2013: A Year in Review

Let’s not start off this blog with the whole “look-how-fast-a-year-has-passed” commentary and skip straight to the meat of it.

A few months ago sometime in early March, I penned a blog entitled “Kicking It,” where I wistfully listed 15 bucket list items, 70% intent on accomplishing them, whereas the remaining 30% of me was a little doubtful if I actually could do them.

This short and sweet entry revisits the 15 criteria (with thumbnails, because you know, “Pics or it didn’t happen!”), almost half of which I somehow was able to cross off the list this year.

  1. Run a 5k.

I think the day after I published the original bucket list blog, I ran my first 5k Color Run for my school’s fundraiser. And wound up with ungodly amounts of green on the lower half of my face. I’m hoping to run a 10k at some point, or a mud run or the Spartan Race – maybe not necessarily in 2014 since it’s looking to be a pretty hectic year, but someday.

  1. Get ordained.

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Getting ordained by the Universal Life Church is simple…almost too simple. I’m technically ordained, but need to pay the $9 fee to have the credentials mailed to me before I can perform any weddings, funerals, etc. So feel free to absolve all your sins to me (muahahaha).

  1. Be part of a YouTube sensation.

I don’t even have a YouTube account, so yeah…

  1. Go to an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day.

This *could* be a possibility this coming St. Patty’s Day, depending on how my tutorial schedule works out. Although technically an Irish pub doesn’t have to be in Ireland, right? In which case I’m golden, despite the holiday being on a Monday.

  1. Tandem skydiving.

Just kidding. This isn’t me. Contemplating whether to take the plunge for my 21st, or kick it at Disneyland. I think it will come down whether I can score some Groupons for the occasion.

  1. Make a phone call out of one of those red telephone booths.

I mean, my cell phone case is a red telephone booth, but I suppose that doesn’t count. Again, I’ll likely have the chance to get this one done while abroad in Oxford.

  1. Meet a famous person.

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Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Joel McHale (a.k.a. Jeff Winger from Community) at a live taping of The Soup at NBC Studios. If The Soup or Community don’t ring a bell, then this will be of little importance to you. But for me, I was ecstatic. And yes, he really is that tall. And he is that freaking hilarious.

  1. Get fitness certified.

I think this one would require me shedding the stubborn poundage I’ve been trying to get rid of for a few years. 2014, please look upon me with favor…

  1. Ride an elephant.

Riding elephants (twice!) was just one of the amazing things I got to experience in Thailand last summer. Admittedly, reading Water for Elephants helped kick start my appreciation for the creatures’ gentle demeanor and keen memory.

  1. See something on Broadway.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see dozens of productions throughout my young life, including two at the Hollywood Pantages, but I have yet to call upon Broadway.

  1. Write a book.

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I re-started writing a book of sorts this summer, but put it on hold as school started up again. If I’m to be realistic, I’m not really looking at it as a project to be published, so long as I have a book I can call my own. But if it comes down to that, I wouldn’t complain.

  1. Be in a live audience taping.

See #7.

  1. Go on a safari.

Not yet.

  1. Travel.

And by “travel” I mean to put more emphasis on international travel, as well as exploring the East Coast, as I have never been. Hoping to hit Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, and maybe Italy while in England for the next 3-4 months, as well as New Zealand, South Africa, and one Spanish-speaking country in the probably much-later future.

  1. Get inked or pierced.

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My roommates finally convinced me to get matching butterfly tattoos with them. I’m totally kidding, but I did get my navel pierced over spring break this year *shields face to ward off potential judgment*.

Christmas, As Told by Buddy

Christmas as Told by Buddy pic

I love “Elf.” Not only is it a nice reminder of one of Will Ferrell’s best roles prior to his later (and usually more stupid) blockbuster characters, but the titular elf Buddy epitomizes the holiday spirit that is nothing short of amusing.

