2019: Year of Learning

Inspired in part by Neil Gaiman’s New Year wish for 2012, which reads as follows:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

And so I have declared 2019 to be my Year of Learning. Not that learning isn’t already a lifelong pursuit, but I want to be quite deliberate about reading more, doing more, learning more.

As I begin a new job and career as a primary school teacher, learning will be what I teach and what I am. And surely, surely there will be many mistakes. “New Mistakes”, and hopefully, “glorious, amazing mistakes”.

By choosing “learning” as my word for 2019, I hope it helps to cultivate some good habits that will last me well into “next year and forever”. And of course, I hope it reminds me of what I am here to do, how much more yet to discover, how admirable it is to not be afraid of making mistakes.

Learning in my work – and oh, how very much there is to learn about everything and anything! Learning about myself and pushing myself to be better. Learning to better manage relationships and friendships, to parent, to love – I am excited and maybe even overwhelmed by the lofty task I have set.

Who knows what the year will bring? But if I remain humble and hungry, eager to learn and ready to embrace my mistakes, I just might emerge a little better, a little stronger.

That New Year wish from Neil Gaiman and the beginning of my year-end reflections

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

– Neil Gaiman, 2001

With the school term finished, Christmas festivities finally over and the sister back to work, I opened my eyes this morning to our first truly free day at home. We haven’t had one of these since school ended, and certainly not in those last hectic weeks as the term charged towards its welcome conclusion.

In typical fashion, knowing our holidays were truly upon us, the first thing I did last night was make a to-do list. Actually, “make” isn’t the right word. I’ve had three different lists going since November, so all I had to do was review and update them. And then I started reflecting on how 2018 really is over, as you do, which has put me in rather a contemplative mood all day, as it does.

I read an article this morning on “taking the guilt out of New Year’s resolutions and reflecting on the good stuff“, and the four of us did the questions together:

  • What am I grateful for this year?
  • What things have brought me the greatest pain this year?
  • What do I want more of in my life next year?

Except we were dealing with an 8yo and 13yo so we rephrased question 2 to “what made you sad” — answers: nothing and Japanese (the subject, not the people), respectively.

All of this to say we’re finally settling into the holidays and I’ve begun to put words to my annual year-end reflections and think about 2019. In the coming weeks, we hope to spend time reading, reflecting and preparing for what will surely be a very big year. Hence the Nail Gaiman quote above — while probably not the specific wish I’ll be carrying with me into the New Year, it is always a wonderful starting point.

A different way of trying

However, one of the great things about building a movement that tells people we are committed to loving first is that every time I step onstage, I blackmail myself. I publicly declare myself to be someone I’m not, in hopes of forcing the true me (the cowardly recluse) to act in a way that is consistent with the image I keep painting of the man I aspire to be.

– Jeremy Courtney, Preemptive Love: Pursuing Peace One Heart at a Time

Some people might call this hypocrisy but there is truth and courage in what Jeremy Courtney says. By putting himself out there, he is giving himself no choice but to follow through on what he has declared. Does it matter if, in our heart of hearts, we are not yet quite where we want to be, as long as we are willing to keep on trying at any cost? Or to put it another way, maybe sometimes we just need to fake it ’til we make it.

‘The First Noel’ by Leslie Odom Jr. and PS22 is one of my new favourites

I love that Christmas carols are for everyone, that it brings people together regardless of faith, that, when done beautifully like this, it sings to my soul. This brings up all the #christmasfeels, it’s definitely going down as one of my favourites. Whether or not you celebrate, may your Christmas / holiday season be filled with the things that matter most – family, friends, love.

Benjamin Zander: The Transformative Power of Classical Music

As someone who loves orchestras and playing music, albeit not super well, this is eye-opening, beautiful and moving. I don’t consider myself a huge classical music fan, which in some way demonstrates how powerful this is. Alongside the fact that it has completely changed the way I understand and view classical music, I love the passion behind this, and the belief that it can be for everyone.

Revisiting ‘I Was Me’, Imagine Dragons

Imagine Dragons released ‘I Was Me’ in 2015 for the One4 project, with all proceeds going to the UN Refugee Agency. Lead singer of Imagine Dragons, Dan Reynolds, also wrote an op-ed for Medium about his experience visiting a refugee camp in Germany. This song came out of that trip. I bought the single when it came out, but hadn’t listened to it in a couple of years. Today it came up randomly on my playlist while I was out on a walk, and I promise you the song just broke my heart.

See also: Welcome to the New World, in the New York Times.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to bounce back and try again after a setback, to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going, no matter how hard you fell. It’s also about being willing to have a go at something new, and to be open to asking someone for help.

It’s not about being brave or strong, but simply feeling okay about yourself – knowing that you will be okay with whatever life dishes up. In other words, it is our ability to adapt to stress and the less stressed we are, the happier we are.

The Princess Bitchface Syndrome 2.0, Michael Carr-Gregg and Elly Robinson

Minimalism is a state of mind

For several years now, minimalist living has been an aspiration, if not an achievement. I can hardly claim to be a true minimalist, but it helps a lot that I don’t particularly enjoy shopping and have no problem getting rid of stuff. Also, I’m a freelance writer – if that doesn’t teach you frugal living, I don’t know what will.

About a year ago, I decided to extend the minimalist principle to the way I spend my time. Society has made busyness out to be this glamorous thing – if you are not juggling many hats, a multi-hyphenate and #winning at every single aspect of your life, you are not doing enough. I love multi-tasking and feeling busy so I get it. Some days I list every single task, no matter how banal and insignificant, so I can see how much shit I’ve accomplished. Ironically, those are the days where I’m really not doing much because who has time to make lists when they’re out changing the world? 

I decided some re-calibrating was in order. Instead of trying to maximise each day, I started to see “doing nothing” as a good thing. Work and study aside, I streamlined my social engagements and actively tried to carve out time to read, watch a movie, journal, pray, play the piano, exercise, and just generally be still. Because I don’t know about you, but I am never really “doing nothing”. Even when I am not running around getting stuff done, my brain is always thinking, What do I need to do next?

Side note: I once read that when you ask a woman what she’s thinking and she says nothing, she’s actually thinking about what needs to be done, and what happened today or last week, and what she should do about this or that. But if you ask a man what he’s thinking and he says nothing, he’s actually thinking about… nothing!

As it turns out, minimalism as a daily living principle is a state of the mind. It gives me permission to slow down and say no to things. It reminds me that it’s okay not to go, go, go. I am learning to cut myself some slack. Even though the reality of my life might not be minimalist – the days are still busy and the weeks still fly by – at least now I know what underpins my decision making.

Here’s what I also learned: in seeking minimalism in the things that I do, I am actually freeing myself up to maximise the day and do more. I am learning and reflecting and thinking and (hopefully) writing more. I am loving those free hours after school with the 7yo where we can begin to unwind in each other’s company after a big day. We are getting outside on “lazy” days to just be surrounded by nature. And on those days when we really have nothing scheduled, I am spending them “doing nothing” with the people I love, which at the end of the day, is everything.