Social media is interesting this time of year. Last week my timeline was inundated with people posting their Top 9 on their Instagram, with Insta-stories showing their favorite moments of the year. Facebook memories being shared, and so very many pictures. The collective remembering we do as we leave behind an old year and welcome a new one. It was almost impossible to escape the peer pressure to look back over the year.
I’ve been avoiding this. I haven’t exactly wanted to reflect. I’m starting 2019 feeling a little broken. I learned a lot about myself the last few months that I didn’t necessarily enjoy learning and I do not like knowing now. 2018 didn’t seem to pull its punches. I know I had several good times – I know this last year held joy and adventures, but in truth I haven’t wanted to deal with the emotion I knew would come from remembering the year. Mostly because I know that means I’ll have to forgive it for its ugly bits. I wasn’t ready to love it – not yet. This kind of acceptance will undoubtedly lead to attempts at improvement and that’s almost never fun.
In one of Donald Glover’s standups he talks about how hard it is to change as you get older. It’s a funny bit about a Lady Gaga tour, but he essentially says “once you hit around your 30s, that’s who you’re gonna be for the rest of your life pretty much.” Logically, I know this isn’t true. But it feels true. The whole old dogs/new tricks thing.
We need weird stuff. But as an adult, we’re not really allowed to be weird anymore. Like, the older you get, the less you can take weird stuff. That’s the truth. You can’t take weird stuff anymore. As a kid, the idea of Santa Claus is really weird… It really is, but you’re just like, “Hey, there’s this fat guy that comes in your house, eats all your food, and he leaves little gifts for you and while your parents are sleeping, he runs up the chimney.” You’re like, “He gives me gifts… cool.” You’re just fine with it. You’re fine with that guy being in your house. As an adult, somebody’s like, “Hey man, ‘Glee’ comes on at 9:00 instead of 8:00 tonight.” You’re like, “… really?! “Why’d they change it?? Why’d they change it?” Can’t take any change whatsoever.
There’s a painting at the Nelson* by Piet Mondrian. At this point, I just wander aimlessly around the museum looking for rooms where there aren’t a bunch of people. I look at whatever piece of work catches my eye, and this one grabbed me from across the room. It’s a darker piece – set in shadows, heavy.
* Yes, I’m aware that too many of my anecdotes come from the Nelson, but you go find me another place to feel equal parts comfortable and inspired to write that is outside of my house and safe and then my anecdotes can be informed by the surroundings of this new place you’ve suggested. But until then, I’ll be hiding in one of the rooms with the mummies.
Being the uncultured oaf that I am, I had no prior knowledge of Piet Mondrian. Certainly could not have told you that he was one of the pioneers of abstract art in the 20th century (or so Wikipedia says). On the plaque by the painting they include an image of his more well known abstract work and, I kid you not, I was astonished to see the difference in his later work.
My now good buddy Piet was in his 30s when he painted the mill painting. He was in his 60s when he painted Composition C (No. III). You can see elements of his creative direction in his earlier paintings; hints of where he would go and what his work would become. But only if you are really looking. Otherwise, it feels like a complete transformation.
While I think about where I am, who I am at this place in my life, edging ever closer to that irrational fear that eventually positive change will be impossible, I think about the experiences of the past year. As expected, the good bits shine brightly even in the face of the ugly bits. I saw Hamilton, I went to concerts for T-Swift, Bleachers, Thomas Rhett, and Modest Mouse. I went to ComicCon in Denver and checked New Hampshire off the list of states I haven’t been to. I went to museums in St. Louis and Kansas City and New York City. I saw the ocean. I pet manta rays and held conversations with crabs. I moved. I watched a lot of Supermarket Sweep. I tweeted a lot about the Bachelor.
With the exception of Supermarket Sweep, these experiences all taught me new things. I learned about history, I listened to other people’s stories. I did new things and I discovered new interests. I found new favorite songs and I interacted in new situations. I did grow.
It’s frightening to stand before a whole new year – a fresh 12 (okay, fine 11 and 1/2) months. To try to figure out if I’m cutting myself too much slack or not enough slack. To think about the kind of year I want to have, the kind of person I want to be in the next 12 months – the things I want to see and accomplish. If Piet can shake things up and allow his art to transform into something new, I can perhaps allow for changes too. I can become better.
I’m not ready for a full-blown list of all that I want to tackle this year. No one needs to be buried under 478 New Years Resolutions. But maybe I can ease into it; take it one thing at a time. 1 goal for January. 2 goals for February, and if I’m feeling it, maybe 3 for March. A little bit of the babysteps mentality from Dr. Leo Martin (Good lord, can someone tell me why this movie was apparently so instrumental in my development as an adult?).
Face the things that come and don’t ignore them because you don’t think you can handle it.
No, wait… maybe:
Take the time to breathe.
Perhaps I should clarify again, let’s make 1 concrete goal for January. Something that I can put into practice.
- Text people back within 2 business days.
There. That’s not a bad starting goal.