The Meaning of Life: No, it’s not 42.

There are three things I know of that are catalysts of deep, meaningful conversations: Late nights, long drives, and dying campfires. Whatever the discussion may end up being about, more often than not, the cliche question of “What’s the meaning of life?” or, “Why are we here?” ends up making its way into discussion. It’s a question that’s been asked since the beginning of time, by people of all ages. Usually, people can’t really seem to come up with the answer. They usually just make some sort of guess as to what it might be and leave it at that. Well, I don’t mean to brag, but I think I have an idea as to what it might be. This isn’t something I just made up, this is a conclusion I’ve come to over lots of time thinking, listening to other peoples’ ideas and all that kind of stuff. It’s not even exclusively my idea. Plenty of other people have come to the same conclusion. So let’s go through how I came to this conclusion. (You didn’t really think I was just going to tell you, did you?) The way I came to this conclusion was by observing peoples’ natural wants, desires, needs, that kind of stuff. Then the conclusion I came to seemed to fit. Whether or not you agree with me is your decision, but for now, I guess you’re just along for the ride.

There are a lot of things people look for in life. One of these things is an outlet to use their talents. Everyone is good at something. Whether you think so or not, you excel at something that other people may not. For some people it’s an artistic talent, for others, it’s more a talent of intelligence in one of many different areas. And even still for others, it can be athletic talent, or talent when it comes to people skills, being outgoing, relating to others people, being a good listener, et cetera. There are so many different things that different people excel at, and finding a good outlet to use those talents in is one of my paths to discovering the meaning of life. When people aren’t able to use their talents, when they don’t get to use the skills they’ve been gifted with and aren’t able to excel at what they’re good at, it can leave them feeling empty, frustrated, and unmotivated. While on the other hand, people who get to use their talents on a regular basis, whether it be at work or in a club or another group, feel more encouraged, excited, and motivated to continue thriving in that area. People who use their talents on a regular basis feel more of a sense of purpose than those who don’t have that outlet to excel in. Feeling a sense of purpose is something that everyone longs for, which is my next point.

People need to feel a sense of purpose in order to find their life’s meaning. People find their sense of purpose in different things. Some find it in supporting their family, friends, or a particular cause. Some find their purpose in aiming toward a specific goal, whether it’s a career, a life-long dream, anything bigger and better than what they’re doing now. When people don’t have those dreams or desires, they can feel hopeless, that they’re forever stuck in the place they’re currently in. And if they have those dreams or desires with no way of working to achieve them, it can have the same effect. Not having a dream or having a dream that seems completely out of reach can cause someone to feel hopeless, worthless, or without purpose. Having people to encourage you along the way and having the motivation to achieve your dreams is one path to discovering purpose in life. However, having dreams and goals usually isn’t much without one key thing, which is something to devote your life to.

Everyone needs something bigger, something to wrap their life around and devote it to. For some people, it’s the American dream, having a wife, two kids, a dog, and a white picket fence with a good job to support it all. For others it can be a particular cause, like saving the environment, helping children in Africa, or seeking justice for people in court. And for some other people, it can be something as simple as money, success, a relationship, wealth, or fame. Everyone searches for a cause outside themselves to devote their life to. The difference between this aspect and a dream is that quite often the dreams and goals a person has are driven by whatever the “something bigger” in their life is. The dream to have an amazing career can be driven by money. They dream to become a rock star or actor on television can be driven by fame. The dream to get an education, a good job, and a great home can be driven by the American dream, the desire to have a family, or one of many other things. Whatever this bigger purpose may be, it’s something that people look for to devote their life to, so that anything and everything they do is trying to achieve that goal and purpose.

So what do we have so far? People need an outlet to use their talents to achieve a goal driven by a bigger cause. Or, to put it a different way, the “something bigger” in a person’s life drives everything they do, and causes them give their talents and abilities back to that “something bigger” to achieve the dream that it created. It may sound confusing at first, but I’d say this is a pretty accurate description of one of peoples’ greatest needs. And, to me, this sounds like something you may not have thought of before. To me, this sounds like worship. This may sound like a stretch to you, because the way most people think of worship is something brutal or animalistic, something involving sacrifices, ancient rituals, and all that jazz. But for me, worship is something completely different. For me, worship is using your talents and abilities for a cause outside yourself to achieve a dream, which is usually driven by the root cause in the first place. So, by my logic, if everyone has those three things (a desire to use their talents and abilities, a bigger, better dream, and a cause outside themselves), it stands to reason that everyone worships something. Some people worship money, fame, and success, some people worship the American dream, some people worship other people or a relationship, some people worship a specific cause such as saving the planet, some people worship the planet itself. Whatever it is that you worship, it’s something that consumes your thoughts, your motivation, your desires, your whole being. And whatever it may be, everyone worships something. Worship is the purpose and meaning of life.

