Questions to Live Into in 2019

 

In so many ways, New Years just isn’t my holiday.  I’m really not one for staying up late or going out on the town.  I never seem to have plans on New Years–everyone I’d spend it with always seems to be doing something else.  This year, I spent New Years Eve painting, taking a hot bath, rewatching Downton Abbey, drinking one too many glasses of wine, and going to bed before midnight.

However, I love the chance for introspective self-reflection.  For that, New Years is ideal.  Entering a new year offers an opportunity to pause and reflect.  While there really isn’t much difference between December 31 and January 1, the flipping of a calendar symbolizes new beginnings and fresh starts.

Resolutions aren’t my thing.  Obnoxious reading challenges aside (see previous post), I find goals restrictive, daunting, and unhelpful.  Instead, I take a big-picture approach, facing each year with hopes.  Each year, I hope for similar things.  I hope to be true to myself and grow in my faith.  I hope to pursue a healthy lifestyle.  I hope to put my best into my work, my studies, and my relationships.

Yes, I still hope all these things.  But, this year, I want to take a new slant on New Years.

A lot has happened in my life over the past year.  Many of the big, unanswered questions that have held sway since entering the workforce have been resolved.  Barring my unfinished master’s degree, I’ve achieved everything in my five-year plan.  So… what now?  This position is both comforting, terrifying, and liberating.  Aside from finishing grad school, I have no idea what comes next.

In 2019, I have the opportunity to ask new questions.  I’ve learned that it’s foolish to try and predict what a year has in store.  Instead of forming questions of direction or destination, I’m going to lean into questions of attitude.  Here are things I’m asking myself this year:

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Farewell, 2018

Zora Neale Hurston once wrote, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer”.

This quote was recently brought to my attention through On Being’s weekly newsletter. As I’ve been reflecting on the past year, it stuck with me.

I thought 2018 would be a year of questions. I thought it would be another waiting year. I thought everything in life would pause until I finished graduate school. If you had told me then where I would be now, I probably would have laughed in your face.

To my great surprise, 2018 was a year of answers.

I entered this year with a lot of questions. Primarily, I wondered, where am I going? Professionally? Personally? Spiritually? I was in a job that I loved, but was logistically unsustainable and unchallenging. Personally, I knew the time was coming to move out of my parent’s house, but lacked a job that allowed me to do so. Spiritually, my tendency to isolate myself from others was no longer serving me well. It was time to push myself out of my comfort zone and find true community again. But where does one even begin to find that? There were other questions, too. Will I ever find a place where I can flourish? Is flourishing even possible? Does a place exist within my sphere of daily life where I’ll be accepted and loved as I am?

Looking back, nearly every question has been answered in surprising, mysterious, painful, and wonderful ways.

At the end of 2018, I have a new job that I love that is close to home and closer to my friends. I have my own apartment. I have a supportive family that I love spending time with. I have best friends for the first time in years. I’m in a small group at church with women who encourage and inspire me. When I go to church, I not longer make a beeline for the door at the end of the service, too intimidated by the crowd of conversing strangers to engage. (#IntrovertProblems). Now, I linger because I always find people to catch up with.

In so many ways, this was a difficult, frustrating, and confusing year. Navigating change, especially when it happens all at once, is challenging. I don’t think I’ve ever been as squeezed as I was this fall, where I balanced managing two libraries, graduate school, orchard season, and moving. In the aftermath, I’m completely burned out and struggling to find rest.

I’ve learned a lot about myself this year. As I’ve pushed into uncharted territory, I have a better sense of how to care for myself, where to set boundaries, and where I need to be more brave.

As I look back and reflect on 2018, I am so grateful for all the change, all the challenges, and all the joys. I’ve truly come into my own this year. Through it all, God has been so faithful, always providing what I didn’t know I needed and always showing up when I need Him the most. My life is filled with so many blessings—far more than I could ever deserve. I’m grateful beyond words for all of it.

With 2018 ending, I turn my gaze to the future. With so many answers in my pocket, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and discover what questions need to be lived into next year. Stay tuned for more on that front.

In the meantime, I wish you a very happy New Year!

One of my favorite photos from 2018. Taken at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in August.

 

Farewell, Summer

I’ve always loved the idea of summer more than summer itself.  When I think of summer, I think of possibilities.  Maybe I’ve read too many YA novels, where the season often represents an idyllic in-between time when anything is possible.  Maybe that’s why I love YA novels so much.  Everything in your life can change between May and September.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz describes it this way in his book Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe:

I loved and hated summers. Summers had a logic all their own and they always brought something out in me. Summer was supposed to be about freedom and youth and no school and possibilities and adventure and exploration. Summer was a book of hope. That’s why I loved and hated summers. Because they made me want to believe.”

In reality, summers are less glamorous.  They’re hot, humid, and don’t even get me started on the mosquitos!  Growing up on an apple orchard, summer meant long hours of tedious farm labor: crawling up and down ladders and digging up weeds in the dirt.  Even when I worked as a camp counselor and the season was everything it’s promised to be, I never got enough sleep, was perpetually dirty, and there were always campers to care for.

Every year, I go into the warm months with rose-tinted glasses.  I’m filled with so many ideas for all the people I will see and adventures we will have.  Every year, I reach the middle of August and realize all I did was sit at home, mow the lawn, and read a lot of books.

This summer, though, I wanted things to be different.

This summer, I wanted to believe.

