Apparently its a blogger rule that you HAVE to write a New Year post in January.
I’m not usually real big on following other people’s rules…
I totally love new beginnings, fresh starts, sentimentality, opportunities for introspection, self-analysis, and looking for meaning in every little thing.
Oh – and I REALLY like making lists. And goals. Love setting goals. Although, oddly, I don’t get much satisfaction out of achieving my goals…which is maybe why I usually don’t…but I love setting them. Hmmm, maybe that’s why I really enjoyed my master’s program, but didn’t really enjoy working in that field…hmm…well, we’ll just go ahead and add that to the introspection list.
Anyway, given all of these things about me, it should come as little surprise that I enjoy the month of January, ie. THE START OF THE NEW YEAR, when it’s not only acceptable to be this way, but ENCOURAGED.
This is my season people.
And so I bring you: My Reflections and Lessons from 2010
My Predictions and Goals for 2011.
(You might want to refill your coffee cup and get comfortable. This could take a while. Don’t say you weren’t warned).
1. 2010 will be known as a “transitional year”.
It was the first year since 2002 where I worked in a full-time office job. It confirmed that sitting at a desk doing someone else’s work on someone else’s schedule, following someone else’s rules and dealing with everyone else’s personality quirks and issues (also known as “office culture”), is simply not a good fit for me.
This job also provided:
- structure and balance in a time when I couldn’t create it for myself,
- a “loaner identity” at a time when I’d lost mine,
- and financial stability at a time when I was pretty much incapable of earning a living in any other way.
And as a result, I was finally able to find myself. It was a lovely reunion really.
Post reunion with my (real) self, we quickly figured out what we wanted to be when we grew up: A creative writing professor (and hopefully also published novelist). And we decided the time to grow up was now. I started researching MFA programs (Masters in Fine Arts) in February 2010 and as of January 15, 2011 will have finished submitting all of my applications.
2. Despite it being a transition year, in which I spent more hours than I care to count sitting at a brown desk staring at a white wall, there were still lots of unexpected moments which served to keep me entertained and add more depth and color to my life. Some were good, some were sad, some were on purpose and some were by accident. All are worth noting.
Some highlights (in no particular order, so don’t go reading into where you show up in the list):
I unexpectedly found a wonderful friend in one of my co-workers. Susan makes this job, and sometimes my life, bearable.
In March, my very dear friends Miller and Rasmus announced they and their new, beautiful baby boy Hank, were moving to Denmark. And by August they were gone. With the exception of one year right after we graduated from college, Miller and I had never lived more than a few miles from each since our first day at William Smith College in 1994. It was, without question, the absolute best move they could make for themselves and their family. But it was the biggest social transition I’ve had to face since graduating from college. It’s still sometimes hard to believe I can’t just drop in on them for super glue or a decent meal. But thank god for VoIP phones, Facebook, digital cameras and video cameras because they all let me stay connected to their daily lives, so they don’t feel so far way. And I now have my first passport, my first savings account, and my first international trip planned for next summer. And a place to flee should I accidentally become an enemy combatant of the state.
My parents came down to visit, for the first time in about 6 years. We had a great time, and they were even lucky enough to get to attend a storytelling event.
My wonderful friend Pam, the person who got me this job, and was my go-to girl for processing drama and life decisions over dinners and endless cups of coffee, fell in love and moved to West Virginia. Pam and I started out as roommates and we had a deal that our house was a judgement free zone – we could say anything, confess to any emotion, act or intention and not be judged. Most of our conversations had to do with men and sex. Pam knows many things, and has taught me much over the years. This transition was a little easier to handle because for the first few months she came back frequently. The hardest part was getting used to the idea that we couldn’t have any more emergency coffee dates to dissect some drama in my life. Although, for the last several months there has been very little drama that has needed dissecting, so that’s worked out well 🙂 I try to bring the open acceptance of each other’s choices that Pam and I have to my other relationships at all times. To varying degrees of success. But its good to have goals.
I joined a boxing boot camp. It doesn’t sound like much, but a) it required I face all of my old gym class anxieties and some of my social phobias, and b) it was the hardest workout I’ve ever experienced. c) it involves running outside. I hate running, and I especially hate running outside. But I did it anyway. I was hooked almost immediately, and started to experience my body in a whole new way.
I also did a ropes course
, which meant facing some serious fears, examining some belief systems, and also experiencing my body in a whole new way. It was awesome.
By far the strangest moment of the year was when I had my picture taken with George W. Bush. He was the keynote speaker at our annual conference, and well… I don’t know. He was funny his speech. In a good way, not in a “that’s not how you use that word” kind of way. OK he was funny in that way too. But I figure, a wold leader is a world leader. Whateves. Don’t judge me. I used this picture in my Happy New Year’s Card this year with the caption: May your new year be filled with unexpected moments. I think a good caption makes it hurt less. Oh, and I feel the need to say I was incredibly hung-over and fighting a bad cold when I took this picture. Which is why I look so pasty and…blech.
