Farewell to 2013

The final day of 2013 is often times a day of reflection. My Facebook has been full of good memories and vows to make the most out of the New Year. 2014 is just around the corner and as I sit here in my living room in Oregon I find myself decidedly underwhelmed, but glad.

2013 has been a year of self-discovery. From beginning to end I have had experiences that have reminded exactly who I am.

My friend Tom has a blog and he picked a word for the year. His word was identity and strangely enough I think it is my word, too. It is really the only one that appropriately sums up the year for me. Facing down the New Year I believe I understand who I am just a bit better than I did when I was waiting eagerly for the clock to strike midnight and 2013 to arrive.

2013 was a year of friendship. I got the chance to live surrounded by people who accepted me, encouraged me, and loved me even when I didn’t necessarily love myself. Through friendship I got a glimpse about what it means to be accepted and finally figured out it is okay to accept myself, too.

2013 was a year of accomplishment. I lived out of state for the first time on my own. I paid rent, bought groceries, and worked nearly full time in two jobs. In the fall I began my own research project. I TA’ed in two classes and learned that I loved teaching and am not half bad at it. I graduated from University. I moved back home.

2013 was a year of challenges. This one is kind of a misnomer because every year has its own challenges. However, this year I faced some new ones. I felt severe loneliness (often self-inflicted) during the summer as I lived on my own for the first time. My grandmother passed away. My dad had a stroke. I had to move back home after graduation to a post-stroke father and a mother with an injured ankle. I have been challenged in many ways but have persevered and learned.

2013 was a year of freedom. I celebrated four years of no self-harm in early December. I learned what it meant to love and be loved. I realized that I did not have to fit a specific mold, graduate on time, get a certain job, or go to grad school right away. I found peace in the fact that the life society thrusts on people from the very start often isn’t attainable and that more often than not life never fits the standard mold.

Finally, 2013 was a year of finding purpose and meaning. The most valuable lesson was one I learned from Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning: every situation has purpose and meaning, even the bad ones…and as long as there is meaning then despair has no place.

What will 2014 bring? I don’t know. A new adventure, perhaps. A new job, I hope. More friendships, accomplishments, challenges, freedom, purpose and meaning, I expect.

So bring on the New Year. Let’s do this. 

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Purpose in the Moment

As I was cruising down Yorba Linda Blvd today on my way in to work I heard a story.

Ryan Tedder, one of the founders of the band OneRepublic, had called into the radio station I was listening to. He was asked to share his 9/11 experience. He told listeners that on the day the planes crashed into the World Trade Center he was crushed. A few days later he went down to a Navy recruiting station with every intention of joining the military. They told him no. He was an only child and it was highly likely there would be deployments in the future (and there were, as I think we all know the story of Iraq) and Ryan’s family did not need to lose their only child.

Disheartened, Ryan left and in that moment probably felt pretty helpless. Later in life, after his band took off the ground and he was well into his musical career, OneRepublic was able to play for the combined armed forces stationed in Hawaii. After playing a show for them on the 4th of July a woman came up to him, explained she was a sniper and had just gotten back from a tour of duty, and that OneRepublic’s album had gotten her through that hard time.

When one door shut, another door opened, and it ended up helping another individual through a hard time.

I think there is a huge lesson to learn from this: Everything has a purpose; good times, bad times, open doors, and closed doors. We may be going along in life, doing what we think we’re supposed to do, only to find a door we thought would be wide open is closed, locked, and boarded up. It is disheartening and hard to stare at that closed door, wondering what happened. However, a closed door for us in that moment might mean a door opened for someone else who needed it a lot more than us.

We’re such a small part of life that what seems like a tsunami to us is really just a ripple that reaches someone else and changes their life. Ryan Tedder wanted to join the military, to make a difference in the world, and when that door closed he was crushed. Yet that door closing meant he would go on to produce music that would touch the hearts of millions. There was a purpose for that rejection, even if it stung in the moment.

A professor of mine once wrote this on an exam and I think it sums up my point, so I will leave you with this:

There is as much purpose in the present moment as there is in your future. Don’t wait for your life to be meaningful, it already is. Have you ever considered that you already have everything you need?