Don’t Hate the Playa, Hate the Game: A Valentine’s Day Misunderstanding

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Just in case you didn’t know, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.

I’m giving you this knowledge just in case you have somehow managed to avoid your Facebook newsfeed for the last, oh, four to five days, which has been SWAMPED with premature posts about the “day for lovers”, everything from surprise flower deliveries at work to chocolates and wine waiting at home, and everything in between. Or, perhaps you haven’t been out of your house in the last week to notice the grocery stores which are covered in red and pink, to remind you how many days you have left until you have to hurry up and buy a damn gift. So as another reminder from me to you, happy Valentine’s Day.

You may think my post sounds a bit cynical, or perhaps you are assuming I am one of those poor, lonely souls who will be eating my way through the empty hole in my heart that I wish were filled with love. Don’t worry though, the intention of my post today is not to destroy the hope for the hopefuls or the love for the lovebirds; rather, it is to give a few thoughts (and tips) to all of us in our Almost 30’s and beyond about this Hallmark Holiday.

I have been single the last 3 Valentine’s Days, and while I will admit I never spent those days shouting from the rooftops about how happy I was being single, I most certainly wasn’t one of those depressing Debbie Downers who mopes around all day *HATING* this day with a passion while complaining to anyone who even looks my direction about my sad love life problems. No, thankfully I have never been that type of girl. But to be honest, even now that I am in a wonderful, loving relationship, I STILL have a hard time being a fan of this holiday. Why, you might ask? Well because this wonderful company named Hallmark has turned what is supposed to be a day celebrating love into a day about compeition. This competition between women has become so ridiculous, and I have even witnessed situations where females have DUMPED their boyfriend because their Valentine’s Day gift wasn’t good enough. What is wrong with you women?! I hear excuses like: “I can’t believe he only took me to DINNER. And it wasn’t even an expensive restaurant!”, “I thought he was going to propose but he didn’t. He KNOWS I wanted to be proposed to on Valentine’s Day, but obviously he doesn’t even care!” and even “Ugh, I mean, carnations are just so…. simple. And cheap. I’m not about to post pictures of stupid carnations for everyone to see when all of my friends got roses!”…riiiight, because flowers are SO important.

So the question that I have to ask myself, even as an attached female on this Valentine’s Day, is why are we letting a superficial holiday destroy our happiness?!? This is a holiday that is meant to be about love and showing people that we care, but we have let the media and businesses such as card companies create this stupid competition between females get in the way of our wonderful relationships.

And so, as a Valentine’s Day tribute to the men out there who put forth their best effort and still suffer the wrath of not having the perfect gift on Valentine’s Day, I would like to advise all women the following: DON’T HATE THE PLAYA, HATE THE GAME. Stop ridiculing your men for what they did or didn’t get you. Stop comparing your gifts/surprises to what you thought you were going to get, or what your friends had. Love your man for the simple fact that he cares enough about you to do SOMETHING for you, whether it is a card/flowers/dinner/whatever! Recognize that you are losing sight of the real meaning of this holiday.

And on that note, I would like to give a small tribute to the men out there that put their heart and souls into searching for what they thought was the right gift, that was either put into a closet corner or returned the next week. Or perhaps you spent all of your hard-earned money on something you thought she would enjoy, and didn’t get the reaction you wanted…. let me give you a few short tips on gift-giving for Valentine’s Day.

5 Do’s and Don’ts of Gift Giving to Women on Valentine’s Day:

1. DONT buy Candy/chocolate: Now I’m not a chocolate lover, so I might not be the best judge. But from my experience, anything you give to a woman that might influence her weight is probably not the way to go, especially if you haven’t been dating for a while. Sure, she might love it and say thanks. But at the end of the day, if she REALLY wants some chocolate or candy, she will just go to the store and buy it herself. Don’t fit the stereotype unless you want to sleep on the couch, or are a high school boy.

