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Keeping the faith

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It is official. We are knee-deep into the holiday season. Stores may not be as crowded as usual, but many people are throwing caution to the wind and sticking with traditions. Those traditions include family gatherings, office parties, special faith events, vacations with loved ones, and if we're lucky, time off to sit and think.

Some are not as noble: accruing more debt that will cause us to be miserable in the new year; skipping bills to buy one more thing that someone doesn't need; adhering to our distorted vision of the holidays even though we may be on the cusp of a foreclosure; displacing our angst over our impoverished upbringing by lavishing gifts on our children who only want us for Christmas (which was good enough for us, but somehow not good enough for them).

Regardless of what traditions we have, keeping the faith is one of the greatest, in spite of whatever it is that we may be facing -- good or bad.

What is wonderful about the holidays is the ability to look at what is behind us and to imagine what is in front of us. Things tend to slow down a bit, so it is a time of reflection, which is why we sometimes get elated and sometimes depressed. The old adage that the only thing constant is change is absolutely true. Last year, I had no idea that I would be living in Charlotte again. When I left two years ago, I thought it was for good. I did not know that new professional opportunities would await me. I was happy and content and felt complete, so I was not seeking any of the wonderful things that fell into my lap last year.

It was my older sister who kept telling me over the years to keep the faith. When I was ready to give up on my doctorate, she told me to keep the faith. When I had given up on love, she told me to keep the faith. When I thought I would never make enough money to remotely put a dent in my student loans and filmmaking endeavors, she said to keep the faith. When I had five dollars to my name and was struggling to keep my head above water, she told me to keep the faith, and I did. I prayed, meditated and came up with a vision board.

Yes, the cynic put together a vision board. It was not fancy, elaborate or even creative. It was a simple statement of what I wanted to achieve. I, the curmudgeon who cannot bear to watch another episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, tuned in one time last year, and it was the show on vision boards. It made sense so I followed suit. I'm happy to say that I have accomplished most of what was on my vision board for 2008. I cleared the clutter out of my life, learned to ask for help, joined a gym, reduced my debt by 50 percent, increased my income and learned to love myself more.

What's more interesting is that the things that I did not accomplish are directly tied to decisions that I made. I haven't finished my documentary because I spent too much time on other tasks. While I work extremely hard, I definitely need to work smarter and not allow myself to be pulled in so many different directions. On this year's list, the number-one item will be to stay focused.

I did not establish a committed relationship with long-term potential because I went backwards instead of forward. Instead of giving a new friend a chance, I gave an old friend a chance and then remembered why he should have remained a part of my past. I met interesting people this year and did not follow through because I allowed work and insincere people to get in the way. This year, I will correct that and know that I will have a better outcome. Did I say that I needed to stay focused?

This holiday season, I am quite happy to have the time to reflect on this past year and to look forward to the upcoming year. As many of us celebrate our respective faiths, I will be celebrating the birth of Christ. Thus, like last year, I have decided to not go into debt buying gifts that have nothing to do with the birth of Christ. I endeavored that I would actually spend time in my own home for the first time ever as an adult during Christmas. I am tired of running up and down the East Coast, and I absolutely abhor flying, so why do it? I will sit in my house, read a book, listen to music and dine sufficiently.

I have some old traditions that are getting tossed out and new traditions that are being made, which is another reason why I love the holiday season. It also reminds me to be thankful for everything, including my readers.

So, to all of my readers, new and old, supporters and critics, I hope that this holiday season affords you the opportunity to reflect on the past and imagine the future. The year 2009 will be better if we consciously decide to do things differently and focus on staying happy, thinking positively, changing the things that need changing and keeping the faith.

I wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of communications and media studies at Goucher College and editorial director for RushmoreDrive.com.

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