Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Christmas

I'd have to say this was one of my best Christmases ever! I got to see tons of family, and best of all - there was no family drama! Woo hoo. Last year there was a bit of a rift, but I'm happy to report that this year was as pleasant as can be.

I've been house sitting for a family friend this last week, so my parents stayed over there and that's where we had our immediate family Christmas. I even brought a mini tree over from my work to serve as our tree, but it looked quite small and pathetic after it was surrounded by a barrage of gifts (now what about this being a "small" Christmas, Mom?).

I even forgot that I'd be receiving presents this year - all my focus had been on what to give to people! Not to say I didn't enjoy my goodies, of course. I got a lot of great things from Santa - a feminist magazine subscription, books, a jewelry box with some new earrings and a necklace to add to it, long underwear (hey, I'm practical and it's damn cold out there these days!), an Edward from Twilight blanket from my cousin, perfume, a journal and more! One of my cousins was my Secret Santa and she gave me the coolest display of my grandpa's old political pins (some that are even worth something!), which was so thoughtful and creative.

We had a White Elephant gift exhange, which was quite hilarious. Some of the top items were a Superman Snuggie and an ink stamp that said "WTF" (an explanation to Grams ensued after that was opened, along with what in the world a "MILF" is...ay yi yi). We played games, ate food, stuffed our faces with sweets and of course had some champagne.

Another wonderful Christmas and another year full of memories!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Anything Less Than Butterflies

Now that we're nearing the end of another year, I tend to reflect on what I've done and learned these last 12 months. And I'm happy to report that this was a good year for me, despite some bumps in the road, but that's to be expected.

This year I took a much-needed break from the relationship world. Sure, I went on dates and tried to pursue a couple leads, but I never held the title of "girlfriend" this year. I can't stress enough how valuable this was. My distance away from being in a relationship really allowed me to find out more on what I want/don't want.

For starters, I don't want to become a pod person/sell-out the minute I get into a relationship. This was the mistake I made 2 years ago, and it wasn't until this year that I finally cut all ties and moved on. Now I see how close I was to abandoning my goals/dreams simply for the sake of a guy. When I met that person, I was one smitten kitten. I hadn't felt that way about someone in a really long time, so I got very caught up in all of the excitement. I didn't always live in the present in that relationship - all I did was envision our future: getting engaged, moving in together, having kids, vacations, cooking. I would tell friends that if he were to propose at any minute, even with a piece of string instead of a ring, I'd say yes in a heartbeat.

Seriously?? I was 23 years old...why did I ever think I was ready to get married? My theory is that this was my first truly adult relationship to where I was old enough to be with someone where a future together wasn't virtually impossible (i.e. not a high school/college relationship). We were grown ups, which meant we could do true grown-up things like get married and play house together. It saddens me to think how I quickly neglected thinking about my career and education goals, all because I was falling for someone who made my Susie Homemaker gene kick in.

For the record, this was not his doing in the slightest. Trust me, I wouldn't date an archaic ogre that expected me to cook/clean/pop out 10 kids/serve him in every way, every day. This whole idea of settling down was my thing, and I really don't know where it came from. My family raised me to be independent and to stand on my own 2 feet (I can hear my dad's voice reverberating in my head right now with those words). My parents are not the type to cajole me into popping out their grandkids ASAP. I was raised to concentrate on my education, career and hobbies. So why the hell was I so quick to become a Stepford wife? I really don't know, but I'm sure it has to do with societal influences. I blame rom coms.

So next time I get goo-goo-ga-ga over someone, I'd really like to not forget the things I want for myself in this life. Because let's face it - this decade is the only time I'll get to do things just for me, without having to take into consideration anyone else. I'd like to be as selfish as I can while my youth is still intact.

