AffirNation

15 Jan

It used to be, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But now a days it seems like the command has shifted to, “Say something nice.” More destructive than being conditioned to saying nice things to mean people, we expect to be affirmed even when we did something wrong. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being nice, but being nice at the risk of being dishonest is no good.

It seems to me that our parents’ generation worked very hard, with little given to them, to be where they are now. Of course life was different then, but more and more I come across recent college graduates who feel extremely entitled to greatness—in their careers, relationships, social life, etc. The expectations after spending four years in college are so high that it’s impossible not to feel disappointed when you start out with a part-time job, semi ex-boyfriend, and friends three states away. Unfortunately, no institution can guarantee such attractive lifestyles. Imagine what the tuition would be if they could!

I remember in first grade I came home sobbing from school when I wasn’t chosen to be apart of the nativity play. My mom went to school the next day to speak with the teacher about why I wasn’t selected, which resulted in them creating a new part in the play just for me. While carrying Jesus’ birthday cake was a pretty clutch role, it probably wouldn’t have been the worst thing to learn that I can’t always get my way.

That’s only where it begins and it escalates from there. Sure, parents believe that their kid is the greatest gift to the world and want the best for them even if it means calling employers wondering why their son or daughter didn’t land the job. But it goes far beyond parents. Confidence given by teachers, mentors and friends can make someone believe they can take on the world. Self-assurance is a desirable quality, but only to a certain extent. While confidence is an invaluable gift, at 22 people shouldn’t feel they have everything figured out and know all of the answers. They can’t possibly.

Positive feedback and well-intended encouragement will come when it’s earned and we should work as hard as we can to obtain it. If we were told we did a stellar job on every project it would begin to lose it’s appeal. When we’re being truthful with ourselves we know our best work and where we fell short. The same goes for giving feedback. Don’t like every status you see, don’t chase after every man with a pulse, don’t give unwarranted praise just to gain affection. Be selective, it will mean more in the long run.

Yes, life is unfair and someone has to lose, but more than that, not everyone is gifted in the same way and some people are just better than you and that’s ok. There is more than one way to do a lot of things, also ok. Not everyone will give you positive feedback on something you worked tirelessly for months to do—in fact they might give you negative feedback—and it sucks but it’s still ok. Get down from your pedestal, be open to learning from people with more experience—no, different experiences—and be amazed at the humility. The world will knock you down in all the ways you never thought it would. The greater feat is having the confidence to pick yourself back up when it does.

Live, Laugh, Like

19 Dec

Let’s be serious. As much as we want an awesome dude to call our own, depend on and go home to at the end of the night, getting there is no small task. There’s so much that has to happen before arriving at that unguaranteed point that it already feels exhausting. Sometimes it seems much easier to just go out, flirt, maybe make out and call it a night. That way you can go about your life the way you did the day before and not worry if someone’s going to contact you or not.

However, when you start falling for someone, it goes a little something like this: drunk texting him and feeling guilty about it the next morning; hoping it’s him every time your phone beeps and when it’s not, which is almost always, you’re totally bummed; checking Facebook every three seconds to see if he liked the status you just posted; strategically texting as if this were some sort of game you don’t know the rules to; finding yourself apologizing for things you’re not actually sorry for; replaying a situation in your head a thousand times to remember what went right and wrong; convincing yourself, and others, you don’t actually like or care about him. Whether you’re 15 or 35, it’s all the same.

Gag me! People always talk about how much of a risk it is to love someone, but what about the dreadful task of liking someone? If you ask me, it’s also a chance we take. One that usually doesn’t feel worth taking because for about every 10-20 likes you have you get a love, or at least a relationship. In the like-phase, you’re way more vulnerable because once you’re in love there’s less pressure. By that point, the other person already knows your flaws, has seen your bad hair days, senses your moods, and has stayed up all night fighting with you. You don’t have to worry about looking dumb ALL of the time.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to skip the liking stage if the endgame is love, so we just have to grin and bear it. No one will be wearing a screen print shirt with “the one” on front, and no one can hold your hand and do it for you. Pursuing a person is an investment—one that could be the best one you’ve ever made or, more than likely, one with no return. Go with your gut, follow your heart and know when to walk (or run) away.

