Sunday, August 31, 2008

Maine: A Prologue

This is my favorite time of year in New England, specifically in Maine. The days are still warm enough to run down to the lake for a swim, and the chilly nights mean s'mores and sweatshirts on the cabin's porch. The leaves, weary of the hot summer's energy, start to turn a magnificent array of vivid colors that I would otherwise not see in Florida. I love how the trees bend over the narrow dirt roads, as if wanting to engulf the cars as they drive underneath.

I still have one more full day up here before returning to the horrible humidity down south. I've taken close to 300 photos, and my camera is whimpering because I left my charger in Orlando. But I'm looking forward to writing about my adventures in quasi-northern Maine, in the tiny town of Rangely, where my family has been spending week-long summer and winter vacations since I was old enough to walk (and therefore old enough to enjoy the Great Outdoors).

But for now, I'm closing the laptop and putting it aside. The occasional haunting howl of the loons on the lake and the chattering crickets outside my window are singing me to sleep tonight.

Monday, August 25, 2008

One Year Ago

Today is Jolyon's birthday.

This time last year I surprised him before softball practice with balloons and birthday goodies, in which I managed to get several other players involved in the plotting. The cupcakes that Jolyon put in his car afterwards, in hopes of eating them later, melted shortly afterwards, thus opening the floodgates for numerous inside jokes about "cupcake killing" and, later, "you had me at cupcake."

The ever-persistent nostalgic side of me can't help musing about how much has changed in a single year, and how much I have grown as a person because of those changes. A unique confidence and inner peace warms me. I can articulate my needs, wants, and desires. I'm no longer afraid to change my mind or to disappoint others, in order to stay true to my principles.

Jolyon told me a few days ago that I "shouldn't take everything so seriously, even the serious stuff"... one of many teachings my wonderful, glass-half-full boyfriend would like to instill upon the world. I have a similar attitude, too. Most of the time. And I'm thankful for his humor and goofiness that snaps me out of my pessimistic moments.

And I'm thankful for those cupcakes that I brought to softball practice one year ago.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"The Soul Cannot Think Without a Picture" ~Aristotle

A plethora of pictures:

A relaxed group of sailors.

Nothing says love like a squeezing hug.

His first swim in the northern Atlantic.

Cake kisses.

Their first dance.

Almost too good to eat. Almost.

Boston Commons
Sailing the high seas.

Man overboard... in the freezing river.

My brother and I. Don't judge us.

Power rowing in the Canoe Races of the World at Magic Kingdom.

My work organization's Team Day at Pleasure Island.

Skim boarding at Cocoa Beach.

A very poised Socks.

The only place she felt safe after a nerf gun attack.

Happy 26th birthday, Shelly!

Chairlift in the summer. A beautiful sight.

At the summit of Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, MA.

Friday, August 15, 2008

What Others Think?

Do you worry about what people think of you? Are you willing to hurt those close to you in order to protect your own image, your pride? Do you feel embarrassed by the disappointments in your life, to the extent that you cover them up to avoid looking bad?

It's human nature to be conscious of how others perceive us. Most of us are surrounded by people 24/7-- in the workplace, in the household, at the grocery store, at the doctor's office, etc. We're raised to behave a certain way so that we can become productive members of society, and as we grow up, we develop unique interpersonal skills.

I admire those who live their lives not caring about what others think. They live for themselves, free-spirits who focus their energy inward. They don't follow the trends; instead, they move with their own rhythm, creating their own lyrics. While others scoffed at the kids in high school who wore the "weird" clothing, or dyed their hair "different" colors, I wanted to say to them, "I think you're fascinating; don't change when you get older."

Conversely, I'm put-off by the opposite end of the spectrum-- those people who focus too much time wondering what the world thinks of them. They've lived their lives trying to mirror perfection, internally associating disappointments and setbacks with failure. They want to impress people, to appear unfaulted, ultimately taking self-consciousness to an unhealthy level.

I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle of the "worrying about what others think" spectrum. And this is probably where the majority lies, too. I care, mainly, about what my close friends (and family) think; I value and respect their thoughts and opinions. I never want to disappoint them, and often times, I'll go along with their plans or itineraries even when I don't want to, just because I don't want to disappoint them.

But I'm learning that it's ok to disappoint people, to change your mind. And those who sincerely care about you will still be part of your life, if you let them.

When you establish a friendship with someone, have you ever pondered the implications of that friendship? What is your role? Are you the "fun" friend, the one who is called to attend a party or hit the bar? Or maybe you're the supportive friend, the one who is summoned for advice or counseling. (If you're lucky, you're both of those.)

