As I sit here on December 31st and look back to January 1st of 2018, it feels like all I did was blink - and here we are, about to welcome 2019 to this adventure book of life. However, when I really sit and think about my 2018, I see something so much more than just “another year”. And when I really sit and think about how I changed throughout this year, 2018 actually becomes one of the, if not THE, biggest year of my life so far. I’ve managed my way through almost 27 years, and 2018 just might take the cake. This has been the year that has brought the most adventure, freedom, and optimism. But I wouldn’t do the year justice if I didn’t add that it also brought the most doubt, uncertainty, and confusion… Because yeah, we all love the good times and we all love feeling like we have this whole thing “figured out”, whatever that means, but there’s little room to grow in those moments. We truly develop and grow when we stand face-to-face with doubt, uncertainty, and confusion. In those moments we either force ourselves to remain unchanged, allowing whatever challenge we face to take a firm stand right at the center of our lives, or we force ourselves to change.
What I realized most this year is that we have the power to change things… and when you pair that with an early realization for most of us – that life is short – I took a stand against my doubts and told myself that I would be okay, if not better, after pushing through the challenges I was facing… Because if I was where I was meant to be and fully happy, would I even be facing those doubts so directly to begin with? I looked at all of the uncertainty ahead and decided not to let that fear keep me where I was because where I was wasn’t making me happy. At that point I just took the confusion and tossed it out of a window because there is simply no room to be confused when you’re thinking about your own happiness.
As many of you know, I quit teaching this year. I quit the very thing that I grew up dreaming to do. I’m going to press pause here, actually, and now rewind to re-word those sentences. As many of you know, I walked away from teaching this year. I walked away from the very thing that I grew up dreaming to do. I don’t like saying “quit” because part of me feels like it implies giving up. Part of me feels like quitting is an easy way out… and let me tell you that this decision was not made lightly. This decision was one that brought so much doubt – I doubted myself as an educator and then doubted my strengths altogether. But I also doubted that my career in education would bring me happiness. I doubted that I could do all of the things I wanted to do in life if I remained on the path I was walking down. I stared straight ahead down that path and knew it wasn’t meant to be my path. I was uncertain about many things, mainly if I was making the “right” decision. But back to having it all “figured out”, I finally realized that the “right” decision is simply my own happiness. The “right” choice is not what you’ve always done. It’s not always your comfort zone or what you’ve known your whole life. And it’s definitely not the “right” choice simply because everyone around you thinks that it should be. Sometimes, your “right” decision makes you start a brand new path. I became more uncertain of the future at that point, than I was about the actual decision, but my excitement of the freedom that came with it helped to push away the uncertainty.
I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m sitting here on December 31st, optimistic about my future. I’m looking back to January 1st of 2018 where I was dreading going back for the second half of a school year. This year was great because of the joys and highs that it contained, but this year was made so special to me because of the doubt, uncertainty, and confusion I tackled. I have so much more patience now. I wake up without anxiety and can go to sleep at night without anxiety of the next day. I can walk into my job and feel relaxed (most days) and then walk out of my job to grab dinner or drinks with friends and family. I am not constantly stressing about how much work I have to do outside of work. I can watch a good show after work and not constantly be thinking of a to-do list of grading, planning, researching.
Our hard times make us bitter or better. Our struggles make us collapse or rise. Our tough decisions make us remain the same or change and grow. We have the choice. We get to choose. At the end of the day, this is your life and only yours. This is your only life. If there’s something you need to change, then find a way to change it. If there’s something you constantly doubt, find a way to face it. This life is too short to feel stuck, unworthy, or sad for too long. It might require you to take a step off of your path in a direction you’ve never gone before, but if you believe that your happiness is out there, why not take the risk? Don’t put yourself down a path where one day you’ll have to look back and wonder, “what if?” Don’t make yourself wonder. Do it.
Make 2019 the year to push yourself closer to the happiness that you know is out there for you. I’ll be here, rooting for you!