Looking back at 2013, looking ahead to 2014…

I was asked to make a sign on our sandwich board this past Saturday, and I struggled until I thought, “this is the last Saturday of 2013!” Crazy, isn’t it? This year has absolutely flown.

I was thinking about this year, this crazy, crazy year, as I was on my way to work this morning. It’s been a wild one, full of lots of challenges, lots of victories, lots of failures, lost of reasons to be down, and lots of reasons to be happy. I want to review my 2013 with you, for the sake of reflection and garnering whatever I can from it.

 

The Good

 

I graduated from college in May! It’s hard to believe, really, because in a lot of ways it feels like forever ago, and in others, it seems like yesterday. I miss school sometimes, mostly because I miss structure and having people keeping me accountable for my progress and putting in the necessary work for things I needed to do. I have fond memories of school – late nights coming from Purdy’s with an iced coffee to the computer lab on campus where I’d stay for three or four hours working on papers and other assignments. Those are the nights I’ll never forget – the nights that make me miss school. I remember meeting with my friends in study groups (because by my senior year, I’d finally developed the habit of studying for exams, and I was GOOD.) I remember graduation day, just getting there on time, realizing I was completely underdressed under my gown, but I didn’t really care.

After graduation, I took a “trip” to Indianapolis, where I spent a total of four hours (yes, I drove seven hours round trip to sit in a coffee shop and freeze my butt off at an Indianapolis Indians game which I left in the 7th inning.) But by golly, if I didn’t feel I deserved that trip!

 

Later in the summer, at the beginning of August, I went yet again to Indianapolis for a Chelsea FC match. That was one of the best times of my life, and a true vacation in the sense that I felt I could completely let my guard down, I didn’t really care how much money I spent, I relaxed and completely indulged myself in everything I did, from Mexican food and a Pirates game at a restaurant; to FIFA on the xbox the night before the game; to our time at Claddagh’s (the Chelsea bar) in which I enjoyed the noise and half-drunken supporters; to the actual game, in which I sang in full voice. I learned from that that true rest and relaxation requires complete detachment from your usual worries. And it’s possible.

 

I took a job at the beginning of September at a place called A Cup of Common Wealth, which has been a source of a ton of joy, and I’ve learned a few things in my few months, and lots of good things have happened (one of which I’ll have to revisit later, after I go through some lows. This’ll be an up-down-back-up kind of blog.) But one sticks out – we were robbed. But after the robbery, there was so much positive response. I’ve never left a shift with more money in tips than I did that day, we had hundreds of dollars in donations for the repair of the window, and we were so fell fed by so many generous people who brought us food. We were so well taken care of. That day is a bright spot in my year.

The Bad

I don’t want to end this blog on a bad note, so I’m flushing out all the bad in the middle of it. I don’t know if there’s been a year in which I have had to fight more guilt, more fear, embarrassment, shame, insecurity, and feelings of unsettledness. I was just looking through my journal from January 1, 2013 all the way to the end of the year, and I realized how many entries were about how frustrated I was, how intimidated I was by other men, how perplexed I was by situations, how poorly I’ve managed my finances, etc.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes this year, and it’s hard to tell which one has been the biggest. Not necessarily in the final outcome, just in the process of how it came about. I remember sending a frustrated message on social media in a moment of extreme weakness and frustration. That message related to work, and it was found out by my bosses. We sat down and had a talk, and we decided it was time for me to move on from that job. No hard feelings, I wasn’t fired, and I didn’t quit. They showed me so much love on my way out, continue to show me love, and I continue to support their business. But I am not proud of what I did, and it’s an example of how I let my temper get the best of me at times, acting before I think. It’s a stain on a great year.

I also remember how I broke up with a really nice girl this summer. I’d let myself get physically, emotionally, and financially exhausted with our relationship, and I never talked about it, so I took on a passive-aggressive approach in which I just tried to avoid her, not talk to her, and not tell her up front what was going on. We broke up via text message. If you’re a guy who hopes to be known as a gentleman, you know how shameful that is. I regret that. I regret not taking a more direct, honest, and open approach.

