It’s December. To quote Linkin Park, “This is my time of the year.”
December is like cocaine for an introspection junkie like myself. I know it’s a crazy time for a lot of people. There’s shopping, parties, and time with family, which alone can be an overload of stress. But there is also oodles of darkness, and if I’m mindful about it, lots of nights in, plenty of quiet time for reading and writing, and a Costco-worthy stash of tea.
As the year comes to a close, I find myself once again reflecting on what has transpired and thinking about what I want next year. December is also the month of my birthday, so in addition to the end-of-year introspection, my inner searchlight comes with an I’m-a-year-older-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life attachment.
I tend to define my accomplishments by what everyone else is doing, or by certain milestones. I’ve spent a significant portion of my adult life feeling like I haven’t done anything because I haven’t done what everyone else has done: get married, have kids, climb the career ladder.
That’s true for this year too. I’ve already imagined the quarterly department meeting at my job that’s coming up in a couple of weeks. The vice president of my department usually starts by standing at the podium and recognizing people’s accomplishments. We all applaud for engagements, marriages, pregnancies, home purchases, births and promotions.
If I’m using that measuring stick, then I didn’t accomplish much of anything this year. I’m still working in a job with no growth potential. I’m still living in my one-bedroom condo. I'm still driving the same car I have been driving since 2004. I am not engaged to be married, nor am I close to being so. There are no babies in my future. I didn’t get promoted, run a marathon, or participate in anything with the word “mudder” in it.
But, as my coach and mentor recently helped me see, if I use a different measuring stick, I have accomplished a lot this year. For instance:
- I quit drinking regularly. I went from having, at a minimum (and minimums were rare), two glasses of wine every night, to having had about a dozen all year. This one change set in motion a new path, and I’ve been on “fast forward” ever since. (Look for another post on this in the future.)
- I have gained clarity and traction on what I want to do with my life and how I want my career to look in the future. I have taken steps to start making that vision a reality.
- I learned (and continue to learn) what it means to truly love and care for myself—a never-ending and deeply challenging process.
- I recommitted to my passion for travel. I stopped waiting around for someone to travel with, and took myself on my first solo road trip to a place I’ve always wanted to go. I confronted some demons while there, and have been staring others down since then. Some, I’ve even been able to shake off.
- I have deepened my yoga practice. My body is stronger than it has ever been, and I am more in tune with its messages and its wisdom. (Plus, I can pop myself into arm balances now that seemed impossible a couple of years ago. Woot!)
- I meditated almost every day.
- I reached my goal amount for my emergency fund and utilized my freelance business to fund my travels.
- I reconnected to my creativity and allowed myself to play by making art.
- I decided that motherhood, in the traditional sense, is not the path for me this go-round. I’ve known this on some level for most of my adult life, but this year I fully embraced the decision, and am making peace with it.
- I learned the word “no,” and how to say it when it was the kindest thing I could do for myself. I recognized my tendency to overcommit and to people-please, and have started ridding my life of the activities and commitments that no longer serve me. As part of this, I’m learning how to disappoint people and be okay with it (another never-ending and challenging process).
- And, I finally started writing again. I established a daily writing practice, completed several essays, submitted them for publication, and, despite all of my meandering and resistance, have now fully recognized this as my path.
None of this is going to get me a round of applause at the next company meeting, or an audience at Christmas dinner. And that’s okay. That's not why I'm sharing it. I'm sharing it because I know I'm not the only person who does this. I'm not the only one looking outside-in, rather than inside-out, to see if I'm measuring up. I touched on this in my last post too: Comparison is death to the spirit.
So this month, as I reflect and define, I’m learning to use my own measuring stick instead of the icky comparison tool I've been holding on to. And, I hereby offer said stick to you.
I'm also learning to applaud myself. Because applause comes from within anyway. And I think my list calls for a round or two.