Time always has a way of surprising me by its simultaneous ability to vanish in the blink of an eye and to trudge along at snail’s pace throughout the day-to-day. For example, I can still clearly remember sitting in my friend’s basement in 1999, waiting to shout “Happy New Year!” and anticipating the potential end of the world (thanks, Y2K). Well, the world did not end, but how it is 23 YEARS later is baffling. Contrasting this surreal time warp of more than two decades to just one night last week between 2 and 6am, as I comforted my daughter who had the flu, those four hours while I was holding her throw-up bucket and providing comforting back rubs, felt like an eternity. And yet, throughout the surprising movement of time, we find ourselves here, at the start of another new year. Hello, 2023.
Since we are in our third year here at the Unexpected Ever Afters, this is my fourth New Year blog post. (This is where you can find the first three: 2020, 2021, and 2022.) I particularly enjoyed looking back at the three posts, noticing how in some ways I am very much the same as I was in 2019, but in some ways each year I’ve changed. Many of my previous new year’s goals often included specific step by step plans. Some years I found the process helpful and motivating. Other years, time got away from me and my days ended up being consumed by daily tasks rather than pursuing ambitious goals. There are the same number of days in each year, yet each year feels different. Another reminder that time is surprising.
As I was thinking about my new year intentions for 2023, I found myself thinking through the many transitions of 2022. And how throughout these transitions, I often found myself being wound too tight. This feeling directly impacted my perspective as I sat down to journal through my thoughts regarding my 2023 intentions. Where I would typically start writing my goals, I just sat with my pen in hand and stared at the blank sheet of paper. The fact is, I’m tired. And goal setting feels a lot like creating another life transition, something I am just not up for right now.
After taking some space from my new year journaling, I recalled a favorite book I read this year, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. In it, she wrote about “The famous question…What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?” Then she shared how she has always viewed the question differently, writing, “I think the fiercest question of all is this one: What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?” She continued by discussing choice and our ability to choose what we decide to do, regardless of the outcome. She ended with this sentiment, “What else are you going to do with your time on earth–not make things? Not do interesting stuff? Not follow your love and curiosity? There is always that alternative, after all. You have free will. If creative living becomes too difficult or too unrewarding for you, you can stop whenever you want. But seriously: Really? Because, think about it: Then what?”
As I read her perspective, I thought about how it applied to my writing this blog, journaling, dabbling with writing fiction. It was empowering and rejuvenating to think about the idea of writing just because. Because I like writing and because I want to. Because writing is better than not writing.
I realized this approach doesn’t have to be just about “creative living”, it can also be about life. This can be my new year’s intention: What do I want to do this year just because. What intentions can I set that give me the same feeling as choosing to write? What can I choose to do this year that feels better than choosing to not. This shift in perspective felt comforting.
There have been years where my goals were outlined with a clear understanding of success or failure. I focused on an outcome I wanted to pursue and outlined steps to achieve my goals. Not this year. This year I am choosing a different journey. A journey that reminds me that my year doesn’t need to be full of big changes or big successes. Every day can be filled with small choices, many of which can be designed to help me settle back into who I am and focus on the people and habits that are life-giving. This year, that is an intention I can get on board with.
So I’ve decided, this is the year to unwind from the whirlwind of change in the past years. To choose the things that bring joy. To challenge the temptation to have “big goals” and “hustle harder.” This is the year to do things a little differently, no beginning, no finish line, just the surprising movement of time and the small choices I make to find space to unwind, create, be with others, and just breathe.
Jessica is a wife, mom, social worker, and aspiring writer. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters.
photo credit: personal photo