The Hallmark movie paradox

We’ve all seen at least one Hallmark Channel original movie that raises the theme of choosing between true love and following your dreams. You know the ones, where the female protagonist is living an ordinary day in married life–frustrated with juggling a husband, kids, and not-so-great job–when she bumps her head and wakes up the next morning in a parallel universe.

In said universe, she learns that she never got married, but instead left her hometown to pursue her dreams. She discovers she’s now a wealthy, important career woman whose biggest ambitions have been realized.

After accepting this new reality, she soaks up the fun and excitement of her newfound freedom. She goes out with the girls, enjoys being single, and lives out her dreams. It doesn’t take long to realize, however, that this  life is lonely. She finds herself longing for her past life. She wishes upon a star (or bumps her head again) and wakes up back in the real world, with a new appreciation for her husband and the life she chose with him.

Reflecting on La La Land, I realized it’s the opposite scenario.

*Spoiler alert–don’t read on if you haven’t seen it yet!*

La La Land is also about what you sacrifice in order to have your biggest dreams realized. But in this case, Mia gives up the perfect romance to pursue her dream job of being an actress. In the epilogue, she is wildly famous and successful, but has a vision of the life she could’ve had if she’d stayed with Seb, which to me was hauntingly sad.

What Hallmark and La La Land have in common is that they both pose the idea that somewhere in life there is a fork in the road where you choose between the perfect love and the perfect job. Which would you choose?

Food for thought: Do people change?

For the last month, I’ve been taking a nutrition class; starting tomorrow, I’m taking a stress management class. So I’ll be switching from thinking about food all the time to thinking about stress factors, self-esteem, personality, and stress management techniques. (Aw, who am I kidding, I’ll still be thinking about food all the time.)

Anyway, I was reading through some resources for class when I stumbled upon this NPR article about personality. The author argues that, despite the common belief that “people don’t change,” our personalities can change drastically throughout our lives.

There is research and anecdotal evidence supporting the idea that humans are capable of becoming a completely different person–given time, effort, and change in perspective.

This news is a little unnerving, considering it means a friendly person could potentially change into a sociopath. It also means that our relationships could suffer if one or both parties become a different person and no one’s willing to adapt or compromise. But on the flip side, some relationships could be repaired if the individuals are willing to change.

I was skeptical when reading this article; personally, I don’t think people can change their personality. An introvert will always be an introvert–it’s how their brain is programmed, right? I do think it’s possible for people to change their beliefs, attitudes, morals, outlook, and countless other aspects of their being, creating the effect of a whole new person.

What do you think, can people change?

Am I a good person?

Today I walked to the quad on campus with my lunchbox and picked a lovely sunny spot in the grass to spend my hour-long break. A southern baptist group was out there, with one man was standing on some milk crates preaching. This particular group, unlike another baptist group who frequents campus yelling brimstone and hellfire, is actually quite nice. They simply try to tell students what the Bible says–not convert people or harass them.

The preacher man offered $20 to anyone willing to do what he called the Good Person Challenge. He asked “Who among you considers yourself a good person?” A young man named Lucas stepped up. The preacher proceeded to ask Lucas if he’d ever lied, disrespected his parents, taken God’s name in vain… By the time he went through the whole list of sins, he determined that Lucas was indeed not a good person (but for the record, Lucas seemed like a very nice boy).

Poor Lucas didn’t disagree with him, but pointed out that God is merciful and might send him to purgatory for these sins. The preacher shot down this idea, claiming that purgatory is nonexistent. The two never reached an agreement. Lucas, a Catholic, was convinced that his soul is alright; the preacher was convinced that Lucas needed to be saved, saying that Catholic doctrine is unbiblical.

As a Catholic, I’m no stranger to the fact that there are fundamental differences between these two religions. However, I didn’t disagree with the man’s message today, and I actually enjoyed his sermon.

I did, however, have a problem with a girl who interrupted the Good Person Challenge to ask Lucas if the guy was bothering him, implying that he forced Lucas to be up there. Lucas was the one who volunteered–Lucas was making $20! The man asked her to not interrupt, since he was having a conversation with Lucas. The girl responded very rudely.

