There were some pretty significant big events in 2018: my senior show, graduating college, going to the U.K., and starting my first job post-college. But there were also some things that, although not as “big”, were just as significant. A few of them are:
Collaborating with a good friend on an art project (which we intended to finish months ago but is carrying over into this year too—see what we’re working on here! This is just the first stage of the project; we’re making a little book out of the content on the Instagram!)
Being a bridesmaid in the wedding of one of my first friends in college.
Private-tutoring photography—a really good learning experience for me too.
Starting to wear glasses every day because my eyes are officially bad enough to need them.
A lot of car trouble that ended in selling my old 1998 Civic and upgrading to a 2006 Corolla.
My grandpa passing away.
Applying for and getting accepted to an exciting internship that’s happening this coming summer! (can’t share too many details about it yet, but I will soon!)
Discovering the Enneagram (more about that in the next post!)
A few favorites of 2018:
Favorite (musical) artist: Sleeping at Last (love love LOVE all his music, especially his Atlas: Year Two project! A close second would be Gungor: the One Wild Life trilogy was also on repeat this year.)
Favorite podcast: The Liturgists (It’s one I’d recommend, but with a few caveats. They have some really good conversations about really tough topics, and I love that they’re not afraid to talk about them and explore them from different perspectives. But I don’t agree with all their theology, and some of their more recent episodes are rather abrasive towards Christianity.)
Favorite show: The Great British Baking Show (probably because it was just a good brain break from all the other intense things happening this year)
Favorite movie: Wonder (First saw it on the plane ride home from London, and I had a hard time trying not to bawl my eyes out through the entire movie while in the middle of a plane full of strangers. I don’t know if I’ve ever cried so much in a movie before. I think it struck a chord in me because I relate so much to Via, the older sister of the central character, who has special needs.)
In the midst of both the big and the small happenings, there are several more significant lessons and themes from 2018 that stand out in my memory.
The first is that I have needs. I know, shocker. But I’ll be honest that before this year, the thought never once crossed my mind that I have needs that have often not been met (usually in regard to my family), and that those needs are valuable. Along with this lesson is the truth that I am valuable. It’s been painful to uncover layers of shame, unworthiness, and self-doubt that have kept me from being comfortable with who I am, the person God made me to be. I realized this year that I need to have as much compassion for myself as I do for everyone else. Self-care is a topic that came up quite often in therapy, and it made me squirm every time because I’ve always seen taking care of myself as selfish. But I’ve learned that actually, caring for myself is absolutely necessary if I’m to be able to care for others the way God has designed me to.
Related to this theme of self-care is the theme of boundaries. I learned this year that not all needs are mine to carry. I tend to take on needs that are not my responsibility to fill. Again, most of this relates to family, but I can also see this played out in other relationships. I want to be able to fix everything, but not everything is mine to fix. Early this year I talked with a professor about a situation at home that I was really frustrated and sad about, and he gently told me “It’s not yours to carry.” I felt a little offended at first—like, shouldn’t I be able to fix this? But I think that is one of the most freeing things I have ever heard in my life. I often still have a hard time discerning between what is a real responsibility and what I need to let go of, but it’s a good start in the right direction.
Another theme this year was being brave and being truthful. One of the hardest and most significant things I did in 2018 was producing my senior show, which was centered around my family’s adoption story. It was not a light project, to say the least. It was incredibly hard to not only process through my own grief enough to make art about it but also to share my story publicly. It took courage to look at myself, face my pain honestly, and tell the truth about what I learned with others.
There are two facets to telling the truth that I’ve discovered. The first is speaking the truth to others: being honest about hurt that needs to be confronted and about what I need, want, or expect in our relationship. The second is telling the truth to myself: facing my own sin and brokenness and being honest about the ugly things I’d rather not see in myself. It takes courage to tell the truth, and I am not naturally a confident person. But paradoxically, I’ve realized how much more confident and brave I have become because God has been helping me to tell the truth to others and to myself.
Grace has been a theme of the past couple years (ever since 2016, which was when a lot of the healing and growth that’s happened this year had its start). And I think it has still been a big theme of this year, too. But grace and truth go together. I think this year, truth has come alongside grace, and I am learning how to hold both together.
This year held one of the biggest life transitions I’ve ever experienced (second only to the transition after my sister was adopted). I’m still working on this one, but a big thing I learned from this transition is the importance of being present here. More often than not, I throw a mental temper-tantrum with God and complain, “Why did you put me here? Why am I living at home again? Why do I have to go through all this grief all at once? Why did you take away the support system it took me four years to build, right after I had solidified it? Why is there so much unknown? Why can I not have more things figured out?” But God has been slowly showing me that here is a sacred place. He isn’t limited by where I want to be; he is wherever I am. And I am here, so God is here. And that means that here is where God will work. I may not like what “here” is (and if I’m honest with myself, I didn’t always like it in college, either), but there is beauty and life and growth to be found wherever my “here” is.
Another theme that has come up repeatedly this year is both/and: the truth that many things don’t exist solely as a pair of two extremes, and there’s a continuum of gray in between that is not all “bad” or “wrong.” I’ve been thinking a lot about holding differences in tension. A big part of this is in relation to people. It’s quite obvious that humans have vastly different opinions and perspectives, and that we fight over those differences and often cannot see from the other’s point of view. I don’t want to go into all those differences right now, but in summary I’ve been learning that more often than not, there are more than just two sides to an issue, and sometimes there are no right answers. There’s more to learn from each other than we think, and while there are some truths that remain black-and-white, there’s a lot more gray in life than we’d like to believe. And gray is not the absence of truth. We don’t have to agree with each other on everything, but I also believe that before we disagree, we need to listen. And in listening, we can learn from one another.
Quite often this year, “both/and” has also related to grief. I used to always separate grief and joy as two opposite emotions that could have no overlap. I thought it was impossible to feel joy when grieving, and vice versa. I’m learning, though, that maybe grief and joy can be held together. Perhaps grief is not the absence of joy, and—even more profoundly—joy is not the absence of grief. I want to continue growing in this, posturing myself toward life with both hands open, willing to listen, engage, and receive from both sides, seeing the truth each has to offer and embracing the fact that perhaps not all “not knowing” is bad.
Thanks for reading! It means a lot that you’re interested in hearing my thoughts and about what God’s been doing this year. :)