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I caught myself thinking the other day, “I can’t believe 2009 is almost over.  It seems like it just flew by…” and then I thought, “What a stupid saying.  It’s just as long as any other year.”

2009 was full of anything and everything.  Wonderful new beginnings, tragic endings, and comforting normalcy all mushed together is what made this year fly by.  So I’m taking some time to reflect on it all; I wanted to share some memories and musings, as well as put some commitments for 2010 in writing.

The year started off in great style at a tiny jazz club (Small’s actually) in NYC, and then New Year’s Day in the city with my good friend Adam Walker.  What a great trip that was!  I spent a week in beautiful upstate NY and Vermont, and it was so relaxing and calming.  This actually turned out to by my only trip out of the state this year, so I am very grateful that I got to travel.  Unfortunately, I did not have much to come home to.  I had graduated from UNT only three weeks earlier, without any solid job prospects, and not even a home to call my own.  Things were looking pretty bleak and to be honest I was going a little stir crazy.

It didn’t take long for things to turn around though.  By the second week of January, I was training for an internship with Thomson Reuters.  It felt pretty strange to be a 29 year old intern, but really it was the best foot in the door I could find.  However, it turns out that software support for corporate tax software is not my calling.  Luckily, I was offered a position at a small healthcare consulting firm, and I began that journey in June.  So far things are going well at SCA.  However, I was rather surprised at how slowly I learn new things these days, and how short my attention span is.  Training for this line of work is pretty grueling, and my thirty-year-old brain is no longer the sponge it used to be.  The company is unbelievable – the owner is beyond generous, the benefits are better than any I’ve heard of, and I really enjoy my coworkers.

The summer, however, brought a lot of goodbyes.  On June 9th, I received a phone call at work that a pivotal member of our circle of friends had suddenly, tragically, died.  Aaron Wuensch, 25, was unaware of his heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.  He was the healthiest person I knew – an award-winning swimmer, biker, and runner – he had just completed a triathlon in May.  Needless to say, our large group of close-knit friends grieved and continue to grieve for Aaron and his family.  To rub salt into the wound, my good friend Josh’s father died two weeks later.  I didn’t expect it, but I was quite moved at Steve’s funeral.  I had only met him twice, but the lessons he passed to his sons gave me a lot to think about for two reasons: That man loved his wife (Bonita).  It was evident in every account from his friends and family that he was a virtuous man who knew the meaning of the word “honor.”  Moreover, he passed this on to his sons by teaching them that “the greatest gift you can give to your children is to love their mother.”  How true, and what a wonderful way to teach your children what a healthy relationship is.  I truly hope that I find love like that someday.

More goodbyes followed when my good friend Josh left for Germany (he is spending one year working abroad), and then Sarah left the same week for a year in France.  Now Josh Ballard has followed suit!  I cannot wait to be re-united with my dear friends in Europe this coming March.  Even more goodbyes from my musician friends: Bookman joined the Navy, Matt Timm is cruising the Pacific on a cruise ship, and even Tom was all over Asia for several months.  I am getting very good at Skype and writing letters!

Summer rolled on.  My brother and his wife visited for a full week and it was wonderful to reconnect with them.  My mother put together a fantastic surprise birthday celebration for me.  Boy did I feel loved!  I was able to move into my own place, just a short  drive from work.  I do love it up here, although I miss the comraderie that came with having my dear friends so close in Denton.  Living alone sure does teach you a lot about yourself!  I will save that for another blog!  The move has brought with it some new friends though, as well as becoming closer with old friends.  Joe and Lauren and their friends have been such a positive influence on me, and we have such a great time together.  I am truly grateful for all of my friends, old and new.

This fall has been fairly uneventful by comparison.  I am getting settled in at work and finally feel like I know what I’m doing.  I love living so close to Dallas; there is always something fun to do, and when I don’t feel like doing anything, I have my own space to cook, read, entertain, and do anything my heart desires – something I have never experienced before.  I have discovered that I enjoy golf (well really I just love being outdoors and golf courses provide some excellent scenery), and have been able to bond with my stepdad over a few rounds this year.  I played in my first golf tournament, held to raise funds for a scholarship in Aaron’s name.

I have also spent some time helping others this year.  I have joined the Young Republicans group in Dallas, and I hope to find more opportunities to serve the GOP through this organization.  At the very least, they know how to have fun!  Operation Kindness, a no-kill animal shelter, gets at least few hours of my time each month as well.  I have to admit that I began volunteering for selfish reasons – I miss Winnie terribly and I needed some kitty love!  There is plenty of it at OK!  This organization is phenomenal, well-organized, and caring beyond belief.  I keep wanting to take home a 3-legged or one-eyed animal.  A bleeding heart, I am.  I have also spent a day with Habitat for Humanity and will hopefully be up for many more.

So far I have tentative plans to travel to Germany and France in March of 2010 (I am buying my plane tickets this week), and I am thrilled to finally be going to Europe.  The opportunity never presented itself before now, and what an opportunity!  Three friends living in Europe at the same time means it’s time for me to cross the pond.

I have also been reflecting on my personal goals for 2010, namely the image that I wish present and how I can improve myself.  Fitness goals are right up there with that, as well as financial, career, and long term goals.  Until now, I have felt that my life was not my own to live.  The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, June 2nd marks a new beginning and lots of endings.  It is the day I start a career.  It is the day I end being an “older graduate” with no job.  It is the day I have been dreaming of for three long years.