In the hopes of keeping your attention, I’ve laid out this blog in a series of GIFs, a la Buzzfeed. Below are examples of the how-to’s of keeping the ho-ho-holiday happiness alive, even year-round:

1.       Reacting Joyously to Even the Smallest Things

Hands-down my favorite scene. For a while, I kept it as my morning alarm – let me tell you…quite effective. Anyway, I think if we reacted more enthusiastically to the things in life that genuinely bring us joy, I think we’d be happier in the long run than if we treated the object of happiness more casually. Santa at the mall? Why shouldn’t Buddy scream “SAANTAAAAAAAAA OH MY GAWWWWWWWWWWWD!” and frighten potential Gimbels customers?

2.       Smile While Answering the Phone

If you smile when answering the phone, the person on the receiving end can hear it in your voice. Even if they decide that you’re a freak and ultimately hang up on you.

3.       Exhibiting Unconditional Love

 It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Walter Hobbs is kind of a jerk. And it doesn’t take a genius to know that unconditional love can be an extreme, but it is cool to see Buddy consistently trying to win over his father (and Jovie) with his, um, unconventional bonding ideas.

4.       Be Loud and Proud

I needn’t say anything here.

5.       First Rate Date

Ladies, if a man takes you on a date that involves skipping and revolving doors, NEVER LET HIM GO.

6.       Practice Encouragement

Even if it’s the world’s crappiest cup of coffee claiming to be the best, barristas everywhere appreciate the love.

7.       Keep Doing What You Do

Don’t try to be something you’re not. As they say, it’s much better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not. Clearly it worked out for our friend Buddy, whose interior [Christmas] decorating skills, snowball mastery, and mailroom dance skills generated some unlikely friendships.

 

December Days

December Days pic

As far as I’m concerned, last week was Halloween and yesterday was Thanksgiving. And if you’re in the United States, Christmas is in less than three days [insert cliché, rhetorical comment about wondering where the time went].

With each passing year, Christmastime seems to lose some of its magic –at least for me – as I’ve made the transition from child-who-grew-up-too-fast to adult-who-is-somewhat-reluctant-about-some-of-the-less-appealing-but-necessary-aspects-of-adulthood. Of course I still get the same joy out of my favorite holiday traditions, such as watching “Elf,” Spotify-ing Michael Buble’s Christmas album, and setting up my expanding Nutcracker collection, but what comes with growing up is realizing that some of the magic has slipped out of your fingers, and you don’t know why.

Christmastime (not necessarily Christmas Eve or Christmas Day) will always be my favorite holiday, but the words “Blue Christmas” kept recurring in my mind around this time, and I didn’t know why but thought it best to write and rewrite until I did know.

I think the “blueness” goes beyond the childhood realization that Santa’s Christmas Eve deliveries are products of successful Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, though. Maybe it’s the realization that while Christmas often brings out the goodwill in people more than any other time of the year, the high expectations during the high holidays can be dashed under the pressure of trying to exhibit that goodwill.

For example, I don’t think Black Friday is necessarily all bad – except when stores are opening on THURSDAY, not Friday. So even worse than the name being misleading is the fact that department store employees don’t have the freedom (which is ironic, seeing as Thanksgiving is an American holiday) to enjoy a decent football game over a calorie-ridden slice of pumpkin pie. People have actually DIED on Black Friday – what is that? I love giving gifts to people – and seeing their priceless reactions – so I get that jumping on sales is important for those who really want to buy something nice for a loved one. Yet in this seemingly generous mentality, I’ve seen things get ugly down at the malls.

The holidays are undoubtedly a time for being with friends and family. So why is it that family reunions have become an occasion to dread? I’m looking at you, recently married couples spending the holidays with your in-laws.

And speaking of couples, I’ve come to acknowledge that Valentine’s Day is not the worst holiday to be alone on; that would be Christmas, if you think about it (or are living it). Especially if you’re watching “Love Actually.”

Another recurring string of words that have occupied my mind are “Peace on Earth?” Yes, with the question mark. Obviously it’s not just recent years that have brought on a series of tragedies that compel me to seriously question the dark side of mankind, but rather all these tragedies have built up a bit of doubt in my mind that the “peace on earth” as described in the Nativity story is actually an attainable thing. I think when you’re younger it’s easier to be closed off to the latest breaking terrorist news. With internet, not so much.

