The Year in Review: 2018

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Twenty-eighteen was the best of years and the worst of years.

This year was my first Christmas without my mom.  I think of all the conversations that we never had about all the good things that were happening in my life, all the stories of mine she had yet to read, all the books and meals and time with Hannah we had yet to share, all the Christmas shows we had yet to binge-watch together (like the “Bob’s Jelly Doughnut” episode of “Wings”)…

But I know she was there–I just wish I could see her being there.

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This December, I graduated with my A.A. and my A.S. and got a full-time job I enjoy at the college just before graduation–a job where my creativity is not only appreciated but encouraged.

The A.A. was what I wanted, the A.S., what I felt I was supposed to want.  I will go for my Bachelor’s in Business (with a concentration in Graphic Design) in the fall at the college that has been like my second home (as well as my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing at The University of West Florida when I can swing it).

It was my work on The Corsair designing recruitment ads, as well as making Shutterfly books for Christmas gifts, that led me to seeking a degree in the graphic arts.  (Besides, I can also use whatever I learn to make this blog better.)

My “passion for the college” was what got me the job (my supervisor actually said I had this thing called a “skill set”–something no one has ever said to me before), and it did not go unnoticed by me when I went in for my first day of work and saw a few or more copies of the newspaper scattered, opened to my farewell letter: http://ecorsair.com/letter-from-the-editor-in-chief/

How easy it is to have passion for something that has given me so much:  friendships, scholarships, a quality education, and numerous opportunities to become a better writer (and not always with a grade attached).

I put everything I have into everything I do.  There’s a quote by Mark Cuban I came across once–“Work like there is someone working twenty-four hours a day to take it all away from you”–and maybe that’s why I am the way I am.  I almost lost nearly everything or had it taken away, and the thought of that happening again terrifies me so much, I am hyper-vigilant about being the absolute best at everything I do (except for maybe astronomy or statistics), but it’s also more than that:  I care.

I don’t half-ass things (though the amateur lexicographer in me wonders if the opposite would be “whole-ass”?).  I don’t even read my own work once it’s been published–I just sort of glance over it, afraid I will find a mistake, only to obsess over it. 

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On Christmas Eve, my husband and I accepted an invitation to a church where we could have a fresh start. There was a woman pastor–something that used to seem strange to me, but not anymore.

That is not a change in values but in perception.

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I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions (I prefer to look back and note my accomplishments); however, I’m always making To-Do Lists (as well as goal lists, be they weekly, monthly, or lifetime) because if I didn’t, I’d simply forget it all.

Because this year has been crazy, and I’ve been spending so much time finishing college while applying for jobs and trying to make a living, I haven’t been taking care of myself or spending as much time with my family as I should.  I’ve still done a lot of writing, but more for this blog and the newspaper than submitting to magazines.

It’s time to read more, sleep more, and even play more (like with dumbbells, if not barbells).  Managing my stress is going to be a large part of my New Year’s health goals, for once I do that, my mind will be clearer to focus on other areas of wellness.  

I drained my batteries dry this past year but was able to sally forth because the light at the end of the tunnel just kept getting bigger.  I feel like I have passed through to the other side, only to find that there are more tunnels.  My community college experience opened those doors; that’s why I never saw them before.

But for now, I am content to just stand in the light.

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Poem-a-Day Writer’s Digest Challenge #29. Theme: Open Letter

I was seventeen when I graduated from high school.  That has been almost that many years ago, and I often think about what I would’ve told my seventeen-year-old self, wondering if I would’ve listened.  Some of us learn from the mistakes of others, and some of us just have to learn the hard way.

I think I’ve learned from both.

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Dear High School Graduates

Take a year or two off if you want—
see the world,
study abroad,
learn things you can’t learn out of books,
because much of what we learn,
we learn by doing.

Want what you want–
not what you’re supposed to want;
love what you love–
not the idea of it.

Don’t go into debt for an education,
but for an investment into a career,
for it’s easier to dig out with a big shovel
than it is to have no shovel.

You can learn about many things from books–
fiction and nonfiction.

Know that the more educated you are,
the less likely you are to be unemployed,
because the world will always be full of uneducated people.
Value yourself by making yourself valuable.

Don’t wait till you have the money to marry—
you may never feel like you have the money,
and two incomes combined are always better than one.
Remember that children don’t always come
when you want them to,
however careful your plans.

