Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What I Learned in 2013 (Plus Interesting Search Terms)

Happy New Year to you all! I actually stayed up until midnight last night for the first time in years. I spent most of the evening babysitting (from about 6 until 10:30), then came home, watched an episode of Bizarre Foods, waited until midnight to see if anything extraordinary would happen, realized nothing would, then went to bed. Exciting, I know. Instead of doing a more traditional recap of my favorite blog posts this year, I decided to reflect back on some of the lessons I've learned this year-from serious to humorous to everything in between. I'll also throw in some rather unusual search terms that have somehow led people to my blog, since I decided it might be nice to start out the New Year with a smile. It's been a crazy, wonderful, overwhelming, frustrating, amazing, and action-packed year, as usual, and I've certainly learned many important lessons. So without further ado, here are some things I have learned in 2013 Ah yes, and I changed my blog design as well, since I needed a change for the New Year.

1. IT'S NOT HEALTHY TO CONSTANTLY LIVE IN THE PAST: I'm sure we all do this at times-regret our past mistakes, beat ourselves up for what we did or didn't do, dwell on what could have been, etc I still do this quite often, and I have begun to realize how doing this has had a detrimental effect on my mental health: it makes me afraid to try new things, reluctant to open up and be vulnerable, and unable to just live in the present moment. I have to remind myself that unless time travel becomes a reality in the future, I won't be able to turn back the clock and change what happened.

2. DAIYA CHEESE IS ONE OF THE MOST AMAZING CULINARY CREATIONS KNOWN TO MANKIND: Well, not really, but it's delicious, anyway. I had never tried it until this year, and it surpassed all of my expectations. Since I avoid eating cheese for both ethical and gastrointestinal reasons, it was a true foodie blessing for me. It's probably not any healthier for you than real cheese, but oh well. It tastes wonderful, and that's always important.

3. SOMETIMES FAILURE IS AN OPTION-AND IT WILL ALMOST UNDOUBTEDLY HAPPEN AT SOME POINT (OR MANY POINTS) IN MY LIFE: Most people don't like to fail at something, and I can relate to this. I certainly had my fair share of failures (if that is what you want to call them) in 2013: I didn't get accepted into Butler University's Ballet program, I made some recipes that turned out rather bland and tasteless, I got a C on my first statistics exam, and I said things in certain conversations with people I definitely regretted afterward. I made mistakes, screwed up, got angry, and, most importantly, forced myself to accept all of this as normal. After all, we can't be flawless human beings, and looking back, I definitely learned from all these slip-ups.

4. LAUGHTER TRULY IS A REMARKABLY EFFECTIVE MEDICINE: Just like most people, I had stressful days during 2013 when I just felt like giving up on life, on dance, on school, and on just about everything else. Melodramatic, I know, but don't we all feel like that sometimes? It was on those days that I learned the true value of laughter-sometimes the remedy for my doomsday attitude would be a joke-filled and slightly sarcastic chat with my family members or friends, and sometimes it would be a comedic YouTube video, TV show, or movie. Either way, I would generally feel much better after smiling and laughing for a while. Laughter might not help you live longer (though maybe it does ), but I can vouch for the fact that it is a tremendous stress-buster.

5. IT'S OK NOT TO STUDY 24/7 WHEN YOU ARE IN COLLEGE (IN OTHER WORDS, TAKE BREAKS!!): I am usually the sort of hardcore, "try-hard," do-or-die student who spends most of her spare time studying for whatever quiz or exam might be coming up next. This was mainly because I truly did enjoy most of my classes, and had that nerdy innate desire to learn for the sake of learning, not because I was being forced to attend college. However, I had to remind myself that I wasn't going to fail an exam just because I dared to spend an hour watching TV or creating a new recipe in the kitchen just for the heck of it, instead of sequestering myself in my room with my head buried in a textbook. This may sound like "well, DUH!!" advice, but I am sure my fellow perfectionists can relate to this problem.

