Bring On 2016

I go back and forth with my feelings about New Year’s Resolutions. Sometimes, when I’m in a particularly productive mood, I love resolutions and think they’re humanity’s best friend; and other times, after I’ve tried to accomplish certain resolutions for eleven months and twenty-some-odd days, I hate them for the humanity-sucking leeches that they are.

But at the moment, I’m feeling quite productive, so I say, “Bring on the New Year!” and, with a triumphant shake of my fist, I will prepare my resolutions.

I like to go big or go home. In stasis, I think it’s important to have an evenly spread set of goals for the new year — you don’t want to only focus on one area of your life, and neglect the others. There are four categories that I think will sufficiently cover your bases: health, financial stability, passion, and others. Because I do happen to be in a pretty productive mood, I’m jumping right on in and making one resolution per category; but, if you are looking to make your own resolution and feel that you need to focus on one area of your life right now, do it. In moments of need or crisis, you should not be ashamed to give your full attention to the part of you that is most hurting; always assess your priorities.

Let’s take a closer look at these categories, shall we?

Health.

 Arguably the most important category — you could have money in the bank, the job of your dreams, and a wonderful social circle, but if your health is on the decline, it’s going to be hard to enjoy any of that. Keep in mind, this is physical health, as well as mental health — for those who suffer from depression, sometimes the best resolution they can make is to keep their head above the surface.

I’ve decided to continue my pre-New Year’s resolution that I made just one month ago — to gain ten pounds — and spread it out over all of 2016, because gaining weight is exhausting. Part of this newly defined goal will be not only to gain weight, but to get in shape while I’m at it — overall, to be healthy. It would really be counterintuitive to gain ten pounds but also become a diabetic in the process.

Financial stability.

For many people, this means chipping away at college loans. For others, it means putting a downpayment on a house. But if you’re anything like me, you’re all the way back at square one: topping off your emergency fund. Early in 2015, I decided it was a really stupid idea not to have an emergency fund, so I started saving up. Then, lo and behold, medical bills forced me to tap into that fund (isn’t irony a sly little devil?) and take a huge chunk out of it. Well, a penny-miser will not be discouraged by the cruel smack of Life; I will plump up my emergency fund, and it won’t even take the full year. And then I can save for a downpayment on a house.

The thing is, a lot of people want to live like they’re not owned by money, that they could own nothing and still find content… which is all well and great, but you still want to take care of yourself. Once you have your bases covered, you can go on and live above money’s puppetry, but until then, don’t let it bring you down. What I’ve found extremely helpful is breaking the goal down into chunks to make it less overwhelming. Take a moment to figure out what you really need, and then make a month-by-month schedule to lead yourself straight to that goal.

Passion.

Now on to the more interesting resolutions, right? Because whatever goal you make that is geared toward your passion will ultimately affect the decisions you make for any financial or health goals. Hell, pursuing your passions tends to do wonders for your mental health. So what kind of resolutions could you make? Do you want to build something? Finally take those singing lessons? Start that family business? Travel to another country?

My resolution for this category is essentially what it was last year: to finish what I’ve started. I have a handful of passion projects that are all half-complete, mainly because I lack motivation to do what I love. And where’s the logic in that? This is the stuff I should be excited to do, that I get done early because I just can’t help it: finish METAMORPHOSIS, my senior thesis film in college that I love and adore and still have not finished; see the completion of QUARRY and FOX HUNT, a short film and a web series that I worked on in California; publish The Fields.

I thought I was  going to accomplish. That last one this year,when I sent the manuscript out to agents over the summer. Welp, no cigar, folks. One agent professed interest, and then never got back to me. Luckily, I’m at least heavily invested in the story, and will keep revising until I get it right. There are still plenty of agents out there, so maybe this next draft will do the trick.

Others.

 Another important one that seems to get swept under the rug. Seeing as how many New Year’s resolutions seem to revolve around one’s self, it is always a very humbling — yet fulfilling — experience to force your way out of that box and focus on someone other than you. Sometimes other people need help to achieve their own goal; you could be that person.  Not only will you be able to connect with a person within your own family or community, but you will also have the joy of seeing that person’s joy. For me, helping my dad finally get his fudge business up and running seems to be a strong contender for the focus of this resolution. The man hates his job, but he loves making fudge. So why not make fudge for a living? Well, my family has been telling him to do it for years, and this year it may finally happen. But he’s gonna need some help.

Maybe it isn’t even about helping someone achieve their goals; maybe you just want to make a resolution to be kinder to the people around you; to talk to more strangers; to slow down and help someone who is struggling. Whatever the focus may be, it has the potential to be the most rewarding resolution of all. Because this world that you see around you isn’t all about you; and sometimes it’s so easy to forget that.

In fact, if you don’t make any other resolution this year, at least make a half-resolution to be more open to others. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy; all you have to do is pay a little more attention to the people around you. If you already do this, just bump it up a notch. I try to do this every day, but I admit, I’m selfish, and I get distracted by my own woes and problems… But at the end of the day, the world still stands. Let’s try to make it stand a little taller, shall we?

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Doing Christmas Wrong

It is Saturday morning. The majority of Midtown Harrisburg is still, the result of those relishing the laziness of a day off combined with the scattered few still recovering from HMAC hangovers. And a marching band begins to play.

I open the door, and behind me Liz comes bounding down the stairs. “Is that a real band?” she asks, and we grab our coats and go outside to investigate. Sure enough, there is a cluster of musicians on the corner of Green and Muench, decked in bows and bells and Christmas tree hats, and playing Christmas songs.

