For the past few days I’ve been thinking about how to mark the transition from 2014 to 2015. What do I see when I hold up 2014 for moment of reflection? What do I imagine when I look at an empty calendar for 2015? Why mark these thresholds? Isn’t New Year’s Eve just a day? And isn’t New Year’s Day just the next day, in a series of days we put together into weeks, months, years, lives? Why stop to ring in the changes?
Stopping. Pausing. Looking forward and back. You can’t know where you are if you don’t stop moving. So, I slow down to see where I am. Maybe this explains the urge to mark the end of one year and the opening the next.
2014 was such a full year. I spent some time on 31 December writing a few sentences about each month, tracing highlights and turning points. It was a year that included trips to Paris and Portugal with my family, seeing one of my dearest friends in Amsterdam, playing music by composers whose mere names used to scare me into claiming complete ignorance of any musical ability, playing my cello by the river, and writing. A lot of writing: joining an established writing group, leading writing workshops with undergraduates, conducting a writing workshop exploring empathy and creativity in London, and starting my Writing Circles business where I worked with small groups of writers over several weeks exploring ideas, process and craft.
So much happened. So much was begun, not only in me, but also in my friends. I witnessed friends ending and starting careers, welcoming new additions to their families, saying goodbye to loved ones, moving back home after being away for many years, moving away from the familiar in search of new homes. Everywhere around me this year, I seemed to be surrounded by people daring to become themselves. Shaking off skins that no longer fit, closing books whose stories had ended, leaving behind snail shells grown too small.
What was it that made 2014 so special? What was the catalyst to so much movement, so much growth? After musing on this for some time, I came to the idea that 2014 was the year I stopped waiting. I stopped waiting for permission, waiting to be asked, waiting for the right moment, waiting until I knew enough facts or had enough experience. I stopped stalling, stopped thinking that ‘if I just do X and Y first, then I’ll be ready for Z.’ Instead, I jumped straight to Z and beyond.
And you know what I found? I didn’t need permission or invitations to try out a new idea. There is never a perfect time to launch a program or submit a story or start a difficult conversation, so there’s no point in waiting for it to arrive. And you can’t get experience by studying really hard behind closed doors or hanging around on the edges but never venturing centre stage. There’s just jumping, leaping, eyes open or closed, and seeing what happens.
What happens when we take off? Maybe nets appear below, maybe we grow wings, maybe we fall and break. Maybe what happens is a mixture; some parts of us learn to fly and others sink. Whatever happens, we don’t remain whole, but we might become more complete.
So at the end of the year we pause,yes, and look at all that has passed. As I look over my shoulder at 2014, I want to reach back and take one thing forward into 2015: a spirit of jumping, of daring. But I choose not to linger for too long and wait for any guarantees. If you know exactly where you are, then you probably aren’t going anywhere at all.
What are you taking forward? What are you waiting for?
After all my thinking and scribbling about the new year, what finally spurred me on to actually writing this post was this article by Peggy Doyle, over at What Now, What Next? If you read it, you might find yourself writing, too!