Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What I learned in the past year of life

Last week was my birthday. Yes, on a 3 day weekend which was glorious! I was able to sleep in a bit (although does anyone our age really sleep in past 8:30? I rarely do...), do a few chores, spend time with D, catch up on Netflix and have dinner with another couple.

My birthday falls just 2.5 weeks after the new year begins, so January is always (for good or bad) a time of reflection. During rough years, simultaneously turning older and facing a new calendar year either felt overwhelming as if looking back reminded me of all I felt I did not accomplish in the prior 12 months or felt freeing, like a chance to escape!  On good years, saying goodbye to the previous year felt a little sad, as if the unknown new year couldn't possibly top the last year.

The past year was both good and bad, so although I remember it fondly, I am grateful to see what the next year holds.  Here are a few lessons (both serious and humorous) learned in my last year of life:

(1) Give it a year.

2014 begin with a lot of frustration and disappointment. I felt like my life was full of struggles and I was also hurting for others that were facing their own trials.  At the beginning of the year, it seemed that some challenges would never end -- and yet 12 months later, life is different and better in so many ways. This seemed to be a trend for many in my life - and for that, I am very grateful.

(2) (For us) Yearly vacations are worth saving and splurging on. We should try to travel every year!

DC, marriage, work or job searching, volunteer work, obligations, studying for exams (D, not me!) can be exciting but also exhausting and mundane.  Everyday life has plenty of wonderful moments, but it's the stressful or boring moments that spur my heart on towards a little adventure.  Last year in particular, I was still in a temporary job and we did not have tons of extra cash for travel, but we decided to plan, save and purchase one part of the vacation at a time (plane first, then hotel, then tour/museum passes, etc) in order to make a cheap-ish adventure happen.  After a happy but challenging year, we were able to travel to Toronto.  The timing was perfect - right after I had started a new job and right after we moved.  It felt like a celebration for surviving the past year and a chance to catch our breath. Having time to explore, relax and reflect with D was amazing! Plus, as a planner, spending time saving and planning for this trip helped get me through the long cold winter!

In the process of saving for this trip,  someone made the comment about how I claimed we did not have much money, but I couldn't be that poor if I could afford this trip. I admitted that I was not really that poor in the grand scheme of things but our first trying year in expensive DC taught us a lot about cutting back and saving. And, I will admit, I felt a little defensive at first about how we spent our money, but then I reminded myself that we all have things that are worth splurging or saving towards...and whether everyone agrees or not, travelling is our splurge. One person may like to drive a nice car, wear expensive clothing, live in a cooler neighborhood, eat out often, etc. As a couple, our main splurge is travel. This may change as we have kids, but I really hope it doesn't change too much! Time spent exploring - whether domestically or internationally - is important to us!

So, I guess my point is: travel may not be your thing, but pick one thing to save and splurge for -- a nice piece of furniture, a new purse, a new camera, camp for your kiddos, eating at a fancy restaurant once a month, etc. If something is important to you and doable - with a little sacrifice -- don't feel badly about it, make it happen. When life is tight and circumstances are frustrating, it's nice to have one little splurge or treat to save for and get excited about.

(3) Create new traditions.

We live far away from both our families, so creating some new traditions was essential.  Cooking thanksgiving dinner with friends two years in a row (the first year in DC, the second year in NYC) has helped us start to make this holiday our own. We have other traditions too  -- like packing picnics for outdoor summer movies, walking to Georgetown on spring saturdays for coffee on the waterfront (clearly that tradition will be changing now that we live further out...)  I can't wait to create a few new traditions for our little family this year (including maybe doing our own little Christmas dinner and gift opening before heading home...)

(4) Parenthood is the best show about families on TV and I will cry when it ends this week. Also, everyone should have an "escape" show that they binge watch on Netflix.

This is somewhat humorous -- but somewhat serious.  If you don't watch Parenthood, commit to binge watch this snow on Netflix. It's amazing and you fall in love with the characters.

