A Note on 2018

We turned the page on 2017 yesterday. And since today is the day most people are getting back into the swing of their normal lives post-holidays, for all intents and purposes, happy actual first day of 2018, my friends!  

Most of the time, ahead of a new year, we look forward and plan our goals for the future without doing much in the way of looking back.

I gotchu – you want a fresh new chapter, so you don’t really want to focus on 2017 anymore. Onward and out is the idea. 

But perhaps it’s the very inventory of our past that equips us with what we need to know in order to even be able to set our best goals, hopes & dreams for the future (aka the goals that can change our lives for the better, the most).

Reflection helps us get to know ourselves a bit more…what we love, what we want, where we tend to fall short, etc. 

So I wanted to write a post that’s not on New Year’s resolutions, but more of a personal note about something I hope for us all in 2018, and my humble thoughts on what might help us all get there. Indeed, it has to do with taking an inventory of our 2017. 

My hope for you in 2018 is this: 

I hope you feel alive. 

Over the past week, as a means of practicing what I’m now here preaching, I’ve been collecting moments in my mind of times when I felt truly alive in 2017. 

Why?

Because these moments serve as reminders to me of what’s important to focus on as I look to 2018. I wrote some examples below. Perhaps they’ll make you think about the moments you felt alive in 2017.

What would be better than sitting where we are a year from now, on January 2, 2019, settling back into our day-to-day post-holiday work routines and thinking “2018 was a year where I felt alive. Let’s do that again.”

Looking back at my own year in 2017

Here are some of the moments in my own life that made me feel hair-standing-up-on-my-arms-energy-felt-in-my-soul-clarity-filling-my-human-spirit alive

  • I realized relatively early into 2017 that it was going to be time for a new job sometime soon. I could easily still be at previous firm today, because there was nothing I hated about it at all, I was on a great track there and loved my colleagues. But that would have meant I ignored God’s nudge to do something new…change industries, feel more challenged, grow a fresh skillset completely. (Our intuitions = God speaking to us, after all…more from my post about that here). So related to my professional life in 2017, a time I felt alive was when my now-manager called me while I was walking the beach on family vacation in South Carolina and told me after many interviews and exercises, that I’d gotten the job. I also felt alive later that week when I made the decision to accept and dive into a new industry/role in confidence that it’d work out for the better. I realized more in 2017 that we’re faced with many such decisions, and we need to weigh them using our best judgment, then make the decision, have faith and not look back. 
  • I felt alive when my family stood crowded around each other on the beach in pitch black darkness on that same vacation, laughing and watching my brother do a midnight run into the ocean because he’d lost a bet. In that bubble of family-ness, I felt alive. 
  • I felt alive the morning I signed up for the Chicago marathon lottery on a whim. I felt alive again when I got the email weeks later that my application was accepted (and immediately charged the couple hundred dollar entry fee, thus gingerly taking from me any option to back out). 2018, my knees hate you already. 
  • I felt alive when I cried to Andrew while I was in the throes of my month-long training in SF for my new job because I felt overwhelmed. Feeling alive in that moment meant feeling entirely human…I was doing something that was challenging me & that felt like the next right step in my life. 
  • I felt alive when I bought the giant sprinkle-y vanilla cupcake from the bakery down the street and took some 1 year anniversary photos with it for this lil blog. Really, I felt alive writing all the posts I’ve published this year on here (and in my personal journal) because writing is a reprieve for me and I lose track of time in a way that feels freeing. (When I don’t put pressure on myself, that is…that’s always how it goes, isn’t it?). I haven’t posted consistently on here since starting my new job, but Avenue Midwest is still my own creation that gives me full creative control with zero parameters. If you don’t have something in your life that is purely a passion project in which you answer to no one, I’d advise you think about where you felt alive in the hobby department in 2017, and get on that in the next year. 
  • I felt alive when Andrew and I became godparents to our sweet nephew Jack, and I felt alive when I took this photo of Jack and his momma, my sister-in-law, because it made me feel pure warmth inside and reminded me of all the joy that’s out there in the world. 
  • I felt alive again on a separate occasion when I dressed up (read, somehow stuffed myself into) my other nephew’s toddler-sized firetruck costume and proceeded to chase him around the first floor of my in-law’s house give or take approximately 50 laps as he screamed in uncontrollable laughter at the mad firewoman who was gonna get’im. Pro tip: I think we actually all tend to feel alive when we do something that connects us with our own inner child like this, because our inner child is usually someone who is fun and goofy and carefree and fearless and endlessly energetic. Precisely what we need our adult selves to be more like. 
  • Another time I felt alive in 2017 was when I stood beside my sister as she took a walk down the hospital hallway mere hours after her successful brain surgery, defying all odds. I felt alive when the nurse walked over to my family in the waiting room hours earlier too, taking off the weight of months of tremendous worry from our shoulders with her words: “Update that it went very well. The surgeon says he’s confident he got 100% of her brain tumor and they’re closing her up now.” Oh, I felt alive. 
  • I felt alive during the countless hours of conversation logged this year with Andrew on our hopes and dreams and life plans and questions. I’ve never allowed myself to be as vulnerable around someone as I do around him and that became even more true in 2017. He’s the person who makes me feel the most alive and the most grateful. 
  • I also felt alive when I answered a distinct pull I felt one September evening at work. This particular Friday evening, I was working late and the office’s cleaning lady and I were the only two people in the office. I had always been friendly to her, but something spoke to me clear as day in my mind that evening as she walked past me. I actually wrote a post on it that very night that I never published. But what I heard in my mind was the distinct directive: “Turn around and ask her what she’s doing this weekend.” (Weird question to ask a 75 year old woman, but hey). No sooner had we talked for a couple minutes after I asked her, then did she start just weeping. She’s very shy and quiet and sweet, and I’m quite sure her tears surprised herself the most. It turns out this fragile woman lost her husband this year, has zero family members in the US, works incredibly hard cleaning and longs to see more of the few family members she has remaining in her home country of Romania. I felt alive when my office pooled together to brighten her holiday, and I got to quietly give her a check for $2,100 before Christmas break with a letter telling her that her kindness and hard work do not go unnoticed (and of course one of my coworkers happened to have Romanian friends who could translate the message to Romanian…of course!). 

I felt alive many more times in 2017, too. But what the above moments tell me is that whatever I try for in 2018, I’d better focus on some of the following: gratefulness (a common thread), giving to others, growing my faith, appreciating and investing in my family and friends, listening to nudges in both my professional and personal life, taking time to write and create, and signing on to things I’m not entirely sure I can even do (ehm, 26.2 miles).

I’d better focus on those areas in 2018, because what’s a life worth living when you don’t live it feeling alive? 

Think about the moments that made you feel alive in 2017 too, and what they might be telling you to focus on in 2018. Perhaps you’ll find it a helpful exercise…we’re only on page 2 of 365, after all!

eeee, don’t you love the beginning of a good book?

xx,

Jen 

Life, Musings
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