My Grammarly app is telling me the tone of this piece is “Sad,” so, oops about that. This wasn’t intended to be a new year post–it just happens to be January 1st (barely), and this just happens to have been the topic on my mind for the past several months, and I just happened to have time to think and write about it this week. I haven’t found the hope that this ends with yet. I’ll get back to you about the eucatastrophe next January 1st. Or maybe the one after that. I know it’s out there somewhere.
I’m still coming to terms with the fact that as I get older, time seems to pass quicker. I’m still learning that endings aren’t really endings–that winter coming doesn’t mean autumn is gone for good. That January dawning cold and bright doesn’t mean there will never be another December. I get another chance. I’m still trying to teach myself to think about the future before the past, tomorrow before last year. It’s hard.
I think I’ve learned a lot of things this year. I’ve learned that inspiration is real and powerful and valuable–and that I can’t inspire myself. I’ve discovered that doing something because I know I used to love it is almost as good as doing something because I still love it now, and that if I push through the desert long enough I’ll come out the other side and find I do still love it now. I’ve learned that old dreams don’t die, and it’s okay to wake them up again and chase them without having a reason. I’ve learned that impostor syndrome is not worth listening to, because the people who I sneak surreptitious glances at, who I think belong, have it all together, aren’t anxious about anything, are sitting on the other side of the room sneaking surreptitious glances at me and thinking the same things. I’ve learned how to challenge myself to grow, and I’ve learned I can tackle something until I conquer it. I’ve learned I can self-improve.
And I’ve learned that I’m in desperate need of that improvement, because if I am left alone, I dribble off into apathy. I’ve stumbled on the line between contentment and laziness and then lost it again. I’ve said I was brave when really I was terrified, and fooled everyone or no one but myself. Which is worse? I’ve made poor excuses not to look at the broken places in the world, and I’ve pretended that was the right thing to do. I’ve discovered that I’ve spent so much time trying to be the person my family thinks I am, my best friend thinks I am, my college roommates think I am, my penpal thinks I am, my directors think I am, that I’ve forgotten how to find out who I think I am. Do I really intend to change that? I have always sought approval from others by becoming what they approve. How do I seek approval from myself? How long do I give myself grace?
I am paralyzed in the face of decisions that matter. I see the best course of action–what I should be putting my energy into–but I am incapable of doing anything about it. I can take the first step, but the second and third? I fall back on the same excuses (are they excuses?)–there’s not enough time, I don’t know how, this won’t work. Instead of using the time I have to climb mountains, I spend it all on little things, unimportant things, things that I can do later. I draft a novel I’ll never finish instead of seeking better employment. I say yes to dance opportunities I don’t really want instead of investing in my nonexistent teaching career. I make up reasons I’m not qualified for any of the things I want to do, but all of those reasons distill into “I’ve never tried.” I feel trapped, caught between the big things I need to do and the little things I’m doing instead. I have surrounded myself with barriers–I should not be surprised to be stuck, but I am.
And I hate it when anyone tells me I’m wrong, I’m just standing here complaining about things I can fix but never do. I say that’s not how I work, I go slow, I take a hundred little steps for your one big one, but do I? Do I take steps? How many have I taken this year?
Time moves faster, and I wish I were different, and the end of the year isn’t the end of anything but the planner I bought for half price in June, when I had good intentions and big ideas, that only has three weeks filled out inside. The cats used the cover to sharpen their claws, and I carried it around for months after I stopped marking the pages–the well-worn outside is deceiving. But the coming months in the new planner I won’t buy are clean and crisp, and I’m filling them with as much as I can. I’m not sure if I’m distracting myself, again, from doing anything important, or if these things are what’s important. There’s only one way to find out.