Saturday, January 28

Don't Look Back in Anger

It's my first foray back into the blogosphere after temporarily disengaging to face the hardest working weeks of my life to date. That fourteen day period leading up to the holidays (which I lovingly termed "Just...Get...Through...This!") was an exercise in mind over matter--I started a new (part-time) job, endured and won my first semester-end battle with exams/papers/team projects, and actively attempted to maintain a social life in the midst of all those sleepless nights.

After dusting off all that end-of-year chaos, it still took me nearly a month to get used to the sound of the New Year, recover from yet another alcohol-fueled send-off to the last one and then crawl back into some semblance of "normality." With 2005 quickly falling into the distant past, I still can't help but reflect on what a personally pivotal year it was for me. And even with its many low points, I prefer to not look back with regret and bitterness, but instead learn from the past. So though a little belated, here are ten lessons from 2005, my year that was:

1.Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
Patience is a virtue and for a while, I wasn’t sure I had an ounce of it. This time last year, I was in the midst of my Long Winter Wait. Trapped in a shitty job that was slowly killing my spirit, I placed my entire future fate in the hands of an anonymous group of admissions committees who would single-handedly save me or send me deeper into my living hell. Sure, I concocted multiple exit strategies (including evil fantasy ones, like throwing my computer out the window so TPTB would just toss me out already!), but going to grad school was the choice I wanted most-- I needed it to happen so I could be within breathing distance of my Dream Job. So with clenched fists, I trudged through those seemingly endless months, made better by throwing a few well-timed "fuck you's" to my boss (behind his back, of course) and engaging in numerous happy hours and bitch sessions that didn’t necessarily make the time any sweeter, but at least got me through it…turns out, grad school was in the cards for me and it has been the most positive decision I’ve made for myself in over two years. there is nothing better than doing something that makes you even learn to appreciate the long, winding road that gets you there.

2. Be Aggressive, B-E AGGRESSIVE!
Besides being a cheer-tastic movie, Bring it On! also gave me a mantra to live by: patience may be important (see # 1), but wanting something and doing nothing about is the lamest excuse ever. I’m pro pro-activity. When I’m in an unhappy or unsatisfying situation, I immediately search for ways to push myself out of it. Change may not always happen immediately, but just knowing that I'm working on it always offers a flicker of hope. The thing is, you can't sit around and wish your life to change for the better—you have to be like Nike and JUST DO IT-- complaining gets you nowhere, and frankly, I don’t have any sympathy for those who complain and don’t act. Most importantly, never EVER let some jerk-off boss treat you like a doormat to wipe his shit-stained shoes on…if I learned anything from my last job, it’s that you have to stand up for yourself, take risks, and not be scared of yelling back or coming off as a bitch-- cuz honestly, you'll actually earn more respect and start hating yourself less.

3. Vacations are good for the soul
A week in Belize did wonders for my physical and mental health (seriously, i had four sinus infections from january-april of last year)...there is nothing like living on island time, where every day is sunny and every hour is Happy, if i could only find time for a vacay in 2006 on my meager student budget…

4. Never Underestimate the Benefits of a Summer Fling
Some action is better than no action. That’s all I have to say…

5. Feed Your Brain, It Needs Watering
the mind is a really weird instrument--it has the endless capacity to hold drawers full of pointless info (for instance, i can still name the entire roster of the 1986 World Champion Mets and tell you who won the Best Oscar Picture since 1972...i know, totally useless!)...but remember how to calculate a regression and the core economic theories of supply & demand--both, core subjects i took in college?--nope, barely recall a thing. the brain, like any muscle, needs exercise—we need to constantly feed it with intellectual energy or its becomes stale and lackluster. more than six years removed, 2005 marked my returned to the classroom. Finally, I was going to give my brain the workout it deserved. And now, more than i ever was in my four years as an undergrad, I was excited to read, write papers, do problem sets, and just plain learn. back in college, i used to skip statistics class. now, i totally geek out and can't wait to see how lectures translate into real world applications. It’s refreshing to acquire new skills, engage in intelligent conversation, and write in prose and not bullet points. sue me, i'm a born-again nerd.

6. If Memory Served Me Right, then I would Remember…
i refuse to believe that i'm at an age where not remembering the past eight hours of my life should be a regular occurrence...right??? i mean, that just doesn't make sense, unless...

7. ...So Don't Drink (Alcohol) on an Empty Stomach ...
oh yea, whoops. this is one of my BIG lessons learned from 2005. i mean, two times is a coincidence, three times is a four times blacking out due to drinking too much on an empty stomach means...what? a problem? FINE! i'm not the marathon drinker i used to be (sure, going out five times a week at 22 will push your tolerance up, but i guess age and tolerance are inversely related) should I resolve this? Well, i'm not gonna sign myself up for AA just yet. Instead, I’ll drink by this new personal rule: before imbibing cocktails, eat a Real Meal. Sure, I guess i should just drink less...but C'MON! that's like asking a bear to give up honey.

8. A Good Friend Will Yell At You
real friends will listen intently to you and offer sage advice on anything and everything. however, a really GOOD friend will yell at you, call you out on your bullshit and tell you the Awful Truth like you're acting like a bitch or you look God-awful in those jeans...sometimes it hurts ( i know my eardrums surely do), but it the best kind of friendship and makes you a better person (hopefully) ;)

9. Sleep is an under-rated recreational activity
2005 was the year i learned the value of sleep. not much rivals it...except maybe sex...but even then it may be a close call. five years ago, i use to survive on less than five hours of sleep per day...i blame NYC, restlessness, cocktails, and sunny days. now, i relish those rare moments where i can sleep for 12 hours and not feel guilty about it. Zzz…

10. Understand what excites you, and go after it
the most important lesson i've learned: never give up on the things that move you because you'll never forgive yourself. more than four years ago, i had that "a-ha" moment--where this light went off in my head and i understood exactly what i was passionate about. for me, I want to contribute to the urban education reform movement and every new change I made in my career since then was a change towards fulfilling that passion. There were many detours, wrong turns, stalled moments, and times when I was ready to give up and just surrender to where the money was…fortunately, I persisted and forced myself to listen to the voices nagging at me—including those of some good friends and mentors who have both nourished and encouraged me to achieve my goals. There is still a lot for me to do to get to where I want to be, but just knowing I’m pursuing it makes all the difference.

So Happy Belated 2006! Can’t wait to see what I learn from you this year…

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