Posts Tagged thankful

The past is gone. But wait, there’s more!

Whenever I think about the passage of time, I think in song lyrics — specifically this one: “The past is gone but something might be found to take its place.” (Thank you, Gin Blossoms)

Once I noticed that line hidden in obvious earshot in the chorus of the popular “Hey Jealousy,” I was drawn to it immediately. It’s true for everyone. The past is always gone. We can remember it all we want, but we’ll never get it back. The past is always gone. The lyric is true no matter who we are, but its emotional value depends on where we’re at in life — if we’re looking forward to exciting things to come or lamenting bygone times that brought us great happiness.

In each of our lives, there’s an element of both of these sentiments. In our twenties, many of us have exciting moments on the horizon of strengthening relationships, building commitments, succeeding in the career world in ways we find meaningful, adventuring and being ourselves. Yet many of us have moments when we look back and there’s no other way to say it: we plain miss college — miss our roommates and the closeness we shared, miss the $2 latte day at the best campus coffee shop, miss the atmosphere where friends and fun were two of the top priorities, maybe even miss a couple of our professors whose expertise guided us and an academic environment that taught us, if nothing else, how to learn about ourselves.

The further we progress toward 30 and beyond, the more marvelous moments our minds might stock up to recall with fondness. Maybe that’s why the lyric about the past didn’t strike me right away in college. Maybe, with a few more years behind me, I have that much more to miss.
The past is gone and that much is true, but the second half of what’s become my favorite Gin Blossoms line is just as true, too: “Something might be found to take its place.”
These words, to me, represent the hope and strength we need to move forward, even when we’re stuck in a moment of sadness for a past part of our life that we can never recreate. These words are a reminder that the best way to deal with the past and overcome nostalgia is to create a wonderful future.

Sitting here in the present of any particular moment, we can never truly know what elements of the future will take the place of the happiness — or the sadness or the struggles — of our past. We can’t always know, but we can find the answers. We can keep moving forward. We can do this. And we don’t really have a choice. Because “the past is gone but something might be found to take its place.”

The song doesn’t assure us that the future will be just as satisfying as the past. It uses the word “might,” which leaves a lot up in the air. But that’s what self-determination and free will are all about. Let’s use them to find our path and to find something new to take the place, not of everything in the past, but of everything we’ve loved. Let’s start now. Happy 2016.


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The contradictions of the Christmas list

It’s right around this time of year when an assignment comes due. This isn’t an assignment at work or at the career center where I volunteer — it’s one I owe my family.

Thanksgiving hasn’t even hit, and it’s Christmas List time in my think-ahead family. When I complete the assignment of emailing my mom some things I’d like as gifts, I’m sure to feel the same way I’ve felt each year after sending that email: materialistic.

There’s no avoiding it. I will have just sent a message about, you guessed it, material goods. And I will have thrown out the window the idea of need and listed a bunch of wants, unnecessary yet fun things like new Ugg boots, expensive running tights and back massage certificates.

Listing what I want for Christmas makes me feel selfish and spoiled — things I’ve worked hard throughout my twenties not to be. I’m blessed to have a supportive and stable family, but I try not to take advantage of that.

Throughout the year, I pay all my own expenses and try to do little things, like send real thank-you letters, keep in good touch with close friends, share candy and goodies at the office and call my grandparents occasionally, that show my appreciation for all the fantastic advantages and privileges in my life. In my heart, I’m thankful.

On Thursday when we go around the table and list things we’re grateful for, I’ll have plenty to say — my mostly enjoyable, challenging and important job, my reasonable and understanding boss, my simple ability to move all of my body parts and function fully, without disability, my enjoyment of physical activity and healthy eating, the friends I know will always be in my life, my faith, my fiancee and plenty more. I have so many things to be thankful for, but I know I don’t show it enough.

And then Christmas rolls around. And there are so many celebrations. Believe me, I’m not complaining. Just listing all the occasions for which people want to buy me gifts, even if I don’t need them, makes me see the blessing and the curse of it all.