If you have watched Parenthood, then commit to watch another show.  I am one of the few believers that TV is a good thing. Too much TV is a bad thing, but television (or services like Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime or Netflix) can be a great cheap source of entertainment -- and when it was so cold last winter and the job search was disappointing, I LOVED coming home, putting my PJs on and curling up on the couch with D for a good show and distraction. (For the record, pre-D, I had plenty of stay in and watch TV nights with my roomies)

Also, on that note, BUY A won't regret it.  It was the best investment we made during our first year of marriage because it provided endless hours of tv and movie entertainment.

(5) The whole "less energy" as you age claim is true.  

A few years ago, I could get a few hours of sleep and function well, but now, I need 8. (or more...)
At first this was upsetting, but now I am embracing it....9:30 bedtime anyone?

(6)  Sometimes all you can do is accept that there are differences or hurt feelings and move past it.

We all hope for resolution in relationships -- apologies, acknowledgment that you were wronged or hurt, a conversation where both parties aim to do better.  Sometimes relationships change, sometimes people let you down and sometimes you don't get resolution.  I think the past year has taught me to mourn that and then move on. It may not always get resolved.  That's life.

But, I think it's also taught me that when you can get resolution - for yourself or someone else, do it.

(7) It is a blessing to have someone to "do life" with.

Marriage is great -- you know, romance, true love, commitment, etc.  You know what else? Marriage is extremely practical and comforting.  When the car needs a new starter, when we have to file our taxes, when I am sick and can't manage to cook dinner, there is someone here to help.  After talking to a single friend recently who just wanted someone to split the load with her, I remembered what a blessing marital teamwork is.  I've done life alone and I've done life with a co-pilot and it's easier together. Having someone else take the car to the shop may not be romantic, but I think that's the best part of marriage - splitting chores and sharing life.

(8) Embrace what is.

Embrace what is -- don't I sound zen? (quit laughing, family)

My first year of living in DC did not turn out exactly like I planned. It didn't turn out badly, but where we live, our friends, where I work, where we go to church - all turned out differently than I anticipated.  This was hard at first, but once I started to let go of what I thought would be, I enjoyed what was a lot more. 18 months in, I am enjoying friends, work, even living in the 'burbs (some days, ha)!

(9)  Single people are cooler.

Ok, married folks, don't get your feathers know it's true.  I am not saying that there aren't some really cool married folks. But, as a whole, singles are more fun.  I love married life with D-- and I still make an effort to do happy hours and girls nights, but the reality is that I was way cooler as a single person. (D was cooler too.)  I threw a lot more parties. I was invited to a lot more parties. I went to more charity events. I had more friends. I went to fun bars and restaurants more often.

Part of that changed because I got married - and part changed because I moved somewhere where I did not have as many friends. Oh, and part changed because I live in a more expensive city and can't afford to "go out" as much.

I love married life, so this isn't meant as a complaint.  My point is: single folks, keep dating, meet new people, pray the right person comes along....but, in the meantime, live it up and have a lot of fun...these are your coolest days :)

Thankfully, I have a lot of single friends so I still have brief moments of coolness.

(10) Being an Ole Miss Fan is tough, so being a lifelong Rebel is a true commitment.

I should know better: Don't get your hopes up because the Rebs will choke. I learned this lesson from the greatest Rebel fan I know (my dad).  Also, I have been an Ole Miss fan for 30 years now so this should be a lesson I have learned and relearned. But, after an incredible start this season, I have to admit, my expectations were higher than usual.  Even after a loss, I still expected a good season. Seeing the season unravel was difficult and it was even harder to see the Rebels fall apart at the Peach Bowl.  Compared to past years, Ole Miss did well this season, but at one point, it seemed that they would do so much better.

For the record, I never really thought the Rebels would go to the playoffs, but I did expect a stronger finish!  Hopefully this is just the first of many good years, all a little bit better than the previous one.

(See that, a foolish fan -- always a bit optimistic!)

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