Hi. It’s been a really, really long time since I’ve written on here, so I apologize to anybody who waited with enthusiastic anticipation for my next post and was greatly disappointed. (I don’t think that would be anyone, but it’s a nice thought.) I haven’t posted anything since June, and if I’m being honest, I haven’t really written much either. I had a couple of drafts on here from last year, and when I got on here this morning to continue them, neither of them felt relevant to me anymore. Posting them would feel inauthentic now, so I just pressed delete.
So, instead, I’m going to write a really cliche post about the new year, because everybody is doing it and I like to feel included. (I have MAJOR FOMO sometimes. It’s a shameful character flaw, in my opinion.) Here we go.
I’ve looked back on previous years in the past with a sense of bitter relief that the year is over. That means that I end up having really unrealistic expectations for the coming year, and then at the end of it, I’m disappointed with myself and with the events of the previous 365 (or 366) days, and then I’m bitter and relieved all over again, and then I expect too much out of the coming year, and you see where this is going, right?
Well, I decided last month to approach 2020 with no expectations, because I’ve come to realize that the concept of a “new year” is kind of arbitrary. I realized that if I want to make changes in my life, it doesn’t make any sense to wait until that calendar on my phone reads “January 1.” What does make sense is to start the process of change now.
Now, this doesn’t mean that we should blindly stumble into trying to do things differently without making a plan. Humans need direction, especially me. If you’ve ever driven in my car with me, you’ll know that I rely on some sort of maps app almost every time I get in my car, because I will probably get lost. I lived in Orange County for the first 20 years of my life, and when I went back last year to visit friends in May, I got lost. A lot. The same streets, (some of) the same landmarks, the very same routes I took for years… I forgot a lot of them. I missed a lot of turns. Of course, the nostalgic part of me was really disappointed with myself, and it definitely made me feel like I need to come back to California.
But, I went to California again at the beginning of last month to celebrate my best friend getting married, and to stand up there with her. She looked like a fairy princess (which is nothing short of what I expected), and she and her husband (AH!) glowed with joy that day. At the end of this magical weekend, I left the Airbnb and drove back toward Ontario Airport, during which I felt annoyed that I had booked my flight late in the afternoon and would have about four hours to kill, and so I decided on a whim to drive past the exit for Ontario and keep heading down the 210. I exited at Citrus Avenue, and then drove around Azusa. Unlike South Orange County, I knew exactly where to go. I didn’t get lost once. (Proud moment, I won’t lie.) I parked in Lot D, got out, and walked around East Campus. I felt like I was transported back to 2016, except I didn’t have a backpack full of books slung over my shoulder. I didn’t have an APU ID card. It was a Saturday, so the campus was quiet. And in spite of my excitement about graduating and growing up, I also felt a pang of sadness for the life I had at APU, and a significant part of me wished I could go back to that life. In the almost four years since graduating, I’ve experienced a lot of the real world, and in comparison, college life was a dream. That’s not to say that my college years weren’t hard, because they definitely were at times, but those years have a certain glow now about them.
So, I took some terrible photos of the campus on my phone, which I won’t subject you to. I walked over to Engstrom Hall, where my time at APU began. I passed the mod I lived in during my sophomore year. I couldn’t actually go into University Village since it’s gated, but I drove by and wished I could go back to apartment life. I went to West Campus, where I wistfully looked at the libraries where I spent probably 67% of my time. (That number is completely made up.)
And then I drove around the community. You guys. If you graduated in 2016 with me… THERE IS AN IN N OUT ACROSS THE STREET FROM EAST CAMPUS. There’s a fancy new Starbucks next to Chick-Fil-A. There’s a Raising Cane’s. The pho place I went to probably at least 3 times a week closed down. And I thought to myself, this place isn’t the same anymore. It’s different. It’s not the community where I spent four years of my life anymore. And maybe that’s true, and maybe if I spent time with the people again, I’d feel different. And as I thought back on those four years of my life on the drive back to Ontario Airport, one theme kept popping up: I should’ve invested more. I should’ve spent more time immersing myself in APU culture. I should’ve spent more time with residents in the community. I should’ve. I should’ve. I should’ve.
Now, this doesn’t mean I’m packing up and going back to Azusa, because I’m not. For one, I don’t have money to move back to California. For another, I’m not disconnecting myself from my parents, from my sister. I have other reasons why I’m not leaving Colorado. But I’m pretty sure that the longing I have for Southern California is never going to go away. And 2019 sure as hell feels like the year of reminiscence.
Of course, a lot of other things have happened in the past year. I got my heart broken. I got a list of all of my flaws handed to me on a silver platter (most of which, I’m told, are not even actually flaws, and the list was actually handed to me in a portfolio like it was a school project, which filled me with a rage that only blasting Taylor Swift music can fix). And then I found myself falling in love again, completely unexpectedly and completely differently from anything I ever thought it would be like. I could talk about that feeling for hours, but it would never do it justice.
I had two more surgeries, bringing my total to 16. I was dumb and broke my car three times. (Sorry, Diana.) I experienced hurt, fear, pain, discontent. But I also experienced a lot of joy. I’ve learned how to be more fearless. I’ve learned how to stand up for myself, how to choose myself and my own health when I need to, without feeling guilty about it. I’ve worked a lot on improving myself (partially due to the aforementioned list of all the things wrong with me, over which I have obsessed probably way too much).
I started grad school, where I’m taking my passions for serving and loving and helping others and learning the skills I need to do it for a living. I’m experiencing a wide range of emotions about the current state of our country and of the world. I’m recognizing the brokenness of humanity, and it’s so easy to fall into the trap of ruthlessly criticizing everybody else without looking in the mirror, and everything I have is going into actively avoiding that trap. I started an internship at a skilled rehab facility, where I am learning to put my passions into a completely different arena than I ever expected.
And so 2019 ended on a note of freshness, of anticipation, of a readiness to start doing instead of just thinking. I’m walking into 2020 with a plan, with ambition, with an eagerness to start making some change. And I’m moving forward with the attitude that who I want to be and what I want to do are within grasp, within my means. And, guys, that is probably the most freeing feeling I’ve ever experienced, and I encourage you to find that for yourself this year. I know I started out with a rant about the arbitrary quality of the new year in making real and lasting change, and then I contradicted myself by telling you about how I used the new year to do this, and I said that I decided to walk into 2020 with no expectations, but it sure sounds like I have a lot of expectations, and I acknowledge the hypocrisy of this post, and I’m sort of sorry about it.
So, I explain this conflict of thought as the following: in the process of deciding that I don’t have any expectations for 2020, the reality is that I have a lot of expectations for myself. I’m not content with staying the same, with staying where I’m at, with not moving, because not moving feels a lot like moving backwards. And I’m using the concept of a new year and a new decade to fuel my decision to actively start moving forward. I might write a post about how I’m doing that, if anybody wants my two cents on that (as if anyone has asked for my two cents on anything I’ve said so far).
I’m making change, and ultimately, I hope you, dear reader, consider joining me.