It's November 18. I'm sitting in a Starbucks and I'm currently procrastinating writing my enormously ridiculous (but to mention, full of BS) 3,000 page paper for my Writing Arts Seminar class. I sit, looking around. What's here? Other than the sweet aroma of coffee beans and faded sound of jazz, there's snowflakes on the walls. There's "Shake Joy" written on a poster surrounded by Christmas-y things. There's even a wreath above the over the top display of gifts all things Starbucks you can "affordably purchase for you or a loved one in this holiday season".
It's not even Thanksgiving. Society decided it was a good idea to fast forward through time and market the most commercial time of the year, which really shouldn't be commercial at all. It happens every year, and every year, it seems earlier than the year before. Christmas time is no longer about what it should be all about. It's about Black Friday. It's about asking for gifts. It's about little kids watching commercials on Saturday morning and saying, "Mommy, I want that!"
Now let's look at weddings. The average cost of a wedding where I'm from in North Jersey is just about $50,000. According to CNNMoney, people spend approximately $2,000 on their FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS. $2,000 for a bunch of flowers. Just say it a few times. Let it sink in. Weddings are about having the most beautiful dress and the most extravagant venue. It's about having the most perfect centerpieces and the most bling-y jewelry.
Special times like Christmas and Weddings are losing focus. Christmas is a celebration. It should be a time when family members get together and enjoy each other's company; not a time to fight over travel plans or why Aunt MarySue can't come this year because she smells weird. Christmas should be about giving and loving; not about asking and wanting. Weddings should be about a celebration of two people who love each other; not brizedillas being featured on the latest episode on TLC. Weddings should unite two families and support the couple making the next big step; not to focus on the mother-in-law who wants a certain color napkin.
Now bring it back.
Bring back the goodness. Let go of the selfishness. Bring back the spirit of giving. Let go of the asking. Bring back the celebration. Let go of the bashing. Bring back the love. Let go of the hate.
Today was the first day word was actually mentioned about moving out of our house. I've known it's been coming, but today was the first day it's been talked about as something that is actually happening in the foreseeable future. Whoa.
For those of you that need a back story, I've lived with some of my best friends for the last two and a half years in a fantastic house right across the street from campus. For two years, it was me and three of my best girlfriends. Living with Courtney, Meghan, and Brielle is something I truly cherish and wouldn't change the opportunity for anything. Brielle graduated in four years (who does that?) and so two boys moved in, which has been awesome in its own funny and wildly entertaining ways.
In the past, I have freaked, like totally freaked, at any sense of oncoming change. It's Saturday night at 1:15. I worked until 11:30 and decided to not go out. Here I am. My heart is starting to race a little at the thought of leaving my "home" so here I sit, typing on my laptop once again.
To start, I need to distinguish "home" from "home home". This is something we've come up with over the years. Our house, 41 Williamsburg, is "home". "Home" is where our best friends are who have quickly turned into family. "Home" is where we have built memories, laughed together, cried together, fought together. "Home home" is where we go to over the holidays. It feels weird to call it our "parents' house" because that gives the sense that we're established adults who don't go home; they go to their parents' place. No way. Not yet. "Home home" is where Mommy and Daddy are. It's where we grew up. It's comfort. But, "home", "home" is this place.
I'm trying a new thing. As I think about it a little more, my heart beats just a little faster knowing I have to learn how to acknowledge and accept change. We all know I'm not the best at this, but who is? I'm looking at the positives...but really looking at them. Moving out of this place is going to be hard, like really hard. I'm dreading the moment I close the front door for the last time.
So, let's look at the positives. Let's think about all the beautiful, fantastic, hysterical memories we've made from this place. Here we go.
Brielle, remember when you and I were the only ones home getting ready to go out blasting Beyonce? You danced on the kitchen counter.
Remember when we all watched Paranormal Activity and then Nick hid in my closet? For some reason I threw a tuna can at him.
Remember when we did No-Shave November and practically clogged the drain on December 1st?
Remember all the times we used each other's closets as our own?
Remember that time I made you guys "apple cider" and put in chocolate wine?
Remember that time the cops came and we talked to him outside wearing our prom dresses?
And when piggy-backs on New Years' Eve seemed appropriate?
Remember when we thought (or maybe just I did) that there was a cat in our walls so we investigated the attic?
