The Countdown To 2019 Is On

The Countdown To 2019 Is On

Let's not let 2019 go by and wonder where it went.

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I am sure you are a lot like me, each December I think back to the previous year and ask myself every time, "Where did this year go?" I constantly am wondering if I challenged myself enough and if I waisted too much time watching Netflix or talking/thinking about insignificant things.

I really am not one for New Year Resolutions. I think that each day should be spent focusing on the present and small term goals to help focus on the "now". New Years Resolutions set people up for unobtainable goals that can give more disappointment than gratification. For this upcoming year, I set an umbrella goal. From a mentor I have, I was given the idea that a year should be looked at like an open umbrella. Every once and a while when you are having a day where you need support, think about the umbrella goal you have created. I set a goal for 2019 to put love first. Love for myself, others and my passions first this year.

I want to welcome 2019 with open arms. I was also given a new perspective to appreciate each season and participate more in the seasons to get the most out of the year. Sure, we all have times that we don't love the weather and spend too much time indoors but creating memories that contribute to times of the year will help appreciate the effort you put into the year.

I constantly feel like I am worrying about the next stage of life, the next decisions, the next job opportunity and not focusing on the now I have created for myself. I have dreamed of being at this point in my life. Since before I can remember, I prayed that time would move faster so I could finally be in college, be in a sorority, fall in love, be 21, have an amazing group of friends, and know what I want to do. Look at us. We are in the moment that we have all been waiting for. Why do we put so much stress on the future when we are living the future we once dreamed of?

The countdown to 2019 is coming faster than we know it and I want next December to roll around and know that I put everything into it. What is the point in holding back? Why guard our heart? Especially at this age, it is time to let our hearts explore what they were made for and to search for passions that give us a spark that we have worked so hard for. The time is now. 2019 could be the best year for all of us if we allow it to be.

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What Chinese New Year Means to Me

Thoughts on past new years as the Year of the Rooster crows in.
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In my family (or rather...just my mother and I), Chinese New Year has always been an absolute must. When I was younger, at least a week before, my mother would meticulously clean the house until every single object was placed in the most organized way possible, and to usher in the new year with good luck, I had to set plates out with sweet, ripe oranges still fresh with stem and leaves and red shiny wrapped lai see tong that over the years had gotten stale in my mouth sucking on the sweet, caramel-like flavor for too long. I used to either get a fresh haircut or hairwash a few days before to cut off the luck of the old year and make room for the new year. Washing hair on new year's was prohibited, as it was like washing away all the good luck.

As the new year drew closer, we both would go to the Chinese markets in Chinatown that reeked of dead fish that had been sitting out on ice for too long or the raw bloody pungence of fresh pigs and chickens that butchers were hacking away at. My mother would fight her way with her shopping cart to get the prime roasted duck, most fresh chicken, and most savory char siu. That night she would spend the whole afternoon in the kitchen cooking ma-pou dou-fu, vegetable bee-hun, a brothy seaweed soup with fish balls, fish steamed in ginger and garlic cloves, stir fried snow pea leaves, and of course, rice. The rich aromas intoxicated me so much as a child, that at times I would sneak over to the kitchen, grab a bite, and quickly scurry away, telling myself that would be the last bite before dinner. When my mother was done, we feasted.

While we ate, she would recount her own experiences of Chinese New Year back in Medan. A bigger feast than what we had at the table? Pineapple, cheese, and cream cookies that Ama made by hand? TWO WEEKS OFF OF SCHOOL? A huge family dinner? I always stopped listening at this point and looked around at the table, which was very full and at the same time extremely empty. I would pick at my rice and look at all the food that was on the table wondering if we both could ever finish this all (spoiler: we always could). Each bite I put into my mouth would try and drown out the emptiness I felt in my heart.

The next morning, I would wake up groggily to my mother flashing red envelopes in my face.

"Gong xi fat choi!" " my mother greeted enthusiastically. "

"gongmmsifashii," I would respond.

"What?"

"Gongxifashii."

"You have to say it or no money for you." she teased, waving the envelopes in my face. "Don't you want money?"

(No I want to sleep).

"Gong xi fa choi," I mumbled as loud as I could.

"Now say, 'Xin Nian Kwai Le'."

"Mooooooom."

"Okay, okay, here." And I was handed my prize. I remember going to school with the red envelopes tucked away in my backpack. I went to a predominantly white Catholic school, so it was always a secret pleasure to know that I had gotten money on that day when my friends didn't. And it wasn't even my birthday.