I'm a fairly open person. I keep a blog that details my thoughts and daily events. I'm constantly on Instant Messenger, with an updated away message. I have a Facebook profile and a LinkedIn account. When something is bothering me, I have a few select people who will hear about it for days; I have a need for consistent, honest, communication, otherwise the sensed disconnect will inevitably sever the relationship. But I understand that not all people are like me, and thank God for that. :)

I do, however, choose all my relationships based on communication. Maybe I was drawn to you by your sense of humor, and our shared laughter bonded us. Maybe you shared a personal story that inspired me to tell you one from my childhood as well, and we mused over our similar upbringings. Obviously, some of my friendships are deeper than others, and that tends to derive from intimate conversation. And once that level of intimacy in a friendship is established, it releases a waterfall of "Icantellyouanythingandyouwontjudgeme" or "Idon'tneedtoworryaboutwhatyouthinkofmebecauseourfriendshipisunconditional". Do we expect our close friends to tell us every detail of their lives? Of course not. On the flipside, though, we expect our close friends to tell us the truth.

Honest communication. Isn't that the basis of all relationships? Family, friends, lovers, coworkers... when we connect with these people, don't we want a truthful encounter?

If you lie to those who are close to you, think for a moment. Why are you lying? What will you gain by doing this? What are you hiding? And why are you hiding it from the people who care most about you?

I used to ask myself those very same questions, so believe me, I'm in no position to preach. I am, however, in a position to request honest communication from the people to whom I will always speak the truth.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Goin' To The Chapel...

Two of my best friends got engaged over the weekend. Erin and Noah, who were friends from the beginning of high school, started dating a few years ago and fell in love, and he proposed over the weekend, a few days after her birthday.

Erin and I met in first grade, though she claims we met in kindergarden, but I don't remember this. We spent our elementary school days playing on town soccer teams together (my mom was our coach the year we won the championship) and playing games in the woods behind her house and mine. I can recall a few silly home videos that we made, as well as some interesting kitchen creations, in which her mom was never pleased to clean up after us. We were part of what we deemed the "neighborhood posse," which consisted of Erin, myself, Lana, and Leandra; all our houses were within walking/biking distance of each other. I miss those days.

I met Noah on the first day of my freshman year of high school. We were in Mr. Laughlin's science class; Noah was sitting behind me. We had some wacky adventures throughout high school, my favorite being our duel project on Indonesia, in which we wrote and sang a song in Indonesian, "Jancam Macam Macam," loosely translated: "I Like You Just the Way You Are." Noah and I sent each other daily email updates after school and chatted endlessly on AOL Instant Messanger. I'm not sure I ever told him, but I saved every single email and almost every IM conversation, and I would often go back and read some of them when I was feeling down. Sometimes, he would send me song lyrics from the Muppets... short, simple, sweet; just what I needed sometimes. I still have that folder, and even to this day, I'll go back and glance through a few emails and smile.

Noah had called me earlier this summer to announce that he had bought the ring, and he told me how he was going to ask Erin, the love of his life, his best friend, to marry him. I'm pleased to report that I was able to keep my mouth shut, as I was among the select group of people he had told in advance (and also one of the farthest away from Erin).

Erin and Noah came to visit me and vacation in Disney for a week last spring (March, 2007), and that had actually been the first time I hung out with them as a "couple." It was remarkable to observe my two good friends, both of whom I knew very well individually, blend into a relationship. It was a natural progression for them, too, since they spent a lot of time together in a friendship state before merging into romance. I felt like I was gaining a new friend--the Erin and Noah couple-- as opposed to losing two friends, which is often the case when you're friends wih two people who start dating.

Due to our different geographic locations, I haven't had all that much time to spend with them in their coupledom. But, the moments I have had with them (their Disney vacation, and my recent excursion to MA for Lizzy's wedding) have shown me that these two people, my best friends, are fantastic together. It was truly the best birthday present-- the text message from Noah that read, "She said YES!"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Birthday Blog

I turned 26 over the weekend.

My birthday snuck up on me this year. I was reminded last week when my mom called to ask what I wanted for my birthday, just like she does every year. As I get older, it just gets cuter that she still gets me a present.

I had planned a dinner celebration at The Ale House with some friends for Friday night, and was pleasantly surprised with how many people were able to make it. A few people showed up whom I hadn't seen in over a year. And my former roommate, Ryan, stopped by to wish me a happy 26 (this amused me, because he was at the same bar on a date).

After Ale House, James, Jolyon, and I ventured to the Celebration Town Tavern with Jeff to meet up with a few of our other friends who couldn't make it to Ale House earlier in the evening. Jeff insisted that I try a $10.00 beer from Belgium, and after my unsuccessful protest (and his debit card), I had a large bottle in my hand, and a glass in the other. When Jeff wasn't looking, I asked James to help me finish it.