Yet with all these bluesy aspects of the winter solstice season, there is left room for potential. Potential to be more charitable and good, and not just for the overly used justification, “Well I suppose, it IS Christmas.” Potential to reunite with those who have at least SOME meaning to our lives, not because we feel obligated to, but because we want to. Potential to improve aspects of ourselves now, and not waiting around for the start of the New Year. Potential to achieve some sort of peace on our world, making the Christmases that seem bluer than others slightly less strong blue hues, and consequently brighter and merrier.

 

The Last Time

The Last Time pic

As one of the only souls still left on campus, I’ve gotten accustomed to sounds of the unnecessarily long goodbyes between roommates-turned-bros, girls who haven’t seen each other in a day and will not see each other again for four weeks, and the students who are obviously eager to get away, bidding all farewell with a heartfelt “Sayonara, SUCKAS!”

As a student who will not be returning to the campus for a full year, my winter holiday adieus are more permanent, and I bid adieu differently than the aforementioned ways. Of course I gave my roommates warm embraces before they left to their respective homes, but now that the apartment is relatively quiet and devoid of all five lasses, my musings have kept me company; more so than usual and at much louder volumes.

The fact that I’ll be away from the actual school for an entire semester comes as a bit of a relief for me for some reasons, but also came as a bit of a slap to the face when I final got the housing termination email a few weeks ago. Since then, I have had a sort of mental countdown clock ticking steadily as I finish up my final tasks here. Here are some examples of some of my thought processes:

This is the second to last time you’ll pick up your check. You only have one more week left with your current roommates until you’re replaced. This is the last assessment for American Lit class. Your gym membership expires one the 14th; this is your last “leg day” for awhile.

And as I sit here downing my peppermint mocha while blogging at Starbucks (apparently I don’t dislike coffee as much as I thought I did), I’m aware that this is the last time I’ll be taking myself out on a solo date out in the LA area.

Two of my close friends are also studying abroad come spring term (one to Israel, the other to Lithuania), and so we all discuss our dreams, fears, etc. regarding that on a fairly consistent basis. One night as we were indulging ourselves with Thai takeout at my place (also for the last time for a good while), the one going to Israel said something that I haven’t been able to get out of my head for the past week: “Hey you guys, what if we all come back completely different people? Like how we’re going to change?”

If the high school freshman version of myself were to see me now, she’d be in for some surprises. Hell, if the version of myself from six months ago were to meet current me, it’d be a somewhat similar ordeal.

But I can’t help but wonder if this is also going to be the last time that I will be in this state of “me-ness” before I start evolving again. Because as much as we like to say or think that we’re never going to change, that’s a lie. We’re changing every day with the choices we make and the challenges that cross our paths.

To a certain extent we can control how we change as people, which is where the decision-making affects our personalities. But it’s impossible to predict those changes now, obviously.

These past few months, I’ve had the chance to experience life in ways that I had never given myself the opportunity to do before, because I was always too busy to care or notice. This is part of why I haven’t been writing as much, along with the academic workload, of course. Because of this time, I’ve changed in ways that have surprised even me – in some ways that I can be proud of, and perhaps in other ways not so much. But I regret nothing.

This won’t be the last time I frequent a local Starbucks, that’s for sure. There’s a Starbucks equivalent in the UK, right? But in all seriousness, I am curious – sometimes worried and sometimes excited – about the ways I’ll grow, morph, maybe regress, and generally change as a person. Will I always need time to myself to balance out the time surrounded by others, or is that something you grow out of? Will I sport a tattoo I decided to get on a whim, or will I never be quite that spontaneous? Will I become outspoken, or charming (that one’s probably a negative), or street smart or adorably quirky (quirky yes, adorably so is also probably a negativo). What circumstances, pray tell, might push me towards the direction of becoming the person I swore I’d never be? On the opposite end of the spectrum, what times will test me in terms of showcasing the best aspects of myself?

I want to change; we all do in certain aspects of our lives. But as it stands at this moment, I don’t want there to be an expiration date for how long I can keep being Caitlin 20.0, even when the world keeps turning. Andy Warhol once said, “The best thing about a picture is that it never changes even when the people in it do.” Times will change, and time changes people. I find this to be both a frightening yet frighteningly beautiful concept.