Another thing I learned this year is that all of the qualities I like about the opposite sex don't really matter. Yes, we all want someone who is honest, reliable, funny, family-oriented, employed, responsible, cute. But honestly, one crucial quality trumps all of those things - and that is the quality of appreciating me. I spent the better part of this year pining away over a friend of mine, trying to force something that just wasn't going to happen. I'm happy to report that I finally came to my senses and can now appreciate the friendship we have. I no longer am trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, and it feels nice. I can just enjoy someone's company without those sleepless nights and pathetic emo playlists making me wonder, "Why doesn't he like me?" For once, I don't care if anyone likes me.

I don't want to have to force anyone to be with me. I want - hell, I deserve - to be with someone who thinks, "Wow, I'm with Tracy. I'm so incredibly lucky." I mean, I don't need to be on any sort of a pedestal or anything, but some cherishing would be nice. I can't think of a time when I was actually with someone that felt the same way back. Thankfully, my lack of romance as of late has allowed me to realize that I feel pretty good about just loving myself! I'm OK with being on my own; in fact, I actually like it a lot. I'm not closed off to the idea of dating someone, but I'm not heartbroken if it's not happening right now.

I think 2011 is going to be another good year. I'm feeling more confident than ever about myself, even if there are those times when I find myself wandering around aimlessly and feeling like I've lost my direction. As long as I have a general idea of where I'm headed, I know I'll be fine. And I also can't forget the most important thing - NO settling!

I'll leave this with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite shows: "Some people are settling down, some people are settling, and some refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hell-th Care

Yesterday we discussed our new health plans at work, followed by individual meetings with our insurance company representative. Not only did this discussion make me want to flee the country, but it really irritated me when it was implied by some that the drastic increases in our premiums were a result of the new healthcare law.

Whether you agree with the Affordable Care Act or not, we're all in the same boat here - our healthcare system is broken, and it needs to be fixed pronto. And honestly - this is the first year anyone is seeing premiums rise 10, 15, 25%? C'mon. Obama is not the reason we're paying insurance companies up the wazoo. This assault on our wallets has been going on for years.

As a single, young person, healthcare costs for me are relatively low, especially considering I won't be bearing children anytime soon. And yet, I'm forced to shell out my hard-earned money, all so I can have a dental hygienist tell me how well I'm flossing and send me a bill for $120. Sure, now my annual lady exams are "free" because they are considered preventative care, but I'll be paying more out-of-pocket this year, for no good reason at all. Sure, it's a lot less than what other people are paying these days, but I don't understand why run-of-the-mill health check-ups have to be such a damn clusterfuck in this country.

I've heard people claim that healthcare sucks in other countries. Sure, maybe in Bangladesh things are rocky, but a quick Google search yieled some interesting stats when it comes to comparing our system with those of other developed nations - the U.S. ranks LAST out of 7 countries' healthcare systems when it comes to what we pay, access to care and the quality of care. We pay double what other countries pay and receive less quality care. So much for letting the market take care of itself, right?

There's always the other side, of course. More of my research found that the U.S. is superior than other nations in some ways: cancer screenings, cancer survival rates, better access to chronic disease treatment, less wait times and better access to new technologies.

Doesn't it make sense that we'd see lower rates of chronic and terminal illnesses if more of our citizens took part in preventative care? Seems like common sense to me. Given the trade off, I'd take longer wait times and older technologies if it meant that more of our population was covered so that more of us could actually take care of ourselves and get check-ups before certain diseases occur or get worse. And more people covered means a healthier population overall - i.e. less healthcare costs for everyone.

So I wish people would stop blaming healthcare reform (which some idiot judge ruled unconstitutional recently) and stop pooh-poohing other countries' systems. This shouldn't be such a partisan issue - we all want quality, affordable healthcare. And if we don't get it, then maybe I'll follow in Sarah Palin's footsteps and head to Canada to get the job done (true story: her family actually did this).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chrismahanukwanzakkuh Time

Boy, do I love the holiday season! I'm usually in a better mood, i.e. when people cut me off on my way to work, I don't bitch too much about it. ("Oh, you wanna play it like that now, Honda Odyssey? Fine, I'll let you in. Merry frickin Christmas!")

