It is so easy to get to the end of a year and feel that it gave you nothing good. The heaviness of darker moments easily outweighs the lightness of better times. This year was hard; that does not mean it was bad. I am working to learn this. 2019 necessarily became, for me, about shifts in perspective. Please note that I didn’t want to reframe all of the less-than-ideal and sometimes outright awful things that were happening. I wanted to mope, to throw fits, to let myself be as miserable as I felt like being. I spent so much time being sad and even more time being angry. How could the world, after everything I have already survived, continue to give me moments where the only thing to do, still, is survive? The negatives were many and they were large, and if I hadn’t taken control of the narrative, they would have swallowed up my world- a world that I have literally fought for my life to have.
I know a lot of people who don’t practice making resolutions at the end of a year. I appreciate their honesty about the likelihood of follow-through. A friend of mine told me the other night that, in 2008, he resolved to no longer make resolutions and has so far held to that. I think that shows a remarkable amount of commitment. While I admire this sort of realism, I prefer hearing about plans for our next orbit. Many people treat resolutions as promises; I think it’s more apt to approach them as symbols of hope. We hope that we will become who we want to be, that we will do what we want to do, and that the year will bring us opportunities to grow. We hope that we will be able to do what we can to bring these things about for ourselves and for our loved ones.
In years past, I made mistakes in setting my goals. They have always been about forcing good things, working too hard, and creating the kind of rigid structure in my life that guarantees success. These goals were often self-centered, neglecting the time and energy I put into community work that gives me a sense of purpose, and they were short-sighted, not acknowledging that life as often requires laying groundwork as it requires climbing mountains. While this has admittedly resulted in a lot of accomplishment that looks great on paper, it hasn’t made me much happier. At the end of the year, instead of looking back at all of the things that I have achieved or the ways that I have grown, at how many people I have had the chance to love, or at all of the moments that made me think of life as “worth it,” I hyper-focus on all of the things that I left undone, even if there were very good reasons to not finish.
That is no way to treat a growing person. I don’t want to be complicit in creating my own misery.
This year’s brutality was important to my figuring out that I don’t actually care about winning all that much. Pulling out of my grad school application cycle, even though I was ahead of the game, forced me to sit down with myself in a very real way, and that has sucked more than I can even begin to describe. But the results of having those conversations with myself and with my loved ones have been invaluable, and I wouldn’t change it just to get to where I’m going a little quicker. There is time- and, if there isn’t time for me, it wasn’t meant for me. I still have goals for next year. There are things I want to and will do, milestones that will come whether or not I am ready for them, and big decisions I’ll have to make. But I only have one resolution, and that’s to grow in hope. I am worthy of my own love and care. My accomplishments, no matter how small, should be celebrated. The things left undone are not shameful- they are signs of being human, and isn’t that worth celebrating, too?
I have received criticism, and the requisite unsolicited bad advice that comes with criticism, for having too many feelings too publicly and for making decisions counter to what was expected of me. It’s true that I care too much about everything all of the time, and that has been sold to me as weakness. Pop culture glamorizes not giving a fuck, as if a good life is just one that is the shiniest with the fewest emotions. I know that this isn’t true. Sometimes my heart drags me somewhere, and I have to follow it. It’s absolutely pathetic, and I absolutely have never regretted the trouble it has gotten me into. I have never, ever done a single thing the “right” way. I’m not about to start now. It is good to take time. It is good to breathe through everything and to expect nothing except for what will, somehow, be the right thing, even if that feels ridiculous now. It is always better to have hope.
I am choosing to remember that, this year, things happened that were good. Memory can be a source of radical change. Ignoring that good things happened because bad things also happened disrespects the people and the work that it took to create those positive moments. I am better when I can look back fondly. Every difficulty was an opportunity to practice patience and to make the best decisions for myself, even when those decisions were the opposite of what I wanted them to be.
This year I want to be gentler with myself. Maybe quieter, maybe not. I want to find more space for joy in my day-to-day life and learn to love myself, and everyone else, better. The next decade deserves more art, more shameless joy, more gratitude on gratitude. It deserves more looking forward to the good times, because they will come. I now believe that unfailingly, which is a sign of growth. I will take more risks, because they always pay off, if in nothing other than experience.
This year I will love the most broken and tender parts of myself as wholly as I love the parts of myself that show up on stage or in the classroom or at work. At the end of the day, they are the same parts. I will love the hard moments, and try to accept them for what they are. I will love other people, and I will try to let them love me, too, if they want to. I am okay with doing things differently. There is no perfect time. Nothing is so sacred.
I also really want to get a dog. Someone please write my landlord.
- Calvocoressi, Gabrielle (2017) The Sun Got All Over Everything. Rocket Fantastic.
- Harjo, Joy (2015) For Calling the Spirit Back From Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings.
- Harjo, Joy (2015) Praise the Rain. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings.
- Havrilesky, Heather (2018) Ask Polly: ‘I Feel Empty’. The Cut.
- Jahren, Hope. (2016) Lab Girl.