Now, here’s where things get a little complicated. There are a couple more things that every person looks for and needs. The first thing people look for is to be loved, appreciated, to have a feeling that you belong. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. People long for that feeling of belonging, that they’ve found their place, and that they’re loved and appreciated. Some of these things that people worship don’t do that at all, like money and success, while some others may seem to give people what they’re looking for, like a relationship or fame. People look for love and appreciation in a myriad of places and they may think they’ve found it for a while, but a lot of times they end up feeling empty, wondering why they don’t feel happy or content. So they end up looking for more of it. And then it just turns into a never-ending cycle of no satisfaction. Whether they know it or not, people want to worship something that gives back to them, and when they realize they aren’t getting what they want or need, they just end up throwing themselves into it even more, which complicates things even more.

The last thing people want and need in life is a sense of identity. Something that shows who they are, what they do, what they stand for. And, once again, some people find their identity in what they do, where they are in life, or who they’re in a relationship with. The problem here is, jobs and careers come and go, life is never consistent, and people fail. The issue here comes when the thing they find their identity in, the thing they’ve wrapped their lives around and devoted so much time, energy, and hope to, is taken away. When a job is lost, when the market crashes and you lose everything, when your significant other decides it’s time to see new people, where does your identity go? It disappears. People find their identity in what they worship, but when it’s taken away, they’re left broken, without an identity, and starting from square one when it comes to discovering who they are. Thus begins a process of rebuilding, picking up the pieces and trying to reconstruct the shell they once were. Some people don’t even make an attempt to move on, and just end up just accepting that being miserable is the new way of life. Their identity’s gone, and it can’t be found again, so why even try?

This is all where my final point comes in. People need to worship something that never changes, never fails, gives them an identity and shows them who they truly are, what they’re capable of, and how they’re able to use their gifts, talents, and abilities for a greater cause. If worship is the purpose of life, having a purpose that doesn’t suddenly disappear is not only beneficial, but necessary in order to have a constant understanding of where you’re supposed to be and what you’re supposed to be doing. Now, you can probably guess what I would say at this point. You probably know my views and opinions at this point and probably already know what I would say my life’s purpose is because of what (or Who) I worship. But I’ll refrain for the time being. For now, I’ll just hope that some people take the time to analyze who or what they’re worshiping in their life and see what it’s doing for them. See what their apparent purpose is and how they feel about it. I plan on making two more posts in the future: one specifically about identity, and one specifically about worship. I’m hoping they’ll be out there fairly soon. But in the meantime, I hope my basic setup of my idea of the meaning of life has been helpful for someone. That’s all I can really do at this point. Hope and pray.

Finding Her: My somewhat unique approach to the dating game

I’ve never had a girlfriend. And I’m proud of it. I’ll give you a second to let that sink in…You good? All right, moving on. Most people are probably really confused by that statement. “What? You’re still a teenager. Why is that something you would ever be proud of? You’re a guy, why are you proud you haven’t had a girlfriend?” I’ve been asked about my convictions and beliefs on this topic a lot lately and every time the basic message is the same: I haven’t found her yet. Now, there’s something I should get out of the way now before I move on. All my convictions on this topic come back to my faith in Christ. If that’s an issue for you, you’re free to stop reading now. But, on the off-chance that you’re curious about my opinions and approach to this whole situation, feel free to read on.

In Genesis 2:24, after God creates Adam and Eve, it says, “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” This becoming one flesh makes the whole situation interesting. It’s impossible for two things to become one and be separated again without some damage being done to both parties involved. To use a weird example, if you take a piece of tape and stick it to a piece of paper, then pull the tape off, it’s basically impossible to take the tape off without it taking pieces of the paper with it. That’s kind of how break-ups work when the relationship isn’t handled very well (weird analogy, I know). Anyway, this is part of the reason why I haven’t been in a relationship. Becoming united in one flesh doesn’t just involve the physical aspects; it also involves spiritual aspects. Severing spiritual ties is difficult, and it’s not something I want to deal with.

Aside from that whole ordeal, I’m a believer in the thought that (almost) everyone has “the one.” (I say “almost” because some people are designed to be and capable of being single their whole life. And that’s awesome. I’m not one of those people, though.) That (almost) everyone has that special, unique person they were designed to be with and who was designed to be with them. By this logic, all the parts of a relationship that come as part of a relationship under the covenant of marriage are really only meant to be shared between the two of them. That means a lot of different things for me than it does for other people. For me, it includes all forms of sexual intimacy. And for me, sexual intimacy includes kissing. Yes, that’s right. I haven’t had my “first kiss” or whatever either. Not even when I was a little kid or anything like that. I plan to save my first kiss for my wedding day. I’ll get to my reasons for that soon.