I talk about going back to school a lot;  brief snippets of what led me to the decision, tough choices and realizations that were made.  The occasional heart-to-heart with a friend who is entertained by my storytelling gets to hear the full story.  But, as I spend my final care-free Sunday night contemplating the impact it has all had on my life…I am truly proud of myself.

When I think back to the type of people in my life three to four years ago – high school dropouts mostly – no wonder I was so complacent.  Making $12 an hour and getting treated like crap and living paycheck to paycheck was the norm.  A shift in the company I kept opened my eyes.  Suddenly I found myself surrounded by young socialites with careers, business owners younger than I, and people barely older than me who owned homes and had happy marriages and were living quite comfortably within their means.  I wasn’t jealous; I was inspired.  During an impromptu trip to Denton (home of UNT), I said to my date, “I just wish I could quit my job and go back to school full time.”  He replied, “Why can’t you?”  and the seed was planted.

School was hard.  I felt so old.   I commuted for the first year, only making a few friends.  I would drive an hour to class, and an hour home, never having spoken to anyone.  Then I met Josh, who quickly became one of my closest friends. He knew the entire school (he was student body president when I met him) and I can thank him for introducing me to the best friends a girl could ever have.  Tons of them.  After that I moved to Denton, only two blocks from the school.  While there I dealt with interesting (but lovable) roommates, a life-threatening illness, two relationships, no income, and the death of my beloved cat, Winnie.  My life changed so much over those three years.  I changed.  For the better.

I promised myself that I would graduate before I turned thirty.  I beat it by six months; in 26 days I will be thirty and I am the first college graduate in my family.  I don’t know if that’s why it was harder for me, or if I just thought it wasn’t important, but all that doesn’t matter now.   What matters is that I turned my life around.  Me.  I did that.

So Tuesday marks the end of an era.  No more sleeping in, no more being broke, no more hangovers on a Wednesday, no more skipping doctor and dentist visits, no more sitting on Facebook all day (you guys are totally going to miss me) no more embarrassment when someone asks me what I do.  It’s not the first time I’ve been an adult, it’s a joyful return.

I’m a person who prides herself on good manners.  Primarily, this consists of making everyone else comfortable;  I introduce my friends to the new people at the party, chew with my mouth closed, drive courteously (most of the time), and speak with my “inside voice,” among many other little things.  But with all this, there is an ulterior motive:  In return I am usually treated more courteously, and that’s how I like it.

When I see another person acting rude or agitated because of what someone else does, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have the ability to see the innocence behind others’ actions.  Blame is humanity’s instant go-to excuse.  It’s not my fault I spent too much money on my credit card, it’s that big company’s fault for charging me late fees and interest. I didn’t do anything wrong, she’s just a bitch. I see the answer to most of these agitations to be actually giving a crap about the person on the other side.

We can’t get very far in life without caring about other people.  Sure you can be a jerk and hateful all the time – everyone’s out to get you, that waitress is an idiot, that driver cut you off on purpose, your friend didn’t return your call because he’s a jerk, that girl doesn’t like you because she’s a stuck up bitch, the people at the Charter help line are idiots, etc. etc. etc… but how hard is it to imagine that college-age waitress on her feet all day, getting $4 per table + $3 per hour + dealing with your impatient, rude, high-expectations ass?  How hard is it to imagine that foreigner on the other end of the phone helping you hook up your cable modem is an actual person, with feelings, and a mortgage, and a family?  What about the guy at the drive-through window?  I can’t imagine how hard it is for that guy to be nice to every person that comes through.  Believe me, I’ve gotten some pretty messed up drive-through orders, but I’m not suddenly expecting every single order I get to be wrong.  And if it is?  So what??  It’s one lunch out of the 10,922 lunches I’ve eaten in my entire life (thanks WolframAlpha).  I think I’ll live if this $5 fast food isn’t up to par.  Also, sending a polite, well-worded complaint goes further than you think (or would farther be more appropriate here?  I couldn’t decide).

More importantly, how often is the person you have a problem with someone you care about, our cared about at one time?  Taking five seconds to think about what you say before you say it can mean the difference between a minor tiff and a permanent rift.  Think about who you are talking to before you say what’s on your mind in the heat of the moment.  I’ve seen so many friends lost, significant others gone forever, family members separated…all over WORDS.  How hard is it to bite your tongue?  Why is it important that you make that person feel bad?

Okay, I have rambled enough.  The main point here is that acting like a jerk serves no purpose other than to make you feel bigger, better, stronger, smarter, whatever…and it’s wrong and mean.  Also, having high-expectations is going to leave you disappointed 95% of the time.  I know I’m all talk, and I’m definitely not exempt from being blindly hateful, but please take some of this to heart and examine your own actions.  Making another person feel bad serves absolutely no purpose, and ultimately it does nothing but make you look like a jerk.

No blog of mine would be complete without a list.  So here’s a list of vocabulary words I think the majority of Americans need to think long and hard about:

  • integrity
  • honor
  • valor
  • chivalry
  • humility
  • modesty
  • kindness
  • fairness
  • politeness

Just imagine what these attributes would bring to your life, and what would you have to change to accomplish such changes?

Thanks to Jason Simon for his ever-so-helpful input and punctuation correction!