Driving to pick up my kids from school, I turned on the radio. This is my “me” time, the little that I get during the week. There’s something magical about music booming from speakers all around you. Not only does a song resonate with you — the lyrics, the bass, the melody — but you feel it deep in your bones. Better yet, you can sing as loud and out of tune as you want. I apologize to anyone in the passenger seat in advance
It won’t surprise those who know me that I have a tendency to land on channels that play pop music, especially 80s jams. I also enjoy classic rock, oldies, and well, most genres with the exception of hard-core rap. On this particular day, I passed through squiggles of sound until I hit on a familiar tune that made me turn the volume to full blast.
“Say say two thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time
So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s nineteen ninety-nine”
It caught me at that moment. Prince released the song back in the 1980s. When it came out, this song was about the future. Listening to it now in 2018, it was an homage to the past.
Some of you may not know that Prince released 1999 not once but twice. When it came out in 1982, it peaked at No. 44 on the Billboard charts. After the success of Little Red Corvette, he released it again in 1983, and this time, 1999 rose to No. 12. Clearly, the man knew how to capitalize on his success.
Back then, the Cold War raged. Tensions ran high between the West and the Soviet Union. Countries stockpiled weapons and the threat of nuclear war felt very real. The song touched upon the fears of everyday citizens even as it tried to offer them hope.
“Everybody’s got a bomb, we could all die any day
But before I let that happen, I’ll dance my life away”
On the surface, 1999 was about the end of the world. Prince had been raised as a Seventh Day Adventist and later became a Jehovah’s Witness. Both religions have a belief that the apocalypse will happen in our lifetime. Cheerful news, right? With world events as they were, it was no wonder Prince found inspiration to write the song.
Still, 1999 was about more than that. While it showed that the world was a mad place, it also offered perspective. If you could not save the world, you could at least live your life to the fullest.
The years passed and Prince continued to party. Before long 1999 was upon us. Not surprisingly, Prince again capitalized on the song. He rang in the new millennium with a pay-per-view concert, Rave Un2 the Year 2000. In that performance, he warned that it was all going to end. 1999 was going to be removed from his set list because “there won’t be no need to play it in the ’00s.” Nooooooooo!
By this time, the meaning of the song had shifted. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Cold War lay far behind us. Instead of nuclear annihilation, the focus shifted to the Y2K bug. Back then, computers were programmed to store dates with 2 digit rather than 4 digit years. The fear that data would be lost or that computers would otherwise malfunction at the turn of the millennium was all over the media. 00 might be misinterpreted as 1900 instead of 2000! Banking systems would melt down! Planes would fall out of the sky!
“I was dreamin’ when I wrote this, so sue me if I go too fast
But life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last”
Again, in a time of fear, the song resonated with people. They needed to be reminded that they may be mortal but that shouldn’t stop them from enjoying what time they had left. Worrying about something that they could not personally control was not going to change the end game.
By virtue of the fact that we are here today, the world didn’t end in 1999. The Cold War did not bring nuclear annihilation and the Y2K bug did not wreak the havoc people feared. It didn’t even hold true that Prince would stop singing his apocalyptic opus. The world rejoiced when he resurrected the song in 2007 during his performance at the Super Bowl XLI halftime show.
It’s inevitable we’ll find something else to scare us in the future too. After all, another Cold War is not too far off.
“War is all around us, my mind says prepare to fight
So if I gotta die I’m gonna listen to my body tonight”
Times change but there will always be something to fear, a war of some type. A war between nations, a war between individuals, a war within ourselves. If not war, let’s call them differences, divisions, or misunderstandings. No matter what challenges come our way, we have to find some way to cope. Letting loose party-style, i.e., not taking everything so seriously, may be one way to do just that.
Today, 1999 is more about nostalgia than fear. The song lets us look back, not to the Cold War or Y2K, but to times in our own lives when life was simpler, when we were younger, maybe even before people we loved had passed away. You see, 1999 is not really about the end of the world. It is not even about living a hedonistic life. It is about finding peace within yourself. Live your best life and enjoy each day as if it were your last.
