Saturday, January 2, 2016

Lessons of 2015

On my way home from work yesterday, I listened to Bernie Roth on Tech Nation and he said:

It's ok to fail.  It's not ok not to learn.

Like many of us, I am looking back at 2015, and have one outstanding descriptor: it was hard.  And a hard year doesn't mean it was a bad year, it just means I've faced difficulties and chose to brave the struggle.  And in many ways, I have both failed and learned a lot, and there are still countless things I am still learning.

I have a hard time writing down resolutions for this new year, because achieving a list of things that I could not do previously can somewhat be.. well.. disappointing.  I think that's why we give up so easily come mid-February.  Instead, what I like to do is celebrate the things that I have learned, and allow myself to look at this list and say: yes, I DID accomplish this, and it IS possible to still bring this into the new year.  So without further preface, here are my lessons from 2015 that I'll still be learning for a while:

  1. I learned that in order to embrace a new life, you need to leave what you know.  I learned that we need to grieve good things.  And sometimes, we treat these transitions as horrendous divorces, when we can really treat them as graduations.  They are moments to celebrate, and to keep the "souvenirs" of what was good, learn from what was bad, and to move on.  And the thing about graduations is that everything is new - the surroundings, the circumstances, and you.  You learn to adapt. You grow.  You move on.

  2. I realized how much my life decisions were based off of accommodating people and making them happy with me.  I learned (will still be learning) that I cannot please everyone.  There is a point when I need to make decisions for myself and my future.  Not out of selfish ambition, but out of obedience to a bigger calling.

  3. I understand rest.  God did not rest after 6 days of creating because He was tired, but because He said it was good.  I understand that true rest comes from contentment and being satisfied.  I am a workaholic- sometime it is for the love of the work, and sometimes because I am dissatisfied.  And in the times I am dissatisfied, I need to ask myself - why am I working so hard?  What am I trying to prove, and to who?  I am learning to work from a place of peace, and allow for the moments of rest.

  4. "Love what you do." There's the millennial mindset to "Do what you love," but for a hustling (near-broke) artist, I'd say "love what you do." Your paying job may not be your dream job, but if you are content, not spilling your thoughts and energy on what should have been your "now," you've reserved your strength to do the things that you love the most.

  5. I learned that God is more present in the places that I have excluded Him.  "I'm not entitled to judge the worship of others, I have no right to declare that my way of connecting with God is better, more efficient, more loved - the Abel sacrifice. I've come to terms that God has a way of working in my life, and I can celebrate that. He has a way of working in other churches, and I can celebrate that (Musings on the Modern Church, 3)"

  6. This probably is the biggest mind-blower for me: After some really difficult struggles, I learned from my pastor's wife, who is also a marriage therapist, that the 1.5-2 year mark in any kind of relationship (romantic, friendship, work, ministry, etc) is always the hardest.  That's when guards start coming down, people are more vulnerable, a lot of flaws are revealed.  Grace starts to run out a little, and the confrontations can either make or break you.  But the beautiful part is that THIS IS NORMAL.  You don't realize what a weight was lifted!  I thought I was just crazy.  I thought I was cursed.  I wondered why all jobs maxed around 2 years.  I wondered why some relationships felt strained.  But it isn't just me.  We all change. We grow.  We become more honest with ourselves and those around us.  And we either choose to let it shape us or separate us.

  7. Speaking of honesty, I've learned the true healing powers of being honest, and being in an honest community.  Perfection basically raised me, and I've hid many things in junk drawers and in closets.  I've learned to embrace my story, not run away from it.  I can say "That's who I was, I don't like who I was then, but I am not that person now."  

  8. I confronted this of myself - there was a mistake I made eight years ago that I regret to this day.  No matter how I want to make things how they used to be, the garment is torn, and the patchwork will never look the same.  Because of this, I've lived vicariously through other relationships/friendships with the fear that I have the capability to destroy this; I've both held myself back from connection, and also sought reconciliation.  But I have learned to forgive myself.  If someone I loved has hurt me, what would I say to them? I should say that to myself.  I should be kind to myself.  Gracious to myself.  It's painful having a bully with you everyday.

  9. Compassion is so difficult on social media. If you say "Pray for Paris," someone will say "What about Beirut?" And if you say "I welcome refugees," someone will say "What about the homeless in your city?" And if you change your profile picture, what does that really mean? If "All Lives Matter," then our love is never enough, and it feels easier to say nothing at all - and even when we say nothing, it's as if "No Lives Matter." Everyone's a critic about the things that move us, but at least we are moved, and that in itself makes us human. So I say, express whatever makes you feel humane.

  10. Lastly, I learned to make marshmallows from scratch.  And it was delightful.

Truly, a lot of these lessons were heavily influenced by my church, Imagine.  I'm happy to be a part of a community that doesn't force me to hide what the average church doesn't want to see.  I'm happy that they allow me to be honest and open, that they don't welcome just the marginalized in society, but they welcome the pharisees too.  I journey beside others who are now friends, and am reminded that I am not alone- our freedoms are never just for ourselves, but for others too.

If I do make a resolution this year, it is to be bold and brave- in my honesty, in my creativity, in loving.  And may the lessons I have learned last year be my companions.


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