It’s funny sometimes how I’ll create to-do lists to make sure things get done, only to have life throw me curve balls I never could have imagined. Needless to say, this year did not go as anticipated, but by no means is it a bad thing. Doors opened up leading to unexpected places, while others closed inviting me to take a different path.
The last few months of 2019 in particular, I found myself reflecting and thinking about a lot of things in my life. Things that made me happy and things that did not. As a result, I began the process of making decisions to make sure the happy list is longer than the not happy list.
As I reflect on my To Do List from 2019, I realized a lot has changed in my thinking within the past year.
- Read. A lot.
2019: I set the same reading goal of 40 books. In addition, I joined a book discussion group online – a first for me! The idea is to keep up with it and be more involved in the literary community.
Reality: This is pretty much the only item on my list where I didn’t wander off! I read a total of 43 books in 2019, most of which were completed by October. Reading has always been a fundamental part of my life, no matter whatever else is going on. I find comfort in that, especially as everything else seems to be shifting.
The book group I joined quickly unraveled into more of a chat group about everything but books, so I wandered away from it. It’s one of those things that I tried and found it just wasn’t my thing. Reading has long been a solo activity for me and it looks like it always will be!
2. Write and Submit
2019: The realization of my distraction hit me hard and made realize how much I miss writing. This is going to be a year of finding my groove again and truly deciding what I want to write. I’m looking at some freelance opportunities and I know will absolutely continue writing poetry. However, I also want to jump back into fiction and blogging on a more regular basis. As far submitting goes, I think I have some soul-searching to do and once I find my groove, I can start thinking about what to submit and where. This is clearly a rebuilding year!
Reality: I didn’t submit a single piece of writing. In fact, most of my creative writing pursuits centered around poetry, mainly haiku. It’s where my passion is and I decided it doesn’t really matter if it’s published or not because I find so much joy in it on a personal level. I filled two journals this year with over 400 haikus.
I found little or no inspiration for writing fiction and didn’t write a single word. Much to my surprise, I didn’t miss it. For the moment, it seems I enjoy reading fiction more than I enjoy writing it. Perhaps, one day I’ll return to the stories that once stirred in my imagination, but that’s not where my muse is right now. During, the first few months of 2019, I really beat myself up over this, but after some careful reflection I remembered my own philosophy that serves as the tagline of this blog – Just following my muse. She may not be going where I thought she would, but she’s never steered me wrong. I realized I’d been yanking a little too hard on the reins and I just need to let go.
2019: Wheels are already in motion on the travel front. I’ll be heading to Belgium in the summer with plans to visit at least one other bordering country while I’m there. I’m also hoping to visit a new state within the U.S.
Reality: My passport and I had a great year as we headed off to Europe for another grand adventure. After too long of a hiatus, it’s been great to feed my passion for travel over the last couple of years. Belgium turned out to be a hidden gem of incredible experiences – everything from food, wine, architecture, culture, and friends made this trip nothing short of amazing. As hoped, I got to one other bordering country, too: Luxembourg. It’s a tiny country with a lot to see!
I didn’t get to a new state this year, but rather visited the same ones I do every year! That’s the way it goes sometimes.
4. Look for open doors and step through them.
2019: Keep watch for those open doors and opportunities. Never again do I want to find myself bored and unstimulated because I’ve been doing the same thing for too long.
Reality: This is the year where I learned what I don’t want to do. The first year of my new administrative position was challenging and I enjoyed the stimulus, but that all wore off by the time the new school year started. Changes that occurred at levels above me and to the processes around me made for a miserable experience. By October, I submitted my resignation for the next school year. I’m muscling through this year to fulfill my contract and counting down the days to a full-time return to the classroom (which the powers that be have agreed to do).
For a long time, I felt like a failure, but I quickly realized it was a lot like what happened with my writing. My heart just wasn’t in it and it’s obvious my passion lies elsewhere. I love education and I still love the art of teaching. I got a little too far away from that and I’m glad I made decisions to get back to what I love doing.
That being said, I’m also reevaluating where I teach. I don’t know that I’ll be staying at the school where I’ve been for the last 18 years. My National Board certification grants me a lot of freedom to see what else is out there. In many ways, it feels like I’ve stayed in one place for so long because it’s what I’ve always done, rather than because I love where I am. It’s a fine line, but also a monumental divide when it comes to how I feel every day when I arrive at work.
2019: I still plan on using my crafty skills to do some good. This year I’ll be looking for ways to get students more involved in the process, while carving out some personal time to create things that challenge my skills and benefit organizations I care about the most.
Reality: My time was not my own this year. The fact that I didn’t get to craft and give as much as I would have liked was one of the reasons why I quit my administrative job. Between time constraints and sheer exhaustion, there wasn’t enough of anything left to be creative or work with students. When I can’t do what fulfills me, changes need to be made. It’s that simple.
More changes are coming, which leaves me oscillating between excitement and an overall sense of nervousness. I’ve always been the steady one that sticks to a schedule, plans ahead, and anticipates every little detail. I don’t have a list for 2020. My only real framework for 2020 is statement that’s been ringing in my head for a while now … Do more of what makes you happy. That’s what I intend to do because the last year took this away from me and I want it back.
There’s a lot to be said for stepping back and realizing things aren’t the way you want them. I have found immense strength and empowerment by having the courage to say “no” when everyone expects me to say “yes” to certain things because I always have. I am exploring new avenues and putting my trust in the unknown more than I ever have before, while at the same time holding onto what matters most to me. So, off I go to do things I never thought I would with curiosity, bravery, and hope that it will bring me joy.