Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. To some, Sandy seemed like it happened just moments ago. To others, it seems like forever.
One year ago, I sat in my boyfriend's apartment with a few friends as we "made the most" of the storm (and he tried distracting himself from the thought of his second home in Long Beach Island being destroyed). We were lucky. The apartment was untouched. My parent's home lost power for a few days. My boyfriend's house, though, did not look so good. Later, he returned to the place he calls "home" to see memories, now soaking wet.
In the chill of November, he and his family (and myself when I could) worked to restore his home. For more than 30 consecutive weekends, his parents drove down to the house to put in the grueling manuel labor.
But the labor didn't stop there. Millions of others were affected by this storm. Homes underwater, furniture drenched, boats permanently wedged on docks, roller coasters sunk. What was a once relaxing, beautiful shore town was now a town struck with disaster.
One year later, homes are still being fixed. Shore areas may never look how they did 365 days ago. It's hard to say "Wow! It looks great!" because the families know it doesn't.
But, rebuild they did. For the million of people who dealt with destruction, another million offered a helping hand. Charity programs began, and still continue to this day. Adversity struck and people responded.
If I could hug every family member who struggled through this time, I would. If I could shake everyone's hand who lent one, I would. If I could applaud the construction workers who work day in and day out, I would. So, here is my small "thank you" to all of the strong, hard working Americans who work to restore the shore. These people saw passed the mess and imagined a life after it. Thank you for your positivity. Thank you for your time. Thank you for your contribution. Thank you.
If kindergarteners ran the world, I think we would be just fine. Think about it, everything you need, you learn when you're five years old in kindergarten.
If kindergarteners ran the world, we would be great at sharing. Sharing is caring.
If kindergarteners ran the world, manners would be used every day. "Please" and "Thank You" wouldn't be uncommon.
If kindergarteners ran the world, whenever someone did something great, we would be recognized for it with a pat on the back and a fancy sticker.
If kindergarteners ran the world, everyone would hold hands as they walked.
If kindergarteners ran the world, we wouldn't hit other people. Hitting isn't nice.
If kindergarteners ran the world, we would always live by the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you wish to be treated.
If kindergarteners ran the world, we would be explorers of the unknown.
If kindergarteners ran the world, we would be open to making friends and closed to being prejudice.
If kindergarteners ran the world, we would compliment each other.
If kindergarteners ran the world, we would understand that "no" means "no"; otherwise, we're in big trouble.
If kindergarteners ran the world, we would be excited about the little things in life, not bogged down with all that "other stuff".
If kindergarteners ran the world, we would sing every morning.
If kindergarteners ran the world, we would nap every afternoon.
If kindergarteners ran the world, we would read every night.
If kindergarteners ran the world, I think we would be just fine.
I need to preface this with a few things.
1. I LOVE Disney. I go with my family almost every other year. I've dressed up as Disney characters for Halloween. I can recite almost any Disney song word for word.
2. I think I'm just a little bit of a Feminist (but I hate how the word "Feminism" has such an irritable, negative connotation.) Girls are strong. We don't need a man. Yes, I'm one of those people that doesn't want to change her last name when I get married. Why should I?
3. I'm not a critical person. In fact, I try to be overly accepting of everyone and understanding of where they are coming from.
With all of that said, I think Disney made one mistake... over and over.
Disney made girls seem helpless and completely dependent on men. What's with all the "Damsel in Distress" Princesses who are waiting for the prince's kiss to wake them up or end the spell.
Take Snow White, for example. She was silly enough to take something from a strange. And what was the only cure? A kiss from a man, of course.
Then think about Cinderella. What did she even know about the prince before going to the ball? Why was he so desirable - because he was called a "prince"?
Sleeping Beauty. No explanation necessary.
Jasmine needed Aladdin to come rescue her.
Come on, guys.
What I'm getting at is what these films did for girls of the 90's. We grew up watching princesses being saved by princes and began to expect the same treatment. Although chivalry is important, women do not need to be saved. Though getting roses is nice, we should not expect it. Girls need to have "a clue", stop doing stupid things, getting themselves in trouble, and then expecting a guy to be there to save the day.
