2018 was a year of rediscovery for me. It was a time to make good use of my freedom and lack of distractions by diving deep and figuring out not only who I really am and what I really want out of life, but who I’m meant to be.
That’s the thing… people always say to “just be yourself”. Heck, I know this is advice I’ve given on many occasions. And at its core, it’s good advice. We should be authentic. We should speak and live our truth instead of presenting ourselves as mere carbon copies of who we think we should be, who we think others want us to be.
However, as I found out, being yourself is sometimes easier said than done—especially if you no longer have a firm grasp on who you are. To be honest, I personally lost myself many years ago; it just took awhile for me to notice.
Stuck in a desperate state of limbo between who I once was and who I longed to be, my primary objective in life had been reduced to simply surviving. I woke up, I did things, and then I’d return to bed, only to periodically look up and notice that spring had turned to summer or summer had turned to fall.
I couldn’t dream with the hope of ever seeing those beautiful things come to fruition in waking life, and I couldn’t aspire to much more than simply getting through the day. However, I could operate on auto-pilot like my life depended upon it.
Often times, it did.
Throughout my life, I had always been the type of person to have a million hobbies and interests. You could always find me doing something that I was wildly passionate about; there was no end to the interests that brought me joy.
But then things changed. My pens dried up from lack of use and my guitar case became enrobed in a cloak of thick dust. The halls of the house no longer echoed with the sound of my voice as I sang along with my piano. Stiff and silent paintbrushes lay dormant in their drawer, unused and long forgotten.
This had gone on for years until 2018 said, “No more.”
This year, the Lord led me on a most enriching adventure. Despite being a naturally inquisitive person, I consistently found myself amazed by the new and captivating things I felt inspired to research and experiment with. It was as though a whole alternate reality had unfurled in front of me, inviting me to come partake in the richness of all that was fresh and new.
It was sometimes frightening to step out in the new directions that beckoned me, and at first, I was quite apprehensive about my ability to be successful. However, if nothing else, this year taught me how to regain my once held sense of fearlessness. Without the crippling fear of failure or rejection, I started to remember what it was like to enjoy the excitement of treading into foreign territory. The more I experimented, the more I learned—and evolved.
A Series Of Untraveled Roads
Even on the eve of the new year ahead I am continuing to be surprised by the things I am newly interested in or good at. Though this is by no means an exhaustive list of the paths I traveled down this year, I thought it may be fun to share a few the main ones that come to mind:
This year, my love of world cultures and language inspired me to study Korean. This opened up so many awesome opportunities to strike up unlikely conversations and encounter new forms of entertainment and cuisine that I now love and routinely enjoy.
A cross country road trip allowed me to get a look at middle America for the very first time. Not only did I discover that there is absolutely nothing of interest to look at while trekking through Kansas (unless you like lots and lots of grass… so basically, if you’re a cow or horse 🐮🌱🐎 lol), but I had the chance to further observe and appreciate the unique geographical features of my homeland.
Moving to my new state and city reignited the mystical enchantment I remember feeling when I first visited as a young child. Though I have not seen everything this wild and free spirited land has to offer, I’d be lying if I said I’m not looking forward to becoming better acquainted—maybe even permanently?
As a previously “baking impaired” individual (lol), I tied on my apron, floured up my hands, and took to the kitchen to channel my inner Betty Crocker. After whipping up a few delicious batches of cinnamon oat muffin bread, maple nut scones, and several types of cookies, I can officially announce that I no longer hate to bake. In fact, I sort of love it.
Getting Chi was one of the most wonderful, hilarious, and beloved mistakes I have ever made. It’s been well over a decade since last having a kitten in the house, so I wasn’t too sure about things when he first arrived.
Unfortunately, my senior cat wasn’t too sure about him either—at all! Even now, there are times when it feels as though I have two children. Having to referee their spats and jealousy issues has really called attention to whether or not I’d like real children in the future…
…the jury is still out on that one 😂
Business/career and financial matters were the biggest focus of my year. I could probably do an entire post on that alone (but don’t worry!—I won’t). This was definitely the area I did the most research for, experimented the most with, and took the greatest risks.
From laying the foundations for what lies ahead for me in 2019 to learning that I’m actually quite fascinated by the stock market, exploration in this area produced the most surprisingly revelations about my current aptitudes and aspirations.
This year really gave me the space to take a look at what I’d like the relationships in my life to look like in the future. In addition to spending time investing in and strengthening my bonds with the people who matter most to me, I spent an equal amount of time evaluating the relationships that I’ve had to let go.
What went wrong? What could I have done better? What qualities do I bring to the table? What are the fundamental things I need in a friendship? In a partner? My answers provided insight as well as the confidence to believe that I will soon find what I’m looking for.