So at this point you’re probably asking, “Why the title? He hasn’t really said anything about dating at all.” Well, let’s get into that first by starting with how these convictions I have make me think about how I relate to other people. As I’ve said, I’ve never had a girlfriend. And the reason for that is, quite simply, that I haven’t found her. I haven’t found the one. The way I see it, you don’t have to enter into any sort of romantic relationship to really determine if someone is right for you. The way I approach it is by first relating to them as a friend. For me, dating is meant for marriage, not something to be taken lightly or done “just for fun.” That’s what friends are for. And if you’re not able to really connect with someone as a friend, you definitely won’t be able to connect with them as your spouse. The way I see it, your spouse should really be your best friend. And I haven’t found that person yet. I haven’t found that special girl who I really, genuinely connect with in all the ways that I feel I’m supposed to. And because I haven’t found that person, and since dating isn’t something to be taken lightly for me, I haven’t had a valid reason to enter into any sort of romantic relationship with anyone. I have too much respect for my friends to try and overlook something like that in an attempt to try and make something work that I already know ultimately won’t work out. This is just one of the reasons I have for not getting into anything yet.

The second reason is this: According to my belief and following my own logic, if people are specially designed to complement another person and everything that comes with a romantic relationship is only supposed to be shared between those two people, it stands to reason that if I were to have any sort of romantic relationship with someone who was not meant to be my future wife and engaged in said special romantic interactions, I would be taking something away from that woman’s future spouse. I’d be taking something that doesn’t belong to me. And in this case, it’s not really something you can give back. This is where the “one flesh” thing comes into play. I don’t want to take any part of someone away when it’s supposed to be given to someone else. I don’t want to be the one to interfere in someone else’s relationship, even if they don’t think it’s interfering at the time. I don’t want be the one thinking, “Oh yeah, I dated your wife at one point in time.” To me, that’s just awkward. So I approach friendships with women with the thought of “She’s someone’s daughter. She’s someone’s sister. She’s someone else’s wife.” It helps me to be respectful of them and their future relationship. If you try thinking this way sometime, it’ll definitely change your approach.

Now for the main reason for all of this. Why I go about this whole thing the way I do. Well, since I believe that people are designed to complement another special person, it also stands to reason that the one for me is out there somewhere. And since she’s out there and I truly believe she’s out there, I want to do anything and everything I can to make sure that our relationship is special. I want to make sure that when she and I do truly become one flesh that I’m as whole and intact as I can possibly be. I don’t want there to be a ton of people out in the world walking around carrying pieces of me around with them that I can’t get back. I want to give everything I can to one woman and only one woman. And I can only hope and pray that she’s trying to do the same thing for me.

So now comes the point when people probably ask, “So how the heck do you plan to find this person? The way you’re going about it is so weird and you’ll never figure it out. And how do you plan on sticking to this plan?” Or at least that’s what I think people would ask. Well, I have a few methods and strtegies. I won’t discuss all of them here because some of them are a bit more personal (but if you want to ask me sometime, I’ll probably tell you), but I’ll tell you my main strategy. I wear a purity ring at all times as a reminder. It’s a reminder to me that she’s out there somewhere. It’s a reminder to focus on purity and to strive for it. It’s a reminder to be respectful and not to get into things I regret. And it’s reminder to pray for her. I pray that she’s trying to save what she can like I am. I pray that guys are treating her the way she should be treated. The way that I’d want her to be treated when I’m married to her is the way I want her to be treated now. I pray that she’s safe and that God would bring us together in His own time, when He sees fit. And I pray that I would become the man that she deserves as a husband.

Which leads me to my final point. When it comes to dating, romance, relationships, all this kind of stuff, I have a phrase that I live by, and it’s this: “Be the person the person you’re looking for is looking for.” You got that? It’s a little confusing. Feel free to continue once you’ve graphed it out and it makes sense. In other words, have high standards and don’t lower them, but at the same time, hold yourself to those same standards. The way I see it, I’m not looking for the right person. Far from it. Instead, I’m trying to become the right person. There will come the time when I find her out there somewhere, but until then I’m doing what I can to build my character, discover more about myself and who I am in Christ, and discover more about who God is and what He says about me and my life. And, quite frankly, I’m not ready for it. Not even close. Well, not yet, anyway. I still have a lot of things that I need to sort through and figure out before I’m prepared to provide for another person emotionally, spiritually, and financially. I can’t even manage all that for myself yet. There will come a time when I think I’m ready. And I think it’s probably somewhere around there where God will decide to introduce us.

There’s a quote I’ve seen around the internet that says, “Run as fast as you can towards God and if someone keeps up, introduce yourself.” I’ve heard someone else say about meeting his spouse: “All I was doing was following God’s path. Then one day I noticed someone was going in the same direction. So I married her.” That’s my basic plan for now. Just to chase after God, His will, and His plan. And by trying to find and follow His will, I’ll inevitably meet her. It’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen. I can’t do anything to speed up or slow down the process. For now all I can do is trust that God is faithful. I can wait to fall in love. But when I do, it’ll be special. Max Lucado says, “A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.” That’s what I’m looking for. Someone special who I’ll be able to do life with and will bring me even closer to my Creator. But until that time comes, all I can really do is chase after God, pray for her growth and development, and trust that God is faithful.

