Recently, I was reading Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential”, a well-written memoir of an ordinary guy’s life journey that almost accidentally ended up finding direction via food. I really like Anthony Bourdain, because he reminds me of more than one person I’ve been close to in my life. Perhaps his stories even remind me a little bit of me, although I typically can’t make brownies, much less a souflee.

In any case, his memoir inspired me to think about my own life, and my own crazy journeys, as well as where I am now, and where I might be going in the future.

Looking back, I think I will always remember 2010 as “My Year Of Becoming Respectable”.

It was a rather unplanned and unexpected journey, and one that involved an awful lot of “No” along the way. I’ve discovered that being respectable, at least by society’s standards, is somewhat defined by the ability to behave with moderation and choices that reflect a certain level of self-respect and consideration for others, rather than with unabashed hedonism. Let’s face it, all things considered, I’ve probably never been “respectable”. It’s something that no level of intelligence or talent, high-priced education, connections, or culture can provide, and I’m not sure it’s even positive. It’s more a stamp of approval from society that says, “Thank you for taking the time to conform. You will be rewarded with a regular paycheck, a healthier lifestyle, and less derision from those around you.”

At the same time, becoming “respectable” is also something that’s helped me become a more secure, self-aware human being. I’m no longer that person everyone defines as an unemployed actress or restless 20-something trying to find herself. I don’t have to go crawling home, asking my mom to pay the electric bill because I ran up a $200 martini bill over the weekend. I’m also not that odd, irresponsible person who can stay out all night on a Sunday, get on an airplane because I had a fight with my boyfriend, or move to a different city because I got bored. I have friends that haven’t had to bail me out of jail, seen me naked at a party, and are not concerned that I’ll become a little bit too interested in their spouse. For the first time since puberty, most of those I spend my time with are people I haven’t dated or involved in a crazy situation that’s never to be talked about again.

I’m still not thoroughly convinced I’m a monogamous person by nature, but I’ve managed to spend two and a half years in a happy and thoroughly monogamous relationship, and I haven’t run too far in the process. Although I struggle with the ability to trust any person the way I’d ideally like to, I’ve discovered that there are things about me that are very “relationship-oriented”, and being happy with one person for a long time isn’t out of the realm of possibility for me.

This year, I learned what it’s like to work 8-hour days, and to be accountable to people who aren’t me. I learned about just how hard and challenging it can be to have a relationship with one person, and not go running off when things get hard, or look for someone else when I need something new and different. I learned that you can’t order everything off the menu if you’re wanting to lose weight, and you can’t drink 8 martinis in an evening if you want to be productive the next day. I learned that you have to deal with your fears and the scars the past has left behind if you want to have a future, and no matter how painful that process might be, you can’t forego it or replace it with something more fun. I learned that you can say you don’t care about what others say about you until you’re blue in the face, but at some point, you have to let people in and admit you care more than you should. I learned that it’s not only OK to plan for the future and to expect those close to you to be in it for the long haul, it’s probably a good idea.

I learned that probably around 1% of the population ever meets anyone even slightly good for them at a dance club, and I don’t really miss going there that much at all. In fact, most of what I observe consists of lonely, desperate, and lost people behaving in ways that demean them. Not that all of that doesn’t have a time and place in a person’s life—but I suppose I’m past the point where it fits into mine.

I learned that I’m happier when I like me than when I’m consumed by the need for others to like me. Ironically, it’s since I started caring about that approval and admiration a little less that I started to find more kindred spirits in the world, more people who truly like me for who I am, rather than an image or idea of which they’ve become enamoured.

I learned that moderation doesn’t have to be restrictive, it can also be healthy and normal. That being said, it can also be boring and restrictive. There is definitely room in every life for adventure, for watching the sunrise with friends, for unexpected romance, for forgetting to be “respectable”.

I’d be lying if I said that sometimes, I didn’t miss certain bits and pieces of my old lifestyle. I don’t miss the chaos, the rollercoaster ride that was so often my life, but I miss the spontaneity and sheer good times that are more likely to happen when you’re not thinking about paying the bills, planning for the future, or having balanced relationships with other people. I’d definitely like to put a bit more of the unexpected back into my world, a bit more freedom.

Perhaps 2011 will be my year of “balance”, the year that I continue to work towards some of the goals that inspired my newfound journey toward “respectability”, but recapture some missing pieces of myself—or, rather, pieces that have been put on hold so that I could concentrate on other things. For the first time in a long time, I’m accepting that there probably is going to be a future, and rather than avoiding it or seeing it as a limiting force, I’m looking forward to both success AND adventure.

I think it’s going to be a good year.

For as far back as I can remember, Christmas has always been one of my favourite times of the year. Never mind that I’m a summer girl, and that snow, ice, and temperatures below 50 degrees turn me at least 3 even more drastically whiter shades of pale, cause me to catch colds three times in 5 months, and leave me with a perpetual desire to hide underneath my electric blanket with the TV remote and flannel pajamas. Despite that, for the 4 weeks or so that fall between Thanksgiving and New Year’s (and include my birthday!), I’m clearly happy to be alive, prosperous, and enjoying the most festive time of the year.

