I reluctantly turned another year older this month (cue the cake and candles), propelling me ever closer to the New 20. Here are some of the takeaways this past year afforded.
Less is more.
I gave a lot away this year. Clothes, kitchenware, bedding, books, mementos whose meaning had gradually faded with time. I began embracing the notion that each of one’s belongings should have personal significance, and speak to the person you see yourself as now, rather than who you identified as 5 years ago. We grow and change, and our surroundings should reflect that. I went back to basics this year, and realized that in order to cultivate a sacred living space, I had to eliminate the excess and update the long-forgotten.
If you don’t make time for what you love, you won’t do it.
Time is a fickle friend. There’s never enough of it, or so we like to believe. Perhaps there’s simply not enough “us” to fill our time. We overbook, undersleep, and then scramble to be all places at once, racing to the finish line of each day. This year, I tried carving out more room for what I enjoy. I found that the unfilled minutes and hours of my weeks were not unspoken for – they just were not being spent in the way I desired. I started making small promises to myself of things I wanted to do daily, weekly, and long-term. I ran more, wrote more, read whatever I could get my hands on, and reserved weekends for traveling. It hasn’t been seamless, but seeking out deliberate time and space each day to connect with something I love has become a priority.
Ebb and flow is constant.
This year, like many before it and many to undoubtedly follow, moved in unpredictable ways. Change, uncertainty, instability – these are the chapters that comprise our story. I’m learning to embrace each one, and accept their contribution. They may not be our favorite to read, but are often the ones we find ourselves thinking about and absorbing long after we have put down one book and picked up the next.
To be yourself is good. To know yourself is better.
I learned a lot about myself this year. Each day brings seemingly endless opportunities to do so, and I started tuning into them more, examining what I’m like when I’m alone, where my mind drifts when it wanders, what I desire from others, what I expect from myself. The questions and their answers may change, but the need to visit and revisit them remains. This is one of the most worthwhile investments I have made, and the implications it has for my relationships, work, and ways of being are continuously unfolding.
This is a beginning.
There is no panacea. There is not an ultimate lesson. There is not a final answer or antidote that reveals itself when we reach a certain age. This past year, there were many times I wished that there had been. It’s only through looking back that I understand that the wisdom I’ve gained is merely a beginning, to uncovering more of myself, and to navigating the flurry of joys and challenges this next year will bring. Lewis Carroll wrote, “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” On this birthday, for that I am grateful: for all the yesterdays that have carried me to where I am today, and for all the questions that remain to be asked.