Ready or not, it’s time to welcome a new year.
More than other years before, 2017 flew by for me. It struck me the other day that this time last year, I was still in college, though that season of life usually feels like ages ago to me now. So much changed in one year- I applied to graduate schools, graduated from college, moved back home, got a job, moved back to Nashville, and started building my life as an independent, working adult. In so many ways it was a stepping stone year, where I began establishing a lot of aspects of adult life like learning how to buy a car and how to navigate real life time management without school as the focal point, and continued discovering who I am and how I fit in (and don’t) in this world.
I’m fortunate enough to look back and see that everything I needed last year, I had. Some things I went out and got and it took a lot of work. A first apartment close to town that I could afford. A job in a growing city, working in the hustle and bustle of downtown. A job after college, period. A sense of community both in and out of work. A safe and dependable car. Other things were surprises that I didn’t really go after at all, but turned out to be also what I needed. Reconnecting with friends I was out of touch with for a long time. Not being able to go to grad school (okay, not much of a surprise there) but realizing joining the professional world right away was the right move for me at the time. I know that more people than not in this world did not have all that they needed, and were far from where they wanted to be. I faced moments of hardship, stress, and fear, but also humbling moments realizing some of my own privilege and learning more how to not take it for granted, and to use it for good in the world whenever I can.
Even with all the great things that happened in 2017, as I looked back on it I wasn’t too sad to see it end. It was an amazing year, but I have full faith that the coming years will also be great. In thinking about the year as a whole, a word that kept coming to me today as I spent time at my favorite park was ‘spectator.’ I’m not talking about all moments when I say this, but there were a lot of times when I was right where I was supposed to be, participating even, and sometimes taking the lead role, but where in hindsight I saw myself more as an observer than as someone in on the action. So many joyous things happened, like capping off my service to my sorority, exploring post-grad options, feeling genuinely known and loved by so many friends and family as I finished college, and of course the big moments like walking across the stage at graduation and moving into my first place a few days before starting my first post-grad job. I had so much fun in these moments and cherish the vivid memories I have of them. Every late night adventure with roommates, much-needed trip to the grocery store, and deep conversation stuck with me. But as I spent time at the park today and took a walk around the bleachers in front of the steeplechase course, I was overwhelmed with the message, ‘Don’t be a spectator in your own life.’
From an overarching perspective, the parts of my personality that make me love getting to know people’s stories and just observing the world quietly to learn more about it can sometimes lend to feeling like life is happening to me rather than me taking the reins. And I’m finding that that doesn’t necessarily mean that I sit like a zombie through my days and weeks and don’t take initiative or seek out experiences, it just means I feel a desire to live every day more intentionally rather than it being one more day until the weekend or one more month until hopefully some big life event happens. I’m in this funky part of life where it feels like everyone around me is working toward a degree, getting engaged, married, or pregnant, or building their own company or something. And this is in no way real. Few of my closest friends are even close to being married and all that. But that’s the magic of social media- I just have to scroll through Facebook or Instagram for 10 minutes and see 3 friends of friends or not even people remotely close to my life making some big announcement, and the lies flood in that I’m not enough, I’m still waiting for real life to start, etc.
And that’s problematic, because I’ve found myself the past few weeks being aware of when I scroll through that stuff and feel that way, and not stopping it. And I feel so much better and feel like the day actually has more hours in it (because it does) when I’m intentionally turning that off, and participating in the day and activities I’ve been given for right now. Because you know what? I am still in progress, still on the way to future things, but that does not make where I am now any less valuable. I need to tell myself that multiple times a day to help me fight the temptation to sit back and watch life happen, as if I’m just killing time until the next ‘big’ life event happens to me. Happens to me. Life isn’t just supposed to happen to us, we are supposed to live it. Verb. Not passive voice.
So in this new year I’m vowing to myself to spend less moments treating life like something to be watched from the sidelines, following all the right steps in the recipe and hoping someday something exciting will come of it. Hitting the rewind button and re-living fun memories is great and there’s a time for that, but not all the time. And looking forward to the future is exciting and important, but it shouldn’t turn into something that’s like, ‘One day when xyz happens, then I’ll be content, happy, affirmed, etc.’ Because if we live life just waiting for the next big deal thing to come to us, we will 1. miss out on a lot of the smaller but just as fulfilling and life-giving things that happen in between and 2. start to convince ourselves that it’s those big days that define us rather than all the ones in between. If I someday get a PhD, or change careers, or get married, or have kids, or start a business, or travel the world, I don’t want to look back on seasons of life in between the big days and think dang, I was just killing time and not really engaging with what was around me. I want to be someone who wakes up each day and finds purpose, who doesn’t consistently watch the clock waiting for what’s next.
This will take discipline, routines, spontaneity, grace, and patience. And probably a lot more that I’ll find out as I go. But the way I see it, at this early point in life, it’s a stage of laying the foundation for the rest of my life. I’m figuring out how to balance relationships, work, rest, and self-improvement. I’m figuring out how to balance finances. I’m figuring out how to make mornings and evenings more efficient so that my day isn’t just work. I’m figuring out what I really like to do on the weekends, who I want to spend time with and catch up with, which both require making plans and having some sort of schedule sometimes, not just winging it. There are so many things that will continue to change throughout life, but I feel convicted that this is a year when I will be fully awake for as much as possible to keep figuring out who I am and what I do. From taking care of my body to nurturing relationships to challenging myself professionally, there are so many things ahead of me that I want to sustain throughout life, and I’m finding that most of those things that I observe my parents and others having in their routines don’t just fall there magically- it takes years of practice and fine-tuning because we each have our own unique combinations of preferences and strengths. I feel lucky to have this time in life where I have the support of friends and family and coworkers to keep enjoying each day as it comes and to work up to the bigger events that come around every once in awhile. Even if I sometimes wish to not be single, I know I’m grateful that I am free from worrying if my decisions or planning were solely built around the man in my life. Even if I sometimes wish to have more time or money or whatever, I’m grateful that I am learning early on the value of time and money, even more than what I had to learn growing up until now. And as always, even if I wish I knew highlighted route on the road map ahead of me, I am working on being grateful for the surprises that come along, and for how somehow, every time, help or clarity or conviction always comes along just at the right time when a decision or change needs to be made. It’s amazing how that happens.
If you’re reading this, I want to wish you a very happy and healthy new year, filled with new experiences, new people, redemption, forgiveness, growth, and all the great things you hope this year will be. Above all my wish for you and for myself is that this new year won’t be just like last year, because there’s always more for us to learn, more failure to grow from, more laughter to be had, more relationships to work on and revel in, and more to see that we haven’t seen yet.
Song of the day: Everything Has Changed by Taylor Swift and ED SHEERAN, mostly the Ed Sheeran parts, sorry Taylor
Books of the day: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling, The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur, and my 2018 planner which will hopefully have things added this week
Goal for the week: Establish a morning routine that includes quiet, food, and reading, and excludes TV and social media
Advice for the week: Invest in friends who are content to spend time exactly how you like to spend time. Invest in friends with different interests, too, but it’s nice every once in awhile to have some of that time where you just eat lasagna and watch an old chick flick and you didn’t even have to be the one to suggest it.
High five for the week: My room is still almost as organized as when I left for Christmas. Meaning, for the first time in a long time, I actually unpacked everything within 24 hours of arriving home and put it away. It’s the small victories, friends.