Disney finally caught on (in my opinion, too many years late) and started making movies with strong female leads. Mulan. Tiana from the Princess and the Frog. These girls are good role models for little girls.
And there you have it. I'm finished with my brief rant.
I have this theory: People should take some advice from dogs. Dogs know how to live.
What's the point in getting stressed out? Just relax. Find the perfect spot on the couch and curl up. Get someone to pet you if they're around.
When you've got good people around you, don't go anywhere.
3. High Five.
Never pass up a good high five. The worst is leaving someone hanging. People generally get mad if you do this.
4. Greet people with love.
Whenever you see someone for the first time, run up to them and shower with kisses and wagging tails. It will make them happy to feel loved.
5. Take advantage of your "cute face".
Sometimes, people just need to be convinced with a little puppy dog face. It helps, trust me. (But don't abuse it; people won't take you seriously anymore.)
6. When you find good food, eat it.
Maybe it's not so often you find an awesome treat, so when you do, don't pass it up!
7. Wag your tail.
When you're happy and you know it, let other people know it. Happiness is contagious.
8. Chase your tail.
Everyone's gotta play once in a while. Even if you look a little ridiculous doing it, go for it.
9. Go for a walk.
Exercise is important.
Show your love.
I love relationships. Call me corny, but I love "love". Over the last 24 hours, I've seen some of the strongest relationships and have had the honor of celebrating a marriage.
Yesterday, my family, Ryan, and I attended my cousin's wedding. (Welcome to the family, Shannon! Finally, another "Sienrukos" added to our whopping 8-person clan.) In the middle of the celebration, all of the couples were out on the dance floor. The EmCee then called out lengths of time that the couples have been in the relationship. Obviously, Ryan and I were only up there for about 17 seconds until he said "1 year of marriage or less, stand to the side." He went on and on. 10 years. 20 years. 30 years. 40. As the years grew, the couples dwindled. He got up to 50 years and two couples stayed strong. Turns out one couple had been together for 53 years, the other 54 years. The EmCee asked the 54-year-ers if they had one piece of advice for the newly married, TJ and Shannon. "Communication", said the husband. "You've got to communicate." Got it. If anyone knows how to have a strong marriage, it's these guys.
Also at the wedding, I had the pleasure of seeing my mom break out her "killer dance moves". I have never seen my mother move the way she did. At one point in the beginning of the night, she and my dad were literally the only couple on the dance floor dancing to "Up All Night To Get Lucky" (Aka the last song I ever thought my parents would dance to.) Despite the chuckles of oh-my-god-what-are-mom-and-dad-doing-up-there from my brother, sister and I, I thought about another thing too.My dad was by her side. Needless to say, my mom isn't quite Dancing With The Stars material, but it didn't matter. My dad danced with her, and he did it with a smile on his face.
Fast forward about 24 hours. I just got off the phone with my grandparents. I call them Pat and Frank. His name isn't even Frank. It's Paul. He looks like Frank from Everybody Loves Raymond. Just go with it. Yesterday was their anniversary and Pat's birthday. Since I was busy at the wedding, I lost track of days, and had to make up my phone call tonight. Pat told me what they did to celebrate: they went out to a restaurant and relaxed at home watching 3 hours of Netflix crime movies. She said "Your grandfather was so good. He sat with me the whole time and watched it all." There you go. He was there for her.
These three things, the couple married for 54 years who specialized in communication, my dad, who didn't skip a beat when it came to dancing with my mom, and my grandfather, who endured three long hours of crime movies just to make Pat happy are just tiny snippets of what I think defines a relationship. To me, relationships aren't supposed to be difficult. In fact, they should be joyful. Making a relationship joyful isn't exactly rocket science, either. It takes some very simple things to make one work.
Support. Be there for each other. Even if you think it's silly. Cheer him on when he catches a fish.
Appreciation. Thank one another for what they do.
Respect. We learn this is kindergarden, guys. It's not hard. Do it.
Trust. Without it, the relationship will crumble.
The opportunity to brag and complain. No one else wants to hear you brag or complain except your significant other (and maybe your parents), so take advantage of it. It's healthy to brag and complain once in a while.
Laughter. The best relationships are between two people who are best friends.
Say "I love you".
