My Sandpaper Year

Photo from  Emilian Robert Vicol via Flickr.

Photo from Emilian Robert Vicol via Flickr.

Reflecting on 2014, I imagine any number of the thoughts that have crossed my mind are likely the same ones that have occurred to other people about the last 12 months of life. I could have done a little more of this and a little less of that. I could have been a better friend/sister/daughter [fill in your superlative here]. Nostalgia always tends to abound this time of year.

As I reviewed the chronicle of my own experience, however, I realized something pretty profound. This was one of my sandpaper years.

My what now?

I know it’s an odd term, but let me explain. Everyone, whether they realize it or not, has years that shape them more than most. Years where some things about who you are as a person are buffed smooth, and other rougher spots you didn’t even realize existed, get exposed. It’s a year where not a lot seems easy, and you feel mostly like Sisyphus, continuously rolling a boulder uphill just to watch it slide down the other side and have to do it all over again. In short, a sandpaper year.

Photo from  Beth Scupham via Flickr.

Photo from Beth Scupham
via Flickr.

If I’m being honest, I’ve actually had a couple of back-to-back sandpaper years. Self-inflicted, unfortunately. Without getting too detailed, let’s just say I made an awful lot of big decisions that should have been better thought and prayed through, and I didn’t do much of either. I panicked when faced with my future and thought I knew what was best for myself, but lack of counsel proved otherwise, and, well, there you go.

And for the sake of continued honesty, I didn’t do a whole lot of living wide during that time either. Sure there were glimmers here and there, but mostly I defaulted. I cocooned in and braced myself for the hard knocks as much as I could, much like a boxer backed into a corner, just trying to survive the round.

But, here’s what’s important; I learned something.

I realized I am far stronger than I ever thought possible. More often than not, I was the only support system propping me up and that made me push forward. I also realized, being a strong individual isn’t nearly as strong as the supportive bond of connection and friendship. A person is never truly an island, and those that believe so are fooling themselves. And, I came to the conclusion that truly knowing what you want, in life, in your career, in love, in general, should never be denied. Why? Because you will always seek it. Conscious, unconscious, you will always seek it, and be dissatisfied and completely and utterly restless until you finally chase after it.

So here I am, crossing over the threshold of another new year and wondering what to do. One thing’s for sure, my priority list is much different than it ever has been, and that is going to make for an interesting 12-month adventure.

Happy 2015, everyone! After a few lost years, I have resolved to get back to living wide. How about you?

Youthful Thoughts

 In my most recent post, Aha!, you’ll remember, my 22-year-old self woke-up from a very long nap. Given the vibrant, driven young lady I was more than a decade ago, I wondered, what would she say to me now? Following is one side of an imagined conversation with this newly graduated woman who was once/still is me.

Dear 33-year-old Me,

First, thanks for finally waking me up. Not that I don’t appreciate the Rip VanWinkle-style snooze after 17 straight years of school, but it’s good to be back. So, what’s life like in… 2012? Gosh, that’s so weird to say! Are you an editor at some fancy magazine? Are you married with kids? Gotta admit, I’m kinda curious.

Wow, okay, advice for the future. Before I hit the hay, I remember fielding a lot of questions about what I was going to do, where I was going to go. Truthfully, I have, or had, no idea how to answer them. All I ever really wanted to do was write… well, and travel… and fall madly in love. But I digress.

Because you’re, well, me 11 years in the future, I’m going to shoot it to you straight. No frills, no fuss, no sugar coating. So, here goes.

Travel light – I love the fact that a majority of my possessions fit into the back of my Honda hatchback. There’s something to be said for not having a lot of baggage. So if you’re feeling at all weighed down, cast something off and make sure you only have what you need.

Travel – And for that matter, travel. We were bitten by the bug early, don’t ever let the excitement of being someplace new fade away. Whether you have the money or not, go!

Move towns/cities/states – Are you seeing a theme? Don’t stick. If you stick, you’re stuck. Changing your scene changes your whole attitude. It keeps you from getting set in your ways.

Laugh until you snort – If you’re laughing, laughing hard, then the trying stuff doesn’t seem all that bad. Find a way to laugh so uncontrollably that you actually embarrass yourself.

You’re strong and strong-willed, that’s a very good thing – There’s a reason your friends lean on you when times get tough. It may not look like it, but inside, you’re made of granite and you have a will of steel. Don’t ever let anyone tell you different.

When you don’t know how to say it for yourself, let someone else – You’re a natural-born student. You’re curious and love learning from those who’ve gone before you. If you ever find yourself speechless, let someone else who has lived it, articulated it and say it for you.

Stuff isn’t important, people are – Remember where to invest your time and resources. Friendships can last forever, clothes/jewelry/things won’t.

Honor a good story, no matter how it’s told – Everyone’s got their opinions about format, word choice, tense, you name it. But if it’s a good story, honor it, no matter how the author deems to present it.

Go with your gut – You know your gut has never steered you wrong. That little twinge or prickle that tells you something’s not right or take a leap, listen to it. Regardless of the outcome, it will be an adventure.

Change is a good thing – Many fear change. They don’t want to step out of their comfort zone, but that’s never been you. Change has been a part of your life since you can remember. Stepping out in faith is part of who you are. Rest assured that it will all work out in the end.

And remember, you’ve got this. If you don’t know what to do, you’ll figure it out. You’re resourceful, you always have been. Add stubborn to that and you’ve got a lethal combination.

Open Up Your Sail

I’ve developed a bad habit. When things seem “right,” and I feel like I’m “where I’m supposed to be,” in terms of my journey, I have this tendency to reign in my sail and float. I stop letting the wind direct me or propel me along. Why would I want to keep my sail open if I’m exactly where I need to be, right?

Oh, I keep busy as I float, I star gaze, I batten down the hatches when the storms hit, but I’m not really making an effort to go anywhere. I just sit and wait on inspiration to strike and encourage me to raise my sail once again.

I’m not sure why I close down to possibility if I feel like I’ve “arrived.” When I think about pioneering explorers like Magellan, sure, they made pit stops as they journeyed. And, they even set a spell in a few places. But the open seas were always in the back of their minds. They knew that the next adventure was just a strong wind away.

Don’t get me wrong, keeping your sail open is not about being non-committal… because something better may come along. When you keep your sail open, you’re not so much questioning the present as welcoming possibility; you’re offering an open invitation to God to direct your path. You’re not cocooned in the idea that you know better. You’re saying, “Yeah, I’m enjoying sitting a spell, but I’m ready for what awaits me on the horizon.”

So tell me, is your sail open?