On my actual birthday (Sunday), Jolyon and I relaxed at the pool in the apartment complex, and by "relax" I mean that we spent an amusing two hours playing with a giant inflatable turtle that I won during a raffle last week at a work event. While some lucky winners took home free Water Park Tickets and VIP Tours, I took home the plastic, green turtle that had been previously used as a prop in one of our team games. I'm sure I amused the Guests in the parking lot of Pleasure Island (where our all day Team Event was held), as I tried to cram the inflated beast into the backseat of my small, Geo Prism. The stupid thing almost caused me to get into an accident on the way home, since I had successfully blocked my rear view vision.

That evening, Jolyon took me to see Blue Man Group, which was an interesting show. I say "interesting" because it took me a good portion of the show to realize that the short skits performed by these blue-painted men were not interconnected, and the show didn't tell a story or generate any kind of message. Instead, the blue men spat marshmellows at each other, munched on Captain Crunch cereal, and banged loudly on drums. While I enjoyed the show (who doesn't like getting covered in toilet paper?), it's not quite on my 'Must-See in Orlando' list.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Balancing Acts

"Remember when I used to sleep over? In your bed? Haha. Yeah. And then Jolyon took my place."

My friend told me this the other night. She was bouncing around my apartment, being goofy as usual with the boys, then suddenly stated the above line. It came out of left field, and I didn't know what to say, but before I could comment, she was already bantering on about another subject. Three days later, I'm still dwelling on that simple phrase, "Jolyon took my place."

I'm the type of person who reads too much into statements, the type who always looks for the implications or allusions in a person's dialogue. I pride myself on being overly tuned in to others' internal emotions. 9 times out of 10, I can sense when someone is upset or bothered, even when they don't physically show it . Those close to me have deemed it "freaky," since I'm usually right.

I also pride myself on being able to strike an even balance between Relationships and ShellyTime or friends. I make a conscious effort to make sure that I am not blowing off friends and other commitments for my significant other. And, I am blessed because I'm in a relationship in which we both enjoy time to ourselves and time with other friends. We need each other and depend on each other at a healthy level; we do not demand each other's time, nor do we expect it 24/7.

I never, ever, wanted to be "that" girl. The girl who disappears from her friends and social outings when she becomes involved with someone. The girl who stops making plans to do things she enjoys, because her boyfriend wouldn't approve. The girl who changes her beliefs and values to please or attract a man. I am not that girl. I'm still Me, a Whole Person.

I'm a planner. I schedule social events and outings weeks, often months, in advance. It's borderline obsessive, really. I gain comfort in the thought that I have something going on each night, whether it's a soccer game, volleyball practice, grabbing dinner with a friend, or having a pasta night with the roommates.

For the non-planner (and I have several much more spontaneous friends), it's difficult for them to hang out with me, and vice-versa, mainly because when they ask to get together ("Lets hang out. What're you doing tonight, Shelly?), I probably already have plans. It has gotten to the point that I have to "schedule" free time. Literally. I write in my Lifebook (the term I deemed my Planner many years ago): "Stay In. Pay bills. Catch up on Emails. Blog." In theory, it appears that I am free that evening, but in my head I have already crafted out a 'to-do' list; sometimes, I'll sketch this list on a piece of paper at work so that I don't forget.

There are people in my life with whom I have stopped associating, unless we're brought together in a group setting by someone else's planning. I've given up trying to make ammends, at the risk of appearing like I am "begging" for their friendship. It's simply not worth it now.

There are people in my life with whom I would like to spend more time, but neither of us initiate an outing. It's usually, "We should hang out soon" and "Yes, definitely!" But nothing ever comes to fruition, and it's neither party's fault.

We are all capable of maintaining friendships while still being involved with a significant other. It's part of life. I've written about it before, but I'm going to use that wonderful word again... BALANCE. We all do it on a daily basis. We balance our time and our energy between work, family, and friends. It's simply not healthy to spend 100% of your time doing only one of those items.

I like to think that I do a decent job of balancing the priorities in my life. If I sense that one area isn't getting enough attention, I try to adjust. But I'm not perfect, and I never will be. Perfection is something I will never consider tossing into my balancing act.

Monday, August 4, 2008

"I Just Can't Commit"

I made a commitment to something and I (brace yourself, people).... did not follow through. In fact, I went completely cold-turkey, avoiding phone calls and making excuses in my head to justify my behavior.

That indoor soccer league I mentioned briefly in my previous post? I decided--after a week of waking up sore, dragging myself out of bed, and limping up the three flights of stairs to my office-- that this league was not for me.

So, I quit. Q-U-I-T. I'm ashamed and embarrased. There are very few times in my life where I have made a commitment (and this one was a $40.00 commitment, mind you) and not been able to hang in there. In fact, I can only think of two instances in my life in which I have allowed myself to essentially give up and move on, rather than suck it up and keep my commitment promise.