So this has all basically been about my cautious approach to dating and everything. Which is funny because for me, dating isn’t even the right word. Courtship is more my thing. But writing about that would double the length of this long post as it already, so that’s a post for another time, I s’pose. If you’re confused by my approach to things, I hope this has helped clear some things up. But, of course, I’m always willing to further explain my views and opinions if you ever want to talk about it. This is something I’m passionate about if that wasn’t clear. So for now, I’m just going to be doing what I can to follow God’s plan, patiently waiting for the day when He decides to introduce my wife and me. And, for now, I can wait for that day.

The Head and the Heart: Why separation matters

When it comes to issues about separation of the head and the heart, I’m always reminded of a moment from the DreamWorks movie Over the Hedge. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, all you really need to know is that RJ the raccoon is using a small family of different animals to help him collect enough food to give to a bear in order to save his own life. The animals don’t know this fact, but the group’s leader, Verne the turtle, has always been suspicious of RJ because of the way his tail tingles around him, which is apparently his main source of decision-making. Anyway, after a lot of stuff happens, Verne and RJ get into a conversation in which Verne explains his recent confusion, saying, “My head says listen to my tail, my tail says listen to my head, and I just…end up with an upset stomach.” Unable to decide which source to listen to, Verne just ends up confused, frustrated, and feeling sick to his stomach. This is a perfect example of why head and heart separation is so important.

First off, let me explain what I mean by head and heart separation. The way I see it, people generally have two sources where their general decision-making comes from: their head and their heart. The head, obviously, is the brain, where people think through their options, use logical reasoning, and are able to make intelligent decisions because of those capabilities. The heart is a bit more difficult to get a hold of. The heart involves a person’s greatest desires, their wants and needs, their goals and dreams, as well as their emotions, “gut feelings,” and instincts. Both are perfectly valid to listen to and follow when it comes to making decisions. Each one has its own areas where it excels over the other. However, every now and then there comes a time when the two don’t seem to get along. Your head says listen to your heart, your heart says listen to your head, and you just end up with an upset stomach. Or the exact opposite happens, when your head and your heart are saying completely different things, and you struggle to figure out which one to listen to in a given situation. This is when head and heart separation is critical. It involves separating your feelings and emotions from facts that you know to be true in order to make a clear, logical decision. The separation of the head and the heart is a delicate procedure. Oftentimes, it’s a connection that needs to be severed, which usually causes confusion and heartache. But ultimately, it can lead to greater clarity.

Now let’s get into some of the basic properties of the head and the heart. As I said, the head is used to think critically, piece out arguments, discussions, and debates, and make logical decisions. But in order to do any of these things, it first needs to be well-informed. Before insight coming from the head is able to be trusted, you need to make sure that you’re knowledgeable about whatever conflict you’re approaching. And the thing is, you really can’t just be informed on one side of things. The best way to defend your own argument is to understand the argument of the other side. So making sure you understand both sides of an issue is key to making these logical decisions. The heart, as I also said, is a bit more complex. When it comes to insight from the heart, numerous things come into play: a person’s goals and dreams, their emotions, their current mental state, instincts and “gut feelings,” just to name a few. Sometimes people don’t really know what their heart truly desires. People say “The heart wants what the heart wants,” but then don’t even really know what the heart wants. There’s a possibility that what the heart really wants isn’t what the heart has an opportunity to have at the moment, but it’s the closest thing at the given time, so it decides to settle for it. (It sounds confusing, I know.) So knowing and defining the desires of the heart is incredibly important to making intelligent decisions. However, there are times when someone has one of those “gut feelings,” where someone really doesn’t know why, but they find it necessary to make a decision based on a reason they can’t understand or explain. On so many different occasions, those gut feelings have saved peoples’ lives, businesses, families, sanity, and so many other things. There are times when logic fails and instincts, hunches, and guidance take over. Knowing when the moment comes to throw logic out the window and follow your hunches is difficult, but being able to pinpoint those moments can significantly help with decision-making.

