For many, January is characterized as a boring month that just slogs by, with gross weather and not much to look forward to. But on the whole, I’ve taken the opposite view this time around. In general, I’ve made January a month of optimism, not dreading winter but embracing it and not preventing myself from excitement. The start of year 2 in Rochester has been a little too exciting, as a matter of fact. But I have come to some sort of internal consensus on my resolution for this year, which is apparent in the headline.
I got back from Seattle and to normal pretty quickly. The highlight of that first week was attending the Bread & Butter String Band’s concert in Decorah. My good friend Lucas is one of the founders of the band, back in 2008 (did I remember that correctly?), and I finally got around to hearing them last summer. I was so impressed that I go to their concerts now every opportunity I get! Plus it was fun to see him before he left for another semester of school in Montreal. The weather even held up for me to drive down and back, but right after, the deep freeze began. The obligatory below-zero days appear to have passed, and now we’re sitting in the comfortable 10-20 degree range. (Ha.) Fortunately, I’m a year more mentally prepared for the days of -30 wind chill. Considering I started dreading it back in July, I’m quite pleased with myself for holding up in it.
The cold did cause me a slew of new problems, though. A few days after that concert, I was driving to work. As I approached a red light on West Circle Drive, I braked… but couldn’t slow down. There was a pickup truck in front of me, and about a half second before it happened, I realized I was going to hit it. Wham. In hindsight, it was good that he was there to stop my motion. There was a spot of black ice there and I didn’t brake soon enough, so I slid into the guy. Returning to the feeling of it is intense. We were both okay – my car was the most damaged of anything involved. There’s a crack on the front bumper, my left tire rod got bent, and my driver’s side window regulator got broken. It’s all fixed now, except for the cosmetic stuff, which I’ll get fixed later. Still, I’ve been carless for bits of time, which I hate to be. And I won’t forget the financial impact, either.
So that’s what’s been messing with my life this month. That’s in addition to my usual activities – working on Bead & Jewellery Magazine (which I’m still getting used to) and our craft tutorial apps, singing and playing cello at Gloria Dei, Rochester Pops Orchestra rehearsals, reading books, and hanging out with friends. I will be going to England again in the first part of April for the next Big Bead Show 😀 And I’m going to Boise Feb. 6-9 to visit my grandparents. My grandpa Gordon’s birthday is on the 7th, and mine is the 8th. I’m really not excited to be turning 24, but I am excited for the trip. 🙂
Now, on to the philosophical. As my thoughts have formed, I’ve learned that I value authenticity in a person. That means being truthful about yourself and to yourself. You should do what makes YOU feel most alive, most at home. The book I’ve been reading, Dr. Daniel Levitin’s The Organized Mind, talks about flow, where you get so involved in what you’re doing that you don’t stop to think about it or get caught up in insecurities. It doesn’t exhaust you, but energizes you. Sadly, it’s been a long, long time since I felt this – not that I recall since practicing cello in the practice rooms in Jenson-Noble at Luther. That doesn’t mean I’ve screwed everything up, or that I’m working at the wrong job. I just need to find my way back to it. And flow isn’t the only thing that matters. Rational decision-making is important too, which Levitin spends a whole chapter talking about. But flow comes when you’re doing something that’s part of you. That’s what I strive for. I know I won’t be good at what I’m doing if I don’t feel connected to it. So my resolution for 2016 is to be who I say I am. In this world where social media lets you portray yourself as happier than you are, I’m fighting that. Perhaps it would be better to say that I’m going to say who I really am. That includes to myself. I can’t achieve flow if I’m not truthful with myself about the best choices.
“Should” is a dangerous word. I take the perspectives of others seriously, and sometimes that turns into my thinking I should do or be something, even if I don’t feel connected to it. There’s a matter of trial and error to this, of course. I took ballet for 5 years because I thought I would love it when I was 7, but by the time I was 12, I didn’t feel the connection. The worst of this is when the “should” manifests itself in your brain. It blocks you from your truth. “Should” is what tells you that you’re stupid, irrational, misguided, worthless, that your emotions are wrong. But how can your emotions be wrong? Emotions aren’t supposed to be called “right” or “wrong.” They just are. You can analyze them to determine the root of them and from there, determine the right or wrong path through rational thinking. And emotions are dynamic, too. You may react one way upon learning a tidbit of information, but as you learn more about the topic, your emotions change. That’s why empathy is so important, why I value it so much.
Which leads me back to authenticity. Because I value empathy as well as authenticity, my goal is to show empathy always, to be a safe space for others to be authentic and true, which allows for their own self-improvement. But sometimes I think back on times in my life where I wasn’t empathetic. That’s where Impostor Syndrome comes in. How can I tout empathy as so important to me when I’ve failed so many times to live up to this, and hurt those who were dear to me in the process? I’m sorry that I have not kept my word. I feel like a failure – an impostor. Same as I do when I tell people that I’m the sub-editor of a prestigious beading magazine. I’m not a professional beader by any means. I know how to do it, but I confess I don’t share the excitement for the craft that many beaders I know do. It’s not what brings me to flow. So why would anyone want to work with me?
It’s not hopeless. Impostor Syndrome is not going to doom you to depression, you just have to look into why it’s happening. In my case of empathy, I acknowledge the times I’ve failed, and I’m sorry for them. I’ve come miles in understanding all of it. Then I think of a line from a communion preface my pastor from Seattle gives, welcoming all to the table of Christ: “You who have tried to follow Jesus… and you who have failed.” It’s the grace of a second chance. With the help of God, I can live up to my own ridiculous standards, in my work and in my character. I know Yoda says “Do or do not. There is no try.” But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the “do not”s. It’s possible, because I see the possibility.
It’s hard to mince this into a few words. This year, I promise to say things that reflect what’s in my head and heart, to not boast, to not hide from my feelings, regardless of what society is telling me about them. To take others at their word and hold them to it, and to only give word that I know I will keep. And to be honest with myself. How’s that sound?
Onward and upward.
P.S. I’m rooting for the Cardinals to win the Super Bowl because I had a huge crush on Carson Palmer when I was 10.