New Year, New Decade, New Story

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Note: I know it isn’t technically the “New Year” now that we are in February, but I broke my foot at the beginning of January and was unable to shoot the image for this post until my foot had recovered enough to be upright! Thanks for understanding!

I love a fresh start, and while the beginning of the year is literally nothing more than a date on a made-up calendar, it feels good to be given the opportunity to begin again. I find that we are all beginning again. Often. I am shedding old skin for the soft, supple lens of a new outlook. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to picking yourself up after a fall (a-hem), starting over with more experience, and continuing to grow — all while letting go of the past and leaving it where it belongs.

Why are new beginnings so important?

I think it’s because of what they allow us to do.

The New Year gives us permission to move on. It’s an allowance for starting over, for regeneration, growth, and all the good things that come from these sentiments. A letting go of things that didn’t serve us; a spring cleaning for the heart and soul. Sometimes you don’t need permission, but happen to renew yourself through strife, illness, or loss — a low point that leaves you with little choice but to rebound. But even still, a renewal we choose for ourselves is sometimes less effective, less real, than one that is presented to us by time. Welcome to 2020, it’s no longer the past, and the future is now!

That’s actually my mantra for this year: the future is now. It started as a joke — me sounding out the words twenty-twenty as if it were a year in the distant future. Eighties movies would have us all thinking there’d be flying cars by this time, and while we’re somewhat disappointed that that reality is not with us, it makes me think about what that means. Time is passing. Rapidly. The years collect no sooner than they’ve begun, and despite our best intentions, the future is upon us before we can engineer our incredible dreams. This year has made me realize, I don’t want to wait. I want to live life with intention, taking every day as an opportunity to live the life of my dreams now.

All this talk of saying goodbye to the decade and hello to a shiny new year has got me thinking: what am I taking with me? What lessons, challenges, hopes, and goals am I carrying over? What experiences will I filter through rose-colored glasses? It’s not everything, of course, but it’s also not only the things you would expect.

With looking forward, there is the equal and opposite reaction of looking back. It’s a necessary process of growth, and I spent much of November and December considering from whence I had come. The melancholy was real, the mourning of the past hung around me like a fog as I tallied up grievances, bundled up the pain, and stuffed emotions into a big pile of all that I had experienced in the past year and decade. It overwhelmed me. Not so much because I was seeking to relive it, but rather because it represented time I lost to sadness and disappointment. It took away from my dreams, my happiness, and the life I wanted. I worked through the stages of grief and came out knowing more about myself. I dug through the sadness and pulled out the lessons I learned from pain, and failure, and disappointment. They gave me the greatest gift I’ve ever received: resilience, which has come along with me into 2020. Those hard times, despite being unhappy, often difficult memories, have made me prepared for challenges ahead. I’m thankful for them. For the worldliness to see beyond joy and know that it lies behind even the toughest moments.

Small changes over time can appear as no changes at all. While I look back on the past ten years and think passively that I’m much the same, in truth, I have made a dramatic life transformation. From caterpillar to an almost butterfly. Caterpillar because I was young and hungry, but very slow and timid, vulnerable too; unable to chart my own course. And now I feel my wings unfurling, my instincts honing, and my inner beauty just beginning to bloom. I have learned so much about myself, the world, life — the list goes on. But I know there’s so much more to learn moving ahead. Choices, I am free to make now. The last ten years have made the launch into this one feel more like a rocket springing off the ground, rather than a slow climb up the mountain. I am fundamentally different. I have confidence. I know more about myself than I ever did before. I found hobbies that I enjoy, where the act of doing them makes me feel like my heart is dancing in my chest. I’ve never felt these things before, not with the added perspective of age or the learned patience of time. I feel slowing down, but not dimming, just taking the time to care more about each thing that I do, each new skill I acquire. I care less about what people think. I’m less frantic to succeed. I know my flaws, I know my bad angles, my trigger points, my weaknesses (some of which I like!), and I don’t try to bury them. It’s just there — the things I’ve worked on, and the things I am.

What’s refreshing about this year is that I’m happy. I should be, I’ve spent the last ten years working on myself — being a better person, a more patient partner, a reliable friend, a creator of joy, a passive enemy, a supportive family member, and a lover of everything I do. I’m proud of who I’m becoming.

And if looking back is hard, looking forward is the easy part; it is the stuff of hopes and dreams. Don’t be fooled in thinking that there shouldn’t be a plan, though, that dreams will float down from the cloud above your head fully formed as a gift from heaven. No, it’s up to you to decide those goals, to hope and pray for dreams as big as you can imagine, yes, but to chip each monolithic aspiration into small pieces that you can accomplish one at a time. Tangible tasks will take you a step closer to where you want to be.

It is with all this in mind that I’m so happy to celebrate the new year and the new decade. I permitted myself to look back, and I know moving forward, I am facing the world with all that I’ve learned and the hope to be a better, stronger person. It’s all any of us can wish for.

Well that, and a little bit of luck too!

What has looking back on the past ten years taught you about yourself? What are your hopes for the future and the year ahead?

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