See? None of these are hard. In fact, we learn most of these skills at a very young age. It's up to us to follow through and actually do it. Given, there are hard times, but if we remember these simply things - bam, a joyful, beautiful, fulfilling relationship.
At the end of June, my co-workers, who I am lucky enough to call some of my best friends, bought me a present that says "Some Pursue Happiness; Others Create It." I'm looking at it right now on my dresser. (Thank you PROS, I love it). Even though this, literally, is just an 8x3 inch piece of wood with colorful writing on it, it means so much and these words are so important.
I'm going to go on a slight tangent.
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" How many times did we hear this as kids? How many times do we still hear it now? The answer, for kids at least, is typically a baseball player, a doctor, an astronaut, you get the gist. But, why is there such an emphasis put on what you're going to BE when you grow up; not HOW you're going to live. What about that John Lennon quote:
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
Realistically, almost any job can be amazingly fun. Please, if the fish market guys in Seattle can have as much fun throwing around fish as they do, I think anyone can love their job. But, it's up to you to make your job, your life amazingly fun.
My secret is to APPRECIATE and RECOGNIZE the little things in life. It's not every day that someone is going to hit a home or find the cure for cancer or travel to the moon. These hugely momentous events occur rarely, and waiting for something outstanding to happen is a waste of other, perfectly good days.
Last weekend, I overhead a boy talking about the date he was going to take his girlfriend on for their 1-year anniversary. He planned to take her to Central Park and go on a horse-drawn carriage. Though it all sounds lovely, I tried to stop myself from vomiting. Not necessarily because of the actual trip itself, but because it almost seems like people feel like they have to one-up the other person with what they're doing, what they have. Like he was trying to be impressive with his romantic movie date.
The next day, I visited my boyfriend in Long Beach Island. We cooked dinner together, sat on the beach and read a book (Reading? Who am i?), went kayaking, and walked around Bay Village, where I bought nothing but half a pound of fudge. Nothing out of the ordinary. But, I had a FANTASTIC weekend. Why? Because I truly appreciated the little things that we did, that he did for me, and that I did for him.
Guys, it's not rocket science. These "little things" are all around you, all the time. The fact that I'm writing this at 8am and woke up before my alarm is a little thing I'm happy about, and I know my day will be better because of it. I'm playing in a softball tournament tomorrow and I get to see my parents. My boss gave me a one-day extension to sign something because I was busy yesterday. My room is clean. See, look around you. Literally, do it. Think about today and maybe tomorrow and the things about it that make you happy.
I think that the more times we do this, the happier we are. Now, we're looking for brief moments of life that are worthwhile and put a smile on our faces. So if you're having a bad day, or just a day, try to change your perspective just a little and look for those little things.
On Friday, the Rec Center staff was lucky enough to have Shaun T (Insanity and Hip Hop Abs fitness guy) come talk to us. He's a Rowan Alum, and actually worked at the Rec Center a number of years ago. The professional staff here has kept a great relationship with him and they brought him in just a few days ago! What he said was all very interesting and it comes down to three main points. If you weren't at his presention, do it. Seriously.
1. Define 5 things you're AMAZING at. Like amazing. It could be anything. Are you a good listener? Good friend? Great dancer? Whatever. It was kind of hard for some people to think of these five things. Really, no one's actually asked a question like this before. Write it down.
2. Think of 3 things that makes you excited to wake up. Again, it could be anything. And it can be simple. For him, Shaun loves waking up to his husband kissing him on his forehead. Write it down.
3. What do you WANT? Shaun introduced the idea of "selfish" being a GOOD word. Being selfish is actually important because "you are the nucleus of your whole world" and if YOU are not selfish, YOU will not be happy. SO, what do you WANT? Write it down.
Now, look at your five amazing things, the three things that make you wake up, and what you want. Do they all relate? By this, he means to ask if they all coincide and work together to make you happy.
This activity wasn't necessarily easy for me. First of all, it is definitely kind of weird to write down five things I'm amazing at because I almost feel like I'm bragging. Then, it weird to think of three things that make me excited to get up. People, me included, sometimes get stuck in the daily grind of life. Sometimes it just happens. But Shaun's point was to remember what makes you happy to be awake. Lastly, it was strange to think of what I want in such a broad term. I want to be a teacher. I want to have a family. I want to get married. But what SPECIFICALLY do I want? And not only that, how do I write it down in a short sentence that makes sense? Even after writing down what I want, "I want to be a role model and make others happy", I still feel like it could use some work.
