The summer isn’t a typical time for New Year’s reflections, but sometimes it takes another six or seven months to gain perspective on just what the New Year has meant. In the lead-up to September (that de facto “new year” for so many of us), I’m finally ready to own — and share — one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned post TWU.
New Year’s Eve—almost 2015. I’ve just arrived back in Ottawa after a two-week trip to see my parents over Christmas. After spending the previous New Year’s at my parents’ South Surrey townhouse while revellers back in Ottawa enjoyed a free concert by one of my favourite rappers, I swore I’d plan my flights differently this year. Hence my December 30th arrival, booked months in advance.
But life’s funny sometimes. Instead of K-os, K’naan or Shad, it seems the capital went in a new direction with its musical stylings. I boarded my plane painfully aware that I was flying halfway across the country to see Glass Tiger.
Who, you ask?
It turns out the eighties Celt rockers still put on a killer show, and I even recognized a tune or two, good Irish girl that I am. But despite the near NYE debacle, it’s not what sticks out most from 2014’s last hurrah. Before the concert I ate dinner with new and old friends — the eclectic remnants of the city’s twenty-and-thirty-something December diaspora — and conversation turned to lessons from the year.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my overall 2014 takeaway found its microcosm in the night’s unexpected celebrations. When my turn came, I shared that the year had taught me that it’s okay if your life doesn’t look how you thought it would, or how others thought it would — or how others think it should. What works for other people doesn’t have to work for you, and vice versa, and it’s all okay.
No, really. It’s all okay.
After four years of holding somewhat impressive jobs in my field, in 2014 I collected [un]Employment Insurance for the first time. After nine moves in the previous five years, in 2014 I stayed in the same house with the same amazing housemates. After working hard to earn a full-ride scholarship to my choice grad school, in 2014 I closed the door on that offer, choosing faithful presence in my community over two more years of stress and competition. And after frequent sick days made me contemplate leaving most of my full-time office jobs, in 2014 I learned new and different work patterns that are a better fit for me physically and mentally.
Fast forward to 2015. I still haven’t won any big awards. Some of my professional accomplishments might look impressive on a CV, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, but for me it’s a bigger accomplishment that I recently took a part-time job at a store in my neighbourhood because it means I’m embracing what works for me and not overextending myself to meet others’ expectations. I’m still in my field — I’m also a part-time freelance writer and editor working with several publications and non-profits in Canada — but I’m not so burnt out or compartmentalized that I can’t wholly engage with my community or healthily tend to my own wellbeing.
I remember a chapel speaker during my time at Trinity — possibly Dr. Bruce Main of Urban Promise — talking about a group of guys who all realized that their main passion was to see healing and reconciliation in their neighbourhood. They each committed to work only part time and share living expenses so that they could be present to each other and to the needs of those around them. While it’s obviously not the only way to make an impact or to live out a passion, it’s always stuck with me.
We all have different gifts and dreams, visions and passions, and this means our lives will look very, very different, and that’s okay. I can’t remember what most of the people at the New Year’s party said they had learned in 2014, but I do remember that one friend — the other freelancer of the group (read: no health benefits, little stability, insanely busy times and insanely slow times) — looked at me after I shared and just said, “Me too.”
Whether you’re braving the minus-forty Ottawa temperatures for K-os or for Glass Tiger, the New Year still comes with shouts and fireworks and a reflective walk home under the stars. Our lives might not look how we thought they would, or how others think they should, but it’s all okay.
No, really. It’s all okay.