I’ve been avoiding writing a “year in review” post, mostly because I had one goal/intention for the year. I wanted to “add storytelling to repertoire.” I had no real plan for how to measure that success in 2017. Also, my intention for the next year is similar. I have no big goal planned, but I have it in mind to do more in the service of what I’ve already got going on. There will be more storytelling, more creative work, more time devoted to the body of work I am currently creating. I’m very much “going deeper,” as David Cain suggested in his post, Going Deeper, Not Wider.
Yet, I still feel the need to somehow summarize the huge strides I made over the last twelve months. I happened upon the On Being post, Seven Questions to End 2017 with Clarity and Start 2018 with Intention. Each question listed is really two questions, but each one hummed in my mind, so much so that I felt compelled to answer them.
1. What was one of the moments I was most proud of this year? What does that tell me about what I want to spend my energy/time/money on next year?
This was a year for proud moments. My knee jerk answer is, “Nailing the presentation at the storytelling conference in Wales.” But, when I think about what I was MOST afraid to do, but did it anyway, it was the moment when I put down a deposit on the house in Scotland. I’m not sure why that was so terrifying, although I believe it has something to do with intention. I don’t often travel deliberately. I only went to the UK this year because my proposal was accepted at the conference and then school helped me pay for my plane ticket. By putting down that deposit, though, I suddenly became someone who travels with intention. I became someone who rents a house a Scotland. To me, it seems that a person who rents a house in Scotland is a VERY different person than a deeply-in-debt and always struggling writer and educator. I’m proud of the moment I put down the deposit because it was a signal to myself that I’m serious about becoming this person. That tells me that I might want to spend my energy/time/money on becoming this person, and on figuring out all the other ways this person behaves.
2. Who really enriched my life this year in a big way? Who is someone I am wanting to get to know better in the year ahead?
The president of the local arts organization that I volunteer for has been an unexpected and delightful addition to my life. I find myself really reflecting on things we’ve discussed, and her approach to both her career and her work in the arts organization makes me think about my own approach. I look forward to getting to know everyone at the organization better in 2018. It has provided a strong sense of community that I also didn’t expect. I want to deepen that, definitely.
3. It was a year of resistance for many people. What did I resist most effectively? What did I surrender to?
My resistance efforts have been more about using my voice than anything else. I am determined to speak up more. Let me tell you how terrifying that is for me. I was always always always told to keep my head down and don’t make waves. Endure it. But, at one point, I stated to the world, “Endurance is not a virtue.” Enduring oppression, disrespect, pain or harassment is not virtuous. I understand that if you speak up, you risk SO MUCH. Sometimes, you’re livelihood. I have been frightened by that prospect myself. That’s why I’ve been practicing. Little by little, I speak up. I’ve been much more vocal on Twitter. I am practicing standing in my truth, not caring about criticized for speaking up, and generally saying what needs to be said. In a sense, I have surrendered to that need within myself. Maybe the surrender came, too, in finally accepting my hard won belief system, forged from years of inquiry and reflection. I did not accept anything easily, and that is an act of resistance I’ve been practicing my entire life.
4. Who did I feel most jealous of this year? What is that person up to that I want to bring more of into my own life?
I can’t say there is one person that I was jealous of, but I do find myself in awe of many of the feminist journalists that I follow on Twitter. I admire their long form pieces, and it makes me want to FINISH some of the projects I’ve started, and pursue longer stories that I’ve always wanted to pursue. I think what I want to bring into my life, the thing they’re doing that I want to emulate, is focus. They have to be focused to turn around a piece quickly. They have to be focused to craft a timely story in a timely manner. I also admire the way they use their voices, on social media or in the larger media landscape. I want to put my work onto a bigger platform this year. I’m terrified, but I look at these women and see their courage and I know I can do it, too.
5. When was I most physically joyful in 2017? How can I get there more in 2018?
Anytime I was dancing, I was joyful. In a dance class, in my kitchen, on the dance floor, in the living room at my best friend’s house…when I’m dancing, I am deeply joyful. I’m going to seek out more dance opportunities in 2018, even if it’s just more dance parties with one or two friends.
6. What is one question that you found yourself asking over and over again this year? What version of an answer are you living your way into?
Who am I as an artist if I am not always using my hometown as my muse? For years, I mostly wrote about place. I was obsessed with place attachment, city planning, historic preservation, local economies, regional culture, and mostly how those frameworks could help me understand the place where I’m from. In 2015, I started to write more about my own financial situation. Then, other adventures appeared, and I was writing about those. I stopped writing about the past and started writing more about the present. Something shifted. In that shift, old stories that I’ve wanted to tell but couldn’t pin down finally revealed the right angle to take with them. I am so much more than where I come from. I am what I am pursing and what I am doing in any current moment. I am who I am becoming. I think I’m living my way into a version of a woman who speaks her truth, speaks up, finishes projects in a timely manner, and rents a house in Scotland where she can create something amazing. I think it’s very much like Rey in The Force Awakens when Maz Kanata tells her, “The belonging you seek is not behind you. It is ahead.” I was always looking back, trying to figure out why I didn’t feel like I belonged. I was always moving through places where I felt temporarily as if I belonged. But I didn’t truly felt like I belonged until I started writing about the present. I created a sense of belonging, instead of stumbling into one, maybe.
7. And finally, in honor of Krista Tippett’s beautiful modeling: What makes me despair and what gives me hope right now?
The state of healthcare in the US causes me to despair. Certain world views/political leanings cause me to despair. But, the support I have seen women give to one another over the last few months of 2017 has made me feel hopeful. Listening to marginalized voices has made me despair and made me feel hopeful, sometimes even in the same breath. Looking at the photo of the house in Scotland makes me feel hopeful. It makes me feel purposeful. It is a gift I am giving myself.
I made huge strides in 2017. I made a list in my notebook of all the things I did, both well and poorly. It was helpful to see the list, but it didn’t inspire me for 2018. I’m not sure these answers did either, but I’m also not sure that was the point. These questions simply provided a framework for processing the year. It has been a hard year to process in a lot of ways, but personally, I did grow in unexpected and welcome ways. I hope to continue that growth in 2018. I’ll be telling more stories, on stage and on the page. I’ll be working to set myself up for a significant increase in earned income over the next few years. I’ll be practicing speaking up. I’ll be busy belonging.
How are your reflections on the year going? Did you use an existing set of questions to help you process your year? I’d love to hear about it. Tell me in the comments.