Remember that time we played to "roommate game"?
Remember when we played Buzz and made number 8 something we probably shouldn't have?
Remember that time we made really great togas?
Remember our Christmas card?
Remember all those times that the four of us have somehow managed to accidentally match our outfits?
Remember when we painted our chalkboard wall?
Remember our first "formal"?
Remember when we posed like animals at our Christmas party?
And don't forget our super awesome Christmas tree.
And the day you guys threw me my 21st birthday party? That was the best day of my life.
Remember that time Courtney did this...
And then there's this...
And remember when we thought taking pictures like this was normal?
And you can't forget about Brielle...
And say "hello" to Joho...
We would even advertise "41" anywhere we could...
Enough for now. I think you get the picture. Over the years, we've gained quite a few memories. Sometimes I wish I could go back and re-live it all over again. Other times I just remind myself how thankful I am to have these memories with such incredible people. The last two and a half years have gone faster than I could have ever imagined and the idea of leaving in only a little over a month from now kind of freaks the crap out of me. It will happen. Days will pass and so will weeks. The day will come when I close the door for the last time, but I will not be closing the door on my "home", my family, my memories.
..."And they lived happily ever after."
What does that even mean? Did Cinderella and her prince get married, move to the suburbs and have two little blond kids? Maybe Snow White opened a wildly successful culinary school with her prince and slowly worked their way to fame and fortune. Did Ariel marry Eric, open a singing school, and inspire the lives of children forever? What is all this "Happily Ever After" nonsense? What happens after the credits roll at the end of a Disney film?
My idea of a "happily ever after" is marrying my best friend, having three kids, enjoying my job, but putting my family and friends first. Financial security is crucial, but there's no need to be grossly rich. Maybe there will be a boat, maybe not. And that's it. No prince on a noble steed coming to whisk me off into the sunset. No spell needs to be broken. No song and dance - just simple happiness.
Too often, I think people have this idea of "happily ever after" as something that will happen in the future and that they have to wait for it as if it hasn't happened yet. Why isn't it "happily ever right now"? I'm not married and I don't have three kids, but I definitely enjoy my job and still put my family and friends first. Maybe I'm a broke college kid, but that's okay. The boat, that will come. Right now, I'm happy. Tomorrow, I will be happy. In ten years, when my "happily ever after" stuff has come, I will be happy.
What I'm getting at it that people are always waiting for happiness. Appreciate now. We wait all week for the weekend. We wait all December for Christmas. We wait all year for school to be over and for the summer to come. Why wait? "Happily ever after" is great, but "happily ever right now" is what's important.
Take a look at yourself now. Compare that self to yourself five years ago. Hopefully, some things have changed.
They say if you leave college the same way you went in, you did something wrong.
This concept shouldn't stop with college, though. Every day, we are learning, growing, changing. We learn everything from dealing with spilled milk to dealing with the death of a loved one. Where ever this learning occurs does not matter; what matters is that we are learning.
Thinking about my 18 year old self seems like both forever ago and just yesterday. But, when I think about everything that's happened in those five years, it is quite a handful. Yeah, I've always been a happy-go-lucky girl who has great friends and plays softball, but I have definitely grown up. Five years ago, the thought of going away to school was slightly terrifying. Now, I'm considering graduate school even further away. Five years ago, I could confidently navigate myself around a 20 mile radius in North Jersey. Now, I'm mastering the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway (though I still get lost sometimes). Five years ago, I was blissfully unaware of the diversity that comes from meeting new people and going new places. Now, the people and places that have come into my life have influenced me and inspired me to be who I am today.
So maybe now, I'm able to cut the cord from Mommy and Daddy, drive up and down the good old state of New Jersey, and have diversity in my back pocket. But that's only the surface.
I invite (and encourage) you to think about how you got to be who you are today. Hopefully, the reasons are mostly good. Some are bound to be bad, and that's okay.
Think about the people that make you happy day after day. Keep them around.
Think about the places that inspire you to travel and learn. Go there again and try new places too.
Think about the days you inspired someone else. Do it again. And again. And again.
Think about it all.
Be thankful for these experiences. They've shaped you into being "you".
Five years may seem like a long time. But when you're not thinking about it as a matter of time, but as a matter of experiences, it puts it into a whole different perspective.
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.