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2. DONT buy a Gym Membership: Spiraling off number 1, unless you are married and she has specifically told you verbatim that she WANTS you to buy her a membership, do not (I repeat, DO NOT) buy her a gym membership, or any workout equipment at that. Why not, you might be asking? Because gym = weight loss, and whether we are happy with our weight or not, that is a very indirect way of saying “Honey, I love you, but your fat has to go.”

3. DONT just buy her flowers: Some women might argue with me on this one, but let me explain. Sure, flowers are pretty and they smell nice. But what can you do with flowers? NOTHING. You can look at them. Does your lady stay at home all day? If not, then when will she even see the flowers? They die after a few days, and they are uber CLICHE. Gag me. Be creative, not a stereotype. (**Disclaimer: If you know your gf/wife loves flowers, don’t just bring them home from work. Be different… send them to her work, make her go on a scavenger hunt to find them in a hidden spot, or order a unique type of flower that you can’t get year-round. Carnations and red roses are a no-no.)

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4. DO buy her a card/write her a letter: Do you hear me, men?! BUY HER A CARD! Buy her a freaking card that you spent a long time looking for, a card where EVERY word is true to your heart! Spill out your deepest, darkest emotions and feelings. Be a poet for a day! Not the lame “roses are red, violets are blue, you love me, and I love you” crap, but really and truly tell her how you feel about her. Especially if you have children or have been together for a really long time. Let me be honest and say that I have never, EVER received a card on Valentine’s Day, or any other day for that matter, from a boyfriend where he actually wrote something nice to me. Ever! And what if he did? Well, I’d probably shed a few tears and melt inside. Listen, we understand that men will be men and that you don’t pour your heart and soul to us everyday (even though we know deep down how you really feel), but would it hurt you to be mushy just ONE day out of the year? (okay… and maybe our birthdays too. Oh, and don’t forget anniversaries.)

…and last but not least….

5. DO surprise her!!: Okay, so maybe I was a little harsh about the candy/flowers crap. After all, I suppose this is just my own opinion. Or maybe your girlfriend/wife/mistress really DOES love those things (although I’d love to meet her, because I think you’re lying)… but at the end of the day, there are really only 2 things a woman needs from her man on VDay:

a) For you to show her AND tell her how much you love her and care about her, and

b) To be surprised.

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(Like this girl.. see how surprised she is? Your goal is to make us do this.)

…but really, if you don’t believe me, ask a female herself. At the end of the day, the gifts don’t (or at least they shouldn’t) matter, as long as they are from the heart. We want you men to be a little creative. If you don’t have a lot of money and we still love you anyways, then write her a love letter and hide it somewhere that she will find it during the day. Or if you know she’s been gaining weight and she’s all stressed out about it, buy her some sexy lingerie and tell her how beautiful she is. If you have a lot of kids and don’t get a lot of alone time, surprise her with a bubble bath while you put the kids to bed. Trust me, and try it. I think you’ll be surprised.

And my final note to the women out there reading this post, quit being so competitive or close-minded about what you should/shouldn’t have on Valentine’s Day. Remember what the TRUE meaning of this holiday is, and hate the “game” of what the world has conditioned us to think this day is all about. Instead, appreciate your man and THANK HIM for whatever it is he does for you. Or, if you are single, spend the day showing friends/family how much you love them. We don’t do that often enough in our busy everyday lives.

Oh yeah, one more thing: whether you’re single or taken, stay off Facebook for the day. Don’t post a picture of the red roses and candy your boyfriend gave you, because we already saw those from the last 438290 friends in our newsfeed… your gift isn’t any different.🙂

A Dream A Day Keeps Reality Away?!

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As a teacher, I often tell my students to follow their dreams. I want to inspire them, to motivate them, to teach them to reach for the stars. I encourage them to think outside of the box, to make goals and work to achieve them no matter what obstacles they may face or what others’ opinions are. I tell them what any adult tells a young child– “Do what makes you happy, because if you’re happy, then everything else will fall into place”.

