Welcome to 2020 Everyone. Still no Jetson cars flying around... yet the sound of 2020 is undeniably futuristic. It is also a reminder of how quickly the years keep flying by. Do you get energized and excited about the start of a brand new year? Because oddly enough, I get panicky and anxious... Filled with a sense of urgency to identify this year's mission statement or something. I cannot simply let life "happen" to me. I want to be an active participant in my life. I need a game plan for this new year, surely it must be a fluke that I made it through last year? I pace back and forth at the start of the year tossing around ideas about how to reinvent myself and my new life in 2020. How can I make sure that I'm really living the life I was meant to live? How can I be sure I'm doing enough in this life to help others? Occasionally I take a break from my pacing to mindlessly gaze out the window at the rain. I see random New Year Resolutioners jogging past with their goals and sense of purpose dripping from their pores, (also wet from the rain too I might add)... For a brief moment, I consider chasing them down in the rain just to ask them how they found their vision for 2020. But think better of it because after cleverly "demonstrating" how-to twerk dance at a women's club neighborhood event I figure I've done enough to damage my reputation around here.
Instead, I continue my pacing... breathing shallow panicky breaths like there's not enough air in the room to go around between me and my napping dogs on the rug. Annoyed, I glare at them because I cannot believe that they can nap at a time like this. I am suddenly overcome with exhaustion and hunger. I realize that I haven't eaten ANYTHING in almost 2 whole hours! Must eat food for sustenance. About that time I open the cupboards in a desperate search for the perfect snack that might feel like a hug going down...
1 week and 5 pounds later, I find myself a tad fluffier and still undecided regarding my game plan for the New Year. It kind of brings me back to this quote that I've heard since I was quite young. It's something corny to the tune of, "Do the thing you're most afraid of." Or, "Do the thing that scares you the most." I mean, come on, when I was younger that was being arrested or attacked in a dark ally. I used to roll my eyes at that quote because what does that even mean really?! But lately it's begun to mean something more to me. I've thought more and more about some of the things I've always wanted to do in my life. Some of the things I thought maybe I'd have done by now, or that I'd do later or perhaps when conditions were finally "right." In reality, they have become things that I will likely not do at all because they involve such vulnerability and are so scary to me. They demand change and great risk.
I'm haunted by this note that my finance teacher wrote me in high school as I graduated. I'd always been an A student with the occasional B, cheerleader, SGA, and mostly rule-follower (although I broke a few). I was headed to the University of Georgia and was by all appearances, "checking off the boxes of success." However, my teacher wrote a line in his card that said, "you are a highly influential person and no doubt others are drawn to you-that's a powerful opportunity for you to have a positive impact on others. You also have a tendency to become complacent and I hope you will not allow that to impede your accomplishments."
Of course at 18 I read that card and after looking up the definition for complacent, likely rolled my eyes. I remember feeling a little bit offended but also grateful for his honesty. Surprised that he had noticed me, knew me, in such an intimate way. I showed the note to my parents and wanted to know if they too thought that complacency was a weakness of mine. They disagreed, but of course they did. They love me so much and are too busy being completely blinded by my strengths to notice my shortcomings. I appreciated their vote of confidence, but in my heart, I fearfully agreed with what my teacher had said. So much so that I saved the note in my high school tupperware of memories.
Throughout my life, I've discovered that I find myself feeling most accomplished, proud, and satisfied, when I do something unbelievably brave. I have also discovered that my bravery is almost NEVER by choice. I almost never ever ever choose to be brave if I have the option of being safe. I didn't decide to tell the world about my infertility. I didn't decide to be an ally or an example of "hope" for those struggling to conceive a child. I didn't choose to fight for my mobility when I was struck with inflammatory arthritis. But I found myself in these struggles swimming as hard as I'd ever swam before. Fighting to keep my head above water and gasping for breath. It has been through my struggles that I have found my strength over and over and over again. Each time my strength and boldness actually growing.
On Monday, my husband and I took our daughter to the Martin Luther King memorial. We saw the eternal flame that continues to burn to remind us to never stop fighting for "justice, equality, and peace in our communities." We toured MLK's childhood home and heard stories about his childhood. We walked through the King center and watched video clips of the things he did and the courageous and peaceful fight he fought for freedom and change. I stood in awe of his vision and his bravery. I got the sense that he probably did not plan all along to become the great leader for change that he became. But he lived the struggle and he gained the strength. His life prepared him for his purpose, and when it become time for him to be brave, he jumped in and swam for his life.
Yesterday, I spent the day at Oprah's 2020 Vision; Your Life in Focus Tour. I expected to be inspired. I needed to be inspired. I paid a lot of money to be inspired. And I was. Of course I was, it's Oprah y'all. But the message that reached me loudest was that she said she believed that our lives, our struggles, prepare us for our purpose in this life. They help us to build the muscles and strength that we need to handle the trials that come our way. It's the struggles that make us invincible and brave. She also said, "No excuses" because she had a million of her own growing up and yet here she is today on this stage.
While, I will never be an Oprah or a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am becoming more and more brave with my own life. Less dependent on being "pushed" in and forced to swim. I'm getting to place where I'm ready to "dive" on in and be brave. Do the things I'm afraid to do and trust the strength of my own wings as I fly. Your trials in life may actually be your greatest strengths. No experience is wasted, good or bad if you are willing to learn from it, take what you can and allow it to strengthen you. I hope you too will get to a place where you feel brave enough to do the things and take the risks this year that you've always dreamed of. Happy New Year! May this be the best year yet!