Updated: Jan 13, 2019
On New Year’s Eve, I sat on a stationary bike at the gym scrolling through a million different reflective Instagram posts about the things people learned and did and want to do in the coming year. Despite the fact that I was exercising and should have been benefitting from the endorphins (which makes you happy, and happy people just don’t shoot their husbands), I found myself feeling pretty awful. It’s such a cliché, but social media-overload tends to do that. The old comparison game never gets easier to avoid. I learned things too! I grew too! Why don’t I feel like I did after reading about all the things that you all learned?
Finally, I came across a post from a girl named Marijane, an English major and writer who attends school with me.
I messaged her immediately, grateful for a moment of feeling a little bit less lonely in my discouragement. I think I have a hard time creating categories for an entire year of my life. Wonderful things happened for me in 2018. I gained a lot of relationships and healed a lot of existing relationships. I dated my best friend. I discovered the show Bojack Horseman and read the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I visited new places and completed my first internship. But a lot of hard things happened. I lost a lot of important relationships and dealt with a lot of hurt in other relationships, caused on both sides. My best friend and I broke up. I also discovered that there are people in the world that call peach ring candy "peachy-o's," which was definitely a major low of my year.
Something I've been thinking about a lot is that fact that the majority of the posts I read on New Year's Eve could probably be reused and recycled every year anyways. In reality, it seems that the majority of our lives consist of us learning the same lessons over and over again until we die. That seems harsh, but I think that it may be a good thing.
I watched this sermon a few weeks ago from Father Greg Boyle, a Catholic priest who started Homeboy Industries, which is a gang rehabilitation program located in Los Angeles. In his talk, he tells a collection of stories about his interactions with the gang members that he works alongside and sprinkles in his own reflections with Scripture. At one point, he says, "All of us are called to be what the late, great child psychologist Alice Miller calls 'enlightened witnesses,' people who through your kindness and tenderness and focused intent of love return people to themselves. You don't hold the bar up and ask people to measure up. You just show up and you hold the mirror up and you tell people the truth..."
I think that is what God often does. It doesn't take a lot to forget our value. And by his grace, year after year, we relearn the same lessons over and over again and are continually returned to ourselves. My year was bad and good. Good and bad. I can't categorize it. It was a gray year, not simply one way or another. It was a year that I took steps forward and steps backward and was returned to myself once again. I changed and I didn't change. I could make a million new lists about things that I "mislearned" every year and it would continually look different because the lies that aim to destroy us are good at shapeshifting. As for things that I learned? That list is going to continually look the same as I am continually returned to myself.
I have a tiny black book that I write ideas or thoughts I have throughout the day in. It has two stickers on it, one of the painting The Kiss by Gustav Klimt and an "Ezer Kenegdo" sticker. Sometimes I'll have thoughts that I think are deep and beautiful (or something that seemed deep and beautiful when I wrote it and now just seems pretentious and annoying), usually in the form of reflections on a quote from someone I admire. Other times, I'll write something like, "I always find myself vehemently opposed to cargo shorts." Welcome to my brain. If someone can translate half of the things I wrote in here, I will pay them a large sum of money because I don't know what's going on either.
I wrote a lot of questions in my book throughout this past year and I thought I would share some of those instead of reflective answers, because I seem to have even less of those than I did last year, but certainly a lot more questions:
Are leadership and submission the same thing?
How often do we live and act contrary to beliefs or values we hold? How many beliefs do we maintain simply to not be wrong/seem arrogant?
Do emotions tell us about reality or about what is important to us? Or both?
Why do both male and female photographers take more pictures of women than men?
Are you seeking creativity to bring glory to the Creator?
What do I want to do someday?
Is anyone REALLY strong and independent?
Also, I listened to a lot of music this past year and I wanted to include a list of a few of my favorites. A lot of it is old and a lot of it is new and very little of it goes together.
"715 - CRΣΣKS" - Bon Iver
"After the Storm" - Kali Uchis (ft. Tyler, The Creator & Bootsy Collins)
"Cold Arms" - Mumford and Sons
"Alien Boy" - Oliver Tree
"Ex-Factor" - Ms. Lauryn Hill
"Dreams" - Fleetwood Mac
"Girl from the North Country" - Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash
"Hope and Sorrow" - Wilder Adkins
"With The Ink Of A Ghost" - José González
"Violet Crimes" - Kanye West
"If You Need To, Keep Time On Me" - Fleet Foxes
"BRACKETS" - J. Cole
"The Girl From Ipanema" - Stan Gertz
"I Heard the Bells" - The Brilliance
"Library Magic" - The Head and the Heart
"#9 Dream" - John Lennon
"All Fired Up" - Matt Corby
"Drifter (In Loving Memory)" - Corey Kilgannon
In other news, I did make a few "resolutions." Essentially, I want to invest more time in learning and explore new hobbies and topics. So far, we're starting off on a good foot because I've been reading that C.S. Lewis biography from Alister McGrath I mentioned previously (I'm about halfway through it at this point. It's excellent and I would highly recommend it. Reflections to follow I'm sure.) and I also started drawing again. When I was younger, I was an excellent artist and spent a lot of time drawing but as I've gotten older, my skills have become more mediocre (often just straight up BAD). When I was younger, I tended to have a lot of side hobbies in general and I miss that. I think having hobbies is a humbling experience because you recognize how truly awful you are at something and how much work and listening it requires to get even mediocre at it.
My "resolutions" are to doing more things that force me to learn something that I would be otherwise uncomfortable with or horrible at and also, to care about what I'm doing. A lot of times, learning things makes us self-conscious and we are quick to try to detach our feelings from the process because of a fear that it will affect how we value ourselves. Instead of trying to learn something with the mantra "It doesn't really matter and I don't care all that much anyways", I want to try to learn things this year with every part of myself. I want to paint and draw and embroider and read and photograph and write and care about those things so that when I finally do get mediocre at them, I can claim that as an extension of myself.
This week, I opened up one of the (millions of) coffee table books I have and drew one of the pictures from it. The original photo was taken by Steve McCurry in 1997 in Yemen.
Yeah, it's definitely mediocre. But that's better than bad. (Also, BIG thanks to Liz and Summer for the beautiful journal. I love the texture of the pages so much.)
As an aside, I say "resolutions" because I feel weird about doing something for only the time span of a year. I want to do these things this year, but I don't want to "resolve" them once the year is up.