Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ring in the New Year

I remember many things, however I could not begin to tell stories of what I did last year on New Year's Eve. I suppose when one toasts to pushing "those days" behind them, such a desire can really come true. When my younger brother and I were little, my mother would give us confetti, and when the New York/Atlanta countdown had come to a close, we would toss it in the air. We did so in the comfort of our home. There were no big parties. We were not left alone with a babysitter as our parents went out and drunk themselves into some great celebratory stupor. It was just two children having fun throwing small pieces of paper in the air my mother ignorantly purchased when we could have made them for ourselves, and then watching as the same mother would spend a good hour vacuuming up the mess.

Sentimentality is not the point of this post. I am not going to say we have not done such things since, as if to add some sort of unintentional, emotional appeal. The truth is, once my brother and I got older, and my mother got wiser, we stopped doing much of anything. The lack of New Year's spirit was bound to infect our household. Not to mention, having my father home for that particular holiday is usually a losing bet--which is okay, as I have said, the New Year's celebrations are not something for which my heart longs. It is impossible to miss something never previously experienced.

However, I can say, without hesitation, this year has left me feeling more alone and more loved than I ever conceived. I have felt love's poignant sting. I have loved those I should not. I have pushed away those I should love. I have made new friends. I have lost old friends. Had reality hit me harder and learned the true meaning of "loyalty"--in that the word is an empty way to place blame on another. The human relationship is a fragile and confusing thing. Most of the psychological definition is utter nonsense and only filled with words to bolster the reputation of the psychologist reciting them, but what one should keep in mind is we need people in our lives. No matter what in life has cleverly convinced a person otherwise, we all need someone; if nothing else, a friend. I have found the ones I need and I am carrying them with me into another year.

December 31, 2009, I did actually celebrate--I gathered with a few of my closest friends. I can still hear the booming of voices and laughter at various decibels nearly shattering my ear drums. However, the clinking of glass only made me wince the first few times. Drowning all sorrows, failures, satisfactions and victories in sparkling cider, I sat with my friends and talked about nothing for what seemed like forever. I did not need a New Year's kiss. I did not need a hard drink. I just needed someone with me to bring in the New Year. I will always remember the stupid things I have done and the stupid things I will do. I will always remember the horrible things said to me, even if I have forgiven the owners of such forked tongues. I will remember everything I wish to forget. Luckily, I have some fond memories still lingering in my mind, and I hope this is one of the nights that stay with me.

And while resolutions, like rules, are made to be broken, I plan on keeping mine. Unlike some, I do not have a long list of things I want to accomplish before 2010 comes to a close. Two reasons: (1) I am out of paper on which to write such delusions, and (2) I do not have enough erasers for when my list fails to come true and I have to vigorously peel away thoughts of what could be accomplished in the future. Instead, I have made everything simpler with one idea: get things done. Anything I want can be easily achieved if I just put my mind to it. I will not be afraid to do what is best for me or for anyone else. I am ringing in the new year with a new outlook on how I live life. In October, I will be 20-years old, and the thought is so strange to me. I am getting too old to put life on hold due to my fears and apprehensions. Happy New Year, everyone. Cheers.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Could Be Selfish

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A few times in my life, I have actually had friends assume my parents have money because of our home. I have yet to understand these assumptions. We live in a typical, southern, suburban neighborhood. All the homes look the same, and we live in an unoriginal, split-level house. It is not as if my younger brother and I have gotten everything we wanted as children, but if my father could afford it, he would try to get it for us on birthdays and holidays. We have nice things, but it is not because every weekend my dad shuffles out more money for nice things, nor does my father dig into debt to attain these luxuries. We simply take care of what we have so it lasts. Did you know, I still have my Super Nintendo?

Last semester, I found one reason to enjoy loans and the financial aid system: excess financial aid checks! For those who do not know how the system works, Financial Aid will give the student a statement with an amount of money they are offering to pay for school for the upcoming semester. Once the amount is paid, if Financial Aid sets aside more than the price for the semester, then the student will receive a check for the excess amount. My excess check was more than satisfactory in the fall, and January 11 is when I begin my spring semester. As nice as it was to receive the check, I remember the bulk of it just going straight to my bank account. Unfortunately, it is not sitting safely there anymore. I am starting to wonder about the fate of my next check, which has been predicted to be even bigger than the previous.

