Addicted to Improving: Thoughts on New Year's Resolutions- BLOG #8


Happy New Years!

I can only think of one word for how my New Year’s Eve went: BRUTAL. Absolutely brutal, start to finish. Amsterdam itself was alive and happening, you could definitely feel the buzz of the population getting ready to party that night! With all the stuff that goes on already in the city, I wasn’t surprised to see a huge increase in the population from the last time I went. I heard from some of the guys who have been there for New Years before, after midnight it’s almost like walking out into a war-zone, with firework ash ankle deep and the locals throwing flares and fireworks at everyone!

But back to New Year’s Eve: after I had eaten lunch on land, which to be fair, was delicious, my crazy day began its chaotic trajectory. I wanted to get back to the ship terminal to find Wi-Fi and publish my Christmas blog post, but somewhere along the way back I took a wrong turn, and ended up getting lost and going pretty far into the city. Amsterdam is one of those places where once you’re inside the city, everything starts to look the same (to me at least). The buildings have similar colors, the street layouts are the same, and the water canals run throughout the entire city with the same architecture for the bridges! I was looooost (Mom, I’m fine😊). On top of that, the wind and rain was so strong that day it broke my umbrella! Lost in the city, in the rain, without an umbrella, yeesh! To make things more complicated, I somehow wound up in the housing areas, with only apartment buildings and no one around to ask for directions. Even if I could’ve asked, Amsterdam is one of those weird ports where you sail far into the land before docking, I doubt everyone knows exactly where the cruise terminal is! After aimlessly wandering, I finally found myself at a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi and used my phone’s GPS to find directions for the way back.

What was meant to be a 20min walk ended up taking an hour and a half- still, I had plenty of time to use the port Wi-Fi and publish my last blog post. For whatever reason, I couldn’t connect! My phone and laptop were able to connect for about 10 minutes and then it booted me off, there must’ve been too many people trying to access it at the same time or something. What made it frustrating was that everyone around me seemed to be able to make it work, so I ended up resetting my devices and trying to reconnect for about an hour (I even tried the other terminals!). No luck! Hence a late Christmas blog post. Rough start to the day, anyone who’s worked with me before knows I get a little stressed when things don’t go to plan- to be honest, any other day I would’ve gladly gotten lost in Amsterdam, but it put me on edge cause it was unintentional and I was trying to get some stuff done! I’m pretty sure the boat would just leave me if I didn’t make it back in time, which made me nervous too. In the end, all I can say is it’s a long a contract, and not every day will be perfect- the best choice is to not overreact and just attempt to deal with it.

Thankfully, things smoothed out from there on, though it was a painfully long day (three separate sound checks, two guest entertainer shows, a set to welcome in Amsterdam New Year, a set to welcome England’s New Year, and a party set for the stragglers at 1:15am). I’ve never been too big on partying on New Years, so I wasn’t too bummed that I had to perform all evening. To be honest, most New Years have been that way for a while, it’s the one time of year you can consistently find party gigs on land. I did get to watch Amsterdam launch thousands of fireworks from the 9th deck of the ship though, which was spectacular- if my work schedule wasn’t so hectic I would’ve loved to grab my camera and take some pictures, or a better video, but my phone gives you a good idea. You could look in 360 degrees and see fireworks flying into the air all over the city! During our party set in the grand lobby, people were dancing on all three floors with balloons and streamers (and champagne sometimes) flying in all directions! I guess the Brits know how to throw some crazy parties.

Addiction to Achieving Goals:

My New Year’s resolutions tend to be very vague, and not very definitive. For example, I think my resolution last year was to “drink more water.” And to be honest I probably accomplished it! There’s something about just being aware of a goal, and not dwelling on it too heavily, that helps direct me towards long term success. I personally think it can be dangerous to set our goals too high and absolute, we all want and dream of a perfect, positive change in our life (usually something with health, happiness, money, etc.), but we fail to foresee the work and time required to achieve it- we’ve all felt the draining experience of coming up short on our goals, it can take a toll on our mental motivation.

People have often asked me about my personal health and how I made the change to a healthier lifestyle. Let me start by saying I definitely have not been healthy my whole life, my family and friends know exactly how much candy and soda I consumed when I was younger! All I can say is baby steps. It’s not like I decided to join a gym one New Year’s day and my whole life changed, life’s never that easy- to be honest I think it all started three years ago when I started working at Subway part-time again. I knew the franchise owner always let the employees have as much soda as they desired while working, and I knew how dangerous it would be for me if I got in the habit of drinking soda every shift again. I remember back in high school I would refill my 20oz cup at least two-four times per shift, as well as refill it before I left to go home. Therefore, I made a goal to stop drinking soda and only drink water (coffee and beer too 😉), not easy! In my opinion, sugar is just as addictive as any drug or alcohol, and for a while I could feel my body relapsing and craving it. Some days I would crave it so strongly I’d pray for a customer to come in just to have a distraction! From what I remember, if I ever had a craving, I would drink as much water as I possibly could and wait ten minutes, nine times out of ten my body would reset, and the craving would go away. Once I made the switch, I would instead start craving water, not soda, when I was thirsty and eventually I sort of just stopped craving candy and sugar because of it as well (I think my family thinks I’m crazy for always turning down dessert at family dinners).