Instance 1:
The Sutton Fuller Hamlets, a premiere soccer team that required my parents to tote me around the state of Massachusetts and beyond, in which I was recruited during a week-long soccer camp by the coach, and enlisted as the "back-up goalkeeper." My 12 year-old mind did not, at the time, realize that playing on a premiere team did not come with the same pixie dust as my town teams. "Back-up" keeper was just that-- if the starting goalkeeper was sick or injured, then I could play. I wasn't used to that, and I don't think my parents understood that either, or they wouldn't have forked over the pricey league fee. Even on my town teams, we would typically split the game 50/50 (and I didn't mind playing mid-field from time to time).

I remember the starting keeper all-too vividly. Her name was Mindy and she was from Lancaster, MA. She had straight black hair and a growing arrogance that I'm sure got her smacked across the face once she got to high school. Her toilet humor reminded me of that 90s show, Beevis and Butthead. She even colored a tampon red one day during practice, and flung it at me. But, obnoxious personality aside, she was good. I like to think I was an occasional threat to her cushy position (I worked my 12 year old ass off in practices), especially since she never quite warmed up to me. Here's hoping she stopped throwing faux tampons at her teammates if she was planning on making soccer a career.

The rest of my teammates (from all over Central MA) were mean, kick-you-in-the-wrist-while-your-hand-is-on-the-ball mean. And the coaches screamed bloody murder from the sidelines at the players who missed shots and weren't hustling 100% of the time. I came to accept that kind of environment as I got older, but I loathed driving in Mom's car the 45 minutes to practices after school and the three hour drives to games on Sunday mornings, where I would sit on the sidelines in my "back-up" glory. My parents let me quit halfway through the season, after giving me a firm "we don't tolerate quitting in this family, but..." type of speech. I went on to play in many premiere leagues after that, but my parents made sure that I was not enlisted as "back-up."

Instance 2:
My college newspaper. I was a devoted staff writer during my freshman year before applying for the position of Copy Editor, which I held during my sophomore year. Junior year, I was promoted to Assistant-Chief Editor, in which I spent every other weekend and many week nights in the basement of the campus center, holed away in the Student Publication Office, editing articles and laying out the newsaper until the wee hours of the morning. There were many deadlines in which I layed out the majority of the newspaper, on my own, which resulted in a hostile, yet passive-aggressive, attitude toward the Editor-in-Chief, who was busy with other commitments. However, the Chief and I had our differences, sometimes verbally, and I will admit that I struggle to find the balance in profesisonal and personal life, even to this day.

In retrospect, I should have confronted her and told her I didn't appreciate doing all the work, especially since she was supposed to be "in charge." Yet, I worked hard, usually without a peep, knowing that this would prepare me for when I was the Chief Editor the following year.

However, that didn't happen. I was not promoted. I applied and interviewed, as a formality (like the year before) for the position, which was given to one of the Copy Editors. I didn't even know anyone beneath me had applied for the job. I was notified via letter, which stated something to the effect that "we are sorry to inform you..." etc etc, and they offered me the opportunity to remain as a staff writer (which, mind you, was open to anyone on campus who showed up at the meetings).

I was hurt. It was difficult to swallow, especially since the person they accepted had less experience than and I did. Looking back, I shouldn't have "expected" the job, just because I had been on the editorial staff for two years prior. That's not how it works in the real world, either. However, it was tough for me to continue my hard work for the paper, knowing that they had chosen someone else as Chief the following year.

The paper had three more issues to put out before summer. I let my hurt and immaturity reign, and I decided that if they didn't want me the following year, then they could finish the next three issues without me. I ended up announcing my resignation at one of the Editorial Staff Meetings. I thanked everyone in as polite a manner as I could muster, left my office key on the table, and walked out.

A week later, I received a letter of acceptance for The Walt Disney World College Program for the fall semester. I had applied two months prior. To this day, I like to think that fate had something to do with my not being offered the Chief position.

Two instances in 26 years isn't bad, right? Well, I guess I'm now making it three. After the fourth missed phone call from my team's Captain, I knew I owed him an explanation.

I was honest. I told him I had commited prematurely, without taking into consideration that I have been out of the game for a long time. I also told him that my schedule was already too busy, and that I would miss the last two games anyway, due to vacations. Understandably, he was irritated, but he appreciated my (finally) getting back to him. He told me that I'm still welcome on the team in the fall. I told him I would consider it, but to be on the look out for other female players.

And that was that. I still feel pretty horrible, but not as horrible as I did after that first game, in which I was kicked in the face and hands by grown men. How silly of me to think I could walk back onto a coed indoor soccer team as a goalkeeper and magically reapply my training from years past.

I feel like there should be a moral to this story, similar to Aesop's Fables, or the like. I'm open to suggestions.