Many students are rude to these evangelists on campus. Some students are downright hateful, cursing the people out and starting debates. These students claim that evangelists are intolerant, but in all truthfulness, the intolerance goes both ways.

Coincidentally, the concept of a “good person” is a theme that’s been running through my head a lot this week. What makes someone a good person? Am I a good person? Is anyone actually a bad person, or is there mostly good in everyone? Do other people care about being a good person as much as I do?

I like to think of myself as a good person, but I can recall times when I’ve been cold, jealous, distant, stand-offish, defensive, or selfish. The man’s message today was comforting to me–no one is perfect, and no amount of good deeds can make us perfect. But because of Jesus, we’re forgiven for all that. It’s up to us what we do with it. We can start by treating others how we’d want to be treated, which includes religious tolerance and respecting others’ beliefs.

Dealing with criticism

It seems that there are two types of criticism: just criticism and unjust criticism. I’m not great at taking either, but I’ve had my fair share of both.

Just criticism is actually a good thing. We learn and grow through criticism. Each time a teacher takes off points for something, we make a little note to not do that again. Criticism at work helps us do our jobs better. It shouldn’t be mean, rude, or personal. It should add a tool to our life’s toolbox. Don’t sweat a little criticism–it’s part of any worthy endeavor.

To avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.

-Aristotle

Unjust criticism is a whole different ballgame. It gets personal. Maybe you’re criticized for something that wasn’t your fault, or maybe for something you can’t change. Some people like finding petty things to criticize, nit-picking your every move. It’s mean, rude, and unnecessary.

Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.

-Dale Carnegie

In my adult life, I’ve received a lot of criticism for being too quiet. It’s come from professors, boyfriends, acquaintances–even total strangers. I’m learning to take it with a grain of salt because the criticism is unjust. It doesn’t alter my ability to get my job done. It doesn’t make me a bad person.

And since I can’t change my personality, how does this criticism benefit me? Unjust criticism hurts the person more than it helps them.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

-Ephesians 4:29

Oftentimes unjust criticism has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with the other person. As Dale Carnegie put it:

Unjust criticism is usually a disguised compliment. It often means that you have aroused jealousy and envy. Remember that no one ever kicks a dead dog.

 

Unjust criticism gets me down. Like, really down. On the same token, praise and accolades have the opposite effect–it can cause me to think I’m somehow better than others. I’ve learned to avoid this by using the metaphor of an ice chest: be insulated against both criticism and praise. Take both into consideration, but don’t let it affect you personally.

Don’t let compliments go to your head and don’t let criticism get to your heart.

 

Prom dresses and self-esteem

I recently pulled out my old prom dresses to donate them. Just for kicks, I tried them on one last time. Fortunately, they still fit (albeit, it was a struggle to zip them up), and when I looked in the mirror, I felt like a princess.

My junior prom dress is especially elegant. It’s long, black, and strapless with white beading. I’m sure I looked gorgeous in it ten years ago (wow, that makes me feel old…). But the weird thing is, the guy friend I brought to that dance hardly even noticed me. I remember he ended up dancing more with our friend Julie than me, and by the end of the night he had his arm around her. Meanwhile, I hung out with Julie’s abandoned date; he’s a dear friend, but he never seemed to notice me either. Even still, my mom will ask me if he ever calls, and my answer is always “Nope, haven’t heard from him.”

Looking back through my high school pictures, I realize I was very pretty (at least, after I took Accutane and got my braces removed…). There was certainly nothing wrong with me. And yet, I always felt invisible.

Fast forward to senior year of college. I have a blog site entitled “Not-Quite-Princess,” on which I wrote a post where I stated “with mediocre grades, looks, and talent, there’s nothing about me that stands out above the average.” I can’t believe that’s how I viewed myself at age 21; in reality, I was very pretty, young, smart, ambitious, and an excellent swimmer and writer.

I’m not sure why I’ve always been ignored by guys, or why the ones who did pay attention to me turned out to be total jerks. I’m also not sure why I never thought I had much potential and that I was ugly. I still feel this way about myself to a degree, but when I’m 30 I will probably look back and wonder why.

