A New Years’ Decision: I have decided to write a blog post on the first day of every month this year, however unpolished or messy or imperfect my thoughts may be.
The following thoughts are a scramble of new year’s eggs that I am just going to throw out there because otherwise they will rot in my basket and I will never be able to commit to anything (maybe that’s a little melodramatic but I feel this quite strongly right now, at least about writing).
Failing to plan is the same as planning to fail.
This morning at church, the pastor quoted this catchy aphorism and related our general lack of precise planning in keeping New Year’s resolutions to our lack of intention in pursuing a closer relationship with God. How often do we say, “This year I want to know God better!” and then continue on for the rest of the year with our same habits and lack of discipline? It was a simple message but one that I very much needed to hear, not only for my spiritual walk but for my life in general, for all the decisions that I plan to make without really planning how to get there. I often excuse myself for these tendencies by saying, “Oh, I’m just a big P (as in, Myers-Briggs personality type P vs. J),” brushing off any seemingly unnecessary responsibility in my life because in reality, I’m just a lazy perfectionist with a huge fear of failure and inadequacy. What I really need to learn is to have a growth mindset (the one that’s being touted in all my educational psychology and methodology classes, and apparently in all the fancy new design-thinking/entrepreneurship circles), to see my imperfections not as a judgment against my quality or character as a person, but as markers of opportunity to challenge myself and get better, smarter, wiser, kinder, whatever it is I’m currently lacking.
Every holiday season when my family is all back together, we have a great time, because we love each other and eat lots of amazing food and take a million happy photos and post them all over social media to prove to ourselves and others that we are one big happy family. However, every holiday together also inevitably winds up being incredibly stressful, full of conflict and resolutions that don’t seem complete, bitter jabs at each other person’s intentions and tone, something that didn’t strike me the right way, you just don’t understand me, you’re ruining my plans, you’re so inconsiderate, I just want to be heard, we’re all egomaniacs, etc. etc. This season is no different from the others, and I know, conflict is natural and often necessary for smoothing out rough edges and getting us to all understand each other better and to grow closer as a family, yet it seems a little different coming at the end of such a rough year.
I don’t think anyone will be surprised if I say that the year 2016 can be summarized, for me, perhaps most aptly, with one word: Conflict. I don’t mean that in an entirely negative way; like I just said, conflict is often a necessary good masked in angry evil robes. Still, so much conflict is inexplicable and maddening, from global events and trends that I feel powerless to change–war in the Middle-East, race relations in America, the crazy presidential campaign, terrorism and terror and other acts of violence all around the world, bullying in schools–to personal struggles that are equally real and difficult to control–frustration with administrative bureaucracy and unfriendly coworkers, cultural differences and misunderstandings, interpersonal conflicts with friends and family, figuring out where to go, what to do, whom to live with, whom to date or love or marry, whom to talk to, what to say and how to say it, what to buy and what to save, what to eat and what to share, when to assert myself and when to compromise, what I feel and what I need and what I want and what I believe–all these conflicts, external and internal, have shaped an incredibly challenging past year of my life. Of course, many of these difficulties existed before 2016 and may very well continue to exist in 2017 and beyond, but I think that they seem particularly large in my mind because it was also my first full year as an independent adult, post college graduation, out here in the ‘real world.’ I think that I have felt lost and confused and lonely more often in the past year than I have in most, if not all, of the 23 years that preceded it, partly because the world in general seems like a pretty crazy place lately and partly because I had to choose this particular historical moment to pop my head out of the lovely orange bubble of school and take it all in and foolishly, perhaps futilely, try to make sense of it.
There may not be any better time to experience all the conflict or confusion of the ‘real world,’ however, and every historical moment probably seems pretty crazy to the people who happen to inhabit it. What matters most is the decisions that we make in light of all the crazy, the conversations we have, the actions we take, the relationships we invest in. I don’t have any solid answers to so many questions that have arisen over the course of the last year, but I do know that I want to turn 2017’s key word in another direction. 2017 will inevitably have its conflicts as well, but I hope that this year I will not simply be a passive receiver or observer, but really make the efforts needed to gain a deeper understanding of the global issues all around us as well as of the inner turmoil of my personal thoughts and feelings. 2017 is, by nature of the chronological order of life events in my particular moment in history and culture, a year that will necessitate many important decisions such as where I will start my first long-term job as a teacher, in middle school or high school, on the East coast or the West coast; whether I will get married in the near future (and by “near future” I mean in the next three years, so don’t worry, I have no big secrets), and to whom; whether I will adopt a cat (you might laugh or roll your eyes at this but it is a very serious consideration for me), and the list of things I may have to decide but don’t know about yet that goes on and on.
I have always joked about being very very indecisive, but I think that, similarly to the line, “I’m just a terrible procrastinator,” it is simply an excuse to avoid responsibility and potential failure in my own eyes. This year, I want to make a habit of decision. That is, I want to make decisions boldly, whether for large or small things, and to do so without so much fear that any one decision is going to ruin the course of my entire life, because it’s simply not so. Of course, I want to make decisions wisely and carefully, but the point is that I want to make them, to have plans, to follow through, and to look back only to see how I have grown and where I can continue to make amends.
My first New Year’s Decision is to do all the things I keep putting off out of fear, like writing.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1, NIV).
If God does not condemn me, then why do I continue to condemn myself?
In 2017, I want to stop worrying and waiting and telling myself, “Whatever, it was never that important anyway.”
In 2017, I want to start writing and working through my worries and telling myself, “Yes, it is worth pursuing, and yes, I will do it, and yes, it will be okay.”