As the years went by however, struggles increased, and my mother and I became more estranged, the meaning of the new year's eve dinner and even new year's itself diminished within me. Less food on the table. More silence during dinner except for the occasional, "Do you want more?". Chinese New Year became a day not for new anticipations of the blessings to come but for greedy anticipations for money. My mother always took back most of the money she gave me because she needed it, so I depended on our friends who celebrated Chinese New Year to give me the prized red envelopes. But even those started to lose their meaning. I remember getting jealous of my friends from Chinese school who celebrated the Lunar New Year, who flashed their shiny 100 dollar bills, who flashed pictures of huge feasts, who flashed pictures of families that weren't broken. Even on Chinese New Year's when I attempted to celebrate with a small new year's feast, I realized that no one in my white, all-girls Catholic school really cared about such a holiday, and it's hard to feel enthusiastic when no one is supporting you in what you want to celebrate in. What was the point of me celebrating the new year, if the eve of the new year was filled with scarcity, numbness, and nonchalance? The only thing to look forward to for me was the new year's dinner that my mom, her friend, and her friend's daughter would all eat at a restaurant because cooking was such a hassle. Hopefully then we would both have enough food to eat, my mom and her friend would "fight" over the bill and her friend would win in the end, and I could actually keep the money that I was given. And at least I could see my mother smile and laugh for a few hours. Now that I'm in college, celebrating Chinese New Year in a predominantly white school proves an even harder challenge. While I was surrounded by roots of my culture back home that my mom nourished me in, Chinese New Year is just a day here. Not a holiday. Just another ordinary, typical school day. Who has time to celebrate?

I guess Chinese New Year was redeemed for me by my boyfriend's accounts of all the Chinese New Years that he celebrated back in Malaysia, where Chinese New Year IS actually something to celebrate. As he told me of the lion dance competitions that would happen, the way his Ama spent the whole day cooking as she prepared a feast for at least 20 people, the the red envelopes that would come showering from every single relative, and the way every single store was decked out in red and blasting Chinese music on the loudspeakers, the stories that my mother had told me when I was younger seemed to come ALIVE. No matter how busy one aunt was, even if she lived in another country, everyone also had time to sit down and gather for a meal. I heard similar stories from my friends from China, Vietnam, and Indonesia, and with every story told I realized I didn't want to lose the tradition that my mom had kept me in for so long. I wanted to share my roots and celebrate with those who shared in my experiences, with those who valued such a holiday of feasting, of fortune, of family.

Through my experiences, I've realized Chinese New Year isn't about food. It isn't about red envelopes. It isn't even making personal resolutions that focus on self-improvement. The Lunar New Year celebrates community. It focuses on the gratitude that one feels for all the blessings that he or she has received during the past year, through all the turmoils and the struggles that one may share with others. And what better way to share in life than around a round table full of food and with the people who YOU consider family?

Cover Image Credit: SBS

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It's Always A Good Time To Better Yourself

New year, new you.

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We all like to play the New Year's game of creating resolutions most of us will most definitely not keep. We hear everyone going on and on about "new year, new me" and pretend like we want to engage as well. I failed to realize what it is about the new year that makes people want to change themselves. It's as if the digit changing at the end of the year is important to us changing ourselves.

You can make a change at any time of the year, so why now?

With this upcoming year, I feel like I have answered the qualms of the above statements. I have realized it is less about a new you, but more about a better you. The new year makes us feel fresh and gives us new energy. The digit changing, it gives us the motivation to make the changes to improve ourselves. While the last year has been so generous, I want to make the next year even better.

This is not a how-to guide on how to keep your resolutions, but more on how to make them. We tend to set unrealistic goals based off of ideas perpetuated by society rather than what truly makes us happy. We think by losing weight we will feel better about ourselves. By doing this we bypass the real goal altogether, feeling good about ourselves. This can apply in other circumstances. as well. If you're a writer, your goal could be to write more instead of writing better or writing something you care about. By deciding what truly matters to us, we can set goals that guide us to success instead of deterring it.

Even a simple task every day, like making the bed, can set the tone for the day as productive and neat.

Everyone is different and having the same three goals as every other person will not help you. Think about who you are and what you need to motivate you. Going to the gym may make you hate getting out of bed in the morning, but a small workout at home can be just as effective and more interesting for you.

Resolutions are what you make them out to be. You can choose to make them something meaningful.

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