Health and fitness was another major area of exploration. Although I didn’t undergo a dramatic physical transformation this year (boo!), I definitely rewired my metabolism, improved my overall health, and permanently abolished many of the counterproductive and negative mindsets I’ve harbored surrounding my weight in general.
I have finally come to terms with the fact that no matter how badly I want to magically wake up rail thin again, it simply isn’t going to happen overnight. It won’t happen in a week, in five months, and maybe not even a year.
As anyone who has ever had trouble reaching their personal fitness goals knows, it can be hard to find the perfect balance between swift effectiveness and long-term enjoyment. After years and years of experimentation, I have finally found what works for me. Though I still plan to experiment with my diet and try new workouts, I found what type of diet and exercise can give me the results I’m looking for, quickly and fairly painlessly.
And no, it does not involve water fasting. Yikes, now that was the disaster of the year! 😂
2018 wasn’t just about exploring new ideas and interests though. It was also a time to revisit many of the hobbies and curiosities I’ve had in the past.
From writing poetry and fiction to drawing and making jewelry, I was able to find a new appreciation for things I have loved my entire life, but had stopped enjoying for one reason or another. I spent a good amount of time playing my instruments as well as adding two new ones to my collection. Many of the shows, music, and movies that kept me entertained this year were actually old favorites from my childhood or teenage years. Ah… good old Macgyver and Blink182.
Visiting my home state after years of being away was a bittersweet, but surprisingly transformative experience. Deciding to pursue my love of psychology led me to bite the bullet and apply for grad school once more (Spoiler Alert: I got in). In the fall, I took so many different classes both for fun and personal enrichment. The exchange of ideas with people from all around the world was extremely enjoyable and insightful; I highly recommend it.
Most precious of all, I spent much more time developing my faith and exploring new ways to fellowship with the Lord. At times, I studied because the world felt like it was buckling beneath my feet and I didn’t know what else to do. But most of the time, I studied because it was the one thing that never failed to make me feel loved and happy. Irrespective of what may have been going wrong around me, God’s love kept me going whenever I was certain that I should tuck tail and give up.
This was the best investment of the year because it is something I will always use in the future. I learned how to comfort and edify others more effectively. I learned how to remain steadfast in the face of uncertainty and persecution. I gained greater revelation about the things I studied, and I learned how to grieve loss gracefully and keep going.
Treasure In The Most Unlikely Places
Exploring and learning new things opened a lot of new doors for me to walk through next year. Although I tried some things that didn’t work out as well as I’d initially imagined, other things that I never dreamed would be successful or of real interest to me were.
Discovering new possibilities really forced me to reevaluate goals and desires that I’ve had for a very long time. In some cases, doing so has caused me to put some old dreams to bed and head off in a completely new and unfamiliar direction in life. And though it’s a little scary to be veering off course from what I ever expected to do in life, it’s downright exhilarating at the same time.
If you are someone who is struggling to find your passion or get the flame going again, I want to give you the same exact advice I gave myself.
One day, I found myself sitting at my desk feeling absolutely exhausted and frustrated by my lack of passion. Though I’d tried everything I knew to do, everything that used to work, I continued to come up empty-handed.
So many times, I would catch myself saying, “What happened to the old me? I just want the old me back. Why can’t I feel like I used to?” Throughout all of this questioning and pondering, it never once dawned on me that I wasn’t able to be the way I used to be because I simply wasn’t meant to be that person anymore.
All of a sudden, like a blown fuse, I had the greatest epiphany of the year:
If you’re looking for the person you are in the person you were, you’ll never find what you seek. If you’re looking for happiness in all the “right” places yet still can’t find it, then it must have moved to a new address. Look for all the things you’ve never done… and then do them all.
So that’s what 2018 was about for me: finding the new me by doing new things. When I tried things that I had never considered before I started to feel more “myself” again. It wasn’t the self that I was expecting, but it was the self that felt real.
For years, I thought that getting back to having the perfect career, having lots of friends, being my ideal weight, enjoying worry-free financial security, and being blessed with an overall amazing life, meant that I needed to go back to being who I’d been when I “had it all”.
But the truth is, I never even liked myself back then. And half the time, I didn’t like the things I did or the people I was around. Life was good, but I wasn’t happy. I spent all of my time and energy worrying about what people thought of me and doing things that would make others happy.
Through all of the exploring and searching and experimenting, I was able to discover what the new me needed, what the new me liked and wanted to do with her life. No, it wasn’t what I was expecting and no, it wasn’t what I thought I needed to be happy again.
All the same, I learned that I could be just as happy, if not happier, as the new me—even during less than ideal times. So though things may not be “perfect”, I am ending this year happy with myself. It literally took me my entire life to be able to say this and actually mean it, but I am proud of who I am—for better or for worse.
And now that I’ve found that out, I’m going to spend the remainder of my life helping others reach that same conclusion about themselves.
© C.M. 2018 All Rights Reserved
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*Featured Photo: Pedro Sandrini *