How I’m Finding Happiness in the Here & Now

How I’m Finding Happiness in the Here & Now

For the past week or so, I’ve been feeling stuck.  My focus has been lacking, my creativity has been nonexistent, and I’ve just not been feeling like myself.  When I’ve been trying to write, I’ve felt a wall go up: I can’t figure out what I’m ready to share about myself and my experiences.  Every time I try to write about my experiences, I lose my words. It’s like a wall goes up within me that stops me from sharing. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly why I’m in this rut right now.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently reflecting and I keep coming back to this point: a year ago, I was preparing to embark on an amazing adventure that would cause huge amounts of growth in me as a person.  For the last year of my life, I have changed locations and routines approximately every four months. I have not settled and now, I’m going back to a routine of sameness and I can’t help but fear that in settling in one spot, I’m not growing enough as a person.  I had a feeling I would go through a struggle this semester, and it’s the very reason I did not study abroad: I need to learn how to be in one place for a while.  

Staying physically in one place and one lifestyle though does not mean my life needs to be boring, mundane, or lack growth.  Today, I realized that staying in one place and having a routine here is giving me the opportunity to do what I haven’t done in a while: pursue things just because they’ll make me happy.  I have been so constantly moving for a year that I haven’t taken time to do things just because. I’ve felt like I had to experience everything all at once because each place I’ve been in, I’ve had a limited time there.  Even over break when I was home in New York, I felt this weird sense of urgency: I had to go to the diner and my favorite coffee shop and to see a Broadway show, because I don’t know when I’ll be back and able to do it all.  Now in DC, I don’t have that urgency and when I push aside my fear of sameness for a moment, it’s almost freeing to be able to prioritize my happiness without feeling like I’m missing out on something.

So, this semester, I’m going to do things for no reason other than that I want to and they will make me happy.  And to be honest, I have no idea what I’m going to do. Maybe, I’ll take that pottery class I’ve always said I was going to take.  Maybe, (when the government opens again), I’ll spend a day reading at the National Portrait Gallery or maybe, I’ll find my way back to an old hobby, like songwriting.  I don’t have to plan it all out perfectly for once. I can just live in the present for a while.

 

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My New Year’s Resolution

My New Year’s Resolution

Every December, I begin to think about New Year’s Resolutions.  I usually find myself at a bit of a cross roads: I never stick to my resolutions, but I want to improve myself and new year’s resolutions seem like a good way to do so.  I tell myself this year will be different than last– this will be the year that I will stick with it. And, sometimes I do well. Last year, I pledged to live healthier and I stuck to it for a large majority of the year.  I aspire to get back to the mindset I had, as it was such a healthy and happy state of being.

Other years, my resolutions have sent me down paths of disaster.  My freshman fall at Georgetown, I struggled and it showed in my grades.  I had always worked hard and had my hard work pay off, but it seemed things would be different in college.  I would need to work harder. Ever the planner, I resolved to improve my life in all areas and I made a literal life plan for myself, with goals for each day, each week, each month, each semester, and each year for the next three and a half years planned out.  These goals included health, academics, extracurriculars, professional development, and social. This life plan did not work out too great, as life did not want to stick to my plan and soon, everything was out of place. I was devastated and after a few tearful meltdowns, I gave up the life plan.

This year, as I think about what my resolution should be or if I should even make any, I keep coming back to one thought.  My 2018 was incredible because nothing went as I planned. Everything was jumbled and out of place, but that mess included some of the happiest times in my life.  So many of those moments almost didn’t happen because they didn’t fit in with what I had imagined for the year and that would have been a true shame.

So, this year, I’m setting one resolution: I’m going to try to plan less.  This doesn’t mean I will abandon my perfectly color coated google calendars or stop scheduling out how I plan to study for classes.  But, it does mean I will get less bogged down in the details.  I will not let my perfect plans rule my life.  Rather, when opportunity knocks, I will greet it, instead of cowering away in the corner because I had not booked it into my calendar.  And if opportunity happens to offer to change my life, I will gladly shake his hand and throw away the schedules and calendars, happily pursuing the adventure life has given me.

Over my bed, I have a canvas that reads, “Anything can happen if you let it,” a favorite quote of mine from Mary Poppins.  Like usual, she’s quite right. She is practically perfect, after all.