Here’s where things get complicated: Every now and then, the head says something the heart doesn’t like. And in response, the heart says something that the head likes even less. Thus the back-and-forth arguments between the head and the heart ensue. Is it normal? Absolutely. But is it possible to fix? Absolutely. This is when separation needs to take place. This is when a person needs to take the issue being addressed, whether it’s a job offer, the decision to move forward with a relationship, whether or not to move their family across the country, any complicated decision, and approach it from both angles, but not at the same time. There comes a point where the head and the heart can’t be used together until each side’s argument has been reasoned out, which often involves taking each side’s individual points, tracing them to their source, and determining their validity. (Sometimes taking time to write things out here is the best option.) After each side has been reasoned with and understood, a logical decision is able to be made. Here’s my general rule of thumb: Facts trump feelings. If the facts that you know to be true conflict with the emotions the heart is conveying, the facts take priority. While the heart is incredible and needs to be consulted, it’s also fickle and can completely change over the course of a day. (That’s where “sleeping on it” comes into play.) However, the key word of facts trumping feelings is that they’re facts that you know to be true. If they’re just things that you are guessing or assuming, I wouldn’t involve them in the decision-making process just yet. Instead, trace things back to the source, determine their validity, and make sure you know what you’re talking about. Once you’ve gone through all of these steps and know what’s going on and where everything’s coming from, you’re generally able to make a decision. Sometimes the decision that you come to isn’t the one you’re wanting. Sometimes the facts you know to be true leave the feelings of your heart without a foundation to stand on. But there comes a point when you have to make the right decision regardless of how you really feel about it. And on the flipside, sometimes you discover your head and your heart are actually in total agreement. If that’s the case, consider yourself lucky! It’s pretty obvious what your decision is supposed to be. But at least you took the time to make sure it was the right one.

Now here’s the part of this whole thing for all my Jesus-loving friends. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, Paul writes: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.” So when it comes to any gut feelings, hunches, or nudges (because we know that not all of those are just instinct), don’t quench the Spirit, but make sure to test them and ensure yourself that it is actually an insight from the Holy Spirit and not from another source. Considering a source to be from God when it actually isn’t can potentially have an unfortunate outcome, so making sure that God’s insights are actually from God is always a good thing to do. And, the most important thing about decision making when it comes to disputes between the heart and the head is this: Pray about it. No one knows the plan for your life better than the One who created all things, so asking Him for some insight is always a good plan. With patience, He’ll always have an answer. It may not be the one you’re hoping for, but hey. That’s kind of how it works when you’re not living for yourself.

I hope that this wasn’t too incredibly confusing. While I’ve been writing it, I’ve been a bit confused myself about how it all works. But one thing I know is that it does work. Taking time to assess your options and make clear, logical, and godly decisions is always better than rushing into things and ending up in a place you didn’t intend. It’s also better than just not making a decision and trying to avoid the issue. But hopefully I’ve been able to help someone out in explaining my reasoning and my approach to all this stuff. If you’re in a situation where your ideas, emotions, thoughts, et cetera are conflicting, I’d highly recommend taking some time to do some head and heart separation and approach the problem differently. I think it’ll work out to your benefit.

Life as Charlie Brown: My opinions and skepticisms on the holiday season(s)

I have a t-shirt that has a picture of Charlie Brown on it. Next to the picture are the words “I’m just one big, freaking ray of sunshine, aren’t I?” For people who know me well, they know this is basically me summed up in a t-shirt. It’s not that I’m a pessimist (well, not any more, at least). I just see things differently. I try to look at a situation and all of its possible outcomes. Then I usually assume the worst possible outcome to happen, while hoping for the best. So when things don’t go as badly as I expect, I’m pleasantly surprised. And when things do go as badly as I expect, I’m not too disappointed. And trust me, I know this isn’t the best way to go about living and I’ll be the first to admit it. It’s something I’m working on fixing, don’t worry. But it’s worked so far.

Why do I bring this up? Well, what it boils down to is that, as much as I hate to admit it sometimes, I’m a lot like Charlie Brown. Most people see Charlie Brown as incredibly depressed and incredibly depressing person. Take Charlie Brown and Linus’s opening dialogue in A Charlie Brown Christmas, for instance. Charlie Brown begins to express his feelings (or lack thereof) to Linus, explaining that he thinks there’s something wrong with him because Christmas doesn’t make him feel happy. To which Linus responds, “Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy’s right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.” Like Linus, most people have found Charlie Brown incredibly depressing. I’ve never really thought that, though. Mostly because I identify with Charlie Brown a lot. I’m not saying the holidays make me depressed. Quite the contrary, actually. I thoroughly enjoy the holiday season and everything that comes with them. However, I share a similar thought process and skepticism that he has when it comes to the holiday season. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to agree with what he says in A Charlie Brown Christmas upon not receiving any Christmas cards: “I almost wish there weren’t a holiday season. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?” That’s not a statement I agree with. However, there are some things about the holidays that drive me crazy.

