New Year’s Prep: Saying Goodbye to “New Year, New Me” and Hello to Reality

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year!

It’s an exciting time in the world as the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, presents are unwrapped, and the new year is just around the corner. Christmas was beautiful here, and I hope whatever holiday you choose to celebrate was spent in good company with good food, creating many new memories.

But memories aren’t the only new thing coming up…with the year ending in four days, 2016 is knocking on our doors, begging to be let inside. And if you think I was feeling some type of way about Christmas, New Year’s is a whole other story.

There is a sense of hope in the air around this time of year. “NEW YEAR, NEW ME!” people scream. If I hear that one more time, so help me…

newyear

newyear1

You get the point, right?

The reason I’m not a fan of “New Year, New Me,” is the exact reason that is stated in the Leonardo DiCaprio meme. What does a little ball dropping in New York City have to do with who I am as a person? The clock striking midnight has no impact on my own self and who I am. And time is a relative concept, anyway.

So for this New Year, I’m going to try a few new things:

  1. Set Goals
    • Throw out the idea of “New Year’s Resolutions.” And don’t ask me what mine are because I won’t have any. The word “resolution” evolves from the word “resolve” which means to solve. Therefore, a resolution aims to fix (or solve) a problem in your life. I’m going to the gym because I’m too fat. I’m going to spend more time with my family because I am distant and disconnected. No. Instead, try setting goals. SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive. The difference is that resolutions look to resolve an issue, whereas goals look to focus on areas of improvement and growth. Resolutions are based in thought, whereas goals are based in actions and positive change.
  2. Reflect and Reevaluate 
    • Margaret J. Wheatley said, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” I have no idea who Margaret J. Wheatley is, but damn, if she wasn’t talking about New Year’s, she could have fooled me. The whole point of a New Year’s resolution is to achieve something that may or may not have been achieved before in your life. Yet, before setting our goals this year, reflection is a key first step. Without it, it’s impossible to know what comes next. Reflection can take many different forms. For my fellow introverts, sometimes all you need is a quiet space and a blank journal. For others, reflection can be with a group of people sitting in a noisy coffee shop, chatting about previous life experiences and hopes for the future. There’s no one right way to reflect.
  3. Let the past guide your future
    • I saw a really good friend of mine over this break, and one of the first questions she asked me after I ranted and raved about my current life was this: “If your 10- or 15-year-old self saw you now, would they be happy?” Well, wow. That one caught me. On SO many different levels. But I think it’s a good indication of how we might want the new year to look. I think my 10-year-old social self would’ve wanted more of a social scene, so that is something I would like to focus more on in 2016. The past can also guide your future in terms of life experiences. I know some things happened in 2015 that I will try my best to avoid in 2016. Some call those things mistakes, others like myself call them learning opportunities.

And with all that said, no matter how you choose to celebrate the new year (I’ll be in Brooklyn with some great friends!!!), I hope everyone has a very happy, healthy, and safe New Year!!!

 

 

Advertisements

Skipping Christmas?

I just need to preface this week: I am not a Scrooge. Although, in previous years, I may have said I was.

And yet, with Christmas just around the corner (THIS WEEK!), I’m still finding my excitement for this holiday season a bit lackluster. When I first started to feel this way, I simply thought that I was just a Scrooge. Someone who, all of a sudden, hated Christmas. Let’s set the record straight, that is absolutely not the case. I absolutely love Christmas!

I’m the kind of person who gets sadder and sadder the closer Christmas gets because that means it will soon be over. Christmas itself isn’t my favorite holiday, but when people ask me what my favorite season is, I confidently answer: “The Christmas Season!” I love the joy it brings people. I love the hope that floats around in the snowy streets and the dreams that sparkle in the tiny white lights in strings around the storefront windows. But then, why am I feeling so Scrooge-like?

I have a theory.