I finally remember a time that a friend and I were on two completely different pages about our friendship, and I dumped on her a load of reasons why I felt uncomfortable with things the way they were. I think I caught her off guard, I probably pissed her off, and I think she thinks/thought I don’t like her anymore. I’m still navigating that, to be entirely honest, because I took a step and made a choice that I thought would be for the best, and I feel better about our friendship in some ways and worse in others.

Relational issues aside, I looked at my most recent pay stub and realized that the money I’d made in tips disappeared in the two week window between paychecks. I’d made something like $500 and had no idea where a penny of that had gone. How else am I to respond other than to be frustrated with myself? It’s a sign of immaturity and irresponsibility.

The Redemptive

I remember little things. I remember many afternoons spent at Lake Reba, where there is a variety of different sized soccer fields and goals. I go out there regularly with my cleats and my soccer ball, music, podcasts, and spend 30 minutes to an hour just running, shooting, dribbling, listening, breathing, living. It’s my favorite. It’s really a sacred thing for me, to be honest. Sure, it sounds silly, but it gives me a chance to get my mind clear.

I remember boggle night. For a while this fall (and it’ll continue I’m sure,) I go to my spiritual father’s house to play boggle and eat food. It’s fun. It’s competitive, but a blast. We encourage each other, pick on each other, draw poop on each other’s scoresheet. I can breathe when I’m there.

I remember morning commutes. I know I’m weird for this, but I LOVE leaving my house at 5:00 AM to go to work, especially since I get to drive all the way to Lexington. It affords me time to drink a cup of coffee and listen to music, or pray, or think. Then some nights, I get to do the same thing going home. The streets of Lexington are a little less busy after dark, and the eminence of home allows me to relax and think.

And I remember a girl – the most beautiful, sweet, encouraging girl I’ve ever known. I remember how she, maybe on a whim, asked if I wanted company when I went to see Catching Fire to kill time between work and a work meeting while I was in Lexington. I remember being unable to swallow the lump in my throat as we stood outside after the movie and I thought, “I should ask her to dinner.” We parted ways, but I ended up asking her out. Somehow, she agreed to it, and we spent three hours eating and talking at a restaurant before leaving when it closed only to sit in the car for another three hours just talking by the light of the moon. I remember my hesitation to go forward with a relationship, because just a month earlier, I’d almost sworn off dating forever. It was too exhausting, too demanding. But she makes me want to be with her, because she’s so sweet, so encouraging, challenging, inspiring, and get this – she actually likes me! She loves Jesus a lot more than she likes me, and that’s my favorite thing about her. Her company is even better than my beloved solitude.

But here’s how I want to end this:

Facebook has this neat feature in which it’ll let you look back on your year and some of the biggest moments. Fortunately, it has that for your friends, too. I looked back and saw some of the things I’d overlooked this year – many of my friends had kids (some of them for the first time,) others ran marathons, others got married, many celebrated anniversaries. Some of my friends graduated from college with me, some of them went on missions trips, some of them got great new jobs. Not all of it was good either – some people had loved ones pass away, including my own family (my grandmother passed away,) some people had to move away, etc.

All of these stories served to remind me of something:

I’m not the biggest player in my own story.

I’ve heard that before – really clearly from God, actually, but it’s easy to forget. It’s easy to forget because I am the most noticeable person to myself. That is, I live with myself, I hear my own voice, I see my own face, body, etc. I make all kinds of decisions that affect myself, often times more closely or directly than anyone else. I know [almost] everything that’s going on with me, but not necessarily with everyone else.

This reminder serves less as a reprimand and more as an invitation. I have a love/hate relationship with myself – I really love myself, and I hate myself for that. And I hate myself, and hate myself for that! Often times I find myself forgetting about other people because I’m so caught up in my business. But the invitation is this: I can take the same interest in others that I take in myself. That is, I can make a deliberate choice to invest in other people and take interest in what’s going on with them. I’m not much of one for resolutions, so I’m not going to necessarily make one, but I’d sure prefer to care about someone else more than me.

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