November all the way through February is full of depressing holidays. And Charlie Brown has had unfortunate encounters with all of them. For Thanksgiving, he was forced to throw a Thanksgiving feast for all of his friends after Peppermint Patty invited herself and two other people over. After going to all the effort of preparing what food he could for his friends as an elementary schooler, Peppermint Patty (who is the worst human being ever) thanks him by complaining that there was no turkey, mashed potatoes, or pumpkin pie. We all know what happened for Christmas, as he was asked to direct a Christmas play and then was called a blockhead for his vision. On New Year’s Eve, after finally getting up the courage to invite the litte red-haired girl to a party, he fell asleep on the front porch reading War and Peace for school, and completely missed her while Linus kept her company and danced with her instead. And on Valentine’s Day, he brought a big briefcase to school, hoping to get plenty of valentines from his “friends,” but instead, all he received was a single candy heart that read “Forget it, kid.” With the experiences he’s had, his dreading the holidays is completely justified. I haven’t had the same experiences as Charlie Brown, but I have a similar mindset that he does when it comes to the holidays. Not because of anything I’ve experienced, but because of what I’ve seen happening around me.

Generally, I believe the four holidays I’ve provided Charlie Brown’s experiences for are thought about like this:

Thanksgiving: A time to give thanks (duh) and be grateful for what we have

Christmas: A time where the “spirit of giving” is prevalent, and people are generous and compassionate

New Year: A time of hopefulness, looking forward to the future and planning to make changes

Valentine’s Day: A day to spend time, be grateful for, and celebrate the people we love, whether it’s family, friends, or significant others

This is what they’re supposed to be, right? That’s what I thought at least. But what they’re supposed to be about and what I actually see are quite different…

Thanksgiving: A time to watch the parade, and be “thankful” until lunch. Then after you wake up from your afternoon nap, be super greedy and forget everything you’re thankful for.

Christmas: A time where it’s okay to take time out of your day to help people out until Santa goes back home.Then it’s back to looking out for #1.

New Year: A time to be super depressed and wish you had done things different this past year and that your life wasn’t so terrible. Better make some resolutions you’ll forget about in a week.

Valentine’s Day: If you’re in a relationship, flaunt it. If you’re not, cry all day.

Now, I’m sure I just offended some people. That’s partly the point. I’m not saying this is what these holidays look like for everyone. I’m just talking about general trends I’ve seen in people, the media, everything. Regardless of what everyone says the holidays are about (the first group), more often than not, people feel differently about the holidays (the second group). A lot of us get a little Charlie Brown-y around the holidays whether we like it or not. Now, my point here isn’t to clarify these things for people. That’s just what I’ve done so far so that I can get around to my point. But first, let’s go a little more in-depth.

Recently, I was talking to my friend Billy about the weird depression that kind of goes around in the weeks preceding Thanksgiving. There’s something that happens to some college students right before they go home to spend time with their family where everything kinda hits the fan and comes crashing down. He wasn’t sure what I was talking about at first. Over the next few days, we basically lost count of how many people broke down crying for reasons unbeknownst to us in public. He couldn’t deny my point, though. Something happens before Thanksgiving where everybody gets a little stressed. It may have something to do with returning home to family for some people. And maybe things don’t get resolved before they get there. And maybe things don’t get resolved before they leave again. Regardless, there’s a universal stress that seems to go around before Thanksgiving. I’m not sure why, but it does. And nothing I’ve said even touches on what happens Thanksgiving Day. After spending the day with their families, being thankful for everything they’ve been so blessed to have and all that jazz, they leave their homes Thursday evening to wait in lines for several hours and then (some people) proceed to get into fist fights with others trying to buy things they don’t really need. I’m not saying I hate Black Friday. In fact, I take advantage of it most of the time. However, I don’t think that the on same day you spent being thankful for what you have you should get taken away in handcuffs trying to obtain the things you don’t have. As soon as the turkey’s been eaten and the pie’s gone, people return to being materialistic and greedy. Personally, I just don’t get it.

So, Christmas. Everybody loves Christmas, right? And not even I can deny that there’s something magical that happens around this time of year. People are quite often more courteous, compassionate, and patient than they would be normally. There are tons of organizations that do things around Christmas time, such as provide food and shelter for the homeless, reach out and help provide for children in need who may be in poor family situations, all that awesome stuff. I love seeing that spirit around this time of year. I love seeing people being so considerate towards other people. Until December 26th, that is. Like “Christmastime Is Here,” the classic song from A Charlie Brown Christmas says,”Oh that we could always see such spirit through the year.” People change, but only for as long as everybody else does. Once the commercials stop and KOSI 101 stops playing Christmas music, people return to their old selves again. Once again, I’m not saying this is the case across the board, I’m only noticing trends. Encounter the same stranger before Christmas and then again after Christmas, and, chances are, they’ll treat you differently. I don’t understand why, but they do. These are the kinds of thoughts I share with Charlie Brown about the holidays. They change people. But not always for the better. New Year’s Eve is a perfect example of this.

