Sometimes I look at year-end reviews and wonder how people feel about being on either side of them. On the one, pretty obvious hand, it’s got to be a great feeling being labeled as the “best” (or at least one of the best) something. Last year, Queen Bey tore everyone to shreds by dropping her album unannounced right at the end of the year. Everyone had to rewrite their Best of 2013 lists as Beyonce rewrote what it meant to actually run the world. The ground shook as the number of people stampeding out the door devastatingly crushed the number of people who had headed out for Black Friday. Is that a fact? No. Did I just make it up right this moment? Yeah. But did you believe me. If you know who Beyonce is, then probably so.
So I imagine it’s great to be named the best *something* of *some year*. Among all the accomplishments and entertainment released in 365 days, of which there is A LOT, you made the top cut. Way to go, kid! Mama, we made it. But at the same time, I could not tell you who was the best artist of 2012, let alone 2011. 2010 is right out. Because I think the other side of that sword is that you’re then sorta tied to that year and, strangely enough, that accomplishment, whatever it was. Now, I’m not necessarily talking about one-hit wonders. But how long do you display a plaque that says you were the best actor or rapper or cross-stitcher of 2014? Sure, no one can take that away from you, but how tightly do you need to hold onto that in the first place?
It was around this time last year that I decided to start this blog. I’d finished a robot helmet I had begun two years prior that was made out of, among other things, a cardboard box and a dream. And I talked about New Years resolutions some, and the value of resolve overall and made it a point to do my absolute best to keep up writing, if only for the sake of writing itself. So, I set out to, ideally, write twice a week, once for fiction, and once for a reflection on life lessons I’ve already archived and some that I was still in the middle of learning. There were times I wanted to write and many more when I didn’t, but forced myself to because a deal is a deal is a deal.
I’m not winning blog of the year, and thankfully that wasn’t my intention. But, for the most part, I did what I set out to do. I’ve made over 52 posts, so that’s at least half of the intended result, but still averages out to sitting down and writing a little more than once a week. Especially given this last semester, I’d count that a success.
So here’s where I’m headed: in the same way that “year-end accomplishments” and, really, accomplishments overall shouldn’t be defining (and ultimately aren’t since, hey, people get forgotten), we shouldn’t be tied to these years and their passing. Every New Year’s Eve, I see all these updates about how this year sucked and next year has got to be better than this one. And I see updates about how this year was awesome and this next one’s got big shoes to fill. But either way, I’m not hanging plaques that say “2008: Best Year Ever,” even though it was, and ask me about that some time (the reasons have to do with The Dark Knight and the explosion of fast food chains using ciabatta bread on everything). And I’m not hanging plaques that say “2014: Worst Year Ever,” even though, in some ways, it was.
I didn’t realize it until near the end, but this year was pretty rough for me. I started it by watching Mackenzie get on a plane and head out on an adventure without me. I was jealous and I was lonely and I was scared, and I refused to let myself be any of those things. And I began my internship Virginia after wrecking my dad’s car on the way back from the spring retreat. And the internship was amazing and it was, as far as I can remember, the best summer of my life. And then my semester began in which I was weighed down by 2 jobs, 18 hours of classes, responsibilities as an officer in my social club, and then whatever kind of life I wanted to live in between those spaces. It wasn’t until I found myself eagerly pouring out my soul to my good friend one night while we were supposed to be writing papers due the following afternoon that he helped me realize:
So far, 2014 had largely been a season of hurt for me.
And this was weird cuz I’d never been through something like that before, or at least not had the time to realize I was. That night was the first time I got to sit down and actually digest 10 months of happenings and feelings and experience and that is something that is absolutely toxic to a human.
But here’s the kicker: 2014 was not a bad year. I had a lot of bad experiences, but if I put them in a 2014 box, then they’re no use to me. Even worse, if I put the good experiences in a box, they’re just as useless. And I don’t know that we get to pick and choose as much as we might think we do, as far as what experiences we really carry with us in our souls and what we leave behind.
