books

Throw Away Your Old Car Keys

I recently listened to Bryan Cranston’s memoir, Life in Parts, on audiobook. Not only does he have an incredible reading voice, but his stories are fun and fascinating and consistently engaging. I loved the book and would recommend it to anyone looking for an easy read (or listen).

One particular story that stuck out in my mind was that of the passing of his aunt Sunday and uncle Eddie, and the process of his family going through their belongings afterwards. He noted how they found a box marked “keys to the old cars”, which turned out to be exactly that: keys for cars they previously owned.

As someone who is very sentimental, I can understand the act of keeping things that hold a special place in your heart. But as Cranston went onto explain, this box was one of many. The couple were definitely hoarders, finding value in keeping absolutely everything. As someone who hates clutter, I can’t really relate to this notion.

Or at least I thought I couldn’t.

Cranston noted, “None of the keys fit the car in the garage or the abandoned vehicles parked on the dead grass in the backyard. So. They kept keys to cars they hadn’t owned in years.”

That’s when I thought to myself: isn’t that kind of like holding on to grudges/pain/anger/etc. from the past?

When I thought about it like that, I realized we all probably have a “keys to the old cars box.” We are all holding onto things that will never do us any good. We are all keeping keys that belong to cars we’ve long stopped driving.

For me personally, I know I tend to hold onto things because in a way it makes me feel safe. Tangible things, like pictures or ticket stubs or knick knacks, make me feel like I’m keeping good memories safe, preserving everything I loved about that day or days in a single object that I can always go back to. Going off of this, my mind likes to pretend that holding onto anger and sadness and pain has the same benefit. It promises that remembering these things, these moments that still sting, will help keep me safe in the future. They will keep me from getting hurt or from failing or from making a fool out of myself. They will help me trust the right people and love the right people and stay away from the wrong people.

While this is good, as it’s important to constantly learn and grow and mature, there comes a point when this “protection” becomes clutter. Learning from failures is different than holding onto them. And working through pain is different than pushing it aside. For Cranston’s aunt and uncle, they were always going to have the memories of those old cars, even after they left their driveway. So while those keys might have promised to further those memories, in reality they were just reminders of the past taking up space in the present. And the same goes for all that anger and pain and sadness that is bogging us down.

It’s never easy to let go, but it’s necessary. I know for me, it might take a while. It might even be a one key at a time process, but that’s okay. As the saying goes, “the first step is admitting you have a box of old car keys.” After that, it’s just making room for the good things.

We Are All Complex Characters

In a world bustling with digital content, especially sitcoms and dramas available on both mainstream television and a number of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, etc., it’s safe to say we’ve been introduced to a wide variety of characters in recent years. Some we can relate to, some we can’t; some we love, some we hate. Regardless, we feel like we get a sense of who these characters are, and depending on how long we binge their show on the couch, we sometimes even forget they’re not actually a part of our lives.

I have this problem constantly. When I watch a show I get completely attached to the characters and I talk about them as if they’re my friends or family rather than fictional characters created for entertainment purposes. It’s even worse when I read books.

One thing, perhaps, that makes these characters so real, is a show or book’s ability to give us a nearly 360-degree view of who they are and why they are the way that they are. We can sympathize with decisions they make because we know what’s going on in every facet of their life. And we can root for them because we know the inner workings of their hopes and dreams.

In real life, it’s often hard to remember that we and the people around us are just as three dimensional as fictional characters. We are what they are based on! We, like them,  are all complex and constantly changing and adapting, sometimes to seemingly unbelievable circumstances. We all have individual whys that define who we are and what we do, even if not everyone will be able to see them, or if we are never able to fully identify them within ourselves.

As we go through our day-to-day lives, we will often come into contact with people who rub us the wrong way. And while it’s important to stand up for ourselves and stand firm in what we believe in, I also think it’s important to remember that we don’t know anyone’s “whole story.” We don’t have the 360-degree view. We don’t know how their morning went or how their yesterday treated them and they are equally as ignorant to our lives. So before we jump to conclusions, it couldn’t hurt to give them a little patience.

The truth is, we are all complex characters plodding through our own unique, sometimes over dramatic sitcoms. Some episodes will be good, some will be bad. And just like any multi-season series, you can’t start in the middle and assume you know everything. You have to appreciate that just like you, they’ve probably gone through a lot to get where they are and still have a long road to get where they’re going, and we could all use a little help along the way.

Books I Read This Year (List-cember #3)

In 2016 I set a goal to read 30 books and while it was challenging, I succeeded and commemorated the victory with this book tower:

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It was a cool way to physically showcase the feat, though, I wouldn’t exactly recommend it as it was much heavier than I anticipated. I’m pretty sure I almost pulled a muscle and I’m entirely sure I committed brief verbal assault on my sister for not taking the picture fast enough. (Sorry, Natalee.)

This year, I had no set goal for how many books I wanted to read, but that didn’t stop me from reading incessantly. There are just too many good books out there these days, it’s overwhelming! As of now I’ve finished 22 books and am about halfway through John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down, which, due to the crazy schedule December holds for me, will probably be my last book of the year.