The new year is always a turning point for people for some reason. I generally just see it as another day, but whatever. Once you’ve stayed up until midnight on any night other than New Year’s Eve, it kind of makes December 31st lose its magic. Anyway, New Year’s Eve is a time for life change, apparently. People start making big plans for what the new year is going to look like. They make resolutions to work out more, eat healthier, stop smoking, study more, spend more time with their families, blah, blah, blah, etc. The list goes on forever. I don’t get New Year’s resolutions. Never have. When I was in second grade, we were supposed to make New Year’s resolutions for class. I’m pretty sure mine was to beat an entire video game before February. Knowing me and video games back then, I probably beat three before the second week of January. New Year’s resolutions didn’t have any real importance for me then, and they still don’t now. I don’t think I’ve made any resolutions since I was supposed to make one in second grade. Part of the reason is that I don’t get what makes a new year such a significant time to do so. The other part is because I honestly can’t think of any examples of people I know who have actually stuck to their resolutions. New Year’s Eve seems to be the time where people get super depressed about their lives because everything is terrible, things could and should be different, and they wish they had done things differently the previous year. But New Year’s Day, that’s different. It’s a new year, a new beginning, a time to start fresh, so therefore, it’s time to make a bunch of goals to completely give up on and forget in about two weeks. If you’re not going to stick with it in the first place, what the heck is the point? As usual, I just don’t understand it.

Last but not least of my examples, we have Valentine’s Day. Or, as I and many others like to call it, “Singles Awareness Day.” The weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day are full of advertisments in the media telling you that you need to buy your significant other diamonds, a car, a load of candy, or some other bunch of crap to show them that you love them or something. Because obviously, the formula is “Amount of money spent = Amount of love,” right? The days leading up to Valentine’s Day tell everyone in any sort of romantic relationship that they need to show how much they love the person based on how much money they spend, while Valentine’s Day itself is sickeningly full of people talking about how much they loooooooooove their boyfriend/girlfriend that they’ve been in a relationship with for two weeks (just so that they’d have a boyfriend/girlfriend on Valentine’s Day itself). And for the people who aren’t in a relationship on Valentine’s Day, quite frequently they just feel bad about being single, wish they weren’t single, complain about being single, and then cry themselves to sleep while watching romantic comedies and eating chocolate that they bought for themselves. I hate Valentine’s Day. And not for the reasons that most people do. I don’t hate it because I’m single by any means. I hate it because everyone freaks out about it.

So those are my opinions and skepticisms on the holidays from November through February. So this would be a great place to end my rant, right? Everything sucks, there’s no redeemable qualities about anything. Well, wrong. Charlie Brown always experiences something positive during the holidays that are so terrible to him. On Thanksgiving, after Peppermint Patty decides to be a total jerk, Marcie comes and talks to him, saying, “Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by ‘Thanksgiving,’ Charlie Brown.” After bringing his tiny Christmas tree back to the auditorium and being ridiculed by the other children, Charlie Brown asks if anybody knows what Christmas is all about, and Linus gives his incredibly memorable speech out of the second chapter of Luke in the Bible. On New Year’s Eve, after being completely heart-broken and missing the little red-haired girl’s appearance, he is again approached my Marcie who tries to cheer him up by giving him a kiss on the cheek and saying simply, “Happy new year, Charles!” (It’s my opinion that Charlie Brown and Marcie need to eventually get married. And if they don’t, well, that’s just disappointing.) And the day after Valentine’s Day, after being crushed and let down by the other children at school, his friend (and I use the term “friend” loosely) Violet gives him a pity card, which leaves Charlie Brown hopeful that this will start a trend and he’ll receive even more Valentine’s cards the next year. There are so many wonderful lessons and messages to be learned from the holidays, and Charlie Brown has learned many of them firsthand. Given, he had to suffer through some unfortunate experiences to learn said lessons, but still. But I still find his skepticism about holidays is completely justified. There are a lot of downsides to holidays, quite honestly. My biggest problem is that people go about them the wrong way. And now, finally, we get around to my point.

Let’s get this out of the way first. I’m a Christian, and therefore I have different opinions about things than most people. I live for something bigger than myself, I have different motivations and reasons for doing the things I do. But that’s a discussion for another time. The reason I bring this up is because my faith has led me to approach holidays in a different way. Holidays for me are a time to focus on something specific, such as being thankful around Thanksgiving, generous around Christmas, take time to show those around me that I love them, etc, etc. What’s different for me, though, is that these attitudes and different things that people focus on aren’t attitudes I try to take up only around these specific times of the year. Instead, I try to do these kinds of things on a regular basis. And I’ve discovered that when I do, I can really keep that “spirit of Christmas” or whatever around when it’s not December. The things I try to do, and the things I’m recommending may be things that come from my faith and beliefs. They may be things that Jesus said, sure. But they don’t sound crazy. They don’t even really sound Biblical. They just sound like things that regular human beings should do.

Instead of just spending time on Thanksgiving day being thankful for the things I have, I try to take time to recognize those things every day. When I see the things I don’t have, or things that I want, I try to remember all the things that I’ve been blessed to have in my life already. Like food, shelter, a loving family, and wonderful friends. On that note, take time to let your friends and family know that you’re thankful for them. Let them know that you’re grateful for their friendship, that you appreciate their company and enjoy spending time with them. I have a friend who does this quite frequently, and I can say that feeling appreciated makes me even more appreciative. Everyone wants to feel appreciated. Let them know that you appreciate having them in your life.

