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DEC
31

What's in a Year?

What is a year, really? There’s that iconic Rent song, of course, that boils it all down to love—probably a more accurate measure than we realize. But if you really take a look at a year, what is it?

Is it measured by the things we do? Six jewelry trade shows, one sunrise hot air balloon ride, two book parties, one eclipse viewed in complete totality, four holidays with family, one stolen suitcase, three days at Disney with a nephew, one international vacation, forty mini gingerbread loaves baked, one dear friend’s funeral, one NBA finals game attended, two resolutions kept…

Or is it better measured by the things we don’t do? Twelve more eggs lost, the man I should have let go sooner, or maybe the one I didn’t keep but should have, the zoo membership not renewed, work projects not completed, books I didn’t read, chapters I didn’t write. Do these things carry more weight when taking inventory of our five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes?

Sometimes it’s easy at the end of a year to feel more haunted than happy; more regret than resolve. And you should know me well enough by now to know that this is usually the camp I sit in. It’s not that there’s anything irresistibly romantic about melancholy (read: it is the very definition of irresistibly romantic), it’s that there is value, at least to me, in pining for what might have been. What we do not accomplish. What we fail to achieve. To me, it gives us the opportunity to evaluate how badly we want it. And failing either makes us double our efforts to get or achieve this thing, or it allows us to let go of what turns out to be less important than we first thought.

I only set two resolutions in 2017, and I hit them both. I’m very proud of that, however minor they are in the grand scheme of my life. In addition to resolutions, however, I always write a letter to myself in preparation for each new year. It’s part encouragement, part tough love, and in general serves as a road map for the kind of person I want to be in the upcoming year. The letter that sat taped to by bedside table each day of 2017 was written last Christmas Eve while sitting inside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. There was a pretty significant personal change I wanted to make this year; a rather toxic situation I counseled myself to get out of. I remember tears spilling down my cheeks as I rested my head against the cold cement of a cathedral column while composing the letter. Yet early on in 2017, I had already failed in my effort. And I won’t say it didn’t affect me greatly to wake up each morning and see my letter, knowing I hadn’t taken my own advice. But failing at this has brought about the doubling of effort I spoke of a moment earlier.

Something else that helps me in the wake of regret or falling short is to expand my perspective beyond a single year. It’s less about what’s in a year. It more like, what’s in a life? I was able to spend a few days in my hometown over Christmas, something I rarely do, and it was incredibly grounding to be amongst people who have known me since I was a child. Our lives are about everything we do, see. And the foundation we set is large; it is always present, regardless of how any individual year shakes out. We’re more than the sum of our years, so keep that in mind as you resolve, refocus, and reprioritize for the next five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.

Happy New Year!

DEC
31

On Waxing Pensive at Year End

I remember in high school being asked by an English teacher to make a list of things I wanted to do before I was 30. It was an interesting exercise for a class of teenagers from a very small town, where dreaming big wasn't something that always came naturally, but I took it very seriously. I was one of those who could always be counted on to dream big.

Some things on the list I accomplished in time (publish a book), others I did not (have a baby), but I'm a firm believer that showing up late to the party is better than never showing up at all. Besides, on this New Years Eve of goal-setting and course-correction, aren't we always sort of working on becoming who we want to be, regardless of when we thought we'd get there?

The thing I remember most vividly about that high school list is the following item: "Fly over the ocean." I put this down because it was a big deal to me. Something, again, being a from a small town, that seemed epic. I also put it down because it scared me. And giving myself until I was 30 to do it felt like a nice far-away cushion. Probably the easiest on my list to actually accomplish (one need only buy a ticket), I didn't get there before I was 30. I'm embarrassed to admit I've been avoiding it. The long plane ride, the jet lag, the language barriers, the world being so messed up. It was easier to just stay home.

While 2016 was a year of many epic things--Cleveland won the NBA Championship, for crying out loud--I'll remember it most for being the year I finally got my sweet and sour off this continent and flew over the ocean. It probably doesn't mean anything to anyone else, this single stamp in my passport, these photos of cathedrals, the leftover foreign coins in my pocket. But to me it means a great deal. It means that the items on our lists are more important than our timelines for them. It means that whenever we're ready, even if it's not this year, the world is waiting for us. Whether you're ahead of schedule or years behind, the view is equally spectacular. 

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