After ‘Fifteen Comes ‘Sixteen

IMG_5706Hello. It’s been a while.

Let me blame it on 2015. It was a hard year, man, as evidenced by my lack of posting and high number of emotional breakdowns. Yet, it was good. Friendships fell apart and then were pieced back together. Movement happened. Graduations, applications, uncertainty and confusion. Much changed, even while I so desperately tried to hold things the same. It was a year that involved plenty of growth, and the realization that I have a lot of growing to do.

Writing-wise, I wrote a thesis that was 136 pages long, and I wrote lesson plans for plenty of classes, but I didn’t do any other writing. For months, I wrote only for school, for class, and for my freelance projects. I barely read: 17 books in 2015, as compared to 50 books on average the previous four years. But I worked so hard. 2015 was the year that made me tired. So, I have some plans for 2016.

First, a recap. Fifteen Significant Things of 2015, in absolutely no particular order:

  1. Ate mole in San Antonio – not mole like the animal, mo-lay like the delicious Spanish dish. San Antonio is a lovely place, even in the rain.
  2. 4 Cs – Going to the Conference on College Composition and Communication (in sunny Tampa) showed me that I do actually love the field of rhetoric and composition. A good reminder, in the midst of thesis stress, that pain has purpose.
  3. Turned down a job – So I was offered a job, with health insurance, and I turned it down because I think I would have been really exhausted and really unhappy. Sometimes self-knowledge can be scary…and empowering.
  4. Seattle with sister-friend and farewell to Newberg (again) – I went to the West Coast to watch my sister graduate, see evergreens, and say good-bye to Newberg all over again, as my best friends sold their home and moved to the East Coast.
  5. Got my master’s degree, and my parents were here to celebrate – I did it. I finished. 136 pages and many tears later, I got a fancy new hood, a new line on my C.V., and exhaustion.
  6. Moving – is the worst. But my new apartment has interior glass doors, wood floors, and lots of natural sunlight.
  7. The summer of everything, then nothing – The first part of the summer was thesis to the max. The second was pool to the max. I loved the pool part of the summer.
  8. Went to a Czech festival and a Texas rodeo – Central Texas, a hotbed of cultural experiences. Who knew?
  9. Learned how to curl my hair – Learning new skills keeps the brain cells from dying.
  10. Taught full-time (at three different institutions) – All I can say is that there are a lot of names to memorize and a lot of assignments to grade. And every once in a while, there’s a brilliant exquisite moment of clarity that tells you it’s worth it.
  11. Won trivia – I’m busy Thursday nights. My trivia team has gotten pretty darn good, and I’m prouder of this than most other aspects of my life.
  12. Broke into a house with a credit card – Relax, I knew the owners. Just know that the context for this act was stomach flu at a wedding. Also, Alabama is lovely!
  13. Anything involving Madelyn Christine – This kid is now 20ish months old, and she’s a gem. Sure, she drives her mother crazy, but she’s smart, funny, silly, curious, and straight-up adorable. I love seeing that little girl whenever I can: in Newberg, in Boston, over Skype. She owns my heart.
  14. Star Trek: The Next Generation & Jurassic Park – 2015: Captain Picard kept me sane through thesis-ing, and now I get why I should be afraid of velociraptors.
  15. Hamilton – I know, I know. Me and everyone else. But it is straight up brilliant, and I’ve been following the career of Lin-Manuel Miranda for years. It’s both a revolution and a revelation. Just stop being cynical and love it already.

So, that’s 2015 in a tiny nutshell.

It’s just like me to do a year in review over three weeks into the new year. Same for resolutions. I like to bypass the window of failure. By making the resolutions late, I’ve already failed. The pressure is off!

In years past, I haven’t really done resolutions. I find them anxiety-producing. So, I’ve conceptualized the year’s goals differently: using words (no surprise there). In the past, I’ve chosen one word for each year, words like yes, brave, balance. I guess I didn’t chose a word for last year. I don’t think I had any idea what my life would be like in that year.

Surprise: still no idea what 2016 will hold. But the word that keeps coming to mind is Health. Honestly, I hate it. I hate this word. It makes me think of the doctor and diets and exercise and making good choices that really actually suck. But I can’t get it out of my mind. I think it’s my word for 2016.

It’s my word, I think, because I’ve made some choices this past year that weren’t healthy: physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, spiritually. We can’t make the best choice 100% of the time, but I’m realizing that I want to be healthy. I want to feel proud of the progress I’m making in my life. I don’t want to get stuck; I don’t want to indulge habits that feel good in the moment but ultimately leave me empty.

That’s the idea, isn’t it? Health means fullness. It doesn’t mean deprivation or frustration or isolation. It means goodness, hope, energy, life, and fullness. So, here are some ways I’d like to be healthy this year. I’m not holding myself to any of them, but I’m interested in seeing how my life could change.

Physically: Make choices that give me more life, instead of sapping my life (this probably means an emphasis on the exercise/vegetables/sleep side of things)
Emotionally: Take a Sabbath for my mind and heart to rest
Relationally: Spend time with ones who naturally bring me joy instead of trying to force joy
Professionally: Work hard and give myself grace (and a lunch break)
Artistically: Give myself the room and the permission to write and read
Spiritually: Use these other means of health to clear the way for sacred experiences

Who knows what 2016 will bring? Already, it’s more of the same: fighting, blizzards, and uncertainty. But I’m going to approach it with clarity, hope, and health. We’ll see what happens. Hang in there with me, will you?

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8 thoughts on “After ‘Fifteen Comes ‘Sixteen

  1. Nurse Annette applauds the maturity of focusing on health. And understands why other things have taken priority, because my own life at an entirely different stage has not had the focus there that I would like. Just make the small daily choices and the grocery shopping decisions. Have nuts and roasted vegetables with olive oil and try tasty things. And dark chocolate to satisfy the sweet tooth, just a single Dove chocolate bitten into 3 bites and savored. Walk when you can and enjoy feeling your body move. Set your life up so something is regularly walkable, whether church or work or your favorite coffee place.

  2. Congrats, friend, on surviving what sounds like an incredibly difficult (and amazing) year. And I love your goals for 2016. I, too, am working on health — on balance and joy. I’m still trying to figure out what living life well (in all places, and all situations) really looks like. How to make space for the things I love. And how to recognize — and choose — wholeness, even when it isn’t the easiest of choices.

    I’d love to pick your brain about rhetoric and composition sometime. I’m teaching AP Lang this year, and I feel SO out of my depth. Knowing how to write, and knowing how to teach writing, are really NOT the same things.

    1. Balance and joy — such beautiful and difficult things. I’m glad to have fellow venturers toward all manners of health; it makes the journey seem more doable.

      I’d love to talk more about rhet/comp! I’m still very much a novice, and I had to realize the same thing about writing vs. teaching writing. I do love teaching it, though, so let’s talk!

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