A Lesson on Friendships from HIMYM

How I Met Your Mother hasn’t been as entertaining in recent episodes. They are wrapping up the series and while I will miss it, I think it comes at a good time for the show. But where they missed it lately on humor, they nailed it on life lessons. My dear friend Simone pointed out 10 Things she learned about Love from HIMYM in a recent post. In the 2nd to last episode, the narrator Ted said something that really struck a chord with me:

“And that’s how it goes. The friends, neighbors, drinking buddies, and partners in crime you love so much when you are young… as the years go by you just lose touch. You will be shocked to learn how easy it is to part ways with someone forever and that’s why when you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it.” – Ted Mosby, How I Met Your Mother

And I paused the TV (well my laptop, actually). I sat there, alone, just processing that.

Especially as I’ve gotten older, I have learned that not everyone is meant to stay in our lives. Everyone we encounter, teaches us a some kind of lesson, whether it be about ourself, to help us through a particular situation, to show us who we do or don’t want to be, or just about life in general. Some people are just temporary friends, there to help us grow in some way, and that’s okay.

But then there are those special friends that you want to be apart of your life for the long haul. Those people who make you happy, who make you laugh, who help you when you’re in need. People who genuinely care. They are the ones worth keeping in your life.

Keeping them around isn’t always that easy. Some just slip and fade away because life got in the way. It it really is shockingly easy to part ways with people forever. There are those we meant to have stick around but just didn’t put in enough effort to make it happen.

We’re not in school anymore and we’re not surrounded by the same people everyday. As kids, friendships were about conveniency. They were right there, everyday. You didn’t need a cell phone because you’d see the darn kid the next day in Homeroom. Now, you have to work on your friendships; you have to make an effort for those you want to keep in your life.

Part of growing up is realizing that all relationships worth keeping, especially friendships, take work and effort. Your family will love you unconditionally, but friendships are easily taken for granted and put on the back-burner. At least now with the internet, it is easier to stay in touch but it still takes a conscious effort. Friendship is a two-way street and if/when you want someone to remain there, you have to do something about it. It doesn’t have to be daily or even weekly, hell, there are those friendships that can go several months without talking but can pick up exactly where they left off, but it is important that the effort is made by both parties.

We often assume those we care about will always be around but things change, people change. Somebody moves, or switches jobs. Somebody withdrawals for a bit to cope with a personal issue. Or starts dating someone. Or gets married. And has a child. Or four. You try to connect for a while with texts or emails, maybe gab over lunch and promise to do it again but then you drift apart because one or neither of you made that effort. And work gets busy and life gets in the way and you find yourself saying, “I’m sorry, I’m just busy.”

Side note: To quote my friend Almie, “do not EVER tell anyone you are “booked”. You are not a dentist’s office. You are a person. People cannot be booked. Got it? Good.” <– Yeah, what she said.

Newsflash, we’re all busy. We all have work and life responsibilities, commitments we’ve made, projects to complete, other friends (heaven forbid!) to see, too. But friendship is about priorities, not excuses. It is about making time to connect with those that matter to us. Period.

I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want those people who make me feel small and inferior in my life anymore. I only want to surround myself with positive people; people who enrich my life, who care about my wellbeing, and inspire me and who make me a better person. People who make me laugh and who I not only want to have around, but who actively want me around too. And I see to it that I do everything I can to keep those people around.

Because as Ted articulately said, ‘When you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it.”

 

true friends

 

P.S.  I can tell this is important to a lot of people, I posted that quote on Facebook after it aired and it got 26 likes. Be sure to not let those you care about slip away either.

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On Control and Learning to Let Go

“You can’t always choose what happens to you in this life but you sure as hell can choose how you respond and react to it.” –Brixston

Control is a funny thing.

Growing up I was a goodie-two-shoes. I didn’t want to get in trouble so I always did what I was told; I respected authority and the elderly. I was sure to always say my please and thank you’s. I’ve never been arrested or broken any (serious) laws. I never did drugs nor did I drink at all until I went abroad my second semester junior year. I’ve never had that random kiss in a bar or one-night stand; I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been sick from drinking too much. I make lists so I don’t forget things and will often take ownership of something to make sure it gets done. I always sat in the front of the class, turned my homework in on time and I never played hooky from class. My bills are always paid on time; I take daily vitamins, work out, I eat very healthy and watch everything I put in my mouth. I realize I unintentionally take some things too serious, like jokes and some aspects of relationships. I used to care a lot what people thought and tried to please everyone. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m a planner. I try to get to the airport with time to spare and always have at least a quarter tank of gas. I’ve always been overcautious, meticulous and constantly trying to do the right thing. I could go on…

While a select few things have changed, most have not. And I would not change who I am.