Every girl should know that she’s beautiful. This is my hope for the two young women who receive my prom dresses, whoever they may be.

Greener pastures

Sometimes you think the grass is greener on the other side, so you venture on over there, but only to find that the grass was pretty darn green where you were. You find yourself wanting to return to that first pasture, but your pride gets in the way.

In life, change can be good or bad; that’s what makes it scary. You never know if the best decision is to stay where you are, or leave your comfort zone for something that could possibly be better. It’s always a risk.

My personality type is INFP–the idealist. For me, the grass is always greener on the other side. I’m always looking for the most ideal situation, for my happy ever after. The thing is, this makes it hard to be content with what I have at the moment.

“Ideal” may never happen, because life isn’t a fairy tale. The key is to recognize a good thing when you have it, and let it bring you happiness. If you leave it behind for something better, but then realize that you truly loved that pasture, then admit you were wrong before it’s too late. Happiness is more important than pride.

 

An open letter to my future spouse

Dear future husband,

I know I haven’t met you yet, but I hope you are learning all the lessons you need to shape you into the perfect match for me. It takes enduring many heartaches, successes, and failures for a person to mature and become wise. I always wanted to be at least 27 before I got married; I knew it would take that long for me grow wise enough to make that decision, and mature enough to understand that level of commitment. I still have quite a way to go, but that’s okay. Although I wish I would find you tomorrow, I will patiently wait until our timing is perfect.

I’m learning to be happy on my own, but it’s often lonely without you. It will be so nice to someday have you there all the time, to share a home, enjoy meals, go for walks, watch TV, go to church together. I’m tired of doing everything solo, but I refuse to settle for anyone who’s not…well, you. (By the way, I hope you love running as much as I do, because I need someone by my side at all my races.)

Please don’t worry about whether you’re tall, handsome, athletic, rich, or successful enough; I don’t care about those things. Instead, focus on your character and integrity. I care about how you treat me and how you treat others (particularly those less fortunate than you). It also matters that you can take care of yourself and can take care of me. I hope you make the effort to eat right, exercise, enjoy nature, and see to any of your medical needs. How can you take care of me if you can’t take care of yourself? I also don’t care what you do for a living, as long as you can provide for me in hard times. And I will try to do the same for you.

I hope you’re not out there breaking too many hearts. I also hope you’re not getting your heart broken. You must be Catholic, because that’s my number one dating requirement; I hope you’re staying true to your faith and keeping your relationships pure. Don’t fall into the hookup culture of our generation. Keep your standards high, and don’t settle.

Hopefully by the time we finally encounter, I will meet your standards. Everyday is a step toward self-improvement. Just please know that I’m not perfect–in fact, I’m far from it. There are some days when I can be jealous, cold, and distant. But what makes you special is that you love me in these times, just as much as when I am happy and cheerful. Because that’s what unconditional love is, and I can’t wait to find that in you.

Love,

Cori

Wanted: Prince Charming

While sorting through some old notebooks tonight, I fumbled upon an amusing personal ad I wrote a couple years ago. Since it still rings true today, I thought it was worth sharing:

Shy brunette seeks single bachelor in his 20’s. Must love dogs. High school degree required, bachelor’s preferred. The ideal candidate will be tall, thin, and athletic. Kindness, respect, and generosity are musts. Candidate must be Christian, humble, and not clingy.

Applicants who participate in smoking, drinking, clubbing, promiscuity, or related activities will not be considered. Before being selected, applicants will undergo a social media check (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

Interviews will be conducted at Starbucks over coffee. Interviewee must be able to cover his own transportation and expenses (plus mine). Use of any 4-letter word, crude gesture, or snide remark may result in your application being rejected.

Desired qualifications: musical talent, athletic abilities, 6-pack, interesting talents or hobbies, nice family, cooking skills, computer skills (the ability to fix my computer when needed).

Duties will include buying me dinner, taking me to movies, treating me to ice cream, walking with me at the park, listening to my ideas and offering input, and telling me I’m beautiful. On occasion, candidate may be needed to act as a personal bodyguard. Candidate will be responsible for planning and executing fun and creative date ideas.

