Looking Back and Dreaming Forward: Year-End Musings

Happy New Year, friends! Hopefully your end-of-year festivities and holiday celebrations were full of good food and awesome people. Andrew and I celebrated the change of year by binge-watching TV and blowing through record-breaking amounts of Kleenex. Pretty sure we were in bed by 10:30. 

Germs aside, I love the end of the year. The close of a year and beginning of the next year is this wonderful, natural transition point in life, and a gift-wrapped opportunity to reflect and dream. I totally nerd out over this stuff...poor Andrew has to go through similar conversations with me at any major milestone like birthdays, our wedding anniversary, the anniversary of our first date, etc. He's a trooper.

The close of the calendar year though...that's the ultimate transition point, a literal page turn. I love an excuse to look back and dream forward, and have spent a lot of time already thinking about my personal and professional 2017, and dreams for the upcoming year. 

Looking Back: Celebrating 2017

When I look back on 2017, there is a lot to celebrate, and that's 1) surprising and 2) awesome. The good stuff is surprising because 2016 was so shoddy, and I'm still sort of in awe of the contrast between the two years. In my reflections, I came out with a few big points:

#1 - I started a business that I love.

That's not a small thing, now that I think about it! It's tempting to get bogged down in the "weirdness" of what I do, and the super negative and unhelpful comments that people often give in response to my work. But in hindsight, it's easy to see what a blessing my profession is.

Writing fiction for me is still a joy, and adding the client-facing side of my work has really brought a beautiful balance to my professional life. I served lots of awesome people in 2017, and have a 100% satisfaction rate with my clients. That's definitely something worth celebrating!

All year, though, it was a constant battle to believe in my work and trust that I was doing the right thing. Even though I was actively serving people and making a difference in their professional and personal lives, I struggled to fight off the messages of the world regarding 'traditional success.' 

Fortunately, I have a rockstar husband who encourages and supports me with persistence and patience.

For Christmas each year, Andrew and I theme our gifts for each other. It's fun and helps us with ideas, so we've made it a tradition. The themes are secret, so I didn't know what Andrew was up to until Christmas morning. He started by giving me a card he made with little layered notes, each note corresponding to a gift.

Every single note was an affirmation or encouragement about my professional pursuits, and the impact of my work.

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Yes, I cried like a baby. Yes, my husband is freaking incredible. To top it all off, the trunk of the tree pulled out to reveal the words "Change Their Minds and Change the World." That note corresponded with a Wonder Woman that Andrew cross-stitched for me.

By hand.

I didn't even know he knew how to cross-stitch. 

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Andrew reminded me of something that is super easy to forget -- my work is valuable, it suits me, and it is worth celebrating. Also, apparently I'm Wonder Woman in his eyes, which is freaking incredible!

Which leads me to my next big win from 2017.

#2 - My husband is a selfless, patient, compassionate superhero.

I mean, see above, but also a lot of other great stuff happened!

Blogging in 2017 was a little annoying because I SO BADLY wanted to write openly about Andrew's professional situation. He was my ever-present pro-bono client that desperately needed to move into a different work environment, but couldn't even start looking for a new opportunity until July. He endured a rough culture and exhausting job for about a year so that 1) I could continue to do what I love and 2) we would have a steady income to purchase a house and qualify for financing. 

In July, he kicked his job search into high gear, and we both worked hard to get him into a better situation. He finally started at an awesome new company in November, but all year he continued to be patient, selfless, and committed to leading our family well. In addition, in looking back on 2017 I get to celebrate the incredible lift in his spirit that occurred immediately with the job change. Now in addition to having a selfless, patient, loving man, I also have a super happy man, and that is definitely worth celebrating! 

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Even in the midst of our germs and exhaustion over the holiday season, we've had a lot of fun because so many aspects of our circumstances are simply better. I'm thankful to have a partner to walk through life with, and someone to laugh a lot with when the pressure finally eases up. 

