This was a year of abundant expectations followed by abundant distractions. Looking back, there’s no way I could have planned the year I had, but I am satisfied with it in general.
From a numbers standpoint, I didn’t come close to meeting my reading and writing goals. I barely read half the number of books I intended to read, and I didn’t finish either of my works in progress. As usual, the extent to which I read was directly proportional to the extent to which I wrote. That’s something to work on next year.
However, I diversified my reading list quite a bit, which was the reading goal that I considered the most important. And although I didn’t set out to do so, I can see a marked improvement in my ability to make and attain reasonable small-range goals with my writing, which will help with the long-range goals eventually, so I’m happy about that.
My word for the year was fun. I learned five things about myself and fun this year.
- Fun is not something I can force. At the beginning of the year, I spent a lot of energy making lists about what I thought fun should look like, and apparently I forgot that I have a full-time job and that I am not independently wealthy, because the things on those lists definitely reached beyond my time and funding resources. Frustrated that I couldn’t make my lists happen by sheer force of will but unwilling to be thwarted, I became determined to find the fun in everything I did, no matter how mundane it seemed on the surface.
Y’all. Some things are boring, and they don’t magically become less boring just because I try to make them fun. In fact, trying to do so is the exact opposite of fun; it takes dull to a whole new level. Just as there are always going to be fools who don’t love me regardless of how utterly delightful I am, there are going to be things in life I need to do that aren’t going to be the best thing ever. And that’s okay. Not every experience has to be a barrel of monkeys.
- I don’t understand spontaneity. For me, it is a stealer of joy. I have the soul of a planner, and I embrace it. I revel in the anticipation of upcoming events. Even if it’s something as simple as a whole glorious Saturday spent at home, knowing that it’s coming makes my whole week better.
But then the call comes. 9:00 a.m., Saturday morning. “Hey, what are you up to? Want to get breakfast?”
Yes. Yes, I do. Breakfast is – hands down – the best food outing, and you are my beloved friend. Delicious meal + spending time with you = a double dose of my favorite things. Of course I want to get breakfast with you.
The problem is that, knowing I had the whole day to do it, I put off doing laundry until I had no clean clothes left, and I just finished hand-washing all my bras, because I didn’t have plans to go anywhere. So I will show up for breakfast in clothes from the least smelly pile, looking like a toddler dressed me and wearing the old jogging bra that is a size too small. And that last mound of laundry will stare at me, judging me, throughout the next week, because a sudden outing means that I no longer have time to finish it all.
Had you called on Thursday and made plans for Saturday brunch, I would not be in this predicament. I would have happily done a couple of loads of laundry Friday night, giddy with excitement about seeing you the next morning. I could have worn normal things to have breakfast with you and still finished all the work I wanted to finish.
I could have had it all.
Spontaneity not only robs me of the joy of looking forward to having plans with my friends, but also robs me of time needed to accomplish what I meant to do instead. I don’t understand what’s appealing about that, and a year of trying to understand has not cleared it up.
- I don’t think I’m in the minority on this subject. Many of my friends who claim to love being spontaneous do not actually behave accordingly. I call bullshit.
Early in the year, I made an effort to adjust to them. Just because I don’t like spontaneity doesn’t make them wrong. They can like what they like. And it didn’t seem fair to expect them to always do things my way. So for a couple of months, I intentionally pared down my schedule to the basics. I left as many weeknights free as possible, and I was able to free up almost all the weekends. If no one called me to do something during my free time, I picked something to do and texted someone to invite them. Worst case scenario – I would have a reading night if nothing came up.
The results? If I had followed these guidelines for six months instead of only two, I would have reached my reading goal this year.
I didn’t see any of my friends more often than I usually do. In fact, I spent a lot more money at coffee shops than normal, because when I stopped making real plans, I hardly ever saw anyone. I would go to the square just to be around people, which is out of character for me. It takes an extreme amount of solitude for me to get tired of it.
I have more fun when I make plans, and I don’t think that’s rare. I think most people feel more valued when their friends go to the trouble to set time aside for them.
- I have a harder time having fun when I’m alone in public. The only exception is spending the occasional afternoon reading at the coffee shop or wine bar, although I won’t actually be alone there for long. Strangers love to talk to me when I’m reading. They just can’t help themselves.
When I go to a movie, I want to go with a friend. If I’m going to sit still in the same place for that long, I want someone I know sitting beside me. I don’t always need to talk about the movie afterward, but I want to have the option to do so.
If I’m shopping for clothes, shoes, or books, I want someone I know to be in the store so that we can engage in immediate celebration when I find something I love. I have zero interest in delaying that particular gratification.
Grocery stores stress me out, but if go shopping with someone, my anxiety level is significantly lower. I sometimes don’t even have to remind myself not to hyperventilate.
Going to a party by myself? NOPE.
One concern I had at the first of the year was that I had become more reclusive, as evidenced by my spending more nights at home by myself. As I began to make more of an effort to go out, I discovered that it wasn’t my disposition that changed; it was my company. The people I used to go out with when they, too, were single are now spending their evenings at home with their families (which is healthy – I don’t begrudge them that). If I really want to go out more often, I just need to find more people.
- Not teaching this semester has been fun. Really fun. I thought I would miss it, but I haven’t missed it at all. I miss the paycheck but not the job. And now that I’ve joined the church choir and have taken up TV nights with Tammy, I’m not sure where I’d even find the time. I don’t feel that fond nostalgia you get when you are at peace with moving on but still enjoy the memories. The memory enjoyment phase may be on its way, but it hasn’t shown up yet.
This sheds a curious light on my plans to get a PhD. That’s a lot of money to spend on a degree if I would be earning it just to have it. I know that the value of an education extends far beyond getting a job, but there are less expensive ways to further my education. And if I am changing careers – if I really am done with teaching – and the new career doesn’t require the diploma, I’m not sure how badly I want it anymore. I also feel a little panicky at the thought of deciding to let it go, so I’m not ready yet. But letting it go for good is now a maybe that I haven’t considered before.
So that’s my year in review. How was your year?