Growth, comfort, and vision for the New Year

2016 is over, and let’s be honest. It was a really rough year. Heartbreak, loss, sadness, shock. The future scared me, my heart broke, I lost a place I had long called home, we lost so many amazing people, and the antithesis of American democracy became president-elect. But I also saw family and friends get married, traveled more than I ever have in a year, felt confident in my career goals, saw one of my favorite bands live for the first time, and explored new national parks and forests with people I love deeply. It was the year, as Kylie Jenner so eloquently prophesied, of “realizing things.” One of the most important things I discovered for my own personal development is this: Growth and comfort are often mutually exclusive.

In the year that so frequently attempted to pull me down (and succeeded a few times!), I grew a surprising amount. This growing was often accompanied by a sense of loss. I felt like the things and people I’d always counted on being constant were vanishing into thin air, and the longer I groped in the open space for these things (and people, and places) to come back into my life, the more heartache I felt. In my rock bottom moments of dejection, self-pity and deprecation, and confusion, I was (and frequently still) allowed myself to turn a blind eye to all the things I gained from these losses in the process. In heartbreak, I’d learned the value of putting my needs first, and trusting my gut. In the loss of a house, I was reminded incessantly that home isn’t a plotted location, but where you can be best understood and loved by another soul (which means home is a couch in a friend’s apartment, the back seat of a car, a dance floor, or a hike in the woods). In the disappointed shock in the wake our our nation’s election, I became reassured in my future career in law.

So, as I’m learning (sometimes painfully), each day, if I’m willing to shirk comfort when it attempts to keep me focused on short-term realities, I can discover a lot more purpose for myself. To me, purpose comes from vision. Vision comes from not narrow- mindedness, but the intentional breakaway from all the things that  detract from our focus on what drives us. I sat in my church’s New Year’s Day sermon, pondering the question our pastor had just asked us, “What do you want this year?” What do I desire, what will be my purpose? And I’m still chewing on that. There are a million things I want: adventure, opportunity, contentment, creativity – the list goes on forever, that’s just who I am. But I think he was asking something a little bit deeper, and I think he meant this: what do I need this year, to keep hold of vision for myself and the world I live in? I think that answer is simple, and it’s love. And not judgmental, selective, exclusive love. I’m talking about the kind of  love that given immediately, wholly, and with reckless abandon. Love for myself (how I treat my body, and nourish my spirit), love for my friends (how I can work to serve and care for them better), and love for my not-so-friendly-humans (how I can educate in the least judgmental way about issues that impact the world’s most marginalized).

That kind of love is hard to come by, and even harder to hold oneself accountable to uphold. I’m not even making that a resolution, because I know I will fail miserably on a daily basis. However,  in filling myself with love and reminding myself after each daily failure that love promotes growth, I think I will better recognize my purpose. And if that is not in the cards for me this year, the worst case scenario is that I taught myself to love better. This means a million things: it means loving my sense of adventure and saving up accordingly, it means loving when you don’t always feel loved back, it means loving my future enough to push through the trials of thesis writing and LSAT prep. I hope you, in your New Year reader, are filled up with and surrounded by love – and most of all, I hope that love inspires you to grow. It will not be comfortable, but I can feel it deeply that the discomfort will be well worth it.

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