At the beginning of every new year, I like to take stock of where I’ve been and where I’m heading in my life. This past year was a regrouping year for me. I spent a lot of energy investigating whether or not I’ve been on the best path, how I got to where I am, how to redirect myself toward more authenticity.
I continue to struggle, as I always have, with simply being comfortable in my own skin. I realize the phrase has become cliché, but it describes well how I literally experience my life.
I tried some things in 2016 that were new for me, but overall it was a year of laying low, of going within, of retreating. I suppose, then, that I shouldn’t be surprised at not having accomplished as much as I would have liked. I’m not surprised, yet I’m still disappointed, because letting myself off the hook continues to be one of my challenges.
Learning how to be enough just as I am would be the ultimate achievement, I think. Learning to be brave in all of my words and actions would be a worthy accomplishment as well.
I like to set goals for myself at the beginning of the year (goal is a kinder word than resolution). Last year I committed to reading 50 books. I actually managed to read 48–yes, those two I finished on the last day of the year count! I’m proud of this number, because I read more books last year than in most recent years, and at the same time, I’m not proud of it, because I fell behind in late summer and knew I had fallen behind and didn’t make enough effort to catch up. Falling behind and not making enough effort were sort of themes during 2016 in a number of areas in my life—themes I’d like not to carry over into the new year.
Looking over the list of books I read reveals some things: I prefer to read contemporary, white, American women. I suppose this is reasonable since I’m a white American woman who is always seeking to meet myself in others as well as to figure out where I fit in.
I read mainly nonfiction, and I read a ton of it. Seventy-three percent of the books I read were nonfiction of some sort—memoirs, essay collections, and other nonfiction sub-genres. However, essay and poetry collections combined made up the largest portion of what I read. It makes some sense for me to combine these, as often a book of essays incorporated poetry and a book of poetry took a turn toward essay. I’m not at all surprised by this evaluation of my reading because these are the genres I gravitate toward in my writing as well. In fact, I’m glad to see numerical proof that I successfully focused my reading in the type of writing I’m most interested in doing.
As far as subject matter goes, my main topics of interest were race, adoption, women, and the environment, in that order, although what I think of as self-improvement books outnumbered any of these. As I said, it was a year of regrouping.
This year I’m committing once again to reading 50 books, with the hope that I’ll be able to exceed that goal. I’m also going to make more of an effort to read diverse authors. Last year, 10% of the authors I read were black, 4% were Hispanic, 4% were Asian, and 10% were based outside of the U.S. (though only one of these was not white). I have a long way to go in broadening my understanding of the world.
The state of our world was at the forefront of my mind throughout 2016 because of the contentious presidential election and its outcome, as well as Brexit, and the situations in Syria and Turkey, and the mass shooting in Orlando, etc. and so on. It can be draining to keep up with all that’s going on and to quell the fear these events awaken, but I can’t turn away and blindly hope that someone else somewhere else will solve every problem. I’m committed to finding ways I can participate in creating and sustaining the kind of world I want for myself and for my family.
Being involved and connected in every area of my life encompasses most of what I hope to achieve in this new year. I underestimated how rocked my personal world would be by changes my family undertook two years ago in beginning a new life in a new state. I failed to account for how difficult change of any kind can be for me, how slowly I’m able to rebound and rebuild. I feel as though I’m just starting to really settle into my new reality despite being well into my third year here in Florida.
I have to consciously remind myself of all that I have done in the past two and a half years even though I’ve felt as if I’ve been standing still or, even worse, drifting backwards, that it’s the sense of starting over making me feel as if I haven’t made any progress recently. Every effort, no matter how small, pushes me a little closer to my goals. Yet, in spite of the pep talks I give myself, I still feel a great need this year to get serious and get things done.
To that end, this post is the first of what I intend to be weekly short essays here in 2017. I won’t promise that they’ll all be polished, because my aim will be to develop consistency and courage in my writing by committing to publishing my words here each week without allowing myself time to over-think or over-edit. I’m inspired to do this by Vanessa Mártir, a writer whose blog I first began following because I identify with how she describes her experience of being unmothered. I read a good number of the weekly essays Vanessa posted last year, and I’m psyched to participate this year in her #52essays2017 challenge.
Here’s to a peaceful and prosperous 2017 for us all!
I’m participating in Vanessa Mártir’s #52essays2017 challenge. This is #1 of 52.