Ultimately, it's hard to define yourself or your life in three short answers. But, what Shaun T explained is that they all need to be intertwined. One leads to the other, which leads to the other.
College teaches you a lot. Yeah, I go to classes and yeah, I learn from those classes. But, the things I learned OUTSIDE of the classroom is more than anything I could have imagined.
1. Make yourself comfortably uncomfortable. This could be applied to almost everything. Step outside of your comfort zone. Go talk to someone. Or maybe just smile at them. Maybe this person wanted to talk to you, but they were just too nervous to do so. You never know what doors this could open for you.
2. Buy a planner and fill it up. I know this sounds like the headline of a freshmen orientation brochure, but it's so true on so many levels. On the most literal level, it keeps you organized. Organization is absolutely key in college and in life. On the next level, making yourself busy each day teaches you tons. Time management is a skill many people do not have, but is something that is SO crucial. Master it.
3. Work Hard, Play Hard. Go to class. Duh. Go to work. Duh. Do homework, go to meetings, blah blah blah. BUT - HAVE FUN! Spend time with friends. Although college is predominantly about getting a degree, some of the people you meet in college are going to be in your life forever. I've met my bridesmaids in college, and if I didn't purposefully make time to spend with them, I would be walking down an aisle with no girls in cheesy dresses next to me. Laugh with your friends. Go out with them. Create memories.
4. Sleep. At night. Refer to #2. You'll need it. Stay away from naps. Typically, you'll wake up sleepy and confused thinking it's 6am, not knowing what day it is.
5. Say "YES". Some of the most beneficial things I'm involved in at Rowan are the things I had NO idea what they were. Example - my graduate school thing. If I didn't blindly go into this organization, I would not be going to grad school. Say "yes" when you're unsure, when you think you might not have enough time, when you're nervous. You won't regret it.
6. Say "NO". Sometimes, we need to learn when to say "no" too. This is actually something I'm STILL, as an almost-23-year-old, working on. Although helping people is awesome and getting involved is important, don't completely overload yourself.
7. Find an outlet. This is something else I'm still working on. Stress happens. People get overwhelmed. It's natural. What's important is to find a way to deal with that stress. Sometimes, it might unfortunately mean crying on my boyfriend's shoulder as I pathetically utter words he can barely understand. I'm trying to steer away from doing this. His shirts get wet and booger-y. It's gross. I'm learning that writing is actually very helpful. Or working out. Maybe your outlet for stress isn't writing or exercise. Whatever it is, find it, and use it.
8. Treat yourself. You deserve it. If this means treating yourself to an ice cream cone on the way out of the Cafe, do it. Maybe it's just having a relaxing night in. A bath. A manicure. A new outfit.
9. Call your parents. My mom always tells me that I'm always allowed to complain and brag to them. Take full advantage of it. You can't complain and brag to most people; they'll stop talking to you. On top of the complaining and bragging, make sure you also THANK them. They're part of the reason why you're where you are right now. They deserve to know how grateful you are for them.
10. Remember your family. My family, for example, is all over the US. I have people in Jersey, but a lot are in Colorado, Florida, and Nevada. We don't see each other a lot, so remember to call them to say "hi". Family is forever. On that note, family doesn't have to be blood. In my case, family is also my roommates, my co-workers, and my team. I'm blessed to have this many people that I love. Whoever your "family" is, remember to love them.
About four months ago, I went to a motivational speaker. I'm not sure what his name was; they all kind of blur together at this point. I feel like I've been to a million. Regardless of who he was, he said something that I've been thinking about for the last four months.
He asked, "What are three things you are passionate about?" And he waited. No one raised their hand. But that's what he was expecting. In fact, the looks of slight terror and the "Oh-my-god, I'm-in-college-and-I-don't-know-the-three-things-I'm-passionate-about; what-am-I-doing-with-my-life?"-looks were actually what he wanted. What 20-year old can list three things he or she is truly passionate about in life? If you can, I'm jealous. What 40 or 50 year old for, for that matter, can? Sure, people have likes, dislikes, things they hate, and things the love, but to be passionate about something is a different story.
