know that I have a different path to walk down, one that I’ve just found, one that I’ve only just begun to forge for myself as I continue to gain experience through this minor detour, build upon a passion, and pursue my own opportunities.

Little by little, step by step, I’m making my own way.

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