 

2018 Year in Review: Part One

2018 Year in Review: Part One

This is part one in my year in review content.

Five hundred twenty-five six hundred minutes

How do you measure a year in a life?

A friend recently reminded me of these lyrics and as 2018 comes to a close, I find this on my mind.  2018 was a great year, but how do I describe it in the context of my life? How do I measure all of the experiences from this year?

To preface, I ended 2017 feeling lost and confused.  I felt like I had lost my sense of self, like for the first time in my life, I had no idea where I was going.  All I knew was that I wanted to change directions: I wanted to find myself, to rebuild, to be better. Looking back month by month at 2018, I am sure that that lost and confused girl would smile at what a year did.

Here’s part one of my year in review:

January: The year started off in the place that would be the most influential spot of the year, Magic Kingdom.  On this last family trip before my College Program began, I knew that Disney World would give me an adventure, but I had no idea how much this program would change my life.  The month progressed with me having a bit of dead time that I spent enjoying home and New York. During this time, I volunteered with my high school’s speech and debate team and saw some wonderful old friends.  These days were some of the most important of the year. They reconnected me to my younger self, one that had passion and drive. They connected me to a version of myself that had no doubt I would change the world for the better.  The month concluded with the beginning of an adventure: I moved to Orlando, Florida and into my apartment at Vista Way on January 29. These last days of January are some of my favorites: they brought me three of my greatest friends, Kelsey, Beth Anne, and Destiny.  These girls, my roommates, have become my rocks and I treasure our friendships.

February: February began with some roommate bonding and exploring of our new neighborhood.  Beth Anne mapped out for us a day to go hotel hopping around the Disney resorts and the day ended with us eating dole whips by the pool at the Polynesian– in my opinion, that is how all good days should end.  Two days later, my Disney adventure truly began, as Destiny and I went through our Traditions (Disney orientation) together and got our park admission (aka the key to the kingdom, quite literally). I spent my first days off exploring the parks alone and my first days of work going through training, following by spontaneous roommate trips to the parks at night.  I look back so fondly at these first days: the magic was so alive and vivid. February also brought me one of my favorite people in the entire world, Julie. Julie and I worked together and after our last day of training, Julie asked me to go to Magic Kingdom with her that night. That one question formed a most wonderful friendship. For the rest of the month, Julie and I were practically inseparable and spent all of our days off exploring parks together.

March: March brought my first family visit and I was so happy to see them and show them around my new home.  The rest of the month can be summarized by the arrival of new friendships. I grew closer with my coworkers and I felt the magic in Disney changed.  No longer was the magic from the place, but rather the people I got to spend every day with. I could not get enough of these people: we worked together for forty hours a week and I still wanted to spend every moment off with them.  These park adventures we went on together were some of the most random, unplanned, yet magical days I had my entire program. I cannot say enough times how much I love my coworkers and friends I made at Disney: they are my Ohana.

 

April: March ended and April opened with festivities: Destiny turned 20!  We celebrated in appropriate Disney fashion: with a character breakfast.  The month continued with hang-outs with my amazing coworkers and one of my favorite days of my entire program: a day spent at Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival with Beth Anne and a good friend of mine from work, Sadia.  I mention this day specifically because it was so wonderful: the three of us spent hours together, laughing, joking, and eating at every country in the world showcase. It was the definition of pure bliss. This day was shortly followed by a very special family visit– they were here to celebrate my dad’s birthday and my sister even came along: we had so much fun celebrating together.  The latter parts of the month were spent trying to take advantage of the parks as much as possible and spend time with friends, as my departure date of May 17 started to creep closer. It was in this time that I found Disney and Orlando had become a home to me.

 

May: May was a month of many tears and goodbyes.  As my departure day approached and many friends departed before me, I found myself realizing how much this program had meant to me.  It gave me people who truly loved me and appreciated me. It gave me people who had magic within them and they gave some of that magic to me.  Together, we were able to make the world a little bit happier. I tearfully walked through Magic Kingdom in those last days, staying on Main Street with friends until we could stay no longer, passing by every cart I had worked at with a wistful look in my eye, and watching Happily Ever After, the fireworks show that had lit up my workdays.  I cried as I turned in my key and took one last look at Vista Way, the place that had been my home since January. I knew as I drove away that this place had changed me. I would miss it and the people dearly.