But in the past 6 months, there have been multiple serious life-changing events, that were both good and bad, that despite all my efforts and precautions, still happened. And there is absolutely nothing I could have done differently. All of it was completely out of my control.

While I cannot control the outcomes, I can control how I react and respond to the situations.

It is frustrating and defeating at first, and it is okay to have those feelings. But rather than dwell and wallow, I’ve chosen to focus on the positive aspects that I can take away from it. What can I learn? How can this situation make me a better person? What is the positive in this particular situation? How can I use my situation to help someone else?

I’ve learned that the Universe often has its own plans. No matter how much you try to be in command of the situation, to do all right things, say the right things, be in the right place, and to protect yourself against the dangers of life, sometimes you just have to let go, take some risks, love freely and live a little because some things are just out of your control.

10 Years Later…

I remember on graduation night 10 years ago, thinking that the 10 year reunion seemed like an eternity away. It seemed so far off that it would never get here. But time doesn’t stop and just like that, I was standing among my peers once again. It is crazy to think about all that has happened since my high school graduation let alone what the world was like a decade ago.

Just within the year I graduated…

  • We were on the brink of the tech boom in 2003.
  • The Recording Industry Association of America filed copyright lawsuits against Internet users for trading songs online.
  • Apple launched iTunes and was cited TIME’s Coolest Invention of 2003
  • A white tiger attacked Roy Horn of the duo “Siegfried & Roy” leaving him partially paralyzed.
  • Microsoft released the first Tablet PC. The year book says, “it enables users to write directly on the screen rather than typing on a keyboard”.
  • tabletKelly Clarkson won American Idol.
  • The space shuttle Columbia exploded on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, killing all aboard.
  • Amber Alert is introduced.
  • JK Rowling’s fifth Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released.
  • Phones were actually used for making calls and texting with T9.
  • The first camera phone (with a terrible picture) was released and people & companies were panicked about privacy.
  • Oh, and there was no Facebook yet.
  • and more.

nokia phone

Fast forward to this past Friday – to my 10 year high school reunion. It was held at Benchmark, a bar in downtown Chicago the Friday after Thanksgiving.

I am now comfortable and confident in my own skin so I walked into the bar alone; something I NEVER would have done until recent months. I knew I’d obviously know people so it wasn’t like I’d be alone for long. Plus, I’m at a point in my life that if you are still going to judge me, that’s your prerogative. I walked around and did my best to talk with everyone, even if we weren’t particularly close in school. We’re all adults now; I’m long over the high school cliques and drama. With a few exceptions, most people dropped their cliques and were friendly, pleasant and chatty. Majority of people looked the exact same. While I think my face is a bit thinner, I know I fall in that category, too. I enjoyed catching up with friends I’d lost contact with and meeting my peer’s spouses. One benefit to attending reunions is that you have an opportunity to rekindle those lost friendships. It was very surreal that it was actually happening, that it was my turn to be celebrating. How had 10 years passed so quickly? It was bizarre being in a bar with all these familiar faces, that I hadn’t seen in so long, all in one room. It was really nice to reconnect with those I’d lost contact with.

10 Year Time Capsules I had completely forgotten about filling this out at Grad Night until someone asked if I had found mine yet. Turns out, I did! I’m so grateful I took the time back then; this was so fun to read. Apparently, even then I knew I was passionate about impacting lives, making a difference and knew that it was important that I stay true to myself.  Here are a few of my answers:

  • Favorite TV Shows: FRIENDS, Everybody Loves Raymond, My Wife and Kids (FRIENDS was still on!)
  • What is the funniest thing you did at GBN, but didn’t get caught? I didn’t do anything risky worthy of getting caught (Yeah, sounds about right)
  • What do you want to do for your career? PR, Marketing, Sociology, Psychology, anything that will have an impact on someone else.  (I wound up minoring in Sociology and I have a background in media/marketing. I also took my current job for that EXACT reason that I wanted to have an impact on others!”)

Predictions for 2013:

  • What is your occupation: No idea
  • Where will you be living? Chicago (close – I moved away from Chicago Feb 2013)
  • Will you be married? No. (sad, why didn’t I even believe it?!)
  • Who will you still be friends with from your graduating class? Of the five people I listed, only one remains.
  • What do you hope your greatest achievement will be? Stay true to myself, graduate college and make a difference in other’s lives.

Even though I may have lost my way for several years in there, it seems that I always knew my purpose, my passion. The fact that I took my current job specifically to “make a difference and impact people’s lives” and have recently taken drastic actions to ensure that I find myself – enabling me to finally be true to myself, is absolutely wild. I guess I knew myself better then than I realized!  I think it’s funny, but kind of sad that I didn’t think I’d be married either.