My father will be starting a new job soon. He got accepted into the Police Academy with the local police department, and we are all really excited for him! He hates his job and hardly has any time to sleep because of his horrible schedule. As he gets older, this job will only do more bad than good--it could seriously hurt him physically if he does not get out soon. Earlier today, he pulled me aside and asked me about the check. For the record, I do not mind if my father asks me about it. To be honest, the money in my bank account is actually his. That was the deal: we sell my car to my aunt--who really needed one--and he puts the money in my bank account. And as I go through school, he would add more. It is basically the same situation as my friends in school who get checks from family so they can go waste it on club entrance fees and whatever else they do that I do not. So, if my father cannot put money into the bank account or wants to borrow a little, I say nothing. I always tell him, "Daddy, I didn't work for the money like you did. It's yours. Take it if you need it." I say this knowing he will always put more back--and he does. Now, my father is wondering if he could use some of the money from my future excess financial aid check in case something happens at work.

Though the check is bigger, I found myself feeling apprehensive about answering. I told him I would give him an answer when I actually see the check. Though my school's Financial Aid office predicts the check to be bigger than my fall check, something could change between now and then. I want to be selfish and say "no." I want to say, "Daddy, I need to build-up my bank account again, and I need the check." But who am I kidding? The only time I would ever "need" the money is when my parents cannot afford the movie ticket for me while I am home on break. I have it pretty easy. I have no bills. I still live at home when I am not at school, and I do not even have a car to drive--or my license, for that matter--so what is it benefiting me if I get to keep the money or not? It just means I have money in an account which will only be touched to spend on dinners with friends and birthday presents for loved ones. I am being selfish. Even when I have said "yes" in the past, I was expecting to see the money again.

He can have the money. He needs it. If something did happen with his job, my family would need the money, and if I am holding onto a big chunk of money and not sharing with the people who are keeping the roof over my head, the best way to resolve my selfish behavior would be to kick me out and make me live off of the money until the well runs dry--at least, I would probably do the same with my kid. I always said if I were ever capable of a cushion life, I would not live like it. I would be sensible with my loads of money, and I would share a large amount with my parents and my church. If I am being apprehensive with money I did not even earn, how will I ever be able to share money I did earn with the two who deserve it the most like I originally planned? It is time to relinquish ideas of cushion in my bank account when it matters least and help my father when it matters most.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

How Writing and My Mother's Nagging Saved Me

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My mother was a writer. She actually published a couple of books through a small company. Both her novels Willow Mountain and A Picture of Love were decent books, but not in my taste. My unwillingness to read them, or jump for joy over them when I did, might have been some of the reason my mother resented me a bit. She was far from a terrible person. She was my mother--a good one at that. But, we had several disagreements and squabbles. Particularly in the way of writing. She wanted me to be a writer--she said I had talent. I just wanted to do whatever I wanted to do. Not to mention, I have always been a "Daddy's Girl," and rebelled against much of what my mother did.

Her books barely got any notice. We never get royalty checks anymore. The last check we got was about six months ago--the first time in years, really--and it was a mere $2.50. You cannot buy a mansion on Willow Mountain with that. I am like many bloggers, I am a narcissistic writer at times. My mother was as well. I think it comes with the territory. She wrote a romanticized idea of her life. Whereas, the only type of book I could ever see myself writing would be the one constantly rolling through my mind--my thoughts, uncensored. (A scary idea, I know.) I am just not one for writing romance, or a knock-off Harry Potter. If I were to delve into creative writing, I would have to make time to work on it much longer than the typical lifetime allows and it would have to be of something spectacularly unique and alien to readers of today. I would also have to find a magical bucket full of patience and inspiration to keep it going for very long before it became scrap paper in the back of my credenza.

I will admit, I did write poems and songs for a long time. I still write songs on occasion. I know writing is where I belong, just a different writing than what my mother wanted. However, if I had not tried to write fantasy novels in the past, or written as many songs and poems as I had, I would have never realized exactly where in writing I fit and in writing I belong. And, if it had not been for my stubbornness in proving my mother wrong, I would have never discovered how much I love photography when I tried desperately to deviate away from writing altogether.

When my mother passed, I had a lot of unwanted feelings emerge and not-so-fond memories of my mother re-emerge. I am hardened to admit, but feel for the honest integrity of this post I will confess, I was angry with my mother for a long time after her death. My demeanor and outlook on life was not affected so much, however when I was alone and had time to think of the pain of losing her, sadness would turn to bitterness. This is not a healthy transition. Readers: do not allow this to ever happen, it is not a fun road to travel. In my inward rage, I re-read my mother's books. I did not leave with any different emotions about her writing style or the stories--I felt the exact same about everything, but I realized all the time I had spent rebelling against my mother was wasteful energy.