 

The Days with No Name: Living in the Moment and Adventures at Tiffany’s

The Days with No Name: Living in the Moment and Adventures at Tiffany’s

The days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve may be the strangest that the year has to offer.   It’s a no man’s land in a sense: there’s no sense of time or urgency in these days. Wednesdays slip into Thursdays and Thursdays slip into Saturdays without anyone realizing or even batting an eyelash over where Friday disappeared to.  I might be weird and it may shock some considering my love of Christmas, but these are my favorite days of the year. There’s something refreshing about losing the stress culture society’s gotten us to buy into over the years: anything is possible in these days.

This year, I’m spending these days doing things I love to do.  I’m writing blog posts, I’m taking photos, I’m spending time with loved ones.  And so far, these days have been wonderful. Wednesday, I spent the day watching Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with my mom before eating at an all you can eat sushi restaurant nearby for dinner.  There was nothing extravagant about the day, but that’s what made it so wonderful– there was no stress, no pressure, no worries.

Thursday, I went into New York City with my mom to go to Blue Box Cafe at Tiffany’s.

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My mom and I at Blue Box Cafe

 I have wanted to go here since they opened and so, a month ago, I frantically got on my computer exactly at 9 AM to make a reservation and I will admit, those minutes were some of the most stressful of my life as I watched reservations be booked out for the day in only five minutes.  But, it was all worth it. I don’t think there’s a better way to deserve my love for Tiffany’s than by providing my favorite monologue from all of Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

“The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling? …Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it. Nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then — then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name!”

There is nothing like Tiffany’s and no better time to enjoy it than this strange little holiday season.  After Tiffany’s, my mom and I continued to enjoy the city, browsing through Bergdorf’s and Bendel’s, before making it to New York’s craziest spot: the Christmas tree.  Even with all the crowds and the pushing and shoving, I can’t help but marvel at it. It’s spectacular.

Looking forward from here, my plans aren’t so clear.  I’ll meet some friends here and there, work on my blog and internship applications, and just enjoy these moments.  The thing about these days is that they are very finite: I know the second the clock strikes midnight and rings in 2019 that it is all over.  The dates will become clear again, everyone will be back to work– I’ll have only a week left at home before I return to school again and a new semester will begin.  In these days, it’s like the whole world is Cinderella at the ball, but reality will strike again. For now, I plan to appreciate these days as much as I can and take joy in whatever life gives to me.

 

Where are you, Christmas?

Where are you, Christmas?

Where are you Christmas?  Why can’t I find you?

Lately, I’ve been in a bit of slump and I’ve been trying to cover it up with excitement, but the truth is: this year is missing some Christmas spirit for me.  I’m not sure exactly why– maybe, it’s the aftermath of a stressful finals period and now the waiting for final grades to be released or maybe, it’s the rushed feeling that has been in my home as we struggle to get everything done in time for the holiday or maybe, it’s even the distress that comes along with following politics this season.  Whatever it is, something just feels off to me.

I think admitting that we can’t feel the holiday cheer is something hard for a lot of us to do.  What is wrong with us that we don’t just feel overjoyed this season? In almost every Christmas movie, the people who don’t feel Christmas cheer are often villains or mean people. They live quite unhappy and grouchy lives until someone opens their eyes to how great Christmas can be (often by going to some small, adorable town where they find love and community). But, sometimes, not feeling the holiday spirit doesn’t mean you’re a grinch or have let the season go.  In fact, sometimes, it’s exactly the opposite: you want more than anything to be able to feel the Christmas cheer that everyone else seems to feel.

Right now, I’m at a personal struggle.  Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year and I told myself that finals were just a blip in my Christmas spirit radar.  I would spend a week unhappy, but then I could get back to happiness and excitement. I came home though and found that was not the case– no matter how many Christmas songs I listen to or movies I watch, something just feels off.  

A hard part of self-care is checking in with where you’re at emotionally and not beating yourself up if you aren’t where you want to be.  It is okay to not feel overwhelmed with excitement during Christmas, even if you wish you were. It is okay to feel sad or alone or confused.  I’ve said it before, but I think we, myself included, could all do to hear it again: it is okay to still be human during the holidays.

