What I Intend To Do More Of Going Forward
Sometimes I can easily picture us all having traumatic flashbacks years from now whenever this year is mentioned. It's shaken up everything I, and others like me, saw as permanent, stable, and reliable.
But I heard someone say the other day that she saw "wonderful and amazing things coming out of this year." And when I step out of the perspective of someone whose comfort zone has become decidedly less comfortable, I can see it. That some of the changes we desperately needed are coming out of the events of this year.
The American culture of hustling every second of the day and only sleeping when you're dead came to a dead halt. People had to stay isolated indoors, disconnect their identity from their profession and their productivity levels for a little while, and figure out what is really important in life.
I can see a huge number of people opening their eyes and becoming aware of the racism that was built into almost every thread of our systems to keep people of color "in their place". It is being recognized that every white person in our country has privilege that many of us were unaware of until later in life. And I see the anger at this injustice, a willingness to learn more in the face of discomfort, and a desire to do the work to change our normal until it is equitable for all.
Since being evacuated from the Peace Corps, and with the world in upheaval, I've had a lot of time to think about what is important to me and what I want my life to look like going forward. About the habits I want to cultivate and the impact I would like to have. I've decided that these behaviors are my priority to cultivate going into the future. If any resonate with you or if you are working on anything of your own, I'd love to hear about it!
I also recognize that staying home and looking at the silver lining of 2020 is coming from a place of privilege. I know many people who are having a much more traumatic year than I am and who have more responsibilities, less to no access to necessary resources, have faced devastating losses, and who have many more worries on their plate. Just note that this is from my perspective in trying to make some good out of this year.
--> Read more books in a variety of genres, from a variety of locations, and by a variety of authors (focusing on POC authors).
Books are a wonderful and priceless window into another person's imagination or experiences. We can see how people view the world based on their own background and perspective and thus learn more about our societies and communities in a non-self-centered way. It is also a peek into societies, cultures, and communities foreign to us that we may never have the chance to learn about or see in person.
I tend to read the same genre (fantasy) over and over and by the same handful of (white, middle to upper class) authors. I want to use books to widen my view of this beautiful world and to experience lives that are different from my own. I want to learn how I can help good causes that I believe in and I want to know more about how the world works and how we can make it better together. I can't wait to open my own little world up to the vast array of human experience contained in books about everything, from everywhere, by everyone.
--> Engage with people, ideas, and debates in kindness and compassion, not anger.
Have you ever heard the phrase "kill them with kindness"? That's what I want to do, except instead of smothering revenge-style kindness, I want it to be genuine kindness born of compassion for another human being and understanding born of actively listening to someone. I used to be extremely slow to anger and since the 2016 election season and subsequent frustrations, I can go from calm to raging in 0.03 seconds.
But that's not how I want to live my life. I don't want to be one of those people on the news not really listening to their debate opponent and just going on the offensive aggressively and ceaselessly. The world is stuffed full of anger and hate already and I don't want to add to it anymore.
Every person, no matter how overwhelmingly I disagree with them or deplore their past actions, is indeed still a person. They have hopes and fears and may be acting negatively based on some of those fears. You won't know until you actually listen to them and figure out why they believe the things they do. I want to withhold judgement until I actively and calmly listen to someone. It is actually possible to challenge someone without being accusing and putting their back up. Only then will they perhaps start listening to you.
And if they don't and just scream in my face and insult me and my family and my dog and rage and hate and judge, I still want to be the person who will smile at them, wish them a better day, and walk away knowing that I took the high road and their behavior won't rule my life and ruin my day by replaying endlessly in my head thinking about better comebacks. I don't want to taint my life raging and hating people. I can't control them, I can control me and my reactions. Then I can just try again tomorrow.
--> Actually stand up and help people when I can, instead of just being an internet warrior.
I tend to view myself as a spectator and a sharer of knowledge and/or resources. That's stopped being good enough for me though and I want to actually start taking action where I see it's needed. If that's putting $5 into a hat for a homeless person I pass on the street or going to a Black Lives Matter protest or planting more trees to help combat climate change.
Whatever it is I want to physically do it myself instead of expecting others to take up the challenge and cheering them on from the sidelines. This will be one of the most uncomfortable challenges I set for myself but also the most important. If not you, who?
--> Leave my comfort zone as often as I can.
Wow I have to remind myself of this one a lot! My comfort zone is a sticky, sticky place and I fall into it quite often. At the moment I've been isolating at home for so long even going to the post office seems like an insurmountable, exhausting errand. Writing this isn't watching Netflix and if I didn't have a tree growing in my timer app that I don't want to kill, I probably would've stopped already. The hermit life is strong with me.
If you've been following me for any amount of time though you'll know that I'm much happier and less down on myself when I put on clothes and like, do something. Check items off a list. Punch fear in the face. That kind of thing.
-->Consciously set aside time for self care and improve self talk.
I'm so much harder on myself than I would ever be on anyone else I know, and I know that's true for a lot of us out there. When I'm really down I also tend to neglect even the most basic hygiene routines which then makes me feel even worse about myself. I'm learning this year to give myself some grace and to set time aside every day to take care of myself even when it's the absolute last thing I feel like doing.
Do the things that make you light up inside, life is too short to save them for a "better day." And it's mind blowing how much better you feel when you can finally recognize that making a mistake or doing a bad thing doesn't mean you're a bad person, as long as you learn from it and make better mistakes the next time. Also when your mind isn't repeating what a lazy slob stupidhead you are. That makes you happier too!
--> Focus more on spending time offline and getting a hobby.
I'm currently almost finished with my "No YouTube" month and I still want it like I imagine a smoker wants a cigarette. Regularly and embarrassingly fiercely. I'm also pretty addicted to scrolling my phone, even with all the notifications turned off. When my mind says "bored" my fingers find my phone. It's automatic. And I'm trying to change that. I haven't been this bored since the end of elementary school summer breaks (yeah, that was pre-internet in our house) but it's good for me!
I'm writing more, I am obsessed with my tiny, stunted garden, I'm reading the books I'd piled in the corner of my childhood bedroom for who knows how many years, I pulled out an old Japanese textbook today, I wrote letters to my international friends (because at this rate who knows when I'll see them again?), I am starting to dabble with my sketchbook and HB pencils again, and I think I'm going to reteach myself how to knit. Maybe. Who knows?! The wide world of offline hobbies is ahead of me and as I haven't experienced most of them since before college they're all sounding very exciting right now. Now I just need to figure out how to get myself to exercise...
I like the days I spend offline the most. I've been realizing how much I was trying to push myself into this mode of productivity over all and if I'm not doing something "meaningful" then what am I even doing? That's a pitfall of our culture that I was still struggling with in the Peace Corps up to the evacuation, and it's remained a problem through this period of isolation. I got so serious and everything had to be time blocked and habit building and organized just so and... Dude.
I was forgetting how to just enjoy life as it is right now. I always used to love how I found positives in all situations and got over excited when I saw a butterfly and would never say no to a Slip 'N Slide. That was going away and I was trying to be an "adult" and how boring and sad is that?! I can still manage my life in a responsible way and still enjoy dropping everything I'm doing to blow bubbles. That's an important quality to me and I'm taking it back!
Well. This was long. I do that a lot, don't I? If you are still reading you are a superhero with the patience of my dog putting up with my neediness. Bless you.
Is there anything you want to do more of this year to kick 2020 in the face? Let me know in the comments below! And as always, have a magical day my dreamers!