Reflecting on the Old, Ringing in the New

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I know December tends to be the time when most people do their reviews of and reflections on the year and start preparing for the upcoming one, but I find that there is way too much of a full court press leading up to the holidays and, since I generally don’t take much time off work, the few days I have unplanned I like to keep that way.  Plus, it takes me awhile to really let the year marinade in my mind and the things I want to pursue in the upcoming year slowly form like the foggy images in Trelawny’s crystal ball. So January is when I really start to process what has occured. It’s like a month between years - wouldn’t that be nice?? A month between the old year and the new one??  

My word and theme for 2018 was release.  When I look back at my “Unraveling the Year Ahead - 2018” this is what I had to say about it:

“If I lived and breathed my word every day in 2018 I would be kinder and more grounded.  More concerned with what I can change instead of what I can’t. I would feel physically freer and stronger and more flexible.  More relaxed. Less stressed about things I can’t control. This time next year I will be setting bigger goals with more confidence.  Strong mentally and physically. This time next year I will have confidence, compassion and peace. This time next year I will feel energized and healthy and strong.  This time next year I will know that I can achieve all I put my mid to and that my ideas are worthwhile and fulfilling.”

Going through the year it didn’t really feel like a release, but perhaps it was more like turning the pressure valve ever so slightly so that by the end I would be ready to make the decisions I’ve now been contemplating.  I felt discontent this year. Just an underlying ache to everything. None of the big pain like in the previous few years, nothing overly wrong, but I suppose feeling underwhelmed. Just writing that makes me feel shame that I’m being ungrateful for the many many wonderful blessings I’ve received this year.  It was actually the first in perhaps 4 years where I didn’t end it saying FUCK THIS YEAR.

In 2015 I changed jobs for the first time and promptly entered a debilitating depression for 3 months and a lingering one for the entire 9 month period of that job.  My anxiety intensified to the point where I had trouble being in a crowd of any kind. Then in 2016 I changed jobs again and things seemed to be going great, until my marriage hit a brick wall I wasn’t sure we could overcome.  Through a lot of hard work we did come out so much stronger, diamonds released after monumental pressure. 2017 had a ton of travel that, while wonderful, exhausted me, a surgery and illness, the death of an inspiring mentor, and the suicide of a close family friend.  The suicide rocked me harder than I ever could have expected and I felt like I couldn’t talk about it and since I felt that I couldn’t talk about it yet it influenced every waking moment from September 11 through probably early January, it became hard to connect with many of my friends.  So clearly I needed a release…

Early in the year I spent a significant amount of my time on culture.  Watching movies and documentaries, going to plays and concerts, taking sewing classes and attending art events.  I kept volunteering at the Creative Alliance where I was able to spend time with other people who love the arts and see some incredible performances.  I saw 18 shows in the first 4 months of the year, encompassing over 25 different artists. In the next 4 months I traveled to 4 new states and a new country, visiting friends and family.  Later in the year I went to both New York City and Pittsburgh twice and up to PA to see family multiple times. I started pushing my photography farther than ever, engaging a photography mentor, working as an assistant to a wedding photographer, attending Rocky Mountain School of Photography’s Day With a Pro in DC, shooting and writing 3 photo-documentaries, and photographing multiple families and couples in addition to my typical travel photography.  Yoga and hiking helped me figure out how to heal my body and the Year of Tranquility program with another mentor, Kimberly, helped me start to heal my mind. I meditated and wrote more than I have in many years, still not consistently for any long stretch, but a great deal more.

So I suppose I did release a lot of physical pain and mental baggage, freeing me up to be in the place I am now to make some hard decisions.  Not hard. The decisions are actually easy, it was the deciding to make the decision that was hard and I’m still working on that fear of missing out, the whole fear of feeling like an imposter thing. I’m afraid of failing as a photographer, of not being able to make friends, of losing money, of stepping out into the great wide unknown without a net to catch me.  I’ve done the responsible thing, the expected thing, for so long, I don’t know what it is going to feel like to change and do the teensiest thing unexpected, untraditional.

But I can’t not do it.  Now that I’ve set my mind to change there is no turning back.  There are no excuses only decisions to act or not act. To decide yes or no.  Do or do not, there is no try.

I’ve listened to the Rich Roll podcast off an on for years and it helped me make some major life changes back when I first discovered it and his story in 2015.  His first podcast of the year is with David Goggins, super-human athlete and all around tough man who doesn’t mince words when talking about self mastery. His message summed up?  Basically get over yourself - the only thing holding you back from changing your life is your mind. Be stronger than it.

Welcome to 2019 people. It’s time to torch complacency. Get brutally honest with yourself. Embrace vulnerability. Callous the mind. And get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Because your life is not some future event. Your life is now.
- Rich Roll introduction to Podcast 413 with David Goggins

I’m working on that mental toughness right now.  I’m going to need it. And once I thought about it the word for this year was so obvious.  

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
- Bob Dylan

Here’s to 2019. A year of CHANGE.