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.

 

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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Farewell, 2017

We’ve hit the season when everyone reflects on what has occurred during the past year and dreams of the year to come.  I am no exception.

What strikes me, though, is time’s beautiful ability to slip elegantly from one minute to one day to one year.  Tomorrow may be a new year, but take away the countdowns, the parties, the reflection, it is simply a new day.  Just as today was a new day.  I love that.

It is difficult to pinpoint the significance of 2017.  Before, each year had deep meaning, filled with momentous occasions and deep soul searching.  2015 was the year I finished college, filled with questions and striving.  2016 was the year I trekked across Europe and stumbled into my life’s work.

But 2017?  I suppose it is an extension of all the years before, as if all the momentous occasions, questions, journeys, and stumbles were leading to what I am doing now: living day by day, moment by moment.

This year, I continued life in the small town library where I work.  I experienced my first Summer Reading Program, started a Lego Club, and continued building relationships with my patrons.

This year, I applied, was accepted, and began graduate school online through the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.  Grad school is not easy, but it’s taught me to make time for self-care and that sanity is more important than grades.  This attitude helped me get through my first semester with my sanity and GPA in tact.  Already, pursing my Masters in Library and Information Science has helped improve my skills and understanding of my work.  While I frequently whine and complain about the stress of my studies, I am deeply thankful for this opportunity.

This year, I continued living with my parents.  All year, I have bounced back and forth.  Should I move closer to work?  Do I want to live in that community?  Is it worth it to continue driving an hour to work and back each day?  I’m still struggling with these questions.  While I like living with my parents, I’m ready to be on my own.  But I have absolutely no desire to live in the community where I work and cannot afford to both pay rent and continue commuting.  This is something I’ll continue to wrestle with as the new year comes.

This year, I made new friends and continued walking with old ones.  From road trip buddies to coffee shop chats monthly letters, I am extremely blessed in the friendship department and am so, so thankful.

This year, my faith journey brought me somewhere between the desert and the river valley.  I’m attending church again and am encouraged by friendships, but still feel like I’m walking alone.  In college, my faith journey was wild, frantic, and I pursued the path with relentless passion.  My faith has changed dramatically since then.  I’ve evened out.  I’ve simultaneously rejected the fundamentalism of my upbringing while holding firmly to my spiritual beliefs and heritage.  I’m calmer now.  I continue to study, but I hold my faith with open hands.  I long to be a person of high character, quietly bettering the world around me, letting my actions speak louder than my words.  2017 was a step in that direction.

This year, I spent each day with Wendell Berry.  As part of my devotions each morning, I ended by reading one of his Sabbath poems.  Of all my routines, this was my favorite.  Morning by morning, his words brought me into still forests, quiet fields, and sunlit meadows.  I reached the end of the book in October and went right back to the beginning.

This year, I continued my never ending love affair with the written word.  Thanks to audiobooks during my long commute and a deepening passion for YA, I blew past my previous reading records, making it through 212 books in a mere 12 months.  For more about my reading year, check out my previous post.

I suppose, in light of all these things, 2017 was a pretty good year.  (Minus the dumpster fires of national politics and natural disasters, of course.)  I grew, I worked, I learned.  What more can one ask for?

Tonight, when the clock strikes twelve, we will slip elegantly into a 2018.  Where will this year take us?  What decisions will I make?  What people will I meet?  What places will I go?  What words will I be writing one year from now?  I haven’t the slightest clue, and that is a very exciting thing.

Whoever you are, wherever you may be, I wish you a very happy New Year!

2016: A Story in Three Parts

As another year comes to a close, it’s time to reflect.

By global standards, 2016 was pretty much a train wreck.  Personally, though, it was a beautiful journey that I will tell in three parts.

INTRODUCTION:

A year ago, I was an unemployed college graduate with no idea of what I wanted to do with myself.  You see, for the majority of my life, my intuition has been my guide.  Until this point, early every major life decision has been guided by instinct.  College?  My gut lead me to the right fit.  Major?  My heart found home in the English Department.  Work at camp in the summers?  It just felt right.

The future, however, holds infinite possibilities and the prospective paths had me absolutely paralyzed.  I had absolutely no idea of anything.  My intuition, the little tug that pulls me in the next direction, had failed.

So, at the beginning of 2016, I felt my heart tugging me back to Europe and, against all logic, I followed. Continue reading

Dear New Year

Dear New Year,

There are so many things I don’t know about you.  But, then again, there are so many things I don’t know about me either.

