It hit me a couple months ago that the coming of this particular New Year is a special one. Being the overly nostalgic person that I am; significant memories, lessons, and emotions from the last ten years of life have come to the surface in anticipation of the decade to come. Now I’ll do you all the favor of NOT proceeding to share every significant personal event that took place for me between 2010 to now — but I will say that it having been a decade that crossed paths with my 20’s, these last ten years have been absolutely vital in shaping my young adult life.
The significance of the milestones and memories of the last decade didn’t become as readily apparent until about this time last year, as I wrote my intentions for 2019. I began therapy in winter 2016 (shortly after Trump’s inauguration, if that’s at all surprising), and spiritual direction this past year, so that too, has played a heavy role in teasing out some big life learnings from this last chunk of life. So before sharing about my intentions going into the next decade, I thought I’d share a handful of the lessons that came from this last one.
I can trust myself.
I spent WAY too much time doubting my intuition, my emotions, my body, and essentially all parts of my soul that attempted to send me signals when I was in any form of danger — be it relational, physical, sometimes even spiritual. After months of therapy, years of healthier friendships, and a clarified self-perception, I can honestly say that I trust myself in making decisions, and stepping into healthier and safer spaces. I know this sounds simple, but it’s a big deal for me.
It’s okay for me to change.
It goes without saying that I’ve changed quite a bit in the last 10 years. Given that I was just about to graduate high school in 2010, life looks drastically different than it did for 18-year-old me. There are some obvious situational things that have changed (i.e. graduating high school and then college, going through a few vocational changes, getting married, becoming a mother to two beautiful kitts ;), etc.) But there have also been huge shifts in my worldview, spirituality, and my general approach to life, work, and relationships.
I used to fear this internal change. It’s the kind of stuff that shakes you to the core, because well — the core of who you are is literally shifting. It’s quite uncomfortable, and extremely inconvenient. It puts tension on your relationships, and oftentimes breaks other’s perspectives and expectations of who you are. But something I learned while in the ever-chaotic stage of life that has been my 20’s, is that this internal change is okay. In fact, it’s even good.
It was in this last decade that I began testing my perceived reality with that of the world around me. I started asking the questions I really wanted to ask about the world, God, and life. Over time I noticed my thoughts and opinions, and therefore, my lifestyle begin to change. And certainly wasn’t convenient — but it was necessary. I expect that this will only continue, and have learned to embrace these changes, rather than fear them.
I have power & agency to cultivate joy in my life.
I’m not quite sure why this has been something I’ve always struggled to believe. But it’s a theme that’s continuously resurfaced in therapy, spiritual direction, prayer/meditation, and conversations with friends and with my partner.
I think something in the perception I once had of scripture and God made me believe that personal joy and flourishing were not to be prioritized. In fact, the concept of “dying to one’s self” manifested in such unhealthy ways, I allowed my mental, physical, and spiritual health do decline for the sake of “serving God” and the people around me. This oftentimes led me to overstay in extremely toxic relationships, work spaces, and situations. It also led me to believe that when I did experience joy, it was simply by chance due to the grace of God. Joy and flourishing could happen to me on occasion, but were not things I could pursue and invest in myself.
Now I’m still in the process of reconstructing my concept of God in the context of scripture… but deep within me, I still do believe that this higher power does have something to do with personal joy and flourishing. But as I slowly deconstructed my once-toxic hermeneutic, I came to find that these are things I can also cultivate myself.
As the decade came to a close, I found myself yearning to spend less time doing, and more time being. Less time teaching and running myself into the ground “serving,” and more time in meditation and reflection. At one point, I even sensed God asking me to step away from church. And though it seemed sacrilegious to me in the moment, finding God’s presence and peace in spaces outside of a traditional “church” space was one of the most healing, and hope-filled things I could’ve experienced.
So I’ve learned that God cares about my flourishing. And God cares about my joy. And I have permission to co-create a future that embodies joy and flourishing, with the Divine. But God also cares about the flourishing and joy of the people and earth around me. So this is not to say that the pursuit of my own flourishing excuses ignorance of the oppression and suffering of others. It simply means that I can invest in joy, while also fiercely fighting for the flourishing of those whom it’s been denied.
All this to say, it’s been kind of a wild decade. 2010-2019 was filled with some of the most beautiful, and most difficult memories and lessons. But the combination of those, and everything in between has taught me so much, and for that I’m grateful. I can’t predict or control what will take place in the decade to come, but I do know I can trust myself. It’s okay for me to change. And I have power and agency to cultivate joy & flourishing in my life. Here’s to bringing these 3 things into 2020 🥂