1. Embrace an ever-changing notion of self
Remember that you don’t figure out who you are in a day. Self-realization is a life-long process and it takes practice to learn about who you are at your core.
2. Find a mentor
Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. They may be a parent, or they may not, but having a mentor is invaluable if only for the timely reassurance that “you will make it.” A true mentor embraces your ever-changing notion of self and helps you on the road to self-actualization.
3. Silence your inner critic
Your inner critic jackhammers potholes onto the road to self-actualization and it’s your job to pour the cement in and smooth those bad boys over. The inner critic says, “You can’t do x.” Fuck that guy! You know who you are and you know what you love and you will not be stopped.
4. Don’t try to please everyone
Taking this advice may be like taking one of those giant woodchip-tasting multivitamins, but it is every bit as effective. Trying to please people by cultivating a persona will only lead you away from your true self. Temper your expectations and realize that being your genuine self will help you cultivate relationships with genuine people.
5. Identify genuine people
Most people only try to manipulate you into becoming something useful to them, but certain people will help you become more yourself. For God’s sake, hold on with everything you have to these people; they’ll be at your side through thick and thin.
6. Put your head in a book
Great literature endures because it has great truth. For every question you’ve wanted answered, sorrow you’ve felt, and victory you’ve tasted, there’s a writer who has captured your emotion with immaculate grace. Become a bibliophile and watch your happiness grow exponentially.
7. Be a good person
And I stress the word “good.” Not “nice.” Good. Also, kind. Nice people get taken advantage of where good people draw the line. Nice people go about their business when good people stand up for what’s right. One is passive, the other active. Stake a claim in this life and be a power for good.
Elf. Love Actually. Are you smiling already, filled with warm holiday feelings? Of course you are. Only a true grinch could be immune to the magic of these two films. Over the last decade since each debuted in 2003, they have carved out a space among that hallowed corner of the DVD shelf next to such venerated classics as It’s A Wonderful Life, White Christmas, and so forth. Among a number of other memorable Christmas movies that have been released since 2000 these two have definitely emerged as the clear frontrunners to become this (still very young) century’s Christmas classic.
Asking you to choose just one would be cruel, but I’m going to do it anyways, because I could talk about Christmas movies all day. And everyone’s tired of hearing my diatribes about how more people need to see The Bishop’s Wife. Commence a point-by-point comparison of the two strongest contenders for best Christmas movie of the century. Right off the bat I’m ruling the issue of story a tie because both succeed above other competitors with original conceits that don’t require Santa Claus (no offense, Santa) or an annoyingly precocious little kid to drive the narrative. In the following other points, however, they differ significantly:
A strong cast is essential to any film but a Christmas movie in particular needs to be brimming with likable and believable characters because this time of year you always want to feel like you’re spending time with the family you haven’t yet booked your flight home to see. Comparing the two movies on this point is tough. The charm of Elf is owed in large part to the comic genius of Will Ferrell, who has obviously brought the world more than one iconic character in his career. Who would make a good straight man to Buddy’s wild Christmas glee? Hm, how about Sonny Corleone? Okay sounds good. Let’s move on to Love Actually, which has just about as many famous British actors as the entire Harry Potter franchise. If you’re not melting under the combined charm of Hugh Grant and Colin Firth you’ve still got Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman and motherfucking Liam Neeson. And Rick Grimes confesses his awkward love to Chiwetel Ejiofor’s new wife, Kiera Knightley. It’s almost too much to handle. Studios have been trying to recreate this serendipitous casting strategy ever since.
Winner: Love Actually
Also applicable in this category: meme / gif-ability. To be a true Christmas classic, a film needs to be infinitely quotable. Both movies have lines you know by heart, but Elf seems to come up time and again. I know that one day a phone will ring and I will finally sucuumb to temptation, greeting the irritated caller with “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” Both movies have sharp, witty dialogue but Will Ferrell’s delivery seals the deal on this issue. As a bonus, there is not a GIF on the entire Internet that better embodies the Christmas spirit than Buddy running through those rotating doors.
3. Musical Moments
It’s not imperative that every Christmas movie be a balls-out musical like White Christmas, but to achieve icon status it helps to have a song you can throw on your Christmas playlist and jam out to all December long. Elf has a couple of musical moments and even hangs the fate of Santa’s ride on one spontaneous Central Park sing-along, but Love Actually has two songs you can’t get out of your head for weeks after you watch it. “Christmas Is All Around Us” is pure songwriting genius. The “All I Want For Christmas” number is the best ever, even though the song wasn’t even included on the U.S. version of the soundtrack. And Hugh Grant shakes it to the The Pointer Sisters. That scene is just about as emotionally moving as Judy Garland tearfully singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” in Meet Me In Saint Louis.
Winner: Love Actually
4. The Romance Factor
The holidays are a good time to be in a relationship, or to pretend to be in one in an it’s not convincing you but maybe it’ll convince your parents way. I don’t think all Christmas classics need a romantic storyline, but a good dose of cheese works during a season when we’re feeling our most sentimental. That’s explains why The Holiday exists. Think about the scene where George and Mary throw rocks at the old house in It’s A Wonderful Life. I die a little every time. So this category goes to Love Actually, without question. Not only because Zooey Deschanel is the only person on earth sexless enough to not seem weird dating a literal man-child, but it goes without say that Richard Curtis would win this one. If you don’t connect with one love story you’ll connect with another, since the movie has like a million couples get together by the end. My favorite are the naked body doubles. I would also like someone I can just chat with.