Overall, I was very satisfied with the selection of books I read this year. I dipped my toe into a variety of different genres and experienced an endless array of emotions, which is really all you can ask for. If I were to pick a favorite or a top 3 or a you should 100% buy these as Christmas presents type list, I think I’d go with:

  1. How to be a Bawse by Lilly Singh
  2. Brain on Fire by Susannah Calahan
  3. The Sun is Also a Star by Niccola Yoon

They are three very different books in three very different genres but they all had me glued to their pages and recommending them to everyone. With that being said however, I think I’d recommend just about every book on this list.  I actually considered ranking them from best to “worst” but couldn’t bring myself to do it, so instead I just listed them in the order I read them. So, in case you’re a bookworm like me or just looking for a suggestion or two, here are the books I read this year:

Note: I considered writing a brief bio to go with each book, but it turns out “brief bio” is an oxymoron to me. So, I’ve instead provided an Amazon link where you can find descriptions written by paid professionals and given you the genre to help you better sort out which ones you might be drawn to. Enjoy!

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  1. Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum: Teen/Young Adult (find it here)
  2. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick: Biography/Humor (find it here)
  3. The Sun is Also a Star by Niccola Yoon: Teen/Young Adult (find it here)
  4. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanthi: Memoir/Social Sciences(find it here)
  5. OCD, the Dude & Me by Lauren Roedy: Teen/Young Adult (find it here)
  6. This is a Book by Demetri Martin: Humor/Entertainment (find it here)
  7. How to be a Bawse by Lilly Singh: Biography/Self-Help (find it here)
  8. Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick: Teen/Young Adult (find it here)
  9. Brain on Fire by Susannah Calahan: Memoir/Medicine (find it here)
  10. The Great Passage by Shion Miura: Fiction/Japanese Culture (find it here)
  11. This is Really Happening by Erin Chack: Nonfiction/Humor (find it here)
  12. Crank by Ellen Hopkins: Poetry/Young Adult (find it here)
  13. Glass by Ellen Hopkins: Poetry/Young Adult (find it here)
  14. Note to Self by Connor Franta: Nonfiction/Poetry (find it here)
  15. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver: Teen/Young Adult (find it here)
  16. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson: Self-Help (find it here)
  17. Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy by Jane Leavy: Baseball/Biography (find it here)
  18. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: Biography/Memoir (find it here)
  19. How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky: Essays/Humor (find it here)
  20. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut: Fiction/Science Fiction (find it here)
  21. The Sun & Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur: Poetry (find it here)
  22. Harry Potter & the Cursed Child by JK Rowling: Fantasy/Fiction (find it here)
  23. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green: Teen/Young Adult (find it here)

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Did you have any books you were particularly drawn to/borderline obsessed with this year? Let me know! I’m always looking for suggestions 🙂

Years and Years of Questions (feat. Answers)

I recently read the book Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, and while there is a lot I could say about the beauty of author’s writing throughout the story, there was one line that really stuck out to me, and has stayed with me in the months after I finished:

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

When I initially read it, I read right on through it, liking the wording but not thinking much of it. But as I got a few more pages in, I realized how much my mind continued to wander back to those words, paying little attention to those that had followed.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

Suddenly I found myself thinking of the years of my own life that truly have offered nothing but questions. Where I should go, what I should do, who am I, who do I want to be. Some nights I stay up begging for answers, only to wake up the next morning with more questions. But as infuriating as it is, I took Zora’s words as a reminder that sometimes, as much as we’d like to deny it—especially on those late nights—we’re simply not ready for the answers.

See, we all need to ask and be asked questions throughout our lives, many of which will not be easy to answer. In fact, there’s a good chance some questions will only lead to more questions, which will lead to more questions and so on, making the original question even harder to answer, if not all but impossible to clearly identify. What we need to realize however, is that in asking this seemingly endless string of questions, we are in fact drawing closer to an answer. And while it might not be the answer we originally wanted or it might be an answer to a different question entirely, it is a valuable answer nonetheless, because it in turn can lead us to more questions and then to more answers.

Being a very curious person myself, I ask questions all the time. I’m always the first to Google anything and everything that may come up in conversation and need clarification, and I think this is why Zora’s words meant so much to me. Because even though the years plagued with questions are hard, they are necessary. More necessary perhaps, than those that offer answers. For we can learn a lot about ourselves through the questions we decide to ask, both in why we want to ask them and how we hope they will be answered. Sometimes we’ll even find that the answer is the question itself.

So even though I know I still might have many a night ahead of me when I’ll lay awake feeling like the world has little to offer me but uncertainty, I’m comforted by Zora’s words: That clarity will always come through in the chaos, even if we have to wait a little longer than we might like for it to find us. And how in the meantime, even if it’s the last thing we want to do, we must keep asking questions and then more questions and then more questions, because somewhere in there, we’ll find an answer, maybe not one we were looking for, but rather one that we need.