Housing Crisis

6 Nov

housingYou’re home alone on a Friday night. You have a decent job where you’ve been able to save a good bit in your rainy day fund and you’re not going anywhere anytime soon. You’re starting to lose hope than any person, let alone the “right” person, will come along. You’re bored and ready for a change, one you can control. You may have a sudden urge to go shopping for new clothes. Or perhaps you feel an overwhelming need to drink..a lot. Those are normal reactions to loneliness. Buy a car or a dog, but for your own sake, please do not buy a house!

Every week I see people my age buying homes—some of them on their own, some of them with their boyfriend or girlfriend, some with a group of friends (WHAT?!). I get that renting apartments isn’t a great financial investment, but buying a house when you’re 25 and fairly unstable just seems like a poor life decision. When I say unstable, I’m speaking about the fact that more often than not young people change their careers, jobs and therefore location multiple times throughout their lives, and if there is still the chance of marriage in your future (to someone who has potentially made this same debt-filled mistake) they may have to move for work as well.

I know of many people who have made such investments and got burned down the line. Imagine this very real scenario: two homeowners meet, fall in love, get married and have two mortgages. The obvious solution would be to sell one of the homes, however, the value of the house has gone down significantly due to the economy and you lose money on it. I’ve heard of this happening way too often and it’s unfortunate.

Of course we all want something that is completely ours and something we can change, control and be proud of, but it doesn’t have to come at the price of a mortgage. The reality is that we don’t know what the future will hold and even though we want to yolo, we need to take certain things into consideration. If I’m 35, not dating, and career change or marriage might not be in the cards for me, then yes I’d splurge on a home. Maybe I’m naïve to think that I’m 25 and the future is still a hopeful place where my dreams come to fruition, but I can’t imagine making a 10-20 year commitment on a house right now. It’s not because I’m a non-committal person; I’m just not a fortune-teller. Circumstances can always change and it’s easier to deal with them when we’re not tied down.

The Great Name Debate

27 Oct

nameThere’s always a lot of talk when people are preparing for marriage and one of the big questions is, “are you going to change your name?” Of course, generally speaking, this question is pointed toward the lady of the hour. Although I hear many women discuss keeping their birth-given name, most people I know change it when all is said and done. I’m sure there are various reasons for this, the number one reason being it’s easier—for their kids and banks. I don’t think one way is right or wrong, and I honestly don’t know what I would do, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how hefty of a decision it is.

For some people, their name defines them—for better or worse. Siblings who have gone before us have set a reputation that we may or may not live up to. Likewise, we set a standard for our younger siblings even though they may be very different than us. Our parents, aunts, uncles, etc. have, maybe unintentionally, carved paths for us with the same name. A family’s common bond may be blood, but it’s also a name and we’re associated with them whether we like it or not.

We spend our entire lives identifying ourselves with two proper nouns. Even though our job titles and education levels may change, our names remain the same. Of all the uncertainty in our lives, all of the confusion, we have some stability in our names. We might not always be sure of exactly who we are or who we will become, but at least we know where we came from.

My most recent epiphany is that my name is the one constant in my life. I know this sounds extreme and dramatic, but it’s kind of true. Changing my name would change a large piece of my identity. Of course marriage is one of the biggest changes of our lives and a lot of sacrifice takes place in that, but I think at the end of the day I would want something old and familiar to fall back on. The creation of a new life together is a beautiful thing, but I don’t know if it’s necessary to give up all of the pieces that make us who we are. I wouldn’t want to let go of my roots and I wouldn’t want my husband to either.

