I am always hesitant to write an end of year post. Whether I reflect on the year about to end, or share my hopes for the year that has not yet begun, I run risks. If I look back over the past year, I risk writing a piece that sounds more like a highlight reel—similar to Facebook posts and holiday letters—where I focus on the best moments and choose to leave out the minutes, hours, and days that brought me to my knees during the past twelve months—and there were many. If I cast an eye to the future, I risk making predictions that have no chance of coming true, no matter how much I may want my life to reflect those pie-in-the-sky dreams of learning new languages, curing society’s ills, and traveling to places I have never seen. If I do this, I will be gravely disappointed twelve months from now when I have accomplished none of the lofty goals I set for myself.
Instead of running either of those risks, I think I will just write about what is on my mind right now, as I sit by the fire on this cold Colorado night.
As is usually the case, I’m worried. I have no idea what the year ahead holds for the world. Will terrorist groups, and troubled individuals inspired by them, continue to wreak havoc, causing us to approach life from a place of fear rather than a place of love? Will peaceful people continue to be forced from their homes, their towns, their countries—with no place to go? Will those who are most vulnerable continue to be bought and sold, trafficked for the financial benefit of others? Will our environment continue to deteriorate past the point of no return? I find myself more afraid for the world than I have ever been, which is really saying something since I grew up with one eye on the sky, wondering when the nuclear bombs were going to obliterate us all.
I’m also reflective on a personal level, as I have entered a new phase of life where years of “active” parenting have come to a close. I now have fewer years ahead than behind, even if I am lucky enough to live a long life. I’m finding that I just don’t care as much about society’s “shoulds” and “have tos.” I have jumped through all those hoops. I have enjoyed some, loathed others, and spent way too much time utterly exhausted. While I regret some of the paths I have taken and choices I have made, I am also so very tired of regrets, of shame, of guilt. I imagine myself shedding each one–regret, shame, guilt, anger, sadness, exhaustion–feeling lighter and brighter as each layer peels away.
I imagine finding work that allows me to engage in generativity—sharing what I have learned on my journey with others—giving back, paying it forward, helping, healing, making a small difference one person and one community at a time. I would like to touch other lives in ways that are truly meaningful. I would really like to do this by engaging with people face to face in real time and not through some kind of electronic device in cyberspace. I am craving human connection, not screen time. Meaningful human connection is what our world needs. It is what I need.
And I would like to make time to play—really play—something I am ashamed to admit I haven’t done since I was a child. Oh, I have played games with my kids, but I haven’t engaged in play for myself in so long that I don’t even know what that would look like. But there are days I wake up craving it.
As one person, I will never fix the world’s problems that I worry about every single day—terrorism, the refugee crisis, human trafficking, climate change. I can try to be mindful and increase awareness and contribute to worthwhile causes, but I won’t fix those problems.
As one person, I can strive to give back and share my life lessons with others, to find those places where I can make a difference. I can learn to be gentler with myself, to forgive myself and others, to open myself up to new adventures, and embrace each moment for the experience it is—whether it is work, or play, or simply life unfolding. After all, I have no idea how many moments are left.
This is what is on my mind right now, as I sit by the fire on this cold Colorado night.