There’s the real Christmas day, on which my family still has managed to celebrate with gifts in the morning despite three twenty-somethings working new-kid schedules that often include holidays. Then there’s Christmas afternoon, when my fiancee’s family gathers for a gift extravaganza that hasn’t scaled itself back to a Secret Santa or a cards-only occasion. Before the big day, my mom’s side of the family gathers over the weekend for a variation on the Secret Santa theme, and it’s a grand fiesta of family and festive foods. Before even that, it’s my fiancee’s family at it again, gathering for the German tradition of St. Nicholas Day.

It’s a first-world problem, for sure, but the spectacular celebrations of Christmas always make me feel materialistic along with blessed and loved. I’ll make some donations, but somewhere inside I’ll still feel selfish. I’ll give plenty of gifts to others, and I’ll put as much time and thought into them as I can. But I’ll still feel some guilt about the nice things I’ll gladly receive regardless of need.

Christmas isn’t supposed to be a time for materialism. So it’s time to change the focus. When my Christmas list comes due, I’ll find a way to complete the assignment — I am a rule follower, after all. But maybe, gradually, I’ll also find a way to work less material goods into the picture, leaving more room for what the season truly is all about: love, family, support, charity and a fresh start. Wishing you all that and more this holiday season.

Speak soon. Stay lucky.


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In the ABCs of Twenty-something life, Y is for You

You’re the only you you’ve got.
You’re the only you there is.
You’re worth it.
You matter.
You’re loved.
You’re valued.
You’re cared for.
You can do it.
You can do it all night long.
You’re sweet.
You’re unique.
“You only get one shot to not miss your chance to blow.”
You are the reason.
You might be someone’s answer.
You never know.
You have the answers.
You’re able to find them.
You determine your future.
You are powerful.
You are strong.
You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.
You are who you are.
You know who you are.
You remember.
“You is kind; you is smart; you is important.”
You are never defined by one thing alone.
You are not what happens to you.
You’re a winner.
You’re a fighter.
You can always make it better.
You rock.
You’re funny.
You make me smile.
You’re enough.
You’re you. And that’s all you’ll ever need.

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How to do laundry: A twenty-something approach

I still approach laundry like a college student.

Oh, the hamper is overflowing? No biggie. It can wait a couple more days. This doesn’t all want to fit into the washer? Too bad. Stuff it down harder. It’s not quite dry yet? Oh well, I’m out of quarters – time to air dry! No more socks? Well these ones don’t stink too bad – throw ‘em on again! And why bother sorting anything by color or fabric type? Wash it all in cold and you’re good to go.

“Don’t worry if you forget to add the laundry soap,” my mom told me during one laundry lesson before my freshman year of college. “As long as everything gets sloshed around in there, it’s better than nothing.”

That “better than nothing” philosophy still permeates my laundry habits today. That’s why I’m not picky about load size, type or colors. And I usually skimp on the powdered laundry detergent, too, buying the cheapest or second-cheapest variety at Wal-Mart and never filling the scooper completely to the top before dumping it to the bottom of the washer and calling it good enough.

I don’t advocate for a “good enough” or “better than nothing” philosophy in other areas of life. I’m all about keeping my word and exceeding expectations in my career. I’m all about being thoughtful, caring and loyal toward others in my personal life, definitely not about doing the bare minimum in anything that matters. I keep my life organized (except that my to-do lists often become messy) and my apartment clean (except when I’m attempting to bake chocolate chip banana bread), and I take care of my possessions so they’ll last a long time.

But when it comes to laundry, I’m not a stickler. I’m not a germaphobe. I know people aren’t very observant, so that speck of blue ballpoint pen ink on my light khaki pants surely will go unnoticed. I know people are lazy, so if I show up to work in an un-ironed shirt that’s slightly wrinkly, either no one will notice, or they’ll smile and understand. I guess I just have better things to worry about than what temperature my clothes reach inside the shared washer at my apartment and whether my sheets are washed with my dishcloths or the T-shirt rags I use to clean the bathroom sink.

The college philosophy is great – give it the old college try. Stay up until 2 a.m. and sleep until 9, then still make it to a 9:30 a.m. class on time. Think ahead, but only to next weekend or next summer. Try new foods, classes, drinks, experiences. Meet new people and make them your favorites. But spend as little time as possible on dishes, cleaning, paperwork and laundry.

We’ve got all of our lives to manage our households and keep our things fresh and clean. So why spend any more time during the adult version of the “prime of our lives” than we absolutely have to worrying about doing the wash? Even college-style – crammed, procrastinated, mismatched and lacking adequate supplies – the laundry will get done. And that’s something to be thankful for.