Facebook Contrary to what most people think, I think it actually helped serve as a conversation starter for some. I heard, “Oh, your wedding photos were beautiful,” “I saw you moved to California, how is it?” or “You went to Africa!” etc. It added dimension to conversations. If you had nothing to say but wanted to be friendly, it wasn’t creepy but rather complimentary to say, “I saw you got married, Mazel Tov” or something along those lines. I sure as hell am thankful Facebook didn’t exist while I was in high school but it wasn’t as detrimental to the reunion as I expected.

I originally went to the reunion because I figured, “I’d rather go and know it sucked than not go and regret it.” There is a lot of hype and high expectations that build in anticipation of the big day.  Turns out, I’m really glad I went. I had a great time catching up with people and it was great to see so many familiar faces. A lot has happened in 10 years, both in the world and for me personally.

Left: Senior year 2003. Right: at the reunion with Tom - my prom date (left) and good friend Robby (right).
Left: Senior year 2003. Right: at the reunion with Tom – my prom date (left) and good friend Robby (right).

Once again, 10 years from now seems almost impossible to imagine. But just like this reunion, the 20 year reunion will be here before we know it. To think that I’ll be almost 40 at that point is mind blowing. Oye. I feel old just thinking about that.

10 years from now: I hope I am happily married, settled with two(?) kids and a loving family. I hope that I am happy in my job and that it allows me to support my family, that I continue to have adventures, pursue my dreams, continue to travel, and am making a difference in people’s lives. Maybe I’ll be back in Chicago, maybe still in DC, maybe I’ll be in a different country all together. Who knows!

Here is to the next 10 years…

Did you go to your 10 year reunion? 20 year? What did you think? 

One Year Ago Today…

One year ago today…

I arrived in Tanzania, Africa for what was the greatest adventure of my life – a month of volunteering & teaching in the community, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, going on Safaris, and visiting Zanzibar. All of it completely changed my life. I’m in disbelief that it has been a year already. I miss Moshi and my experience EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I don’t think a day goes by that I haven’t thought about it in some capacity.

I’m so grateful for that experience.

I can’t believe all that has happened, come and gone in the past year and all that I’ve learned and discovered both about myself and others along the way. Nzuri sana.  It’s funny, I always catch myself first, but my instinct is still to say “Asante Sana” instead of “Thank you.”

In that month, I learned so much about myself, what it means to be a community, how privileged americans are and how much we take for granted. I learned so much about gratitude and appreciating what we have; that being wealthy has everything to do with how grateful and happy you are and nothing to do with how much money you have.  I learned to follow my heart; to express love and gratitude and to live passionately. I learned there is so much more to life than just the items we own or the cars we drive or the life we live. I realized how important it is to experience other cultures and to leave your first world expectations at home when you travel to a third world country.

Time and how we perceive it is an odd thing. I reflect and think about all that has happened in the past year since I first arrived in my host city and I am silenced.

When put in perspective that I’ve already lived in DC for 7.5 months, one year ago feels simultaneously both light years away and just few months ago.  It’s a teeter-totter of emotions and memories. It seems like it never happened; it seems like 6 months; it seems like decades ago and it seems like a year.

So much has happened since I landed in Tanzania. I look back on the impact the children had on me, and vice versa; the fact that I no longer have to dream about someday fulfilling a lifelong dream of volunteering and going on African Safari’s is exhilarating and saddening.  It’s crazy that I actually held residence in Africa. Not at a hotel, but a place I called home for a month. It’s hard to fathom that I climbed the largest freestanding mountain in the world and lived to tell the tale. I think about that accomplishment and it still blows my mind that I DID THAT.  At this point it feels like it is a figment of my imagination, just a dream I conjured up in my head, and I have to look at photos for proof I didn’t make it up. I am still in awe and incredibly proud of myself that I actually did it let alone successfully made it to the summit no less. I accomplished 7 things on my life list.

In the past year since returning, I flew 22 hours alone, my sister got married, I was unemployed for a while, I moved across country on a gut feeling and then I got a new job soon thereafter; one that I love because I know I get to impact lives everyday. I made a new home in that new city and made new friends. I’ve accomplished  2 more things on my life list.  I ran my first 5K. I played league sports and started my own Ladies Only fantasy NFL leagues with friends. I have spent an ENTIRE year eating only meat that was GMO/anti-biotic free.

Man, a lot has happened – and that’s just the start of it all.

From the moment I boarded the plane wondering what this adventure was going to be like – until now – the adventures haven’t stopped. When I woke up a year ago today, I never would have predicted just where my life would be today – all because of that one decision to go to Africa.