Whether you are close to your mother or not, the fact remains that you owe her more than you can ever repay her. She gave you life. She carried you in her body for nine months. She watched her body undergo countless changes to bring you into this world. Some of those changes will last her a lifetime. Pregnancy even changes the neural circuitry of the brain. If you do not think pregnancy brain is a real thing, you need to look at the research.
Raising a child is no small feat, and I am not talking about the 4,000+ diaper changes in the first year. I am not even talking about the late nights that, believe it or not, caused your parents to lose 20+ hours of sleep per week or 44 full days over that same year. For those parents brave enough to take on the task, moms and dads alike, it is a rewarding experience. Raising a child is less about duty and more about sacrifices, lessons learned (on both sides), and most importantly, love.
Until I became a mother, I did not know what love was, or at least I only knew one version of it. Of course, I thought I knew. We all think we know. We love family members, spouses, lovers, and friends. Still, while these relationships can be rich and magnificent, even all-consuming, they pale in comparison to what happens when a mother first holds her child in her arms. The flooding of emotion knocks her world off its axis.
Maybe it is that neural circuitry again, but as a mom, I can say it is all worth it.
My mom has been through a lot in her time. The details are not for my readers to know, but mom, know that I know.
You had me at a young age and set everything aside to raise me. You braved a squeaking clarinet when I first learned to play. You listened to thousands of hours of Wham! and George Michael music even when you didn’t like it. You taught me a period was not just the dot at the end of a sentence. You jumped up and down with me when I got my college acceptance letters. You cried when you first held my son in your arms. You always encouraged me to reach for the stars, and you taught me there is no shame in starting over.
When I needed an ear, you were always there to listen, and I talked … a lot. Whenever I needed something, whether it was a deposit for a band trip we could barely afford or a makeshift scarecrow costume for the Halloween dance (we won the contest!), you made sure I had it. When life got hard, you taught me to weather the storm. You taught me to be resilient. You made me strong. You showed me love.
I just want you to know, big or small, the things you have done and the things you do mean more than you know. Thank you for being you and thank you for being there.
Show appreciation to your mother, whether she is your birth mother or your adopted mother, and strengthen your bond. You do not have to be a parent yourself to recognize all that she has brought to the table. You may have had your ups and downs, but there will always be a bonafide connection. Be thankful for all that you have and remember your adventures along the way.
Today, I wish all mothers (THANK YOU, MOM!) a Happy Mother’s Day, and I can only hope that one day, if and when they become parents themselves, my own children will feel the same intensity of emotion my husband and I did when we brought them into this world.
For now, my children show their love with hugs and kisses. For now, I have some fabulous handmade cards to read that will brighten my day. For now, I have true gratitude for the gifts I have been given. The wonders of motherhood have blessed me with a happy life.
I remember the good old days when I would go to Borders on my day off. Even as I write this, I cringe to think that many of you do not even know about Borders. The once mega-bookstore filed bankruptcy and closed its doors in 2011. Back then, I would order up a hot beverage, usually a hot chocolate or a chai tea, and sit for hours upon hours typing up my first novel. There was something soothing about the shelves of books, books that people wanted to buy and that would one day, hopefully, include my own.
Although I finished that novel, don’t expect to get your hands on a copy. Sorry, guys! To be honest, for most writers, the first novel is more an exercise in self-discovery than an all-out publishing blitz. Their time is spent less on the “perfect” story than on learning who they are, how to write, and developing a style to call their own. That is not to say that those characters and storylines, even a few sentences or phrases, won’t make their way into a future work one day. I hope they do.
With my nostalgia for Borders, it’s no wonder I have a penchant for print books. Bookstores bring me back to my writing process. They remind me that if I could do it once, even if that first novel sits in a hidden file on my computer, I can do it again and even better the next time around. I can take the experience I gained as a writer and apply it again. I can grow. Like anything in life, the more you practice, the better you get.