Around Christmas time, people are generally more helpful, generous, gracious, patient, and compassionate towards other people. But what would life be like if that’s how people were all the time? I try to do what I can to take time to help people when I see a need. Take a couple seconds to hold the door open for someone coming behind you. Offer to help people out with their homework, or help them move, or help them take in the groceries or something. Take time to take someone out to lunch or coffee, and pay for the whole thing. And don’t do it for any reason other than that you want to spend time with them, get to know them better. Taking that kind of time out of your schedule for another person can mean the world to somebody. Also, just try volunteering. Whether it’s at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, your church, anything. Just try doing some work for no personal gain every now and then. Helping other people without expecting any sort of payment in return is quite humbling, and making an impact in another person’s life is priceless.

When it comes to New Year’s Eve, here’s my question: Why wait until January 1st to make a life change? Why wait until a new year to “start fresh”? Every day is a new day, a new chance to change something. Why not change what you’re doing now? Why not just get started instead of setting big goals for a new year? And here’s my recommendation: Once you make those goals, find someone to keep you accountable. If you really want to work out more and lose weight, talk to a friend who goes to the gym frequently and schedule times to work out with that person. Same goes for any other goals you set. Find someone who already has your goal as a regular part of their daily life, and ask them to help you keep up with your goals. Having someone to keep you accountable will help you accomplish your goals and achieve your dreams.

And now for Valentine’s Day. Here’s the thing, you don’t have to let the people you love know that you care about them one day of the year. That should be something that happens daily. Just take some time to love and appreciate the people that you care about. Valentine’s Day is a specific day dedicated to just that, sure. But it shouldn’t be the only day that it happens. And on another note, if you’re in a relationship, don’t rub it in peoples’ faces. And if you’re not in a relationship, that’s totally fine. There’s nothing wrong with being single. I call Valentine’s Day “Singles Awareness Day” along with all the people who are depressed about being single. But the difference for me is that I enjoy Valentine’s Day because I enjoy being single. There are so many fantastic benefits. Do I always want to be single? No, of course not. But until that day comes, I’m not going to wish I was in a relationship. Doing that is just a huge waste of time. But, once again, this is a discussion for another time.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m perfect. Far from it. These aren’t things that I have down pat. I have to actively think about doing this stuff every day. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m selfish. I’m one of the most selfish people I know. I think about myself way to much and don’t think nearly enough about other people and what I can do for their benefit. These are just some things I try to do to change that. It’s not easy. It’s actually really hard. And a lot of times I have to to stop, examine what I’m doing, think about what I need to change, and then go about doing what I can to change that. It’s still something I’m working on and still have trouble with, but the more I work on it, the more natural it becomes, and the more I see myself change because of it. I’d encourage you to give it a shot and see what it does for you. If it doesn’t do anything at all, I’m sorry. Please disregard everything I’ve said. Maybe I’m crazy.

So to sum everything up, here’s my basic conclusion: Don’t let the holidays change everything. The holidays should be a big deal, sure, but the way I see it, they shouldn’t completely change the way you live your life from day to day. The holidays should just be the days that you spend focusing on the things you already do. So instead of waiting for holidays for certain things to happen, be thankful throughout the day, be patient and help people out during the school year, make new goals today, let your loved ones know that you care about them every time you get the chance, and just compliment people when the opportunity arises. Treating each day like it’s a holiday will make everyone a lot less Charlie Brown-y about the holidays. Don’t wait for the holidays to love on people. Instead, take every opportunity you can to love people. I think you’ll be satisfied with the outcome.

So I guess I made a blog

So I guess I made a blog. Which is kind of weird. I never thought I’d be the kind of person to make a blog of any sort, but I think a lot. And lately I’ve been thinking a lot about a bunch of different things and have been wanting to share my thoughts. I’m not big on journaling, but I wanted a place to organize my thoughts, and I figured I might as well share said thoughts with people. This may not be what you’re thinking it would be. I’m not going to share all of my deepest, innermost secrets or anything. I’m really just stating my opinions on some things every now and then when something rustles my jimmies. So if you’re expecting some dramatic garbage about how terrible all my pretend friends are making my life or something, that’s not my life. And even if it was, I wouldn’t post it for the world to see. So hopefully I can just state my opinions here relatively free of judgment. If you ever have any sort of response or whatever, feel free to comment! Or…Something. I’m still not sure how this works. But I’m going to try my best to not get into any arguments about anything, if ya don’t mind. But, yeah. I like to think I’m interesting every now and then, so try to enjoy! I already have some things lined up that I want to write about and I already have a couple things written out, so I’ll have stuff up soon.