I miss Moshi and my students every day. This adventure and experience has become a part of who I am and I am proud of the person I have become. I am strong and brave; I am bold and adventurous. I have learned to be true to myself, to follow my gut and to surround myself with people who make me a better person. I am more positive and grateful. I know that I can accomplish big things; I know I can push myself; I can climb mountains and continually challenge myself. I’ve learned to honor who I am and to do what makes me happy.  I’ve grown more into the person I want to be. Asante Sana.

You can’t predict what the future holds but you do have to have faith that you are going in the right direction. Time is a funny thing. It never stops. And as we get older, it only goes faster. It blurs together and weeks become months and months become years. I still can’t believe an entire year has gone by.

What started as the greatest adventure of my life has evolved into my life being a giant adventure now. I am grateful for my experience and thankful I had the courage to follow my dreams and make it happen. I look forward experiencing (what is now) the upcoming year and reflecting on all that I will have done. Maybe a year from now I’ll be in a different city? Engaged? Single? Maybe I’ll be an Aunt? At a new job? Whatever will be this time next year, I look forward to all the adventures that lie ahead.

Hakuna Matata.

faces

summit

Change of Times – The Day the Clock Stopped.

Do you have something, an item or chotchky, that you have held onto through the years for no good reason other than because it held some nostalgic link to your past? For some unexplained reason you just couldn’t get yourself to throw it out?

My nostalgic item from college was a clock. A stupid black and white, cheap, whopping TEN dollar wall clock from Target. I bought it the fall semester of my sophomore year when I had just moved into my sorority for the first time. I lived with 3 other girls and when we were decorating our room, I bought this little cheap clock to hang on our wall. It hung above us all, above our couch in a spot where we all could see it. At the end of the semester, I moved down the hall and it came with me. Every time I moved, in college and even in Chicago, it came with me. The Clock found a spot on a bedroom or bathroom wall in every apartment I’ve had ever since. It became a staple of my room. While a lot of stuff got tossed when I moved to DC, I was sure it made the trip with me when I shipped my stuff. I didn’t know what it was about The Clock, but it made me comfortable knowing it was there. The place never felt like home until it was hanging on the wall. As the years passed, I changed but The Clock stayed a constant in my life.

It was a good cheap little clock; I rarely ever had to change the battery on it, maybe max two or three times in 9 years. That’s magical in clock lives. When I arrived in DC, it was one of the first things I unpacked. I immediately hung it on the bathroom wall and felt comforted. I noticed that afternoon that The Clock had stopped. So, naturally, I replaced the battery. It worked for about 15 minutes and then stopped again. So I bought a brand new pack of batteries and tried again. It not only stopped working, it killed the brand new batteries. This repeated 3 or 4 times before I finally gave in and said my goodbye. It wasn’t the batteries, The Clock had had enough. I paused and had a bit of a hesitation when I put it in the trash but knew it was for the best.

When I first bought The Clock in 2004, it was symbolic of the times changing. I was no longer a silly naïve young Freshman at Indiana University. I knew the campus, I was older, wiser and now I was a sorority girl living in a sorority house. I was on the verge of a lot of change and had a lot of adventures and growth ahead of me. 

Looking back, it is goofy that I had an attachment to a clock. But when I stop to think about it – it is quite symbolic of my life. It was with me for almost 9 years. It was there with me through all my college experiences. It was like a fly on my wall that witnessed many firsts and tears, tons of late night girl chats, silly sorority girl fights, hours of long studying, boy crushes, and while I didn’t realize it at the time, it likely was with me from the very first time I ever met The Ex, 3 years before we ever dated. It was with me through our entire relationship and as I lived out The Year of Caryn, looking to rediscover and find myself, it was there.

I moved to DC because I felt in my heart that I needed a fresh start. I wanted to put the past behind me and start a new. I knew it was time for a new chapter in my life to begin, time for new adventures and for change. While the clock used to be a constant in my life, I’ve learned that the only thing that is constant, is change.

It’s funny – it wasn’t just a silly cheap little clock, after all. It represented almost an entire decade of my life. There was no logical explanation as to why this move was any different from the many that came before, or why The Clock was hell-bent on killing every new battery I tried. The only thing that was different was me. I had changed. I am not the same girl who bought it 9 years ago nor am I even the same woman I was when I said goodbye to The Ex. The fact that the day The Clock stopped was the very day I moved in to my new apartment, in a new city; the day I was starting over with new adventures and a new beginning, is just too wild to be a coincidence. Moving here, I told the Universe I was ready to put all that had happened in Clock Decade behind me in order to embark on this new path. Just like that part of my life, The Clock is just a nostalgic memory now. I had to say goodbye to it, move on, start fresh and buy a new clock to go on the wall. Change of times, indeed.

dali melting clock