I am glad I did some of it. I learned new things about myself and about what I like. When I was against writing, I was free. All the opportunities and career choices in the world were open to me. I could be anyone. What a feeling! However, no matter what I did, everything seemed to turn back to writing. At one point in time, I wanted to travel the jungles of Africa as a journalist for animals, writing what I observe. I also had the idea to be a video game designer (which my lack of math and science skills would prohibit now), yet whenever I would create an idea for a video game, I was practically writing a story. It seems the signs have always been pointing to writing. I just never knew to open my eyes to it.

Growing up, I had always been a shy girl. Now, I am less shy and more quiet for my own particular reasons. However, throughout my unbearable shy years, writing was the only way I could express myself. Ironically, I was always too shy to show the most personal of it to anyone, but at least I was capable of coherent nonverbal speech. I could spit my ideas out on paper as my catharsis. (If only paintball-ing my younger brother in the face was an acceptable stress-reliever in my household. Sigh...) It is through the encouragement of English teachers and my participation in school newspapers I found myself loving the structure and style of journalistic writing, and loving the atmosphere of a newsroom. If I had not stayed with writing on the side and acquainted myself with journalism, I would probably be one of the poor saps, not talented enough for professional photography, but still stubborn enough to go to school for it, and trying to make it in my wonderful, one-horse town as a portrait photographer.

To be perfectly honest, I am not sure my mother would ever have been too thrilled with the type of writing I would like to do. For one, I am sure my idea of an uncensored book is something of which she would not have been too proud. This is only one of the reasons why if I ever do finish and publish the book, it shall be under a pen name. For another, my mother was always a creative writer, and always detested reporters and the media, though she lived by Oprah and the news daily--yes, she was a typical housewife.* I am not sure, if she had lived to see my final decision to go into journalism, if she would be as inwardly thrilled as she would have been outwardly supportive. One thing my mother was always accountable for was her support. Which is where I feel I failed as a daughter. But if part of me had not felt, in ways, she was right about my writing ability--though, I would have never admitted it to her--I would not be here. I wonder if I would even be writing at all, if she was still alive?


*Just in case someone reads that line and grimaces, I have no problem with housewives. I think one of the most important things a woman can be is a nurturing mom.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A True Test of Character

(For your entertainment, I have provided a picture from my gallery as the opening shot for this entry. It has been awhile since I have actually used my own work in a post, well, outside of posts like events I attend or photoshoots. Enjoy!)

A friend said tonight, "If I could go back in time, I would change so much." It is a statement we have all thought at least once, and it weighs heavily on my friend tonight. We walked through the cold for hours. My hands were frozen and felt brittle. If I do not wake the next morning with the flu, it will be by the Grace of God. However, I did follow him without complaint.

Whenever I am with my friend, we always reminisce about the past, and in a sense, learn a bit more about each other. We remember times in high school, in middle school, and even talk about life when we were children--a time of which we did not know one another, but still find we can relate in many ways. Tonight, we wandered through the streets and around campus, circling and discovering new places. We made our way to a nearby park. The night stood at its darkest, but we could still tell where we were. That is when we saw it: the dome climber.

I am sure we all remember the dome climber! (The dome-shaped monkey bars.) It was the most amazing part of the playground as a child. I stood as tall, if not taller, than the dome climber tonight, and I remember as a child how large and mountainous I believed it to be. He sifted through current pangs while we horsed around in the 40-degree weather. And the question continued to resurface in our minds: "What would we do if we could go back?" Would life seem easier if the dome climber was the only mountain we had to face? Would we live day-to-day unscathed by the little bumps in the road? In reality, life never seems easier until we look back. When one faces an obstacle, turning away and hiding behind the idea life makes more sense "back there" feels like an acceptable solution. Unfortunately, it only sounds good until one tries it.

No matter the road a person takes, they will come face-to-face with conflict. Life without conflict is no life at all. Otherwise, everything is perfect, and once the euphoria of a perfect life dwindles, even perfect will feel dull. Whether the person is a child facing the frost-bitten metal of the dome climber, or an adult dealing with the stresses of relationships, school, or "real life," there will always be a mountain. A true test of character is how one deals with the situation in front of them. Trying to hide behind what was will only keep one back. Instead, moving past the obstacle and looking towards a better tomorrow will help the person learn from the issue at hand and give them the strength when bigger problems arise in the future.

"Moving on, is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard." - Dave Mustaine