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Why it’s exciting to actually have TV (and money)

I’m sitting in front of the TV writing this now. I couldn’t have said that a month ago. And I’m kind of excited about it. Yes, it’s 2015 and I just said I’m excited about TV. If it was 1965, maybe that’d be acceptable, but now? Not so much. Still, there’s a reason I think it’s OK: because it’s a sign.

It’s a sign of a new level of economic status I’ve now reached as a twenty-something, and it’s refreshing. I can actually afford TV. TV with HD and a DVR. (Hello, recording Bulls games when I’m at night meetings! Hello recording silly things just to watch when it’s rainy or for some reason there’s nothing else to do!). I can afford TV with music channels and a YouTube app to watch workout videos and on-demand to watch movies and stuff. TV with so many bells and whistles I won’t even use them all, I’m sure of that. But I can afford it. Lucky me.

At 27 and three years into living on my own (aka not with my parents), it feels gratifying to be able to afford a last luxury-type thing that I previously thought was out of my range. TV service was really the last holdout, the last thing about which I could be accused of being a major cheapskate (other than small stuff like swiping extra napkins from Panera and Starbucks or reusing plastic snack bags because, c’mon, you obviously can put trail mix in the same bag twice).

It wasn’t so much that I literally couldn’t scrape together the money to pay for TV service, it was that it didn’t feel like the smart thing to do, and TV was something on which I was willing to skimp until I felt more comfortable with my money for the long term. We can’t expect to set ourselves up well for the future if we don’t make smart decisions now, so for a while, TV was out.

TV was my last cheapskate item, but maybe yours is a vacation a plane flight away instead of within a reasonable driving distance, or a vacation at a real hotel with a fantastic hot breakfast buffet instead of at a motel with a cracked mirror and questionable carpet. Maybe your last withheld luxury is going to pro sports games with friends instead of backing out half of the time, or having the free cash to sign up to run races, obstacle courses or triathlons.

So when you get that next raise or you make that last student loan payment and you realize, “Hey, I actually have money!” it’s going to be a good feeling – a good but subdued feeling. You won’t want to jump for joy. It might not even hit you right away. But eventually you’ll notice a few extra dollars in your checking account. You’ll wonder how it ended up there and what you should do with it. You’ll gain a new level of thankfulness for everything that’s allowed you to have this money – the blessings you can’t even count, your hard work, your parents’ support, your steady job, your education, your socioeconomic class, your parents’ support (so important it’s worth mentioning twice), your privileges and advantages everything that makes you you.

Maybe you’ll donate a few bucks. Or save a few bucks. Or decide to run the air conditioning more often, to move to a bigger apartment or splurge on expensive groceries from time to time.

Or if you’re like me, you’ll rejoin the world of 2015 and rejoice in some glorious TV. So for now, it’s back to the screen and a multitude of viewing choices.

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In the ABCs of Twenty-something life, O is for Outdoors

Over the weekend, my Prius and I took advantage of a preferred parking spot for fuel-efficient vehicles at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle. Not because I’m lazy or because I think driving a hybrid makes me special — there’s a great South Park episode to prove otherwise — but just because it’s darn cold.

The outdoors this season are a frozen tundra of chilly annoyance, icy driving hazards and poorly timed snowstorms, and I want to avoid all that as much as possible. Avoiding the outdoors, though, is not my style the rest of the year. I love being outside.

I’ll run, bike, walk, read, write, eat or even nap outside if I’m not going boating, water skiing, tubing, kayaking, Frisbee golfing or stand-up paddling, unless I’m playing basketball, tennis or soccer. Being outdoors and experiencing nature makes life better, they say, and I’m a big believer… Three-quarters of the year.

The problem with winter is it steals the outdoors from our easy enjoyment. Sure there’s snowshoeing and sledding and cross-country skiing, winter running at Santa 5Ks and hiking while bundled like an eskimo. But all of that requires the extra effort of dressing properly for the cold.

Around the holidays, there’s plenty of darkness and time to drive around checking out Christmas lights, but that’s not really being outdoors. There’s walking to the car from the office or the gym or the grocery store or your favorite sports bar or your best friend’s place, but that doesn’t leave any time to enjoy being outside — just long enough to stare at parking lot pavement and wish upon a snowflake for spring.