From there, I decided to make small goals, nothing too big and unattainable, stuff like spend less money, smile more, play less video games (notice by the way, all vague and open-ended goals)- looking back 4-5 years ago, I feel like I carried myself with a poisonous, frustrated attitude in college, a mixture of mental and emotional insecurity and the feeling of failing to achieve goals which at the time were set way too high, as I was too impatient to think long-term. I shudder to think of the impact on my friends I loved and others during that darker time in my life, I was a poor leader, and it will forever be something I use to motivate myself to never return to that mindset.

Here’s one small goal I made two years ago that changed the entire course of my life, and that’s no understatement: MAKE MY BED. My parents know, my siblings know, my college roommates know, I never used to make my bed! I just didn’t care about it, I would roll in and out every morning and night, sheets, blankets, pillows thrown unceremoniously in a pile on my mattress, sometimes left on the floor in my room. And like any other goal, I had to take this one day at a time, when I was managing a Subway, I would have to get up at 5:45am in order to get to work on time, the LAST thing I wanted to do was make my bed when I was that tired! But I persisted, and eventually it became a habit, the days I forgot to make my bed I felt like my life wasn’t together and I’d have less energy in the day (that’s no joke). There’s something about coming home and seeing my bed made, I see that I’ve already accomplished one thing, and it sets me up to accomplish more as the day goes on. And if I have a crummy day, my made bed becomes a beacon of hope, that the day had ended, and I could go to sleep comfortably knowing that tomorrow is a new day and a new morning to try again.

As far as the gym goes, it was similar to any other goal, one day I just wanted it and decided to go for it. I think I was watching a movie with Captain America in it, and I thought to myself, “you know what, it’d be nice if I was in better shape.” And that’s it! That’s what motivated me to join a gym, it wasn’t New Years, or my birthday, it just sort of happened, I think some time in the summer three years ago. I don’t need to elaborate on this too much, it was exactly like drinking water or making my bed, it’s all about setting habits and staying disciplined. To be honest, the hardest part for me about going to the gym in the early stages was just going! Once I was there I would do something, and that was the most important part, to just go and do something! There would always be days where I had no excuse, I wasn’t busy, maybe I had a shift at work, I had plenty of free time but my body would have no energy, and would resist my goal to go the gym. Those days are crucial! I think we’ve all felt that before, where we just want to do the bare minimum to get by, or focus our attention on more “urgent” matters, all I can say is GO! You must go! Otherwise, it’s a slippery slope, and we know how easily and quickly we can slip and fall back to our old habits. If you can will yourself and find time to go on those painful, groggy, glum days you are setting up habits and changing your lifestyle. Personally, I didn’t see any changes from going to the gym for about 6 months, the early stages my mind would question what the point of going was if there was no improvement, I had to embrace the lifestyle, now my week doesn’t feel the same without being physically active.

I figured my contract was a good time to try out some new things and see if I could get some new good habits to stick. I’ve stuck to a few contract goals so far, one is always take the stairs (unless I’m with people), and that includes the stairs up to the gym on the 9th floor! Another I’ve recently started is my diet, I decided my diet on the ship will rigidly consist of chicken/turkey, rice/pasta, a big plate of salad, and a bowl of fruit. The reward for that is that I’ll allow myself to eat whatever I’d like once I’m in port (chocolate, beer, pizza 😊). The healthy option is always available, I just need to turn a blind eye to the desserts and fried stuff, which can be difficult cause you know those will be consistently good, at least in taste.

Perhaps my most important goal is, “listen to more music.” One thing I’ve learned already from working on cruise ships is there’s a lot of music I don’t know, or haven’t even heard of! A Paul Simon tune called, “Still Crazy After All These Years,” came up in a production show, and I fell in love with it the first time we played it! I don’t know how I’ve never heard this song before, it’s beautiful, and even has a saxophone solo by my favorite tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker! I ended up listening to it about 40 times more that night! That’s not an exaggeration either, sometimes a song like that comes along that I fall head over heels for (another is Just the Way You Are-Billy Joel), and I know there are more songs in the world I’ve yet to experience. On top of that goal, and sure, let’s say this is my New Year’s resolution, is to not crucify myself for enjoying music. I feel like back in college I tried to force myself to listen to “correct” or “right” music, even if I didn’t enjoy it, based on what other people were telling me. Good music is good music! There’s no other way to say that, the music I love is a part of who I am as a musician, and I don’t want to push it aside as a bad thing anymore.

I hope everyone has set some goals for the New Year, no matter how big or small, know that you have my support, I strongly believe you can find success in anything if you pursue with discipline and patience. Yes, it’s more work at first, there’s no other way to say it, but the long-term reward is worth it! Two months into my contract, I still go to the gym, drink lots of water, and make my bed every day (I’m sure my steward thinks I’m crazy!), life goes on, the good habits will travel with you if you can embrace the lifestyle. My life took a significant upward turn when I began to focus on my own weaknesses and how I could improve various areas of my life. I said in another blog that nothing makes me happier than setting goals and achieving them, it gives me the confidence that I can pursue anything and be successful. I know I have the power to work hard today in hopes of being better tomorrow, and now more than ever I wish to be a positive influence on those around me to experience the same joy I have!

That’ll be all for this blog, I know we’re already a ways into 2018, but I hope you are still trying to achieve a new goal! I’ll be talking about the return to the states and the beginning of the world voyage around South America in the next. Thanks to you who are reading! Please give it a thumbs up, or share with anyone you’d think would find it interesting! If you’d like to ask me anything feel free to do so in the “Contact Me” box that should be in the bottom right of the screen.

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