I spent the last day of 2010 at my mom's, having a Harry Potter marathon with my sister and baking a loaf of turtle shaped bread. I did manage to get out of the house for about two hours, and when the anticlimactic change of years occurred I was blissfully unaware (probably distracted by the terrible karaoke happening at the local bar).
I was about to leave town today when I got a text from my oldest friend. "2nd of the year and I'm crying in my office...good start. I hope you have better luck." Since seven minutes into 2011 found me tearfully driving home and crawling into bed with my mom, I could relate. But mourning the turbulence of 2010 isn't helping my outlook for the next 365 days, so here's a reflection on the most important lessons from the past year that I'll take with me.
1. Trust my instincts. My post-graduation plan was to spend the next 10 years living in 5 different places, so while I was excited at the prospect of a new job, I wasn't thrilled about moving one hour south of my home in IC and promising to spend 5 years working there.
Why did I choose this? Here comes my valiant attempt at assuaging regret...
Well, looks like the best answer I can come up with is fear. Fear of not finding a job, not being able to make payments on my student loans, and having to move home. Or maybe I could call it acting responsibly. Either way, I guess I have to forgive myself for that. Regret is not the way I want to move forward.
If I had given in to the tug of the thread, the one that seems to have one end attached to my gut and the west coast at the other, I would probably be having a rough time in a place even farther from the comfort of my family and friends. At least then I would know I was true to myself, following my own instincts. In the future, when I have an impulse this strong, I will not settle for anything else.
2. People are wonderfully unpredictable. During the past year, I've made lots of new friends and gotten closer with old ones. Struggling through drastic changes and the realities of life makes friendships stronger, and I've begun to really know how lucky I am to be surrounded by those I love (even if now they're spread across the country).
It's easy to shake hands and decide what you expect from a person. Except if you spend time learning about them, you'll surely come across something you didn't foresee. Like that one person can love The Beatles and also scary death metal. Or that someone who has chosen the hard facts of science as a profession gets swept away by the magic of Harry Potter.
Old friends are equally surprising. They may finally triumph where you watched them fail until it broke your heart, and you might rediscover the joy of a relationship you thought was lost. You could even find your sister willing to take on a crazy cross-country adventure you thought she'd reject (Emily, you rock). You will surely recognize a group of people who, though perhaps not present on a day-to-day basis, will come through when you need them most. And you'll find yourself doing the same for them.
3. Patience is a powerful tool. It's probably just part of growing up, but I've come to respect the power of patience. Any emotion I felt in the past was immediately acted upon--by either actually making a change or at least talking it through. I would dive in heart first at a moment's notice. It's not that the decisions I made were poor. I simply couldn't move on to the next thought until I'd worked out the last. Even if that meant getting out of bed in the middle of the night to make a phone call or do a Google search.
In the past year, I've learned the value of allowing time to pass. Letting an idea simmer for days or weeks before acting is still challenging, but I'm improving. In part, I was forced to learn this patience because things just can't happen at the speeds they used to (ie, my worries are no longer about dropping a class or switching shifts at work). Mostly, though, I learned enough about myself to recognize that I will always benefit from taking more time to process than my impulses would have me believe.
4. If you look, you'll find something worthwhile in every single day. On NYE, I opened a bottle of wine and poured 3 glasses. My sister, mother and I toasted to the new year and, just for laughs, decided to give each other resolutions. My mom advised my sister to be more adventurous (hello, roadtrip), and her words for me were classic. "I wish you would realize that life is the journey, not the destination. You're going to miss it because you're always wishing for the next thing."
Okay, Mom, consider yourself heard. It's no secret that my restlessness is taking its toll. In order to make it through the day, I have to focus on every present moment. The simple pleasure in a warm mug of tea. The strength of my muscles moving my body from plank position to up-dog. A chat with a neighbor. The sunrise, roadkill, general dissatisfaction, or any of those other things that make me cry. Let's be honest. Paying attention to the journey includes appreciating all feelings--not just the good ones.
So, 2011, as we meet, I wish to remember something about each of your days. And I promise to be honest with myself all 365.