When I was a kid, I LIVED for Christmas. I loved everything about it. And even as a young adult, knowing that Santa Claus wasn’t a real physical person, I still loved everything about it. I just felt it in the air. It wasn’t until I started becoming a real adult with real responsibilities that I started feeling meh about the holiday. Gifts translated into dollars, shopping turned into crowded malls and congested parking lots. It’s not a good feeling. But I still remember all the holiday traditions I used to partake in every year, without hesitation. Hanging the stockings on the fireplace, decorating the tree, baking Christmas cookies. But now, not so much. And looking forward, I see all these parents replicating these traditions with their own children…but what about the single twentysomethings? No longer kids that celebrate in the same way, but not yet parents to celebrate with their own children/family.

I’ve thought: is being a parent the magic key? Is that what needs to happen for me to keep believing in the Christmas Miracle? Don’t worry mom and dad, I quickly realized that becoming a parent was not the only way to believe in Christmas again. However, it makes me wonder, is the twentysomething time a period of “skipping Christmas?” Because really thinking about it, who am I going to celebrate Christmas for? Myself? I could bake dozens of Christmas cookies, but who to share them with? I could put up a tree, but who would enjoy it other than me?

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is value in partaking in these celebrations, even if it is only for myself. I just don’t think it’s the same when you are living hours away from your family, and don’t yet have a family to call your own.

It’s not the most absurd idea in the world…skipping Christmas. Christmas with the Kranks and The Year Without a Santa Claus all had similar ideas. What would happen if we just skipped Christmas for one year?

Well, I was talking to a few friends a few days ago about this exact question, and an interesting answer arose. They responded with another question: “Who is Santa, anyway?” We all know he’s not a real person. There’s no North Pole and no elves or Santa’s sleigh. It’s a bit depressing, really, when you admit the reality of it. And yet, Santa is so much more. Christmas is so much more. It’s not about the tree or the cookies or the sleigh rides.

(And no, this isn’t the part in the blog post where I continue to launch into a religious sermon about the true meaning of Christmas as the birth of our Savior Lord Jesus Christ etc etc).

In a secular sense, Christmas represents the good in everyone, the joy of humanity. And Santa is the figurehead that represents that. And with all of the hateful and upsetting news that is flashing across our screens this year, maybe it would be nice to have a little extra Christmas cheer…especially for all the twentysomethings out there.

Less than 100%

Today was a really good, healthy day. Regardless of the fact that I woke up slightly hungover, that’s neither here nor there. What are Sunday mornings for, anyway?

For the first time in a long time, I was able to wake up and enjoy a quiet, relaxing morning. I brewed a fresh cup of coffee, cooked a hearty breakfast, and watched Christmas with the Kranks on Netflix. It was beautiful. Afterwards, I got myself up from the couch and decided that for basically the first time this semester I would go to the gym. It was great! I felt healthy, energized, and a part of society. I talked to my dad on the phone on my way back, and then left for a coffee date that proceeded to last over three hours.

And now, here I am—doing another thing I love, writing, and eating a delicious home-cooked meal (which definitely wins over chips and salsa, the theme of my dinners for the past week).

It’s all about the little things, right?

Here’s what I’ve learned this week, thanks to a new friend who already has a very special and warm place in my heart: It is unfair to expect 100% life satisfaction from only one part of your life.

Let me say it again. It is unfair to expect 100% life satisfaction from only one part of your life.

I’m going to use my job as an example, because I feel like that’s the most relevant. If you’ve been following my blog at all over the past few months, you may think that I don’t love my job very much. “It doesn’t feel as meaningful as I wanted” or “It’s not the right one for me.” Well folks, I am here to tell you that those previous statements are 100% not true. The truth behind those statements, and something I might have been too afraid to admit before, is this: It’s not that I wasn’t 100% satisfied with my job, it’s that I wasn’t 100% satisfied with my life.

Looking at my job by itself, I absolutely love it! I get to work with amazing students in such a supportive environment in an office that is consistently moving forward. But why then, I asked myself, was I expecting to find 100% fulfillment of myself only in my job? That’s not a fair expectation. I can’t (and shouldn’t) expect my job to fulfill me in every possible way, because if it did, that would show a complete lack of work/life balance.

Maybe in my life, work is only 30% of my life satisfaction. Whereas friends and family might constitute 50%. And the remaining 20% are the little introvert things that I enjoy: writing in a coffee shop, cooking with a glass of wine, etc.

