This is a 6-minute read.
We are nearly a month into 2019 and I am not entirely sure how that happened. I feel like just a moment ago, we were in the midst of the scorching summer heat and I was complaining about the fact that it was 35 degrees in my new apartment before I was able to get an air conditioning unit in the window.
Every time I did anything – from painting my walls to putting together a free standing fan – my shins (yes, my shins) would immediately begin dripping beads of sweat and I found myself engulfed in salt water. Who needs a shower when you’re constantly wet? Okay, just kidding. I’m not sure I would have survived without my shower even though the minute I stepped out of the lukewarm stream I found myself sweating once again. But still. You get the picture.
They say time flies when you’re having fun, and this I have found to be true.
I’ve also found that the clock has this uncanny way of speeding up the older you become. These days, a week is nothing. We are all so busy so much of the time, who has a few minutes to spare to think, let alone look back on where they’ve come from? I used to spend hours setting elaborate goals and putting together a new vision board come December each year, but this year, New Years just felt like less of a big deal. It was my birthday in October that made me pause and think woah, I’m twenty?
I’ve been around for two whole decades.
How did that happen?
Regardless of the depths to which we go in order to ponder and plan, this time of year always incites a period of reflection and contemplation on the months to come and those that came before.
To be completely honest, I’ve grown somewhat averse to goal-setting recently. In my teens, I would set extremely specific and often unrealistic goals for myself and rarely achieve what I thought I wanted. So much can change in a year, so much both within and beyond our control. Opportunities can come up, ones we we are not even aware exist before they are thrown into our path. Obstacles can appear just as readily. Who we think we are gets challenged with each curveball life throws our way. We change. We grow. We adapt…or we don’t. We get stuck, stagnant as the air in a room with no ventilation. We yearn for the illusion of control, but the thing is?
There is no way to predict the future, no matter how hard we try. And I’ve tried, trust me. In the (somewhat painful) process, I’ve learned that clinging to our beliefs about the way things once were is the source of so much of our suffering.
In time, this list of unaccomplished goals began to weigh me down. I felt as though nothing I ever did was enough even though I did so much. I grew depressed, trapped in a prison that was my mind when all I could see were the things that weren’t quite right. So I tried desperately to control everything I could…until I couldn’t anymore.
I think back to a year ago, and back then time held a different quality for me than it does now. It passed quickly and all too slow at the same time. The clock had grown lethargic and I was living a waiting game, living on someone else’s terms rather than actively creating the life I wanted. I was stuck on those goals I’d created for myself, stuck in a box with stagnant air and too stubborn to realize how unhappy I was in the moment.
Cling, cling, cling.
It was all I wanted to do. But then my life began to unravel before my eyes.
Within the span of four months, it felt like I’d lost everything I’d worked for up until that point. I was raw. I was breathless. And still, I fought to find a way forward. Keep moving. Keep moving forward, I told myself. Keep breathing. Your heart is still beating? You’re here for a reason. You’ll figure it out.
So I started a “blog.” I started writing again, coaxing my broken heart back to life. I found a hand balancing coach and a dance teacher to help me grow. I took time off training for an injury and found a yoga studio that I love. I applied to some things, received some opportunities I thought I never would and met some wonderful people along the way. Slowly, step by step, I made my new city my home. And you know what?
I love my life in a way I never felt I could a year ago.
Sure, it’s lonely sometimes. Sure, there are challenges. But what life doesn’t have its challenges? In her book, Big Magic, author Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame recounts a conversation she had with a fellow artist. In it, she explains how every kind of work you will do in the world sucks a little bit. This may sound terribly pessimistic, but it actually relieves us of some of the pressure of finding that perfect job. “You just have to choose your flavour of shit sandwich,” Gilbert explains candidly, telling the story of an exceptionally talented writer she knew who never went anywhere because he wasn’t willing to put in the work. “It’s a choice.”
If every kind of work worth doing is going to suck a little bit, the question becomes: do you love it enough to put up with the parts you don’t like? Do you love what you are doing more than you don’t? If the answer is no, if you loathe your life more than you love it, it may be time for a change.
I guess I just had to find that out that hard way.
I say that life has a funny way of working itself out.
Life effectively ejected me from a situation I didn’t see was toxic, and I landed already having the tools to build my world from the ground up. I guess sometimes, we all need to have a little more faith in ourselves.
Over the recent holiday break, I was chatting with one of my closest friends about the intricacy of my story and how, had one thing happened differently, it is very likely I would not be where I am today. We imagined parallel versions of the person I’ve become. It’s a fun game, in way. It truly makes you appreciate the path you couldn’t see as it was being laid down before you.
Here’s one example: If I hadn’t stayed in gymnastics long enough to tear my ACL, I wouldn’t have chosen to do homeschooling for grade twelve. If I hadn’t taught myself grade twelve, I wouldn’t have had so much time to dedicate to training in what changed course from gymnastics to circus, and I wouldn’t have spent as much time creating art as I did. I then wouldn’t have met my acrobatic partner in my hometown and decided to train with him to audition together as a duo for the school I wanted to go to. And nothing would have been the same from there.
2018 was a hard year for me. Actually, I’ve heard it was a hard year for a lot of people. I am not saying that everything happens for a reason because sometimes things happen and they just really, really suck. Hearing that something deeply painful happened “for a reason” can be one of the worst things for someone who is grieving. So no, I don’t believe someone is pulling the strings from way up in the sky, making bad things happen to good people just to “teach them a lesson.” Everyone is allowed their own beliefs, and a spiteful creator is not part of mine.
That being said, I have discovered that purpose can be found in everything that happens, even the things that hurt.
So much of life is beyond our control but we always, always, always have the power to chose how we respond.
I can look back now and be grateful for everything I’ve experienced in the past few years my of life. Those experiences shaped me into who I am, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. I can be grateful for the people who came into my life for a time, even if those relationships didn’t last forever. Even if I still miss those people sometimes. Our memories keep us company in the moments we are alone. We carry pieces of every person we’ve ever loved with us wherever we go.
Looking forward into 2019, I’ve developed a new philosophy surrounding the things I want to accomplish. It happened subconsciously, as I learned and grew tired of clinging to things no longer meant for me. One day, I looked up and realized I had this vision for an extensive project I would like to create in the next two to three years. I don’t like the term “goals” anymore; in my head, this project just the thing I am doing now. And if that vision shifts and grows as I do, it’s okay. It’s okay. The most beautiful things happen when we dance between planning, taking action and surrendering to life, leaving room for serendipity and perhaps a little bit of luck to help us out.
So here’s to 2019. Here’s to a new year of learning, living, and laughing out loud – because life is always better when you’re laughing.
2019 is going to be a good year. I can feel it. Can you?