Each year, I spend the holidays with my family, with the exception of one year involving an ex-boyfriend, snowstorms, and a broken-down car (which left us in a decidedly less urban area over the holidays, but the atmosphere was still warm, spirited, and charming, nevertheless.) Amusingly enough, after the end of my 10-to-14-day visit home, once the warm fuzzies have departed and everyone’s gone back to yelling at one another and pointing out why they’re glad Christmas only happens once a year, I can’t wait to get back to my home, my adopted family, and my normal life. But for the month of December, I’m a child again, one who can’t wait to get home and put up the Christmas tree in front of the fireplace, bake cookies, and listen to my mother’s favourite radio station on a month-long endless loop of sentimental carols and dedications to long-parted lovers, newly engaged couples, and children fighting in wars far away. Eleven months out of the year, it drives me completely insane. But at Christmas, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

I’m also sentimental in another way, in that I love sending holiday cards, complete with photos and individually-crafted handwritten messages. I know that many people look at it as an outdated tradition, or an obligation, but I love taking the time out to tell someone special to me that I was thinking of him. I love the personal touch that, despite our technological advancements, e-mail just doesn’t quite convey.

So, when Shutterfly offered a promotion on their website, offering 50 free holiday cards to bloggers willing to share their holiday card stories, I was all about it. Each year, holiday cards are a huge part of my December ritual, encouraging me to break through the ice, snow, commercialism, and family squabbles to send a little bit of holiday spirit to those who’ve made my year a special one.

Are you a holiday card fan? Visit Shutterfly, and send one to those you love. And, if you’re a blogger, share your experience, and get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly.

I really did start this blog up again with the intention of getting it up and running much sooner, but like many things in my life, my initial enthusiasm about the project has been forced to take a back seat to the responsibilities of real life. It doesn’t seem as if I always have as much free time, or energy, as I’d like to have. Rarely do both occur at the same time, so that I almost miss those creative bursts that used to happen fairly frequently, keeping me up all night, but inspiring me to do more work on various projects than I’d end up doing in a week.

One of the problems is that writing for a living has the down side of presenting writing as an obligation, something that needs to be done quickly, to specifications, and before a firm deadline. That’s something I’ve always struggled with, even when I was performing professionally. As soon as the fun of auditioning for roles, getting all excited about a production, and throwing myself into the rehearsal process was past and the show had gotten into a stable run, I routinely felt less interested or inspired by what I was doing. Odd, that you can work so hard to accomplish something, wait for talent and luck to kick in and land you a job, and once you’re settled in and gotten what you want, it’s not as fulfilling as it ought to be.

That’s how it is with writing, too. Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself fortunate to be able to make a living doing something I’m good at, something that allows me flexibility and freedom most people don’t have. But, still, what seems to be the most exciting aspect of virtually anything is the constant pursuit of the next thing, whatever is unattainable, or at least, relatively hard to get. I like contentment. I like happiness. Yet, they don’t inspire me and get me to challenge myself in the way that obstacles and ambition do. Just settling in to a job—any job, even something I love–and doing it day after day, that’s challenging for me.

My natural inclination is to get bored with things quickly, and to get excited about the next new project on the horizon. This explains the number of unfinished projects that exist in my world at any given time, and why I can’t eat the same thing for dinner two nights in a row. However, I do know there are advantages in constancy and consistency, as well as appreciating the good things inherent in what you have, without always wanting more. Somehow, learning to access the part of my personality that appreciates those things is going to be necessary if I’d like to keep the same job for more than a year.

Then again, I never thought I had it in me to have a committed and long-term relationship with someone living in the same city as I do for more than two years, but somehow, that’s still working out. (despite the numerous bumps in the road that cause me great anxiety and evoke the desire to run at times.) So, perhaps there’s hope for sticking with this particular career path, too.

Earlier today, I was e-mailing The Guy I Am Currently Dating on the subject of politics. He’d sent me a link to an article that raised the valid point that Americans are living in one of the most politically divisive cultures in well over a century. The article pointed out that even the Conservative vs. Liberal divisiveness that characterised the Prohibition years and the civil rights/Vietnam era didn’t have the same polarizing effect on Congress that our present situation has, although the average American typically had a much stronger political stance.

I started writing a response on the subject via e-mail, but it grew long, and turned itself into a blog. :) So, here it is:

An interesting thing I’ve noticed about “the general public”, or at least those in the 25-45 age range: I suspect there’s actually less polarization now than there was 4, or even 8 years ago. The thing that has brought people (somewhat) together is the disenchantment of the average voter with the political process, and with politicians. That’s what’s making things like the Stewart/Colbert rally and the Tea Party (yes, I know they’re a legitimate political faction, but I can’t really take them any more seriously than the Jon Stewart rally.) so successful. People are actually getting more involved in the process because they’re more fed up with politics as usual. Whether they’re standing behind something ludicrous that you totally disagree with (i.e. Sarah Palin) or not, people are getting involved and want to make their voices heard in some way that goes beyond politics as usual and Democrat vs. Republican.

