Living in the moment, not the year

The start of a new year is a lot like the release of a new Star Wars movie.

It gets way more hype than it should.

I’ve never been big on making resolutions for each new year. I feel like there’s so much pressure, and oftentimes we end up setting goals that are loftier than they should be, resulting in us not sticking to them—I guess that’s why there are so many jokes out there about how crowded gyms are at the beginning of January and then not so much anymore as the year continues to progress.

I do believe in setting goals, though, and I think it’s something that can be done at any point in the year—it doesn’t solely have to be something that takes place when we have the transition from one year to the next. If I want to start something new and stick to it on May 13, then I can. It doesn’t have to be at the beginning of a year or month or week or whatever. It honestly can be at any single moment when I want to make a change.

But I do see the significance in the “fresh start” that a new year brings. I mean, think about when you have a bad day. You might tell yourself that surely tomorrow will be better and then focus on having a better attitude or outcome the following day. There’s something about newness and fresh beginnings that appeal to people. I guess it makes sense. It’s not necessarily that you’re getting to start over completely, but in a way, you sort of are. It’s kind of like when you run a race or play a game—whether you run your best or worst or somewhere in the middle or win or lose, you get a clean slate the next time you step on the starting line, field or court. You get to go in there with a completely new mindset that good things are going to happen.

And sometimes you need that in order to move past what was a race or game or day or month or semester or year that you simply really want to forget.

This was our way of saying, “Peace out, 2016.”

I think it’s a natural human tendency to want to reflect upon a year that’s drawing to a close and classify it as good or bad, successful or not so successful, difficult or wonderful, and a number of other adjectives that won’t be completely accurate depictions of every aspect of your entire year. I know I could think of a lot of things to say about the challenges and hurt I faced in 2016, but they wouldn’t highlight those precious memories that I want to hold in my heart forever.

So maybe each year really isn’t necessarily a new beginning—rather, it’s a continuation of the stories we’re living out. It’s an opportunity for us to grow and learn more about ourselves and those around us. It’s a period of time to love and make differences as often as we can. It’s a collection of moments full of chances and setbacks, wins and losses, hopes fulfilled and hearts broken, courage and fear, laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, and a number of other ups and downs.

For a good chunk of December, I spent a lot of time waiting for 2016 to end. But, honestly, the turning of a page in the calendar doesn’t magically change things. Sure, there’s the mentality of that “fresh start” notion, but I think life should be lived by moments, not by years. Everything can change so quickly, and we have no clue how long we’re going to be here, so I feel like it makes sense to try to make every single moment matter. I’d like that to be my life resolution. I guarantee I’m going to fail probably more times than I’d like to think about, but hopefully I’ll also do well more often than not.

On the first day of this new year, I sat at a dinner table with a family that has become so dear to me over the years I’ve known them that I consider them family of my own. So much has changed in all of our lives since I met them, and it’s been so wonderful to be part of their journeys and to have them as part of mine, too. We shared stories and jokes and even belted out Plus One’s “Written on My Heart” at one point. (I mean, if you’re not singing cheesy Christian boy band songs after dinner, what are you really doing in life?) It was a refreshing reminder that I’ve been given so many incredible people who have impacted me in big ways—moment by moment.

A lot of things happened in 2016—some good, some bad. Regardless, they happened, and the individual events that happened in each of our lives likely helped mold us even more into the people we are now. Rather than looking at the entire year, I’m going to try to focus more on the moments. I know people often talk about looking more at the big picture, but I think there are times when we need to look at the smaller pictures within the big pictures, instead. After all, sometimes one line in a song can stick with you more than the entire song itself.

And no matter what the year ahead holds for you, there’s a new opportunity in every moment you’re given—and you don’t have to wait 365 days to make those moments count.

The year of love

It’s difficult to believe, but not everything you plan in college pans out later in life.

It turns out you didn’t know everything there was to know during those years.

When I was in Aggieland, my friend Katie and I had this saying that sort of became an inside joke: “The Year of Love.” Neither of us dated much (or ever), so we declared each new year “The Year of Love.” She even made me a CD one year–I know, so antiquated–with our saying as the title, and it was filled with tracks that we both loved and that were all about love. I still play that CD sometimes in my car. That’s right, I’m old school.

Like I said, each new year we would remind ourselves that her prince was on his way, and mine would likely ride in right alongside him. I guess you could call it wishful thinking, but I think we also both honestly believed it would be true. We saw most of the people around us falling in love and knowing engagement rings were on the way, so why wouldn’t we be next?

Because that’s not always how life works.

10 years ago…

Eventually that prince did come for Katie. They have been married a little more than five years now, have one adorable little girl, and a sure-to-be-super-precious little boy on the way. Her “Year of Love” actually proved to be more of a “Lifetime of Love,” which is how it should be, anyway.

I’m not big on end-of-the-year reflections, and I really hate year-end countdowns on radio stations, but when I do think back on the past year, I think it truly was a “Year of Love.” No, I don’t have a prince, I didn’t go on a date, and I didn’t dramatically get to declare my love for someone while I was wearing a nice dress in the middle of a street or parking lot in the pouring rain. No one wrote a love song for me, there were no gazebo moments, and sparks didn’t fly when I locked eyes with some fella across the room. I didn’t dance with anyone under the moonlight, no one held my hand, and I still haven’t heard the words, “I love you” from someone who doesn’t have to love me.

But there was still love in abundance.

Sure, it’s a different kind of love, but love is beautiful in any form. It’s the kind of love you see when your students actually hear and appreciate the words you’re saying, and they let you know. It’s the kind of love you see when your sister continually shows you just how much she cares for you simply by being there–which even includes taking a crazy road trip to Tennessee with you. It’s the kind of love you see when your friends keep checking on you when you’re sick or going through a difficult time. It’s the kind of love you see when your forever friend makes you laugh when all you want to do is cry. It’s the kind of love you see when members of your life council offer you encouragement when you’re ready to do some bold things in your life. It’s the kind of love you see when the owner of a froyo shop you frequent remembers specifics about you, asks about how things are going in your life, and makes sure you always remember to use your rewards card on anyone you bring along with you so that you will get extra points. It’s the kind of love you see when your mom calls you every single day–usually with no purpose other than to talk with you even for a few minutes–and never forgets to end her conversation with, “Loveyoubye,” all strung together as if it really is only one word. It’s the kind of love you see when your refrigerator is covered with Christmas cards of beautiful gems people sent you simply because they care. It’s the kind of love you see when you realize that people are there in your life for a reason, and they want to be there.

It’s the kind of love that’s too wonderful to overlook simply because it doesn’t involve romance and kisses.

I’ve become pretty accustomed to the single life, and I’m fine with it. Maybe some day I really will find that prince Katie and I always talked about (and still do, of course). But maybe I won’t, and that’s fine, too. You don’t have to be in love to know what love is, and you don’t have to have a ring on your finger to feel love in its fullest form.

The good thing is that it doesn’t just have to be a “Year of Love”–it’s actually something that can be forever. You don’t have to wait until the new year to have love, and you certainly don’t have to contain it all to one year. Every year can be a “Year of Love,” no matter how many dates you did or didn’t go on, how many rejections you faced, or how many times you found yourself looking around a room of all couples and families and trying not to feel like the black sheep. All of those people likely love you, so it’s really a winning situation.

Sure, this year was full of ups and downs, as most years are, but there were definitely plenty of lessons that reminded me that love is so different than the word that often pops into people’s minds when they hear it. It’s not simply pink and red hearts or having someone to count down with on New Year’s Eve. It’s more–so much more.

And, strangely enough, the more you give it away, the more of it you feel in your own heart.