Down, Up, and Forwards

As is always the case at the end of another year, I’ve become quite retrospective and introspective. I think it’s the leisure of having so much time away from the status quo, the hustle, the stress of the daily and weekly grind of normal life that always seems to lead to a more holistic, big picture type of thinking. All the free time certainly helps as well. But with another year coming to a close, I do think it is important to spend the energy to truthfully and transparently transcribe the things that we are most proud of and also the areas that we struggled and can improve in the future. In my experience, this sort of conscious reflection better creates a sense of sovereignty and ownership to carry into the future. It reminds us that we are in the driver seat.

Let’s start with the tough times. First, my grandmother passed away this past Summer. I captured the ethos of that time in an earlier blog, but the reminder of our ephemerality, and all the feelings that come with it has stuck with me. Then there were all the stresses of living in an apartment complex undergoing significant construction. I considered trying to document the termites, the leaking walls, the thefts, and all the other issues into a blog earlier this year, but every time I began writing, I had to stop because I couldn’t bring myself to focus on all the negativity long enough to capture anything meaningful. The only writing that I did manage seemed to become a never-ending stream of consciousness of complaining that left me feeling quite unsatisfied and that no one would ever care to read. Does that say anything about me? I’m sure it does, but I’ll let you determine what exactly.

Then there were the great aspects of this year, of which there were many. First, I made my first showing at the annual Thunderbird ski trip in Park City, Utah. I ran the famous Charleston Cooper River Bridge Run for the first time this year, and have just registered for the run next year. I went to Maine for the first time on a work trip. I took a wonderfully refreshing vacation to Montreal to escape from the violent rainy season in Charleston. I finally feel like I’ve made a great group of local friends and connections that I’ve been able to have more meaningful experiences with than the standard nights out downtown that characterized my first year in Charleston. The greatest milestone by far was finally purchasing a home of my very own. This was hugely meaningful for me, the wanderer, the nomad that has lived in seven cities in the past five years. Finally committing to a location for the foreseeable future gave me numerous sleepless nights, but now that it is recently official, I have no regrets whatsoever. There were so many great new experiences in 2017. It heals the psyche to see them all written out here. It rejuvenates and reminds and encourages for the future.

Speaking of, I’ve found that many of my 2018 resolutions are more subtle than the items that were on my list last year, such as “buy a condo”. This new year will largely be about maintaining more focus. The last couple years have been spent just saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity possible. I don’t regret any of that, because it allowed me to experience the full breadth of what Charleston has to offer and develop very clear preferences. But now that I’ve been here for two years, I know the sorts of activities that are and are not valuable to me, so I’d like next year to be spent gaining greater depth in a smaller number of fields. Focus here also includes living in the moment better and shielding myself from life’s limitless distractions. I worry that this past year I was guilty of succumbing a bit too much to the adage “life is what happens when you’re making plans”. I’d like to have a better balance of appreciating every day while still having future goals to work towards.

And therein lies the true challenge. Life is all about balance. There is no right answer, no formula, no proverbial silver bullet, and no such thing as perfection. Goals and resolutions are intensely personal and are always changing. I do think the most important thing by far though is the sustained consciousness and awareness of goals. I feel melancholy for those who live life in the passenger seat. If we live like Kerouac’s mad ones, and as Thompson’s thoroughly used up, worn out proclaimers, and do our best to retain tenure year after year, we will always be able to look back and think that was one hell of a day, week, month, year, and life.

Go forth. Hop in the driver seat, take the wheel, and venture mindfully into the new year, following the paths down, up, and always forward.

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