Ah, a new year. A new start. When January 1st rolls around, there come shouts from two camps: those pro-resolutions and those against. I used to ally myself with the anti-resolutioners, taking the cynical approach. I mean, the first of January is truly arbitrary. It’s our own way of marking time. Isn’t every second the start of a new year? And so then, why resolve to do something that, when you don’t, will just make you feel terrible?
But then, then, my heart started to change. Sure, the first of the year is arbitrary, but we humans are a people of dates. We celebrate anniversaries of births, marriages, deaths, using the calendar to remember and challenge. We give ourselves deadlines and goals. Of course time is this mysterious force, but it’s how we operate – at least in the Western hemisphere.
This is how I see it: resolutions are important, almost necessary. At their very core, New Years Resolutions are about hope in change. And now I’ve started to pity those who take the cynic’s route. Maybe they are confident in themselves enough to say, “I will not start something that I know I will not finish.” But for me, I want to believe that I can change. I want to create new habits and discontinue old ones. And there’s nothing wrong with striving. Obviously, one of my resolutions isn’t to get married or to get my doctorate – both completely unrealistic – but I think I can strive for my basic life-bettering goals, most of which I’ve been trying to implement for a few months (with varying success). They just weren’t on paper.
So here we go. For 2011, my most challenging resolution is this: To be unafraid. Let me explain.
In looking ahead, I –a hopeless nostalgic – had to look back. Because resolutions are a type of labeling, of putting a name to something you’d like to change, I began to label the last few years, summing them up with a word or a phrase. As I put words to my experiences, they became richer and clearer. Obviously, one word cannot encompass the variety of experiences, the losses and joys that 365 days contain, but it shows me where God has taken me and maybe where he is going to take me.
These last few years have had a lot of changes. In short, 2006 was about aloha – both hello and good-bye. 2007 was marked by alone, 2008 by responsibility, and 2009 by letting go. Maybe those years are easy to label, given that they’re college years and by their very nature consumed with transition.
This last year, though – 2010 – has been different. I haven’t been in school for the first time in nearly 20 years. I marked life by its seasons, the actual weather-related seasons, welcoming spring with joy, into summer, then fall, and nearing winter. I discovered nights were for sleeping, and weekends were for playing, and all of that other time was easily filled with errands, tea, cooking, driving, working.
But at its core, 2010 was about staying. I started a new job at the beginning of the year, which was exciting and challenging, but it was at a division of the college from which I had just graduated. I continued living in my same apartment, with my same roommate. I watched her prepare for her wedding and move into her married life with her husband. I watched other friends start jobs farther away, move into new apartments, start graduate school. Everyone seemed to be moving, and I was standing still. The new job had plenty of things to learn about and from, but I found that most of the change in my life was happening around me, and I simply reacted to the change that others experienced. By association, my life was changing.
It was a year of staying just in my location. I didn’t have vacation days, so I didn’t really leave the Portland area. I went home to Calgary for three days at Easter, and I visited Medford once and Seattle once. Oh, and Boise for work, I suppose. But I felt really stuck – and not always in a bad way. Because I had to stay put, I learned to love where I’m located. I explored Portland and all it had to offer me, places I didn’t have time to go while I was in school. I went to jazz clubs and slam poetry events and plays. I tried new restaurants and met friends in the city and the suburbs, exploring their homes.
And I lived life with my friends as their lives transitioned more than mine. I grieved with a friend as she looked for a job for months. I asked another friend to move in with me when she was looking for a cheap place to live. I walked with friends through the first months of marriage, new jobs, work samples, performances, and I celebrated with them as they came through challenges, exhausted but unscathed. I was the one in their corner, with a bottle of water or a wet towel, wiping the sweat, tears, and blood from their faces and giving them the encouragement to go at it again.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think 2011 will be like that.
My 2011 is going to be about stepping out. My life will look similar day-to-day, but I have some major trips coming up that require some bravery. I am getting out into the world, seeing new places, adventuring alone or with another person, exploring this planet. And it starts with a little weekend trip to San Diego, a place I’ve never been before. It escalates with a trip to Europe in May, my first solo overseas adventure. And then a few weeks after that, I go to see my little sister graduate from high school. And hopefully after that I will celebrate my grandparents with the rest of my family in Minnesota.
These new adventures will teach me more about myself and how I do things. I will learn to be alone in a crowd of people and one with strangers. I will hold my plans loosely, for my time is not my own. And I will pray a lot, as I venture into unknown areas – by myself but not forgotten.
Other than those physical trips, I need to step out and start making some decisions for the future. I don’t know what they’ll be, exactly, but I have a feeling they’re going to take me far away. I haven’t thought too much about that because it scares me. And yet…this year is about being brave.
I’m a fearful person. I’m anxious and uptight, and rarely relaxed. It’s true. My resolution is not to change every bit of who I am, because those descriptions are me, as unflattering as they may be. But I’m starting to realize how much my perceptions of situations as scary hold me back from going full steam ahead, instead often stopping me dead in my tracks. I don’t want to live like that, and I’m certain God doesn’t want me to either.
I saw a fantastic movie this past week. Called The King’s Speech, it’s been raved about by critics and viewers alike. It’s nominated for a number of awards over this season, and my roommate and I decided to go see it. We thought, “Colin Firth! How can we go wrong?” We promptly remembered, “Mamma Mia” and laughed, because it was a terrible horrible movie with fantastic actors in it. Why, oh why, Meryl? And Colin? And Pierce, he-who-is-suave-but-cannot-sing? But I digress.
The King’s Speech is based on the story of King George XI, who came to power by the death of his father and the abdication of his brother, a situation that England had never experienced before. This was in the turbulent time between the Great War and World War II, and Bertie – the man who would become King George – did not want to be king. The title preyed on every single one of his insecurities, all of them a fact, which manifested itself in his horrible stutter. The scenes where Bertie has to speak are incredibly heart-wrenching and painful. Bertie finds an unconventional speech therapist who assists him in managing his impediment, and the therapist does more than that. He challenges Bertie to rise to the occasion.
But Bertie is scared. He is so terribly, terribly scared. He cannot speak, he cannot rule, he cannot be strong. You see it in his face, in his eyes, the little boy who wants to run away. But he can’t – he’s supposed to be king. And in Bertie’s face, I saw my own. I saw how frightened I get of what life puts in front of me. I see how I do not believe that I am capable of handling what I must go through.
Yet I also know, as Bertie finds out, that challenges change us. I know God says he can’t give us more than we can handle, and I’m not exactly sure I believe the common interpretation of that verse, which basically boils down to believing life will be okay and only marginally difficult. Untrue. I believe that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle with his help – which is literally anything. That verse doesn’t get us off the hook – it almost lulls us into a false sense of security, and then we feel blindsided when scary things happen. Oh, we who cannot remember! How quickly we forget the provision of God!
Granted, the scary things that I see ahead of me are truly wonderful things – at least those things I can see. I’m sure I’ll have my fair share of terrible things come my way this year too. But I am determined to not be afraid this year, to let my God be my guide instead of my fear. I don’t want my fear to be the driver any longer. It costs too much and the ride is anything but smooth.
Be unafraid. Step out.
2011, let’s go.