I’m not one to party New Year’s Eve and wake up late (and hungover) New Year’s Day so I can start “being healthier.” I don’t buy into resolutions because, in July if I ask you what your resolution was, you’ll probably laugh at me. It’s not that I think it’s pointless to better yourself, don’t misunderstand, I just think that if you’re going to improve, you must begin the moment that conviction takes root. If you want to quit drinking, you don’t stomach all your booze first. You don’t scarf all the junk food in the house before dieting. If you really want to change, you dump it all out and move on with your life (not that I haven’t tried to do it both ways).
But I have a confession. I really want 2018.
If this year was a page in my journal, I’d pinch it between my thumb and forefinger and resist the urge to rip it out. It has all kinds of misspellings and scratch marks, arrows drawn over to what I really meant, blacked out lines and a stain or two. As a perfectionist, I’m nearly willing to crumple up all of the highs (running my first 100, the direction my marriage is growing, dozens of camping/climbing trips, fun vacations) because I can’t stand all the smudges and mistakes I see. I feel ashamed when I see so many errors.
I want 2018 because I want a clean page. I don’t have any lofty goals (ok, maybe a mileage goal, but that has more to do with training than personal development) but I feel like I am learning to be a better steward of my life. I can’t rip out that nasty page because I don’t want to repeat it.
I’m hopeful for this year because I have reached my taproots deeper this year and grasped the earth more firmly. I trust them to anchor me when I feel catapulted to the heavens and hear my name called to the hells. I’m more equipped to hike the middle path up the mountain, switchback by switchback. Whether I like it (or not), it’s because of the things I learned this year that I feel confident.
Rim to Rim to Rim, May 2017
There’s a verse from the Bible that has always been fixed on a wall of my skull. It begins like this:
Do not be conformed to this world, but continuously be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is—what is proper, pleasing, and perfect.
I find it poetic (I like poetry because good poetry is truth). “The patterns of this world” is generic enough that it doesn’t refer to anything, but specific enough that we each feel immediate conviction about something when we read it. I like that about the Bible. When you read it, it instantly highlights what it is in your life that the words are talking about.
As a child, I conformed to my family and my parents. Eventually I realized that other families were very different than mine, so I began a long process of breaking from the my family’s culture and clung instead to the culture of my church. I conformed to an evangelical youth group. As I left high school, I realized I had only grown up believing one thing, and after I moved away I began to conform to new friends, different lifestyles, parties, alcohol, Buddhism, therapy. I conformed to boyfriends. I conformed to cities. I conformed to anything that was more defined than myself.
I don’t feel apologetic about this, but I shake my head and sigh sometimes when I look back. I had reasons to meld. I had reasons to doubt my identity and question my value. I always felt bent toward the stronger wind. Even if I knew better. I had this gift imparted to me of being when I was young; I can adeptly check-in in and check-out of my surroundings. When I feel that my values are conflicting with my surroundings, I checked out.
There was a long period of time in my life that I felt I was very smart inside my skull and very isolated in everything else. I felt like I fit in but knew, deep down, that I didn’t belong. Even when I belonged to church, I prayed for much, much different things than my friends. I still feel like this sometimes.
It took me a long time to throw off the patterns of this world. In fact, I think it’d be more honest to share that I’m still learning to throw them off. It’s much easier to find something black and solid and hide behind it than it is to define yourself.
To be transformed, however, that takes work. A lot of it. Years of it sometimes, at least for me. To really change something is sustainable and permanent. It’s easy to change and change back, but I wouldn’t call that transformation. That’s just rocking in and out of a rut. Transformation is leaving one form and turning into another.
I want this next year to be another phase of my transformation. I want it to be another year of renewing my mind. I want to strive to improve not for the sake of perfectionism, but for the health of my relationships and the direction of my growth. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a more honest person, kinder, more careful of you speech, more conscious of your judgments. I’m excited for a clean page, and all of the words that will be written upon it.