Things to be Happy About

These last several days have been tough ones for me. After sitting through a half dozen interviews this week alone, I still find myself without a job. I’m broke and frightened and I’ll admit, insanely depressed. One out every eight New Yorkers is unemployed so I know that I’m not alone in this struggle. I can’t help but feel miserable, though. I’ve been trying my best to keep myself out of this funk, doing whatever means necessary to make most of the situation and keep a smile on my face and in my heart. My friend, Courtney, wrote me a sweet letter recently and reminded me to think about all the things that make me happy. Life may not be going my way right now but I have plenty to be gleeful about…

I wake up every morning. It’s hard to but then, I remind myself that I’m given this privilege that a lot of people are denied. Yes, it might be hailing outside and bitter cold but I know that I need to approach this gift with sunshine and gratitude. Each new day holds a new promise and a new adventure- I’ll never know what happens but at least it’s happening.

My family. I don’t see them often but I love them very much. My mom surprised me with a quick trip into the city last week and made sure that I had enough to eat that day. My youngest sister, Jordan, writes me the cutest love notes, which I stash away in coat pockets and my purses to read whenever I feel blue on the subway. I know that my dad and stepmom are just a phone call away whenever I need advice, as well as my multitudes of aunts, uncles, cousins (and etc!) that are scattered across the country.

My friends. They say that friends are the family you made for yourself and I’m grateful for the ones I have, here in the city and those beyond. I can count on them if ever I get lost in the East Village and am jonesing for some crack pie, need a super long hug or getting my ass in shape with accompanying me to a complicated yoga session. Thanks to them and my family, I know that I have a lot of love around me.

Animals. The best thing about being unemployed is the free time I now have. I’ve been spending a lot of that time volunteering at the Brooklyn Animal Rescue Collation’s cat loft, petting some cuties and getting my tabby fix. It’s one of the few places where I can truly be in the present moment and think only about making the furball curled up on my lap happy and keeping him purring. Plus, my pets at home are equally awesome. Mobile and Birmingham are quite the snugglers.

Music. Come on- tell me who doesn’t love music? It always makes me feel better (even if it’s listening to Christina Aguilera’s “You Lost Me” for the eighth time in a row).

True, I have plenty of other things to be joyous about (and I keep that list lose always). And true, with a little patience and a little bit more faith on my end, I know that things will look up for me soon enough. I hope that you, dear reader, carry around such a list. If not, I challenge you to look around at the beauty surrounding you and ask yourself what makes you smile from ear to ear.

Big Dreams are Made of These

 “Dream on! Dream until your dreams come true!” ~Steven Tyler

When I was a little girl at church camp, my counselor gave us all nicknames that were punned from our first names. The tallish, dark haired girl, named Raven, was renamed ‘the Bird.’ Her little brother, Clinton, was labeled as ‘the President.’ I knew then that I didn’t have a celebrity or unique name so when it came to my turn to be blessed with a new name, I threw my arms up in the air and told everyone to call me, ‘Andrea the Actress!’ Since then, I wanted to act. I wanted to see my face on the silver screen and sign autographs for fans out on the red carpet. I tried my best to develop an over-the-top personality and I put on little performances for my family and sang in school plays.

But yes, I’m not an actress. Somewhere along my road, something in my brain clicked, telling me that I would never be an actress. It’s okay, though. I accepted that fate and moved on to other big dreams. As I get further in my adulthood, I’m wondering if I made the right decision, though. Growing up, I listened to people tell me that I could accomplish impossibilities and there were times that I believed them- if I really wanted to, I could be an astronaut exploring the farthest galaxies, they said. I nodded my head with gratitude. I could someday walk on the moon! Now, I wonder why those adults; parents and teachers, filled my head with such silliness. Did they mean to be encouraging? Did they think about the consequences I and so many other young people would face when we got older and realized that we can’t do anything we wanted to do, that life put way too many limitations on us?

No one grows up wanting to work nine to five, stuck in a cubicle, wearing ugly dress pants. So why did we found ourselves doing this? I once read that we fall into our lives; the careers we slave away at. The lovers that we eventually break up with and divorce. The messy homes we come back to. I understand that comfort and security have something to do with it (believe me, I think about giving up on my dreams of writing professionally all the time for health and dental benefits). Reality sets in and we slink out into five-o’clock traffic. Did we really kiss these dreams goodbye- forever? What would it take for us to listen to the dreams that our five-year-old or sixteen-year old selves once carried so dear to our little hearts? What would they think about us now us we lived our current lives? Would they be sad that we didn’t take so many risks or would they just start kicking our shin? Is it the fear of failing at these dreams that scare us away from achieving them?

At the end of the day, I know that we need those particular desk gigs in order function as a society (hello and a big thanks to those staring at their office computer screen. I salute you!). But I know for me, this is not the life that I’m meant to lead. Perhaps others feel like this. We are trapped beneath the branches of the old oak waiting for a strong gust to break them down so we can fly towards the heavens. Let’s keep true to ourselves, both current and former, and keep on soaring high.