6. YOU WON'T ALWAYS AGREE WITH YOUR TEACHERS, PROFESSORS, FRIENDS, AND FAMILY MEMBERS-AND THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT: As long as you can disagree with someone in a respectful and tactful manner, you don't have to agree 100% with the opinions of everyone. I am pointing this out because I do tend to be a "people-pleaser" and a peacemaker-I don't like to create conflict, and I try to make everyone happy all the time, which is essentially impossible. However, I have learned this year that you can disagree with someone's viewpoint and still love, respect, or admire them. Just because someone is older than you, smarter than you, or simply more experienced than you doesn't always mean that you have to accept their opinions as "true." No, I don't make a habit out of arguing with my professors when they say something I don't agree with-I am not that bold yet. I know it can be difficult to disagree with someone whom you respect and trust-perhaps a close friend or an admired teacher. However, just remember that no matter how amazing of a person they may be, they are still human, just like you, and you don't need to agree with everything they say.

7. YOGA IS SO MUCH MORE THAN A SERIES OF POSES WITH WEIRD NAMES: When I first started taking Vinyasa flow yoga on a more regular basis this year, it was mostly for the physical benefits-I had very little upper-body strength, and wanted an activity to do outside of ballet when I was on break. However, I soon began to fall in love with yoga not only because it made me sweat and grow stronger, but also because it did wonders for my mental health. It helped me de-stress, learn to focus on the present moment (though I still struggle with this), face my perfectionist tendencies head-on, and discover when I need to push myself and when I need to back off and rest. Also, the joy of finally being able to do a certain posture is a fantastic feeling. I can now hold a side plank and other arm balances, do multiple push-ups without collapsing, and hold half-moon pose with hands folded at the center of my chest without toppling over onto my mat (though I still fall sometimes!). I have also been working on headstands, and managed to do a few decent ones in my bedroom the other day. Most importantly, I've learned to simply laugh and try again when I fall out of a pose, and not to compare myself with those around me in class. I have been working on transferring these lessons to my day-to-day life as well.

8. IT'S GOOD TO QUESTION OLD HABITS OR ROUTINES AND ASK YOURSELF WHY YOU DO THEM: I've certainly had many unhelpful habits and routines over the years: I used to walk our dog Maya for half an hour each morning because I thought I "needed" the extra exercise, when it would have been more beneficial for me to not exercise as much. I used to refuse to drive anywhere new because I was terrified of making a wrong turn, getting lost, or somehow getting into an accident because I didn't know exactly how to get to my destination. I used to avoid talking to strangers at all costs, lest I made a fool of myself in the process. This year was different, though. I only take Maya out for a few minutes in the morning, and I don't obsess over getting a certain amount of exercise each day. I have driven to several new places using a combination of Mapquest and my phone navigation without freaking out. I talked to a complete stranger for an hour and a half via Skype in Spanish (well, we spoke in English as well) for my Spanish class project. Sometimes it's good to hold onto old habits, and sometimes it's better to let them go. In my case, it was definitely the latter.

9. DON'T DISMISS THE PROBLEMS AND STRUGGLES OF OTHER PEOPLE, EVEN IF THEY SEEM TRIVIAL AND UNIMPORTANT: This is a hard one for me to remember, which is why I am listing it. There are certainly times when I just want to roll my eyes and sigh at people who complain about their hair, their relationship problems, their job, or how their iPhone crashed and they lost all of their pictures. Sometimes I just want to say "Don't you know there are people who are dying and starving out there??" However, this would be not only rude but also a bit ridiculous for me to say. Suffering cannot be rated on a scale of 1-10, and though we make jokes about "first world problems," it's important to remember that different people face different sets of challenges, and that ignoring or laughing at the "trivial" problems will do nothing to solve the underlying issue. I am not trying to say that a child dying of starvation is on the same plane as an iPhone dying of a waterlogged battery-that is clearly not the case. However, we shouldn't be so quick to judge and mock those who complain about their first-world problems, because how is this being helpful? No, I don't think it's good to dwell on materialistic problems, but even I find myself doing this at times. It's no use telling children to eat all their vegetables because of the "starving children in Africa," since this usually seems like an empty threat-unless they have been to Africa and seen these children, they will probably just be confused. Just telling people to "suck it up and stop complaining" isn't exactly the most effective way to help them resolve their problems. It may be more helpful to try to help them put their problems in perspective in a more tactful and gentle way. We shouldn't just throw up our hands and give up on the "spoiled brats" who live in the U.S.-the last thing we need in this country is more hatred and name-calling. If we can help guide people toward a more humble and less materialistic life, then maybe we will have fewer people complaining about more simplistic issues. This isn't a simple task, of course, especially not in a culture where it is all too easy to get wrapped up in shallow interests and obsessions. Still, we can try.

