Here We Go Again

We’ve all heard the endless grumblings about New Year’s resolutions, the seemingly universal truths that people subscribe to every year at the end of December. From the belief that resolutions are useless because people won’t actually make a commitment, to the insistence that resolutions can be made at any point and shouldn’t be limited to the beginning of January, there are strong opinions on both sides. Given the dismissive nature that surrounds this time of year, people are often surprised to find out that New Year’s is my favorite holiday.

The truth is, I can very easily understand the tendency to reject celebrating an arbitrary beginning. Making a resolution just for the sake having something to write down in your new planner doesn’t seem worthwhile to me, and I’ve certainly set resolutions for myself in the middle of July because I needed a new goal to work toward. But even with these caveats, I really love this holiday. Because we’re all suddenly reflecting. Contemplating. Paying attention to ourselves in a way we don’t often allow.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the reminiscence of New Year’s, from the news stories that round up the most popular moments of the year, to the “memories” that pop up on Facebook compiling our posts that got the most attention. Being forced to reflect is almost inevitable, which makes it somewhat daunting. All of a sudden, along with the positive memories, we’re being reminded of the difficult times we have endured, moments we’ve spent a lot of time and energy working through or recovering from. No matter how much we would rather not relive these memories, I’ll argue that they are just as important as the positive ones. (I know that sounds like a load of garbage you would find stitched on a pillow, but stick with me.)

When we’re setting our intentions for the new year, it’s easy to resort to self-deprecation. We tell ourselves we’re going to eat better, exercise more, or dedicate more time to finishing a project. There are silent but powerful expectations that we have attached to these intentions. Punishments, even. You want to eat better, insinuating you haven’t been doing a good enough job. You want to exercise more, as if there’s been a dial that you’ve set too low and it’s time to crank it up. Honestly, I think we should be giving ourselves a little more credit. Remember all of those difficult memories you were reflecting on, and how you got through it all? Let’s celebrate that! You’ve made so many strides in the past year, more than you give yourself credit for. You’ve gotten through every single setback 2018 has thrown at you, so why not take that energy and use it as motivation for whatever waits for us in 2019?

2018 has been quite the ride for me. In fact, the past few years have been some of the most formative I’ve ever experienced in terms of self-discovery and exploration. And I’m certainly not done. But rather than set up a curated plan for how this extended period of discovery and exploration is going to play out, I’m keeping myself open to possibilities. This year, my resolution is to take things one day at a time. Again, we can go ahead and print that message on a pillow or trendy print to hang in your room, but that’s okay with me. I’m gonna lean into it.

Here’s the deal, pals. I obviously haven’t been writing blog posts as often as I used to, but I’m not going to make some big announcement about retiring from this platform. I’m also not promising to post more consistently in the upcoming year. I’m simply going to continue exploring different outlets. That’s what this blog started out as and that’s what it will continue to be: an outlet. Instead of taking the time right now to figure out which outlets I like best and how to better use them, I’ll be heading into 2019 with the intention of allowing myself to figure things out along the way. I’m excited to see where that leads.

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Do The Work

Of course I’m writing a “get ready for 2018” post. For those of you who didn’t already guess this was going to happen…hi, my name is Jessica, and thank you for reading my stuff for the very first time.

This past year, my main mantra was “be present”. I’m approaching the two year mark of when I first started practicing meditation, and focusing on the present is one of the main skills you are encouraged to work on in your practice. And during a year that was so unpredictable, I found it much more rewarding to devote my attention to the present moment and take things one day at a time rather than try to guess what would be happening in the future.

The first step in starting this new practice was recognizing the difference between a goal and an intention. While a goal is more likely to be something you can cross off your list, an intention is the manner in which you get these things done. Someone once described an intention to me as the compass you use on your way toward your goal. This doesn’t necessarily mean there are foolproof methods to getting where you want to be, but intentions can be reminders of how we want to show up in every moment that gets us closer to our goal, or even more simply, whenever we need some guidance.

So I made small changes over the past year to allow myself to place my mind in the present more regularly. I tried not to live through the screen of my phone to capture every moment so I could share in on my Instagram story. (Although, I often have really great Instagram stories. Do you follow me on Instagram? You should follow me on Instagram.) I didn’t completely shut out social media, but I made a conscious effort to remove any expectations from my mind and rather look at the moments of my life for what they truly were, and finding enjoyment in that. It was, and still is, a super difficult task. It’s something I’m going to be working on my entire life.

For 2018, I’m still very focused on the importance of pausing to recenter myself and experience the truth of the moment. But after the year we’ve all just endured, it’s safe to say we might not always want to accept the truth of the moment, because it’s likely to be some sort of garbage. And while you don’t necessarily need to equate being present with being happy, it sure would be great for those two things to line up, right?