Weirdly enough, New Years often seems to have a sort of “Day of Atonement” feel to it, regardless of people’s faith or belief. It’s a chance to start over, a designated time to try and do better. But it’s hard not to think that people’s disappointment at the end of the year, or holding onto these annual “boxes” is tied to this view of the new year. Maybe we’re making it into something it’s not.
After all, to make another comparison to the Day of Atonement, that doesn’t really apply to a life lived in and for Christ, right? It’s a good reminder of our need for repentance and forgiveness, but it’s not a salvation matter anymore.
Jesus came so that we could live one life for him without having to keep track of and constantly make retribution for our sins. He came so that the hard times and the good times wouldn’t define how we live our lives, but that his love would.
So instead of remembering any year as good or bad, I want to choose to remember the moments. Maybe I already have been. That would explain why I still consider these stories I tell from when I was a wee lad so formative to my faith and my life overall even today. Something I saw or believed when I was 6 has, somehow, remained just as meaningful as something I learned in a college course. I like that. I think that’s part of what living a whole life might look like.
That being said, I want to take a brief moment and recount some moments that happened to occur in the year 2014. Feel free to skip this list. It’s short, and it’s shamelessly just for me.
-Sending Mackenzie off to Oxford and not knowing how much I’d miss her.
-Watching Battlestar Galactica while eating Colossal Berry Crunch with Marshmallows with Nathan and Dillon
-The entire Squishy Chicken Experience
-Peeking over the couch at Nathan to where he could only see my eyes and watching him freak out
-Every time I facetimed with Mackenzie
-Recording Space, Capes, and Battles in Between in, like 3 days with Nathan (other Nathan than previously-mentioned-Nathan)
-Driving to Virginia and using that time well
–Getting to spend some of the best, most intentional time with Darren and Gloria while in the office
-Getting to share poetry with church families
-Setting the fire alarm off in FXCC because we got too crazy with the fog machine
-Having the privilege to work closely with an old friend in Sam Souder, and new friends and wonderful ministers like Sammie Young and Phil McKinney (and Logan, too, I guess)
-Every real and every goofy conversation with the Fairfax youth group
-Starting to carry a little journal in my back pocket to help improve my prayer life
-The Fourth of July in DC with a handful of wonderful Scottish people
-Building relationships with my fellow RAs
-The Amazing Spider-Man 2
-Getting back into Legos
-That talk with Zane that night
-Reading Finnegan’s Wake
-Sitting in bed on the last night of my internship and feeling truly morose, but feeling ok with that
When all is said and done, it may seem strange that I’m generally pro-resolution when it comes to New Years. People make lofty goals, but I think those are the best kind. Mine are simple and as follows: continue to write on here, just as frequently, if not more (and hopefully better); finish writing my book; continue using my backpocket journal; try and conquer my nap addiction.
I didn’t know where I was for most of this year. And I think there’s something beautiful about those in-between spaces like that. They won’t always be that way. There will be a time when you have the chance to process what’s happening and what you’ve been feeling, and sometimes those moments are more convenient than others. But regardless of when and how they come, those moments aren’t the ones that we often find ourselves in. In between spaces are hard and scary sometimes. But I think they’re also indicative of a life being lived wholly.
This may seem like a shameless plug, and in some ways it is, but here’s a single my friend, Nathan, and I put out today off our new album. It’s a part of a larger story about leaving Earth and trying to find a new home and what that means. We’ll be dropping the full album soon, but in the meantime, you can listen below, and at https://nopunintended.bandcamp.com/ where you can download the song and eventually the whole album for free.
Hope your New Years celebrations were a blast and that you can be aware of where you are in life, where you have been, and where you want to be. And that life is wonderful, even when it doesn’t seem like it. That’s a choice we have the power to make.
See you soon, and happy New Year.