Reflecting on 2018

(GIF above is from my trip at the end of 2018 to Joshua Tree National Park)

The older I get, the more I appreciate time’s guiding markers. I agree, maybe it is a bit arbitrary. To celebrate a revolution around the sun doesn’t actually mean it’s a new starting point for anyone’s life. We don’t go in to a new year somehow different people. We don’t magically restart, it is work. For me though, it is a cognitive reset which puts me in a better position to be smarter about how I work, and how I focus it.

The chance to do that-either with friends or on your own- is a wonderful experience, especially after tough times. In recent annal resets (heh) I’ve spent it as I’ve wanted to, either; on my own drinking champagne, reading philosophy and comics, and listening to Arrowsmith; driving through Joshua Tree blasting U2 unabashedly; or with my closest friends high up in the mountains and dancing around in the blissful darkness with our ridiculous amounts of glowsticks and nights infinite points of light high above our heads. Life is hard and ridiculous. That we can have these preciously good moments, that I can do it however I want, is a gift/blessing/such dumb luck.

The older I get, the more I’m more honest about the type of person I am. I value resiliency and resourcefulness, and am happy that I have that. Because I valued that though so much, I’d only want people to see that strength. I never wanted people to see me struggle or show a softer side of myself. I wasn’t always successful by the way, especially when I first fell in love, which was heartbreaking. Boyyyy, was that an experience in humility and a struggle. But what my experiences, especially the experience of heartbreak, taught me was that I am very human and with that are flaws, but being softer and vulnerable-in appropriate moments- is not a weakness.

I used to mistake a softness of being with weakness. If people don’t see the strengths I do have, I just can’t care so much any more. If they make assumptions about who I am when they see my softer sides, I don’t care. Too tired. That’s another beautiful facet of getting older-you’re just too exhausted to care about inconsequential things.

Strength just is being honest about who you are, especially in the face of expectations; being able to be vulnerable when you have been hurt before, being resilient in the face of failures and hardships, loving in spite of heartbreak, etc.. Being human fully is a strength and a privilege.

Moreover, maybe that I am celebrating these moments is an indication that every year, I become healthier. The more I go through life, the more OK I am that life will never fully be OK. I don’t mean this is a sad way. I just do do not see despair through the experience of harsh hardships anymore.

What I mean is I grew up in a chaotic environment. I got through by reassuring myself that if I get to “this” point in my life, things will be more safe and it will be ok. Just get up and keep going. It’s a good attitude to have, but it’s also important to be able to enjoy life at any point if you can because the reality is, “shit happens”. Always. Doesn’t matter how well you’re doing, horrible things happen and if you’re not in a mindset to focus and deal with it, you’ll always be running in fear.

Or at least I was. This is destructive in at least a couple of ways; you reinforce the actions that cause the fear in the first place and you forget to enjoy the good things, which lacks reinforcing behaviors that lead to those good things. If you don’t value the good you do have, you can’t build on it.

In my case, I was always trying to get to the next point. The good is-I hope this doesn’t sounds indulgent as I have a lot of flaws- I did build up resiliency. I certainly have moments of crisis, but I always pick myself back up and reassess and adjust, which is something I value and am grateful for. The bad is, I was never in a mindset to really absorb the information of things that interested me and to enjoy the good in my life. As a child, I couldn’t really control the chaos, but as an adult I gained more of that control. It took me a long time after I started to gain control to get to the point that I didn’t feel that every negative event/attitude was a sign that I was less than or that my fundamental safety wasn’t at risk.

In recent years, I’ve built a nice life for myself. There have been some low lows, but the positives have been so incredible. If I kept running, I would never be able to enjoy these wonderful moments. I’ve learned to embrace the negatives so that I could appreciate the positives. I always valued adventure and experience. With that comes hardships. Indeed, every year is hard in some way, but every year gets better for me overall. Those hardships have gone from sources of fear and reactivity into lessons. Not that I am perfect about this always, but it is moving continually in that direction. I certainly hope that my life will be less tough this year than in previous years. However, if that means I can’t progress, I’ll stick to resiliency.

I guess really, I don’t even think of the New Year as a time for a new me. I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am at. Even if it a modest location in life, it is mine. I’ve worked very hard to be who I am now. Why would I want to throw that away? I’ve a lot of flaws, but I am in a position to work on it. A celebration of a new year is a chance for me to compare where I was previously and reevaluate strategies…and it’s a chance to imbibe and be silly 🙂

Life is very hard for many of us in this world. I can’t believe how lucky I am to experience such amazing things with the bad things. I do have days when I have no idea how I’ll get through, but I am more aware of just how lucky I am and I hope because of that I will have the privilege to continue to build on that.

l hope to continue to build this life I’ve slowly been creating for myself and to eventually be in a position to help others to do the same.

And so, I became free

Growing up, silence was a safety mechanism. As an adult, thanks to a couple of wonderful people, I’ve used that silence in more powerful ways while concurrently developing my voice in different ways. Last few months, I began to paint. Here are the last ones of the year.

I’ve been less afraid to be both vulnerable and assertive; to have my heart open and to be a badass (badassery in my mind, not quite there yet). I’m more trusting in myself to show my weaknesses so that I can grow. Pain will come, but so will love. I’d rather experience both than nothing at all.

2017 was challenging, but thanks to a lot of love I have grown so much. Here’s to 2018, filled with Hygge and imbibing and delicious foods.

Happy New Year!