Winner: Love Actually
By watchability I mean several things: 1. you can watch it on endless repeat without getting tired of it 2. you don’t have to engage in any critical thinking, because the holidays are a time to kick back even when it comes to movie watching. Check and check for both movies. Then there’s point #3: dare I say it, it is family-friendly. When you’re sitting around drinking eggnog by the fireplace after all the presents have been unwrapped and you’ve just finished A Christmas Story, which of these two movies do you throw on next? Maybe your 12-year-old cousin thinks it’s hilarious that Colin is travelling to America with a backpack “chock-full” of condoms, but I bet your dad finds it very uncomfortable and frankly shocking that said child thinks this is so funny. When in doubt, Elf is the crowd-pleaser.
Finally, I’ll venture one last important thing: Elf is more wholly Christmas-y in terms of thematics. Buddy comes from the North Pole, not Portugal. Ed Asner Santa makes a just brief enough appearance. In terms of becoming a Christmas classic, I’d call Elf the winner on that point alone. I mean, there’s a talking narwhal. In every other respect, it’s almost too close to call. How would you decide this one? Quick, go watch both movies immediately and get back to me.
I am probably the only human in New York City sitting in a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf drinking a Mocha Ice-Blended in 20 degree weather. The barista looked at me like I was crazy when I ordered it.
“Are you sure? I’m freezing just thinking about making it.”
I nod. She hands me a medium-sized cup of cocoa powder, milk, espresso, and beaten up ice cubes. I clutch it in my mittened hand and suck it down fast.
Immediately, I am transported to sophomore year in college, my feet on the warm dashboard of my hand-me-down Ford Explorer named after my grandfather, Walter. His fishing license is still shoved in the glove box, mashed between his old Willy Nelson CDs and the ice scraper we used to defrost the windshield every Christmas together.
Lucas is driving. We’re headed down to Austin on I-35. We don’t hit traffic until Cesar Chavez Blvd.
“FUCK.” He smacks the steering wheel. I groan. He leans over and kisses me. Our nose rings get stuck.
“Fuck,” I giggle, looping his hoop over my stud and freeing myself. “Ocean Breathes Salty” is playing on my crappy speakers. We exit the freeway and hang a right, passing SoCo and P-Terry Burgers and Peter Pan Mini-Golf until we land a 20 minute parking spot outside of the Coffee Bean on South Lamar.
“These are bigger than Starbucks in LA,” I tell him. He rolls his eyes. He’s a barista at Common Grounds in Waco, the most obscure of all the obscure, hipster coffee shops in the galaxy, probably. He doesn’t care about Starbucks, but admits that my Ice Blended is as addicting as crack cocaine. He takes five or six sips before ordering one for himself, a large, piled high with whipped cream. We take them to go and find a table at our favorite vegetarian joint down the road.
I tell him about the summers I spent stuck in traffic on the 405 on the way to my internship at a film company in Santa Monica. I always had a purple straw clamped between my lips and some kind of a carb wrapped in a napkin in my cup holder for the drive. I pull up pictures of the Getty Villa, the Roxy on Sunset, the mountains behind my house, the hummingbirds in my backyard.
“This is where I live,” I tell him. “This is where I came from.”
I’m homesick, homesick for California and for Texas and for all the places I have lived. How do you split your soul evenly among so many cities? How do you translate yourself across state lines and international borders? How do you heal your heart when you’re in love with so many people and places and things?
I’m sitting at this stupid table in this chain coffee shop and I wish that I could time travel back to the exact moment in time when I decided that I was going to move away from my family and friends and the ocean and my dogs, but I can’t. Not because time travel doesn’t exist, but because there is no exact moment. I have the exact opposite of manifest destiny flowing through my blood. I wanted to get as far away as fast as I could from everything I love, and I can’t tell you why. There was something pushing and pulling at me; a voice that came to me in my sleep and hands that gently locked themselves around my wrists and dragged me through the southwest and up to New York.
I’ve loved every adventure, every shitty apartment, every new friend that I’ve made. But I can’t say that I haven’t looked back. I missed my best friend picking out her wedding dress. She texted me a picture with the caption, “THIS IS THE ONE,” that flashed across the screen of my cell phone when I exited the subway. I wanted to cry. Not only because she looked beautiful, but also because I wasn’t there to tell her that in person.
I missed my soul mate, the girl I’ve known since I was six years old, starting her own business. “Just move back home so I can steal all of your cupcake recipes and we can watch Star Wars while we bake all day,” she pleaded over the phone. “I have a bedroom opening up in my beach house with your name on it. Just get on a plane, please, we miss you.”
I missed both of my grandparents’ deaths. I hadn’t seen either of them for months when they passed. “I’m sorry,” I whispered out the window of the airplane that transported me back home, a little too late. “I didn’t mean to leave you when you needed me.”
I call my parents everyday, but that doesn’t seem like enough. I’ve missed Christmases and birthdays and weddings and funerals and Thanksgivings and graduations. I’ve been in long distance relationships that ended the minute my significant others realized that there would be no end date. When my aunt had a double mastectomy, I wasn’t there to hold her hand. My two dogs probably think I’ve abandoned them.
I think I make myself homesick on purpose. I think that I crave new experiences and adventures so severely that I put those things before anything else in my life. And I don’t know how to stop. I feel like I’m travelling downhill with no brakes and there’s nothing to grab on to. I’m just going to keep drifting farther and farther away, taking jobs and making friends in random and exotic places until I can’t remember what the Santa Ana winds feel like, or how hot it gets in the summer in Central Texas, or the exact date in October when you have to start wearing scarves in Manhattan.
I just really, really hope that wherever I end up, there will be chocolate-y, frozen coffee drinks to remind me of where I’ve been.