I, of course, was one of the people in the audience with the "Help-me, I'm-lost" face. So, at lunch, I took advantage of the question and got some help. I sat across from him. Let's call him Chris. I said, "Chris, what are your three things?" He smiled and charmingly asked the same question back. I mumbled off some generic answer that I thought someone would want to hear when they ask a question like this. He wasn't impressed, and I asked him again, "No, really! I want to know what your three passions are!" He replied with very good answers: Developing REAL relationships with people, communicating, and reading. I didn't think the first two were "acceptable" answers, but that's when I realized it; ANYTHING is an acceptable answer.
So, I've been thinking. What am I truly passionate about?
To start, I definitely LOVE creating actual, real relationships with people. Relationships that matter. At this point, I would rather have a few awesome people in my life who I know I can count on and who love me than a million "friends". People are important in my life. I have always been happier when I was around people.
Another thing I am passionate about is being PRESENT. This is something sort of new that I'm trying...which I shouldn't even need to think about. Realistically, people should be present at every moment of the day. But now we have smart phones and this happening and that happening and yada yada yada. So, my newest idea is to be completely present in the moment. If I'm out to dinner, my phone is away and I'm making the most of the conversation. If I'm at a conference, I'm networking, making myself "uncomfortable", putting myself "out there" to benefit as much as possible from my time. Because really, time is limited, so why not be completely present in every moment of it?
The third thing is a little harder. I could say that I love my jobs on campus like working at the REC and Orientation, but are they things I am passionate about? I'm not sure. I like food. And dogs. Definitely not passion, though.
So maybe I need some more time to think about this last thing. But in my mind, that's okay. It's not like someone is going to test me on these three things one day, and if I don't have an answer, I fail at life. Instead, I think it's important to be thinking of these things. It helps you guide your life in a way that will make you truly happiest.
Now, I challenge you! I challenge you to start thinking about the three things in life you are passionate about.
Change freaks me out. I've literally never been good at dealing with it. I joke that it goes back to when Mommy and Daddy sat me down in 5th grade to tell me that we were moving to New Jersey. I went bananas. Then when 8th grade softball was over, I thought the world was practically going to end. My next major catastrophe was probably the end of high school. Knowing that all of my best friends weren't going to be within a five minute drive, I cried like a baby the night before my best friend, Toni, went away to college. And, through it all, believe it or not, I SURVIVED. New Jersey is pretty cool. I still play softball. And I'm still best friends with the important ones from high school. So why do I always freak out?
The way I see it, years 22-25 (ish) of a person's life are just wacky. They are such a transition period, thus, such a huge change. Like I've mentioned, some very important people in my life have graduated college and I'm starting my fifth year. Next year, I may be going to some strange place only God knows where for Graduate School. And then after that, where am I going to get a job? I think about this nonsense far too much. For years, I've always felt like I was just born to be a Mom and to be grown up. And as much as I absolutely love college and loved high school and everything in my life, I just can't wait to be settled down and know where my life stands. I don't like all of this unknown for the next few years. It's weird.
But why do people just freak out about the "big" changes? In reality, change happens every day. We are always doing different things, meeting different people, going different places. It seems like "life" is constantly throwing these little changes at us- the ones we barely recognize, and then when something major happens, we don't know how to handle it.
I'm a big believer in the idea that "life" is a series of preparations for one thing or another.
When you're 6 years old, you get a pet fish. You learn responsibility. It dies. You learn how to say good-bye. You move on.
When you're 10 you can get a rabbit. Same thing. Grander scale. You move on.
A few years later, you get your first girlfriend or boyfriend. You learn trust. You break up. You learn how to say good-bye again. You move on.
You get cut from a team. A loved one dies. You move. You fight with your best friend. Your car breaks down. Etc. Etc. Etc. You move on.
For 22 years, I've been practicing how to deal with change, and it still doesn't sit well. However, I always come out on top on the other side. I always "get over it" and end up absolutely loving where I am, almost no matter where I am or who I'm with. So once again, why is change so hard for me when I'm always okay when it's over and done with?