The problem with winter, for those of us who have mostly outdoor hobbies, is it leaves us with very little to do when the temperature makes it impossible, unbearable or at least unpleasant to be outside for more than 5 minutes. And I’m definitely one of those people who has mostly outdoor hobbies, like my long list earlier proves.

I can read and write and eat inside, thankfully. I can run inside on treadmills, but the silly machines annoy me more and more every year. I can bike inside, too, on those stationary bikes where all I really do is move my legs up and down a little bit and read fitness magazines. I could play basketball inside … if I went to a fancier gym or drove 15 miles to a rec center with open gym hours and battled teenagers for court space. But what’s the point of all that?

The point is winter sucks when most of your enjoyment comes from being outside. Not always from being outside on its own, but from being outside AND, as in being outside and biking, or being outside and reading, or being outside and simply exploring the surroundings. That’s pretty tough to do when the mercury reads “you’re an idiot to be out here!”

There are plenty of reasons to complain when it’s cold  — constant goosebumps and shivers being the least of them — so I’m really not trying to add to the complainers’ chorus. I’m just trying to talk up the benefits of being outdoors, of hearing sounds that aren’t human-made, of discovering scenes off the beaten path, of learning and observing and watching the seasons change.

Let’s just hope this dreary season of minimal outdoor enjoyment changes soon to a spring of flowers and sunnier days and warmth.

Until then, I’ll be on the hunt for a new indoor hobby … Jigsaw puzzles, anyone?

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What’s most important?

It was one of those moments when I noticed my phone was ringing just a second too late to fish it from my purse and pick it up. It was my boss calling at 7 p.m. on a Sunday, so the disgruntled worry that something annoying would be going on at work the next day set in immediately. My boss usually doesn’t bug me on the weekends, so I decided to get up from my table at Chili’s and call him back right away.

And after a two-second lead-in that still sounded like I was going to have a super-early or obnoxious assignment the next day, I was rudely reminded of my own selfishness and of what really matters, what’s most important.

A co-worker of mine was in the hospital after a serious – and seriously unexpected – medical condition cropped up. Things weren’t looking good.

“Is she going to die?” I asked aloud to the group at my table after I told them the news. No one knew, of course, but death was my first concern. Her condition was that dire.

Thoughts of things like … why wasn’t the food here yet and what was I going to wear to work tomorrow and how many unpleasant phone calls might I have to make and when would I find time to buy my sister a housewarming present and did I eat too much dessert yesterday … all those thoughts vanished as soon as I heard “she’s in the hospital.”

Because with the sound of those words, I remembered what’s most important – and what’s not. Restaurant speed, clothing choices, complaints about less-than-enjoyable tasks at work and worries about time constraints or overeating sure aren’t it.

I hung up from that phone call remembering, or maybe truly realizing, that people are most important in our lives. Not jobs or money or things, people. Our parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, girlfriend/boyfriend/partners, teachers, acquaintances, roommates, former roommates, aunts and uncles, cousins, exes, in-laws, bosses, doctors, dentists, lawyers, random people who serve us at restaurants and stores and hotlines, and of course, our co-workers. The people we volunteer with, the people we walk past in shopping malls or run past on neighborhood trails or bike past in forest preserves or drive past on road trips. All people we meet are people we can influence in some way, and they can shape us, too. They are the most important.

Why our minds override this knowledge that people should come first, I honestly don’t know. Why we create voids in our lives by pushing away people who care for us or failing to keep in touch with people who understand us or barely making time for people who make us laugh, I also don’t know.

All I know is that people, and our bonds with them, are the most important part of our lives.

I remembered that as I expressed my shock and began praying for my co-worker that Sunday night. I remembered that as I felt a hand on each of my shoulders – my boyfriend’s on my left and my mom’s on my right. I remembered that as I made the inevitable unpleasant phone calls the next day and planned a time to buy my sister something useful for her new apartment and ate cookies again for dessert. I hope that realization colored the way I acted, and not just for the days following the news, but for always.

I feel like God and the world were trying to tell me something that weekend, so I’m passing it along to you. Remember what’s most important: People are, and it’s time we acted like it.

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