There is one thing I know for sure, though, and that is I will never stand for being a Mr. and Mrs. husband’s first and last name. Whenever I do mail merges and I see that on labels I cringe a little. Call me a feminist or whatever you want, but I’m not assuming someone else’s identity and I would appreciate keeping my own. I believe marriage is about being apart of a team but teams are made up of individuals. This isn’t a declaration to never change my name—I’m nowhere close to needing to make that choice. I just know there will be a lot to consider when the time comes.

Joy in Pain

8 Oct

(Skip to 8:50)

Hearing good news amongst horrific world and life events can be such a blessing, but unfortunately sometimes another person’s happiness can bring out the worst in us. While we’re screaming aloud, “Congratulations,” we’re selfishly shouting internally, “Why can’t that be me?!” I don’t believe this means we aren’t genuinely happy for the people we love, but as humans we are also tragically self-interested.

Sadly, we’d much rather spend our time with people who are struggling equally or more than we are. When we’re unhappy at work, we don’t want to be surrounded by someone who is always bragging about how great their job is and how much money they make. Or when we’re going through a tough break up, we don’t want to be around a touchy-feely couple talking about how many kids they want. It would be more pleasant to hang out with an unemployed, hopelessly single friend; or to just put your finger in a socket.

As with all things, there needs to be a balance. Of course successful people are often oblivious to their own bragging—they’re just happy and want to share it. No one can fault them for that. It’s beneficial to have folks who can inspire and motivate us to do and be better. And while we can’t spend all of our time with miserable people drowning in self-pity, it’s also essential to have those who can relate to where we are right now.

The simple fact is that we will always want what we don’t have. My friend reminded me recently that single people only notice couples, and couples only notice singles. Likewise, when we finally reach our career goals, we will probably wonder what life would be like if we chose a different path. I don’t think that’s greed; I think that’s intrigue. Although these comparisons may go on for the majority of our lives, it feels amplified in our twenties because we’re in such different places.

One day we will be the bearer of good news and be grateful for others’ well wishes, and hopefully be sensitive to those who aren’t there just yet. Until then, though, we’ll celebrate in people’s good fortunes and recognize where our success lies.

Lucha En La Espera

26 Sep

la esperaWe spend a lot of our lives waiting. We wait for circumstances and people to change. We wait impatiently for the right person to come along. We wait agonizingly for life or death news of loves ones. We wait at grocery stores, in airport security lines, for grades to be posted, in traffic, for promotions, etc. No matter the wait, though, it’s an interesting situation we find ourselves in. Most people would prefer to skip this waiting stage, as we live in a fast-paced and outcome-oriented society; time is money. However, I believe there’s a lot of humility in the waiting period, and it challenges us in ways we’d often rather not be. 

Earlier this month I waited on foot for two and a half hours to cross the U.S.-Mexico border at San Ysidro, the busiest border crossing in the world. I hear about immigration a lot, but rarely do I witness it up close and personal the way I did that day. While I didn’t expect to wait that long, as I didn’t have any food, water or money with me, it was certainly a learning experience. I speak very little Spanish so I didn’t think we’d get into too many conversations with others in line, and most people seemed to keep to themselves anyway. No one had to speak; we were all in the same situation at that time—standing hot, tired, thirsty, waiting to get to our destination. We were all in the same boat for those two hours, no matter what our life situations were outside of that line. I found a lot of beauty in solidarity that day, but I also struggled in ways I couldn’t have predicted.

Much to our surprise, we made a friend in line. Now I’m not the kind of person to engage with strangers, especially in unfamiliar places. However, I’m also not someone who easily gets out of unwanted conversations for fear of hurting the other person’s feelings. With the being said, we crossed paths with a man named Robert, an English-speaking, cowboy boot-wearing, Mexican-born American. Although at first he seemed a tad annoying and we weren’t sure what he wanted from us, by the time we reached the end we realized we had made a friend where we least expected. He shared his life story, as he explained to us how his mother always said how he couldn’t shut up. The details and timeline are a little fuzzy and some if it didn’t seem 100% accurate, but it was a pretty crazy story—one I’m glad to know, as it helped me put some things into perspective. A man of many trades, he told me he can do anything he sets his mind to and that one day maybe he’ll write a book sharing his story. I hope he does.