Marry the right person, at the right time.
You must agree on whether or not to have children
and if so, how many.
It will never work out if you feel you’re the one giving in.

And think not that love is a barrier;
you can fall in love, marry, have a family,
and find purpose beyond all that
in ways you might never have imagined.
It might just take a little longer.

Never try to change anyone;
find the one who is already changed,
who is already right for you,
for the most lasting change comes from within–
from unforeseen circumstances and
unintended consequences.

Always be a work in progress,
and make lifelong learning a goal
that is reached every day,
in a thousand little ways.

Listen more, talk less.
Do more, watch less,
but do not try to run faster than you have strength.
You do not have to be as rich as Mark Cuban
to be successful,
for success is measured in a myriad of ways.

Compare the you of today,
to the you of yesterday—
not to others on any day.
Always continue to outpace yourself,
and remember,
sometimes you have to lose yourself
before you can find yourself.

Know that life often deviates from your plan,
and your happiness will depend on how you handle
these changes.

And finally, realize that hard work often precedes luck,
so good luck on the life that awaits you, graduates.

Reality TV, and The Reality of the American Economy

I am not a fan of reality television, with two exceptions:  I love “Shark Tank” and “MasterChef”.  I consider most news programs (on any channel–network or cable) reality TV, since news is more talking heads, opinion, and speculation rather than facts.

I used to watch “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” (a guilty pleasure that left me as unsatisfied as a box of Little Debbies–the commentary on realitysteve.com was far more entertaining).  I even used to miss a favorite yoga class to watch it with my mom (not before the days of DVR, but we’re always behind the times about ten years when it comes to technology).

I enjoy “MasterChef” because I like to cook.  I love “SharkTank” because I love the entrepreneurial spirit–I hope to one day invent a product that makes me a millionaire.  Not sure about starting a business, though.  According to the Sharks, you should spend 16-20 hours a day on your business.  If I didn’t get at least seven hours of sleep a day, I can’t think clearly.  When Mark Cuban talks about how he used to eat ketchup and mustard sandwiches, well, all I can say is, “Really?!”

I don’t think you have to starve yourself or go without sleep to be successful.  I think you just have to be focused, work hard, and it does help to start small.  I am amazed at the number of people who go on there and they’ve mortgaged their house and went deep into debt.  I know what Dave Ramsey would say about that, but I also know he doesn’t believe you should go into debt to go to college (which I disagree with, to a certain extent–if you’re getting a degree in Art History, yes, but engineering, no).  I look at college as an investment in one’s future.

There was one lady who started her business with two hundred dollars–money she’d made one summer from cashing in aluminum from old windows her husband took out (he was some kind of contractor).  She even taught herself to sew (which I can’t even fathom because that was one of two classes I flunked in high school, that and geometry).

Now that admission segues me into talking about the product I’ve created.  However, I not only have to learn how to sew to make this work, but I would have to secure a patent (which would be very expensive).  I’ve made a very crude prototype (there’s a word I learned from the show) for myself that works great.  I think there is a market for it.  However, the uncertainty scares me.  I may not be too big to fail, but I am too poor to fail.  I am not a salesperson–I am an inventor.  Just like I love the creative part of writing, I hate the marketing/business part.  I would be totally fine with receiving a royalty off of every sale–just make me money!  I don’t want the headache of running a business.  I really don’t.  I believe in simplifying life, not complicating it.

That said, I know I would have to agree to have my product manufactured overseas to cut costs.  I am okay with that.  I’d prefer to have the label “Made in America”, but it just isn’t feasible when you’re just starting out.  There was a man who pitched his idea of some kind of pick-up truck add-on, but he was adamant about it being made in the USA to help bring jobs to his impoverished town.  I get that, but until you become big, you can’t afford to do that.  He made zero profit.  If you can’t help yourself, you can’t help anyone else.

The reality is that we’re a global economy.  Ninety-nine percent of people just aren’t willing to pay more for something of the exact same quality, just to get that “Made in America” label.  Most of them can’t afford to.

I’d love for all our goods to be made here, but I don’t think that’ll ever happen.  We’re a consumerist society, a service-based economy.

Right now, I am focused on trying to make more money, to help give my family a better quality of life.  Sometimes, in order to achieve the American Dream, one must be flexible doing business beyond her borders.

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