fort hood

Goodbye, Year of Exploration. Hello, Year of Ambition.

For the last three years, I’ve rejected the idea of explicit resolutions and instead made a habit of declaring a single word to embody each new year. There was the year of discovery (2012), the year of dedication (2013), and even the year of exploration (2014). Each year lived up to its name, albeit sometimes in surprising ways that pushed me to my limits and then a bit beyond.

In 2012, I discovered who I was away from my friends, outside of my hometown, and apart from everything that I’d always thought was certain, as well as who I was when I came back. In 2013, I dedicated myself to whatever felt important, including finishing my bachelors degree in English and refining my art. And, in 2014, I explored whatever struck my fancy, even as that led me to travel from coast to coast for months on end and begin a master’s degree in criminal justice. No two years were the same, yet no year was more or less enthralling than any other.

All of that being said, 2014 was pretty intriguing. I spent three months in California, Oregon, and Washington. Then I spent three months in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. That’s not to mention all the states and shores I visited on the way to and from those places. I turned 21 and wasted my newest privilege by drinking a pitifully small volume of alcohol (say “no” to big kablue-nas). I began graduate school and discovered that sometimes the student teaches the professor. I baked foods and treats I couldn’t even pronounce and used ingredients I’d never heard of before.

In short, I explored.

Now it’s time to put all of that behind me, to close the door on 2014’s wild exploration, and step into the year 2015, which already seems daunting and intoxicating.

Over the next 365 days, I’ll be traveling back to South Carolina, the state I know only through my family tree.  I’ll be completing my Masters of Criminal Justice degree, complete with nerve-wracking comprehensive exams. I’ll be leaving my friends and the only place I have ever truly regarded as “home.” I’ll be taking control of my health and defying my genetics. I’ll be taking important steps in my personal and professional lives, striving to achieve success through desire and determination.

All in all, 2015 can and will be nothing less than wild and engrossing, fast-paced and sublime. Thus, in the same vein of thought, I’ve decided to call 2015 the year of ambition. I chose the word ambition to embody or headline this year mostly because I have a strong desire to achieve multiple things this year. I have an end-game in mind and nothing will stop me from reaching it. In addition, I’ve come to realize that being ambitious is just in my nature and that is something to use to my advantage, to accept as a benefit. So, this year will be a journey in accepting ambition as a facet of my nature.

Keeping with tradition, as I jumpstart the New Year, I won’t write down any particular resolutions because, well, it just feels awful when a perfectly composed resolution isn’t fulfilled precisely as it was written. I prefer to stick with matters of certainty, like the inevitable graduation and move, and variety, like the generality of being ambitious in all my endeavors. Along the way, I simply hope that at least 15 marvelous things will happen.

Here’s to a year of purpose and cheers to everyone reading this. I hope that you find precisely what you are looking for in the exciting days ahead. Happy New Year!

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Some kind of beautiful.

When I was driving home from class and the commissary yesterday I had a lot of thoughts running through my mind.

Did I forget anything on the grocery list?

Nope, I totally got everything. And I bagged everything super neatly. *Pride*

Don’t forget to check for an email about that film class thing!

I need to go pick up those Mayo Clinic library books for Madre. What were the titles again?

Crap, I really need to get better about responding to texts…and I need my phone to actually receive them correctly.

Holy mother of deities, can anyone drive around here? *Road rage!* Get off the road, idiot!

But, at the same time that my mind was going six different kinds of crazy, I was thinking about the place I live in. I was noticing the things that a lot of people complain about or dismiss, and I call beautiful.

You see, it started in my American Literature class.

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After only 3 days of class I already know that my professor is big on relating American Literature to music to art to poetry and to any other idea he thinks up. He also loves discussion and forcing everyone to contribute. (I’ll pretend for a second that my shy side isn’t rebelling in full force.)

Today’s discussion revolved around differentiating between the meaning and the significance of a piece of art, regardless of what form the art may be. So, we listened to John Coltrane’s song “Alabama.”

We gave it significance without any “meaning identifiers” like the time period it was created in or the title, and then we discussed the meaning that Coltrane had intending to convey. Everyone chipped in a comment or two, and accepted the song as meaningful and significant art.

After that, we moved on to other art forms:

Michelango’s “The Creation of Adam.”

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Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”

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Vincent Van Gogh’s “A Pair of Shoes.”

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Picasso’s “Girl With Mandolin.”

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The Amitayus Mandala made by tibetan monks.

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Somehow, my class seemed certain that in each piece of art there was a fluid significance that would persist across the ages, and a meaning that we just didn’t quite know. Everyone was so sure.

But then came the confusion.

People who know me well also know that I adore abstract and geometric art. I myself paint and sketch, but my love of abstract geometric designs began well before I learned to create something on my own.

So, when my class was faced with Jackson Pollock’s “Number 18 1950”, and not a single other person found meaning or significance in it, I was something a bit beyond stunned. I was purely shocked.

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What makes a biblical tale, a historically inaccurate visual of Washington crossing the Delaware, a pair of boots, an abstracted girl with a mandelin, and colored sand more meaningful and significant than any of Pollock’s hundreds of paintings? Honestly, I was on the verge of screaming when my class equated Pollock’s work to children’s play and collaboratively declared that Pollock had simply run a scam.

That’s when I realized that beauty exists regardless of whether we see it. Not a single one of my classmates saw Pollock’s painting as anything but a mess, yet I interpreted it as a portrayal of human emotion and the chaos that involves. My classmates laughed at the idea of it having any meaning, and giving it significance was apparently a radical notion.

Anyways, all of this leads back to the place I live in and I promise I have a point.

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I live in a place where some people stay less than a week and others stay a decade or more. There’s a constant influx of people and you’ll never hear the same accent twice. Late in the evenings, you can hear tank fire in the distance, even if you’re one of those that lives more than 20 miles away. It’s a sterile place–concrete, cement, fences, metals, power lines, old buildings, new buildings, highways, construction, cookie cutter houses, houses from the 60s, dull blue skies, try grass, drought-cracked grounds…I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard it called ugly.

But, there is a beauty here that is just waiting to be noticed.

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In the evenings, when the tank fire is loudest and it makes the windows shake in their frames, you know that there are soldiers out there learning to be strong. And I know that my father use to be out there on that range. Forget the people complaining on facebook, they don’t understand what it means.

In the early mornings, when you drive toward post and see the rush of cars heading in, you know that for these people, the day started hours ago already. And I marvel at being a part of it all.  Forget the people tweeting about the traffic, they don’t understand.

Midday, when the stores are busy, the traffic lights are too slow, restaurants and fast food joints are full, children are at school or a playground, and the rushes on and off post are moving like clockwork, you know that everyone here is finding their own peace. Forget the comments about how ugly this city is and remember that there is something beautiful in all this chaos.

There is strength. There is power. There is something I can’t quite put my finger on but it is some kind of beautiful.

There are awful aspects to this city of course, and there is a lot to debate when it comes to Fort Hood, but every aspect has some beauty to it. The problem is that we have to remember to notice it, and not dismiss everything as quickly as my classmates did.

Beauty is waiting if we just open our eyes.