And if that means I am 100% completely satisfied in my job, in relationships with my friends and family, and in the use of my personal time, than I am 100% satisfied with life. It doesn’t make sense to expect that my job will fulfill me 100% when it only accounts for 30% of my life satisfaction.

And in an ideal world, the important top-priority areas of your life would be top-notch. That way, you would always be at 100%. But we all know that’s not the case. Sometimes, you might have a little confrontation with a friend, making your 50% only 48%. Or maybe there’s a boring task at work, knocking that satisfaction down a few notches.

But if we’re not at 100%, but still maybe at a 97% or even let’s say 82%, that’s still not bad. We may start to feel in the 50s and 60s on some days, but hopefully, those are just the exceptions.

In thinking about life satisfaction, it’s a lesson that’s been told time and time again, it’s just a matter of listening. Don’t place all your eggs in one basket. You can’t (and shouldn’t) be 100% satisfied in just one area of your life. Ask yourself, how else can I be fulfilled?

And at the end of the day, maybe it’s better to not always have 100%, anyway. That way, there is always space to improve, move forward, and grow.

 

Dear Mr. Legend

You may not know me, but I would like to open this letter with a warm, heart-felt, and gracious thank you.

Earlier this month, you attended the University at Buffalo’s Distinguished Speaker Series as our Student Association’s featured speaker. And after hearing you speak to the entirety of the UB community, I applaud the decision of the Student Association, not only to bring you to campus, but to chose you as their featured speaker of the year.

You see, the week you came to campus, I had three final papers looming over my head. I’m a current graduate student, in my second year, in the Higher Education Administration program. These final papers, ranging between 15-30 pages each, seemed like the only thing that mattered…until, a fellow graduate student asked me, “Hey, are you going to John Legend tonight?”

Please don’t be offended when I say that I completely forgot you were coming to campus. I knew you were coming on December 3rd, but I didn’t realize that day was December 3rd. It’s been one of those semesters, you know?

Anyway, I went up to the ticket office with two of my friends…”Hello, I know it’s incredibly last minute, but do you have any more John Legend tickets?” And to all of our surprise, the older woman at the desk pulled out three crisp tickets with your name printed across each one. “The last three!” she exclaimed, and handed them over to us. It was fate.

Little did I know how drastically things would change for me that night. You see, two days earlier, I was in my office, a graduation countdown ticking away on my desktop, staring blankly into a computer that wasn’t giving me any answers. I wanted to figure out my future, my passions, my dreams. Lofty goals to figure out in just one afternoon, wouldn’t you say? Regardless, I sat at my desk in my square office, looking at blank index cards with a pen poised in my hand. “Michael,” I told myself, “Just write something. Anything.” For each index card, I wanted to write down a potential career. Something to pursue. A dream to chase. And after thinking to the point of brainache, I resigned. I put the pen down. I collected the index cards and put them in the recycling bin.

And then, two days after that, I found myself with a John Legend ticket in hand. I find it important to mention that I work in our Intercultural & Diversity Center. When you talked about social justice issues, advocacy work, and the importance of education, I felt as if there was a golden cord of resonance that was beaming between your podium and my seat in the very highest section of the highest bleachers.

From that night, I learned two things from you:

  1. We’re just ordinary people, maybe we should take it slow.
    (A beautiful reminder, but I already knew this one), and
  2. Passions are the things that keep you awake at night.

Let me say that again for everyone else. Your passions are the things that keep you awake at night. The things that you care so deeply about, so intensely about, that you literally and metaphorically cannot sleep because you have so much passion for these issues.

Well, damn.

Please allow me to explain. Within the recent weeks, especially with all of the events happening in the world, I haven’t been able to sleep very well. I toss and turn, I get anxious about things I’ve never thought about before, and to be honest, I’m scared. I said it. I’m scared for the world around me. Now, I know I can’t live my life thinking this way, but I’d be lying if I said these things haven’t been keeping me awake at night.

You informed me that the things I initially saw as my fears, the things that scare me the most, the things that keep me up at night, are my true passions. Education. Social justice. Advocacy. Diversity. You restructured my entire perspective. You gave me hope, regardless of the circumstances.

And for that, I say thank you.