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Hitting Pause at L’Abri

I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until I arrived at L’Abri.  For the past six months, I’ve been going so hard that I didn’t even notice that I’ve been functioning on empty for weeks.  As I neared the end of my summer classes, when I thought about how I wanted to celebrate reaching the halfway point of my master’s degree, the only place I could think of was L’Abri.  I’m drawn to this place in times of weariness; when the world is heavy, frustrating, and confusing.  Here, in this little refuge overlooking the city of Rochester, I always find peace and rest.  This weekend was no exception.

It’s been months since I’ve done any kind of life-update on my blog, so let me catch you up to speed on what’s been happening in Amelia-land.  First, let me show you where I’m writing.  Imagine yourself with me at this table, a mug of tea in hand, enjoying the golden hour as I ramble on.

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New Year, New Semester: A Brief Update

A New Years post at the end of January?  Amelia, shouldn’t you have posted this weeks ago?  Yes, yes I should have.  However, life, school, and laziness has kept me away from my blog.  Better late than never, right?

My second semester of graduate school is underway and I’m sitting here wondering, WHERE did my winter break go?!  And why didn’t I do any writing during my time off?!

Since I’ve been hard-core neglecting my blog, here’s a brief recap of things in Amelia land:

  • I finished my first semester of grad school just before the holidays and managed straight A’s!
  • The holidays were a busy, but wonderful time with family
  • I applied and interviewed for a librarian position within my current system that is much closer to where I live, but didn’t get it.  When the choice is between you and a former library director with 30 years of experience, there’s not much of a choice.  But, since breaking the bad news to me, my supervisor has asked me to be on a number of new committees, which is exciting!
  • I read a ridiculous amount of books
  • I spent a wonderful weekend at a friend’s cabin in northern Wisconsin

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Thoughts on Being Alone

As I drove home from work one evening this week, I got thinking about the variety of the experiences you can have being alone.  I have a great deal of friends near and far, but I’ve spent a lot of time in my own company over the years–sometimes by choice and sometimes by circumstance.

For example, as an introvert, I spend a great deal of time in my own company and love times of peace and solitude.  I work a job that is heavy on customer service, so at the end of the day, all I want is to curl up in my room and read my book.  I’ve recently taken up hiking and, when I have the trail to myself, the world gets all quiet in a way that fills up my spirit.  Being alone is restful–a haven away from the loudness of life.

But being alone isn’t always bliss. Continue reading

Hiking in Spring

Lately, I’ve been going on hikes to prepare for an upcoming road trip.  On the weekend, no matter the weather, I spend my morning at my local state park.  There is a five mile loop that goes along the river and up into the bluffs.  It’s a great place to train and an even better place to think.

This morning, rain was in the forecast and I had the trail all to myself.  One of my favorite things about hiking is the way the cadence of my footsteps pushes my brain to places that feel high and rich.  As I scrambled over rocks, past trees, and up high hills, I found myself deeply moved by spring.

In Minnesota, spring comes slowly.  It comes in waves of warm and cool weather, rain and sun, green grass and sticky mud.

On the trail, most of the forest was still brown and dead.  The leaves were just starting to peek forth–a green blush against the rainy sky.  The ground was scattered with little flowers–pink and white and purple and yellow.

What a miracle it is, that life emerges from the bare earth. It reminds me that there will come a day where there will be no more crying, no more pain, no more injustice.

Spring comes forth in quiet radiance, whispering of life and peace and, best of all, hope.

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Everyday Resistance: Saying NO in the Little Ways

The past few weeks have been hard to bear.  With each each move the new presidential administration makes, my heart sinks deeper.  I long to join the resistance, to blazingly declare NO, to do more than wring my hands and scroll through social media feeds.

 

At times like these, I am confronted with my own smallness.  I am just one person with just one voice.  I live far enough from the cities to make attending protests logistically challenging.  My workplace is an hour from where I live, so it’s hard to get involved with local resistance efforts because I’m always in the car.

Where does that leave me?  What can I possibly do to make a difference?  Who am I to even complain?  I live a life of incredible privilege.  I’m not going to be deported or separated from my family.  I’m not going to face discrimination for my skin color, sexuality, or religion.  Yet, even though I will likely get through the next four years unscathed, my heart hurts for those who won’t.  This spurs my longing to resist.

I’ve been thinking about these things a great deal over the past weeks and have come to the conclusion that, while I may not to make grand efforts, there are many small ways in which I can take a stand.   Continue reading

Tear Ducts of Steel

I rarely cry.  Is that weird?

I know people who cry at everything from sad movies to diaper commercials (apparently, the babies are so cute they can’t emotionally handle it).  Tears of devastation and rage are shed in the wake of global tragedies and tears of joy flow forth when reunited with loved ones.  There are tears for everything–tears of frustration, of deep sadness, of the messiness of everyday life.

And then, there’s me. Continue reading

The Drunkenness of Things Being Various

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to camp in Northern Minnesota.  A friend and I stayed in my uncle’s self-built rustic cabin in the woods a few miles from Lake Superior.  We had a wonderful time going on hikes, sitting by the lakeshore, exploring waterfalls, discussing morality in Game of Thrones, and reading poetry aloud at the campfire.

It was a peaceful weekend.  I felt all the clutter in my life fade away.  The sounds of daily life fade in comparison to the rush of a waterfall.  Alone time in nature, for me, is soul detox.

In my quiet moments, I reflected a great deal on how complex the human experience is–how beautifully multifaceted we all are.  I wrote in the margins of my sketchbook:   “Personhood is a complicated, beautiful thing–what an adventure it is to live inside myself.  There are so many corners, so many contradictions–How can I be so many people at once?” Continue reading