So I’m shifting my focus a bit for the upcoming year. In the meditation class I took on New Year’s Eve, we took some time to contemplate the intention of discipline. This has been one of my go-to intentions when I’m frustrated about not getting something accomplished, but it has also been difficult to digest because of the harsh connotation that comes with the word discipline. There’s an association with punishment and being hard on yourself, which definitely isn’t something any of us want to do voluntarily. I’ve often tried to soften the idea of this intention by reframing it as “gentle discipline”, but more often than not, that just leads to an easier way out when facing potentially uncomfortable limits.

In class that day, our meditation instructor made an important distinction about the intention of discipline that struck me, and I had one of those great moments when things all came together like pieces of a puzzle that I didn’t even know I needed to assemble.

Discipline doesn’t necessarily have to be something that is met with discomfort. It doesn’t have to mean that you’re doing something wrong that needs to be fixed. Instead, we can consider discipline as a means to getting closer to your goal, or closer to something that makes you happy, that makes you both satisfied and accomplished. For example, not all of us may enjoy going to the gym, but when we finally get there and finish a workout, we’re likely to delight in our ability to have done the thing, despite the struggle. So rather than saying “I need to go to the gym or else I will fail at completing this goal I set for myself,” you can shift that thinking to say “I need to go to the gym because I want to feel the satisfaction of following through with my plan and come out on the other side successful. Plus, endorphins make you happy and hell yeah, I want to be happy.” It’s easier said than done, but it’s a practice. It’s an intention. It might not always work the way you want it to, but making the effort is half the battle. Some might even argue making the effort is the entire battle. I’ll leave that up to you.

Last year I saw the show Prince of Broadway, a revue that showcased the work of Broadway producer Hal Prince. (This is relevant, I promise). After sharing highlights from Prince’s career and all he has accomplished, there was a final song called “Do The Work” about reminding yourself that while there is definitely a great deal of luck associated with success, in order to get to that point, you have to – you guessed it – do the work. I still think about that song when I want to be inspired, and when presented with this new perspective on the intention of discipline, everything seemed to click together. Now if they would just release that cast recording…

So without further ado, let’s gear up for another year that is bound to be difficult and unpredictable at times. But if we do the work, perhaps we can make it something worth celebrating. I’m rooting for you.

Obsessed // 2017

Happy December! Originally, I was going to make this post an in-depth review of my favorite albums from this year, but then I started thinking about all of the other great media that gave me inspiration, motivation, and hope in a year that was far too full of dark moments. While it’s far too easy to dwell on those times that we felt defeated, I figured it would be fun to share all of the great pieces of art, moments of brightness, and other doses of positivity that were shared in 2017…in my opinion, that is. And because I feel the need to tell anyone who will listen why I love the things that I love, these categories seemed like a great way to round things up this year.

Album

I originally had about six albums chosen for this and I narrowed it down to two and I refuse to make any more cuts. I REFUSE!!! (But I’ll include honorable mentions because I’m weak: Reputation by Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa by Dua Lipa, About U by MUNA, and What If Nothing by Walk the Moon). I’m notoriously bad at picking favorites, but this was definitely the most difficult category for me to decide, so it’s gonna be a tie between *drum roll* Betty Who’s The Valley and SUPERFRUIT’s Future Friends. This year was clearly all about my obsession with synthpop. In fact, I didn’t realize I had a favorite genre until I was considering which of the albums from this year I loved the most. But as you can see, both of the masterpieces I chose as my top favorites are composed with similar styles. I’m obviously not a music expert so I don’t know all of the technical language to describe them. And yet, I can understand what I find so special about each of these works. These albums are both so fresh and vulnerable and bright and run the gamut when it comes to emotions. Falling in love? Check. Just ended a relationship? Check. Need to help your best friend get over a break up? Need an upbeat self love anthem you can sing in your mirror on your bad days? Need a romantic ballad you can sing in the shower even though you’ve never been in love before? These. Albums. Deliver. It. All. You’ll want to dance around to the catchy jams and text all your friends how much you love them and be proud of all that you’ve accomplished…and the epic vocals are just a plus.