“I wish I brought my phone!” I say, thinking of the photo op presented to us; but Liz shakes her head.

“No, Sam!” she says. “Live in the moment!”

Wise words, Liz. In the last remaining week before Christmas, I will take that to heart.

imageAt about this time every year, I start panicking about Christmas presents. There’s no real need to panic; for the most part, I’ve gotten the major gifts out of the way, and just have to do some touch-ups; but there’s always that concern that my gift is going to be a flop, or I’ve forgotten someone, or that somehow, I’m doing Christmas wrong.

But that’s just the point, isn’t it? Maybe that is doing Christmas wrong. Maybe we constantly do all holidays wrong. Whatever you believe about whatever holiday you celebrate, I can almost guarantee you that it did not start off the way it is today. And I’m not talking about the stories that these holidays are rooted in — let’s set those aside for a moment, and focus on the traditions for a second. Gift-giving can’t always have been the standard in holiday celebrations; in fact, the very idea of a gift proves that statement true. You give a gift because you want to lavish love on the person to whom you give it. That handful of people whose love language is gift-giving stepped forward and exercised the only way they knew how to love; and then, in humanity’s true fashion, we adopted that love and blanketed it over the entire population and made it a sort of twisted requirement.

imageThere was a time when I wanted my gift to my entire family to be a trip. A few years ago, I said, let’s go somewhere in the US that we’ve never been before, that has a different culture than the one we’re used to, and experience it together. Let’s forget about presents and just spend time with each other. But with life, comes complications: first, there was the argument of how we would get there (flight, or road trip? Or in other words, lots of money, or lots of travel stress?), and then, in the end, it all came down to the fact that my grandparents wouldn’t be able to come with us. And let’s be honest, I couldn’t imagine not spending the holidays with them. (In retrospect of this year’s circumstances, I’m very glad we chose to remain with them.)

But the thought behind a trip was that it would cast aside all the busyness and stress that Christmas shopping brought into the mix, and simplify things into what the holidays are supposed to be: a time for family, whether by blood or by choice. A time to relax into the arms of your loved ones, to stop time just for one day and ignore the constant rush of everyday life. To live in the moment; to breathe, and know that you are breathing in love.

image.jpegToday, I think we can still accomplish that, as long as we’re intentional about it. Even if we don’t take a trip, and even if we still fuss over what to get that last family member.

There have been a lot of things lately that have nearly pushed me over the edge emotionally, but the thing that has gotten me through is the thought of the people around me who care, and love, and cherish. The people who worry over you, even if you don’t want to be worried over, because they can’t imagine a world in which not caring would be a good thing. Whether family or friends, I choose to embrace these people, because they are the reason that life continues. Sometimes we forget to look around us and see this.

image.jpegIf you haven’t already today, take at least one moment to do just that. Recognize the people who you consider to be family — at the very least, recognize them. Shit happens, and you want to make sure you experience every ounce of them before it does. Don’t let gift-giving and picture-taking get in the way of experiencing love, and don’t take love for granted. It’ll always be there, but the people who harness it may not. And that, my friends, is what the holidays are about: harnessing that love and experiencing it in the moment you have before you.

Hornet’s Nest

I had a dream the other night. I dreamt that I was with two people; one was a friend, and one used to be a friend. And I began to tell my friend about the time I had a hornet’s nest in my bedroom.

It started off with just a small, papery notch in the corner of the ceiling, and over time it grew bigger and bigger, until it was a full-fledged hornet’s nest. In my dream, I puzzled over why I did not get rid of the nest while it was still small; but I let it sit until one day, it got so big that it dropped from the ceiling.

SMASH! The nest cracked open and hornets swirled out, stinging their frightened neighbor and leaving a mess of welts. When it was all said and done, my mother was upset that she had neglected to remove the nest, and to warn me of its danger.

I remember telling my friend all this in the dream. I remember thinking, well, at least I’ve told her somewhere.

The Child Grows Up

This week has got me wanting to be a kid again.

imageWhat I wouldn’t give for that. Childhood is a state of pure, simple, in-the-moment life. If there is danger, your parents scoop you up and protect you from it. The worst reason you will ever cry is if some kid pulls your hair and laughs at you, but you are kindly reminded that those boys just like you, and they really don’t mean it — they’ll learn as they grow older. You don’t have much in the way of responsibilities, and you don’t have to deal with the disastrous aftermath of too many decisions. You don’t even know what stress is.

imageI want to go back to a time when I wrote stories about kids being tormented by their siblings because I didn’t know any more drama than that. I want to go back to a time when the most regret I felt was that I ate all the chocolate cookies and left my mom and sister with the vanilla ones, and they got mad. I want to go back to a time when I could sit in the doghouse and eat sand with my sister, or spend a whole afternoon counting dynamite holes in the rocks at the beach.

But I’m an adult now. I have responsibilities. I can still visit my childhood, but I have reality keeping me accountible for my actions. Every single decision I make has a consequence. I must learn to trust the right people, and keep my dignity when those without any try to snatch it away from me. I must learn how to weed through all the lies and selfish decisions that others still working toward their adulthood make.

The word “adult” is so loaded. Saying you’re an adult should mean you have your shit together — or at least that you’re trying, anyway. Age should not be the only qualifier for adulthood; those who hide behind their age with the haughty insistence that they have earned it, when their actions speak otherwise, should have that title taken away.

Simultaneously, being an adult means that you have experienced life — all its heartbeak, its unevenness, its blunt force as it carries on. Some events change you; some events don’t. And the ones that do (and the ones that don’t) say a lot about who you are. Pray that you still remain a child; but strive to be an adult.

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