Doing things differently since 1984
New Years is a strange holiday. It doesn’t commemorate or celebrate anything specific, and has very few traditions. It is for some an excuse to forget all your troubles with a big party, and for others a time to remember, reflect, and look ahead. You’ve probably already had your fill of “Best of 2013” and “Predictions for 2014” lists (unless you’re like me and just really can’t get enough), so I’ll not add to the pile.
Being one to really enjoy a good dose of introspection, and this year being a particularly eventful one, I feel it’d be almost criminal to not take the excuse to take a glance back at what this year taught me.
1. Staying at home is hard work. After 3 years of yearning to stay home with my kids I finally got my wish granted. And, as much as I completely adore my kids, and as much as it goes against every belief I subscribed to up until that point, it was like walking through a dark tunnel. It was isolating, mind-numbing, exhausting in every way, and required way more self-discipline than I apparently have. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted, and possibly the only thing that I would say I failed at. Neither I nor my children benefitted. All stay-at-home parents who haven’t ended up in psychiatric care (and even those who have) have my full-blown admiration.
2. Embrace questions. Being a “to-do list” kind of person, I tend to approach life in a way where I like problems to be solved and then not revisited. This is fine when planning out your day or shopping for Christmas gifts, but when constructing a world-view or figuring people out it’s not such a great approach.
This past year I finally came out of a multi-year crisis where new questions had challenged established “answers” and had left me feeling anxiously lost and without a compass. By learning to embrace my questions, rather than feel overwhelmed by them, I not only found great peace for myself, but also found myself more at peace with others. Most “answers”, it turns out, are both divisive and fleeting. Answers make us proud, but questions keep us humble. Sometimes we need answers, but so too do we need questions.
If you haven’t read the comic below, I’d highly encourage you to do so (this is just a small snippet):
3. You won’t be comfortable until you’re comfortable in your own skin. In terms of life’s comforts, it was a crazy year for me. My family started out just above the poverty line, then to dual-unemployed, then, for the first time ever, we achieved comfortable middle-class status. Then, we left it all behind to put ourselves through what ended up being a right mess as we fled the South. If we’re going to talk about the importance of questions, a few need asking here: Why did we do it? And, do we wish we hadn’t done it?
I can’t speak for my other half, but for myself, though I wish we’d done it differently, otherwise I have no regrets. Regret is a funny word. There is short-term regret like when you pick a route home that leads you into a traffic jam. Then there is long-term regret like when you pass down an opportunity that would have changed your life. Short-term regrets, like the challenges we faced whilst uprooting ourselves, heal quickly. Long-term regrets, on the other hand, can be wounds that never close. Though we were “comfortably” middle class in Atlanta, we weren’t comfortable with ourselves. We felt fiercely that we were in the wrong place. Living with that, in exchange for creature comforts, would have been a regret I’d never want to bear.
There is, of course, a lot more that I could add, since life is an endless stream of lessons, but I think this pretty well sums up the big ones. My prediction for 2014? More unpredictability!
Here’s wishing you all a happy new year! May you all find questions worth asking, answers with keeping, and regrets worth avoiding.