Song

While I’m still not so patiently waiting for a new full length album from one of my pop queens, the single “Cut To the FeelingCarly Rae Jepsen released this year did not disappoint. I’d say it was just enough to hold me over for a little longer. (An emphasis on the little, I hope). I’m always a big fan of fun pop jams, but this year, I found myself craving the taste of lighthearted and feel-good songs more than ever…for obvious reasons. Truth is, I don’t think I’ve met a Carly Rae Jepsen song I didn’t like. I firmly believe she is far beyond her years when it comes to talent; her ability to put on an sonically cohesive and satisfying album that gives you tastes of 80s pop that can be blended into the pop we hear on the radio today feels effortless. And frankly, the rest of y’all have slept on her post “Call Me Maybe” career for far too long. I’m putting it out there now: let 2018 be the year the pop world fully appreciates the genius that Carly bae truly is.

Book

I have been talking about The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas to anyone who will listen all year. I even have a previous blog post completely dedicated to why I love this book, so I don’t need to go into detail here. But I will say that this book is not exclusively for folks who read young adult literature. I truly believe it’s required reading for anyone who enjoys a good story that leaves you thinking long after you read the last page. The story captures the narrative of the Black Lives Matter movement in such a moving first hand experience that I can’t imagine the reader not being affected by Angie Thomas’s words. Plus, it’s being made into a movie and the cast is bomb. So make sure to read the book before you head to the theater.

Network TV Show

I started watching The Bold Type against my usual reservations when it comes to brand new series. I usually wait a few season for the show to gain traction before I start watching, but I’m so glad I made an exception for this show. It airs on Freeform, which isn’t often the best selling point, but this show exceeds expectations in so many ways. The show centers around three 20-something women living in New York, working for a magazine themed around women’s empowerment. Plus their boss is an equally badass woman who gives them both guidance and freedom to explore the possibilities of their careers. I know this may sound like a cookie cutter example of a show that’s exploiting the current wave of feminism women are passionately getting involved in right now, and in all honesty, that might be their intention. I don’t blame them. My goal is not to figure out whether or not their intention to share these stories are playing off these cultural clues simply for success – that’s likely the goal of every entertainment outlet. But lucky for us, sometimes the result of this intention is a brilliant representation of thoughts, ideas, and movements that we’ve been lacking on our screens. I really think that’s where The Bold Type truly earns its success. I dare you to watch this show and not be inspired to take down the very next person who tries to steer you further from your goals.

Streaming TV Show

I don’t watch many streaming shows, mostly because there’s too many to choose from and I get overwhelmed very easily. But this year, I couldn’t help but drive right in to One Day at a Time as soon as it was released. I’m much more likely to gravitate toward half hour comedies, shows with diversity, and stories I can relate to. With this show, you’re guaranteed a stellar three for three. First of all, anything that highlights the brilliance of Rita Moreno is an automatic win for any living breathing human. The cast is then rounded out with a group of actors that beautifully and authentically bring the Alvarez family to life. Along with the laughs, the show delivers so many relatable storylines; they represent this family with genuine care and attention while also keeping it fun and entertaining. You can see the truth without getting wrapped up in painful drama. You instantly fall in love with this family, their traditions, their ambitions, and their complicated yet rewarding relationships to their own personal identities and to each other. Also, I am painfully and wholeheartedly the white Elena Alvarez.

Broadway

When I first heard about Come From Away, it was described to me as a 9/11 musical. Which, let’s be real, does not sound like a good idea at all. Sure, you can make successful musicals about sad things (see: literally all of my favorite musicals), but this was something I didn’t quite understand the intention behind. But when I learned that this wasn’t simply a musical about 9/11, but a musical that explores the days following the event from the perspective of a group of rerouted travels in Canada, my skepticism eased and I was a lot more open to the idea of seeing it. I knew it would still be an emotional ride, but as I already said, I sort of have a thing for musicals that make you feel and the feelings and cry all the tears. One of my favorite things about theater is that it’s both entertaining and evocative right in front of your eyes. You have an experience that is so immediate and so vicarious that it can be overwhelming in the best way possible. And this couldn’t hold truer with Come From Away. Not only is the story told beautifully through captivating songs, an incredibly talented ensemble, and even some laughs, but the message of the show is something we all need to hear, see, and believe, especially at this moment in time. It makes it even more powerful that the show is based on a true story. This production allows us to explore the ways we respond to tragedy, the power of selfless kindness, and the proof that at our very core, we’re capable of unconditional love and care for one another, family and strangers alike.

And because I love to hear from *~my fans~* here are some suggested fun favorites from 2017.

Favorite Meme – “First of all…” Some faves:

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Favorite Baby Animal GIF – I believe in you, little pup.

Favorite Internet doggies – Bagel and Chanel moved into the Gardens this year and I love them so much!!!!

Favorite Vacation – Not only was Disney incredible, but specifically, the Food & Wine Festival is what dreams are made of

Favorite Viral VideoThe only way to walk into a room

Let me know what some of your favorites were from this year! Thanks for reading, friends. See ya in 2018.