Bookstores used to reign supreme and they did pretty good business (on my dollar alone!) until eBooks took center stage. The first Kindle eBook store opened in 2000. Back then, it sold only PFD and Microsoft Reader formatted ebooks. The Kindle Store as we know it today did not launch until 2007. By January 2011, Amazon announced it was selling more ebooks than print books.
It’s not surprising that many people turned to eBooks over print books, at least for a while. It was a matter of convenience. eReaders offered instant access to thousands of books. They enticed you with built-in lighting and said so long to paper cuts. When traveling, you could trade in a bevy of books for a single lightweight device.
Surprisingly, things have started to take a turn. eBook sales started to level off in 2013. Publishers Weekly reported that hardcover books outsold eBooks in 2016, the first time since 2011. In fact, print book sales have increased every year since 2013, with an additional 3.3% boost in 2017. Not that eBooks are dying. Far from it. Statistica projects that eBook will account for 25% of book sales worldwide this year.
My point is that books are selling, regardless of how you publish them. What format do you prefer to read?
At first, I was an eBook doubting Thomas. Literally, Thomas was my maiden name. Still, the convenience drew me in. When I crave a new book, I hop online and snag one, whether it’s 4pm or 4am, no questions asked. My schedule simply does not allow me the freedom to drive off to the nearest bookstore or library whenever I want (which is all the time!).
Still, my true love is for print books. There is something welcoming about the weight of the cover, hard or soft. The binder creasing at the seams. The thickness of the paper as I turn each page. Even the crisp smell of the paper adds to the sensual experience.
When I go to an office supply store, I am the sort of person whose heart flutters at the reams of papers, stacks of notebooks, and walls of writing utensils. All that potential to capture facts, and better yet, our imaginations! That same feeling of joy erupts in me whenever I walk into a bookstore or library. Surrounded by the written word, suddenly, I am home. This is the way it is supposed to be.
While I often read eBooks, I read my fair share of print books. A copy of The Alchemist by Paul Coelho always sits at my bedside waiting to be re-read (best book ever!) and I try to keep a second print book ready to go. Whether written by new or established authors, these books help to feed my book cravings. When I haven’t had a chance to replenish my print book supply, I pull out the eReader. It’s the best of both worlds.
Get out of bed. Check. Exercise – yes, I practice what I preach. Check. Take shower. Check. Get dressed. Check. Eat breakfast. Check. All the while, I prep my kids for school (no small feat!) and head to work where a whole new list of responsibilities unfolds before me like the Dead Sea Scrolls. Check and check. At the end of the day, I complete any other “necessary chores”, make dinner, and read bedtime stories to my children before heading to bed to start all over again in the morning.
It is too easy to find comfort in predictability. That’s what routine offers, that and the illusion of stability. Relying too heavily on routine can trap you into a fixed mindset though, burying you beneath the weight of what you “should do” as opposed to what you “could do”. It’s hard to grow as a person when nothing changes.
Not that all routines are bad. I’d hate to see what would happen if everyone stopped brushing their teeth (yuck!) or worse, the legal system decided to bend a few (more) rules. Certain routines allow for civilized society. The problem comes when certain routines get in the way of our individual talents and passions.
When it comes down to it, we need to take a closer look at the roles we take on.
I am a mom, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend, a pet owner, an employee, a homemaker, a writer, a runner, and a doctor. Speaking of which, what pops into your mind when you hear the word “doctor”? Many people see someone in a white coat, maybe wearing a stethoscope around their neck. They usually envision a man, someone mature with a speckling of grey or even full-out white hair. Not many people automatically think of a young woman in a ponytail and plain clothes, even if she had won a reward for medical excellence from the American Medical Association.
With me, that’s what you get.