10. BLOGGING CAN BE A GREAT FORM OF THERAPY: I don't blog in order to get free products or thousands of page views. I don't have hundreds of readers, and my blog isn't what you'd consider to be "popular" or well-known. I don't have a social media website for my blog, and all my photos go straight from my phone to my blog post, without any editing to make them look less dreadful. I am seriously not interested in marketing my blog to anyone, and I never read those articles telling you how to get more page views on your blog. I blog because I love to write and spill out my thoughts, and because I enjoy getting thoughtful feedback on the topics I discuss. Becoming part of the blogging community has given me an outlet for my thoughts and ideas, and has connected me with some fantastic people whose blogs are a joy to read. I'll never be the next superstar blogger, and I am sure some of my posts are very boring and rambling. However, I will always strive to be as honest and candid as possible, and not force myself to write a post when I don't feel like writing. To all those people out there who do read and/or comment on my blog, thank you for your feedback and support-I appreciate it very much!!

Well, this post is getting very long very quickly, so I suppose I ought to move on to the interesting search terms

1. "MADONNA WEGGIE PORN" I have nothing to say about this one, except WHAT THE HECK?? I don't think I've ever used any of these words before in any of my posts, so I can't imagine how it led someone to my blog.

2. "WHY DO RADIO STATIONS BLEEP OUT SWEAR WORDS?" I believe it is because the Federal Communications Commission regulates what sort of words can be played on radio stations, though I am not sure. Personally, I don't see how doing this provides any benefits to people, since such words are plentiful in day-to-day conversations anyway

3. "I ENVY EXTROVERT PEOPLE." Sometimes I do as well, random person on the internet. So do I.

4. "CHIPOTLE NEVER BEEN TO." Well, at least I am not the only person who has never been to Chipotle!!

5. "OUTDOOR POOPING.INDIAN.SEX" This one is just disturbing, to be honest. Very, very disturbing.

6. "BALLET DANCERS COOK THEMSELVES." OK, so I know what this person meant, but it sounds as though ballet dancers go around cooking their own bodies, which is possibly just as disturbing as the last one. This is one of those cases in which rephrasing a sentence would be the best idea.

7. "DAIRY MILK COMADY SEXE GIRL CHOCOLATE." What do girls, chocolate, dairy milk, comedy, and sex (or sexy?) have to do with each other? I have not the slightest idea, but I assure you that the answer will not be anywhere on my blog.

8. "DOES A POINTE SHOE TRANSFER ENERGY" Unfortunately, no. That would be awesome if they could transfer magical energizing powers to my feet, but for now, I'll have to stick with using my muscles.

9. "HAS THE RECIPE FOR CINNAMON ORANGES CHANGED OVER TIME." Apparently, after looking it up on Google, I discovered that cinnamon oranges are a very simply dessert made with orange slices covered in a honey-cinnamon drizzle. That being said, I have no idea if the recipe has changed over time.

10. "A STREAM-OF-CONSCIOUSNESS LIST MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA." I think many of my posts are written in the "streams of consciousness" style, so this one makes a fair amount of sense. That being said, I am not sure where Myrtle Beach fits into the equation I know I talked about Myrtle Beach briefly in one post, but I don't know why it would be related to a stream-of-consciousness list.

I think I'll wrap it up here, before this post gets even longer. I hope you had a great (and safe) New Year's Eve, and didn't do anything too dangerous or crazy;)
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