Things are definitely on the up these days. I decided in my post-existential crisis moment that the solution to my issues isn't always something tangible - a new hobby, a new career focus, a new educational endeavor. Sure, I don't want to stop reaching toward new goals and challenging myself, but I sometimes get so caught up in making changes that I forget to appreciate and make the best of the present.

In observing the people I know who just seem to have that sparkle (you know the type - the ones who seem to always be in a good mood, the ones who put 100% of their effort into work and good causes, the ones who rarely complain), it all boils down to one thing - attitude. Sure, we all have bad things that happen to us, and we all have bad days. But the only way to ever get through it and be a happy person is to have a good attitude about it. (By the way, I could only come up with 2 people in my life who have this sparkle I speak of - my mom and my co-worker Sofia).

I realized that I want to be one of these sparkle people, and to do that, I need to start approaching my life differently. Not that I've ever really been a pessimist, but I notice that I'm quick to question my life choices the minute things aren't going spectacularly. If I'm ever going to sustain anything in my life (a career, a relationship), I can't give up so quickly. I need to take the bad with the good, and focus on the bigger picture.

I must say, it's been working! I started by becoming more engaged at work - delving into projects and trying to be more productive. Rather than thinking that I "deserve" to be in a certain place career-wise, I decided it's better to never think I deserve anything and to instead just work my butt off 100% of the time. And it's not solely to just "get ahead" and make something of myself. I want to work hard because it's the right thing to do. Opportunities aren't handed to you - you have to put in the work, and there's no harm in going above and beyond. I want to strive for more than mediocrity.

This has made a huge difference in my mood - I'm less stressed because I've altered the way I've been viewing things. It's like mind over matter - if I tell myself to see the bright side and be happy, then it happens! It's quite elementary, really. I know none of this is news to anyone, but hey, it's keeping me afloat these days.

As for everything else, life is just dandy. Nothing really too thrilling going on, which is actually a good thing because I'd rather have consistent boringness rather than some rollercoaster, up and down drama going on.

We had our Christmas show for my dance studio last weekend - what fun! I didn't screw up, which was all I was really hoping for. I heard we did well from people that saw, so yay! I've also made a new friend in my class, which is great.

Our family is bringing back our name drawing "Secret Santa" event this year - YES! Oh, I have so many positive memories of getting someone's name and surprising them at Grandma's on Christmas day. I can't wait!

Work has been crazy busy lately. I was supposed to give a presentation to a client today, and I was stressing about it (and dreading it). But what do ya know? It was cancelled! Postponed, really, but that allows me more practice time. Woo hoo!

I also got to go to a meeting last week about the human trafficking problems that are quite prevalent in Sacramento. A woman shared her sad story of her developmentally disabled daughter falling victim to it a couple years ago, and although she was rescued, the trauma she experienced will be with her for the rest of her life. We've done some pro-bono work for a client that helps those affected by human trafficking, and WEAVE even offers some services related to it. I'm hoping I can do more to help out in the future! What a tragedy - we think it only happens in third-world countries, but here it is in our own backyard.

I'm going to be house sitting for a family friend of ours in a couple weeks - and get this - her house is haunted. Laugh all you want, but some seriously crazy things have happened there (Dad, I can see your eyes rolling from here). This might be tricky, but hey, a deal is a deal. I always follow through on my commitments. I'm just going to send vibes to the spirit that I'm not interested in any contact (you may think I'm joking, but I'm being serious here). I'm not one of those people that likes to have freaky experiences. I'm not a ghost hunter, and I'm not real big on contacting people from the past. Sure, I want to see Grandma and Grandpa some day, but ideally that will be in 80 years when I kick the bucket myself.

Overall, life is going great. I'm enjoying my independence and looking forward to a nice end to the year!