I prefer to ignore society’s expectations and be true to myself. Not to mention that white coats are nothing more than fabric covered in germs. You thought unbrushed teeth were gross?
Preconceived notions cloud our reality. We are not born with these ideas. They are created by past experiences, by the media, by society. Rarely do we sit back and look at the facts, rarely are we brave enough to question why we see things a certain way. Instead, we settle and we fall in line.
I am a doctor, but should I care if I fail to meet up to your expectations? It is my role, not yours.
Now think about the roles you take on every day.
Step outside of your assumed roles for a moment and take a look at your life. Do your roles match up with your routines? Or are your routines a bunch of hooey that society puts on you? Are you doing things you actually enjoy or are you just going through the motions?
Personally, I don’t regret the roles I take on and I try to change them when I do. What I am not a fan of are the routines. I love being a mom but I don’t like the expectation that I go to PTA meetings, cook for bake sales, and volunteer at the school. I do, however, love every moment I get to spend with my kids. I liked being a doctor until the administrative red tape and jammed schedules burned me out. When I left clinical practice and became a medical consultant, I found a routine that made me happy again.
When it comes to my personal or professional life, doing things the way people expect me to do them can be flat out exhausting. I would rather do things my own way. I don’t want my roles to define me; I want to define them.
What truly inspires you? Only you can know what makes you feel good inside. Let go of what you think others expect of you and revel in what makes you happy. Define your own roles and join me.
In 2017, I championed My Bridget Jones Life. In 2018, I’m moving into John Hughes territory. Not only does the director have a litany of classic 80s movies under his belt, he has writing credits clear into the 2010s. Who can’t relate to a good old-fashioned coming of age story or a character that breaks stereotypes? This is my life in movies.
The way Hollywood depicts it, love is “wonderful”. Anyone who has been in love knows it’s not always so easy. There are endless ups and downs and all arounds. Too often, someone ends up with a broken heart.
There’s nothing quite like opening your heart to another person. That surge of emotions is like a bomb about to go off. Adrenaline surges with every choice you make. Clip the blue wire or the red one. On the one hand, if everything goes well, BOOM! You are celebrating life. Make the wrong choice. BOOM! You are shattered into a million little pieces.
The lucky ones find a love that lasts. The rest have to find a way to deal with the aftermath. Some people jump into the next relationship while others close themselves off to avoid the pain. In the end, if we do not open ourselves to the possibility of love, we may never find it.
All we can do is hope for a happy ending.
No one wanted that happy ending more than John Hughes. No wonder he hated the ending for Pretty in Pink. His original script brought Andie and Duckie together as a couple, but test audiences hated it. They were too enamored with the handsome Andrew McCarthy as “major appliance” Blane, and Hughes was forced to throw Duckie under the bus.
For those who haven’t seen the movie, the “final” plot is simple. A poor girl falls for a rich guy. The rich guy asks her to the prom but dumps her before the big day when he worries his friends won’t approve. Instead, she goes to the prom with her male best friend, a guy who has loved her his entire life. The rich guy shows up and without any effort wins back the poor girl.
That’s right. The guy who stands by her side through thick and thin, the guy who makes her laugh, the guy who actually brings her to the prom, the guy who literally holds her hand and whose hand she holds back minutes before Mr. Handsome shows up, he gets dumped without a second glance.
What Andie did to Duckie was as bad, even worse, than what Blane did to her. She led him on and then abandoned him when it was convenient.
Young love, BOOM!
With Some Kind of Wonderful, Hughes sets that wrong to right using a little role reversal.
In this case, a poor guy falls for a rich girl. The poor guy asks a rich girl on a date and the rich girl says yes because she wants to make an old boyfriend jealous. The poor guy brings his female best friend, a gal who is clearly in love with him, along on the date as their chauffeur. The poor guy realizes he is really in love with his best friend and breaks up with the rich girl.
Hughes is not saying to fall in love with your best friend. What he is saying is that you should not ignore what’s right in front of you for something that on the surface seems bigger and greater, whether in love or life in general. Odds are that surface gloss is just an illusion.
