It’s December 31st. We’re all supposed to plan how we’re going to change ourselves over the next year. It’s funny, though. We could start a new year any day we’d like. If I decide on May 3rd I want to pick up a new habit, I can do that. The calendar has no real hold on what I do. January 1st is just the easy option. When do we change our ways? How about when the calendar ends and we have to start practicing a new digit on our checks? It’s arbitrary but it’s human code. We seek out milestones. We pin importance to things that don’t necessarily matter. There’s nothing wrong with it, I guess. I’m doing it now. I’m thinking back on 2013. I’m remembering what was good: my job; new friends; settling in to Greenville. I found predictability in the mess of some of the people I love most. I learned, the hard way, that I can’t control how other people handle their struggles. I can control how I love them through those things, and how I let it affect my life.
I’m not in the habit of making sweeping changes to my lifestyle. I’ve never been a dieter. I have a very strict policy against forcing myself to work out if I don’t want to, because I like that running and sports are things I do for fun. I don’t have any major vices I need to break (although I could benefit from a lot less time on social media). All that being said, I could use a few upgrades in 2014:
1) I want to write more. I want to practice putting more stories out there because it feels good to know just one other person might read what I’ve written and have something to say – good or bad.
2) I want to remember that my friends are my friends for a reason and not because somebody is forcing them to be so. Somewhere along the road to adulthood I forgot this.
3) I want to be more open to hugs. This conversation comes up at work often. I do not enjoy hugs. I do not offer them often. I don’t turn them away when someone goes in for one, because I’m not interested in hurting feelings. I just don’t particularly enjoy them, but I think I could. I’m going to try.
4) There’s a note on the rear view mirror in my car “Be kind, Always.” Occasionally I read it and wonder if I do enough of that. I’m certain I don’t. There’s room for improvement in this for everyone. I want to see it, notice it, follow it more often.
5) I want to stay in this place I’ve found where I am comfortable just letting life play out the way it will. For the first time in my life I’ve dug into a spot that lets me just accept that I’m 26 and some people are in certain stages of life that I’m not in, but I’m where I need to be. I want to stay in this comfort, knowing life plays at different speeds for everyone. Life is innately personal.
6) I will travel. Maybe I won’t be able to afford huge trips out of the country, but I will see more of this country I’m in now. I will visit new cities, meet new people, learn about more of the world than just my Southeastern United States corner.
Tonight my family will sit around a bonfire and have a few drinks. We’ll tell stories. We’ll laugh. We’ll get a little rowdy and probably do some singing. At some point my oldest brother and I will talk about how the Sanders side could easily take out the Scruggs side (despite being outnumbered 4 to 1). We’ll miss the ones who couldn’t make it this year. Seriously, Stephen, I can’t sing Bobby McGee without you, bro.
It’s how we ring in every New Year. 30 to 40 of us get together and spend a few days on the farm. Meal times inside my parents’ house look like the opening scene from Home Alone. The rest of the time is spent outside hiking, shooting guns, or just shooting the breeze fireside. It’s my favorite thing that happens all year. It’s the reason I don’t make sweeping habit changes for my resolutions. I just look for ways to enrich what I already have, because what I have is good. I know whatever I change over the next few months at this time next year, I’ll still (god-willing) be fireside with the people who love me most. There will be new babies and new marriages. We may lose someone between now and then, but the bonfires will happen. The stories will be told. The songs will be sung, and somebody will have a little too much to drink.
So here’s my wish for your new year (whenever you choose to start it): that whatever happens you may keep in mind that you can start it again on any day of the year. Don’t worry about missing goals along the way. Remember: Life’s a crap shoot, Time is relative, and love is free.