Entering into my “almost 30” years I often reflect on these ideas that I express to my students and compare them to what my parents/role models told me as a young child. Didn’t we hear that at least once in our lives as we were trying to decide our life paths and career goals? Money can’t buy happiness. If you love what you do, then you’re not really working. Do what makes you happy and live each day like it is your last.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with these cliche phrases, but I have to stop and ask myself this question: Why are so many people in the world living their lives unhappy as adults? It seems as though this idea of happiness during adulthood is nothing more than a fairy tale–as a child, growing up sounds enchanting, almost mystical, living everyday completely and utterly dependent on ourselves, making our own decision, eating ice cream for breakfast every day (okay, don’t pretend like you didn’t look forward to this once, too…). But yet somewhere down the line post-college and pre-ball & chain of marriage we decide that this dream, this idealistic hope of growing up is actually just pure silliness. Almost as naturally as we eventually came to realize that there is no such thing as a Prince Charming who literally rides in on a white horse to sweep us off our feet or a magic genie who appears out of a lamp that sings and dances and grants us three wishes, we ultimately decide that adulthood is nothing more than bills, boredom, early bedtimes and lots of coffee. We accept this notion that our jobs and careers are not meant to be fun and entertaining. Because after all, if it were fun, it couldn’t actually be work, could it…?!

I have recently decided (for various reasons that are an entire blog, or even a book, in itself) that I’m not happy as a classroom teacher anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my students. In fact, most days my kids are the ONLY reason why I can even stomach waking up at 5:15 and trudging into that noisy, dirty building day after day while working myself to death every night and weekend, drowning in the endless paperwork and preparation. When I tell other “almost 30″‘s about my interest in a possible career change, they always ask me this in return: So what is it that you would like to do, instead of teaching?

(They always ask this question with a seriously confused look on their face, as if I couldn’t possibly be qualified to do anything else with my career.)

And so I begin, naming a few of my dreams, each dream followed by a depressing comment to remind me that adulthood isn’t about doing what you WANT, it’s about doing what makes the most money:

I would love to go back to school and get a Master’s in Social Work. I really love helping kids and want to make a more direct impact in their lives. (Oh, but isn’t that a big cut in pay? Why would you want to work so many hours and make less money?! I don’t think Social Work is a good field to be in these days. )

Well, I’ve also thought about counseling. I’m really good at listening to students’ problems and helping them work things out. (Counseling? What kind of counseling? That sounds nice, but you know that school counselors don’t even get to really work with the kids anymore. All they do is testing.)

I also love to write, so I guess if all else fails I could always go to journalism school. My dream job would be to travel and write for an international magazine of some sort! (A writer?! Is that even a profession anymore? You have to be realistic, how can you afford a career like that?)

….and so the trend continues. So you ask me what I think I might like to do, and just like a little kid again, I go on and on about my dreams and wishes and goals. I talk about my passions, the things and people that inspire me, and what I would do “if money were no worry”. YOU asked me, so I’M telling you. I let my dreams take the reigns and I imagine all of the things I’d love to do “what I grow up”.

So it comes down to this question: What makes this exact conversation so different now than the one we had with adults as a child? I’m not sure if I have an answer to this, but I would suggest it is society. Demands. Pressure from others to do what is expected of us as an adult. It’s like the second I turned 27, the Fun Police came running out into the streets to take us all into the jail of Adulthood, because there has just been too much dreaming going on and it is time to get SERIOUS. No more partying, silly spending, drinking too much on weekdays or playing hooky on a sunny day. We have to think about our future, finding a husband, having children, providing for them, sending them to college, having a solid retirement fund, and HOW CAN YOU DO ALL OF THIS IF YOU ARE BUSY ENJOYING YOUR CAREER AND HAVING FUN EVERYDAY?!

Apparently society is trying to tell us to put those dreams in a box and keep em’ there for good, cause ain’t nobody got time fo dat.

 

HELP! I’m 27 and I still haven’t [insert life adventure here]!!