Despite this all, I’m still holding out hope that I can find my perfect Christmas cheer again.   Maybe, I’ve been looking in the wrong places.  Maybe, Christmas spirit doesn’t live in hundreds of cookies or fancy wrapped boxes with ribbon or pretty decorations around the house.  Maybe, every Christmas movie does have it right: it’s in the love that’s all around us every day.

 

It’s the Most Wonderful {and Busiest} Time of the Year

It’s the Most Wonderful {and Busiest} Time of the Year

The holiday season is most certainly one of the busiest.  There is so much to get swept up in: there’s finals, shopping, holiday parties, and the list goes on and on.  I often find myself wishing for more hours in the day, but during the Christmas season, I find this feeling is even more prevalent in my life– I want to go see all the Christmas decorations, spend time with my family making cookies, go to every holiday party I can, spend nights in with hot chocolate and Christmas movies, and still manage my regular day-to-day life.  It seems there is never enough time to do everything at the holidays. So, this season, I’m trying to make the most of the time that I have and be thankful for it. Today, I’m sharing what I’m most looking forward to in the rest of the holiday season.

What I’m looking forward to:

  1. Cookie making.  I am so excited to be home and able to participate in my yearly tradition of baking Christmas cookies with my mom.  I’ve written about how much this tradition means to me in the past, but I can’t reiterate enough how important this tradition is to me.  It’s a time for my mom and I to be together, but also connects us to our loved ones who have passed on. It keeps them in the season with us.
  2. Seeing all the New York Christmas decorations.  While I spend the majority of my time in Washington, D.C., I always say that my heart is in New York and that is especially true during Christmas.  There is nowhere in the world where Christmas magic can be felt more than New York. I have wanted to go see the window decorations and the Rockefeller Center tree again for a couple years now, but have never made it into the city on time, but I’m definitely making that a priority this year.
  3. Christmas Eve dinner.  If you’re an Italian-American, you will understand this one.  There is no holiday that has as good of food as Christmas Eve, in my personal opinion.  Every year, we go out to our favorite restaurant for their buffet that includes the Italian fishes, pastas, and zeppole for dessert.  I also love Christmas Eve dinner because it is a really relaxed time for my family, where we just are able to enjoy being together without any stress.
  4. Spending time with friends and family.  Going to school in a different city than I grew up in is absolutely amazing– I love the independence I have gotten from this experience.  However, I definitely miss home, my friends, and my family when I’m away. I love Christmas because everyone is home, at least for a little while, and it is a great time to catch up with everyone.

 

 

Ranking My Favorite Christmas Songs

Ranking My Favorite Christmas Songs

When I lived at home, every November 1st, I would quietly change the radio station in my mom’s car from her adult pop hits station to Sirius XM’s Holly, the Christmas music station.  It would take about a few days before my mom would realize what I had done and would rant to me about how Christmas did not start until after Santa came down the road during the Thanksgiving Day Parade, to which I would always protest that Christmas music is too good to listen to only for a month.  So today, in honor of this love I hold for Christmas music, I’m ranking my favorite songs for the season:

5. What Christmas Means to Me.  This song is an underrated bop and I don’t just say that because I had all the lyrics committed to memory when my high school choir sang this for our Christmas show sophomore year.  It is such a fun and exciting song– it makes you want to dance!

 

4. Last Christmas. This song has been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember.  I am a huge fan of 1980s pop, and this song has that fun vibe to it that causes me to start singing it without even meaning to.  Also, this song has the perfect amount of Christmas cheer mixed with angst that makes it IDEAL to sing along to.

 

3. Dominick the Donkey.  In my second grade music class, we had to vote for our favorite Christmas song and I still remember my teacher’s shocked expression when we all voted for this song.  It’s one of those songs you don’t want to love– you want to find it annoying and hate it, but then you find yourself going ‘la la la’ along with the song.

 

2. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.  This song is another one of my favorites for as long as I can remember but as I’ve gotten older, I have grown in my love and appreciation for it.  The original version of the song is beautiful in its anticipation for the future and honesty: life is not perfect now, but next Christmas, it will be.  Newer versions of the song have tried to make it happier, but there is something so authentic and wonderful about a song that does not sugarcoat.
1. All I want for Christmas is You.  No surprise here.  It’s a classic and is one even the biggest grinch can’t help but sing along and dance to.