This listing is part of a career progression series. If candidate fulfills duties, he may be eligible for promotion to fiancee.

Please send resume, love letter, and links to 3 social media sites to ccormier@my.centenary.edu. This position will remain open until ideal candidate is chosen.

Cori is an equal opportunity dater.

Finding my strength

Break-ups are one of the most painful things you’ll ever go through—especially if you’re the one being left. Two weeks ago, I was left behind by someone I loved truly and unconditionally. I would have done anything and everything to make it work, even if it meant compromise. I tend to be fiercely loyal in relationships, and if I want to be with someone, I’ll give up anything not to lose them. But in this instance, it still wasn’t enough.

Losing someone you love is a real test of your inner strength. The temptation is to be weak and let it get the best of you; to stay in bed all day, to become bitter, to beg them to take you back, to drink yourself into an oblivion. It takes a strong person to get out of bed, get dressed, go to work, get homework done, take care of themselves, and not seek revenge on or contact with the one who hurt them.

I had no choice but to be strong over the last two weeks. The night my ex broke up with me I was writing a paper for my group research project. I had two classmates counting on me to do my part, and I stayed up till 4:30 am getting it done, crying the whole time. The next morning I had to open the campus food pantry. I tried to get out of work, but no one could replace me. So I showed up, running on two hours of sleep, trying to keep myself composed, and helped people. One sweet student who came in and saw my eyes thought I was sick; he made some recommendations on how I could get better. I couldn’t help but cheer up from his kindness. Later, my boss graciously gave me the afternoon off, and when I returned to work that night there were cookies on my desk.

When I had woken up that morning, I felt as though my world had crumbled. What would I do in my free time? Who would I share meals and stories with? Who would I turn to if I needed to talk or if my car broke down? My world seemed so empty and lonely. But throughout the week, I saw my mom, my grandpa, lots of college students, my classmates, and professors. All of whom showed me nothing but kindness.

I lost not only a companion, but an entire community of people surrounding him. I spent so much time with them, I neglected my own friendships and stopped making new friends of my own. The loneliness is almost too much to bear, but I have to learn to make it on my own. I’m looking forward to new adventures in travelling, making new friends, and jumping back into the world of dating. My mom sent me this picture to remind me that around every river-bend, a new adventure awaits.

creek

In the meantime, if anyone reading this has advice for me, please comment below and/or leave me your email address. I’d love to have someone new to talk to!

Lessons yet to learn

So I haven’t blogged in a few weeks. You all know how that goes. Anyway, here’s a quick summary of what’s been on my mind:

I belong to a small group at my church through the Just Faith program. The nine of us share the desire to become more compassionate, help others, find more meaning in life, and strengthen our faith. I never would have joined a group like this while I was in school, because I always felt I was too busy. I never really thought about personal growth; I was too focused on classes, swim team, and my peers. Which is not a bad thing. But my outlook has changed a lot over the last several months, and I’m grateful that I was inspired and available to join this group.

I still struggle to do the right thing, because the right thing doesn’t always present itself in black-and-white. While I want to give money every time a cashier asks me “Would you like to donate to such-and-such today?”, I have to say no because at my age, it’s important that I save the little money I make to secure my own future. When people I know make ignorant and incompassionate comments about those less fortunate than us, I bite my tongue because starting a debate won’t solve anything. And though being nice to everyone seems like the right thing to do, it often backfires. Especially for me, because men tend to mistake politeness for flirting, and I end up dealing with unwanted attention from all the wrong guys.

But I’m working on it. Sometimes I wish I had a life coach telling me exactly what the right thing to do is. Not just for others, but for myself. Figuring it out on my own is the best way though. While browsing at Barnes and Nobles one day, I read the first chapter of the memoir “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake”, in which Anna Quindlen writes about this idea:

I would tell my twenty-two-year-old self that what lasts are things so ordinary she may not even see them: family dinners, fair fights, phone calls, friends. But of course the young woman I once was cannot hear me, not just because of time and space, but because of the language, and the lessons, she has yet to learn. It’s a miracle: somehow over time she learned them all just the same, by trial and error.