I think it’s fair to say that in America, there is some shame in being Mexican; people stereotyping them as illegal immigrants, undocumented workers who don’t pay taxes and refuse to learn “our language,” and a bunch of other generalizations offered by those who don’t know their individual struggles. However, I never really stopped to think about what the Mexican people think about Americans. I still don’t have that answer, but on this day I was embarrassed to be an American by the way two young, white American men took advantage of the people in line, and I’m sure further confirmed their stereotype of Americans being selfish, ignorant, and in this case, drunk individuals who believe they’re above the law.

These men cut to the front of the line, trying to pay people to get ahead—the good old los Estados Unidos way. After several failed attempts they pushed their way into our small group of white Americans, where they could blend in. Despite everything I witnessed that day—hungry children, displaced and disabled elderly, deteriorating homes—this was the most uncomfortable. If the line was long before, it now felt as if it was at a standstill. Luckily our new friend Robert saw the discomfort and disgust in our eyes and made sure people knew we were not associated with these gringos, for fear of being kicked out of line. The men, of course, got through in record timing and I’m not particularly happy about it, but I am grateful for the support we received that day from strangers.

God bless the people who believed we stood apart from these men, even though we may have looked the same. God bless them for not putting us into a category, although some Americans wouldn’t have done the same for them. God bless all of those who stand in line every day, week, month or year; it’s no small task. I don’t know your reason for crossing; I don’t need to. I’m not naïve enough to think that every person who crosses the border is as innocent or kind as the people I encountered that day, but we shouldn’t give ourselves that much credit either

‘Til Death Do Us Part

13 Sep

weddingAt this point in our lives we’ve probably heard the rite of marriage spiel so many times that we don’t even listen to the words or give a ton of thought to them until it’s our turn to say I Do. Although the words are few, there’s a lot written in God’s fine print. Unfortunately, we can’t see it all with a magnifying glass, which makes it kind of a gamble since we can’t foresee the future roadblocks that will stand in the way of our happily ever after.

I mention this specific topic because this time last year my aunt passed away from cancer, and ever since then the “in sickness and in health” vow holds a very special place in my heart. Witnessing my uncle care for my aunt the way he did throughout the years she suffered, especially in the last few months of her life, I felt so awe-inspired by his strength, love and commitment to her.

Weddings are great. They’re filled with hope as two people make lifelong promises to each other; filled with love as their families unite to support those vows; and then they’re filled with alcohol at an open-bar celebration of the newlyweds. But as they say, when the party’s over and reality sets in, you shortly find out how strong your love is and how far it will take you. No one’s confused that relationships aren’t simple. At the end of the day it’s not always easy to give 100 percent and sometimes you can get away with only giving 60 or 80.

But when love requires of you to be a caregiver, there’s no other choice than to give 100 percent 100 percent of the time. Love has never demanded more sacrifice, understanding, patience, awareness, faith, presence or energy. It requires giving everything you have with getting little in return. Every day is a battle, not only for the person suffering, but also for the one watching and waiting. We all hope we get the cards that read “for better,” “for richer” and “in health,” but hitting that jackpot is rare. However, it’s not the hand we’re dealt; it’s how we play it that matters.

My friends and I sometimes talk about what our “perfect” guy would be like and we name goofy things like tall, good looking, adventurous, sociable, etc. While these characteristics may hold some priority, they don’t measure up in comparison to this bigger picture. It’s not to say we should settle for the next person who walks by, but it helps me better understand that the beginning honeymoon phase of a relationship that we relish in is much less important than the defining stages when love is put to the true test. We don’t pick and choose the vows we make so there’s no other choice than to be all in, “for worse,” “for poorer” and “in sickness.”

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