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Okay, I know what you’re probably thinking. I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes with the “PLEASE… 27 is still so YOUNG!” look on your face, but please, hear me out.

If I had a dollar for every time I said this, I’d be a millionaire. Really, though. This statement is always preceded by something that I assumed I would be doing by the age of “almost 30”, but still haven’t quite accomplished yet. Just to name a few:

“I’m “almost 30″ and I still haven’t…”

1. Saved money. How many times will a girl overdraft her account, max out credit cards, and have to hitch rides until payday before she figures her finances out??

2. Received my Masters Degree... in ANYTHING!

3. Been married or had any kids. …although the older I get the less appealing this sounds (Let’s be honest, I like to sleep in on the weekends). But no matter how comfortable I am without that ball and chain, I still secretly find myself feeling a little bit more lonely each time I am minus a “plus one” at a table full of lovey-dovey couples, while in return I spend the night making out with the open bar.

4. Moved out of state. I have been living in the same dull, boring state my ENTIRE LIFE. I complain continuously about wanting to move to a bigger, more exciting city, yet there is something so scary about leaving my security blanket at home to move when I don’t even have any money saved up TO move. Therefore, back to #1.

5. Figured out where I’m going with my career. This is an entire story in itself, but I have always wanted to be a teacher. I have been teaching now for 5 years, but for the first time in my life I am sadly realizing that I’m not able to help children and truly make a difference in their lives the way I once hoped to and to the extent that they need it. Education has turned into another political profession where your success relies solely on things like test scores, paperwork, and analyzing results. So do I keep teaching and hate my life because I can’t afford to go back to school, or do I add it to my pile of drowning debt and take out a loan? Following your dreams is quite expensive.

So here I am, one week before my 27th birthday and I have already begun the pre-birthday freakout about this giant list of “adult” things that I feel I SHOULD have done by now while worrying about where I will be in the next 5 years. I’m going to be 27, I still have maxed out credit cards and not a dime in my savings account…so how do I know I’ll fix this problem by the time I’m 30? What if I still don’t have my crap together then, and nobody will marry me because my life is such a mess?? WHEN DID I LET MY LIFE BECOME SUCH A MESS?!? … you get the idea. One thought leads to another and I can almost feel the ulcers growing inside of me.

This year, however, I feel different. The last two and a half years of my life have been the most trying, stressful, and yet completely wonderful years of my life. I survived my first major breakup and lived on my own for the first time. I had a job that I loved for the time being and got to know some very inspirational children. I backpacked through Europe and volunteered in Africa. Even though I still continue to screw up my finances, I was able to pay off two credit cards. (Hey… at least it’s a start, right??) I grew up a lot, learned valuable lessons, and “figured out who I really am” (I know, so cliche, but so true). I mean, at least I’m not 30 and living with my parents to support my fatherless children while I’m hittin’ up da club every weekend, right? It could always be worse, I suppose….

I guess the point I am trying to make is this: if you would have told my teenage-self that this is what my life would be like now, I would have curled up into the fetal position, fallen into a deep depression while mulling over my terrible fate. Okay, so my life isn’t what I expected it would be as a teenager….. but whose life REALLY turns out like they expected it to? Moreover, who really WANTS their life to turn out as you expected??  (If that were the case, I would have married my loser high school boyfriend, had kids by 21, lived in my hometown forever and had cats. GROSS.) 

I may be growing older, but I am growing wiser. LIFE IS UNPREDICTABLE.  We can plan it out how we want to and try to adhere to our original draft, but we so often forget that our destiny and journey is not 100% in our own hands. After all, wouldn’t that be a little boring and dull?

So as I enter into my “Almost 30” years and begin writing this blog (as one of my New Year’s resolutions to spend more time doing things that I love), I am saying CHEERS to my new goal of adulthood:

*Do my best, stop worrying about things that are not in my control, and enjoy every minute of NOW instead of wasting this precious time in the past or future. Because “now” is the only thing we can change, anyways.*