Up until this point, my life has been predictable.  Go to school, get good grades, go home for breaks, work in the summer, and so on.  I’ve always known what the next year will bring.

When I look at you, New Year, I see a vast unknown.  I see the path beneath my feet stretching into a fog.  All I really see is what is directly before me.  In a way, I see you, but I don’t know what you will bring.

Where will I go?  What will I do?  They seem like such simple questions, but the answers are blank.

I’m excited to see you, New Year.  I’m ready to take the leap into the unknown.  I’ve been waiting and wondering about where I fit into this big, beautiful world.  I’m ready to find out.

I have never been one for resolutions.  I don’t like empty promises.  I avoid concrete vows that never actually happen.  But I’m all for having hopes.

This year, I hope to grow in my relationship with God.

I hope to get closer to figuring out my place in the world.

I hope to know myself better.

I hope to be a good daughter, sister, and friend.

I hope to take care of my health–physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I hope that I will be better at giving of my money, time, and love.

I hope to better at empathizing and seeing things from the perspectives of others.

I hope that, wherever I go, I will make the world a little brighter.

New Year, even though I don’t know what you have in store, I welcome you with open arms.

All my love,

Amelia

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Goodbye, 2015!

Another year has come and gone.

Looking back, 2015 was a year of waiting.  First, I was waiting to graduate.  Then, I was waiting for whatever came next. There were days when I would have given anything for time to move faster.  There were periods of loneliness and periods of frustration.

In other ways, though, it was a wonderful year.  I was able to spend nine months living at home, which, in a way, has been like a return to childhood.  I’ve loved spending time with my family.  I loved working at our strawberry patch and apple orchard.

I’ve learned a lot this year.  I finished my degree.  I spent my summer pulling weeds followed by a fall hauling around apples.  I experienced my first professional job.  I attended the Urbana missions conference.

I’m not sad to see 2015 go.  It’s been good, but better years lie ahead.

Check out some photo highlights from my year:

In Transit

I admit, this is not my first blog.  I’ve been blogging since the tender age of fifteen.  I am now twenty-one.

The thing about being a college student is that your life is never stable.  You’re in this weird in-between place where you’re not a kid anymore, but you’re not fully an adult.  You live in this weird scholarly bubble that includes essay writing, attending lectures, eating pasta constantly for dinner, and increasing stress as finals loom closer.  You can see the outside world, but it’s shrouded by the weird haze of “someday”.

Nothing stays the same.  You go back to your hometown over school breaks and the businesses on main street are different.  At home, your parents suddenly start making plans to convert your bedroom, that safe place and heart of your childhood, into a sewing room, home office, or guest room.  People you have known for years suddenly start getting married and having babies–often not in that order.  The ties that once held you to home begin to stretch and fade, leaving you suspended in “where do I go from here?” land.

Right now, my life is definitely in transit.  I just returned home to the United States from a semester studying abroad in London.  Living in a foreign country for three and a half months is a wonderful, but strange experience.  Although you try your hardest to stay in touch with people back home, life gets in the way.  So you build a new life where you’re at.  But then, just like that, the semester is over and you go back to your old life.  But, like with home, your ties have faded.  You know they’ll soon be reestablished, but until that happens, you’re stuck in this weird place where you’re not quite sure where you fit.

That’s why I’ve started this blog.  After spending three and a half months on my travel blog (which I put lots of effort into and you should all go read), I had planned on returning to my normal space, the place I’ve been writing since I was fifteen.  But I soon realized that wasn’t going to work.  I’m not fifteen anymore.  My original intentions for blogging are different from what they used to be.  I need to start fresh.

The title from this blog comes from one of my favorite quotes:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Metaphorically, Tolkien hits the nail on the head.  Growing up is stepping into the world.  You leave home, go to college, live abroad, get a job, etc.  The world is a big, sometimes scary place, filled with dangers.  If you don’t watch your step, it can easily sweep you away.    You have to know yourself, know your mission, and you have to stick to it.  You have to hold tightly to who you are.  You have to keep your feet.

But, despite its dangers, the world is also an incredibly beautiful place, filled with wonders to explore and learn.  If you keep your feet firmly on the path and your eyes set on the horizon, you’re in for the adventure of a lifetime.

So, feel free to join me on my journey into adulthood.  I can’t promise what this blog will bring, just as I don’t know what lies in store.  But, I suppose, that’s part of the adventure.  Let’s step onto the road and begin…