#3 - I healed spiritually.

Again, 2016 was a pretty stupid year, and a lot of that had to do with spiritual abuse and the aftermath of those experiences. With time, spiritual direction, and the merciful, gentle leading of God, 2017 brought a lot of healing, and a desire to turn back to my loving Father. 

For the first time in ages, I'm picking up my Bible consistently and seeing the fruit that comes from the Word of God. I have a right image of God, which was pretty messed up from the previous year. As He leads me, I find that I am more confident in who He is, the plans He has for my life, and my identity in Jesus. Above all, this is the 2017 "win" most worth celebrating. It is transformational, and I could not be more grateful that I am so far from where I was at the end of 2016. Praise God!

Dreaming Forward: Anticipating 2018

I tend to be super type-A and productivity-focused when I think about goal-setting. It's tempting to approach this "resolution season" in such a way--to focus on what needs to change, and how to get it done efficiently and effective. That's good, of course! I have professional goals that fall into that category and aren't listed below.

But I think it's also important to pause and dream

Here's where I landed for 2018, with both personal and professional implications.

#1 - Prioritize my relationship with God over literally everything else.

After seeing the fruit of this recent season, what I desire the most for 2018 is to stay in the Word and learn to lean fully on God. This influences how I plan my day, design my schedule, and make decisions, and it's honestly pretty different from how I've operated previously. I have no doubt that this will have a huge impact on my life, and on my capacity and desire to serve others. 

On top of that, I have a feeling that God will continue to speak into my professional identity, and to affirm that I'm on the right track. I am definitely on board with a more accurate foundation for my identity in 2018!

#2 - Get in a groove.

Andrew and I had a pretty chaotic 2016, and still a lot of changes in 2017 with job transitions and the new house. One of our mutual goals for 2018 is to get in a groove, settle in to some normalcy, and hopefully even get bored on occasion. 

Initially, I thought I was biologically allergic to routine. The constraints of a schedule felt restrictive and automatically made me want to rebel (human nature, anyone?). "I need my freedom! I'm a creative! Impulse is life, yo!"

But as I've developed a schedule and routine out of necessity for self-employment, I've seen how beneficial it is to have rhythms in my daily life. My best days are the 'typical' days with a normal schedule--I get up, I eat, I do yoga, plan the day, and am generally joyfully productive. Routine, it turns out, can be freeing, and also really good medicine for my anxiety. I hope to foster more of these rhythms in 2018. 

The same goes for life outside of work. Andrew and I both find we can breathe easier when we have some planned date nights, and rhythms in our weekly routines. We literally are aiming for a rotating monthly date night schedule this year--he plans one, I plan one, we go out for a good meal, and we stay in and cook together. Repeat, repeat, repeat. There is still space for spontaneity, but also a lot of pressure relieved by not starting from scratch each week. 

#3 - Have a lot of fun.

Not your average resolution, huh? Honestly, I love this goal for 2018--I love the idea of intentionally playing, and making the most out of the time we have.

This was initially kicked off by plans for our next big international trip. Back in December, we tinkered around with our credit card rewards and loyalty points, and were shocked to find that we could get round-trip tickets for next fall for just $100 in fees. WHOA. AWESOME!!! We just returned from our European river cruise in November, so I had no idea we'd be able to plan something again so soon. Because of that, France/Switzerland is already in the works, along with a few other small domestic trips.

I hope 2018 is like the honeymoon year we never had. In many ways, I feel like we've gotten some of that back in 2017, but I have no problem stretching the good times out into a second year now that we're finally feeling settled! 

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If you've gotten to this point, kudos. I appreciate you giving a darn about my 2017 and 2018 musings, and I hope you have some things to celebrate in your own lives, too. If you feel yourself getting overly legalistic or to-do-listy about your 2018 plans, I invite you to step back and dream a little with me. What do you hope for this year? What desires do you have for the next 12 months? Go ahead, I won't tell anyone...dream forward!