Four years ago, American seemed all about conservative vs. liberal. You either hated Bush or loved him. Then, you either loved Obama, or you backed McCain. Obama’s election sort of changed things. Moderates voted for him on both sides of the aisle, and lots of people in the middle switched parties. The polarization of Congress and the fact that fighting along party lines typically doesn’t work for the interests of the people became more obvious and more public. The “average American” has come together with his neighbor, disagreeing about how to run the country, but agreeing that both sides aren’t working for them. In some ways, Obama’s presidency has been a politically divisive one, but also a unifying and eye-opening one.

America isn’t (as) apathetic anymore, and that’s a good thing.

It’s maybe not such a good thing for Obama. The American people didn’t vote for Obama because he’s likeable, smart, or has a magic solution to the country’s problems—even though he is both likeable and smart, and intelligent enough to realise a magic solution doesn’t exist, except in the form of compromise and working together. People voted for Obama because of the idea he symbolised, change. Americans started to stand up and vote against the current political process, only to realise that, in the real world, whoever was elected would need to work within the system, rather than spend all his time trying to dismantle it. Disenchantment is a big problem for presidents; after all, Bush’s presidency became a joke when people saw they voted for an “average American guy with average American values”, and instead got a C-student from Yale who floated through life on his charm and family connections. Obama’s approval rating has fallen dramatically not because of anything he’s done, but because the people voted for a revolutionary, and instead got a diplomat.

It doesn’t matter that a revolutionary, regardless of his or her politics, isn’t likely to succeed in today’s political climate. Some of our strongest Presidents have been level-headed, diplomatic, and able to see the value in taking small steps now that may have a big payoff later. When you get elected by telling everyone you’re out to change the world, a spirit of level-headed compromise and an intelligent plan to work within the system doesn’t look diplomatic. It just looks like you’ve sold out.

The problem with politics is that it’s always big promises, and the spirit of “I think, feel, and live just the way that you do” that gets politicians elected. The reality of politics is that our system doesn’t allow for these huge dramatic changes to occur, and while a President may have big ideas, it requires a great deal of cooperation and compromise on the part of a great number of people to get anything done. So, every 2 or every 4 years, America sighs and says it is tired of not being heard, and of politicians not getting anything done—and the other party takes control. Yet, very little changes, and while some legislation gets passed, it’s typically moderate in nature. The system is not revolutionised, and both conservatives and liberals see the need to compromise.

It’s often been said that the definition of compromise is when neither side walks away happy, but each receives a small piece of what it wanted. The past two years have exemplified that, and while it may not be what America wanted, voters should take a cue from the wisdom in the lesson, rather than calling for dramatic change and big promises from the other side. Otherwise, we’re eternally trapped in a self-destructive, perpetuating cycle, becoming even more disenchanted as time goes by.

It’s been a good four years, almost five, since this journal closed up shop and disappeared from cyberspace. To be honest, I didn’t really ever imagine I’d bring it back. Although my years as a blogger were definitely an instrumental time in my life, and introduced me to a number of people I may have never otherwise known, it’s simply a period I thought had come to an end. I learned the hard way that it’s difficult to maintain a balance between the need for privacy in your personal life and the desire to share your world with others. It’s even harder to protect yourself from enemies and loved ones alike when your story is always out there for the world to see.

There were, of course, a few times over the past few years that I considered re-launching the site, if for no other reason than I missed blogging every time I had something interesting—or not—-to share. However, during that time, it started to become obvious that the blogging world itself was no longer the same, taken over by Twitter and Facebook and the need to boil down thoughts, feelings, and experiences into 160 characters or less. Anyone who’s ever met me would probably be able to tell you that’s not my forte. Although I’ve used Twitter, and have practically lived on Facebook for the past few years, these newer forms of social media have yet to capture my imagination in the way starting this blog did, over a decade ago.

I do learn from certain mistakes, so I’m hoping to exercise a bit more restraint in sharing the details of my life with total strangers. This time around, I’m going to do my best to share the aspects of my life that are a little less personal, and a little more substantial and intellectually-oriented in nature. For those who are friends, and want the good gossip and general bitching about those that bother me, hop on over to Uninhibited, hosted on LiveJournal. It’s friends-only, or at least most of my posts are, so you’ll need to request me.

I have no idea if anyone will be interested enough to visit this page, but it’s good to be back, even if just for myself. You’ll probably take notice that all comments are moderated, since I’d rather not have the stress of wondering if somebody, somewhere, is going to send me a hateful comment. However, I do welcome hearing from you, so please feel free to speak up and say hi if you’re out there. :)

This blog still won’t go live for at least a few days, since I need to work a bit more on the layout, links, and so forth, but this Election Day seemed a good day to start a new project for the future. Here’s to hoping it’s a positive and interesting one!:)