The trick is to look deeper. What do you want? What do you need? What makes you happy? More to the point, who supports you? Who makes you feel special? Who adds that extra sparkle to your day? Make choices like your future depends on it.
“You look good wearing my future”, the poor boy (Eric Stoltz) says to his best friend (Mary Stuart Masterson) when he hands her the pair of diamond earrings he bought with his college fund.
True love, BOOM!
Fired from the very company he created, Steve Jobs later became the CEO of Apple and changed how the world uses computers. Nelson Mandela brought an end to apartheid and became President of South Africa after 27 years in prison. J. K. Rowling, a down-on-her-luck mom, fought through unemployment and a bitter divorce before publishing Harry Potter. Fired from her first job for being too emotionally invested in her stories, Oprah Winfrey overcame a troubled past and built a media empire.
They had different life experiences, but they all had one thing in common. They were resilient. No matter how hard times got, they pushed on.
You don’t have to be a computer genius, a political figure, or a starving artist to make the most of a bad situation. You can take on most any obstacle when you add a little grit to your life. It doesn’t matter your age or your circumstances. Just ask Rory O’Connor.
Rory O’Connor knows Windham, New Hampshire. Not only did he grow up in the small town, he gives back to the community in a big way.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of New Hampshire, he returned to his alma mater in 2008 to teach fourth and fifth graders at Windham Center School. While teaching, he also earned an education specialist degree in administration and supervision (Ed.S) from the University of New Hampshire and a doctorate in leadership from Rivier University.
It is no surprise Rory O’Connor is recognized for his service. From his high fives in the school halls to his creative school projects, his dedication has left an impression not only on the students but on staff and parents just the same. He became the vice principal of Golden Brook School in 2012, moved on to become the principal at Golden Brook School in 2014, and later transitioned to become the principal at Windham Center School in 2016.
He brought grit and resiliency to the Windham School District, and it is an honor to have my children play a part.
We all know someone who perseveres despite tough circumstances. Whether it’s getting through an illness, getting over a loss, getting good grades (for kids), or whatever life throws their way, they land on their two feet. Rory O’Connor is teaching kids to do just that.
He and other teachers at the Golden Brook School instituted the Grit Awards Program. When you walk into the school, you come face to face with a large GRIT board covered in paper handprints of every color. Written on those handprints are the successes of children who have faced and overcome adversity at the school. It could be something as simple as getting on the bus or as hard as working on a difficult class assignment.
“We really wanted to instill that work ethic for them at a young age so that as they get older and mature, they have that skill set needed to really rise to the top and continue to succeed in life,” O’Connor said.
The effects are undeniable. Not only do kids get recognition for persevering through hard times, their behavior is reinforced in a socially meaningful way. They literally see that they are not alone, that other kids struggle too. It increases empathy and understanding for their fellow students. It is also a confidence builder and encourages them to strive to be the best they can be.
You can read about the growing research on grit and resiliency in Angela Duckworth’s New York Times best-seller Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She says, “When you keep searching for ways to change your situation for the better, you stand a chance of finding them. When you stop searching, assuming they can’t be found, you guarantee they won’t.”
Grit and resilience are more than just persevering. They rely on how you see the world. You need to be willing to act. You need to be flexible. You need to embrace change. Most importantly, you need to grasp onto a growth mindset, a belief that your situation can improve with dedication and hard work.
If Steve Jobs wallowed after being fired from Apple, he would not have gone on to invent many of the technologies we enjoy today. South Africa could still be under apartheid without Nelson Mandela, we would not have enjoyed the adventures of Hogwarts without J.K. Rowling, and millions of people may not have been inspired to live their best lives without Oprah Winfrey.
We all face adversity. We could either fold and retreat and we can charge on and grow from it, even better the world. Thank you, Rory O’Connor. By teaching a younger generation about grit, you are making the world a better place.