And speaking of our annual conference (by “our” I mean the place where I work), it was in Dallas, TX and I had to be there for almost a week, and I was DREADING it hard-core. All of my past experiences with annual meetings and events in general had been bad. Very, very, BAD. Like bat shit crazy co-workers and lots of tears and no sleep and sore feet and changes in employment status, kind of bad. But this one was good. Fun almost. My boss stayed a good boss, instead of going crazy like my previous bosses. My co-workers were sane and reasonable and easy to work with. We even had some fun. Including getting utterly and completely wasted in a wine bar. Everyone, including our boss. It was one of the funnest and funniest nights I’ve had in a really long time.
And woven through all of these special or unique moments were lots of normal moments. My annual summer trip to Charlotte, NC to visit my friend sister since junior high school, Twig, and her family; Twig and her family’s annual fall trip to DC; lots of storytelling shows; lots of laughing and lots of hugging. Maybe a little drinking. And another year of Mer’s Summer O’Fun…. but I can’t seem to find pictures of any of those events. So here’s me hugging some people…
Lessons Learned in 2010
All of the lessons I learned last year stem from one kind of lightbulb moment that I had over the summer. See, I’m a little bit of a control freak. I used to believe I could control everything in my life by just applying the right pressure, finding the right words, wanting it badly enough.
This is the place where crazy gets made. Seriously.
I lived in that place a lot last year, and as a result, a lot of serious crazy got produced. And then one day I woke up and realized I didn’t want to do that, be that, live like that any more. I finally recognized that the sense of control was mostly an illusion, and the things I did have control over (like my own behavior) I was distorting and crushing because I was holding on so tight.
I realized a few key things.
1. Not everything needs to be resolved immediately. Not every relationship has to be defined on the first date, every disagreement is not the end of a friendship, not every reunion is a new beginning. Sometimes what looks like an ending is actually a beginning, or vice versa. By trying to control what each moment is, and by trying to define and identify every beginning, middle, and end of every interaction and episode in my life, I run a high risk of getting it wrong.
2. Life is a novel with many chapters, most of which are still writing themselves. I think I’ve finally reached an age where I can take the long view of my life and see the patterns and the waves. I can look at friends who I’ve known for years and see that the lows and the highs that seemed so all consuming at the time, fade into a wavy pattern when you get enough distance. I can see that while there are craters of unimaginable depth and peaks of blinding intensity, and empty places and over-crowded places, all merge into a beautiful tapestry of a rich and long relationship. I have learned to trust that when the connection is real, you can ride out all the highs and the lows and the outcome is beautiful and solid. I think mostly of friendships as I write this, but know that it applies also to romantic and familial relationships too. I find an immense amount of comfort in this perspective.
3. Grey can be a nice color. Part of “taking the long view”, and being able to relinquish control over uncontrollable things is becoming comfortable with uncertainty. Is this a friendship that survives this rough patch or is this the end of this chapter? Is this a date that becomes the start of a new chapter or just a footnote? I remind myself that the gray area, the space of being uncertain about the future is a place I can be comfortable within. And when the anxiety starts to take hold I repeat to myself “Grey can be a nice color,” over and over until the anxiety passes and my fists unclench.
4. I am stronger than I think. But not yet as strong as I can be.
5. I have built a great life filled with a wonderfully diverse and beautiful collection of people. I’m not sure how I did it, but I’m grateful that I have. They make me brave.
And now…. 2011!!!
I like themes. I feel they provide focus. So my theme for 2011 is going to be…drum roll please…
No Risk. No Reward
I know I didn’t invent that phrase, but I like it so I’m stealing it and claiming it as my own. Learn to love it.
I like to believe that in 2012 I will look back at 2011 and dub it “A Year of Growth”.
Hopefully, (fingers crossed, knock on wood, if it please God, Allah, the baby Jesus, the Universe and anyone else who gets a vote), I will be enrolling in an MFA program in the fall. (Ideally UNC Wilmington, but any program will be better than no program). So that will fit really well into my theme.
1. Do at least one thing that scares the crap out of me (aside from starting grad school).
2. Seek out more performance opportunities. Try to move outside my storytelling and performance comfort zone a little bit.
3. Read more.
4. Write more. Especially for money. Often the freelance stuff isn’t exciting or very creative, but it still feels awesome to get paid for words I’ve written. I never want to lose that feeling .
5. Dance more.
6. Laugh more.
7. Trust more.
8. Believe more. In myself. In my friends and family. And in the Universe to know what it’s doing.
9. Make fewer excuses.
10. Judge less (except reality TV people. And celebrities. I’m still gonna judge the fuck out them.)
11. Pace myself with what I commit to, so I don’t get overwhelmed and drop the ball on a bunch of things (again).
If you’ve read this far, you deserve some chocolate. Or a drink.
I hope you all have exactly the year that you need, even if it’s not what you expect 🙂